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When I’m at home, I feel secure.
Not because of the glass windows that stand between me and the ferocious and unpredictable world outside. Not because of the locks on my doors (that can be picked at will by skillful hands).
Why do I feel secure?
Do I rest easy because I know that I have a portable safe inside of which lie two handguns that are preloaded? No.
Let’s be real, when it comes to home defense, two handguns locked away in a safe aren’t gonna do me (or anyone) much good.
If a hypothetical intruder comes into my home, I won’t have the time to grab my keys, unlock the safe and take the safety off one of my handguns before an intruder is on me.
That won’t do.
Which is why I keep a tactical shotgun inside of a false bottom on my bed board. When it comes to home defense, there is no substitute for the sheer accuracy and power of a shotgun.
Of any household weapon, it offers the most deadly action per trigger pull, all but guaranteeing that a threat will be neutralized.
But that’s not the only reason I prefer a tactical shotgun to other home defense equipment. In the following article, I will break down what a tactical shotgun is, how it works, why I think it trumps most other weapons on the market and how to spot its weaknesses and rectify them.
Additionally, I will discuss my favorite tactical shotguns, and why I think they’re the right shotguns for your home defense needs.
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|Product||What We Like||Price||Where To Buy|
|Benelli M4||Best Overall Quality and Power||$$$|
|Mossberg Maverick 88||Best Shotgun for the Money||$|
|Remington 870||Great Value and Power||$$|
Table of Contents
What is a Tactical Shotgun?
So you might be wondering how a tactical shotgun differs from a traditional hunting shotgun. Well, there are several key differences, particularly the features that a tactical shotgun has that a hunting shotgun doesn’t have.
These include all of the following:
- Pump or Semi-Automatic Operation: Shotguns come in a wide variety of forms from bolt action or pump action to semi-auto or even lever action. There are single barrel shotguns and double barrel shotguns. Of these disparate versions, only the semi-auto or pump action shotgun are really appropriate for home defense purposes. These are the most expedient forms of operation for a shotgun, delivering the fastest action and, in my opinion, the best results.
- 18-20-in barrel: This barrel length makes for a shorter weapon, one that is more concealable than others and more ergonomic. A shotgun with an eighteen to twenty-inch barrel is also easily maneuverable when used indoors or in other confined spaces. 18 is the shortest legal barrel for a shotgun if you don’t have a tax stamp and/or federal registration. I’ll go into this further down below.
- Sling Mounts: A sling enables the user to attach the weapon to their body which comes in handy if you need to free up your hands for a little ass whoopin’. If you’re in a home defense situation where you need to get your family to safety, you’re gonna need your hands to perform other tasks besides pulling the trigger. It’s in this kind of scenario that a sling mount proves out to be of paramount importance.
- 12 or 20 gauge caliber: 12 gauge is the gold standard when it comes to shotgun caliber, particularly if you are using a semi-auto tactical shotgun. It is, by far, the most powerful I’ve encountered and might be your best option. That being said, it does make your shotgun heavier which can be cumbersome, especially with the intense recoil it delivers. For those looking for something a bit lighter but fairly potent, the 20 gauge is a good option.
- A Decent Set o’ Sights: The majority of shotguns come with a tiny bead at the end of the barrel(s) that serves as a built-in sight. While this can be adequate in controlled situations, and for basic function, but if you want to get the most out of a shotgun, especially in a home defense scenario, it is helpful to have a front and rear sight. For even better accuracy, can also get yourself a red dot.
- Shell Size: Shotgun shells are pretty damn big which is why shotguns are fairly limited in their capacity. 4+1 shells are effective in most cases, but something closer to 7+1 will make a real difference, giving you home field advantage as it were.
- Stock: If you’re using your shotgun for any kind of combat, a stock is a must. A lot of people like a pistol grip because it gives the gun a groovy look, but I prefer a shoulder stock. It can make for more accurate shooting and handles better in my experience.
What Can a Shotgun Do That a Handgun Can’t?
Why do I prefer a shotgun for home defense purposes?
It’s really quite simple: diversity.
I can fire any number of projectiles whereas a handgun can only fire standard bullets or hollow points. A shotgun, on the other hand, can be loaded with birdshot, buckshot or solid slugs.
Difference situations call for different measures and I, for one, can’t tell you how convenient it’s been to spray scavengers and other pests with birdshot when I catch them messing with my crops or marking my territory.
When I go hunting, I always take buckshot with me. Like birdshot, each load is filled with pellets but these pellets are larger which makes them ideal for bagging some large game, all but guaranteeing that I’m gonna come back to the fire with meat for days.
And, of course, when it comes to home defense, it’s this dude’s opinion that you can’t really go wrong with slugs. They’re generally more powerful than other projectiles and more solid.
These were the babies I had preloaded in my Remington 870 when Hurricane Sandy struck and we were all plunged into a situation that was straight out of a horror movie.
The power was out for nearly two months on my block, and Neighborhood Watch was in a panic. People were looting, posing as utility workers for the purpose of home invasions – and the rest of us were scared.
We had a generator chained up to two cinderblocks in our garage with extension cords running into the house through a crack in our back door. The door was secured with a piece of wood, something that kept it from budging but not for long if someone were to try and break in.
That’s why I had my Remington at the ready. During the night, my brother and I heard the chain on the generator rattle. I sprang up and ran down the stairs, yanked the wood out from behind the door and trained the barrel of that Remi on the darkness of our backyard.
The sound of the rattling ceased and all I could hear were the soles of someone’s shoes padding frantically into the distance and then…nothing. Silence. Crisis and crime averted. Our generator was safe and so were we.
Always Come Loaded For Bear
When we talk about a tactical shotgun, we’re talking about one thing and one thing only: Eliminating the threat.
This is why you should always be fully loaded and ready for action. Slugs or buckshot are the only options I consider appropriate for defensive measures.
Choosing your ammo should be no problem, as nearly all major ammunition companies offer a defensive ammo for shotguns. And while shotgun ammo can be somewhat expensive in terms of per round price point, there are affordable options on the market if you’re willing to do your research.
What’s important to remember is that you can’t put a price on good ammunition (that’s the manufacturer’s job). Quality ammo is more effective than sub-par product. Period.
Personally, I like to use Brownells to search for current ammunition deals, which they run often. It can be a good resource for finding affordable ammunition in bulk.
Tip: do a Google search for “Brownells coupon”, as they regularly put out new coupons on social media.
Price points range wildly across brands and types of ammunition. My favorite home defense ammo has gotta be Winchester PDX1 12 Defender. It causes a bit more recoil than other ammo, but it makes for a heavier load. It fires three plated buck pellets followed by a rifled slug.
You can learn more about Winchester PDX1 12 as well as other home defense ammunition in this informative YouTube clip:
The average price point for this brand is around $1.40 per round. There are plenty of cheaper options, but I like this brand for a number of reasons, not least of which is the fact that it was tested by the FBI to ensure that it would stand up against serious threats in the real world.
When it comes to a home invasion, you are dealing with a situation that calls for close quarters combat. As such, you need to act quick and neutralize your opponent as fast as you can. That’s why I think that the shotgun is head and shoulders above a handgun.
The shotgun rules because it covers more ground and packs more of a whollip. When it comes to an indoor firefight, that’s the bottom line. Get ‘er done and get ‘er done fast!
Top Notch Tactical Shotguns: The Best of the Best
When it comes to selecting a shotgun, you only want the best of the best and there can be only one top contender.
Here are my 3 favorite home defense shotguns:
- Benelli M4 [Top-the-line-Option]
- Mossberg Maverick 88 [Budget Option]
- Remington 870 [Trusted, Long Time Favorite]
Let’s take a look at what makes each of these shotguns special.
As far as I’m concerned, the Benelli M4 holds that spot, hands down!
The Benelli M4 has an extended magazine and an ARGO (Auto Regulating Gas Operated) system. This one’s got a pistol grip, but it’s also known for its no-fail reliability, and it can be modified to have a collapsible stock which can be great for maneuvering.
When I was in the market for a semi-auto, this was the first choice on my list and I was glad that I picked one up. It fires like a dream and I haven’t had any problems with it since the day it arrived.
2. Mossberg Maverick 88
Times are tough and not everyone can afford a top of the line Benelli shotgun. For those who are in the market for something less expensive, I always recommend the Mossberg Maverick 88. It sells for $189.99 to $205.99 on average and I like to think of it as one of the best pump action shotguns for beginners.
The Mossberg Maverick has a durable synthetic stock and a cylinder bore choke. Another thing I like about it is that it comes with an interchangeable barrel. In my family, we like to modify our guns by hand so I always look for features like that one.
3. Remington 870
As I mentioned earlier, my go-to gun for home defense is my trusty Remington 870. It’s a middle-of-the-road shotgun in terms of price (I got mine for $344.99 from SportsmanGuide.com) and I find it to be lightweight and easy to handle.
Of course, there are other, cheaper defense shotguns on the market, one of them being the Stevens 320 Security Shotgun, but I can’t say I’m crazy about the shape of that one and I don’t trust the Stevens name the way I trust the Remington name.
Remingtons have been in my family for decades upon decades and it’s clear from how long they’ve been around that they must be doing something right.
Tactical Shotgun Drawbacks & Easy Fixes
As with almost anything, there are cons that go along with the pros. Shotguns have some innate weaknesses I guess you could say.
If you are buying a shotgun for home defense, it is imperative that you ascertain these weaknesses and learn how to prevent such drawbacks from affecting your intentions.
The best way to counteract a shotgun’s weak spots is to thoroughly train.
Here are the three most common drawbacks to tactical shotguns:
Lower Ammunition Capacity
The average combat shotgun can only contain a maximum of 8 rounds at one time. A lot of people prefer a gun with a magazine, but most combat shotguns are tube fed models.
The pro to this con is that you aren’t fumbling around with a full magazine which makes the gun less bulky and more dependable.
If you want to make lemonade outta lemons, that’s the best way to look at it. The other way is to acknowledge that a feeding system can often be more reliable than a magazine which can jam.
In a home defense situation, it is ideal to fire once and fire accurately, but if you find yourself in an extended firefight where you’ve blown your entire load, you want to be able to top yourself off in a timely manner.
This is why it is important to train when you first pick up your combat shotgun. It is a good practice to ensure that your gone will never go dry in the face of danger.
A simple tactic for ensuring that you stay loaded is to fire two shells and then load two more. This establishes a rhythm which keeps your gun constantly replenished. Always keep extra ammo on hand for this purpose.
In my case, I keep two boxes at my feet between my bed and my bedside table. In the event of a home invasion, I know that I’m covered because I have two in the chamber that I can fire immediately before rolling on to the floor and grabbing up my reserves.
The number one thing I tell all shotgun beginners is this: Keep your weapon loaded! In a home defense situation, you want to maintain the element of surprise. The last thing you want a would-be intruder to hear is you pumping your shotgun.
The only time he or she should hear you pumping your gun is after you’ve already fired off a round in their ass. The first shot is what counts.
Shotguns have a shorter range than rifles with buckshot usually traveling no further than 30 to 35 yards.
Slugs aren’t much better in terms of range either. With a slug, you’ll be lucky if it can reach 100 yards in a defensive situation.
For this reason, it is integral that you make every yard count. This is another area in which training will get the most out of your shotgun. Every shotgunner should practice controlled breathing and using their sights.
Don’t be fooled by that old chestnut about it being impossible to miss with a shotgun.
Remember: People are as unpredictable as your aim.
One false shot and your intruder can be out the door or up in your face with a Bowie knife or a gun of their own.
Another way to adjust for the shotgun’s short range is by testing different loads to determine which one is tightest out of your gun. Patterning a shotgun is integral to controlling the distance the pellets can cover.
Sights can also significantly help when dealing with a short range weapon. That’s why I always use a Trijicon MRO red dot. It’s kind of a fool proof way of training your shotgun on its target. When you’ve got the red bead on them, you know exactly where and when to fire.
As anyone who has ever used a firearm can tell you, the blowback can be startling and pretty fierce. This is true of handguns and hunting rifles, of course, but it’s even more true of combat shotguns.
I like to joke that for every box of ammo I buy, I buy twice as many bottles of Icy Hot. That’s because the recoil from a tactical shotgun can do a real number on your shoulder. The recoil from a 12-gauge can be intense, to say the least.
The appropriate way to stand when firing a shotgun is erect with your weight balanced slightly forward and with your shoulders relaxed.
That last part may be hard to master in the moment (you’ve got a stranger invading your home) which is why training is vital. Practice makes perfect and, in this case, it will make for muscle memory that could save your life or the lives of your loved ones.
With your feet six to nine inches apart, one leg back and one forward, you should point your front foot at your target. Your neck should be slightly craned forward and your shotgun should be between your shoulder and your face. This stance coupled with a twisting of your waist should make for a clean, accurate shot. If you’re actively practicing for more effective shooting, always remember to use the best ear protection possible.
The combat shotgun is the king when it comes to protecting your home from invasion. A tactical shotgun is the first line of defense when a situation calls for serious fire power.
With appropriate training and proper stance, you can utilize one of the tactical shotguns I’ve listed here to achieve effective results in home defense.