Many tactical guys nowadays think a defensive shotgun should look exactly like their AR-15, but I disagree. Fact is, a shotgun for home defense is different from the tactical shotguns used by military and law enforcement because those guys use them for door-breaching and accurate, less-lethal-round aiming. Therefore, their guns often feature ghost-ring sights and collapsible stocks that can be wielded easily while wearing body armor. But, for the average American who wishes to defend his or her home, the best shotguns have simple bead sights that are lower in profile and quicker to acquire, and their stocks are fully contoured for maximum recoil mitigation. Whether you choose a pump or semi-automatic depends on your prowess and your budget. To that end, here are five of my favorites.
Remington Versa Max Tactical
Currently “Big Green’s” top-end defensive shotgun is my favorite on the market for several reasons. First, it’s proven to be quite reliable with buckshot and full-power loads—of which it holds nine. Secondly, it’s the softest-recoiling 12-gauge on the market thanks to its gas action, 8-pound heft and buttstock that features an incredibly soft recoil pad and gel-comb insert. The stock can be adjusted for drop-at-comb, so your eye will naturally be aligned down its rib without having to correct it after the mount—but one reason I like the gun so much is it points just like most Remington shotguns we’ve grown up shooting. As such, I have no problem shooting a round of clays with this thing. Its Versa-Port system is a new gas-action system that only uses as much gas as it needs to cycle the action. The gun’s express-style, shallow-V-and-bead sight system is superior for in-home distances and also provides great accuracy at longer ranges. I also like its oversize controls and rubbery stock that makes the gun easy to handle even with clammy hands. It comes with a railed receiver and a small forward rail for mounting a flashlight. MSRP: $1,456
Mossberg 590A1 9 Shot
There’s nothing at all wrong with Mossberg’s venerable 500-series pump shotgun, but I prefer the company’s 590A1 because it holds nine shells. It also comes with a no-nonsense stock and an aggressively ribbed fore-end to minimize the chance of short-stroking due to slippage. I like its synthetic stock and Parkerized-metal finish, that—along with its battle-proven Mossberg action—make it virtually bomb-proof. And if you prefer a tang safety to a Remington 870-style crossbolt, you’re in luck. It’s also available in a left-handed model and with multiple stock- and sight-configurations. This may be high-priced for a pump, but in my view $600 remains a bargain for such a formidable home-defense arm that is proven to always go bang when you need it most. MSRP: $657
Mossberg 930 JM Pro Series
If you prefer Mossberg shotguns for their tang safeties, reliability and economical price but you prefer a semi-automatic, the 930 Pro Series is your gun. It was built in consultation with perhaps the world’s best all-around shooter, Jerry Miculek, and he doesn’t prefer a bunch of junk on his shotgun. He just wants one that’s instinctive to point, has a full-contour stock for max recoil mitigation—and therefore fast follow-ups—is reliable as the moon and holds a double handful of shells. And while the resulting 930 Pro Series is perfect for competition, it’s also perfect for home defense. The 22-inch-barrel version holds nine shots and features oversize controls, all in a gun that will fire as fast as you can point it at a threat and pull the trigger—for much less than comparable semi-autos. MSRP: $790