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Posted By FFL Dealer Network on 04/23/2020 in Firearms

Top 5 Home Defense Shotguns

Top 5 Home Defense Shotguns

One of the best ways to start an argument in gun groups is to say what is the best gun for any use — except for a home defense shotgun.

For home defense shotguns, the gun world is almost unified. The Mossberg 500 series and the Remington 870 are at the top of the heap. Which one is the best depends mostly on brand loyalty. Another thing that people can agree on is the ammo needed. Federal FliteControl in eight-pellet 00 buckshot leads the pack. These loads function best in an open-bore barrel. Chokes cause the special wad to open too soon, ruining the pattern.

For the top home defense shotguns, we take a look first at reliability, then customization. A home defense shotgun must be reliable when your life depends on it. You have got to know when you pull the trigger, a load of lead is going to fly out of the barrel at more than 1,000 feet per second. Customizing means fitting it to your physique and your needs.

No. 1 MOSSBERG 590A1 Marinecote

MOSSBERG 590A1 Marinecote Home Defense Shotgun

The 590A1 is the choice of the US military for shotguns. The Marinecote finish is the most durable and rust-resistant finish available.

The 590A1 sets itself apart from the rest of the 500 family.  This model comes from the factory with a metal trigger guard installed. The metal trigger guard is required to meet military specifications. Other 500 series Mossberg’s come with a plastic trigger guard, which is known to break.

It is easy to change out the plastic group for all metal

Knock out the pin, drop the plastic set, pop in the metal and drive the pin back in. However, it is just easier to get the metal trigger group to begin with.

The Mossberg 500 series takes a slight lead over the Remington for two reasons - the safety and the receiver. The 500s have the safety on the top of the receiver. Hit it with the thumb that sits on top of the stock's wrist. It works equally well for left-handers and right-handers. Checking the safety position is also easier than the 870. Just look down.

The 590A1 receiver is pre-tapped for sights, whereas the 870 must be drilled and tapped. You can put scopes, red dots, tactical iron sights, and ghost rings on the gun.

The receiver is aluminum.

Pump shotguns rely on you working the slide to eject a spent round and shove a new one into the chamber. The 500 series has dual slide arms. This may not sound hugely important until you break a slide arm (we have on other pump shotguns). Having that redundant arm is another reason the 500 series and the 870 are top choices for home defense.

When it comes to customizing, the Mossberg 500 series has a slight edge again on the Remington. The advantage is because of the black powder barrel. Using the smokepole version of a 500 for home defense is ludicrous, but it is a customization option. 

A good home defense shotgun should see multiple uses. The Remington 870 does not have this capability in a commercial version. However, you can buy a muzzleloader adapter that will work on many different shotguns. 

Barrel choices are so varied that whatever you need in a 12-gauge shotgun barrel, it is available. Stock and fore-end choices are also extensive. You can find the exact fit you need if the factory stocks do not fit. Mossberg offers a stock that holds four additional rounds inside the stock. That way, you can carry extras without something stuck to the side of the gun.

The 590A1 comes in eight different factory original configurations. The Marinecote version packs six in the tube, one in the chamber and an 18.5-inch barrel. 

It is sometimes hard to find, but the 590A1 does come in a left-hand shooter version.

No. 2 Remington 870 Special Purpose Marine

Remington 870 Special Purpose Marine Home Defense Shotgun

Remington brags about the 870 and with good reason. With more than 11 million sold, it is the best-selling pump shotgun of all time. 

Remington says, "If the Model 870™ were introduced today, it would be hailed as a major advance in pump-action shotgun design - the ultimate in strength, durability, silky-smooth bind-free action, and sleek classical lines."

The main reason it takes No. 2 on our top home defense shotgun list is the safety position. The safety is behind the trigger. This is just harder to operate than the top-mounted safety of the Mossberg. To check the safety position, you must look down and turn the gun slightly to one side or the other.

The other reason is the receiver. The 870 is not tapped for optics. Why?!  You either must drill and tap the holes or get a gunsmith to do it if you want receiver-mounted sights. You can get a cantilevered barrel for the 870.

If you get the same setup in a Mossberg 500 and a Remington 870, you can expect to pay $100 to $150 more for the Remington. Given that the receiver is steel v. the aluminum in the 500, the price difference is understandable. Remington also has a much deeper and historic reputation than Mossberg.

Just like the 500 series, the barrel and furniture options are almost endless. If you can think of it, someone has made it. 

This pump also has two slide arms for increased reliability. The 870 Special Purpose Marine has the extra-durable finish.

Unlike the Mossbergs, the Remington magazine tube can be easily extended with an after-market tube. 

The 500s require replacing the tube and a different barrel since the 500 barrels have an integral cap.

The 870 also comes in left-hand models. The factory-direct model holds 6 rounds in the tube. 

No. 3 Winchester SXP Marine Defender

Winchester SXP Marine Defender Home Defense Shotgun

The SXP family is extensive. Some of the shotguns listed are only different camo patterns, different barrels, or furniture. The overall shotgun is the same. 

Again, the choice is the shiny marine coating because of the resistance to corrosion. 

The long Truglo front sight is not as good as tritium sights, but it is also better than a simple bead sight. The long tube will pick up some light and let you see where the barrel is pointed in low light conditions. After-market tritium shotgun sights are available for most any shotgun brand.

The receiver is drilled and tapped for optics. It has two slide arms. The safety is in front of the trigger. This is better than the rear safety on the 870, but still not as good as on the 500 series.

Magazine extensions are available. The factory-direct gun holds 5 in the tube.

One reason the SXP is lower on the list than No. 1 and 2 is the lack of customization. The SXP just does not have the sheer number of aftermarket accessories. Pricewise it is comparable to the 500 and the 870.

Another reason the SXP is not at the very top is no left-hand model.  

No. 4 Stoeger P3000 Defense Pump

Stoeger P3000 Defense Pump Home Defense Shotgun

This pump from Stoeger comes in few factory configurations compared to the other three home defense shotguns. However, one factory setup it does have is a folding stock. Aftermarket folders are available for the others. Additional accessories are far less common.

The safety is located behind the trigger. 

Magazine extensions are available. They install with less effort than the 870 extension tubes. It holds 4 in the tube.

The P3000 has two slide arms, sort of. It has an arm on each side of the tube, but the action arm is all one piece connected at each end, unlike the 870 and 500. This increases the durability of the slide since it is less like to be affected by any extreme forces.

The P3000 Defense the least expensive home defense shotgun listed here. It does not come in a marine anti-corrosion version. 

No. 5 Ithaca Model 37

Ithaca Model 37 Home Defense Shotgun

The Model 37 is the oldest gun in this list. It first rolled off the assembly lines in 1937. It is based on a 1915 design from John Moses Browning. 

It comes in two home defense shotgun models, a five-shot, and an 8-shot. The barrels between the two are not interchangeable as the magazine cap is also integral to the barrel. Barrel lengths are 18 and 20 inches. The 18-incher holds 5 and the 20-incher holds 8 rounds.

The only other choice is furniture, synthetic or walnut.

Accessories are limited to those that are common to shotguns of most makes and designs, removable items like ammo holders on the stock.

The safety is behind the trigger. Even if it had a top safety or a way to reverse the safety setting quickly, this gun would not rank higher, despite being a bottom-eject. Bottom eject pumps are harder to clear than side-eject, and the Model 37 has a single slide arm.

Older model 37s can slamfire. Ithaca made changes to the gun in the late 70s to prevent slamfire.

The Model 37 is the most expensive of the models in this list. 

Also Ran… 

Some people will read this list and wonder why some other guns did not make the cut. Here's a brief list of contenders and the reason they did not make our home defense shotgun list.

Benelli M4

Benelli M4 Tactical Shotgun

The biggest reason the Benelli is not on our home defense shotgun list is the price. With a tag of $1,500 and up, you can get three or more Mossberg 500s. Further, the Benelli is an autoloader, and automatics are just not as reliable as a pump. 

Yes, automatics are very reliable and more manageable for a novice to shoot, especially under tense situations. However, it is easier to clear a misfeed, jam, failure to fire, or other problems in a pump v. an autoloader.

Add to this, anyone who keeps a gun for home defense needs to learn to use it. That means plenty of practice. Very light loads, even empty hulls, will cycle in a pump. You can run exercises in your house with spent shells and snap caps. Pull the trigger, cycle the gun. Load hulls with just a primer, and you can practice in your back yard and get some of the effects of pulling a trigger on a live round. You can't do that with an autoloader. Why do this? Trigger control and developing muscle memory for pulling the trigger.

Mossberg Maverick 88

Mossberg Maverick 88 Shotgun

This moves the safety down to the trigger guard. The slide arms are integral to the fore-end, so if you want a different front piece, you must replace the slides as well. Barrels are interchangeable with the 500 series.

Detachable Magazine-fed Pump Shotguns

These types of shotguns can also feed shells through the tube under the barrel. These do not make our list because of the magazine. Home defense shotguns need to be compact and maneuverable. The magazine sticking out from the receiver is unnecessary and can hang on something at a critical moment.

Extended-tube Pump Shotguns

These types of shotguns are not specifically on the list, even though some of our selections can have one. If you have ever grabbed a shotgun with a 10-round fully loaded tube, you understand why. It is incredibly weight-forward heavy. The extra weight is bad enough. Putting it at the front of the gun makes it just too much to manage as a home defense shotgun.



Shorty Shotguns are not on the list for one reason: recoil. It is substantial. The stock must be held in hand, which absorbs the recoil. Oddly enough, pulling back on the pistol grip with one hand and pushing forward on the fore-end with the other is the most manageable way to shoot these guns.

Aiming is another problem. With a shoulder mount, you can reasonably look down the barrel for a sight picture. The gun stays stable and steady, even in the hands of a novice. Learning the push-pull method of accurately shooting shortys to keep the line of sight straight with the barrel of the gun takes some practice.

While this new generation of short-barreled shotguns does not require the BATF Tax Stamp, they must not have a shoulder-mount stock. They come with a modified pistol grip. Putting a shoulder stock on one of these guns converts it into a short-barreled shotgun, which then requires the BATF stamp.

Single-shot and Double-barrel Shotguns 

These shotguns suffer from the same drawback, lack of ammo. The single shot is the worst. You get one shot chance before you must break the gun open and reload. If you miss, well, do not use a single shot.

Two shots with a double-barrel are twice as good, but still, two shots and you spent. Miss or have more than two perpetrators to deal with, and you have a severe problem.


No doubt someone is going to argue about this list and say something should be there and something else should not. Just remember this.  

Home defense shotguns are like underwear. Buy what fits you best, rocks your style, and is what you want, whether it is one of the above guns or not.

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