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How to Choose a Self Defense Shotgun

self defense shotgun

What kind of shotgun is best for self defense and home defense?

by PersonalSecurityZone.com

We aim to help you choose a home defense shotgun that you can have confidence in and feel comfortable about owning. We know you want a shotgun that you can rest assured you can rely on - a shotgun you will feel good about having. It may even impress your friends or others at the shooting range when you go out to practice you shooting and self defense skills! Impressing friends is an added bonues, but we know you are serious about finding the right shotgun for your personal self defense.

First off, please note that each and every shotgun in our online store is reliable and suitable for self defense and home defense. This is because at PersonalSecurityZone.com everything we sell is made by a high quality firearm manufacturer. We only sell top notch firearms that are new and include manufacturers' warranties. So, you can buy with confidence that the shotgun you purchase from us will be made by a manufacturer or importer who stands by their products. But also, there are some features that make certain shotguns more maneuverable and easy to use for self defense and home defense, which is what we'll discuss in this article.

W.P. from Arizona asked us...

"Which shotgun would you suggest for home protection. I am 72 and my wife is 67 so we don't want a shotgun that will knock us on our butts. :) Thank you very much."

Here's what we replied...

Thank you for your inquiry. Being a small woman, I am also concerned about recoil when it comes to a personal defense shotgun! A really good choice is a 410 or 20 gauge (20GA) shotgun with an 18 1/2 inch barrel and a pistol grip. But don't avoid the longer barrels and you don't need a pistol grip, especially if you are used to rifle style standard long gun stocks.

What are the most popular self defense shotguns?

  • Remington 870 shotgun with 5 or 7 shot capacity & 18.5" barrel - the Remington 870 is the top selling shotgun of all time for a good reason: reliability and features. It's the choice of police departments nationwide.

  • Saiga 12, 20 and 410 semi auto authentic Russian AK action shotguns have short barrels. They're robust well-made Russian imports brought into the U.S.A. by several importers. In recent years, the Saiga 12 shotgun has become the #1 choice for many of our customers. Saiga 12 is built on the proven AK action: very ergonomic and dependable.

  • Mossberg 500 Cruiser pistol grip shotgun sometimes comes packaged with with both a pistol grip and standard stock - you can try both types of stocks and see what works best for you.

  • Mossberg 500 persuader shotgun has a standard stock. Later, you can change to a pistol grip if you want, since you can buy a Mossberg 500 pistol grip stock separately.

  • Looking for a lower priced shotgun? Economical and still tops in reliability with stopping power are european American Arms, Interstate Arms, Norinco, USSG, NEF and Maverick by Mossberg shotguns: shotguns under $250.

  • For more top quality there's Winchester Super-X Pump Defender, Weatherby, Savage and other home defense shotguns are made by proven and quality manufacturers of hunting firearms: all shotgun manufacturers in stock.

  • Mossberg 500HS home security 410 shotgun offers less recoil in 410 and a short 18.5" barrel plus vertical foregrip on the pump: all mossberg shotguns in stock.

  • Important: with a 20" barrel you can get even higher capacity such as 9 shots. Comparing 18.5" to 20" next to eachother, you will see that there isn't much difference in length and maneuveability, so the trade-off for more rounds of ammo may be for you.

  • Also: due to the popularity and workability of the AR15 platform modern sporting rifle, many customers also choose an ar15 rifle over a shotgun for home defense and self defense. This is just something to think about when making your choice.

Remember, you don't have to have the shortest barrel! Just One and a half inch more will give you more capacity. Here are some very helpful links so you can find shotguns...

All Shotguns in stock.

Shotguns with...
18.5"-19" Barrels
20" Barrels

All 20GA shotguns
with short barrels
(19" or less) in stock.

All 410 shotguns
with short barrels
(19" or less) in stock.

You may also search for shotguns by manufacturer or other criteria using our Advanced Search. Then, you can select by manufacturer or otherwise narrow down your search even more. For example, you can type Cruiser into the "Title Contains" field to see just the Cruiser shotguns in stock.

For more info. about solving the problem of recoil, keep reading. But, first, let's cover some more basic informaton about shotguns.


The most-recommended home defense shotgun is a short barreled 18 1/2 inch to 22-inch shotgun that is a 12 or 20-gauge shotgun. Also most-recommended are pump or autoloaders, for ease of shooting & maneuverability.

Some examples from our online store:

  • Mossberg 500 Special Purpose shotguns: 18.5-inch barrel pump action (featured above)
  • Remington 870 pump action series, including Remington's Police model, 870 Tactical and the Marine Magnum
  • Winchester pump model shotguns: Defender, Camp Defender, and Stainless Marine.
  • Saiga 12 Gauge is popular among customers who want a shotgun they can also have a lot of fun with at the shooting range or for sporting and hunting. It's like having a modern sporting rifle but with shotgun loads.
  • Also, we have many more manufacturers with suitable shotguns in stock

Many experts say that high quality pump action shotguns offer an advantage over autoloaders, because their operation is mechanically reliable, even under difficult conditions. This is why pump action shotguns are more often recommended for home defense. These shotguns can also be stored or carried in a relatively safe setup: with the magazine loaded, chamber empty, safety on and hammer down. From this state the pump can be used to STOP The Bad Guy very quickly. However, for home defense, as a gun owner you always want to secure any loaded firearm, including a pump action shotgun, in a responsible manner.

autoloading shotgun and pump shotgun

It is often said that there is no sound in the world quite as identifiable or as intimidating as the "rack-rack" of a pump action shotgun! However, we at Personal Security Zone don't recommend relying on scaring the wits out of The Bad Guy with the sound or look of your shotgun. Instead, we recommend being prepared with a gun that is reliable, that you know how to use, and that you hopefully will never have to use to defend yourself.

Choosing an economical shotgun...

Price is always consideration. A reliable, well made pump action shotgun can usually be purchased at a cost less than a comparable quality handgun. Other advantages of the shotgun include:

  • There is less danger of a poorly aimed shot harming family or friends through walls.
  • The stopping power is greater. The potential for inflicting wound trauma to a criminal assailant is maximized with a shotgun, hopefully with the effect of stopping a violent confrontation quickly.
  • For many people, it is easier to aim a shotgun when compared to a handgun, especially in a tense situation.

About autoloaders...

A high quality autoloader is an alternative to the pump shotgun. The action of the finer autoloader models tends to be flawless. However, as with any autoloader, you must be careful after the initial shot not to inadvertently discharge the already-loaded firearm.

In order to familiarize yourself with making-safe a loaded autoloader, you should practice unloading a cocked autoloader with a shell in the chamber. Practice again and again, until this becomes second nature. Of course, you will practice in a safe place, such as the shooting range, to allow for the potential of accidental discharge. Or, use Snap Caps if you are practicing at home, so that you will never have to worry about the gun going off during practice.

Always remember the most important rule of gun safety. Never touch the trigger until you are ready to shoot. This rule is followed by all marksmen, from experts to novices.

What chamber? What type of shells?

For versatility, it is desirable to select a shotgun with a receiver chambered for at least 3-inch Magnum shot shells. This receiver will accommodate both 2-3/4-inch Standard and 3-inch Magnum shells, a worthy feature in the event ammunition ever becomes scarce. The "Super Magnum" receivers now available will function with 2-3/4-inch, 3-inch, and 3-1/2-inch shells interchangeably.

For home defense, 2-3/4-inch shells are recommended. The Magnum and Super Magnum loadings offer little incremental benefit in this type of application. Their tremendous recoil makes shooting uncomfortable for many, a factor which inhibits follow-up shot accuracy. For the 12-gauge, shoot Standard 2-3/4-inch, 00 buck. Shells for the 20-gauge should also be 2-3/4-inch Standard, loaded with #3 buck.

Be prepared with the right skills and the right ammunition...

How can you be prepared in case you need to use your shotgun for self defense? Make sure you have all the right equipment readily available and that you practice with it. If you haven't been out to the shooting range to practice in the last few months, then it's time to go out and renew your shotgun shooting skills. Or, if you are buying your first shotgun or don't have any friends to teach you the in's and out's of shooting, you can find licensed firearms instructors in your local phone book. Take a class and gain a wealth of information.

You will need to have enough ammunition for practice, plus you need it handy in case you need to use your shotgun for self defense. In addition to having at least 100 rounds of your favorite buck shot load, you might also get five or six boxes of rifled slugs to keep on hand. This will give you some ammo to practice with, and it will also provide you with the ammo you need just in case.

A clean shotgun is a reliable one...

shotgun cleaning kit

Safety is a priority and requires taking the time to do a proper gun cleaning on your shotgun.

Helpful accessories for your shotgun...

What other equipment or accessories are useful for a home defense shotgun?

At PersonalSecurityZone.com we think accessorizing your shotgun has value beyond just "what you need." This is because buying accessories provide you with more incentive to practice more with it, which is the only way to maintain your shooting skills and increase your preparedness.

Some common accessories for shotguns:

  • Synthetic stock and fore end (if your shotgun did not come with one),
  • Pistol grip,
  • Shotgun scope (like hunting rifle sights),
  • Bead sight,
  • Sling (if your shotgun did not come with one),
  • Holder for additional ammunition: bandolier, shell-holding stock or side caddy,
  • Extended magazine,
  • Tactical light to illuminate your target in the dark. Tactical lights are very popular items, and we sell a lot of them.

Bandoliers are useful for keeping extra ammunition handy. Shell-holding stocks are also useful. Or, side saddle shell caddies are another alternative, however many experts say that these may actually get in the way under tense circumstances.

You may want to attach an extended magazine to your shotgun, to increase its ammunition holding capacity. These extensions are installed without any special tools, because they are machined to fit a shotgun's existing tubular magazine once the end cap is unscrewed. An extension can add up to five additional rounds of capacity to the existing magazine on some makes and models.

What about tactical lights? Is illumination desirable? Yes. In defending your home, especially at night, you need to be absolutely sure of the intent of any intruder and identify your target. You need to find out if a criminal is actually invading your home, or is it just one of your kids' friends playing a prank? Could it be a family member who is coming home late, instead of The Bad Guy? Of course, you want to be able to answer these questions quickly in order to be certain of your need for self defense.

Tactical lights mount to the shotgun forearm, providing a way for you to positively idenfity (and possbily blind) any night-time intruder. A tactical light may also allow for hands-free operation, in case you really do need to use your shotgun to defend yourself or your family.

Addressing the recoil problem...

Here are great tips from Giovanni Cidranes, security professional, formerly sales rep. for a major firearm distributor and formerly Western Sales Manager for Legacy Sports.

To some who can't handle the recoil "regrettably 12 gauge shotguns are pretty much 12 gauge shotguns.

"Recoil reducing stocks are truly viable solutions to the dilemma.

recoil reducing shotgun stock

"My other recommendation along with the addition of a recoil reducing stock is to have the consumer use "light recoil" ammo:

  • Federal Premium Ammo 12GA 2.75" LOW RECOIL SLUGS 5/box
  • Hornady Ammo 12GA OO BUCK LIGHT MAG 5/box
  • PMC Ammo Buckshot 12GA 2.75 00 LOW RECOIL 5/box

"Lastly, especially for older or not-very-large consumers, other gauges are perfectly acceptable. Mossberg and other firearm manufacturers make great home defense .410, the 20 gauge shotguns will work just fine. Sometimes there are perceptions that need to be addressed.

"Remember, it does not matter how powerful your weapon of choice is if you cannot hit your target.

"I hope this helps."

-- Giovanni Cidranes

Buying a shotgun from PersonalSecurityZone.com

We hope this article has provided you with helpful information about choosing a shotgun for self defense. Just let us know if you would like to purchase a shotgun or accessories from our online store at PersonalSecurityZone.com.

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