Best Self Defense Shotguns – My Top Four

Shot guns save lives, plain and simple. If you don’t have one you are missing a key tool in your home defense or self defense arsenal. Here is a run down of my top four picks for a self defense shotguns.

Best Self Defense Shotgun
Self Defense Shotgun
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Manasquan, NJ –-(  No matter where you live in the USA in 2013 you have seen home invasions on the rise. For this reason and since the President’s push for disarmament of the U. S. gun owner, I have had student after student ask me what is the best shotgun for self defense or home defense?

Shotguns make excellent guns for at home protection as they are easy to maneuver and simple to operate. Pump and auto loading shotguns with a barrel length of 18 to 22 inches is the optimum choice for self defense. They are completely reliable and stupid simple for most everyone but the most fanatical progressive to operate.

So I came up with my best four picks for the Top Four Self Defense Shotguns for reliable home protection.

My Top Four Self Defense Shotgun Short List:

Making the Best Self Defense Shotguns short list: Remington Model 870 Express Tactical Magpul Shotgun
Making the Best Self Defense Shotguns short list: Remington Model 870 Express Tactical Magpul Shotgun

Best Self Defense Shotguns – Remington 870 Pump Shot Gun:

The 870 is a classic self defense gun from back in the day and is still an easy goto weapon for anyone. In fact any of the 870 models will work just fine. I happen to like the Remington Model 870 Express Tactical Magpul Shotgun.

Remington Model 870 Express Tactical Magpul Shotgun:

From Remington: No task is too demanding and no challenge is too intense with our rugged, ultra-dependable and ever-expanding selection of tactical shotguns. Our lineup keeps growing to serve the needs of law enforcement, the military, competitive shooters and people defending their homes and loved ones.

When you’re in the most demanding environments and every second counts, Remington’s tactical shotguns give you the confidence and firepower to get the job done.


  • Tried and true 870 receiver milled from solid steel
  • 18.5″ barrel with extended tactical choke tube
  • Receiver and barrel features tough, weather resistant Cerakote coating
  • One piece magazine tube
  • Fully adjustable XS Ghost Ring Sight rain with removable white bead front sight
  • SGA Magpul stock
  • Spacer system for length of pull adjustment
  • Cheek risers for use with optics/raised sights
  • MOE fore-end with improved grip ergonomics
  • SuperCell pad reduces felt recoil by over 50%
Making the Best Self Defense Shotguns short list: Mossberg 590A1 TactLight Forend Shotgun
Making the Best Self Defense Shotguns short list: Mossberg 590A1 TactLight Forend Shotgun for self defense.

Best Self Defense Shotguns – Mossberg’s 590 A1 Shotguns Series

Much like remington 870 series the 590 A1 has multiple models that we get the job of self defense done but I prefer the Mossberg 590A1 Tactical Light Forend Shotgun for the built in flashlight, an essential tool in your self defense kit.

From Mossberg: The forend houses an L3/Insight Technology light, (which you can buy separately and upgrade current shotgun) delivering 125 peak lumens, ambidextrous side touch pad operation with Temporary On, Fixed On, Strobe beam settings. Shock-resistant.

Mossberg’s 590 A1 Shotgun KEY FEATURES:

  • 3″ Chambered Models in 12 Gauge
  • Heavy-Walled Barrels, Metal Trigger Guard and Safety Buttons Built to Mil-Spec Demands
  • 18.5 or 20″ Barrels, 6 or 9-Shot Capacities
  • Tri-Rail Forend and Tactical Light Forend Models
  • Free Gun Lock/10-Year Limited Warranty Included
  • Gauge 12
  • Chamber Size 3″
  • Capacity 6
  • Barrel 18.5″
  • Sights Bead
  • Chokes Cylinder Bore
  • Overall Length 39.5″
  • Length Of Pull 13.875″
  • Barrel Finish Parkerized
  • Stock Synthetic (Black)
  • Weight 7.5 lb
Making the Best Self Defense Shotguns short list: Arsenal’s SGL12 Semi-Auto Saiga 12-Gauge Shotgun
Making the Best Self Defense Shotguns short list: Arsenal’s SGL12 Semi-Auto Saiga 12-Gauge Shotgun

Best Self Defense Shotguns – Saiga 12-gauge Shotguns

Based on the ultra reliable gas operated action of the classic Ak47 rifle, the Saiga SGL Shotguns are a rock steady choice for self defense.

SGL12-07, Russian 12-gauge shotgun that incorporates a mil-spec original Russian buttstock, the new generation SAW type Russian pistol grip, and all the reliability that you expect from this Saiga shotgun with detachable magazine. Unlike aftermarket conversion shotguns, this factory manufactured unit does not have any unnecessary riveted holes on the sides of the receiver and does not compromise the integrity and value of your shotgun. Like our other SGL12 Shotguns, it has the same fit and finish as our SGL21 and 31 series rifles. Components include 922r compliant parts, mil-spec Buttstock, and trigger group. This variant features the new generation SAW type Russian pistol grip for a real comfortable grip with all the reliability that you expect from this Saiga shotgun with a detachable magazine. Unlike aftermarket conversion shotguns, this factory manufactured unit does not have any unnecessary riveted holes on the sides of the receiver and does not compromise the integrity and value of your shotgun.

K-Var is proud to sell FIME’s own 12 gauge Saiga shotgun. This Saiga 12 was manufactured at the Izhmash Factory in Russia and Imported through FIME Group, LLC in Las Vegas. This Saiga 12 is the perfect balance between price and added features for an extremely reliable semi-automatic shotgun.

Designed as an all purpose shotgun, this Saiga will deliver the unprecedented performance needed. Chambered in the versatile and functional 12-gauge round, this semi-auto shotgun has all the standard features seen on the original Saiga that allows it to operate in the harshest environments with virtually any type of ammunition. This rifle comes with a chrome lined barrel which allows the use of many different types of ammunition to include steel. FIME’s Saiga 12 Is capable of cycling both 2 ¾“ and 3” magnum shells.

As with all Saiga 12’s, this shotgun is not designed to use low pressure shells.

Saiga 12 gauges come standard with the bolt hold open feature. This allows for a quicker change time between magazines (ideal for hunters and self defense alike). With all of the available accessories on the market for these Saiga 12’s the possibilities are endless.

This shotgun was manufactured utilizing the Kalashnikov gas system. This gas system reduces the felt recoil dramatically and will be a guaranteed hit with every squeeze of the trigger. It will be capable of shooting in either a single shot operation, allowing use of all the gases in order to increase the velocity of the round or in the standard semi-auto mode.

As with all rifles and shotguns that K-Var offers these will be backed by FIME Group’s standard warranty, hunters, sportsmen, and persons interested in self defense can’t go wrong with this Saiga.

Summary: Saiga 12 Gauge shotgun, LE Variation, chrome lined smoothbore 19” barrel – This Saiga 12 was manufactured at the World Famous Izhmash Factory in Russia and Imported through FIME Group LLC in Las Vegas, Nevada. This semi auto shotgun is featured original and added features configuration from Saiga. Will shoot both 2 3/4 “and 3” magnum. Bolt-Lock option and One-Shot or Semi-Auto Adjustable Gas tube, Black Stock Set, Warsaw Pact length Buttstock, New generation SAW type Russian pistol grip.

Made using only new mil spec. parts.

SGL12 is shipped with one 5-round Russian magazine, cleaning kit, cleaning brush, oil bottle & a Saiga adjustment tool.

Saiga 12-gauge Shotguns KEY FEATURES:

  • Caliber: 12-gauge
  • Total Length: 978 mm (38 1/2 in.)
  • Barrel Length: 483 mm (19 in.)
  • Weight without Magazine: 3.11 kg (6.85 lbs.)
Making the Best Self Defense Shotguns short list: Hawk 12 GA. Pump Defense Shotgun
Making the Best Self Defense Shotguns short list: Hawk 12 GA. Pump Defense Shotgun

Best Self Defense Shotguns – Hawk 12 GA. Pump Defense Shotgun

The Hawk Model 982 is patterned after America’s favorite 12 GA pump, (see if you can guess which one from the choices above) and features a machined solid steel receiver, an 18 1/2″ barrel with 3 inch chamber and an adjustable ghost ring sight. This traditional pump action model is fitted with polymer stocks with recoil pad and has a black matte finish.

Hawk 12 GA. Pump Defense Shotgun KEY FEATURES:

  • MODEL: HAWK 982
  • BARREL: 18 1/2″
  • MSRP: $284.99

The truth is almost all shotguns will work well for self defense but if you have a choice any one of the four above will do the job with room to spare and more than that they are all fun to shoot and will work well for Three Gun Competition as well as the occasional clay shoot.

Don’t like our picks? Then check out Moss Pawn and Gun’s video take on the Best Self Defense Shotguns:

Do you have another gun that is your favorite or you think is a better choice. Drop me a note in the comments below.

Thinking you want a Semi-Auto for your concealed carry weapon? Read our article of the Top 5 Concealed Carry Handguns .

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Rick O'Shay

Now days it seems out of the box the Hawk soundly beats the Remington 870 for reliability.
As for something a little different for the list. Benelli Nova and the Supernova have slick actions and have never hiccuped for me. they have a feature where you can open the chamber and load while still having rounds in the magazine. Loaded with #4 ought buck and want to use a slug? This can be done with the Supernova with a push of a button on the bottom of the fore end.

Eric B.

I have the original Benelli M1 with pistol grip stock and short barrel/long magazine. Yeah, it only takes 3″ shells but that’s enough for turkeys (feathered and otherwise).

This M1 shotgun, with the regular stock and long barrel, is great for duck and upland game. Never EVER jammed, unlike my crappy old Remington 870 pump. A Mossberg 500 is far more reliable than a Remington 870. That’s why the US army buys them.
End of rant…


Are 10 shots the MOST capacity for an auto-loading shotgun?

Yes, I am aware of the UTZ & KelTech bullpumps = 15

Eric B.

My “perfect” self defense shotgun is my semi-auto Benelli M1 with pistol grip stock, long magazine, short barrel W/ turkey choke and red dot sight.

I’ve had that gun duck hunting in the worst rain, sleet and snow with never a hitch with ANY load. It is totally reliable and amazingly fast. I can shoot 5 rounds BEFORE the first hull hits the ground. If row M1 Benelli is good enough for the LA SWAT team it’s good enough for me.


Over the years with Shotguns ,I started my police career with a Ithica Auto Burglar .It is the perfect 16 ga. pistol gripped double barrel shotgun . With that said ,the ones left are in private collections and they w ere re classified so you will need a tax stamp . Once you finished paying for it ,you could own several other shotguns . Since then I’ve carried an array of other shotguns From a chrome plated sawed off double barrel 12 to Ithicas ,Winchesters ,Mossbergs ,Remingtons ,Smith & Wessons .My Favorite is a Ithica model 37 .The older ones… Read more »


Is it against any law in OUR/MY country (AMERICA) to mount a human head like you would a deer???
Just wondering!



I’m sure you can get a replica. take pictures get the head, neck etc…. measurements from medical examiners office.

Judge Johnston

In my nearly 20 years on the trial court bench the only firearm I consistently saw fought over was the self defense shotgun. Why, it’s too long and few homeowner’s have ever. taken any training. A short Carbine like a Beretta Storm at 31 inches or Auto Ordinance’s M1 Carbine at 32 inches is a much better choice that a 12 gauge at 40 or 42 inches and precisely because of your quote: “A 12-gauge, 9-pellet buckshot load with rated velocity of 1,450 feet per second delivers a whopping 2,240 foot-pounds of energy” Since knock down power is a fallacy… Read more »


wanted to here comments on the Harrington & Richardson pardner protector shotgun, I have been looking at both the Mossberg maverick 88 and the H&R ,wanted to here opinions pros and cons.


Happy to say that of your list, we have three of them. The Mossberg, the Hawk, and the Saiga. The Hawk was a Christmas present for my wife two years ago.

These are all great guns. The Saiga rests in a rack on the side of my bed, with a 12 round mag of 00. We both keep our handguns at the ready, but a good shotgun is our number one choice for self defense.

John Hainsworth

I am an older man who has suffereda costly burgulary last December 7th. and I would like to inquire about a
least expensive shotgun purchase. I would not like to wound (stop) an intruder, NOT Kill. I am a retired former Deputy
Jailer (transport) I think a 20 gauge perhaps. I am familiar with 12 gauge kick, and as I have no sternum (due to a fall right after bypass surgery) and I think that would be too much for this old bird to handle. Thank you for any feedback that you might consider.

John H.


I like the Linberta Semi-auto. $399 at Buds, but you can shop around and get one for $252.00 + $25.00 shipping, elsewhere (check or There are two models; one with a carry handle and barrel wrap/heat protector – more “tactical looking” and a model with ghost ring sights and a rail for monting a scope. Both look sharp. Yes, they are made in Turkey, in one of the most modern, standards-driven weapons facilities in the world, like most other decent shotguns nowadays under $900.00. The machining is good and quality of workmanship overall appears to rival anything I’ve… Read more »


Am partial to the mag loading shotguns available as a I can see a serious home invasion with multiple perps deteriorating into a protracted gunfight. ie. roving bands of scavengers if/when TSHTF. Reloading down time/distraction may become the critical factor, therefore, sustainable and focused firepower being the objective of mag loading. However, I’ve heard rumors that the long-term storage of shot shells compressed in magazines can cause distortion of shell casing, impeding feeding and causing jamming. Anyone have any bona fide knowledge or personal experience with said problem?


This site must appeal to “violence geeks”: people who fantasise about unleashing a flurry of deadly violence on someone else and wait for the part where you’ll be rewarded with a bravery medal. Simply put: how many here live a town where violent crime is the norm? How many here have a criminal lifestyle were you can expect a violent intruder looking for revenge? Most likely people here are ordinary people who are imaging an extremely unlikely scenario to so they can face a violent encounter that they assume they’ll easily win. It’s strange people are waiting a lifelong sense… Read more »


You’re likely not far off in some cases. Like anything that covers the spectrum of the population privately owned weapons are in the hands of every type of person. Misunderstanding or misrepresentation are always right behind.


Even stranger is that you took the effort to write such a long post on a website that you supposedly have no interest in. Yes…very strange indeed…

c j walker

Just learn to shoot what you have and stop worrying about how bad it is. Know your gun and how to shoot it safely and not to over kill. If you can,t shoot from any position you are not ready to face someone with a weapon pointed at you or your family.


lf you need to know all this about your gun then you don,t know enough to have one in your hands. Best to have your Nebo.s number programed into your phone. Any shotgun will do the job and any shell also. I bought my wife a 20ga camper special pump and some number 4 s and 6 s which will cut you into at ten yards which is more than most of your rooms. These will go through the door of your car when laying across your lap and take some one out on the out side. A load of… Read more »

Kenneth mckenna

Is anyone familiar with Mossbergs, Maverick 88 Tactical shotgun? I’ve heard mostly good things, unfortuanately I
Can not afford anything high dollar. I’m told this Shotgun is well made and will get the job done.