Best Defensive Shotguns for 2022

Whether for civilian home defense or law enforcement use, defensive shotguns are hot sellers.

Best Defensive Shotguns for 2022

The idea of a shotgun for home or self-defense is not bad, new or nonsense. From our earliest days as a nation, with muskets and pistols before the advent of rifles, shotguns and better pistols, Americans have defended themselves and their homes with the best available option. Today, shotguns arguably could be at the top of the list.

The pros shine brightly, of course. Shotguns are powerful and penetrating, with knockdown power that works through thin doors or sheetrock. They can be hidden in a closet, leaned in a corner behind a chair or put in other places. Out of ammo? The buttstock becomes a club, if needed.

As expected, a quick list of supposed cons comes to mind, too. A fully loaded shotgun, even a shorter tactical model, is heavy. The cost of defensive ammunition could make some buyers blanch if they don’t see it as an investment in protection. A magazine extension is not necessary, but definitely is helpful for extra rounds. And the question of semi-auto or pump always is brought up, with pros and cons about each. The former is fast; pull the trigger and let it eat. The latter has less chance of jamming and works with any ammo, from light birdshot to heavy buck.

What to say about these to customers asking for shotguns to use in the home? Talk honestly about each thing they ask, and offer the best answers possible. Discuss the pros and cons with them. Ask about who lives in the home. Are there children? Teenagers? Elderly people? Is the customer interested in other options? Would they, perhaps, want an all-around shotgun for hunting or clays that also could be used for home defense? Or do they want a tactical-specific shotgun, such as the Mossberg 940 Pro Tactical? It cycles 2 3/4- and 3-inch shells, accepts micro-dot sights, can take rail-mounted optics, and has an 18.5-inch barrel threaded for the AccuChoke tube system.

Selling a defense shotgun may be as cut-and-dried as “I want this one, thanks” or more detailed, with time spent on different considerations. You have to be ready for anything.


Plain or Dolled Up?

When I was a youngster, my father, a longtime waterfowl hunter, had several shotguns. One was an old 20-gauge with a twisty Poly-choke. Another was a legendary Browning A-5 Humpback 12-gauge, which knocked the snot out of me the first time I shot it. Our go-to guns were Smith & Wesson Model 916 12-gauge pumps, affordable and reliable. I don’t remember many issues. We killed a lot of ducks with them, him more than me, and I still have mine.

It’s about as Plain Jane as can be. Nothing inlaid, etched or carved, no checkering on the wood. The safety is on the top of the stock, intuitive and easily visible. It was easy to clean. It survived dunkings in sloughs and spatters of muddy duck boats.

There is nothing tactical about that Model 916. I think the front bead is missing, too. But for home defense, it would work. Plain Jane can get the job done easily if necessary. Although Hollywood screws up a lot of stuff in movies, the scenes of a rifle or shotgun behind the door or over a mantle aren’t inaccurate. Lever-action rifles and Grandpa’s shotgun weren’t make-believe. Customers will remember this. While you may have to dispel some myths, they’re already familiar with the idea, even if it came from watching the black-and-white days of television.

Some buyers will want the full tactical situation, though. Given today’s advancements in shotguns, who can blame them? Take the Beretta 1301 Tactical, for example. Similar to the Mossberg 940 Pro Tactical, and others, the new Beretta 1301 has oversized controls for easier acquisition. It also has Beretta’s BLINK gas operating system, which has “a cross-tube gas piston that allows for 36% faster cycling than its competition.” Sometimes, faster is better. In a defense situation, this would qualify as one of those times.

Tactical shotguns are different from their hunting cousins in several ways. Tactical models are shorter, usually, with just-barely-legal barrels in the 18- to 20-inch range. This makes for easier use in close quarters situations and also for storage. Magazine extensions add another four or five rounds, giving up to 10 or maybe 10+1, and many semi-autos will cycle everything from lighter birdshot to heavy slugs or buckshot. They also may fire less-lethal projectiles to create smoke or flash, or with beanbags or rubber projectiles. Again, discuss these options with buyers and then make sure the shotgun they choose or prefer can do these things if it’s important to them. Some consumers may not want lethal ammunition; work with them to find out the best options that fit their desires.


What Is the Plan?

One other thing to discuss with consumers is what do they want to do with their defense shotgun?

Do they want to go down with the castle, keeping everyone together and protected while fighting it out? Do they want to clear a house, should they think a burglar is inside? Do they want to flee or retreat, but with the option of the shotgun as the final step? If they have a hiding place, what is the distance of the shot they’re thinking about taking? Ten or 15 feet? Longer? Ammunition choices and choke tubes come into the discussion at that point, likely keying on buckshot as the best option. The quick “Just get double-aught buck!” answer often pops up, with the idea of that size being enough to light up Bobby Burglar if it can knock down a deer. But don’t overlook No. 1 buckshot, given the performance in gel tests, along with newer defense loads from Hornady, Federal and others.

Optics, of course, will be a question. Does the buyer want illuminated red-dots, something like a TruGlo fiber optic, or stock sight and bead? All have pros and cons. A key with any of them will be for the buyer to practice at the range. Emphasize this. Just like with any firearm, experience at the range matters. If the buyer asks about training courses, suggest anything you know of that is good in the area. Or, suggest they check into shotgun courses at Gunsite Academy in Arizona or Sig Sauer Academy in New Hampshire. Both offer courses at different experience levels where attendees will learn about guns, accessories, scenarios, ammunition and why and how all those work together in different situations. It’s more than just shucking a round or blowing holes through doors or walls.

If you’re looking for tactical shotguns to add this year, consider these models that are new or proven.

Beretta 1301 Tactical

This model was introduced in September 2021 but definitely deserves a look. Along with the enlarged controls, it has a cold-hammer-forged, back-bored barrel, texturized bolt release, oversized and reversible safety button, and aggressive checkering.

“We are proud to introduce the newest additions to the Beretta 1301 family,” said Erik Stern, Beretta Tactical and Pro Shop Product Manager. “We spent time to determine how to make the 1301 Tactical 922(R) compliant and offer customers the magazine capacity they have been requesting for years, with a factory 7+1 capacity magazine tube and a new MLOK-compatible barrel clamp with dual integral QD Sling swivels. The new pistol grip offering with a Mesa Tactical pistol grip stock allows for greater control and easier manipulation.”

The 1301 Tactical utilizes a protected ghost-ring sight system with an interchangeable front sight. It comes in a 12-gauge configuration and black synthetic finish with standard stock or a Mesa Tactical Urbino pistol grip stock configuration.


Benelli M-4 Tactical

Benelli’s M-4 Tactical shotgun features a piston-driven Auto-Regulating Gas-Operated system designed for and approved by the U.S. Marine Corps. This is one tough shotgun. It has a black synthetic stock and fore, with either titanium cerakote or phosphate finish options for the barrel and action. It has a standard or pistol grip. It easily cycles 2 ¾- or 3-inch ammunition. The M-4 has ghost ring sights and is drilled and tapped to handle other optics.

Smith & Wesson M&P 12

Also introduced last fall, the new Smith & Wesson M&P 12 is a pump-action bullpup-style 12-gauge that handles 2 ¾- and 3-inch shells, including magnum and mini-shell loads. It has ambidextrous AR-style safety controls, M&P grip, Picatinny rail and other features.

The M&P12 has independent magazine tubes that feature load-assist buttons to simplify loading and unloading. Each tube can hold up to seven rounds of standard 2 3/4-inch shells, or up to six rounds of 3-inch magnum shells. Magazine tubes are easily selected using a simple, push-button selector, providing the operator with a visual cue of which magazine tube is feeding the barrel. Overall length is 27.8 inches. MLOK slots on the barrel shroud easily allow a customer to accessorize with lights, lasers and more.


Hatsan Escort SD-X

The Escort SD-X is part of Hatsan’s Versatile Tactical Shotgun series, coming in 12-gauge or .410 bore in all black or FDE Cerakote. The gas piston design is mounted around the barrel, eliminating the secondary tube typically mounted below the barrel of a semi-automatic shotgun. This reduces the weight and bulk of the gun while minimizing felt recoil and muzzle rise. The synthetic polymer lower receiver features an alloy magazine well. Hatsan’s patented ThermoDefend forend absorbs and dissipates heat from the barrel while offering a comfortable, controlled grip on the weapon.

The 12-gauge models feature an 18-inch barrel with removable chokes, including an extended cylinder bore choke brake that helps tame recoil with heavy shot or slugs. Each gun ships with two five-round magazines and a two-round magazine that can be stored in the buttstock. It accepts and cycles 2 ¾-inch and 3-inch shells interchangeably. The .410 models feature a 20-inch barrel with an integrated choke suitable for both shot and slugs. 


Mossberg 590A1 Retrograde

The legendary pump from Mossberg got a new shine a couple of years ago, but it still is a favorite. The 590A1 Retrograde holds 8+1 with a 20-inch barrel length and lists for a little more than $1,000, while the 590 Retrograde holds 6+1 and sports an 18.5-inch barrel. Both have mil-spec construction, enhanced controls, walnut stock and forend, ambidextrous safety, dual extractors, steel-to-steel lockup, twin action bars and anti-jam elevator. Rebirths of classic guns often miss the mark. These don’t.


Remington 870 Tactical

Big Green is back under new ownership and righting some of the ills of the last decade, which includes their tactical selection. Among the models with Magpul stocks and other amenities is the trusted Model 870, decked out in tactical gear. It has an 18.5-inch barrel and an extended and ported Tactical Rem Choke, and it handles seven rounds of 2 ¾- or 3-inch 12-gauge ammunition. The XS Ghost Ring sights offer quick acquisition of the target, and are adjustable. It’s available in black synthetic, with drilled-and-tapped receivers to handle optics. If your customers want something basic and reliable, this could be the one to suggest.



Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.