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Home Defense Shotguns

The simplest, and one of the oldest shotguns known to modern man is the side by side 10 or 12-gauge double barreled coach gun used in the American old west. Author and partner shooting up Black Hills South Dakota Hill City train. (reenactment)

Because of the current state of affairs across the USA today the ownership of a home defense firearm becomes far more than just popular. Being unarmed and knowing how to use a weapon is playing with fire as cities see mass shootings, and riot direct crazy burn buildings, loot businesses, and in general are within the borders of complete anarchy.

No, I do not hold back here as some would like me to do just that, and are hiding the fact of how dangerous this country has become. Also to be sure the police can’t get to a life threatening situation to save your back side fast enough and knowing how to defend and guard your family and also what is yours is almost a mandatory standard nowadays.

As a retired police officer and living in the big city most of my life I know the drill here and have been involved in training the general population in the art of protecting their own and also staying alive in a gun fight. The kiss of death is buying a defense weapon and not training with it. The second level nasty condition is to buy a handgun, not train, and think you John wick when all hell breaks loose.

The final option here is to use your head and buy a special shotgun that is designed to act as a close range fighting tool. Training this weapon is very simple, and will allow the shooter to develop a mussel memory pattern that will stick with them under extreme stress. That being the stress involved in a gun fight up close and personal.

Remember a real gun fight will last an average of five seconds, involve three rounds and the most accurate shooter is the winner. A shotgun under these conditions can often be more accurate and even if a hit is not lethal produces enough damage to stop an assailant in his or her tracks. The following examples are effective smooth bore tools when it comes time to defend you and yours. I will start with the most basic shotguns and move along to the advance program regarding these home defense, or general purpose defense tools of the trade.

For a period of time I would with older Americans that for the most part were well past the time in life where training with a handgun was even a remote possibility. In this case and many others for that matter I recommended the use of the basic double barreled shotgun.

The gun would be set up as a coach style weapon with short barrels, not use open hammer but automatic setting internal blocks, and with the flick of the tang safety right at the thumb position of a right handed shooter, have the weapon activated and ready for work. Shooting light training loads as in home protection needs at close range these rounds will penetrate a heavy door and still take out an assailant.

I designed two loads that are currently being offed by Winchester and Federal. The Federal is a Low Sound Low Recoil Top Gun target offering in 7/2 shot, and the Winchester is a Lo Sound Low Recoil Feather Lite round in again 7 ½ lead shot. A Canadian company offers Challenger a special small 1 3/4” shot shell in #4 buck shot with low recoil and sound that is deadly to longer range against a human target.

The point here is that you don’t need a 30 caliber machine gun to do get the job done if ever required.

Photo Stoeger Coach

Gun 12 Gauge Side by Side:

These guns are hammerless, carry the safety on the upper tang as a simple slide on off system, use short 19” barrels with no chokes ( Cylinder bore ,) and maintain walnut stocks of good field quality.

The metal surfaces are blued, the gun makes use of double triggers, the right and left barrel fired separately, and the lock system on the Stoeger is a direct box lock design, being simple and effective.

These guns are fast to handle in tight areas or at close range. When shooting even a light 1 0z target lead shot or steel shot load believe me nothing at close range receiving a center mass strike from it will walk away, or even return fire.

The Coach gun has been popular as far back as the early 1800 because it was fast to handle in a gun fight Legends like Wyatt Earp made the guns a house hold world back in the day.

Lawmen carried these guns right up until the start of the 1900’s in the American west and even the eastern big cities. There are still a few around today in small western towns if you search hard to find them.

The double gun opens with ease using a top fang latch, it is safe because seeing if the gun is loaded is very simple, and if you decide not to fire the weapon a simple move of the tag safety to the safe position is all that is required.

Cimarron 1878 Coach Gun

In this second coach gun offering the main difference is that the gun is true old school using open exposed hammers. This is very workable if the shooter knows how to de-cock the hammer correctly if the shot is not taken. Slip off the hammer and the gun will discharge.

I have a model of this gun by another manufacture with a true safe tang to stop an unintentional discharge of the shotgun by accidentally dropping one or both hammers. When working a gunfight on a train car loaded with passengers I keep the safety in place to not get an unintentional discharge in the inclosed car. Not a good idea in terms of the bystander’s hearing.

This gun as offered by Cimarron as built as an exact replica of an old model western style weapon. Cimarron offers this nicely built shotgun in Walnut stocked, open hammer design mounting with twin triggers. The gun is offered in both 12 and 20 gauge models. I suggest checking out the 20 gauge if recoil is an issue to the shooter. Believe me in training recoil can be an issue, but in a gun fight it is not at all. You don’t feel a darn thing.

Photo HO15T Henry

This example of a good working home defense gun is the Henry Single Shot Turkey. Often turkey guns come as single barrel one shot systems because it will not take much more to do the deal in a turkey woods. As for defense situations there is only one draw back and that is taking on multiple targets at once, however in almost all cases one blast from this death dealing system and it is game over.

The Henry is a top lock opening system. Easy to use and as safe as a firearm can be. The shotgun makes use of a fiber optic front and rear sight, but in a defense situation, this is secondary. I will say the use of HUD display ( red dot ) sights are getting popular nowadays. I shoot TruGlow Micros on several shotguns and with the red dot applied these can be of use in low or no light situations. In terms of a defense gunfight it is wise to say never say never, as anything can happen in these situations therefore I would not discount the sighting system on any shotgun.

Photo 7252 red dot sight on 12 gauge shotgun receiver. Speed is important, but accuracy counts in a gunfight.

Author with Mossberg 590 combat pump action shotgun.

Without question one of the most popular and best known fighting/ defense shotguns ever built is the Remington 870 riot or alley sweeper model 12 gauge pump gun. These guns were used by police in squad car set ups, military units right up until the present time, and much loved by many average American hunters, and home defense gun buyers as well. I own three of them regarding the basic action styles and over 20 barrel and choke set ups for test work here at Ballistics Research & Development.

Photo 9d4} Remington alley sweeper. In close tight defense riot 12 gauge shotgun. This gun was cut down to a super short for entry and tight quarter defense situations.

Photo 9070 Authors 870 ( One example ) with scope, laser and lights for night shooting.

This gun uses a 19 inch barrel for fast handling speed and would be a clearly effective homed defense gun when not in the field at night hunting coyotes and gray fox.

As a police officer, I always selected my squad 870 when the call was an open door and required a building search in the dead of night. Just the sound of a racking 870 as the slide moved and around was lifted into the chamber was enough to make almost anyone stops dead in their tracks.

The 870 is simple, will still fire even with broken parts, and is totally dependable in a gunfight. Right side button safety on the trigger guard, simple direct slide-action design, many different stock configurations to choose from, and just about the most dependable shotgun ever built in my opinion.

As still another pump action shotgun the Mossberg Model 500 comes to light and this gun is the most produced military and civilian smooth bore in the world today.

Photo 4e1Ch Mossberg tactile model set up for the military or home defense.

Photo TH-5 pistol grip no buttstock model for close in fighting.

This shotgun uses a single tang thumb safety, straight pull pump action and is easy to handle, load, and use in a serious situation.

Taking a stop up the ladder by Mossberg is the Model 835 Pump action shotgun which is a 3.5” chambered 12 gauge and designed for heavy work as in taking longer range turkeys. When the human target is a turkey in your mind this second options in a Mossberg pump will do the deal every time.

The final gun in this Mossberg group is the Model 590 pictured previously in this article. The 590 was built and designed for the US Navy as a boarding gun when stopping ships of the high seas. I am pleased to say I had some part in the development of the gun in the early days of its design, construction, and testing. A fact was that I found a flaw in the system just before it went to the Navy for final testing. You could say I saved the gun as a government military order at the time. I won the 590 and keep it dear and near all the time at home. The gun retains an extended magazine that can hold nine or up to 11 rounds ( short hull length in the higher capacity.) The shotgun retains a forward bayonet lug, heat shield over the barrel, ghost sights when taking careful aim with slugs or buckshot, and poly stocks that are combat rated. The easy to use pump action and tang safety are dependable as is the total package in a fighting shotgun. According to my sources, these were used in the sandbox war and at times became actual clubs along the way in combat situations. I rank this shotgun and the Remington 870 as the two top dogs in this fight for the best defense shotgun going today.

Photo AU7A KOMP12 ( KS-12 )

With a move to the autoloaders comes the big guy on the block, and that is the Russian Kalashnikov KOMP12. This bad boy is a combat rated weapon and in terms of home defense, you had better have a hoard of bad guys trying to break in because this is a long haul heavy firepower directed weapons system to end all.

This shotgun is based on the AK-47 Russian assault rifle, and retains a short 18.5” barrel, M-Lox handguards just like the AK, Polymer Mag well, Phoenix One Compensator, and uses a coat of zinc phosphate parkerized undercoating on the metal parts.

The weapon holds 12 rounds and is a semi auto firing shotgun. The shotgun can deliver suppressive firepower as well as delivering an aimed terminal effect on warm targets.

I believe that weapons of this type require additional training above the base function of the weapon as well as some home tactics that can keep the average person in the fight.

Photo TH-6 Kel-Tec KSG Bull-Pup.

Although listed with the semi auto loading shotguns I have given this a military police rating and being a double magazine system that is complicated for a pump action the Kel-Tec 20 round weapon is a stand off formidable system.

This short bull -pup style system uses double magazines and a single barrel. The ammunition is loaded into each magazine tube that run along side the barrel itself. A switch dictates which magazine is being used. The shooter can relegate buckshot on one side and slugs on the other regarding each separate magazine. With the flip of the switch the gun will send the desired shot shell type. Talk about flexible. I have tested this system previously and I found it to be very effective and easy to use. Recoil is high due to the smaller packaged system but manageable. The new super short shotshell sold by Federal ( Shorty ) reduces this recoil effect to a major degree and the weapon moves up in total capacity to near 30 rounds.


Benelli bases this shotgun on an autoloading design that has been considered good enough for both law enforcement and military application. This is a very high grade shotgun in terms of materials design and basic function. Three gun competitive shooters love the thing and cops making entry into drug houses feel right at home with this high rate of the fire system. In terms of basic home protection the gun could be considered over the top, but at the same time better is always best in all cases.

This gun uses the ARGO gas system to function the loading and ejection system. This is a Benelli exclusive and designed for trouble free performance. If this system were not attached to this shotgun I would not list it as acceptable for home defense. Getting around jammed when in a gun fight in a dark place under massive stress is not a great idea at all. While no gun is completely fail safe this one comes close.

I have covered a few models in shotguns that fit the profile of a home defense weapon in the smooth bore class. However, be advised that I have only touched the tip of the iceberg here, and with a hack saw and some measurements applied almost any shotgun can become a close range defensive weapon.

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