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Escort BTS Bullpup Shotgun
The Escort BTS Bullpup Shotgun is available in 12 gauge or .410 bore. Escort

If you’re deciding on the ultimate home-defense solution, it’s hard to ignore the shotgun. With the latest crop of shotgun offerings across a variety of action platforms, we’ve got more options than ever before to balance power, capacity, handling, and portability.

Handguns are hip, but a home defense shotgun, kept clean and handy, and paired with the right home defense shotgun ammo is the best tool to defend your family and property.

A shotgun’s superiority has little to do with its deadly pellet spread or the menacing sound it makes when its action is racked (more on that later). Rather, it’s about accuracy and control. If you’ve ever shot a handgun, you know how easy it is to miss your target. Combine a short sight radius with a single grip and the pressure of a life-or-death situation, and it becomes easier to understand that about 75 percent of all bullets fired by trained police miss their mark.

Conversely, a shotgun offers four points of contact to steady and guide an easier-to-aim barrel. And then there’s its terminal energy. In each typical shotshell of 00 Buck, there are nine pellets that combine to deliver roughly 1500 ft.-lbs. of energy to the target—or four times the energy of a .45 ACP bullet fired from a Model 1911 pistol. Factor in five to nine shells capable of being fired in rapid succession, and what you have is one of the most formidable arms for home defense ever conceived.

With that said, not all shotguns are equal. There are many types, each with their particular pros and cons. The right home-defense shotgun choice depends on many factors, not least among them, your confidence in the chosen type and your ability to operate it naturally and instinctively. We’ve broken up our list of home-defense shotguns into categories by style: pump-action, semi-automatic, non-NFA firearms (shorty shotguns), bullpup shotguns, and the simplest of all, break-action shotguns.

Pump Action Shotguns

If you have experience with a pump action shotgun, you’re in luck because a pump (also called slide action) is one of the most reliable firearms available. That’s because the human strength used to manually cycle the shotgun’s action can overcome many hang-ups induced by a dirty action or weak loads. It’s also the most economical.

Tip: Whatever pump you choose, note that it’s often said that an attacker will stop whatever nefarious deed he’s doing and flee at the sound of a shotgun merely being pumped. Trouble is, this tip was gleaned from bad action movies, not the real world.

The reality is that you never know what a criminal will do, so the last thing you should do is go into a confrontation with an unloaded gun. The better bet is to pump it smoothly after your first shot. —Jeff Johnston

Stoeger P3000 Freedom Series Supreme

Stoeger P3000 Freedom Series Supreme
The Stoeger P3000 Freedom Series Supreme shotgun with a side-folding stock. Stoeger

Stoeger’s home defense pump has a lot of features that make it ideal for defending your castle. The 12-gauge P3000 Freedom Series Supreme has a small footprint, thanks to folding stock that makes covert storage a breeze.

You can navigate the tight confines of a residential hallway easily, then flip open the six-position adjustable buttstock for added support.

An adjustable cheek rest provides a custom fit, taking the guesswork out of forming a proper cheek weld in a stressful situation. An extended magazine tube holds up to seven rounds, for a total capacity of eight.

Ghost ring sights allow for rapid target acquisition and make hitting with buckshot or slugs simple at even longer ranges, and a Pic rail is included so you can add an optic of your choice. — Joseph Albanese

Stoeger P3000 Freedom Series Supreme Specs

  • Action: Pump
  • Gauge: 12
  • Magazine capacity: 7
  • Pros: Ergonomic folding stock; ghost ring sights
  • Cons: New school design may not appeal to traditionalists
  • MSRP: $469

Armscor VRPA40 Pump Gun

Armscor VRPA40 Pump Gun
The Armscor VRPA40 pump action shotgun feeds from a detachable box magazine. Armscor

Shotguns fed from box magazines make reloading fast and easy—something that should be considered when preparing for an extremely stressful life-or-death situation. Dropping the mag and swapping in a new one gets you up and running again in mere seconds.

Armscor has expanded their line of defensive scatterguns with a box magazine-fed pump, the VRPA40. The 7075 T6 aluminum receiver is chambered for both 2.75- and three-inch shells, so it will take your preferred defensive round.

Two thirds of the 20-inch barrel is covered in a heat shield, and the end is capped off with a fiber optic bead that can be easily found in low-light conditions.

The receiver wears an adjustable rear sight and a Picatinny rail, if you’d prefer to mount your own optic. Price is also a selling point, as the VRPA40 retails for less than $400—well below the price of most magazine-fed shotguns. — Joseph Albanese

Armscor VRPA40 Specs

  • Action: Pump
  • Gauge: 12
  • Magazine capacity: 5
  • Pros: Magazine-fed; inexpensive
  • Cons: A bit heavy for a pump
  • MSRP: $399

Charles Daly 301 Pump-Action Tactical Shotgun

The Charles Daly 301 Pump-Action Tactical Shotgun includes just about every tactical feature you could want. Charles Daly

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Pistol grips on shotguns make it easy to hold them one-handed while opening doors or the like and to maneuver when space is scarce.

Charles Daly’s 301 Pump-Action Tactical Shotgun features both a pistol grip and an adjustable buttstock, for ideal home defense ergonomics. The short 18.5-inch barrel is also ideal for maneuvering indoors.

A large fiber optic bead makes for an easy to find front sight, but the receiver wears a Picatinny rail so you can easily add a red dot.

The 301 comes with improved cylinder, modified, and full chokes; but if you prefer aftermarket tubes there are plenty of options as the barrel uses Beretta/Benelli Mobil Choke threads. — Joseph Albanese

Charles Daly 301 Pump-Action Tactical Specs

  • Action: Pump
  • Gauge: 12
  • Magazine capacity: 4
  • Pros: Adjustable pistol grip stock; inexpensive
  • Cons: No rail for a light or other accessories
  • MSRP: $249

Mossberg Model 500 Tactical Tri-Rail Forend

Mossberg Model 500 Tactical Tri-Rail Forend
The Mossberg Model 500 Tactical Tri-Rail Forend shotgun is a lot of tactical shotgun for the money built on an extremely dependable pump gun platform. Mossberg

If you’ve shot a Mossberg 500 for sport or recreation, as millions have, you’re in luck. Because you’re already used to its tang-mounted safety, you can shoot it as fast as any semiautomatic, and you won’t find a more reliable firearm. Mossberg currently has 45 versions of its Model 500, and the Tactical Tri-Rail Forend model is the one you want. It has a 20-inch barrel, bead sight, and full-size stock. It holds eight 2¾-inch shells. The only things I believe a home-defense shotgun needs added to it are a rail for a flashlight and an extended magazine, and this model has both. —Jeff Johnston

Mossberg 500 Tactical Tri-Rail Forend Specs

  • Action: Pump
  • Gauge: 12 and 20
  • Magazine capacity: 8
  • Pros: Supremely reliable; forearm rail facilitates flashlight mounting
  • Cons: Stock is slick
  • MSRP: $671

Remington 870 Express Synthetic 7-Round

Remington 870 Express
This is a Remington 870 Express with a synthetic Magpul stock and forend. Remington

The Remington 870 is one of the world’s most popular shotguns among sportsmen, military, and police because it works every time. This model, with an 18½-inch barrel and full-contour stock, is maneuverable yet controllable in tight confines. Fifty years ago and today, you simply can’t go wrong with an 870. —Jeff Johnston

Remington 870 Express Synthetic 7-Round Specs

  • Action: Pump
  • Gauge: 12 and 20
  • Magazine capacity: 7
  • Pros: Reliable as the sunrise, short and maneuverable, grippy stock panels
  • Cons: No rail for flashlight
  • MSRP: $443

Winchester SXP Defender

The Winchester SXP Defender features a rotating bolt head that unlocks and begins to open while the gun is in recoil, so it nearly ejects a shell on its own. Winchester

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This is a six-round pump-action shotgun with an 18-inch barrel that costs only $349.

It features a rotating bolt head that unlocks and begins to open while the gun is in recoil, so it nearly ejects a shell on its own. You’re responsible for slamming another shell home.

Its safety is located on its trigger guard like the Model 870. I like its ribbed fore-end that assures a good grip even when your hand gets clammy. —Jeff Johnston

Winchester SXP Defender Specs

  • Action: Pump
  • Gauge: 12 and 20
  • Magazine capacity: 6
  • Pros: Fastest pump, best value
  • Cons: Lower magazine capacity
  • MSRP: $349

Benelli SuperNova Pump

benelli supernova pump shotgun
The SuperNova represents the more tactical offering in the company’s pump-action shotgun category. Benelli

Benelli offers solid and reliable home-defense and tactical shotguns in several action types: semi-auto inertia-drive, semi-auto gas-operated, and last, but not least, pump-action.

The SuperNova represents the more tactical offering in the pump category. Available with either a tactical pistol grip or the company’s recoil-mitigating ComforTech traditional grip, this 12-gauge accommodates either 2 ¾ or 3-inch shells.

Standard capacity is 4+1 but you can choose aftermarket magazine tube extensions to add more without extending the magazine tube past the muzzle. Through choice of four different models, you can get the configuration you prefer with grip and sights. The SuperNova is available with standard rifle-style open sights or ghost ring. The receiver is tapped for scope mounts or a rail segment, so if you want to go optical, that’s easy to do. —Tom McHale

Benelli SuperNova Pump Shotgun Specs

  • Action: Pump
  • Gauge: 12
  • Mag capacity: 4+1
  • Pros: Configuration flexibility (grips and sights) and Benelli quality and reliability.
  • Cons: We’d love to see a standard factory model with a longer magazine tube.
  • MSRP: $519 to $559 depending on options

Mossberg 590A1 Tactical

The 590 family offers a variety of configurations. The model shown here is a 590A1 9-shot. Mossberg

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The Mossberg 590 family takes the 500 series concept a step further in terms of ruggedness. Chosen by militaries and law enforcement agencies for toughness and reliability, the 590 family offers a variety of configurations. The model shown here is a 590A1 9-shot. A pump-action with heavy-walled barrel, the chamber is cut for 3-inch shells but it has no problem handling 2 ¾ versions.

This model has a Parkerized receiver, barrel, and magazine complemented by black polymer stock furniture. Ghost ring sights, a cylinder bore, and front and rear sling attachment points round out the package. Other models in the 590 family include a 7-shot, Mariner, left-handed, Retrograde (wood stock), and Magpul model. —Tom McHale

Mossberg 590A1 Specs

  • Action: Pump
  • Gauge: 12
  • Mag capacity: 9+1
  • Pros: Proven reliability and out-of-the-box big capacity for a tube fed.
  • Cons: Which one of the
  • MSRP: $714

Winchester 1897

winchester 1897 shotgun
This famous, John Moses Browning-designed pump-action shotgun has served the needs of homeowners, sportsmen, law enforcement, and militaries around the world for decades. Winchester

A good home-defense firearm doesn’t have to be new, shiny, and dunked in molten plastic to be effective. For well over a century, this famous pump-action shotgun has served the needs of homeowners, sportsmen, law enforcement, and militaries around the world. Designed by the one and only John Moses Browning, this model was manufactured for about 60 years in quantities exceeding seven digits. Available in 12 and 16 gauge, the 12 will serve modern home defenders better due to ammo availability.

The 12-gauge versions started with 30-inch barrels while the 16’s carried 28-inch barrels. Later versions like the Brush and Brush Take-down shortened the barrel length to 26 inches. The military used the M97 variant as the “Trench Gun” in World War I to the consternation of the German army who protested its effectiveness as cruel and unusual. That version chopped the barrels down to a handy 20 inches. —Tom McHale

Winchester 1897 Specs

  • Action: Pump / Slide
  • Gauge: 12, 16
  • Mag capacity: 6, but varies with the configuration.
  • Pros: It served with distinction in wars from the Philipine / American through Vietnam. Yes, it’s proven.
  • Cons: While undoubtedly effective, you may want to treat yours with care as a historical piece.
  • MSRP: Used marketing only, varies with condition.

Henry X Model Shotgun

The new Henry X Model Shotgun in .410 bore was debuted at SHOT Show 2020 and features a number of tactical features and includes a side loading gate. Henry Repeating Arms

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While the Henry X Model 410 is a lever gun, not a pump gun, as you may have noticed, we still added it here because there simply aren’t enough lever action shotguns on the market these days to warrant their own category, but this shotgun deserves a mention.

You may not think of a lever gun for home defense, but Henry’s X Model in .410 is an excellent tool for defending your domicile and your family—when loaded with appropriate ammo, like Winchester’s PDX1 410 Defender 2.5” shells.

The X Model has a loading gate on the right side of the receiver for rapid reloads, in addition to Henry’s removable tube magazine. A fiber-optic front bead sight is easy to find in low-light conditions, or you can add a Picatinny rail to the already drilled and tapped receiver for a red dot of your choice.

You can add a light or other accessories using the included M-Lok slots in the handguard and an underbarrel Pic rail section. The 19.8-inch smooth bore barrel is threaded for Invector-style chokes to give you full control over your shot pattern. — Joseph Albanese

Henry X Model Specs

  • Action: Lever
  • Gauge: .410 – 2.5”
  • Magazine capacity: 6
  • Pros: Instinctive point, rapid reloads, lever action is smooth and easy to master
  • Cons: Limited defensive ammo options, only has a 2.5” chamber, precluding magnum loads.
  • MSRP: $970

Semi-Automatic Shotguns

If you weren’t born with a pump shotgun in your mitts and don’t intend to practice with one, modern semi-automatic shotguns, when kept clean, are arguably more reliable than pumps. Why? Inexperienced shooters who are under duress have a tendency to “short shuck” pump-action guns–meaning they don’t work the slide fully the first shot, which means the next round won’t load in the chamber. Though semi-autos cost more, there’s no action to work when you’re under attack, reducing the chance of a misfire.

Tip: Whatever semi-auto you pick, realize that most defensive semi-autos are set up to handle heavy magnum slug and buckshot loads. So before using target loads or birdshot in your new semi-auto for home defense, thoroughly test them to make sure they function those light loads with 100-percent reliability. If they don’t, stick to the heavy stuff. —Jeff Johnston

Iver Johnson Stryker-SN

Iver Johnson Stryker-SN
The Iver Johnson Stryker-SN shotgun has a lot of mechanical similarities to the AR-15 platform. Iver Johnson

Iver Johnson’s semi-auto shotgun, the 12 gauge Stryker-SN, bears more than a passing similarity to America’s rifle, the AR-15. But the mechanicals are pure shotgun, with a fairly common gas system soaking up felt recoil and cycling shells.

Still, the AR-form is ideal for moving about inside, making for a good home defense gun. Loading is fast; accomplished via an MKA 1919 five-round box magazine capable of feeding both 2¾- and 3-inch shells.

Adding to the AR styling is an A2-style detachable carry handle and a front sight post, which houses a fiber-optic bead. The synthetic forend features rails on the sides and bottom, so you can add lights or other accessories. — Joseph Albanese

Iver Johnson Stryker-SN Specs

  • Action: Semiautomatic
  • Gauge: 12
  • Magazine capacity: 4
  • Pros: Familiar ergonomics; magazine-fed
  • Cons: Iver Johnson is a newcomer to the world of shotguns
  • MSRP: $459

Remington V3 Competition Tactical

The Remington V3 Competition Tactical semi-auto shotgun has a number of 3-Gun features that work well on a tactical, defensive shotgun—plus the gas system can fire virtually any shell without adjustment. Remington

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Designed for the world of 3-gun competitions, Remington’s V3 Competition Tactical also fills the home defense niche nicely. The 22-inch barrel means it’s not too long to navigate hallways easily, and the extended magazine tube holds enough to weather nearly any encounter.

Traits that are useful in competition, like the oversize safety, bolt release, and bolt handle, are also excellent in stressful and/or low-light conditions. Plus, the flared loading port makes it quicker and easier to stuff shells in.

The 22-inch barrel is cut with RemChoke threads, and wears a fiber optic front bead that combines with an XS Sight Systems rear that is dovetailed into the rib. Included with purchase is a Delrin punch to adjust windage. — Joseph Albanese

Remington V3 Competition Tactical Specs

  • Action: Semiautomatic
  • Gauge: 12
  • Magazine capacity: 6
  • Pros: Oversized controls; easy loading
  • Cons: A tad long for indoor use
  • MSRP: $1,095

Mossberg 940 JM Pro

The semi-auto Mossberg 940 JM Pro was designed with input from the legendary Jerry Miculek. Mossberg

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Mossberg’s 940 JM Pro was designed with input from the legendary Jerry Miculek, who may just have the fastest trigger finger of all time.

True to its competitive roots, the 940 has enlarged controls and an oversized loading port which are useful when you’re trying to keep the tube stuffed in a stressful situation.

The JM Pro’s fiber-optic bead is easy to find. But for home defense, perhaps no feature will be more appreciated that the 9+1 magazine capacity, which means you won’t have to grab a handful of shells if something goes bump in the night. — Joseph Albanese

Mossberg 940 JM Pro Specs

  • Action: Semiautomatic
  • Gauge: 12
  • Magazine capacity: 9
  • Pros: High capacity; oversized controls
  • Cons: Long barrel can be difficult to maneuver indoors
  • MSRP: $1,015

Charles Daly 601 Tactical

Charles Daly 601 Tactical
The Charles Daly 601 Tactical comes with ghost ring iron sights and a Picatinny rail that’s perfect for a red dot. Charles Daly

Charles Daly’s new home defense semi, the 601 Tactical, features an easy to hold pistol grip stock and short 18.5-inch barrel. To provide plenty of purchase, the synthetic stock features a checkered forend and an overmolded pistol grip.

Sighting is accomplished via a ghost ring rear and a hooded front post for rapid target acquisition, though you can add your own optic thanks to the Picatinny rail.

The barrel uses Beretta/Benelli Mobil Choke threads, and comes with improved cylinder, modified, and full chokes; with the IC sporting a crenulated striker. — Joseph Albanese

Charles Daly 601 Tactical Specs

  • Action: Semiautomatic
  • Gauge: 12
  • Magazine capacity: 4
  • Pros: Ghost ring sight; oversized controls
  • Cons: No accessory rails
  • MSRP: $289

Benelli M2 Tactical

The Benelli M2 Tactical
The Benelli M2 Tactical is one of the most respected and reliable tactical semi-autos in the world. Benelli

The M2 is supremely reliable with heavy loads because the Italian firm’s “inertia-driven” action blows most of the jam-causing grime out of the 18 ½-inch barrel and not back into the action, as do gas-operated guns. Its full-length stock is available with or without a pistol grip.

While I prefer a traditional stock on a gun because it’s more intuitive to point, a pistol grip lends more one-handed control. It comes with ghost-ring sights, and though I like a simple bead better, many tactical gurus prefer ghost-ring sights for accuracy when shooting slugs. —Jeff Johnston

Benelli M2 Tactical Specs

Action: Semiautomatic

Gauge: 12 and 20

Magazine capacity: 6

Pros: Available in full-size stock with pistol grip, very-reliable with heavy loads

Cons: Ghost-ring sights only; lower magazine capacity

MSRP: $1,249

Mossberg 930 Watchdog

Mossberg 930 Watchdog
The Mossberg 930 Watchdog has an eight-round capacity with just an 18-inch barrel. Mossberg

This is the bargain of the group, and it has by far the scariest paint job. What matters, however, is that the 930 is a serious home-defense shotgun with its eight-round capacity (this is notable considering its short 18-inch barrel), oversized controls (including the Mossberg-standard tang safety), no-nonsense stock, and unfailing single bead sight.

It is short at 39 inches and light for a 12-gauge auto at under 7 pounds. This makes it easy to wield. I suspect that if Mossberg wasn’t so famous for its pumps, it’d sell more semis, because the more fire I bark from the Watchdog, the more I howl its praises. —Jeff Johnston

Mossberg 930 Watchdog Specs

Action: Semiautomatic

Gauge: 12 and 20

Magazine capacity: 8

Pros: Best semi-auto value, maneuverable

Cons: No rail for flashlight

MSRP: $722

Remington Versa Max Tactical

The Remington Versa Max Tactical is one of the lightest recoiling shotguns on the market. Remington

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This is my favorite home-defense gun is because it feels exactly like my old Model 1100—I can point it and work its action with my eyes closed.

It’s a gas-action gun that’s been simplified and therefore made more reliable via Remington’s VersaPort system that self-regulates depending on shell length. With its eight-pound heft, gas-action, cushy buttpad, and gel comb insert, it’s likely the lightest recoiling 12-gauge on the market, and that’s important for fast, controlled follow-up shots.

This eight-round shotgun has oversized controls for sure-handed operation and a flashlight rail bolted to the 22-inch barrel. All told, it’s one mean shotgun. —Jeff Johnston

Remington Versa Max Tactical Specs

Action: Semiautomatic

Gauge: 12

Mag capacity: 8

Pros: Reliable, fast, recoil friendly, light rail, grippy stock

Cons: Heavy, expensive

MSRP: $1,699

Beretta 1301 Tactical

The BLINK gas system operates over 30% faster than any other semi-auto on the market, meaning that the 1301 can fire four shots in a single second. Beretta

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The Beretta 1301 Tactical is a purpose-built defensive shotgun ideal for indoor use. Light and compact with a 13-inch default length of pull and 18.5-inch barrel, this semi is portable but packs a punch with its three-inch chamber. The BLINK gas system operates over 30% faster than any other semi-auto on the market, meaning that the 1301 can fire four shots in a single second. Ghost ring sights operate with a replaceable front post so you can choose your ideal sight picture.

The receiver sports a Picatinny rail. Mine is configured with an Aimpoint Micro red dot optic. When combined with Federal Flight Control wad buckshot loads, you’ll be able to keep all pellets on target, even from 50 yards with this cylinder bore shotgun. The 1301 Tactical has become a family over the past couple of years with different colors, a marine configuration, and a pistol-grip-equipped LE model. —Tom McHale

Beretta 1301 Tactical Specs

  • Action: Semiautomatic
  • Gauge: 12
  • Mag capacity: 4+1
  • Pros: Super-fast cycling, oversized easy-to-use controls, ghost ring sighting, receiver rail
  • Cons: Price, capacity (magazine extensions optional)
  • MSRP: $1,275

Stoeger M3000 Freedom Series Defense

stoeger m3000 shotgun
Like the Beretta 1301, the M3000 defense models come with both a ghost ring rear and front post sight system and a tapped receiver for an optional optics rail. Stoeger Industries

The M3000 Freedom Series Defense line from Stoeger uses an inertia-driven semi-automatic action. That means no dirty gas systems to foul. Better yet, cleaning chores are minimized. The net result is improved reliability although you will want to use standard to heavy loads to drive the system. Like the Beretta 1301, the M3000 defense models come with both a ghost ring rear and front post sight system and a tapped receiver for an optional optics rail. Take your pick on sighting options. A cylinder bore should fit the bill for most home-defense applications. You can order the M3000 in various configurations. For example, if the pistol grip isn’t your style, opt for the traditional version. —Tom McHale

Stoeger M3000 Freedom Series Defense Shotgun Specs

  • Action: Semi-automatic
  • Gauge: 12
  • Mag capacity: 7+1
  • Pros: Plenty of models and configuration options, ghost ring sighting, and reliable inertia recoil system.
  • Cons: Full-size length at 40 inches makes this one a bit more challenging for indoor use.
  • MSRP: $559 to $669 depending on options

Benelli M4 H20

benelli m4 h20 shotgun
The M4 H20 uses an auto-regulated gas system. It’s a self-cleaning system where the gas port is just forward of the chamber where gas is cleaner. Benelli

The Marines rely on this one so you can safely assume it’s a solid and reliable home-defense option. Unlike the inertia-driven M2, the M4 H20 uses an auto-regulated gas system. It’s a self-cleaning system where the gas port is just forward of the chamber where gas is cleaner. That drives dual pistols which operate the bolt for ejection, re-cocking, and loading a fresh shell from the tube magazine.

The Benelli M4 H20s feature ghost ring rear and front post sighting options and a receiver rail for a scope or red dot sight. The stock features a sling loop so you can configure these with two-point slings. In a home-defense application the ability to drop your shotgun to use your hands is a must. You can order M4 H20 models with either a pistol grip or a traditional one. The new models feature black stock and fore-end furniture and Titanium Cerakote treatment on the receiver, magazine tube, and barrel. It’s durable and sharp looking. —Tom McHale

Benelli M4 H20 Shotgun Specs

  • Action: Semi-automatic
  • Gauge: 12
  • Mag capacity: 5+1
  • Pros: Literally battle tested, the M4 is as reliable as it gets.
  • Cons: While you get what you pay for, this one isn’t cheap.
  • MSRP: $1,999 to $2,260 depending on model

Non-NFA Firearms (Shorty Shotguns)

Think of non-NFA firearms as shorty shotguns. They don’t have the minimum shotgun barrel length of 18 inches, but they also don’t have a butt stock. That means that, per BATFE definitions, they are not a shotgun. Since they have a smooth bore, they are also not a pistol. They fall into a miscellaneous category called non-NFA firearms.

Here’s why you should care. These shorty shotties pack the full power of 12 and 20-gauge shotguns into a compact package. They have a firing-hand grip of sorts and the idea is that you hold the fore-end with your support hand. To aim one, suspend it in air in front of your face. Or, you can fire from a non-traditional hip position. Of course if you do that, you’ll want to take advantage of different sighting methods like that offered by Crimson Trace. As with other types of actual shotguns, you can get non-NFA firearms that operate by pump, semi-automatic, and break actions. —Tom McHale

Henry Axe .410

The Henry Axe .410 is like having a Mare’s Leg cutdown rifle with the power of a .410 shotgun. Henry Repeating Arms

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The Henry Axe resembles the Mare’s Leg pistol that Pistoleros in the Old West allegedly fashioned from cut-down rifles (but that was actually made for Steve McQueen to use on a 1950s TV western, Wanted: Dead or Alive), only this gun is chambered in .410.

With a barrel length of just under 16 inches and an overall length of just over 26, the Axe can be stashed darn near anywhere so it’ll always be handy. The short size of the diminutive Axe, coupled with the low recoil of the .410, makes it an ideal tool for clearing hallways if the need arises—and it’s blast to shoot at the range.

It holds five 2.5-inch shells in the tube magazine, and can be easily loaded or topped off on the fly with the side gate, or it can be loaded—or unloaded—via the magazine tube.

Despite the abbreviated length of the smooth bore barrel, it is threaded for Invector-style chokes to give you full control over your shot pattern. — Joseph Albanese

Henry Axe Specs

  • Action: Lever
  • Gauge: .410
  • Magazine capacity: 5
  • Pros: Cycles easily, low recoil
  • Cons: Limited defensive ammo options
  • MSRP: $970

Mossberg 590M Shockwave

The Mossberg 590M Shockwave accepts the company’s 5-, 10-, 15-, and 20-round detachable box magazine. Mossberg

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The “M” in 590M stands for “magazine.” This iteration of Mossberg’s Shockwave accepts 5-, 10-, 15-, and 20-round detachable box magazines, seriously upping the capacity of the shorty and making reloads lightning fast.

The gun has all the standard features of the regular 590 Shockwave, including twin action bars, dual extractors, and a heavy-walled barrel. The anodized aluminum receiver is sized for 2.75-inch shells only, and is drilled and tapped for optics or an accessory rail.

The traditional Mossberg corncob forend is present, and features a nylon strap to keep your hand in place when shucking the action. The now-familiar Raptor grip takes up the rear, making the short shottie easy to handle as well as manipulate the ambidextrous top-tang safety. — Joseph Albanese

Mossberg 590M Shockwave Specs

  • Action: Pump
  • Gauge: 12
  • Mag capacity: 5, 10, 15, or 20 depending on magazine
  • Pros: Rapid reloads
  • Cons: Large magazines can make the 590M heavy and awkward
  • MSRP: $721

Remington 870 Tac-14 Arm Brace

Remington 870 Tac-14 Arm Brace
The Remington 870 Tac-14 Arm Brace model provides an additional point of contact for this short shotgun. Remington

The AR-pistol clan has taken to braces like moths to a flame. The non-stocks provide additional points of contact, which makes shooting easier and more accurate.

Big Green thought a brace would work well on a non-NFA scattergun, and the result is the Remington 870 Tac-14 Arm Brace. This 14-inch barreled firearm only stretches the tape to 33.5 inches with the Mesa Tactical brace so it’s still highly maneuverable in tight spaces.

A Magpul M-Lock forend lets you easily add lights or lasers. A single bead on the fixed-choke cylinder bore barrel provides sighting. And you know it will work when you need it to, thanks to the decades of performance delivered by other 870 models. — Joseph Albanese

Remington 870 Tac-14 Arm Brace Specs

  • Action: Pump
  • Gauge: 12
  • Mag capacity: 5
  • Pros: The brace makes this shorty easy to shoot, 870 reliability
  • Cons: The added length of the brace can make this model harder to stash than others
  • MSRP: $729

Charles Daly Defense Tactical Triple

chiappa honcho tactical triple shotgun
The Tactical Triple stacks three barrels, one on top of a side-by-side configuration. Charles Daly

For absolute simplicity in a Non-NFA firearm, check out the Charles Daly Defense Tactical Triple. A traditional break-action is as easy as it gets. No semi-automatic operation, no pump to cycle fully – you get the idea. The downside is capacity as most have just two shots before a reload is required. The Tactical Triple stacks three barrels, one on top of a side-by-side configuration. While it doesn’t sound like much, three shots is a 50% improvement over two.

There’s a hidden benefit. As a break-action, there are no feeding or cycling concerns, so feel free to load this up with whatever shell type you prefer, including the new Federal Shorty Shotshells. With almost all of the punch, these slug, buckshot, and birdshot shells reduce the stout 12-gauge recoil. The small form factor allows this package to weigh in at just six pounds. If 12-gauge is too much to handle, then opt for the .410 bore model. —Tom McHale

Charles Daly Tactical Triple Specs

  • Action: Break
  • Gauge: 12 or .410 bore
  • Capacity: 3
  • Pros: Compact and utterly simple. Fire any type of shells you like without reliability or feeding concerns.
  • Cons: Limited capacity
  • MSRP: $1,299

Mossberg 590 Nightstick

mossberg 590 shockwave nightstick
The 590 Nightstick is a nod to trench guns and classic police cruiser guns of old. Mossberg

It’s hard to argue against the utility of polymer guns. They’ll persevere through hard knocks, weather, sweat, and a host of other environmental challenges. However, there’s something special about wood and steel. That’s why Mossberg introduced the 590 Nightstick. In a nod to trench guns and classic police cruiser guns of old, this one features a walnut bird’s head grip and corncob-shaped fore-end.

You’ll note a leather (not plastic or canvas!) strap on the fore-end. That’s for positive grip during aggressive pump operation and to help the user control 12-gauge muzzle flip from such a compact package. The Mossberg 590 Nightstick weighs in at just five and a quarter pounds and measures just 26.37 inches end to end. —Tom McHale

Mossberg 590 Nightstick Specs

  • Action: Pump
  • Gauge: 12
  • Mag capacity: 5+1
  • Pros: Classic appearance and pump-action reliability, good capacity in a small package.
  • Cons: Traditional sighting, but then again, a rail would spoil the cool factor.
  • MSRP: $539

Remington V3 TAC-13

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The VersaPort gas system in the bleeds energy to cycle the action, ejecting a spent shell and loading a new one. The result is a smoother and reduced perceived recoil sensation. Remington

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One challenge of Non-NFA firearms like those that fire 12-gauge shot shells is recoil. Not only are these guns relatively light, hovering around six pounds, there’s not much to hold on to. Without a shoulder stock these firearms can be a literal handful. Add to recoil the challenge of manipulating a pump action for every shot and operational logistics can become an issue.

The Remington V3 TAC-13 deftly tackles both of these potential problems with a semi-automatic action. The VersaPort gas system bleeds energy to cycle the action, ejecting a spent shell and loading a new one. The result is a smoother and reduced perceived recoil sensation. That makes the V3 TAC-13 easier to handle.

This one features a 5+1 capacity for your choice of 2 ¾ or 3-inch shells and an overall length of just 26.5 inches. The fore-end strap up front helps provide more overall control. Oh, and a short rail segment near the muzzle allows attachment of a light or laser (a new clamp from Remington is on the way that will allow you to attach both). —Tom McHale

Remington V3 TAC-13 Specs

  • Action: Semi-automatic
  • Gauge: 12
  • Mag capacity: 5+1
  • Pros: Reduced recoil, easier operation, good capacity
  • Cons: While convenient, you’ll pay a bit extra for the semi-automatic operation
  • MSRP: $915

Charles Daly Defense Honcho Tactical Semi-Auto

charles daly honcho tactical semi
The Charles Daly Honcho Tactical Semi-automatic handles 2 ¾ and 3-inch shells and features some twists to facilitate defensive use. Charles Daly

The first Non-NFW firearms were pump-actions. With the explosion of interest from the home-defense community, manufacturers are jumping on board the semi-auto train due to ease of operation and reduced recoil benefits. The Charles Daly Honcho Tactical Semi-Automatic handles 2 ¾ and 3-inch shells and features some twists to facilitate defensive use.

For example, the bird’s head grip has three fingers grooves that make a noticeable difference in firing hand control. Up front, you’ll see a sling swivel point. Proper use of the right sling not only gives you a “holster” option but can be used to help stabilize the firearm for aiming and control purposes. There’s a rail segment under the muzzle for light or laser attachment – both handy additions for home-defense applications. —Tom McHale

Charles Daly Defense Honcho Tactical Semi-Auto Specs

  • Action: Semi-automatic
  • Gauge: 12
  • Mag capacity: 5+1
  • Pros: Light and laser friendly, on the lighter side at just 5.3 pounds.
  • Cons: As a “tactical” model we’ve love to see an option to mount a red dot sight on the receiver.
  • MSRP: $499

Mossberg 590 Shockwave SPX

mossberg 590 shockwave spx shotgun
The Mossberg 590 Shockwave SPX is a pump-action Non-NFA firearm with all the bells and whistles for tactical application. Mossberg

One of the original shorty shotties is now all decked out for serious home-defense use. The Mossberg 590 Shockwave SPX is a pump-action Non-NFA firearm with all the bells and whistles for tactical application. The receiver has a Picatinny rail so run, don’t walk, to get a red dot sight. A sidesaddle shell carrier on the receiver allows you to carry either spare rounds besides the 5+1 internal capacity of 3-inch shells.

Or perhaps you prefer to use those onboard spares for different load types – your choice. A near full-length heat shield over the barrel prevents burns during volume use. If you need to open doors with enthusiasm, just use the breacher (sawtooth) muzzle shape to precisely set your shot. Last but not least, you’ll see sling attachment points at both ends – on the front of the magazine tube and rear of the Raptor grip. —Tom McHale

Mossberg 590 Shockwave SPX Specs

  • Action: Pump
  • Gauge: 12
  • Mag capacity: 5+1 plus sidesaddle carrier
  • Pros: The SPX has all the tactical gear with sighting rail, shell carrier, and sling points.
  • Cons: The bead sight can get lost amongst all the gear.
  • MSRP: $560

Standard Mfg. Co. SKO Mini Semi-Automatic

standard manufacturing sko mini shotgun
Unlike most other models, the SKO Mini features a box magazine. Standard Manufacturing

The SKO Mini looks more like a movie prop than a traditional shortie shotty, but there’s plenty of very real functional benefit in this package. Unlike most other models, it features a box magazine. A two-round model comes with the SKO Mini, but you can order five and ten round magazines from the company depending on how much weight and bulk you want to carry.

The controls borrow from the AR world with a compatible pistol grip. The safety, bolt release, and magazine release are all very AR-like. You’ll also notice the distinctive forward vertical grip for positive control. The barrel is internally threaded for Tru-Choke so you can choose not only constriction but to install a breacher choke if you like. The SKO Mini is about the same length as other Non-NFA firearms but heavier at 7.14 pounds. —Tom McHale

Standard Mfg. Co. SKO Mini Semi-Automatic Specs

  • Action: Semi-automatic
  • Gauge: 12
  • Mag capacity: 2, 5, or 10+1 depending on box magazine choice
  • Pros: Big capacity, semi-automatic, extra control with front vertical grip.
  • Cons: Heavier and bulkier than other Non-NFA firearm models.
  • MSRP: $699

Bullpup Shotguns

For home-defense use, bullpup shotguns are hard to beat. The “bullpup” term refers to the placement of the action. With most guns, the action is above the grip and trigger area. With bullpups, the action is placed well behind the grip. The net result if that a bullpup can have a full and legal (18 inches for shotguns) barrel but the overall length is much shorter as the action resides in the stock area.

So, bullpups are standard shotguns, complete with shoulder stocks. They’re just shorter and more maneuverable. And, as you’ll see, moving components back towards the body opens up interesting possibilities for capacity. When the shells are closer, it’s easier to handle the weight and bulk of larger magazines. —Tom McHale

Escort BTS Bullpup Shotgun

Escort BTS Bullpup Shotgun
The Escort BTS Bullpup Shotgun is available in 12 gauge or .410 bore. Escort

Escort has been delivering bargain semiauto scatterguns to the duck hunting crowd for years, but took a totally new approach with the BTS Bullpup.

The new inline gas piston design is mounted around the barrel, minimizing bulk and permitting use of the bullpup layout. The polymer lower receiver also doubles as the forend grip, with soft rubber inlays for improved handling.

The one-piece carry handle sight can be replaced with included flip-up sights for a lower profile or when using mounted optics. Available in both 12 gauge and .410, the BTS ships with 5-round detachable box magazines. — Joseph Albanese

Escort BTS Bullpup Specs

  • Action: Semiautomatic
  • Gauge: 12, .410
  • Mag capacity: 5
  • Pros: Innovative gas system will work with a variety of loads.
  • Cons: New design hasn’t been around for long
  • MSRP: $589

Charles Daly N4S Bullpup Semiauto Shotgun

Charles Daly N4S Bullpup Semiauto Shotgun
Charles Daly N4S Bullpup Semiauto Shotgun Charles Daly

Charles Daly’s 12-gauge bullpup manages to stuff a 20-inch barrel into an overall length of just 29.25 inches. The N4S packs a lot of features in that compact footprint, including an aluminum receiver with a 3-inch chamber that feeds from a five-round box magazine that facilitates rapid reloads.

The bullpup wears a full-length Picatinny rail so you can easily add optics or other accessories, but comes with flip-up sights so it’s ready to shoot right out of the box. A short section of rail is just in front of the foregrip, which permits the easy installation of lights or lasers.

The bullpup ships with a modified choke installed, but you can use any aftermarket tube cut with Beretta/Benelli Mobil threads. — Joseph Albanese

Charles Daly N4S Bullpup Specs

  • Action: Semiautomatic
  • Gauge: 12
  • Mag capacity: 5
  • Pros: Flip up sights get on target fast.
  • Cons: The N4S is fairly heavy at just over 9 pounds.
  • MSRP: $649

Black Aces Tactical Pro Bullpup

Black Aces Tactical Pro Bullpup
The Black Aces Tactical Pro Bullpup can use 1919 shotgun magazines and drum mags, but ships with two 5-round magazines. Black Aces Tactical

Black Aces is probably best known for their non-NFA short scatterguns but they recently entered the bullpup market with the introduction of the Tactical Pro.

Unlike many others, the Tactical Pro can be had in both right- or left-hand configurations, which is especially important in a bullpup layout where spent shells can hit you in the face when they are ejected.

An ambidextrous charging handle, safety, and magazine release make this a true righty or lefty gun.

The receiver features a full-length rail, so you can add the sights or optics of your choosing. A short section of rail can be found on the sides and bottom of the forend, allowing you to secure lights, lasers, and the included vertical foregrip.

The Tactical Pro uses 1919 magazines and drums, but ships with a two- and five-round mag, as well as three choke tubes. — Joseph Albanese

Black Aces Tactical Pro Bullpup Specs

  • Action: Semiautomatic
  • Gauge: 12
  • Mag capacity: 2, 5
  • Pros: Available in right- or left-hand configurations; takes common 1919 magazines and drums.
  • Cons: Like many bullpups, this one is heavy.
  • MSRP: $679

Kel-Tec KS7

With an overall length of just 26.1 inches, this shotgun still includes a full and legal 18.5-inch barrel so there are no NFA requirements and can hold 7+1 when using 2.75′ shells. Kel-Tec

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As a true bullpup design, the Kel-Tec KS7 offers the best of both worlds: compact and the ability to shoulder for full control. That helps with consistent aiming as does the combination carrying handle and sight rail. A fiber-optic tube up front rounds out the “iron sights” system. With an overall length of just 26.1 inches, this shotgun still includes a full and legal 18.5-inch barrel so there are no NFA requirements.

As a pump-action, you have to worry less about reliability with differing shell types and power levels, so load it up with the right tool for the job. A contoured fore-end grip provides control and also helps keep your hand away from the fiery end. —Tom McHale

Kel-Tec KS7 Specs

  • Action: Pump
  • Gauge: 12
  • Mag capacity: 6+1
  • Pros: Compact but easy to handle with its proper stock, sight rail
  • Cons: We’re spoiled by the huge capacity of the Kel-Tec KSG so can we call this a “low capacity” shotgun?
  • MSRP: $495

IWI Tavor TS12

tavor ts12
With two tubes side by side and one stacked on top, the TS12 is fed by a rotating pyramid of three magazine tubes. Tavor

Kel-Tec broke the bullpup capacity barrier by sticking two magazines side by side. IWI ups the ante by using three with the Tavor ATS12. With two tubes side by side and one stacked on top, the TS12 is fed by a rotating pyramid of three magazine tubes. Each one will hold four 3-inch shells or five 2 ¾-inch shells, so total capacity is 16. That’s almost a bull box of 12-gauge ammo. The operation of this semi-automatic is interesting. When you rotate the magazine assembly, a shell feeds from the currently selected magazine, so there are no manual actions required besides magazine selection.

While ejection is to the side, you can swap the ejection port to either side so the TS12 is equally friendly to righties and lefties. A near full-length rail on top allows addition of iron and/or optical sights. Four sling attachment points help you transport the weight of a full-loaded TS12. This shotgun also uses the Beretta / Benelli choke system for pattern customization. —Tom McHale

IWI Tavor TS12 Specs

  • Action: Semi-automatic
  • Gauge: 12
  • Mag capacity: 15+1
  • Pros: How can you argue with 15+1 capacity in a bullpup configuration?
  • Cons: Weight when loaded. Is this really a con?
  • MSRP: $1,399

Kel-Tec KSG

keltec ks8
The KSG is the KS7’s big brother, with two magazine tubes that are selected via a lever at the front of the ejection/loading port, and a capacity of 14+1 with 2.75″ shells. Kel-Tec

The original big capacity bullpup shotgun is the Kel-Tec KSG. What makes it unique is the dual, side-by-side magazine tube design. Load six shells in each tube plus one in the chamber and you have a total 13-shot overall capacity. What makes the KSG particularly interesting is the ability to select between magazine tubes. If you want to load slugs in one and buck shot in the other, a simple lever throw allows you to switch the ammo type of the next round to feed on demand. Those shells can be standard 2 ¾-inch or 3-inch, or some of each.

Even though it’s just 26.1 inches long, it contains a legal 18.5-inch barrel. A long rail over the barrel allows attachment of iron sights and/or an optic. The KSG also features downward ejection, so it’s fully ambidextrous. —Tom McHale

Kel-Tec KSG Specs

  • Action: Pump
  • Gauge: 12
  • Mag capacity:12+1
  • Pros: Big capacity, ability to load and select on-demand two different shell types.
  • Cons: Heavy and wide fore-end support from side-by-side magazine tubes.
  • MSRP: $990

Tristar Compact

httpswww.range365.comsitesrange365.comfilesimages201902tristar-compact-carry-handle-shotgun.jpg
The Tristar Compact is a bullpup fed by five-round box magazines, so each load offers 5+1 capacity but with fast reloads. Tristar

Traditional shotguns have an inherent capacity challenge. Not only are shells huge, the “normal” magazine tube storage method limits capacity due to overall length constraints. Enter the box magazine approach.

The shells are still huge, but at least magazines allow use of vertical space below the gun for shell storage. The Tristar Compact is a bullpup fed by five-round box magazines, so each load offers 5+1 capacity but with fast reloads. The Tristar compact features an integrated carry handle equipped with flip-up sights.

A rail segment under the fore-end is useful for a forward grip but is probably too far below the bore for laser use. This barrel is threaded for the Beretta/Benelli Mobil Extended Cylinder Choke Tube system so you can customize patterns based on your choice of load. It’ll handle 3-inch shells. —Tom McHale

Tristar Compact Specs

  • Action: Semi-automatic
  • Gauge: 12
  • Mag capacity: 5+1
  • Pros: Magazine-fed design offers quick reload and reasonable capacity in a compact package.
  • Cons: At 30 inches overall, it’s a bit longer than other bullpup shotguns. Shells eject to the right which may interfere with left-handed users.
  • MSRP: $700

UTAS UTS-15

Rather than mounting magazine tubes under the barrel like the KSG, the ATS-12 places two mag tubes side-by-side above the barrel. UTAS

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The UTAS UTS-15 takes a different approach to high capacity than either the Kel-Tec KSG or the Tavor TS12. Rather than mounting magazine tubes under the barrel, the ATS-12 places two side by side above the barrel. That approach offers a more hand-friendly fore-end support system even if it does “waste” some space under the barrel.

The company offers an integrated light option that can fit in the tube under the bore. Each tube holds seven shells and a lever system allows you to select between them at will. If you like, you can load different shell types on each side and choose as needed. Or, if you want to have continuous fire of a single shell type, just place the selection lever in the middle and feeding will alternate between tubes until both are empty.

The alternating approach keeps weight balanced as you use up the shells on either side. The UTS-12 uses a standard AR pistol grip so feel free to swap in your favorite if you don’t care for the solid mil-spec plastic one. Ejection is always to the right, so it may not be as lefty-friendly as other models. A full-length rail up top allows attachment of most any type of optic and a Beretta / Benelli choke system give your pattern flexibility for your preferred shot type. —Tom McHale

UTAS UTS-15 Specs

  • Action: Pump
  • Gauge: 12
  • Mag capacity: 15
  • Pros: Big capacity and a variety of finish choices.
  • Cons: The magazine tubes over the barrel make this one top heavy but that’s mitigated in part by the bullpup design.
  • MSRP: $1,099 – $1,299 depending on finish

Standard Manufacturing DP-12

The DP-12 has two side-by-side barrels. Below each is a magazine tube that holds seven rounds on each side. Work the slide once and you can fire two rounds in rapid succession. Standard Manufacturing

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And now for something completely different. There are pumps. There are double-barrels. Now, there is a pump-action double-barrel with the Standard Manufacturing DP-12. Let’s clarify. The DP-12 has side-by-side barrels. Below each is a magazine tube that holds seven rounds on each side. When you cycle the pump using the forward vertical grip, two rounds are loaded from the magazine tubes into their respective barrels.

At this point, we have the same operation as a traditional double-barrel shotgun, meaning that each press of the trigger fires a shot. Press twice and a shell fires from each of the two barrels. That gives the user two shots before a pump action is required to reload the chambers. Go that? It’s a wide shotgun but the vertical grip mitigates any handling challenges up front. It sports a full rail up top and the Beretta / Benelli choke system. —Tom McHale

Standard Manufacturing DP-12 Specs

  • Action: Pump (Double)
  • Gauge: 12
  • Mag capacity: 14+2
  • Pros: Twice the firepower per pump, huge capacity
  • Cons: At almost 10 pounds unloaded, it’s the heaviest of the bunch.
  • MSRP: $1,395

Break-Action Shotguns

While they lack capacity, break-action shotguns are about as simple as it gets. This means that those that aren’t terribly familiar with firearms can get the hang of them pretty quickly. This can be particularly useful in a home defense situation where you may want to arm another member of your household that doesn’t regularly shoot as back up. Get a break-action, but take them to range with you as often as possible. — Joseph Albanese

Charles Daly 520T Side-by-Side Coach Gun

Charles Daly 520T Side-by-Side Coach Gun
The Charles Daly 520T Side-by-Side Coach Gun is a great and old-school style of defensive shotgun that is still applicable for many situations. Charles Daly

Charles Daly’s 20-gauge 520T Side-by-Side Coach Gun is just about as simple as a shotgun can get. The fixed-breech designs do little to absorb recoil, so the smaller 20-gauge configuration is a boon to recoil-sensitive individuals.

As a coach gun, the barrels are only 20 inches long, so you can easily move about indoors. A single-selective trigger lets you choose which barrel goes off first, so you can load different shells in each barrel and let go according to the situation.

The 520T ships with a full suite of chokes from Skeet to Full so you can get the pattern you’d like. — Joseph Albanese

Charles Daly 520T Side-by-Side Coach Gun Specs

  • Action: Break-action
  • Gauge: 20
  • Mag capacity: 2
  • Pros: Overwhelmingly simple operation; lowered recoil thanks to the 20 gauge shells.
  • Cons: Limited capacity.
  • MSRP: $945

Cimarron 1883 Double Barrel

Cimarron 1883 Double Barrel
The Cimarron 1883 Double Barrel is chambered in .410 so its a soft kicker and capable of being used by pretty much anyone for self defense. Cimarron

Twenty gauges have limited recoil, and the .410 is its softer-kicking little brother. The simplicity of the Cimarron 1883 Double Barrel’s break-action combined with the extremely mild recoil makes it an ideal choice for shooters of smaller stature.

The 18-inch barrel makes this a handy little coach gun, easily wielded around corners and in tight spaces.

The 1883 is a looker with finely figured furniture and excellent checkering, so you’ll be happy to take it to the range for some Cowboy-action fun. — Joseph Albanese

Cimarron 1883 Double Barrel Specs

  • Action: Break-action
  • Gauge: .410
  • Mag capacity: 2
  • Pros: Overwhelmingly simple operation; lowered recoil thanks to the .410 shells.
  • Cons: Limited capacity; limited payload.
  • MSRP: $812

Stoeger Coach Gun

Stoeger Coach shotguns are available in 12, 20, and .410 bore models with side-by-side barrels. Stoeger Coach

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Most traditional break-action shotguns have “normal” barrel lengths of 26 or 28 inches. Even with the short break-action receiver, when you add the stock length, a “standard” shotgun can be unwieldy for home-defense purposes. Back in the day, enterprising cowboys figured out that shortening the barrels to 20 inches or so would make a gun portable and maneuverable enough to serve as the “car gun” of the day. Enter the coach shotgun.

Stoeger Coach shotguns are available in 12, 20, and .410 bore models with side-by-side barrels. You can choose single-trigger designs that fire one barrel after the other with two presses, or if you want control over which barrel fires first, maybe because you use different chokes on each side, you can get yourself a two-trigger model. You’ll see these all over cowboy action shooting competitions, but they make a great home-defense option too. —Tom McHale

Stoeger Coach Gun Specs

  • Action: Break-action
  • Gauge: 12, 20, .410 bore
  • Mag capacity: 2
  • Pros: It can’t get any simpler than a break-action coach gun. These were the preferred choice of security folks riding “shotgun” on stage coaches for a reason.
  • Cons: Limited capacity.
  • MSRP: $449 – $549 depending on finish choices

CZ Sharp Tail Coach

cz sharp tail coach shotgun
The Sharp Tail Coach features 20-inch long barrels, each sized to cylinder bore. CZ USA

The CZ take on the classic coach gun is modernized with a single selectable trigger and manual safety. It won’t go on or off safe until you tell it unlike many sporting guns that reset the safety to on each time you chamber rounds and cock the action.

The Sharp Tail Coach features 20-inch long barrels, each sized to cylinder bore. That’s fine for home-defense use you can choose your desired pattern with ammo selection.

This CZ has a more refined European appearance with its checkered Turkish Walnut stock and beavertail-shaped fore-end. The Sharp Tail is available in both 10 and 20 gauges and has 3-inch chambers. —Tom McHale

CZ Sharp Tail Coach Shotgun Specs

  • Action: Break-action
  • Gauge: 12 or 20
  • Mag capacity: 2
  • Pros: Most coach guns are utilitarian, but this one looks sharp too.
  • Cons: Limited capacity and you’ll pay a bit more for the cosmetic upgrades.
  • MSRP: $1,006

Stevens 555 Over and Under

stevens 555 over under shotgun
There’s no reason that your home-defense shotgun can’t be used for hunting and clay sports too if you choose the right one. Stevens

The Stevens 555 is an affordable multi-tasker. There’s no reason that your home-defense shotgun can’t be used for hunting and clay sports too if you choose the right one. This over-under comes in five different calibers so you can choose the power level right for your needs. It features Turkish Walnut stock and fore-end and chrome-lined carbon steel barrels.

Even with two 28-inch barrels, this shotgun weighs in just over six pounds thanks in part to the aluminum receiver. It’s got a single trigger for simplicity and tang-mounted safety. All in all, it’s a great value for a multi-purpose over and under. —Tom McHale

Stevens 555 Over-Under Specs

  • Action: Break-action
  • Gauge: 12, 20, 16, 28, .410 bore
  • Mag capacity: 2
  • Pros: Multi-purpose field, clays, and home-defense, affordable for an over-under.
  • Cons: Limited capacity and not as handy as a short-barrel break action.
  • MSRP: $692 to $705 depending on gauge

Stoeger Double-Defense

stoeger double defense over under
You can choose between side-by-side and over/under (pictured here) configurations of the Stoeger Double Defense shotgun depending on your preference. Stoeger Industries

Since coach guns have made good domicile defense options for more than a century why not update them for the new millennium? Stoeger has done just that with their Double-Defense lineup. Imagine the classic coach gun decked out with modern accouterments like black, non-glare walnut stocks, a receiver rail for optical sights, and forward rails for lights and lasers. That’s what makes the Double-Defense so interesting.

Better yet, you can choose between side-by-side and over/under configurations depending on your preference.

The Double-Defense shotguns are available in 12 and 20 gauges and both accept either 2-¾ or 3-inch shells. For nearly equal performance with a lot less recoil, consider the 20 gauge models. They’re also about a half-pound lighter than their 12-gauge siblings. —Tom McHale

Stoeger Double-Defense Shotgun Specs

  • Action: break-action
  • Gauge: 12 or 20
  • Mag capacity: 2
  • Pros: All the benefits of a coach gun plus rails for optics, lights, and lasers.
  • Cons: Limited capacity.
  • MSRP: $449 to $489 depending on model

Charles Daly 204XT Over Under Tactical

charles daly 204xt over under tactical shotgun
The 204XT is a break-action side-by-side shotgun that’s decked out with features normally found on tactical pumps and semi-automatics. Charles Daly

The team at Charles Daly seems to be making a business out of interesting tactical shotguns. In this case, imaging running a traditional field over and under shotgun through close-quarters combat school and you’ve about got it. The 204XT is a break-action side-by-side shotgun that’s decked out with features normally found on tactical pumps and semi-automatics.

A top rail over the chamber area allows you to mount a scope or red dot optic and ahead of the fore-end are rail segments on the side for lights, lasers, or bayonets if you like. The barrels are just 20 inches so the whole package is compact with an overall length of just 37.4 inches. As you might expect, the stock and fore-end are synthetic black. —Tom McHale

Charles Daly 204XT Over Under Tactical Shotgun Specs

  • Action: Break-action
  • Gauge: 12
  • Mag capacity: 2
  • Pros: The simplicity of a break-action but with rails for optics, lights, and lasers.
  • Cons: Limited capacity for all the potential gear you can put on this shotgun.
  • MSRP: $815

Chiappa Triple Threat

chiappa triple threat
The Chiappa Triple Threat packs three rounds of 12 or 20-gauge depending on which model you choose and has a removable buttstock. Chiappa

Most break-action shotguns have a capacity of one or two. The Chiappa Triple Threat packs three rounds of 12 or 20-gauge depending on which model you choose. As the name implies, this one is a three-barrel wonder. The two side-by-side barrels are topped with a third. All are joined together so loading and unloading operations are three at a time. The single trigger fires each barrel sequentially.

Since the barrels are 18.5 inches long, and legal as a standard shotgun, the company has been able to add a twist. You’ll note the brass band just behind the grip area on the stock. That’s actually a connector that holds two pieces of the butt stock together. You can remove the bulk of the buttstock, changing the triple threat to a pistol grip only shotgun. If you want portability or simply something more maneuverable, the option is there. Kind of a cool idea.

The chambers are 3-inch and the barrels feature removable chokes. It’s a bit heavier than others thanks to that third barrel, weighing in at 8.2 pounds. Chiappa also sells a shorty version of the Triple Threat with a pistol grip called the Charles Daly Honcho Triple. —Tom McHale

Chiappa Triple Threat Shotgun Specs

  • Action: Break-action
  • Gauge: 12 or 20
  • Mag capacity: 3
  • Pros: 50% more capacity than most break-action shotguns.
  • Cons: You’ll have to pay for that third barrel; the Triple Threat is not a budget gun.
  • MSRP: $1,955

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