View Full Version : Shopping for home defense

September 12, 2005, 01:00 PM
I'm shopping for my first shotgun, principally for home defense, but I will also like to use it extensively for practice so I can become proficient in its use. Generally, what are the characteristics that make a shotgun good for home defense? What are some specific models I should consider when I shop?

Reviewing this forum, I keep seeing the 870 come up. Is this everyone's favorite?

September 12, 2005, 01:08 PM
Well the 870 is not necessarily the favorite, it just had devotition in all its owners, It has been around forever and is a very well build gun, that was the first and only gun i own, but im only 18, generally the top are rem 870/mossberg 500/590 and the winchester 1200/1300. a good home defense shotgun, should have an 18 inch barrel for manuverability as well as be a pump for reliability. Go with the 870 and never look back.

happy shooting

September 12, 2005, 01:12 PM
First, shotguns are great for point blank to medium range, have amazing stopping power, and are very versatile with loads, and the barrels can be switched out in seconds from a hunting length barrel to a home defense shorter length.

I own a "home defense" 12 gauge Remi 870 Express. My opinion of this shotgun is that it's near perfect. I've shot it many many times. My main complaints are really petty and can be corrected. It would be nice if it held more shells with a longer tube, and that can be corrected for under $30. I prefer the safety placement on the Mossberg better, but that's minor. I currently have a synthetic stock. If I were to make any changes to a factory shotgun, my first change would be to add a sidesaddle or tube extension for more shells, my second change would be to install a combo pistolgrip/full stock for control. Avoid a pure pistol grip because you'll lose accuracy and it'll be difficult to control as well. Shotguns are made to fire from the shoulder, not the hip like in movies.

While I do not own a Mossberg, it's also a great shotgun. It's safe to say that Mossberg 500 and Remington 870 and Win 1200/1300 are the most common and best choices for home defense, and both can be had for around $250 or less, particularly at Walmart (I just saw the Mossy for $200 and the Remi for $250). They are easy to accessorize with a sidesaddle (for more shells), a pistol grip or pistol/stock combo, and other accessories.

I recently saw a Mossberg (not the 500, but a different model) combo with a home defense barrel AND a hunting barrel for $200 at Big 5. I think that sale is over. If I were in the market for a shotgun, that would have been it. Have fun.

September 12, 2005, 01:28 PM
The Remmy 870 is one of the crowd favorites. The other two favorites are the Mossberg 500 and the Winchester 1200/1300.
The main differences are discussed on this page. (http://www.members.tripod.com/~jth8260/870.html)

Whether you choose Remmy, Mossy, or Winny, for my money, a shotgun needs several things to be most effective in home defense. First is an 18.5 inch barrel. Then a sidesaddle for extra ammo. I want a forend that does not overlap the reciever. I like dual slidebars, and I insist on 100% reliability. My favorite is the Mossberg, then the Winchester. I have not felt the need to own a Remington.

At most pawnshops you can find Remington 870s in the $175 range. Mossberg 500s for $150, Winchester 1200/1300s for $120. This does not reflect the quality of the guns, but the desirability in the marketplace. The used Remington sells better for some reason, so it is priced higher. Often you can find shotguns for considerably less if you are willing to accept some ugliness. Just today I bought a Winchester 1300 for $89. I trying to decide whether to build it into my fourth HD Shotgun.

September 12, 2005, 05:28 PM
The Big5 Mossberg is indeed a 500. However, it's a non-standard combo model and unlisted in the Mossberg catalog. It's a generic 500 with a 28" fixed choke barrel and a 18.5" HD barrel. They seem commonly available in 12GA and 20GA, though 12GA is usually the one advertised. Also often sold there at the same price (usually about $220) is a HD 500 with a 20" barrel and 8 shot capacity.

Big5 also sells Winchester and Remington HD shotguns for very reasonable prices. Each goes on sale about once a month. They tend to have a limited selection of firearms but at good prices.

September 12, 2005, 05:54 PM
Anyone okay with just 2.75 or 3" or anyone feel it necessary for the 3.5" magnums?

September 12, 2005, 06:18 PM
For HD all I use is 2 & 3/4 low recoil 00Buck. Heck, you are not shooting geese here........... ;)

psycho nut
September 12, 2005, 10:13 PM
Anyone okay with just 2.75 or 3" or anyone feel it necessary for the 3.5" magnums?

What are you gonna do with a 3 1/2 shell? :eek: :confused:

For HD all I use is 2 & 3/4 low recoil 00Buck.



Blackwater OPS
September 13, 2005, 12:06 AM
3in = 6 more pellets in 00 Buck. something to think about at least, and you can always load the smaller shells instead. BTW winchester ranger is the best for 2.75 I think.

September 13, 2005, 01:08 AM
Any version of the Rem 870, Win 1300, or Moss 500/590 will be fine. All of these have dedicated HD forms, with extended magazines, shorter barrels, and sometimes pistol grips, the usefulness of which is debated. Find whichever one fits you best, and go with it.

As far as 3.5 inch shells go, they are unnecessary for HD. The extra 0.5 inch won't make much difference on the BG's end, and will only recoil more on yours. And believe me, a 3 inch shell has plenty of kick as it is.

Let us know when you find something!

September 13, 2005, 01:14 AM

Big magazine
12 guage #4 buckshot
Semi-auto (Under stress you might fail to pump the action)

Remington or Mossberg

Benelli is best

September 13, 2005, 01:23 AM
The remington is far better quality than the Winchester or Mossberg.


Dave McC
September 13, 2005, 03:52 AM
Any of the Big Four pumps will do. Software's more crucial than the hardware.

A good shotgunner is absolutely deadly with his/her weapon of choice and pretty darn good with the others.

Buy a shotgun. My choice is the 870 but it's not the only good one.

Shoot it until it feels like a body part. BA/UU/R.

Voila!! You're ready.

September 13, 2005, 07:09 AM
The Mossberg is far better designed than the Remington.

XaviercantankerousoldfartBreath ;)

September 13, 2005, 10:46 AM
I asked the question about the 3.5" b/c I don't own one, but have considered it for versatility. I don't think I"ll buy one b/c of the extra cost and relative uselessness.

September 14, 2005, 12:47 PM
Like most have stated you can't go wrong with the big 3. I own a Mossberg 590 and absolutely love it, have never had any type of failure with it and it is light to carry around the property. I love pump shotguns so much that I plan to purchase an 870 as well as a 1300 Defender, just so I can sample all 3 regularly. The 870 Marine magnum keeps drawing my attention as well as the Benelli tacticals. Watch out shotguns can become very addictive.

Mike P.
September 14, 2005, 01:34 PM
I've had a Remington 870 Police Magnum, a Mossberg 590A1, and an ancient Mossberg 600 (single slide arm, 2.75" only). The 870PM was tighter and better finished, but I prefered the operating system of the Mossbergs much more. If I bought another pump shotgun, it would be a Mossberg.

September 15, 2005, 08:34 AM
Any shotgun will work for home defense. Intruders won't know that they were shot with a field, trap, sporting or skeet gun. The thought that a riot gun configuration is necessary is ridiculous.

September 15, 2005, 09:20 AM
Two points:

1. Don't overlook the used gun racks. You can find gems such as the stevens/J C Higgins or an old Ithaca 37 readily available. Both are adequate for HD.

Also I have seen Remington 31's and even Winchester model 12's used. Guns were definitely used but serviceable.

Even the cheapie "Well designed :rolleyes: " mossbergs will work.

I would not spend a lot of money on a gun just for HD. "If you have to use it you will loose it". Don't cry over an $800 gun, better to have a $100 beater.

2. 2 3/4" is fine for what you intend. Besides, the first time you fire a 3" mag will probably be the last time. 3.5" is for goose hunters.

September 15, 2005, 10:36 AM
I would not spend a lot of money on a gun just for HD. "If you have to use it you will loose it". Don't cry over an $800 gun, better to have a $100 beater. This is a very good point.
Some people wonder why I have four (yes, four) HD shotguns. Well, it places one within reach no matter where I am, and more importantly, it ensures I still have protection after I have to use one of them and it is taken for evidence. I am unsure how that would affect my gun buying ability, so I simply bought replacements early. When you consider I average less than $100 per shotgun, it is not much of an investment.

September 15, 2005, 12:36 PM
Great tips. I'd love to pick up an old Ithaca. I went to school up there and I always enjoyed upsetting the loonies there. What could be better than a shotgun named after their little anti-gun oasis!

September 15, 2005, 06:16 PM
Another vote for the Rem 870. I just bought myself an Express Turkey 12/21. And with it, the best of all worlds: Hunting, clays, IPSC, home defense... all at the switch of a load and choke.

September 16, 2005, 11:12 AM
Mine is a Ted Williams 300 Auto (same as Win 1400)
It only holds 2 in the mag but is SUPER reliable I used it for hunting since I was a kid.
I cut the barrel back to "18 when I retired it from hunting and it is now my HD gun.
The point is that any reliable 12 would be fine for HD

September 16, 2005, 04:57 PM
has a rebate offer on all remington super mags. 50$ --> back and will shoot all three shells. why you say, and why not i said

September 16, 2005, 09:03 PM
FWIW, Big 5 has the Mossberg 500 combo (18.5" + 28" barrels) on sale for $199 from 9/18 to 9/24. Sweet deal!

September 18, 2005, 09:01 AM
I have an 870 but it's not a HD model. That's OK but I'm interested in picking up another gun. Since I might be getting into Cowboy Action a nice double barrel with hammers would be nice; they make a pump that's legal for Cowboy also, but I'm curious about an old-fashioned double.

The double has limited capacity, of course, and doesn't make that SOUND that makes burglars pee themselves when you chamber a round, but I don't see needing more than 2 rounds in a prowler situation. Of course more is always better... Any double barrel HD fans out there?

On the OTHER side of the coin, that Saiga 12 gauge with an 8 round mag looks pretty neat. I noticed that just about everyone prefers the pump action. Is that because auto shotguns can jam? I've never owned one so...


September 18, 2005, 01:02 PM
First I agree with Dave Mc, K80, and others. GUN FIT to shooter, Software trumps hardware, and yes if you use it - you will lose it.

I use a bone stock 870 Express, 28" Barrel. Maybe one of these days I will fire enough rounds and be profficent enough to shoot a shorter bbl. :p

Now to share- Lady was going to get her Third 870 pump for HD. She "strayed and betrayed". She bought TWO J.C. Higgens with the Polychokes.

She was grinning ear to ear, so happy, and was just itching to hear me go on about staying with MOA she was familar with.

She paid $120 for BOTH. She got wind of some folks going to sell the big house and moving off out of town, she attended the Sale early. These relatives were NOT into guns. She had to borrow $100 from her daughter...she could NOT pass up the Model 19 for $125 either. Her daughter paid $75 for Ruger MKI.

The guns all work, run fine. The JC Higgens are going to get fitted to them better, new recoil pads and such. She is pattern testing them.

Two 12 ga pump guns that make no nevermind as to how treated,what happens to them for $120.

For $320 and getting 4 guns - I'd be grinning too.

September 18, 2005, 02:58 PM
Two 12 ga pump guns that make no nevermind as to how treated,what happens to them for $120. :D
I finished the Winnie 1300 up above. here it is.
If I get over $10 for the old forend, I can subtract from my $89 investment.

September 18, 2005, 04:25 PM
XavierBreath, you always find these sweet deals. My luck must really suck because I can never find any good deals like you have. :(

September 18, 2005, 05:57 PM


You must be livin' right. NICE set up!!

I set one up like that once, great shooter for sure!!

Well...you know what they say? $89 just won't buy what is used to... :p

FWIW I bought a Brand Spanking New 1100 with THE prettiest wood and deepest blue, back in the old days, for $159. Okay actually $160. Mom and Pop store, they were low on ones...this was for a brand new gun, tax included, 4 boxes of AA target loads tossed in, tin of Browing Gun oil (before Rem had an oil mind you) and I forget what else they tossed in as part of the deal. I got to walk back to the inventory and pick out the one I wanted too.

I also won the drawing for a Filson Field Coat the next day...then I won a ham at Magic Mart. That was a good week!

September 20, 2005, 08:48 PM
I go with the Moss.590-A1, because I own one. I like both Moss. And the Rem. (don’t let my buddies with the 870s know I said that) but the 590 in my view is better for HD because of the stronger action, not smoother – stronger. Although the diff. can be debated far into the night defiantly go with a PUMP! In a dark house the sound of a 3” buck being racked into the chamber is a very strong weapon in its self.

September 20, 2005, 09:40 PM
Remington, Winchester or Mossberg will all do the trick...its just personal preference. I have a Rem 870 20ga, a Rem 1100 Trap 12ga, a Winchester 1200 12ga, and a Mossberg 500 12ga and like all of them.
If I was to have just one shotgun I would not get the combat type. I would get one that could be also used for hunting and/or trap shooting as well as home defense.
Trap shooting is an excellent way to practice with your shotgun.
But be very carefull...its incredably addictive.....:)

I have my Rem 870 20ga ready to go at all times....mine is a youth model with the shorter stock and barrell. Makes for a good compromise of the combat type for specifically HD. I trap shoot quite successfully with it frequently.
Ever try trap shooting with a pistol grip shotgun......not fun. Nothing at all wrong with a pistol grip combat type shotgun....I just wouldn't make it my only shotgun.
I also have a Colt 45 ready to go as a backup.

:) :) :) :)

September 22, 2005, 05:24 PM
No doubt the 870 and the 500/590 will be equally suitable to get the job done well, but the Mossberg operating system is designed in a much more intuitive, natural position... as far as placement of thumb safety and slide release is concerned.

Also, the lifter in the Mossberg stays up after chambering a shell, allowing immediate reloading of the mag tube at any time, without the lifter being in the way of the mag tube opening. With the 870, the lifter returns to the down position after chambering a shell and to reload, the shooter must push the lifter up out of the way before being able to load another round in the magazine tube. While I much prefer the controls placement and ready magazine tube access on the Mossy, I would feel well armed with either.

September 22, 2005, 05:40 PM

September 22, 2005, 09:59 PM
I have a remington 870 20 gauge. Is this ideal for home defense or do people recommend 12 gauge?

I am an idiot. The reason I asked this, was because I thought most people had posted 12 gauge 870s, but I guess it only comes in 20 gauge. Sorry.

September 25, 2005, 12:47 AM
Hi guys,
New to the board, and still looking around through it all.
I'm hoping to purchase a Mossberg soon, as I have an 835 Ulti-mag Turkey gun that I love, and have had a Remington or 2 in the past that were only acceptable for me.
My question is: For home defense, how well does a pistol grip stock work? I've never had a shotgun with a pistol grip, and wonder about the ability to hold the weapon on target. Is it more difficult, or am I just letting my imagination run wild?
I'm also interested in equipping said weapon with a light. I've looked around a little bit, and have really only found 2, the Surefire Models and the Streamlight models. I notice the Surefires are about twice as expensive as the Streamlights. Does anyone have an opinion on the streamlights? Or are the surefires the only way to go?
I'm no where near the gun expert that most people on here seem to be. I've been around firearms for 30 years, but mainly in a hunting or plinking capacity.
Thanks in advance!

Blackwater OPS
September 25, 2005, 02:46 AM
The 870 stock as is works fine for home defense, there is NO need for a pistol grip. That said, I installed the ATI pistol grip on mine, solely because it looks cool. :D

September 25, 2005, 07:55 AM
My question is: For home defense, how well does a pistol grip stock work? I've never had a shotgun with a pistol grip, and wonder about the ability to hold the weapon on target. Is it more difficult, or am I just letting my imagination run wild? A pistol grip is based on the common delusion that a shotgun with an 18 inch barrel will spray buckshot in a 4 foot pattern at ten feet. thus negating the necessity of aiming the gun.

Get a real stock, and aim the gun. The 18 inch shotgun will not place an impenetrable 4 foot wide hail of lead down your hallway. At best, you might have 7 or 8 rounds in the magazine, so you had better be using them effectively. Look down that reciever and barrel. Aim. To do that, you need a stock.

A light on the shotgun is a tactical decision. Some like it, others do not. I prefer to not have one, and to remain an ambush from the shadows. Others want to go and investigate bumps in the night. Cest la vie. IMHO the best light is the one that is a forend. I think Surefire makes it, not sure.

September 25, 2005, 03:18 PM
Agree with most of the posts, any of the big three are fine, and used standard police issue types are the best, already set up for the job and usually pretty cheap. Assume that once you use the gun for the 1 to 5 shots involved in a HD incident, that you will never see the gun again. Depends the state you live in, but most places the gun will be held as "evidence" long enough you are going to have to replace it.

You'll note there is also a VERY long and very acrimonious argument on another thread as to what ammo to use, bringing in a few hundred factors to consider there, as well.

Take a firearms training course, preferably one of the NRA courses, so you will have some idea how to act before during and after the incident. Pay special attention to the "Do not appear in your doorway to greet the incoming first responders with a smoking gun in your hand unless you have a death wish!" part of the training, as well as the "Cease fire if the BG turns away from you." NEVER NEVER NEVER allow any of your shots to go back-to-front on the BG unless you want to go to jail along with your "victim" :D

Consider what you are planning, and be sure you understand all the possible results that may lie before you. Most important of all, perhaps, is to determine whether your insurance company will pay your legal fees if you take action inside your home to protect life and property. Otherwise be sure that in addition to the $200.00 or so you are investing in the gun and ammo, you also have around $50,000.00 lying around to use for your after action legal fees. There are plenty lawyers watching these posts who can tell you how much this is going to cost you, even if you are 10000% in the right to pull the trigger. They'll likely also tell you the extra cost of each "extra" shot past the first one. :eek: :eek:

September 25, 2005, 07:21 PM
That really makes sense about the pistol grip. I would guesstimate that most home defense situations are going to be at a range of 10 yds or less. Most of them anyway, but as you pointed out, there is no substitute for a well aimed shot, especially the first one.
As for the legalalities of defending my life and property, as far as I'm concerned, if you have to worry about that, you're better off selling all of your weapons so as to not be tempted into defending yourself. I've had to fire my weapon twice as an attention getter (thankfully not, and hopefully never, AT anyone); the second time was last week in the pursuit of trespassers. This particular time, a person said they were going to file a complaint against me for firing a weapon on propery owned by myself. I talked with the sheriff the next morning, and he told me that as a citizen of Mississippi, I had every right to fire a weapon on my propery. The complaint has yet to be filed, and if it is, I'm not worried about it. I view my home as my property as well; if I want to fire a couple of rounds of 00 Buck in my home, that is my business.

Thanks again for the info.

September 25, 2005, 07:55 PM
Ok, Dudlebugr, fire away then. Hope the Sheriff is a real good friend.

Over here in the People's Republic of Maryland the County I live in has ONE County sheriff, and 3,950 lawyers, 90% of which are the kind that give the rest a bad name. I can rely upon only one outcome of a self defense shooting involving me. I'm the homeowner, and have a job. Therefore the best one to sue over anything that happens, right or wrong, big or small. When I fire my 500, part of me is going to be wanting to go for a head shot at point blank, just so I'll have time to get my lawyer on the phone before the bad guy's surviving relatives know he's dead and call their own ambulance chasers. :eek:

September 25, 2005, 09:14 PM
Actually, I just published some thoughts regarding no BS home defense shotguns here (http://xavierthoughts.blogspot.com/). Enjoy. ;)

September 25, 2005, 10:24 PM
I bought a Remington 870 express magnum - stock, it takes 4+1 rounds of 3" or 2.75" 12 ga., has a matte black finish and oiled wood furniture and an 18" barrel.

It's a WHOLE lot of bad-guy hurtin' for $225-250 at WalMart!! :D

Black Majik
September 26, 2005, 01:58 AM
You should be fine as long as you stick with the big 4 (Rem, win, ithaca, moss).

But I'm biased towards the 870s. Thats what I use for HD application.

September 26, 2005, 09:14 AM
Thanks everyone for their valuable opinions. One Inch, sorry to hear of such an unfortunate situation regarding lawyers. I hope no one here ever HAS to use their weapon in a defense situation, but like they say, "let a smile be your umbrella, and your butt will get soaking wet."
That was some really interesting information in the links, Xavier. I thought I was looking for one gun, but it makes sense that I should be looking for at least 2. Times are tight, and I'll have to do some shopping and saving. I've never been a big fan of pawn shops, or the guns they have, but a weapon at half price would be a good thing. Something in my head from long ago about having "something nice." I reckon I need to think about the "throw-away" aspect, huh?
Thanks again for all of the great info! Gonna go to the pawn shops today for a look around!

September 26, 2005, 04:44 PM
So to clarify, a remington 870 20 gauge is fine for home defense correct?

If so, you all recommend 00 buckshot?

September 26, 2005, 05:52 PM
There's a lifetime of a thread here entitled Birdshot vs Buckshot for home defense. Go look through all that shouting and invective, and if your own head does not explode by the time you finish, then do what we all have done, take a wild guess at what is likely to let you walk away while the bad guys gets carried, preferably in a couple of body bags. :D

September 26, 2005, 06:24 PM
Have there been any published concrete data on which is the most reliable? Let's limit that to 12-ga. I've found a lifetime (?) guaranteed "Traditions" (Turkish) semi-auto here for $175. I think I could stay on target better with the s/auto than pumping one up. All opinions welcome, as no cash spent yet. Also, has anyone bought / fought / sought the Serbu SUPER-SHORTY, which is built on a Mossberg Maverick 12-gauge which came from the factory with a pistol grip. Kinda pricy, but if it's what I need when I need it . . . . .http://www.serbu.com/shorty.htm

Dave McC
September 26, 2005, 06:28 PM
A 20 gauge 870 is an excellent defense shotgun in trained hands, Phoenix. The key word there is trained.

We obsess over the hardware when the software is more crucial.

Get a shotgun and shoottheheckoutofit. Shoot it at clays,plates, silohuettes, and/or landfill rats. Shoot it until it feels like a body part.

And, the biggest buck available in 20 gauge is 2 buck. 3 buck is more common. Both will work well at typical HD ranges.


September 26, 2005, 06:39 PM
Most folks use Semi for sport, pumps for home defense. Pumps are simpler, safer for the novice, and generally cheaper. (Wait 10 seconds for the contrarians to weigh in with the opposite opinion.)

Slower cyclic rate on a pump gun will keep you from emptying the magazine before you realize what the heck you're doing, and there is something to be said for a controlled firing sequence.

Cock-aim-fire, check for casualties, cock, aim, etc.,
not point-firefirefirefirefirefireempty-oh,dammit-I-missed :eek:

If you expect to need a rapid fire response in this situation, then get an SKS or an AK or an AR, maybe a Mak-10, and prepare to spray and pray. With a 12 gauge, preferably from the big 3, NOT a cheapie import, 5 rounds ought to be plenty unless you have to take out an entire Rap group at one sitting. :eek:

Just IMHO. I expect there will be LOTS of dissent coming right along, so be ready to be reading all night. :D

September 26, 2005, 09:36 PM
At present, I'm pretty comfortable concluding that the pumps and semis are equally suited to the home defense job. They each have advantages and disadvantages. Overall, it all pretty much equals out. I believe that with proper ammo and excellent maintenance, a semi-auto can be utterly reliable, easy to use and very effective. And the same thing can certainly be said about pumps... in fact they seem to be ok with less attention to maintenance than the semi-autos.

It is possible that a little more training and practice might be needed with the pump, as the user is called upon to quickly and properly cycle the gun for each shot, whereas with the semi auto, the shooter can focus more on the target and less on the gun itself. The novice might be better served with a semi-auto, provided he is conscientious about cleaning and maintenance. Of course with good training and practice, either gun type is quite well up to the job. As others have said, what's most important is the preparedness and skill of the user, not the tool itself. This is true for so many different disciplines.

Others have given what I think is the most sound advice: consider the pump and semi-auto offerings from Remington, Mossberg, Winchester, Benelli and buy the shotgun at your price point which "speaks" to you and feels good in your hands... then learn to use it right and shoot the snot out of it. And if you can afford it, buy two or three different ones and shoot them enough to really decide which one suits you best... then keep or sell the others.

September 26, 2005, 10:37 PM
You all recommend 00 buckshot?Mountain lions are not a protected species in Texas... yet. If I come across one the next time I'm hunting whitetail deer, I want to make sure that it gets the rough equivalent of twelve 9mm Corbons plugged in its hide all at once. Remington Express, 2-3/4, 0 buck for me, thank you.

As for home defense, BGs deserve no more, no less.