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In the last installment of our shotgun series, Kyle talked about how the defensive shotgun has evolved through history. Today, I’m picking up where he left off with a video that takes a more detailed look at some of the specific features to look for in a shotgun that’s going to be used for home defense. Although I used a Remington 870 as an example in the video, I’m not addressing specific shotgun models — at least not today. I’m assuming that you’re starting with a pump-action or semi-auto shotgun from a reputable manufacturer. Beyond that, most common shotgun models can be easily modified and accessorized to have the features I’m suggesting.

Video: 6 Features of a Home-Defense Shotgun

Other Defensive Shotgun Features

Because this is the Internet, someone is bound to be dismayed that I left out their favorite shotgun accessory. Here are a few other features commonly found on defensive shotguns and the reasons I didn’t include them in the video.

Sling

There is some debate as to whether a sling is a good idea on a home defense shotgun. On one hand, a sling allows the user to go “hands free” while still maintaining quick access to the shotgun. Detractors say that slings only get in the way on a home defense shotgun. While I can see the potential utility for a sling in some extreme circumstances, I lean heavily toward the “they’re in the way” camp. This is particularly true with a pump-action shotgun where the sling can actually prevent the slide from moving if you accidentally grab a handful of sling when you grip the forend.

If you need a hand free to do something like open a door or dial a phone, simply hold the shotgun with the other hand. One of the reasons I like to keep my shotgun relatively light and clutter-free is because that makes it easier to handle and use one-handed, if necessary. For a home defense gun, the odds of the sling being necessary in order for me to perform some non-shooting two-handed task are incredibly slim, but the chance the sling will impede the accessibility or usability of the gun seems far more likely.

Choke Tubes

There are two main reasons for a choke tube on a defensive shotgun. The first is to control the spread of buckshot. As we saw in the Buckshot for Home Defense video, some buckshot loads will throw an extremely wide pattern, even at moderate distances that could be encountered inside the home. A choke tube could be used to attempt to narrow the spread to a more manageable level, but I believe careful ammo selection would be a more effective method. There’s nothing wrong with experimenting with a choke if your shotgun barrel is already threaded for one, but with ammo like Federal Flite Control available, a choke is probably not necessary if a tight pattern is what you’re after.

choke-tubes

Another reason to use a barrel threaded for chokes on a defensive shotgun is to take advantage a choke with additional features beyond regulating the shot pattern. It’s common to see defensive shotguns sold with mean-looking ported breaching chokes. These devices add “teeth” to the muzzle so that the designated breacher in a tactical entry team can brace the barrel when shooting door locks or hinges. For the average citizen, they serve absolutely no purpose other than to make your shotgun look neat. If that’s your thing, then go for it, but it’s not something I’d consider a critical feature on a home defense gun.

Pistol Grip

Pistol grip stocks (the kind with the shoulder stock attached, not the dreadful stock-less pistol grip only) on defensive shotguns were all the rage not too long ago, but they seem to have faded in popularity in recent years. I can’t account for the change in public opinion, but in my personal experience, they don’t really add much utility to the shotgun, and they really get in the way with certain reloading techniques. Some shooters report that a pistol grip reduces felt recoil and offers better control. I’ve found that a correct stance and a stock with a shorter length of pull have a far greater effect on recoil mitigation, and none of the pistol grip stocks I’ve tried have had a short enough LOP to fit me well.

The one thing I’ve found a pistol grip does well is to make the shotgun much easier to manage one-handed. Fortunately, the Magpul stock offers the same benefit without any of the drawbacks of a dangling pistol grip, so I’m pretty sold on that design. I wouldn’t necessarily discourage anyone from using a pistol grip stock if they found that it had some specific benefits, but it’s not something I’d generally consider to be a huge advantage on a home-defense gun.


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  • retfed

    On the pistol grip shotgun: My agency went from the straight-stock to the pistol-grip stock on our 870s, and I bitched like crazy. I thought it was an affectation, it made it harder to work the safety, etc.
    Then one fine morning a mass murderer tried to twist my shotgun out of my hands and use it on me. He probably would have succeeded with the old straight stock, but the pistol grip allowed me to retain control of the shotgun until my backup could swarm him. (We took him alive.)
    Now, even though I’m retired, I still love my pistol-gripped shotgun and would willingly have its babies.

    • Interesting scenario. We might have to do some testing with that concept to see how the Magpul stock fares in a gun grab attempt.

    • EDarien

      This is why I do support the use of a sling for home defense. It isn’t as much for one handed tasks as it is keeping the gun on me and out of enemy hands in a grab attempt.

      • The_Saxon

        Can you recommend a good sling for an 870??

  • Rick McC.

    I have an old Winchester Model 1300 Turkey Gun that I bought 25+ years ago to shoot buckshot, which it does very well with the modified choke and both number one and number four 3″ (or 2 3/4″) buck.

    Prior to the ’94 CGB, I put a composite fore end and heavy wire side-folding butt stock with composite pistol grip and a four round mag tube extension; both by Choate.

    It functions easily with the stock in the folded position, as well.

    The gun carries great in the swamp for deer hunting, but of course the extended mag tube is removed; no way I want to lug that extra weight around all day, regardless of what hunting mag capacity limitations are.

    I do use a strap when hunting, but it’s removed before the gun is put back in the case.

    The Turkey model came with a nice multi camo-color laminated stock and fore end (which I still have), but I find it much easier carrying in the swamp folded, and I don’t have to worry about damage to the original stock.

    It’s short and fairly light, which is why I bought it, but I have no interest in ever bird hunting with it.

    I have a very old A5 for that.

  • Torch Onepercenter

    When I did bodyguard work I used a WP870 with a pistol grip which I also used as my “go to” gun for any situation including home defense. Today I have a 1300 that I converted to a collapsible stock with pistol grip and a single point harness. It shortened the gun and made it more manouverable in comparison to the way it was which is good in small spaces like stairs or halls.

  • Jack Fisher

    The money wasted on tactical slings, tactical flashlights, tactical lasers, tactical heat shields, tactical barrels, tactical chokes, tactical bayonet lugs, tactical bipods, tactical triggers, tactical stocks, tactical finishes and other tactical playthings all to trick up a cheap back of the pickup beater quality shotgun would be better spent on buying a few thousands shells, going to a trap range and practicing until the gun reliably shoots where you’re looking.

    • Uncle Buckshot

      Nothing wrong with a flashlight and a shorter stock.

      • Jack Fisher

        We just have different perspectives on shooting. I shoot trap with a Browning unsingle or double, about 5,000 registered targets a year. I’d bet on one of my fellow competitors in a home defense situation armed with his competition O/U and target loads over someone with a tricked out HD NinjaBlaster. Save the money from the flashlight and pistol grip and buy a flat or two of shells to practice with and you’ll be better off.

        • Uncle Buckshot

          I’d bet they would feel better with a shotgun like the one from the video. I’m not saying accessories will replace training. In most cases a shorter length of pull stock and a light can’t hurt. There is KISS and there is being unprepared.

          • Jack Fisher

            Sir, we just have to disagree cordially. Of course, I’d never directly criticise a man’s choice of defense weapon; we’re just talking on the “what if” level.

          • Uncle Buckshot

            I guess so. Thank you for being mature and not acting like some of the other knobs on the internet. If you shoot that much I have faith you can handle yourself with a shotgun. Have a wonderful Christmas.

          • Jack Fisher

            Thank you sir, and a Merry Christmas to you and yours, and see you about the site.

          • Michael Cooke

            So THIS is what intelligent discourse looks like on the Internet…kudos, gentlemen!

  • Mikial

    That was actually a pretty good article/video. Not sure if I agree completely with him about the length of the barrel not affecting the spread of the shot. There’s a reason why goose guns have such long barrels, but no biggie. Really got to see if I can get one of those Magpul stocks for my wife’s 12 gauge.

    • Thanks, glad you enjoyed it. The longer barrels do give you more velocity and longer range, which is why hunting guns are longer. The spread is most affected by the choke and the individual load/barrel combo, but typically the barrel length alone has little influence.

  • Jeffrey Martin

    I have been considering getting a Benelli 1301 Tactical, but there doesn’t seem to be many options for a weapon monunted light for that gun. Any help?

    • Assuming you mean the Beretta 1301 Tactical? The only light mount solution I’m aware of is to get the Nordic Components extended magazine kit that comes with a barrel clamp. The clamp has a piece of picatinny rail on it that can take a light mount, but that places the light very far forward and it’s almost impossible to reach unless you have freakishly long arms. I’m hoping a better solution will come along soon.

  • The_Saxon

    Hey, I’m a Lefty. Where should I put the extra shells? On the Right or Left side of the stock??? Or still on the left side of the receiver same as Right handers??

    • You can use the left side of the stock or the left side of the receiver. There’s not really a “correct” place to mount them. Try both and see which works better for you.

  • SnakePlissken

    Where can I find that velcro sidesaddle?

  • Brian Mumford

    In my opinion, the benefit of a sling at home is not to go one handed, it is to keep someone from taking it away from me.