The ideal home defense shotgun is short barreled, 18 to 22 inches and chambered for 12 or 20 gauge. I personally recommend the pump action over the auto-loader. Pump action shotguns offer a distinct advantage over auto-loaders in that their operation tends to be mechanically superior and, even under the worst conditions, very reliable. From a safety standpoint, shotguns are the best choice for home defense because they can be stored and carried in a safe condition. With the magazine fully loaded, chamber empty, safety on, hammer down, the weapon cannot be fired until you cycle the pump action and take the safety off. From the safe condition, the weapon can be brought to the ready condition very quickly. I don’t think there is any other sound in the world as identifiable (or as intimidating) as the sound of a pump action shotgun being racked.
A brand name, quality, pump action shotgun can be purchased at a cost less than a comparable branded handgun and there are three advantages to the shotgun. There is less danger of harming innocents through walls in the event of a stray or missed shot; the potential for afflicting major trauma to your assailant is maximized, thereby, ending a violent confrontation quickly and in your favor; it’s easier to hit an attacker with a shotgun when compared to a handgun. A single 12 gauge 00 buck shell fires 9 lead balls. This is equivalent to nine people aiming 9mm handguns at the same target and firing simultaneously. There will be lead in the target.
A high-quality auto-loader is an acceptable alternative to the pump action. The action of the higher-end models tends to be flawless. Although these are more expensive than the pump, some people prefer them. On the safety side of things, with an auto-loader, you have to be more careful after the initial shot. Unlike the pump shotgun which needs to be pumped (or racked) to fire the next round, the auto-loader, as it’s name suggests, automatically loads the next round and is ready to fire after each shot. Always remember these primary rules of gun safety, “Keep your finger off the trigger until you have a sight picture (target in your sights) and never point the weapon and something you don’t want dead.”
For versatility, you should select a shotgun which is chambered for at least 3-inch magnum shells. These receivers accommodate both the standard 2 3/4 inch and the 3-inch magnum shells. This feature will come in very handy in the event ammunition becomes scarce and you have to scavenge for shells. There are also “Super Magnum” receivers now which will function with 2 3/4-inch, 3 inch, and 3 1/2 inch shells.
However, for home defense, you’ll want to use 2 3/4 inch shells. The magnum and super magnum shells offer little benefit in this application. Their recoil makes shooting more difficult for smaller, weaker people, whose follow-up shot accuracy will suffer for it. When choosing the 12 gauge, go with the standard 2 3/4 inch, 00 buck. For the 20 gauge shotgun, you should go with the 2 3/4 inch standard, loaded with #3 buck.
For a home defense shotgun, some accessories you might want to include are: vertical fore grip (easier to control and rack), pistol grip, a sling (maintains positive control, makes it harder to be taken away from you), a side saddle or butt stock shell holder, and a light for poorly lit conditions.
If you’re going to need a lot of extra ammunition handy, then bandoleers are the way to go. To hold an extra 5-8 shells, the buttstock shell holders are acceptable. The side saddle shell holders may be the least preferred as they tend to get in the way of reloading. You can also attach an extended magazine to the shotgun to increase the shell holding capacity. These are installed without tools. Once the magazine end cap is unscrewed, the extension tube is screwed in its place and then the end cap is screwed onto the new extension and BOOM, up to five additional rounds, depending on shotgun make, model.
A light is important. While defending your house, especially at night, you need to be absolutely, positively sure of the ID and intent of the potential baddie. Is this a criminal invading your home, or did you just catch your teenager sneaking back in after a party? Maybe it’s your oldest kid making a surprise visit from college? Could be that neighbor who has a key to your house for emergencies and is, in fact, having an emergency. Tactical lights mount to the shotgun forearm, providing enough light to positively identify night time intruders. These lights allow hands-free operation by way of a remote switch.