The 12-Gauge Shotgun Home Defense Solution

The 12-Gauge Shotgun Home Defense Solution

A 12-gauge shotgun is an exceptional all-around weapon for home defense, especially when you build it to your preferences.

What are defensive shotgun features and accessories you need to focus on?

Anyone with a lick of sense knows that a 12 gauge shotgun is the best weapon for home defense. Fans of the AR rifle platform and various handguns generally howl like banshees when this is brought up, but like cream in your coffee, the truth will rise to the top.

Defensive 12 Gauge Shotgun eighth

When we say we are going to use a weapon for home defense, we are defending our home and hearth, everybody and everything most precious to us. For this reason, I believe in using the weapon that will give me the most advantage over my adversaries. Nothing about a gunfight should be “fair.” Any semblance of fairness goes out the window when someone breaks into my house. Therefore, I want to be armed with the firearm best suited for this work, and that my friend is a 12 gauge shotgun loaded with buckshot.

Why the shotgun? In a nutshell, it’s the distance between you and your enemy. Most home defense situations are going to happen in the length of a room. If we take the fight outside, usually we are talking less than 50 yards. This is where the shotgun shines in performance. No other weapon will deliver as much firepower in the brief time that most gunfights occur. Three rounds of 12 gauge 2¾-inch loads with 00 Buckshot delivers 24 .33-caliber pellets to the bad guy. Most of us cannot deliver this much carnage upon our foe in the same amount of time with a rifle or handgun.

A state trooper friend I worked with some back in the day was a great advocate of the shotgun. When it looked like things were about to get real, he would always pick up the issued 870, which he called “The Hammer of God.” Enough said.

There is an abundance of 12 gauge shotguns and various aftermarket upgrades out there designed and perfectly suited for home defense. Here are a few out-of-the box options to consider, as well as some aftermarket accessories to trim out your scattergun to your personal preferences.

Service, Straight From The Box

Home defense shotguns, Mossberg 590 ATI Scorpion, Remington 870 Tac-14, Mossberg Shockwave, Remington 870.
Home defense shotguns, Mossberg 590 ATI Scorpion, Remington 870 Tac-14, Mossberg Shockwave, Remington 870.

If you don’t want to add on to your current shotgun, the Mossberg 590 ATI Scorpion comes already dressed for the party. In short, Mossberg took the time-proven Model 500 action, added several ATI (Advanced Technology International) accessories and gave us a very well equipped defensive/tactical shotgun ideal for home defense.

The best feature here might be the ATI T3 shotgun stock, which allows for quick adjustment to the individual shooter. Most of us need a shorter stock with less length of pull on the defensive shotgun as opposed to what we would use to shoot clays or waterfowl. The ATI cushioned pistol grip on this stock allows for good control of the weapon while firing, but it’s necessary to break your grip to operate the tang mounted safety located on the back of the receiver. The ATI heat shield covering the 18.5-inch barrel has two Picatinny rails, one on each side, which would serve to mount a light or a laser. The forearm on the Scorpion is the ATI Akita, which is comfortably textured and easy to grasp.

Mossberg also attaches a machined, anodized aluminum, ATI Halo Side Saddle to the 590’s receiver. This mount allows for a shell holder on either side of the gun with a Picatinny rail on top, on which you can mount whatever sight or optic you might choose. With this setup, you could carry up to nine extra loads on the gun — six on the left and three on the right. While I’m not a big fan of a shell carrier on the same side as the ejection/loading port, if you train with this and are comfortable with it, more power to you.

“I believe in using the weapon that will give me the most advantage over my adversaries. Nothing about a gunfight should be ‘fair.’”

I really took the time to get to know this gun and attended the Gunsite Academy 260 shotgun class with the Mossberg 590 ATI Scorpion, and other than being a tad heavy at 8.4 pounds, I have no complaints.

If you should decide to upgrade your current shotgun, the good news is that all of the above items found on the Scorpion are available individually from ATI — the T3 adjustable stock, the Akita fore end, Halo heat shield, Halo side saddle and shell carriers … the whole shootin’ match. ATI makes these to fit the Mossberg 500 and 590s, the Remington 870, the Winchester 1200 and 1300, and others.

A New Breed Of Protection

Mossberg 590 Shockwave
Mossberg 590 Shockwave

OK, so we won’t call them shotguns even though they are both built on revered shotgun actions — the Remington 870 and the Mossberg 500 — and both shoot shotgun ammo. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE) has confirmed the 500 Shockwave as a “firearm” — same for the Remington Tac-14 — per the Gun Control Act (GCA), but not a Class 3/NFA firearm.

Both of these guns sport a 14-inch barrel and the Shockwave Technologies “birds head” Raptor Grip stock. I had some misgivings about the Shockwave and the Tac-14 at first. I believed these guns would be a good choice for home defense, but I felt they needed some help and here is why.

Although both fit the need for a compact weapon in tight places, there’s a problem with how these guns are fired. Neither the Shockwave nor the Tac-14 should be fired from a shoulder or eye level position, which means they must be shot from the hip. This brings up a problem with accuracy because even with a cylinder bore barrel you will find shot patterns to be surprisingly tight at short ranges.

So, how do we accurately fire the Remington Tac-14 or the Mossberg Shockwave? The answer: You need a light and a laser.

Light ‘Em Up

Crimson Trace Rail Master Pro Laser and Light.

Most defensive shotgun instructors would agree that you need a light on your shotgun. When things go bump in the night, identifying your target is critical. The Remington Tac-14 and the Mossberg Shockwave both need a way to be aimed and fired accurately, and the Crimson Trace Rail Master Pro provides both.

The Rail Master Pro attaches to any shotgun that you can get a M1913 Picatinny rail or a Weaver-style accessory rail on. This is a compact, durable light-and-laser combination with instant tap-on and tap-off activation, and controls for windage and elevation adjustments. The Rail Master Pro has four different operational modes for the light and the laser, and it’s powered by a CR2 Lithium battery. The green laser diameter measures a half-inch on target at 50 feet, and the white light projects 100 lumens.

I like the Rail Master Pro because it’s a two-for-one deal with the light and the laser. On top of that, it’s very compact, and most importantly, it works.

Simple Brilliance, More Firepower

OPSol’s Mini Clip helps the Mossberg Shockwave properly feed Aguila’s Mini Shells, giving the shotgun a capacity boost.
OPSol’s Mini Clip helps the Mossberg Shockwave properly feed Aguila’s Mini Shells, giving the shotgun a capacity boost.

Some innovations are so simple they’re brilliant.

A few years ago, Aguila Ammunition gave us the Minishell, a 12 gauge shotgun shell 1.75 inches in length. The shorter length of the shell allows for more ammo to be loaded in the magazine than with traditional 2.75-inch shells. The problem is that many pump guns and semi-autos will not feed the Minishell. After ejecting the empty, the next round will turn within the action or, in the case of the Mossberg, simply fall through the receiver before it can be fed into the chamber.

OPSol of Texas devised a simple “rubber plug” that fits into the rear of the loading port of the Mossberg 500. The Mini Clip serves as a stop, captures the Minishell and allows it to be fed into the chamber. The Mossberg 590 Shockwave can now be loaded with nine rounds of Aguila Minishells, which are available in buckshot, 7½ birdshot or slugs.

A Short-Stock Solution

The Mesa Tactical Stock features a multi-position configuration that also reduces felt recoil.
The Mesa Tactical Stock features a multi-position configuration that also reduces felt recoil.

Here’s the deal: We don’t shoot a defensive shotgun the same as one for breaking clays or hunting. Our stance is (or should be) different, and we’re not swinging on moving targets. Unless you’re 7 feet tall and have arms long enough to play in the NBA, you need a shorter stock, which gives us a shorter length of pull. This prohibits you from “crawling up the stock” to maintain control of the gun.

The Mesa Tactical LEO Telescoping Stock Conversion Kit allows you to grab the adjustment lever and run the stock down until you’re nice and snug on the gun.

This stock also helps with that old demon … felt recoil. It’s no secret that shooting full house buckshot or slug loads is about as much fun as going to the dentist. The Mesa Tactical LEO stock has an optional Crosshair hydraulic recoil buffer available. Mesa Tactical will tell you this feature reduces felt recoil up to 70 percent. No doubt such things are hard to measure, but I can tell you that the reduction in recoil is substantial.

This is important. Less felt recoil means most shooters will not be afraid of the gun, which will translate to better accuracy and getting back on target quicker after the shot.

A Sight Built For Speed

Trijicon MRO on a Mossberg 590 ATI Scorpion
Trijicon MRO on a Mossberg 590 ATI Scorpion

We can only shoot any firearm as well as we can see and acquire the target. On most shotguns, a simple front bead fills the bill, but many of us can use all the help we can get. When I went through the Gunsite shotgun class, I didn’t believe the Trijicon MRO (Miniature Rifle Optic) could be faster for target acquisition than a plain front bead. I was wrong.

The MRO is a sealed reflex sight intended for use on rifles, carbines and shotguns. The large aperture and tapered light path maximizes the viewing area and allows for better situational awareness and fast target engagement — from any shooting position. You fire the shotgun with both eyes open while using this optic. Mount the shotgun to firing position, see the red dot on the target and pull the trigger. It’s that fast.

The 25mm objective lens makes for a huge field of view, and when you learn to shoot with both eyes open, the tube of the optic seems to disappear. The red dot goes on the target, boom, work the action, and then move to the next target.

Trijicon optics are manufactured with military and law enforcement needs in mind. This optic is rugged, has a 7075 aircraft-grade aluminum housing, with sealed lenses waterproof up to 100 feet. I didn’t run over this sight with my truck, but I didn’t baby it either. The MRO will take anything you dish out.

Parting Shot

Unless you’ve been living under the proverbial rock, you know this is not a complete list of possible home defense shotgun upgrades, but it will give you a good idea of some of the best choices available. In my mind, there’s no doubt that the 12 gauge shotgun is the best home defense weapon, but hopefully, you will never have to wield The Hammer of God.

This article originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.


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  1. On this subject I would like to present my opinion as a 25 year police veteran. There is more to consider than the lethality of a weapon in a home. Most burglaries are committed in the daytime when the occupants are gone. Where do you hide a shotgun when you go to work. If you have a safe do you take the time to put it in a safe? I don’t think so. A decent pistol that you actually know how to use is good enough unless you are expecting ISIS to invade. If you don’t care about the problem I brought up fine but it is a problem and by the way I am not an idiot.

  2. Certainly expected that people would disagree on what is the best firearm for home defense. To state explicitly, “Anyone with a lick of sense knows that a shotgun is the best weapon for home defense,” – because everyone who has a different opinion is, in the author’s opinion, an idiot – indicates that the author is either an ignoramus or being intentionally inflammatory – a fool in either case, and influenced me to NOT read this article.

    Here’s another point of view, which was not presented in a manner designed to insult:


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