The selection of double-barrel shotguns for tactical use is somewhat limited. However, the simple and reliable break-action of a side-by-side shotgun is still a top contender for home defense.
Here also is one area where, if the double is your weapon of choice, you have to purchase one that was made overseas, since there are no American makers that are making side-by-side guns.
Stoeger Double Defense Review
Of tactical shotguns for home defense, the Stoeger (an importer, not a manufacturer) Double Defense shotgun is my top pick for several reasons. The Double Defense comes about as ready to set up tactically as you can for a double gun, with picatinny rails and Hi-Viz front sight installed, making it ready for lights and optics if you want them. The barrel is also ported to control recoil.
Since I wouldn’t be shooting slugs out of a double, I would probably dispense with an optical sight since the Hi-Viz pipe is very “vizible” as it is, and for what you want to use this gun for it is about ideal. As I said earlier, the Double Defense is so very popular that I could not get my hands on one for testing for this book, so obviously I’m not the only one out there who thinks that the old double still has merit as a defensive weapon.
What’s nice is that if you can’t get your hands on a real live Double Defense, and you want a side by side double usable for home defense, there are still other options available, one right in the Stoeger lineup itself, and it’s the same gun as the Double Defense, without the tactical upgrades and black paint job.
Stoeger Single Trigger Coach
The Brazilian-made Stoeger hammerless Single Trigger Coach Gun is my next choice, and one I actually got to test. It is listed as a specialty side-by-side on the Stoeger website, since the original Coach gun is a more historically accurate double trigger model. While the double trigger configuration may be more historically accurate for Cowboy Action Shooting where the steel targets are not attacking the shooter, double triggers are too complicated and slow for real live defensive use without a lot of practice.
The single trigger Coach Gun is available in 12 or 20 gauges with a 20-inch, un-ported barrel, in blue or nickel finishes. The nickel finish is stocked in black, and if you think a single barrel chromed 12 gauge is intimidating, imagine the effect of a side-by-side with moonlight glinting off that shiny finish.
On the standard Coach model, the barrels have fixed chokes, set up as Improved Cylinder and Modified, the first shot, right, being the Improved Cylinder-and the second shot the left Modified. This setup is designed for hunting. If I was going to build it from the ground up for defensive use, I would set it up with Improved Cylinder or Cylinder Bore chokes on both barrels. If you pay a few bucks more, you can get interchangeable screw-in chokes on the Supreme Coach Model, but for defensive use, I wouldn’t bother.
The gun, which has an MSRP of $399, is nicely blued with an American Walnut stock with what can be charitably described as checkering on the grip and forend. The wood itself is actually nicely figured, and they would have been better off just skipping the checkering. I purchased mine for $349.
There is an automatic safety which needs to be disengaged after the action is opened and closed and which also cocks the internal hammers. There are extractors, not ejectors (I would prefer ejectors for rapid reloading of this gun, since it is no longer really a sporting model and you don’t have to worry about capturing your spent shells in the field).
The only sighting equipment on the solid rib is a simple and somewhat small silver bead. I would have a gunsmith install a Hi-Viz or a set of XS Express Sights in its place. Even though there is no railing, perhaps one could be installed by a competent gunsmith. If you wanted to attach a tactical light without the gunsmithing you could, very simply, put a light in the groove underneath and between both barrels and secure it with electrical tape. Take it out and shoot it and see if it holds for you. Actually it really only needs to hold in place for two shots.
The Coach Gun buttstock has no recoil pad, just a plastic buttplate. I test fired it using Remington Home Defense 2-3/4-inch loads, one shot BB, the other shot Duplex. Kids, don’t try this at home without a slip-on rubber recoil pad on the thing. Better yet, get a recoil pad fitted to it. Holy smokes did that hurt-and remember, I love shooting shotguns. I have just grown soft shooting gas guns with recoil pads. Two shots told me all I need to know about patterning and recoil pads, or lack thereof, and about wanting to shoot it off the shoulder again.
The chamber is a three-inch, and all I’ve got to say is “don’t” unless you upgrade to a recoil pad. Two and three-quarter-inch shells are plenty for this gun.
I held dead center on the fist of the aggressor target at seven yards average combat distance. As expected, each barrel patterned just slightly toward its side from the center, but both shots struck pretty much where they were needed.
With all that being said, even if I couldn’t afford the little add-ons (except the recoil pad), I could still pick this baby right up out of the box and use it do defend my home and property quite successfully. The add-ons are just niceties, not essentials. Overall I’m quite impressed with the fit and finish of the Coach Gun and the tightness of the action.
Another option, which I was not able to test, is from Savage’s branch product line, Stevens. Stevens doesn’t have its own website, it is merely the trade name for the Savage line of shotguns.
The Stevens 612 Side by Side trail gun is blued steel wood stocked (not walnut apparently) with 20-inch barrels in 12 or 20 gauge. The MSRP is much higher than the Stoeger Coach gun, at $799.95. The gun is apparently made in Turkey. I checked on the 612 online at Shotgun World (www.shotgunworld.com) since I didn’t actually have one to examine. On the site, the 612 got very mixed reviews, actually mostly bad reviews.
There was one very positive review, and it could be a matter of some of the first guns that were imported were not up to proper standards, with later versions being improved. If you are interested in one, check with your local dealer or gunsmith and see what they are saying, and examine one for yourself. If they carry the line, ask them if they are coming back in for repairs. But I sure wouldn’t pay $400 more for one of these over the Stoeger in any event, as the Stoeger guns are very well executed examples of this type of shotgun.
This article is an excerpt from the Gun Digest Book of the Tactical Shotgun.