Best Tactical Shotguns

Best Tactical Shotguns

Marines using Mossberg tactical shotguns. Photo Credit: U.S. Marine Corps

In this article we are going to discuss how to choose the best tactical shotgun for your needs. Tactical shotguns are very similar to standard hunting shotguns. Most notably, tactical shotguns differ in that they come in shorter barrel lengths so that they are more easy to handle in tight quarters. Typically, tactical shotguns are used for defensive or offensive purposes in close quarters combat. While a combat shotgun is not going to be able to match the capacity of tactical carbines and rifles, it is hard to match the ability of a shotgun to put lead on target downrange.

One thing to consider is what type of sights you want on your tactical shotgun. Please do not mistake shotguns for an area weapon that will decimate anything in its path. Hollywood has proliferated the myth that all one needs to do is aim in a general direction and you will magically hit every target in the area. Shotguns still require you to aim! Also, since each pellet has the ability to do damage, you are responsible for the placement of every single pellet before you pull the trigger. Remember that when choosing your choke, load, and thinking about penetration in your environment.

Having said that, there are plenty of types of sights that work well. Usually, bead type sights will do the job for any distance in which a tactical shotgun should be employed, unless you opt for slugs, which will require more accuracy. Ghost ring type sights are also very popular, as well as putting on close range optics like red dot sights. One word of caution before you employ a red dot, is that it will change your cheek weld and if the sight is mounted too high that could affect your consistency of hold and hurt accuracy.

If you want a pump shotgun, which are generally the easiest to find and the most reliable, look for double bars on the pump for increased strength. All the pumps on this list will have that, but consider that if you look elsewhere. Semi-automatic shotguns are also very reliable now, and are also faster to shoot. However, if you want a semi-automatic reliable weapon, be prepared to pay for it. Semi-autos are generally at least double the cost of a reliable pump, if not more. For that reason, if this is your first shotgun for home defense and you are on a budget, look at pump actions.

Advantages of Tactical Shotguns

  • Power – Most combat shotguns are 12 gauge, which bring outstanding power at close range. For close quarters like homes and urban environments, it is hard to beat. Also, since 12 gauge comes in so many loads, you will easily be able to choose what load is optimal for your situation.
  • Durability – The shotguns on this list are very well made. The high quality materials and simplicity of design result in weapons that can take a beating and still go bang.
  • Reliability – Shotguns have a reputation as something to grab when it really hits the fan and it has earned that reputation over a long period of time.

Limitations of Combat Shotguns

  • Range – Within 25 yards, the tactical shotgun is an incredibly effective weapon system. Beyond that range, however, and the effectiveness of a shotgun quickly diminishes.
  • Capacity – Another downside of tactical shotguns is capacity. With a combat shotgun, you will not be able to match the capacity of a rifle. If you consider the size of a 12 gauge shell compared to a standard 5.56 cartridge, it won’t surprise you that you will have a constraint on round count with a combat shotgun.
  • Speed – While shotguns are very capable of rapidly firing, shotguns can be slower to reload than rifles since they are loaded one shell at a time.

Top Tactical Shotguns – 2017


Mossberg 590A1 U.S. Service Model Tactical Shotgun

Best Tactical Shotgun - Mossberg 590A1

The M500 is the military version of the Mossberg 590A1 Service Model. The shotgun claims to be the only shotgun to pass the rigorous MilSpec 3443 standard. It has a metal trigger guard for maximum durability. The 590A1 opts for a 20″ barrel, giving the Mossberg more firepower than the also legendary Remington 870 which opts for the shorter barrel for better maneuverability.

This shotgun does have an aluminum alloy receiver, but the bolt locks to the barrel, so the lockup is tough as nails and mates steel to steel. The barrel is also heavy walled at the request of the Navy. The parkerized barrel also has bayonet lugs, which is awesome for a home defense weapon.

The controls make sense for both right handed and left handed folks since the safety can be accessed easily with your thumb given the position.

Mossberg 590A1 Specifications

  • Caliber: 12-gauge with 3” chamber
  • Overall Length: 41″
  • Sights: Bead
  • Capacity: 9
  • Weight: 7.25 lbs.
  • Action: Pump
  • Barrel Length and Choke Tubes: 20″ with Cylinder Bore
  • Length of Pull: 14.25″

The Mossberg is very well made and feels built like a tank. If you are looking for a solid American-made simple shotgun, this is one of the best options around.

Check Price at Brownells


Remington 870 Tactical Shotgun

Best Tactical Shotgun - Remington 870

The Remington 870 has a track record that is nothing short of extraordinary. This is the gold standard of combat shotguns, and has been around for decades and has been employed by military and police users all over the world. The 870’s receiver is milled from a single block of steel. One thing to note that is the trigger guard is polymer, but it is tough. Complaining about the durability of the trigger guard would be like complainging that Glocks are made of polymer, which seems very proven in the modern firearm world.

The action is smooth as butter and easy to manipulate. One thing to note is that the Remington 870 does come with a shell lifter that can sometimes pinch your fingers and makes loading slightly more complicated than the Mossberg, but that is only a minor complaint.

Remington 870 Express Specifications

  • Caliber: 12-gauge with 3” chamber
  • Overall Length: 38.5″
  • Sights: Bead
  • Capacity: 7
  • Weight: 7.5 lbs.
  • Action: Pump
  • Barrel Length and Choke Tubes: 18.5″ with Cylinder Bore
  • Length of Pull: 14″

The 870 is a legend that is battle proven and offers more mobility than the Mossberg because of the shorter 18.5″ barrel, but you are losing some 2 rounds in capacity. There is no right answer here, but just a personal preference between the two. This beast remains a favorite for a combat shotgun and the durability and military and law enforcement track record can not be beat and the value you get is amazing.

Check Price at Cabela’s


Benelli M4 Tactical Shotgun

Best Tactical Shotgun - Benelli M4

The Benelli M4 is the shotgun of choice for the U.S. Marine Corps. Benelli makes superior products and this is no exception. It feels, and is priced, as a premium shotgun, but it delivers on what it promises; a tough and reliable fast into action heavy hitter.

Benelli M4 Tactical Specifications

  • Caliber: 12-gauge with 3” chamber
  • Overall Length: 40″
  • Sights: Ghost Ring
  • Capacity: 6
  • Weight: 7.5 lbs.
  • Action: Semi-Automatic
  • Barrel Length and Choke Tubes: 18.5″ with Cylinder Bore
  • Length of Pull: 14.37″
Marine Tactical Shotgun

A Marine firing a Benelli M4 shotgun. Photo Credit: United States Marine Corps

This piston-driven Auto-Regulating Gas-Operated (A.R.G.O.) system was designed for and approved by the U.S. Marine Corps. If you want a lightening fast tactical shotgun and will trade some capacity for speed, this is an excellent option.

Check Price at Cabela’s


FN SLP MK I

Best Tactical Shotgun - FNH SLP MK I

FNH SLP MK I Specifications

  • Caliber: 12-gauge with 3” chamber
  • Overall Length: 43″
  • Sights: Low Profile/Adjustable Rear
  • Capacity: 9
  • Weight: 8.2 lbs.
  • Action: Semi-Automatic
  • Barrel Length and Choke Tubes: 22″ with Standard Invector
  • Length of Pull: 14″

Check Price at Brownells