A pump-action shotgun is a popular choice for home defense. While some argue it’s because the sound of working the action will strike fear in the heart of a home invader, a more grounded explanation is that it’s an intuitive design. Just yank back on the pump, point it in the bad guy’s direction and the next move is on him. He’ll say goodbye one way or another.
Another argument to favor shotguns for home defense, though, includes price and variety. Sure, you can find a lot out there with tactical furniture and large magazine capacities, but those features run up the final bill. If that’s your preference no argument here, but a plain Jane pump action is a tried and true design and will do you just fine.
When talking about pump action shotguns, there are two that must be mentioned. The first is the Remington 870. With decades of manufacturing and variants adding up, there are more than six million Remington 870s in circulation, according to the gun company.
The home defense 870s are available in 12 gauge and with wooden and synthetic stocks, a matte finish or a special stainless steel version for out at sea, an 18.5-inch barrel, a single bead sight, and a magazine capacity of either five or eight shells. Additional features like pistol grips and tactical furniture are available.
And the Remington 870 doesn’t stop there. In the past couple of years, the design has be adjusted for a stock-less version, the Remington Tac-14, that, while isn’t categorized as a shotgun, it still fires shot shells. Additionally, the design — in the DM version — is also available with a detachable magazine.
Price range is in the $300-$400.
The Mossberg 500 is the second. When it comes to pump action shotguns, you’re either in this camp or the other (well, it’s not really that divisive). Mossberg offers the model 500 in a variety of tactical models. These usually feature a synthetic stock, 18.5- or 20-inch barrel, and a blued finish. Additional features like pistol grips, tactical furniture and a variety of sights are also available.
Mossberg shotguns have their own level of quality that you can trust. Maybe you like how the actions glides or how the gun is balanced, but some might say they prefer the tang safety. Unlike the Remington 870, the manual safety on the Mossberg 500 is on the back of the pistol grip where the thumb naturally falls.
Price range is in the $300-$500.
Credit for producing one of the most iconic pump action shotguns around goes to Winchester Arms. The Winchester 1897, otherwise known as the trench gun, became infamous among enemy combatants during the first World War. That’s because U.S. servicemen could quickly unload five deadly shots by simply holding the trigger and pumping.
Over the years, the design was updated and evolved. Now, the only way to get a Winchester 1897, or M97, is to buy used or find a replica. However, a more affordable option for a Winchester home defense shotgun is the SXP.
The Winchester SXP comes in a number of variations, but the Defender model has the essentials for home defense. The Defender features a non-glare finish on the both the metal and composite parts, an 18-inch barrel, and an open choke. Designed to fire both buckshot or rifled slugs, the magazine tube holds six shells.
Price range is in the $200-$300.
Maverick shotguns are attractively priced Mossbergs. Think of it as buying generic aspirin instead of name-brand Tylenol. At less than $200 new, it’s a working man’s gun. The Maverick has all the essentials to make the shotgun work as it should and nothing more.
Price range is under $200.
The Ithaca Gun Company has taken a number of cues from other historic gun makers. The Ithaca 37 has characteristics of early shotgun designs by Remington and Winchester. However, unlike other gun makers, Ithaca has maintained production of the model 37 — or close to it — since 1933.
The Ithaca 37 home defense model is available with a 18.5- or 20-inch barrel, synthetic or walnut stock, chambered in 12 or 20 gauge, and with a magazine capacity of either five or eight shells.
Price is around $800.
For more information about our home defense recommendations, check out A Beginner Guide’s to Home Defense.