Setting Up the Home Defense Shotgun

As the resident shotgun nerd at GunMag Warehouse, I’ve come to realize I’m in the minority of gun enthusiasts. The AR-15, or semi-auto rifle in general, has become the go-to for home defense. I can see why, but with proper training and the right equipment, I still believe the home defense shotgun works exceptionally well. A properly set-up repeating claymore can be a powerful and extremely capable home defense weapon.

The first step is picking the right shotgun for you. The good news is that even cheap shotguns tend to work well. Shotguns aren’t complicated, and a name-brand gun from Mossberg will cost you less than a low-tier AR-15 if you shop around. Once you have a good shotgun, you need to consider outfitting it for home defense. There are a few things I think are must-haves for the home defense shotgun.


A White Light

A white light is a must on all home defense weapons. They allow you to visually identify a threat. Establishing positive identification before you pull the trigger is absolutely necessary. If you only make one upgrade to your home defense shotgun, make it a white light. Which white light?

Well, you have tons of options. Lights on shotguns can be a hassle. If you choose a Mossberg 500 series or a Remington 870, then I’d advise you to go with a dedicated forend light. The Streamlight TL Racker provides a very capable 1,000 lumen white light built into the pump.

Streamlight Protac mounted onto a long gun
A white light like this Pro-Tac is a must-have to identify potential threats.

If you’ve departed from the Remington or Mossberg brands, then you can pick nearly any high-quality light. I prefer the TLR RM2 for shotguns. The low profile design, 1,000 lumen white light, and ergonomics make it well suited for a shotgun. You can choose between a massive button on the ramp-like design of the TLR RM2 or run a pressure switch from the light to wherever you need it.

Streamlight makes a shotgun-specific pressure switch that makes it easy to use with the forward and rearward motion of a pump action. It’s perfect and a low-cost upgrade for your shotgun’s white light.

A Sling

I love slings on home defense weapons. Why? Well, a good sling is a retention tool. A home defense shotgun is a close-range weapon, and at close range, a fight for your gun is a very real possibility. A sling helps ensure no one can wrestle your gun away from you.

A sling helps support the weapon as well. When you move to open a door, shield a child, or any other task, the sling can help keep the firearm-oriented upwards and on the threat. Which sling? Well, there are lots of tactical two-point slings, and a tactical two-point is what I’d suggest.

Benelli shotgun with tactical sling attached
Slings improve retention and add a new level of support.

Specifically, in order, I love the Arbor Arm Dual Adjust sling, the Blue Force Gear Vickers Sling, and the Magpul MS1. That’s not to say the Slingster from Ferro or the VTAC sling aren’t worthy options. I’m just inexperienced with them. Avoid those slings that hold spare ammo like the plague. They add too much weight and will throw your gun off balance.

Good Ammunition

First, avoid birdshot and any buckshot smaller than number 1. You want a load that consistently penetrates to the FBI standard, and only number 1 buck does that. You want the most capable round possible, so your chances to stop a threat are as high as possible.

Don’t have good ammunition, have great ammunition.

12 Gauge Personal Defense Federal Premium
Federal makes the best personal defense ammunition.

The best shotgun ammunition on the market is the Federal Flitecontrol loads. The Federal Premium Personal Defense 12 gauge loads are fantastic. For a home defense shotgun, I’d argue it’s the best possible shotgun load on the market.

The FliteControl wad keeps the pattern absurdly tight. At home defense ranges every round will hit into a pattern that’s roughly the same size as a 50 cent piece. It’s stupid tight, and once it hits the body, it begins to spread, making the insides of a threat swiss cheese. Not only is it devastatingly effective, but it promotes pellet accountability and reduces the chances of a missed pellet and the danger that comes with it.

Spare Ammo

Shotguns have lower ammo capacities than most rifles and handguns. A ‘high capacity’ shotgun might hold nine rounds in its tube. Although if you go magazine-fed with the 590M or the VR-80, you can get capacities ranging from 9 to 20 rounds easily enough.

If you are more traditional with a tube-fed design, then you’ll want some spare ammo on your gun.

EssTac Shotgun cards and Holosun light on shotgun
EssTac Shotgun cards make it easy to add ammunition to any shotgun.

You are highly unlikely to need to reload in a home defense shotgun, but it’s not impossible. Side saddles are the best way to carry spare ammunition on the gun for home defense.

There are lots and lots of great side saddles out there on the market. Personally, I’m a fan of two different options. The Esstac shotgun cards absolutely rule and attach to your shotgun via velcro and come in capacities from 4 to 7 rounds. My absolute favorite is the Aridus Industries QD-C carrier which is universal, made from metal, and is extremely over-engineered.

A Red Dot

A red dot isn’t necessary but can be extremely handy. Red dots will make your home defense shotgun easier to shoot accurately, faster on target, and perfect regardless of lighting conditions. Close quarters combat is all about speed, and a red dot allows for fast and accurate shots on target.

Which red dot? Well, I prefer to keep them small. I don’t need magnifier compatibility, so smaller is better. Two that stand out to me are the Holosun 507C and the 509T. These smaller optics are simple but very effective and capable red dots.

Holosun 507C on defensive shotgun
Red dots add a sting to your shotgun. Plus, they work day or night with ease.

What makes these two optics stick out is the multiple reticles. The 32 MOA reticle is perfect for shotguns. I patterned my defensive buckshot load inside this circle. I know that at 15 yards, every pellet from my Flitecontrol load will land inside this circle. Fifteen yards is further than I’ll ever shoot inside my house, so I know I’m good to go.

Time At the Range

Finally, the last thing you need is some time at the range. A little time training at the range is always a necessity. With a shotgun, you need to pattern your gun and your load. This involves shooting your chosen load at a variety of distances. For home defense, you should pace out the longest shot you could possibly take with your shotgun.

Pattern at that range and closer to see where your pellets will land. Different shotguns with different chokes pattern differently. It’s wise to understand exactly how your gun patterns before you utilize them for home defense. You’ll understand how the shot lands and the range it’s best used at. You might even discover that you need an entirely new load.

The Home Defense Shotgun and You

The home defense shotgun isn’t for everyone. It’s a hefty, hard-hitting powerhouse of a gun that hits hard in both directions. It’s a weapon you need to train with and dedicate lots of time to. If you are willing to purchase a quality firearm, outfit it for home defense, and train with it, then you’ll have an extremely effective weapon for home defense.

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine Gunner and a lifelong firearms enthusiast. Now that his days of working a 240B like Charlie Parker on the sax are over he's a regular guy who likes to shoot, write, and find ways to combine the two. He holds an NRA certification as a Basic Pistol Instructor and is probably most likely the world's Okayest firearm instructor. He is a simplicisist when it comes to talking about himself in the 3rd person and a self-professed tactical hipster. Hit him up on Instagram, @travis.l.pike, with story ideas.

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