What Are Tactical Shotguns and Which Are The Best Models To Buy in 2023

by John Wren

A tactical shotgun is a type of shotgun that is designed for military, law enforcement, or self-defense use. They typically feature a shorter barrel and stock, improved sights, and a more compact design for ease of maneuverability in close-quarters combat. They may also have a mounted flashlight, laser sight, or other accessories to enhance the shooter’s ability to use the weapon in low-light conditions.

Individuals may own a tactical shotgun for a variety of reasons, including:

  1. Home defense: Tactical shotguns are commonly used for home defense due to their intimidating appearance and the stopping power of their ammunition.
  2. Law enforcement: Tactical shotguns are used by law enforcement agencies for crowd control, door breaching, and other specialized operations.
  3. Hunting: Some hunters use tactical shotguns for hunting big game, as they provide a powerful and versatile option for taking down large animals.
  4. Competition shooting: Tactical shotguns are also used in competitive shooting sports, where their compact design and versatility make them a popular choice.

Overall, tactical shotguns can be a useful tool for self-defense, hunting, and other activities that require a powerful and versatile weapon. However, it is important to understand local laws and regulations regarding the use of firearms and to properly train in the use of a tactical shotgun before owning one.

Shotguns are a clear winner when it comes to  protecting your family, property, possessions.

These days, you can get all kings of cool gadgets and add-ons for your shotgun. But some shotguns come fully loaded with all those things that make for an awesome tactical weapon.

In this article, we take a look at the best of the best when it comes to Tactical Shotguns.

What are Tactical Shotguns?

Tactical shotgun is one of those phrases that are made up of two very popular words and will get applied to most anything that is both a shotgun and has anything remotely tactical on it. 

For instance, there exists, and I kid you not, a tactical side by side double barrel, to say nothing of single shots tricked out with lights and rails and adjustable stocks and what have you.

While admittedly coach guns were the go to tactical shotgun for decades, the market now belongs almost entirely to pump action and semi-automatic shotguns.

Now there are a lot of really good tactical shotguns on the market. For the purpose of this article, I’m disregarding anything with a barrel over 20” and under 18”.

Many states allow for the ownership of legally registered short barreled shotguns, and there are a few tricks to build a perfectly legal shotgun with a sub 18” barrel, but those are beyond the scope of this article. 

I chose to disregard semi auto shotguns because some can be picky with ammo, some are amazing but very expensive, and some are not even legal in all states depending on configuration.

This leaves us with pump action shotguns, which brings the Mossberg 500 and 590 series as well as the venerable Remington 870 to mind, and this is the part that will inflame passions everywhere; I’m going with the 590.

So What is The Best Tactical Shotgun?

Why is the Mossberg 590 the best tactical shotgun you might ask? Well, it’s good enough for the US Army for one.  The choice of professional door kickers everywhere, in the form of the 590A1, the Mossberg 590 has proven to be tactical enough for real combat all over the globe, and for good reason.

Built to be tougher and more rugged than the 500 series, the 590 series can be had in a number of configurations, ranging from an entry level seven shot, to the bayonet lug equipped 590A1.

In fact, it is quite easy to have a shotgun configured exactly as the military issues because Mossberg will quite happily sell it to you.  With MSRP’s ranging from around $440 to about $750 there is a 590 shotgun for every budget and every need. 

And the aftermarket abounds for these, with barrels, heat shields, light and laser attachments, new furniture, sights, etc… Odds are you can build your 590 into most any configuration you want, and that is a good thing. Built with a heavier walled barrel, stronger receiver and more durable trigger components, the 590 is Mossberg’s answer to the Remington 870; but without the weight of a heavy steel receiver.

In it’s most basic configuration you can purchase a 590 with a traditional looking polymer stock and a seven shot tube, but special finishes for marine use, as well as adjustable stocks, 9 round tubes, heat shields, pistol grips, and other configurations are readily available, demonstrating the wide versatility of this shotgun.

Featuring a 3” magnum chamber, 18.5” or 20” barrels, matte or traditional bluing, special Marinecote finish, camo or parkerized finishes, bead or ghost ring sights, heavy or normal barrels, and even a bayonet lug or breacher barrel, the 590 is from the ground up a hard fighting tactical shotgun, but is just at home in the field or under the bed for home defense.

After looking at dozens of pump and semi-auto shotguns, I remain convinced the Mossberg 590 series is the hands down best tactical shotgun. 

My first 590 was a pistol grip only model with a breacher barrel. It was fast handling, hard hitting and scary looking; all things I wanted in a home defense shotgun at the time.  I don’t believe in pretty or kind and gentle when it comes to a tactical shotgun, and believe that scary can also be functional.

Mossberg 590 Shotgun Review

My current 590 is a nearly stock 590A1 U.S. Service Model, the same kind issued by the Army. This 9 shot bad boy is nearly bone stock, save for a light attachment I mounted on the mag tube, because honestly, you cannot have a tactical shotgun without a light, or at least that’s how I see it. 

Yes, I even have a couple bayonets for it (any M-16 bayonet will fit) but I got them as novelty or collector’s items. I can’t see engaging in a bayonet charge with my shotgun anytime soon, but it’s neat and pisses off anti-gunners, so there is also that redeeming quality.

Having settled on the best tactical shotgun, I looked for a few personalized modifications. I had to have a light, and soon settled on a quality weapons light.  A side saddle shell carrier went on next, adding a handful of quick to access rounds if needed, and I added a sling. 

Surprisingly, my choice of slings is about as basic and brutally effective as the 590 itself; I simply went with the first double point sling I found that was affordable, although I eventually went with a leather one for aesthetic purposes. 

Others might favor a single point sling, or even a more advanced three point sling. This depends on your training and end use of the shotgun.

For ammo,  I favor the old Vietnam War standby of number 4 buckshot.  A 3” shell holds about 41 roughly .25 caliber pellets and is well known for doing serious damage. 

Most will be content with the usual 00 buck or 1-ounce slug, in either a 2 3/4” or 3” shell of choice.  It’s a tactical shotgun, after all, there is no one correct load for it.

Picking the best tactical shotgun isn’t hard, the Army has already shown us the way, and even buying the most tricked out Mossberg 590 at full retail, and then upgrading it, is cheaper than some high-quality semi autos. 

The 590 is a rugged workhorse of military and law enforcement alike and is popular with discerning shooters who demand the best value and best performance out of a shotgun.

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