If you’re like me—which I suspect you are or else you wouldn’t be reading Shooting Illustrated—you own a dedicated home-defense shotgun (or two) tailor-made for the job. But, we are the minority. Many more Americans don’t have an IWI US Tavor TS12 or a Mossberg 590A1 Tactical in a biometric rack above the headboard.
Rather, they keep a wood-stocked Winchester Model 12, an old Ithaca double, a Browning A5, a Mossberg 500 All Purpose, a Remington 1100 or the like stashed behind the clothes in the closet or in a safe. While these fowling pieces may not have been specifically made for defending castles, they can do it. Here are a half-dozen of the most popular hunting shotguns that can serve double-duty as home defenders, along with some tips for employing them as such.
For the last 30 years, Remington’s venerable 870 Express has been offered for around $250 at major discount stores. That’s because this 12-gauge pump just works every time, clean or dirty, in foul weather or air-conditioning. In its typical hunting configuration, it comes with three choke tubes and a 26- or 28-inch barrel.
If you don’t feel like spending any money making it the best home defender it can be, that’s your call, but at least make sure the plug (mandated for use when hunting migratory birds) is removed so it’ll hold four rounds in its tubular magazine. Then screw in its cylinder-choke tube and you’re good to go. I’d rather have this hunting 870 in my hands than any handgun on the planet when a bad actor comes through my window.
If you wish to modify your 870 but still use it for hunting in the fall, buy a simple sling for it, a Plus-2 round magazine extension from XS Sights for $82, a hook-and-loop mounted shell carrier to keep reloads handy and a simple flashlight mount like the Ultimate Arms Gear Flashlight Kit for $30. The 870’s only downside? While there are more than 11 million currently in circulation, finding a used one isn’t hard, but at the time of this writing Remington’s Ilion, NY, plant is not yet up and running under its new owners.
Winchester Model 12
Back before the Great War, if your granddaddy was a duck hunter he likely either shot an American-made double barrel or a Winchester Model 12. A hammerless update to the 1897, for half a century it was the fastest, most reliable repeater going, and that’s why it was modified by the military and employed as a fearsome “trench gun” in World War II.
Today in its 28-inch-barreled hunting configuration, it’s still a quality firearm, although it was usurped by the more advanced Remington 870 in 1964. Even so, if this is the gun you’ve got, rest assured it’ll work wonders for warding off evil. Hopefully, it has an improved-cylinder choke and you can figure out how to remove its magazine plug.
Winchester’s current-production update to the Model 12 is its Super X Pump. Although this foreign-made model comes in myriad configurations—some more naturally suited for home defense than others—the most common is a 26-inch-barreled, camouflage, hunting version. If you have one, it’ll work like gangbusters.
It’s likely the fastest and easiest-to-operate pump on the market due to its spring-loaded, rotary-bolt system that initiates the ejection stroke as the trigger is pulled. Just install the cylinder-choke tube and remove the plug so you can feed it with five 00-buck rounds. If you want to soup it up, order a flashlight mount and a sidesaddle for it.
If you don’t have an 870, odds are good you’ve got a Mossberg 500 somewhere in the house. After all, 11 million Americans think the 500 is swell for everything from downing ducks in a salty marsh to rooting out terrorists in some less-appealing locations overseas. While I’d never recommend neglecting any gun, the 500 is one that needs next-to-no coddling to trust it. Mossberg 500s built in the last 30 years feature screw-in choke tubes, sling studs, an easy-to-see white bead, an ambidextrous tang safety and a 26-inch barrel.
With its plug removed to liberate its five-round magazine (six rounds total), it’s a great defensive option. Like the other popular shotguns on this list, there’s no shortage of aftermarket parts for it, so with a few hundred bucks you can easily morph yours into the ultimate home defender. Most of the cash ($187) would be spent on a factory 18.5-inch “Security” barrel and the rest on a four-round mag-tube extension, a flashlight mount, sidesaddle and sling. When duck season comes back around, have Batman change back into Bruce Wayne.