There’s a lot of ways you can save money: Clip coupons, buy off-brand merchandise, look for “Black Friday” sales and others. When it comes to tools, however, the phrase “buy once, cry once” comes to mind—pay for name-brands with good reputations so that you won’t be surprised down the road. Sometimes, though, you find a quality tool at a reasonable price, such as the Stoeger P3000 Defense Pump.
A quick look tells you this is a no-frills shotgun: There’s a simple black blade for a front sight and no rear sight—not terribly surprising on a shotgun. Furniture is utilitarian polymer (although the pistol grip is molded, comfortable and has some recoil-mitigating capability) and finish is a plain black over anodized aluminum. It’s about as archetypal “defensive shotgun” as you can get: Short barrel, pump-action, pistol grip, black… Check, check, check. You won’t be confusing this for a high-end duck gun, but don’t make the mistake of thinking it can’t perform.
Pistol grips on shotguns—when paired with a full stock—are a matter of contention. Our Shotgun Editor doesn’t care for them, preferring a standard stock (should you agree with him, no worries, as Stoeger offers such a model at an even lower MSRP) as opposed to your humble scribe, a fan of AR-15-style rifles in general who likes the perpendicular pistol grip for longarms. If you’re in my camp, you’ll appreciate this model, especially with the abundant recoil mitigation provided by the ample buttpad. I found the Stoeger P3000 Defense Pump tucked into my shoulder quite easily and snugly, and yielded excellent control when swinging from target to target in multiple-threat drills. Recoil is, well, what you’d expect in a 12-gauge shotgun.
One of the upsides of pump-action shotguns—namely, the robust action that allows a multitude of munitions to be run with nary a glitch—makes it that much harder to write about. A well-made variant should feed, fire and eject pretty much everything that goes into it, from birdshot to a variety of buckshot to slugs. The Stoeger falls easily into this category, as the P3000 turned out to be as reliable as a hammer: You pick it up, and it just plain works.
The controls on the Stoeger P3000 Defense Pump are intuitive and easy to manipulate, with the slide release just ahead of the trigger and actuated by simply extending the trigger finger straight out and up. The safety is the standard crossbolt, similar to the Remington 870, and does not require taking the firing hand off the pistol grip to engage or disengage it. The slide operates cleanly and efficiently, needing minimal effort to eject spent hulls or load the next round.
On the range, the Stoeger P3000 Defense Pump was, to put it bluntly, boring. Lather, rinse, repeat: Load it up, charge it, fire and run the slide to chamber the next round. It’s so effortless and predictable that you more or less stop thinking about it, and that’s a good thing. This is a shotgun meant for home defense—the minimalist barrel, lack of chokes and simple front sight lock it in as a sturdy tool for defending home and hearth, not bringing down ducks or bucks. In this case, “boring” means you won’t experience that loud click when you really need a louder bang, which is exactly what you should strive for and practice toward in your scattergun pursuits.
In total, nearly 200 rounds of birdshot, buckshot and slugs were run through the Stoeger without incident. Hornady’s excellent Critical Defense 00 buckshot patterned well at 10 yards, leaving a dessert-plate-size hole wherever the front sight was pointed. Slugs are definitely noticeable, although the generous buttpad does soak up some of the punishment. Hitting a silhouette at 25 yards is definitely not out of the question. All manner of birdshot went into and out of the Stoeger P3000 Defense Pump, from reduced-recoil loads to 3-inch magnums. Your shoulder will most likely prefer the former (that’s a general statement, not an indictment) and will be the limiting factor in what can be handled, not the Stoeger.
It’s really hard to find fault with the P3000, as long as you recognize the niche it is intended to fill. It’s not an heirloom beauty, but it not designed as such. It’s not the best choice for blasting birds or clays out of the sky, but again, that is not its intended function. What it is designed for, and does admirably well, is to function well with fight-stopping rounds. Once you’ve proven that your preferred load works (and it will) and know how it patterns at the various distances at which you might need to take shots, you can clean and oil the Stoeger P3000 Defense Pump and leave it at the ready. It’s just that dependable.