In an era where the AR-15 is the best selling gun in the USA, the shotgun seems to have taken the back seat for both home defense and law enforcement duties. This is unfortunate, as the shotgun offers a lot of advantages to armed citizens and police officers alike.
Pump shotguns tend to be very reliable and easy to use in stressful conditions. Should you ever need to use a firearm in defense of yourself or another, reliability and ease of use are significant benefits.
The pump shotgun is a system that is combat proven. For more than 100 years, law enforcement and the military have used scatterguns in every conceivable way and they have excelled.
The two most popular modern pump shotguns, the Remington 870 and the Mossberg 500, use relatively simple designs that are easy to maintain and easy to run. Both guns are very similar in operation, and both will do the job. Pick either one and you will be well served.
Must Have Accessories
There are three things I consider critical when setting up a shotgun for self defense: a sling, a way to carry extra shells and some type of light. None of these three affect how the gun operates, and unless you do something wildly wrong, none will induce any malfunctions when running the gun.
Sling – A sling is important as a method to retain the firearm, yet free both hands to deal with other issues. Without a sling, you have to put the gun down to do anything needing two hands.
There are any number of slings on the market that might make sense for your needs. Try a few and figure out what you like. Many shotgun shooters attach a generic two point sling to the gun and are perfectly happy.
A single point sling can also be attached to shotguns if desired. Companies like GG&G make various sling mount plates that fit between the buttstock and receiver that can be used to attach a single point sling. http://www.gggaz.com/remington-870-standard-sling-attachments.html
Ammo Carrier – A typical shotgun will hold four or five shells. This is likely enough to get you through most armed confrontations. However, having a few extra rounds on hand is never a bad idea.
There are several high-quality “side-saddle” shell holders that mount to the shotgun’s receiver. These are nice, but not absolutely necessary. I currently have an inexpensive elastic sleeve on the buttstock of my 870 that keeps an addition five rounds of 00-buck at hand.
A second option, and one I suggest considering to use in conjunction with the ammo sleeve, is a small sling bag with a few dozen loose shotshells. If this is kept next to your shotgun in the house, you can easily sling it over your shoulder as you grab the gun. In that exceptionally rare incident where you have to engage multiple targets in a sustained fight, you will have the ammo on hand to do so.
White Light – Identifying a threat is critical. If you cannot see at what you are shooting, you might miss. Even more importantly, you might be shooting at someone who is not a threat to you.
Mistaken identity shootings happen in law enforcement, the military and with armed citizens all too frequently. Police trainers often call it “blue on blue” shootings when one cop shoots another he did not recognize as being a law enforcement officer. I don’t know if there is a name other than “tragedy” for the armed homeowner who shoots his child coming in late at night.
If you do not know what you are shooting, do not shoot. In low light conditions this means that you must be able to illuminate the target.
In the past, adding a white light to a shotgun has been harder than adding a light to the rail of an AR. SureFire holds a patent on a fore end that uses an integrated flashlight. While the system is very good, it is not cheap, and it requires the replacement of the factory fore end. With a light included, prices range on the Remington 870 models from $370 to $440. http://www.surefire.com/illumination/weaponlights/shotgun-forend/remington870.html
An alternative for mounting a flashlight to a shotgun is the ingenious ZSM mount from Elzetta. This inexpensive mount allows you to attach a wide range of tactical-type flashlights to your shotgun. Attaching the mount is very easy, and disassembly of the shotgun is not needed.
The Elzetta mount retails for only $39.95. If you have a weaponlight that attaches to a Picatinny rail, Elzetta sells a Picatinny rail kit for only $18.95. Andrew at the Vuurwapen Blog has a write up on the Elzetta mount: http://vuurwapenblog.com/2010/12/16/elzetta-zsm-shotgun-light-mount/
When compared to the very popular AR-15 rifles on the market, the shotgun is still a devastating self-defense tool. They are versatile and very reliable. With the few accessories I mention above, I believe the pump shotgun is a great tool to handle any realistic home defense situation.
Other modifications, such as ghost ring sights, an extended magazine and a recoil reducing stock, can add additional benefits. But, I do not consider any of them to be critical needs. Whatever you do to your gun, make sure you get out and train with it so you know those modifications have not introduced reliability problems into the system.