How to Choose A Tactical Shotgun - Must Have Accessories
How to Choose a Tactical Shotgun
When I first became interested in tactical shotguns, I quickly realized there are two ways to get a tactical shotgun: buy one or build one. This article is intended for those who, like me, decided that to truly get what you want, an off-the-shelf pre-built tactical shotgun would not do.
Not only do the pre-built tactical shotguns at the major retailers cost a lot more, they often use cheap aftermarket upgrades that will leave you truly wishing you went the extra mile to understand why you need a tactical shotgun and learn self-reliance while building it yourself.
One need not be a gun expert to have a tactical shotgun. If this is your first gun, you should not feel ashamed to buy it off the shelf, pre-built. These guns will certainly accomplish the same goals, and the most important factor is being able to use it.
This article will cover:
- What is a tactical shotgun?
- What type of shotgun should I choose?
- Tactical vs. “Tacticool”
- What are the essential tactical shotgun accessories?
What Is a Tactical Shotgun?
In broad terms, a tactical shotgun is a regular shotgun that has been modified to suit a variety of specific defensive and offensive goals. When most people talk about tactical shotguns, they are generally speaking in the context of home defense. For our purposes, we will assume you are interested in a tactical shotgun as a home defense tool.
So why choose a shotgun for home defense? Pump shotguns are known to be reliable guns that are easy to shoot. If it’s 3 am and you are jolted awake by breaking glass or your back door getting kicked in, the last thing you need is a complicated weapon that can fail, or worse yet, be taken from you and used against your family. While there is much debate on what the best home defense gun is, I’m assuming you’ve already made up your mind.
Many law enforcement officers report that a home intruder is likely to flee or surrender when they hear the familiar sound of a shotgun being pumped to chamber a shell.
To be a true tactical shotgun, your weapon must have some accessories that do not normally come with stock hunting shotguns. The most popular tactical shotgun accessories include a shorter barrel, a bright, barrel mounted light, a telescoping buttstock, storage for extra shells, and a sling. You won’t be surprised to learn that almost every possible accessory is available, and even those that seem most logical have their detractors (a sling, for example).
What type of shotgun should I choose?
If you are a medium to large sized male, then a 12 gauge shotgun is your best bet. That is because you need a good deal of stopping power to put would-be robbers and rapists on the floor with the first shot. Of the three main types of shotguns - the 20 gauge, the 16 gauge and the 12 gauge, the 12 is the most powerful, with the 20 gauge being the least powerful. There is also a .410 shotgun, which refers to the calibre, which is considered to be one of the less powerful shotguns.
If you are a woman, or a small man, it may be best to go for a 20 gauge or a .410. While most purists will say that these do not have the power to put down an intruder on crack or angel dust, I would say that anyone who is confident with their gun can put someone down with one well-placed shot.
As far as cost, you don’t have to spend a ton of money to build a tactical shotgun. For my first tactical shotgun - an all-blue (black) Mossberg 500 with a Knoxx Spec Ops telescoping buttstock, 20 inch tactical barrel with mounted light, and a one-point paracord sling - I spent approximately $500. If you want an expensive shotgun, buy another nice hunting shotgun with wood furniture in addition to a more affordable tactical shotgun.
The two most common guns turned into tactical shotguns are the Mossberg 500 (or 590) and the Remington 870. The Mossberg is usually cheaper than the Remington, and many prefer it. Both guns have their proponents and opponents, so I suggest you go to your local gun shop and handle a variety of shotguns to see which one suits yu best. Don’t forget to check the used guns.
Tactical vs. “Tacticool”
While researching tactical shotguns, you may come across the term “tacticool.” This is a pejorative term used by shotgun purists who love accusing tactical shotgun enthusiasts of building cool toys that have no added defensive value above stock shotguns.
It is definitely easy to get so excited about building a tac shotgun that you go overboard on the accessories. Though your gun will look like something straight out of a GI Joe cartoon, you may find that it is now too heavy and complicated to be a useful home defense weapon.
So what are some examples of tacticool accessories? Bayonets, red-dot laser sights, pistol grips, tactical buttstocks, and bandolier slings (go ahead, put 25 shotgun shells on your gun sling and see how heavy it is), would all qualify in the mind of a purist as tacticool. Add in a barrel light with a tethered power switch and you now have a gun that needs a systems check before operating, a deadly hindrance in an emergency.
So does it matter if someone calls your gun tacticool? If you feel you haven’t gone overboard and only added accessories that will help you be prepared to defend your family, then simply ignore the criticism. Try a dry run: move your alarm clock across the room and set it for 3:30 in the morning. When it goes off, get to your tactical shotgun and see how quick you can be ready.
What are the must have tactical shotgun accessories?
While there is much debate on a most tactical shotgun accessories, in my opinion, there are two critical accessories you must have for successful home defense: a gun light and a shortened barrel.
Tactical Light - A tactical light is usually mounted near the end of the barrel or on the forearm/forend. Obviously, it is used as a handsfree means to light up your home at night. A shotgun requires two hands, despite what you may have seen in the movies.
Your light can be LED or incandescent, but it must be bright. This is so you can see what you are doing, but also to blind your intruder. Though the intruder will know exactly where you are when you shine a light on him, you should maintain an advantage with a loaded and chambered shotgun. When I am just practice shooting, I try to take the light off to avoid abuse.
Do not skimp on the cost of a tactical light, and make sure it is one designed for gun mounting. Cheap lights will be destroyed after a few shots from the shotgun, and the last thing you need is a broken light when something goes crash in the night.
Shortened Barrel - Before you ask, I’m not talking about a sawed off shotgun. And no, I’m not suggesting you take your grandpa’s hunting shotgun and chop the barrel off. Don’t do this - you will likely run afoul of state and federal laws. Tactical shotguns are usually sold with barrels shorter than hunting shotguns, approximately 18 inches versus 28 inches. Anything shorter than this requires a special federal permit that costs around $200.
Most tactical shotgun barrels are between 18-20 inches, as 18 inches is about the shortest you can go while maintaining accuracy (shotguns don’t spread as much as some people think, you still need to be accurate when firing. So why a shorter barrel? The main reason is that it is very difficult to navigate doorways and corners with a 28 inch barrel, increasing your likelihood of making a loud noise. Plus, it is easier for the intruder to grab the gun away from you. A shorter barrel also allows you to hang the gun at your side without fear of dragging the ground.
Additional Accessories to Consider
Tactical Stock - I chose to replace the factory black hunting stock with a Knoxx Spec Ops AR-15 style telescoping buttstock with a pistol grip. I did this mainly because my wife was almost unable to shoulder the gun because the length of pull was too long. The Knoxx stock drops the LOP from 14 inches to 12.
Sling - Nothing fancy here. Just a way to carry your gun if you need your hands. Some purists say it’s best not to have one as it may get caught on doorknobs and furniture. Others say it helps to keep the gun tethered to you and out of the bad guy’s hands. Me personally, I have a one-point sling that I weaved in a Solomon bar pattern from black paracord - 40 ft.
A note about stopping power - There is a lot of debate over what gun has the stopping power necessary to best defend your home. If you don't know what "stopping power" is, it means the gun is powerful enough to ensure that the intruder will only require one shot to not be a threat anymore (i.e. dead or incapacitated). If you have chosen a shotgun, you have definitely made the right choice. A 12 gauge shotgun easily has more than enough stopping power to get the job done. I honestly don't think stopping power is as important as having a good aim, or much practice with the weapon.
Best Tactical Shotgun - If money is not an object, the best tactical shotgun is the Remington 870. This gun is a pump shotgun standard, and one of the most popular for tactical use. This is because many people are familiar with it, and many companies manufacture the best accessories. If you already have a Remington 870 that you use for hunting, I recommend you get another, simply because you are already familiar with it. Home defense should not be a test lab for how you react under pressure with an unfamiliar gun.
If you are just starting out with shotguns, I would recommend a Mossberg 500, preferably a Cruiser or Persuader. Along with the 870, these are used by police, law enforcement and the military, and are well built. The only issue with the Mossberg 500 is the tang safety, which is great when you are using the gun with a standard hunting stock, but very tricky if you add a tactical stock. The pistol grip means that you need another hand to deactivate the safety. A work-around to this is to leave the gun unchambered with the safety off. If needed, you could pump the forearm to chamber a shell and be ready to go.
As with any gun, you should plan on spending ample time at the range so you know how your particular weapon shoots. You should practice dry runs to see how long it takes to go from sleeping to armed (try hiding an alarm clock under your bed and have your partner set a time for it to go off, that way you are truly surprised). The more you practice, the better and more confident you will be.
PLEASE BE SAFE AND FOLLOW ALL GUIDELINES, LAWS AND REGULATIONS. MAKE SURE YOU ALWAYS CLEAR YOUR GUN WHEN YOU PICK IT UP - EVERY TIME.
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