Defensive Shotgun Accessories Worthy of Consideration
Terry Nelson 05.06.21
As a whole, the defensive shotgun seems to have lost its following. Even in the law enforcement arena, the shotgun has in many cases been pushed aside in favor of the AR-15 style carbine. Why? For many, issues of recoil, weight, ease of operation, and lack of good training drive their decision to opt out of a scattergun, but for me and thousands of others, the shotgun can never be replaced. It is truly one of the most versatile firearms of all time. As a trainer, I can report that I receive fewer requests for defensive shotgun training than any other firearm platform, and that includes requests from law enforcement, security, and civilians. How unfortunate, but I digress.
The true intent of my discussion is to point out a few defensive shotgun accessories worthy of consideration especially to the home defense or survival/vehicle-carry shotgun. Aside from the choices of action types, gauges, barrel lengths, and stock configurations inherent to the shotgun itself, let’s look at a few add-ons worthy of consideration to the defensive or survival shotgun.
Defensive Shotgun – Ammo Carrier
Most of my serious defensive shotgun use in the past was related to law enforcement so carrying additional ammunition was routine. There are two acceptable ways to carry spare ammo on the gun. First, on the butt stock and secondly, on the side of the receiver. For home or vehicle defense, either of these two is viable. Today the most common is probably the receiver carrier also known as the “sidesaddle” ammo carrier. Many are on the market. I have personally used and recommend shell carriers from Mesa Tactical.
Defensive Shotgun – Light System
Any home defense shotgun ideally should be coupled with a light attached to the gun. Why? To clearly identify an intended target. Shooting at perceived threats or shadows may end poorly. One of the cardinal rules of gun safety is “know your target;” hence, the logic of a weapon-mounted light. If you consider that over 50% of defensive encounters are in a reduced light setting, the point becomes obvious. Today with rail systems or even a light integral to the fore end of the shotgun itself, there are more than enough options for a light to be part of your defensive shotgun. One light system I have used is the EOTech Integrated Fore-End Light (IFL). Although this system is out of production, they can still be found through various online auction outlets.
Defensive Shotgun – Magazine Tube Extension
If you find the sidesaddle ammo carrier a bit much for your defensive shotgun, then consider a magazine tube extension. Depending on the model these can easily add two or possibly four rounds of shotshells to your magazine capacity. One that I have recently used is the XS Sights Plus 2 Magazine Extension Tube for a Remington 870. Made from 6061 aluminum that is hard coat anodized, this one-piece tube weighs less than traditional steel tubes found on the market today. The XS Sight lightweight magazine tube extension increases the capacity of standard 870 shotguns by two shotshells and allows for the mounting of additional tactical upgrades.
Defensive Shotgun – Sights
Although for a home defense shotgun a standard front bead is probably more than sufficient, you may want to consider an upgrade to your shotgun’s sights. Perhaps your defensive shotgun will travel with you on the road and even possibly be used in a hunting situation with slugs. In those cases, a ghost ring-style rear aperture along with a blade style front sight will give you added versatility and accuracy. Another option today is of course a red dot sight of some sort. Many companies are building a red dot specifically for a shotgun and top rail mount. While I personally have not utilized this type of sight on a scattergun I am certainly not opposed to the idea. Take a look at Trijicon, Aimpoint, and EOTech to mention a few.
Defensive Shotgun – Other Considerations
For me an all-around defensive or survival shotgun needs a sling. While I may not recommend a sling on an in-home shotgun simply because it may hamper the use of the gun in tight quarters; however, day in and day out I choose to have a sling or at least the ability to quickly add one to the gun if need be in an outdoor, survival, or hunting environment.
Barrel length is another worthy consideration. While I do not recommend taking a hacksaw to your favorite bird gun, I would suggest a short barrel for defensive use. By law, the shortest the barrel can be on any shotgun designed to be fired from the shoulder is 18 inches. Most police shotguns and home defense shotguns come straight from the factory with the 18-inch barrel, and certainly no longer than 20 inches. Standard choke in a gun of this type is cylinder bore.
Ammo selection varies greatly for this type of shotgun, but for me the choice is easy. As to buckshot, Federal Premium Tactical 00 Buck with the Flitecontrol wad system is hard to beat. Even with a cylinder bore choke, all pellets (9 pellet) will easily be with in a torso-size area out to 25 yards with this load – something not attainable with older styles and brands of 00 buck. Inside a house for self-defense, number 9 or 8 bird shot may well be the best choice to eliminate any possibility of over-penetration through standard drywall. Slugs for hunting, and survival environments means possibly greater distances. In those cases I look for a slug that will group the best at 50 – 75 yards with my particular shotgun. Ideally, you should test different slug loads to find which will group the tightest, just as one does with a hunting rifle.
Today ,many tend to look only to carbine-style, semi-auto rifles when it comes to a defensive long gun, and while carbines certainly have their place, a good semi-auto or pump-action 18-inch barrel shotgun is hard to beat. Its versatility is unmatched which makes it a must have for everyone’s last ditch gun list!