Selecting the Best Survival SHTF Tactical Shotgun

The author of Neo-Survivalist contacted me the other day with this question:

I’m thinking about buying a shotgun for self defense…I’ve looked at the standard Mossberg 500 (sells at walmart for $217 which seems like a great deal) and I looked at a mossberg tactical shotgun the other day at a gun store and it sells for approx $400….do you have any thoughts and suggestions… i’m slowly and steadily prepping

If I’m gonna to take the time to give Neo my best answer, which is what he deserves, I’ll drop it here for everyone else to read. But Neo’s question is dependent on a whole variety of other factors, like:

  1. define “tactical shotgun”, there are a bunch, Mossberg alone makes a whole variety
  2. define “standard” shotgun – barrel length? Wood? Synthetic?
  3. you’re talkin’ 12 gauge …. or are you thinking 20 gauge?

Given all of the unknowns, it’s better if I just present (insert drum roll, please):

My thoughts on choosing the best survival SHTF shotgun!

Three points:

ONE – Maintain versatility!

The advantage to the shotgun is it’s versatility. You can fire slugs, bucks shot, bird shot, get a variety of barrels, stocks, etc. If I could only have ONE SHTF firearm – it’d be a shotgun. “Maintaining versatility” means that if I’m looking for a shotgun, I’m going to maintain that versatility by getting a shotgun that I can change to fit the situation. I want something that I can take deer hunting, rabbit hunting, goose hunting AND defend the Ranger Man’s keep WTSHTF.

TWO – Gotta go 12 gauge!

Well, you don’t have go 12 gauge, but for the average dude or healthy female, the 12 gauge is a given. If you’re a frail, thin, or generally don’t like 12 gauge recoil, 20 gauge is perfectly acceptable – truly, it is.

THREE – Price point!

I wouldn’t necessarily go shopping for the most expensive shotgun available. I’m looking for something that will achieve my goals at the least affordable price without sacrificing practical and realistic quality expectations (a fancy way of saying I’m not gonna buy junk).

Without going through all of the ins and outs of the shotgun SHTF market (I could write a book on this shit), given what I outlined above, I’m gonna end up with something like the Remington 870 or the Mossberg 500 series.

But I know you, the SHTF blog reader, expect and demand more from me, so I will deliver, in hopes that you’ll use the Amazon search bar in the left sidebar for all your Amazon shopping needs. Dig?

What? Say what? Ah right - you demand more detail.

A picture is worth a thousand words, so let me present them this way. The Mossberg 500 series – look at this version of the 500:

I like the synthetic stock. Wood is pretty and all, but for practical and versatile, synthetic wins out in strength, durability and weight. You know what I think of it’s AR-15 style stock, though? Cool on an AR1-5, not so much on a 12 gauge shotgun. I want something I can rest my chin up against, something meaty to counterbalance the front weight.

I know some people like the pistol grip on the shotugn … it’s fine, but …. I don’t feel the need for a pistol grip. Maybe if I was busting into buildings in Baghdad, but …. I’m not. I want something more practical. Check out the next version of the Mossberg 500. Do I like this one better?

No – I don’t! What’s worse than a 12 gauge shotguns with an AR-15 stock? A 12 gauge shotgun with NO stock! What the hell? So you can swing it around without shouldering it? Not what I would want. Pistol grip is still present, too. But I do like the fact that the bottom tube extends all the way to barrel’s end. If I’m going to buy a single SHTF shotgun, that’s what I want – so it’ll pack more shells – duh!

This is what I want – the Mossberg 590 Mariner:

It blends the best of all worlds. It’s synthetic, full stock, 20″ barrel, extended tube (holds 9 shots) and it’s stainless. You want versatility for camo turkey hunting? Wrap it in camo – don’t be a wussy. The Mariner is awesome. You like the other features, the pistol grip, no grip or shorter tube? Just swap those out, customize the Mariner, it doesn’t care.

Price point? I’m looking at Impact Guns, for the above shotgun, as pictured with a pistol grip to swap out (like in pic #2), and the price is $479.99 …. oof, that’s kinda high …. but …. it’s stainless, has everything I’m looking for ready to go, will take different barrels ….. $479.99 …. ?

Maybe we don’t like Mossberg? In my opinion, the Remington 870 will achieve the exact same results. Look at this Remington 870 Marine Magnum:

Woah …. what’s the price on this bad boy? Are we saving any money? No – we’re not. Instead of stainless steel we’re getting a nickel finish (durable, though). This thing (as pictured) sells for about $600 – ouch!

If the Mossberg Mariner at $479.99 is too much cabby for your wallet, you’ll have to sacrifice the stainless steal, kick it down a notch. Realistically, these are called the “mariner” and the “marine” because of the water aspect – hence the stainless steal. Kick the stainless out and drop the price. You’ll still be totally fine. The Mossberg 500 “Persuader” with 8 shot tube will drop the price to about $300. That’s a fine choice, too.

Do I own one of these shotguns? No, I don’t. I own a basic, no frills, wood stock, non-stainless, non-extended tube Remington 870 shotgun with a 20″ barrel. It’s the old school style, like cops used on TJ Hooker. Remember that show? It looks like this one:

Some day I’ll buy an extended tube. The Mariner and the Marine are better, but this one came from family, and I’m not buying another one.

- Ranger Man

BTW: You might also want to get a shotgun bed holster for your new shotty.

  • Mark Myers August 13, 2010, 7:54 am

    I would also suggest even if someone was a small frame person, they could still get by with a 12 guage if they use a kick reducing stock.
    I have a Knoxx Copstock (now Blackhawk and this model stock is not available but the breachers and the folder are) on my 18″ Remington 870. I had to get a combat front grip since the regular slide grip got in the way of the Copstock folded.
    I also have an extender but a short one since I can’t go past my short barrel. I can shoot 3″ magnums one handed, though my shots fall a little short since I’m trying to hold up a shotgun with one hand. Less kick than my .357 or my .45 handguns.
    http://www.blackhawk.com/catalog/Shotgun-Stocks,165.htm

    Reply
  • Bitmap August 13, 2010, 8:00 am

    Put some ghost ring sights on that thing and you’ll have something.

    Reply
  • j.r. guerra in s. tx. August 13, 2010, 8:25 am

    Well said Rangerman – my starting point would be an 870 Express and go from there. I have a 20 gauge pistol gripped shotgun and its sorta controllable – 12 gauge is not, at least for me. They sure are compact though. Sidesaddle keeps ammunition on the gun always, but some feel it throws gun off balance.

    Good recommendation for cheap ghost ring sight – Hunter’s Specialties Undertaker sights, attach to existing vent rib on top of shotgun, pretty reasonable $20 or less on ebay.

    Reply
  • Steelheart August 13, 2010, 6:24 pm

    When I went to build a shotgun for bad times I knew that I wanted real sights as an upgrade from my basic Mossberg 20″ Persuader with a basic bead. My plan was for the shotgun to be able to function as an alternate primary (depending on the situation) instead of my AR.

    I lucked into the local Cabela’s having a slight sale on 590A1s (full blow mil-spec) with the 20″ heavy barrel and ghost ring sights. I then added the AR style Comp-stock but didn’t like how it handled. I replaced that with an old style Comp-Stock that I found on Amazon (yes, they sell gun stuff there).
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00162RKA4/ref=oss_product
    I then upgraded the front sight to a Meprolight tritium (also from Amazon). They also make replacement tritium front beads for most guns (and they’re cheap!)
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0002INGOM/ref=oss_product

    At some point I might add a 6rd side saddle (probably from Mesa Tactical) and/or a light (don’t want a cable handing off the gun though). Having that barrel Magna-ported might happen as well.

    My focus for this gun was for it to be a primary weapon, not just a close range gun. With the ghost ring sight I should be able to realistically engage threats out beyond 100 yards with slugs. Not much distance compared to a rifle but it’s a whole lot better than I probably could do with a basic front bead. The gun (in base form) was my camping long gun last summer in northern Minnesota.

    I do still have the original front sight blade and the OEM speedfeed stock for spares.

    Steelheart

    Reply
  • Harry August 13, 2010, 10:16 pm

    With the stock that Mark Myers is talking about, there isn’t a reason to get a 20 ga anymore. Stick with the versatile 12 ga.

    Black Hawk has 3 different versions of there re-coil reducing stock. An AR adjustable style, a folding stock and one that appears to look like a traditional stock made of nylon (but all 3 dramaticly cut down on recoill like you would not beleive)
    I like the Mossberg 590 shotgun myself , it accepts an Ar-15 bayonet on the front of the barrell :-)

    Reply
  • Steelheart August 14, 2010, 6:26 am

    Blackhawk’s traditional recoil absorbing stock appears to be built from a Hogue which was cut down and then had the spring mechanism installed.
    http://www.blackhawk.com/product/CompStock-Shotgun-Stock,1155,165.htm
    I will add that the design doesn’t feel as robust as I’d like (hence me keeping the OEM as a spare).

    Yes, the bayonet lug on the 590s’s is neat, I don’t have a bayonet around however. What I like better is that it holds one more round than a equivalent M500.

    Steelheart

    Reply
  • chinasyndrome August 14, 2010, 7:55 am

    With the advent of reduced recoil rounds anyone should be able to fire 12 ga painlessly. Mossberg or Remington 6 of one half a dozen of the other.Both great guns.My express was heavy.Now have a very light 500.

    China
    III

    Reply
  • H-Man August 14, 2010, 1:38 pm

    I own a respectable volume of Mossberg and Remington shotguns. I use the Remingtons for hunting and the Mossbergs for shooting melon-sized nocturnal annoyances. I find the Remy’s to be of a higher quality myself. I find the Mossberg’s thumb-safety and slide release location superb.

    I would add that no home defense shotgun is complete without a suitable weaponlight. Plenty of options out there…but I’d recommend at least a 60-135 Lumen LED. Surefire, though likely more expensive than the shotgun, is an exceptional choice. Streamlight makes good stuff too.

    A home defense weapon without a light….major disadvantage to you, major advantage to the undead jihadist landpirate in your hallway.

    Illuminate that which you blast to smithereens.

    Reply
  • Steelheart August 15, 2010, 6:39 am

    Does anyone know of a weapon light for a shotgun that won’t have cords/cables hanging off the gun?

    Surefire makes the integrated forends and while they’re great they’re also expensive. I simply don’t trust a cabled switch to not catch stuff when I have to move. Plus, aren’t most of those switches just stuck on with tape? How well will that hold up in poor conditions (extreme cold, rain, hot barrel from actual shooting etc)?

    The only ways I’ve figured out around the cabled switch light is to mount either a rail (for a normal weapon light) or I’ve seen mounts for a conventional tactical light. Either way I’d mount the light for momentary activation only and use my left hand on the pump to push the switch. This should be less likely to turn the light from a tactical advantage into a “shoot here” beacon.

    Since I don’t use the gun for a living I have a real hard time justifying spending a few hundred dollars for something like a Surefire forend. That’s money that could go for a Berkey water filter, long term food storage, a generator or more ammo just for a couple of examples.

    This reminds me of a drawback to the 590/Surefire combo. The bayonet lug, which is also the front sling mount, is not compatible with most of the Surefire forends (per Surefire: 623FA, FGA). You’ll need one of the new, higher output and more expensive forends to clear the lug (323LM, LMG & 623 LM, LMG).

    http://www.surefire.com/

    http://www.streamlight.com/

    Steelheart

    Reply
    • Mike November 16, 2010, 10:28 pm

      An AimShot MT-61178 ($25) designed to hold a light and laser can be adapted instead to attach to a shotgun barrel ( in my case a Mossberg 500 Persuader) and then used to attach a 1″ light. Good choices are the Streamlight 88850 ($33) or Surefire G2L ($66). Both lights are LED and have tailcap switches that you’ll be able to reach from the shotgun forend. A nice, functional, budget friendly fix. I got the idea from: http://www.texasguntalk.com/forums/shotguns/13157-tactical-light-clamp-mossberg-500-a.html

      Reply
  • Steelheart August 15, 2010, 10:08 am

    Gail, what do personal lons have to do with tactical shotguns? Or anything else as far as preparedness?

    And a general question, how would going farther into debt help someone prepare themselves for a bad situation?

    Steelheart

    Reply
    • Ranger Man August 15, 2010, 11:28 am

      Gail’s “comment” (now deleted) was a spam comment, intended to drive traffic to a loan site. Spammers have become exceptionally sophisticated, but adding the “captcha code” required before submitting the comment has cut down on the spam significantly.

      Reply
  • No ME Preppy August 15, 2010, 11:16 am

    I think the logic behind a personal loan would be as follows.

    Get the item(s) now and pay it off as you go, instead of save up the money for the item(s) and the night before you go an buy it, SHTF happens and you are royally SOL.

    Most banks limit the amount of a personal loan to $3ooo. That’s something that is relatively easy to pay off in less than a year.

    Personal loans have MUCH better rates than credit cards AND you wouldn’t be able to keep charging to a loan, since you only have the set amount of funds from it in the first place. Not so with credit cards.

    Your local bank is usually more willing to work with you if you are having trouble paying it all off in time (such as if you get laid off). Credit card companies could care less about you being laid off, or getting sick and not being able to work.

    Stick with a locally owned bank or a credit union. Never go to a large chaing bank for these loans.

    Reply
  • ryan August 16, 2010, 9:52 am

    I prefer Remington 870′s. Mossbergs have better controls but the fit/ finish aren’t as good neither is the availability of spare parts. Functionally equivalent is a good term. As for the stainless/ nickel expensive shotguns. I think it depends a lot on where you live and your lifestyle. If you live in a real humid place or near the ocean or spend a lot of time on boats it makes sense to pitch for the better finish. For everyone else you can get two gently used average Rem 870′s or Moss 500′s for that price. Spend $40 and stash a bunch of cleaning stuff (and clean the darn things occasionally) then you have a spare or can arm the spouse or a friend. A far better place than having single one new shiny shotgun.

    Reply
  • elkoholic August 23, 2010, 7:54 pm

    I’ve shot the bluing off of 2 Mossberg 500s. Great shotguns with ambidextrous controls BUT magazine extensions are not commercially available.

    Reply
  • jim November 14, 2010, 4:41 pm

    I am looking to buy my first gun and was told by many people it should be a shotgun. I am a slight fellow 5 ’10″ 150lb can I handle a 12 gauge or should I be looking 20 ant recomendations?

    Reply
    • Ranger Man November 14, 2010, 7:00 pm

      You can handle a 12 gauge, but if it’s your first gun, it might take a little getting used to. Get something with a recoil pad, perhaps.

      Reply
  • Joe November 14, 2010, 7:20 pm

    Hi Jim, My 2 cents, get a http://www.BlackHawk.com recoil reduction stock. They have a few different models now. But do NOT get the NRS stock(Non-Recoil Supressing). 12 ga ammo could be had anywhere, much larger variety, etc for defense & hunting. Get either a Remington 870 or a Mossberg 500 or 590. But I would never get a Mossberg Maverick. PS-then please help & do your part as all gun owners or want/soon to be gun owners should do–join the National Rifle Assoc. or Gun Owners of America or your home State’s Rifle Assoc. extra Brownie points for joining more than one :-)

    Reply
  • shadowxdm9 December 13, 2010, 1:23 pm

    had 1300 defenders.. moss 500 persuaders…870′s…wins were inexpensive nice weapons.. moss was great, didnt care for the plastic trigger gaurd… over all 870′s got my vote.. mariner is sharp… but i dont care for the nickle plated sissy shit… bro and i just ordered another set of 870 exp synthectic 7 shot… durable , reliable, high cap, and years to back them up… for the price 330 how can you got wrong.. not to mention the ammount of accesories you can get for them.. versatile for 2 3/4 to 3..

    Reply
  • RC55 April 12, 2011, 11:32 am

    Buy the 877 tactical and quit looking.

    Reply
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    Reply
  • JD May 24, 2011, 1:40 pm

    My suggestion for the best shotgun for home defense would be to buy an Ithaca Model 37 in a 20 gauge. I like that it can be loaded from the bottom and that it doesn’t kick too much. Since I already have a lot of 12 gauge shells, I would go with the 12 over the 20. Have the barrel shorteded and some sights installed and if you are lucky and get a smooth action, you are good to go!

    Reply
  • Jack Darrington June 23, 2011, 12:55 pm

    Ranger Man, thanks for this post. I’ve been looking into getting myself an shtf shotgun myself of late. I’ve been looking at a lot of law enforcement tactical gear to see what they’re about, but people’s opinions about shotguns seem pretty across the board. I really appreciated your approach to the subject being unbiased and realistic in terms of prices. Thanks again.

    Reply
  • randall July 9, 2011, 5:12 pm

    I would like to make one comment about the choice between 20 ga vs. 12 ga. I personally own a remington 870 express, 18″ in 20 gauge. I purchased this after doing extensive research. The 20 gauge is about 1 lb lighter than the 12 in the same model, 20 ga has less recoil which means follow shots will be faster and there really is not that much difference in stopping power between the two. Either one will easily kill 4 or two legged medium sized animals. 20ga slugs cut a .5″ hole, same as 50BMG! 20ga magnum #2 buck should easily stop anyone if you hit them in the chest. So if you like the 12 ga then go with that. If you are not sure, I would suggest the 20 ga can be a great choice. Its not wimpy at all.

    Reply
    • Anonymous July 14, 2011, 12:15 am

      I have the same remington 20 guage figuring my wife may have to use it. Real cool with short barrel, extended magazine.

      Reply
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    Reply
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    Reply