The Best Pistol Grip Shotguns
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The Terminator series, The Fast and The Furious franchise, John Wick. What’s at the center of these movies, other than overpaid actors and scenes that rely too heavily of CGI?
Pistol grip shotguns.
Hollywood features them for a reason; they are damned cool. Feature films make these shotguns look good, but are they the stars Hollywood makes them out to be or more of a b-movie actor?
We’ve researched their practicality, and are here to give you the rundown on the best pistol grip shotguns on the market today. With a little research, you might just be willing to put a pistol grip-shaped star on your walk of firearm fame.
In This Article
Pistol Grip Shotgun Comparison
Below is my list of the best pistol grip shotguns. I list the best choices in terms of value, performance, design, and cost.
Click on the name to head to the product page, read reviews and check prices or skip ahead to the list of shotguns.
Budget Pump Pick
The Best Pistol Grip Shotguns
1. Best Overall: Remington 870 Tactical Shotgun
Remington has been around for over 200 years, and the 870 achieved the status of “best selling shotgun in history” through their focus on the traditional sporting shotguns, their Express Tactical Model 870 shot up in popularity quickly.
The synthetic stock is designed with finger grooves, making it easy for anyone to get a good grip on this gun. This pump-action shotgun holds up to 6 rounds of 12 gauge shells in the tube, making it an excellent choice for home defense.
We covered the Remington 870 in our hands-on review if you want more detail.
2. Runner-Up: Mossberg 500 Tactical Shotgun
Mossberg is also no slouch in the firearms industry – as they’ve been making quality shotguns since 1919. The Mossberg 500 pistol grip is available in a 6-shot 18.5-inch barrel or 8 shot with a 20-inch barrel.
You can also pick up a version with a top-mounted barrel heat shield to both protect your arms and hands from a scorching barrel and give it a real trench gun feel. Always a nice touch.
If the 500 Tactical is a little too short for your purposes, the Maverick 88 is another solid choice from Mossberg. It packs the same internals as the vaulted Mossberg 590a1, but with a more economical package.
3. Best Semi-Auto: Benelli M4 Tactical Shotgun
The Benelli M4 is one of the top tactical pistol grip shotguns on the market. But when we say pistol grip here, it’s a little bit different on this particular gun.
The Benelli M4 semi-auto shotgun is set up with a regular shotgun stock with a recoil pad that goes on your shoulder and is built with a pistol grip for comfort and home defense mobility.
The ghost ring sights feature a rear circle sight and fiber optic front sight for a more natural sight picture. This shotgun also comes with a Picatinny rail so you can mount a red dot or laser for easier target acquisition.
4. Budget Pump Pick: Savage 320 Tactical Shotgun
Similar to the M4, the Savage 320 Security model is a pistol grip shotgun with a traditional buttstock with a recoil pad as well. This pump-action shotgun comes with a bead sight and a Picatinny rail for your choice of sights. This gun has a capacity of 5 plus 1 in the chamber.
For home defense or possibly a varmint hunting shotgun, the 320 has the mobility and capacity I’m looking for.
5. AR12 Pick: JTS M12AK Tactical Shotgun
The JTS M12AK 12 gauge shotgun is a saiga-style shotgun that packages the Russian AK design a semi-auto gas operating system.
The shotgun is built with a buttstock and a pistol grip for maximum comfort & control, but the real show stopper is the detachable magazine. Think of this a bit like the AK47 of shotguns. Some folks may not be ready for box magazine-fed shotguns, but the JTS is a proven performer that pairs semi-auto capability with scope mounts and room for things like forend grips. I think these AK12-style shotguns are some of the best tactical shotguns on the market today.
There are many aftermarket magazines for the JTS M12AK including a drum magazine making this the ultimate choice for higher magazine capacity. It also can cycle both 2 ¾ or 3-inch magnum shells.
Semi-automatic shotguns use inertia from the fired round to drive the bolt and chamber the next round, and when paired with the M12AK’s gas system you get a reduction in felt recoil and a more comfortable shooting experience.
6. Best Bullpup: Kel-Tec Tactical Shotgun
The Kel-Tec KSG is a unique shotty that couples a bullpup shotgun orientation with pistol grips and pump action, for an unbeatable home defense shotgun.
The the 18.5 inch barrel keeps it legal, but the overall length of the gun is a petite 26.1 inches, coming in just over the AFT requirement of 26”.
The Kel-Tec KSG is a maneuverable shotgun in any configuration and has different models which feature different forend grips to choose the best for you.
This shotgun also has two magazine tubes allowing it to hold 6+6+1 (or 7+7+1 depending on shell length) and a metal trigger guard to keep your hands safe from obstacles.
You’ll have to choose your aftermarket sights with this gun and easily attach it to the Picatinny rail.
Where'd it come from?
The pistol grip shotgun solved a need in the market for a gun that could be used by civilians, law enforcement, or military personnel in defensive situations. As companies began to innovate, they baked into these shotguns features designed to support aftermarket functionality and enhance things like ammo capacity and defensive capability.
As firearms evolved, the ATF ruled that the barrel of a pistol grip shotgun has to be at least 18 inches long, or the length (measured in a line that runs parallel to the barrel) must be 26 inches at a minimum. Anything shorter and you’re entering tax stamp and federal registration territory.
The consumer market for pistol grip shotguns hews closely to those guidelines, for good reason.
Why choose a pistol grip shotgun?
Pistol grip shotguns are hard to beat for home defense or as a truck gun (or car, motorcycle, boat, etc.) — plus they’re a lot easier to conceal than full-size shotguns (just as Ahnold.)
And you thought he was bringing you roses…
Many individuals have trouble shouldering a full-size shotgun (especially loaded with ammunition). A pistol grip shotgun is lightweight, maneuverable in tighter spaces, and has a more ergonomic grip which is easy to hold onto.
You might not haul one to your favorite hunting spot, but that’s not their intended purpose anyway (although it may be worth it for the laugh alone.)
When looking at all the tactical shotguns on the market, start by choosing the right action for you. Is the pump action shotgun something you’re used to and feel comfortable using? Or are you looking for a gas-operated system offered by a semi-automatic shotgun where all you have to do is point and shoot?
Size & Length
Next, consider the overall length of the shotgun and the weight of it fully loaded. Is it something you can carry without issue or do you fatigue a few minutes after picking it up? Are you trying to stash this scattergun in an under-bed gun safe or under a seat in your truck? How you plan to use it should inform selection.
Finally, do you have a specific gauge in mind? Make sure to choose a gauge that you can control and offers readily available ammunition for your intended purpose.
A 20-gauge may not be the first thing people think of when it comes to shotguns, but they are plenty capable and decidedly easy to control, especially when compared to a 12-gauge.
Barrel Length: It’s not easy to swing a full-sized shotgun through a house or any building for that matter. The barrel length on pistol grip shotguns make them ideal shotguns for home defense and close-quarters combat for law enforcement or armed forces. They are also more easily concealable in a motorized vehicle in case of emergency.
Accessories: Pistol grip shotguns featuring a Picatinny Rail or mounting system can be a huge advantage for gun owners who don’t visit the range or shoot often. A mounted red dot sight is extremely easy for anyone to aim with. A mounted laser is easy to see in the dark to place upon an intruder. A mounted flashlight is also a helpful tool for navigating in the darkness.
Weight: For a lot of shooters, the weight of a pistol grip shotgun is easy to manage than that of a full-size shotgun. Similar to maneuverability, these shotguns can be shot from the hip or stretch out in front of you rather than having to worry about shouldering the gun properly.
Accuracy (or lack thereof): Unfortunately, pistol grip shotguns are not highly accurate, especially if shot from the hip or any other position. On traditional hunting shotguns, the line of sight is the front sight lined up with your dominant shooting eye. For these smaller guns, you’re more using them to stop a threat than making an accurate shot.
Recoil Management: Shotguns can recoil a lot, especially with different types of ammunition. The pistol grip shotguns that also have a buttstock with a recoil pad are a lot more comfortable to shoot and easier to hang on to, but the ones without this must be gripped firmly. Any shotgun with a smaller barrel is going to recoil more than a longer one.
Weapons Manipulation: Depending on what shotgun you choose, if you’re unfamiliar or don’t train often with pump-action shotguns, for example, it’s easy to forget at the moment when you need it most on how to reload that next shell. Similarly, external safeties need to be disengaged before shooting. And if for some reason a malfunction occurs, you need to know how to clear it on your own.
While pistol grip shotguns may not be the most accurate, and won’t have you bagging record numbers of waterfowl any time soon, they have an important purpose clearly defined in their design — defensive mobility. Stick to that intended purpose and you’ll feel like John Wick with one in hand, even if you won’t shoot like him.
- Mossberg, Defining a Shotgun
- ATF, What are Firearms under the NFA?
- Lucky Gunner, Playing the Stock Market
March 12, 2023 — After reviewing this guide and other new products on the market, we remain confident in our pistol grip shotgun recommendations. We’ve updated images and links where appropriate.
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