If the average gun owner is asked what the most important weapon to own for home defense is, the answer often is the 12-gauge shotgun. Yes, some will say go with a pistol and others will prefer a semi-automatic rifle, but the 12 gauge is probably the most commonly recommended firearm for home defense.
There’s good reason for that. Twelve gauge 00 buckshot or any other kind of defensive load is devastating at close range and will incapacitate the attacker, likely with only a single shot. The pump-action shotgun itself is a very rugged, reliable and simple weapon that practically anybody can pick up and quickly learn how to use.
Many will claim that the pump-action design is now outdated in the age of automatic rifles such as the AR-15 or AK-47, and indeed, there are some very high-quality semi-automatic shotguns out there. That said, semi-auto shotguns (at least the quality ones) almost always tend to be more expensive than pump actions, and they also can be just a little more finicky with certain types of ammo. For those reasons, the pump action is still an excellent defensive weapon even in the 21st century and likely will continue to be for many years to come.
The next question then is: What is the absolute best 12-gauge pump-action shotgun for home defense? Well, if you knew that there was only one pump shotgun that has passed the U.S. military’s brutal and unforgiving torture test, you would probably agree that that shotgun would be a top contender, right?
The specific shotgun is the Mossberg 590A1, a further development of the hugely successful Mossberg 500 and 590 series of shotguns. The 590A1 incorporates all of the same features of the 590 and then makes several improvements of its own. The overall weapon itself is insanely rugged and durable.
Why It’s So Rugged
First of all, let’s become familiar with how the Mossberg 500 series of shotguns work. The 500/590 is a very basic pump shotgun that features a polymer safety, trigger guard, and blued barrels (that are easily interchangeable). The safeties of Mossberg 500s are ambidextrous and located behind the receiver, while the slide release lever is located behind the trigger guard for convenience.
Right off the bat, the 590A1 uses more durable materials than the 500 and 590. All of the parts of the gun are constructed out of aluminum (trigger guard, safety, slide release lever, etc.). Furthermore, the 590A1 also uses a heavier durable barrel that is intended to better take abuse, as well.
The overall finish of the 590A1 is parkerized, which is rust- and corrosion-resistant in contrast to the standard bluing of the 500 or 590 that will require constant care and attention. In other words, the 590A1 is a shotgun you can take out in wet environments and not have to worry as much about.
Granted, 500 and 590 models called the Mariner are made in a corrosion-resistant stainless steel finish (called Marinecote), but these specific models tend to be significantly more expensive.
Additional notable features of the 590A1 includes a bayonet lug on the front for mounting an M7 bayonet. The 590A1 also incorporates a swivel mount on the stock for easily adding a sling. In contrast to this, you generally have to add the swivels yourself to the 500 or 590, which, of course, increases the amount of money you have to spend. The 590A1 will have a 6+1, 7+1, or 8+1 capacity, depending on the model that you get.
All in all, the 590A1 is essentially the ultimate pump-action combat shotgun and a superb choice for home defense or personal protection. The Remington 870 is also a great shotgun, no doubt, but keep in mind it was the 590A1 that passed the military’s torture test, which says a lot about its capabilities and quality.