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Home Defense Shotguns Pump-Action vs Semi-Auto

Home Defense Shotguns

The shotgun is a popular choice for home defense, primarily thanks to the range and firepower it provides. Most emergency defense situations will happen at short distances, and the shotgun has real stopping power within a matter of feet. This is partially thanks to the way shotgun ammunition works: shotgun shells and buckshot hit a wide surface area on the target, thus inflicting the most damage. Above all this, shotguns are generally easier to use than handguns, and in self-defense, ability to use the weapon is always key.

Most shotguns used for home-defense are either pumps or semiautomatics. It’s important to choose the action type that works best for your needs. This article will help you do just that.


Pump Action Shotgun

Pump shotguns are also referred to as slide-action shotguns. You yourself operate the action on pumps. You pull the forearm manually back towards yourself, and this movement releases a shell from the tube magazine inside the forearm. When you push the forearm away from yourself again, this pushes the shell into the chamber and locks it. The gun is now ready for firing. Pulling it back again after you shoot releases the empty shell, so you can then load a new one, and on and on.

The pump design is simple. It’s highly reliable, because the few components it does have are operated by the user. This also means pump action is more lightweight (usually 5.5-7 pounds for the entire gun), because you don’t have to worry about extra machinery. They’re also better for your budget: most pumps cost between $250-500, and come from reliable manufacturers such as Mossberg, Stoeger, Remington, and more.

However, there are some trade-offs for the pump design. Because it’s lightweight, the pump shotgun has a more intense recoil. There’s also no system in place to reduce the recoil, as you can sometimes find with a gas operating system. You also have to make sure you’re prepared to operate the weapon in between each shot you take: will you be able to handle this extra requirement if you’re in the middle of a crisis?



Semiautomatic shotguns do not have to be manually reloaded between shots. Rather, they fire ammunition each time you pull the trigger. The gun’s operating system then uses the energy from the last shot to load the next one.

Semiauto operating systems come in two major forms: gas and inertia. Gas systems use – you guessed it – the gas that’s escaping from the previous shot. This goes through tiny ventilation holes at the bottom of the barrel, which moves a piston, which in turn cycles the action and pulls a new shell into the chamber.

In the inertia system, the backward motion of the released shell creates enough energy to open the chamber and slide its bolt. A return spring then moves the bolt forward again, bringing a new shell into the chamber.

For beginning shooters or those not used to sliding the forearm of a shotgun, semiautos have a much faster reload time. However, they are also generally more expensive, as they come with more mechanisms and systems in place within the gun than pumps do.

If you’re set on a semiautomatic, still make sure to consider whether you want a gas or inertia system. Gas systems are typically heavier, but this also means they have a less intense recoil. If you want to go with a gas gun, be prepared to do more maintenance and cleaning – this isn’t too much of a chore, but you will need to deal with buildup from the gas on the interior of your gun. The inertia design doesn’t require as much cleaning since the gas is expelled from the gun, but they are lighter and therefore less comfortable to shoot.

In Conclusion…

The reality is that all of these options will help you in a home-defense emergency. The most important thing is to find a gun that you can use reliably, and that you’ll be able to activate in the event of an intruder or attack. Whether you go with pumps, gas system, or inertia system – just make sure you are comfortable using the gun, and that you choose the one that suits you best.