Which Shotgun is Right for You?


types of shotguns

Buying a new firearm is always exciting. 


Sometimes you’re looking for it to fill a specific role: concealed carry, “truck gun,” home defense, hunting, competition, or simple target practice. And sometimes, something behind the counter just catches your eye — and you have to have it.


Shotguns in particular tend to span those categories — other than concealed carry, of course. When it comes to shotguns, there are a few different basic types: break-action, lever-action, pump-action, and semi-auto. And each has its unique purposes and followers. 


Break-action Shotguns


These shotguns feature a receiver comprising two main parts, which are hinged together. As the name would imply, these shotguns “break” open to allow loading and unloading of shells. Break-action shotguns are most often seen used in competition and hunting. And while they can be pressed into other roles, other shotgun types are probably much better suited in those cases.



  • Simple and easy to use
  • Very traditional
  • Reliable and accurate
  • Lightweight at 5-6 pounds on average



  • Typically very expensive, though of course there are exceptions
  • Light weight and lack of a recoiling action make for a heavier recoil
  • Manually reloading after every one or two shots is slow, making them less than ideal in a home defense situation

Lever-action Shotguns


With very few exceptions, you don’t see as many new lever-action shotguns these And that’s a bit of a shame. Lever-action shotguns, like lever-action rifles, load through use of a firing-hand-actuated lever that swings down from underneath the receiver and then back up. With practice, they can be cycled quite quickly. And they easily fill a number of our identified roles.



  • Simple and easy to use
  • Traditional
  • Reliable and accurate
  • Fairly lightweight at 7-8 pounds on average
  • Prices for new models vary from $300 to $1,500 or so



  • Light weight and lack of a recoiling action make for a heavier recoil
  • Levering the action to reload after each shot does take a certain amount of time — time that’s very precious in a high-stress situation like a home invasion

Pump-action Shotguns


A pump-action shotgun (or slide-action shotgun) is exactly what it sounds like: The shooter must manually pump or slide the firearm’s forend back and forth to load and unload shells. Click, clack, aim, fire. 



  • Simple and easy to use
  • Reliable and accurate
  • Fairly lightweight at 7-8 pounds on average
  • Inexpensive, costing between $250 and $500 for most models



  • Light weight and lack of a recoiling action make for a heavier recoil
  • Because you have to pump the action after each shot, you can lose precious time in a home defense situation

Semi-auto Shotguns


Instead of manually inserting and extracting rounds in a break-action shotgun — or using a lever or pump to accomplish the same — semi-auto shotguns automatically eject a spent shell and load a new one each time you fire the gun (as long as your magazine has rounds). They accomplish this action through an inertia or gas-operated recoil system.


Inertia-based systems harness the recoil energy from a fired shell to cycle the firearm’s bolt from its closed position rearward to its open position. A recoil spring pushes the bolt forward after it reaches its most rearward position, picking up a shell and loading it into the chamber for the next shot.


Gas-operated recoil systems also harness the energy from a fired shell. But instead of relying solely on the recoil energy of a fired shell, they make use of the expanding gases from the burnt gunpowder. One or more small vent holes at the base of the barrel are “plumbed” into the action. Upon firing, the expanding gas causes the bolt to cycle, unloading the spent shell and loading a new one into the chamber.


Semi-Automatic Shotgun Buyer’s Guide



  • Automatic reloading allows for faster follow-up shots
  • Recoil is reduced thanks to heavier weights and a recoiling action



  • Typically more expensive that other shotgun types—with break-actions being the exception
  • Heavier than most other options
  • Often more complicated than other options, which may be a concern during high-stress situations
  • Requires more maintenance due to more moving parts for firearm function


When choosing among the various shotgun action types, the most important thing you need to consider is finding a firearm that best fits your needs. Then learn how it operates. And practice with it regularly so you’re prepared for whatever situation you might face that requires the use of a firearm.


It’s also important to know your state’s gun laws so you can avoid legal concerns. 


Generally, break-op, lever-action, and pump-action shotguns are immune to so-called “assault-weapon laws.” Some states consider many semi-automatic shotguns “assault weapons.” And still other states don’t allow them for hunting.


You might also want to consider these 5 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Gun and What is a Non-NFA Firearm for more information.


Now let’s talk a little more about some of the various uses we’ve identified for these shotgun types.


Home Defense


In general, shotguns are a commonly used firearm for home protection. 


Main reasons include:

  • Shotguns are by and large easy to use. This is never more important than during the high-stress scenario of a home invasion. Adrenaline changes everything.
  • Because the shot spreads out after it leaves the barrel, your hit probability increases. In other words, point and shoot.
  • Stopping power is another often-cited reason for choosing a shotgun for home defense.
  • At the same time, by selecting the right size of shot, you can reduce your chances of a projectile going through a wall and injuring a family member. Shorty shells are also worth considering for recoil-sensitive users.

As we mentioned earlier, any type of shotgun can be pressed into home defense duty. But let’s be honest, there’s nothing more intimidating than the sound of racking a shotgun. That pump-action sound can, in some cases, be enough to scare off an intruder before you have to take any further action. 


Mossberg and Remington are among the most popular pump shotguns used for home defense. You can also check out these Top 5 Firearm Accessories for Home Defense. 


A semi-automatic gives you faster trigger action, but when your adrenaline is pumping during a moment of defense, you may be more likely to go through all your rounds quickly. Training and practice are vital with any home defense firearm. Especially with a semi-auto.


While not technically a shotgun, a great semi-auto choice for home defense is the Remington V3 Tac 13, which is made with the Shockwave Raptor Grip



We’ve talked a lot about high-stress situations you could find yourself in. But let’s not forget that shooting firearms can be a lot of fun. 


For those who enjoy skeet or clay target shooting — whether just for target practice or for competition — any of the shotgun types we listed at the beginning of this article can be used. However, many competitions prescribe which type and number of shells can be used.


But if we’re talking strictly recreational shooting, lever- and pump-action shotgun are good for shooting single targets. However they can be slower and more distracting when you’re trying to shoot multiple targets moving across the open sky.


If you plan to shoot clay pigeons for longer periods of time, a semi-automatic may be a good fit. Its lower recoil won’t wear out your shoulder as quickly. But semi-autos do tend to be heavier firearms.




While many would consider hunting to be a fun activity, we’ve given it its own section here. 


Again, any of the described shotgun types can be pressed into hunting duty. The choice is largely up to you. Certain state and local laws will likely specify type, gauge, and number of shells for taking various game.


The semi-automatic shotgun may be preferred (when legal to use) thanks to the capability of fast follow-up shots and lower recoil.


However, lever- and pump-action shotguns may be preferred when shooting in harsh conditions (higher altitudes, cold or hot temperatures, etc.). They’re also known to be less sensitive to load variability and ammo condition.


Finally, there’s little that’s more traditional when it comes to hunting than walking across a dewy morning field searching for upland game birds with an over-under 28-gauge broken open in the crook of your arm.

Why You Should Choose an AR-15 Pistol for a Home Defense Firearm

Let’s cut to the chase: The AR-15 pistol is one of the best firearms for home defense. 


Why? They’re affordable, reliable, accurate, and found everywhere. It’s no wonder the AR-15 is informally known as America’s 21st Century musket. And for good reason. 


When an intruder sees the easily recognized AR in your hands, they know you mean business. 


Learn about the evolution of the AR and AR pistol


But first, let’s dive into the benefits of using an AR-15 pistol for home defense. Each benefit is like a ripple effect — they all go hand in hand to make this firearm perfect for defense purposes. 

Benefits of an AR-15 Pistol for Home Defense


shockwave blade stealth ar-15 pistol



You can find an AR-15 pistol to fit every budget: from just a few hundred dollars to the “sky is the limit.” The typical .223 ammunition is easily found in stores (when there’s not a global pandemic unfolding daily or nightly riots) and one of the least expensive ammos, with prices averaging about 32 cents per round. 



Low Recoiling


A low recoil makes the AR-15 pistol easy to shoot and a good option for beginners — even younger members of the family.





Because of such low recoil, accuracy is improved for most shooters.





At a mere 6 pounds — with ammo! — the AR-15 pistol is light enough for shooters of all ages and experiences. Because it has such a lightweight body, you can easily customize and add accessories to your firearm without making it too heavy to handle safely and accurately — especially in a home defense scenario. 



Ergonomically Designed


Many features of the AR-15 pistol are designed with ergonomics in mind, making this firearm comfortable and safe to shoot: pistol grip, trigger reach, safety location, forward handguard, sights, etc.



Ammo Capacity


A typical AR-15 pistol magazine holds 30 rounds of ammo. 


Many experts recommend using the .223 cartridge because it’s typically easy to find in stores,  inexpensive, and provides lower recoil. Some recommend using a 55-grain soft-point load that minimizes bullet penetration, which can be beneficial to protect your family in other parts of the home (or surrounding neighbors) in case the bullet misses the intended target. However, as you may know, the AR-15 is available in a multitude of calibers.





During a home invasion, you don’t want to be turning corners and allow the intruder to discover your location before you know theirs. The AR-15 pistol is a great option for home defense due to its relatively short length, allowing you to turn corners discreetly and avoid disclosing your location that can put your defense game at risk. 





From function to ergonomics to aesthetics, there are simply too many types of firearm accessories for customizing your AR-15 pistol than we can possibly cover here: grips, forearms, slings, sights, lights, lasers, scopes, red dot sights, triggers, muzzle devices, and so on. 


For home defense purposes, however, we recommend keeping it simple. Focus on the following accessories:

  • Brace, grip and/or sling: for better and safer control of your firearm
  • Flashlight: for better visibility in low-light conditions and stunning any intruders with the bright illumination
  • Red dot sight: for accuracy

A note about pistol braces:


Whether you’re building a custom AR-15 pistol or bought an AR-15 pistol without a brace, adding a brace can improve control and accuracy.


An AR-15 pistol cannot have a stock but it can have a brace, such as the Shockwave Blade and Shockwave Blade 2M. 

Shockwave AR-15 Pistol Accessories


Shockwave Technologies offers products to enhance your home defense use (and enjoyment) of your AR-15 firearms. Check out these Shockwave products compatible with AR-15 pistols.





Made from high-strength glass-reinforced polymer, the Blade® is manufactured to exacting tolerances and fits all pistols equipped with a standard AR-15 pistol buffer tube (up to 1.25? in diameter). Just slip it on and tighten the large set screw for a rock-solid installation.


Blade® fits all pistols equipped with a standard AR-15 pistol buffer tube (up to 1.25? in diameter) AR pattern, Glock, CZ Scorpion Evo 3, HK9X pattern, etc.


Features include:


  • Available in black, flat dark earth, OD green, and stealth gray
  • Quick and easy to install.
  • Provides additional support during firing.
  • Weighs a scant 5.0 ounces.
  • ATF approved for pistol use 



Blade® 2M


Made from high-strength glass-reinforced polymer, the adjustable Blade® 2M pistol stabilizer is manufactured to exacting tolerances and fits all pistols equipped with a Mil-spec buffer tube. Just slip it on and lock in place.  Adjusts with a simple finger lever.


Compatible with all pistols equipped with a Mil-spec buffer tube: 


  • AR-15 pattern
  • MPX
  • Glock
  • CZ Scorpion Evo 3
  • HK9X pattern
  • etc.


Features include:


  • Available in black, flat dark earth, OD green, and stealth gray
  • Quick and easy to install.
  • Provides additional support during firing.
  • Weighs a scant 4.0 ounces.
  • ATF approved for pistol use