The Urban Survival Shotgun!

A lot of armed citizens, preppers, and people who simply appreciate versatility in their firearms are discussing weapons for urban survival.  Although it’s tempting to focus on assault rifles or easily-​​concealed handguns, you shouldn’t disregard the type of weapon that is typically the easiest to buy — combat shotguns.  In general, shotguns are very reliable, fairly inexpensive, legal, and extremely powerful.

Which is the Best Shotgun for Urban Survival?

A lot of factors must be taken into account when you’re trying to identify the best shotgun for urban survival.  Don’t make the common mistake of overlooking reliability, firepower, range or the availability of ammunition, because all those factors are important.  The weapon that might seem to be the best shotgun in a home defense scenario may not be anywhere near as effective if you’re trying to survive on the run.  Let’s examine these factors and create the best shotgun for your needs …

The Best Shotgun for Urban Survival:  Firepower is Critical

There’s a lot more to a weapon’s firepower than the size of the hole a round can make.  You also need to consider what you’ll be shooting at and the weapon’s capacity.  In a situation where urban survival is at stake, you might need to shoot through a window, door or even a chain lock to enter or exit a fenced area.  The firepower equation includes range, capacity and ammo availability because you might be in a situation where ammo stores aren’t accessible.  Taking these factors into account, the best shotgun for urban survival, as far as firepower is concerned, is probably a 12 gauge.  It packs a powerful punch and is the most common and versatile of all the rounds.

The Best Shotgun for Urban Survival:  The Action of the Firearm

When urban survival is at stake, your weapon will probably be exposed to harsh environmental conditions.  Too much dust and debris can be a problem, because they can interfere with your shotgun’s action.  Semi-​​automatic shotguns can get off rounds as quickly as you can pull the trigger, but ammo jams can become more frequent when the conditions are unfavorable.  That’s why a pump action model is the best shotgun for urban survival.  I know a lot of people who can fire a pump action shotgun as quickly as a semi-​​automatic.

The Best Shotgun for Urban Survival:  The Brand is Important

This isn’t the right time to cut corners.  Your life could depend on the weapon you buy, so stay away from no-​​name or discount shotguns and stick with a proven brand.  For example, the Mossberg 500 series, the Remington 870, and the Winchester Defender are all well-​​known pump-​​action shotguns.  They will give you the reliability and power you need in an urban survival shotgun.



  1. Lem Genovese says:

    Do all of these 12 Gauge shotguns carry the SAME amount of rounds in the tube ?

    • Bill says:

      With an extension I have a 7+1 capacity on my Benelli Nova Tactical. Thats plenty enough to get the party started and using #4 Buck thats a lotta pellets the size of a .22 leaving the barrel.

  2. AJMBLAZER says:

    Lem, no it varies from model to model and submodels can have different capacities. 5 is standard for most and 8 or even 9 if you have an extended or longer tube on most.

  3. David Walton says:

    I’m sorry but I do thinks 10 gauge is better.….…..

  4. Austin says:

    10-​​gauge offers no significant advantage. It is tougher to find than 12, increases recoil, and reduces the amount of ammunition you can carry. In addition, there are many, MANY more flavors of 12-​​gauge ammo versus 10.

  5. Joe says:

    20 ga will work just as well as a 12 ga. has the same types of standard rounds, lower recoil and will stop just about anything the the 12 ga. will. I’ve used 20’s for years and have never had an issue with either an autoloader or a pump not firing or jamming. And in most cases a person that knows what they are doing can operate a pump faster than an autoloading shotgun can fire. I can put three casings in the air while the 4th is going down the tube.

  6. Attilla49 says:

    As a former submariner who was on the Security Alert Team and just having finished a 2 year stint with the Department of the Navy as a federal Armed Security Officer I received hands on experience with both the Remington 870 and the Mossberg M500. My personal preference is the Mossberg 500 6 shot with 18.5″ barrel over the Remington. It is a 12GA, pump action weapon which holds 5 in the magazine tube and one in the chamber. The barrel is short enought to manuever through tight spaces and hallways and the safety is on top of the receiver. When the weapon is up to your shoulder the safety is in your line of sight where you can see if it is engaged or not. Other shotguns have the safety on the trigger housing and you have to lower and turn the weapon slightly on its side to see if the weapon is on safe…or ready to fire. The weapon is also dependable as we wore them outside all year round, in all kinds of weather and temperature, day in and day out.

  7. madderhatter says:

    Let’s not forget the up-​​and-​​coming Kel-​​Tec KSG — I’m definitely getting one. I really like the dual tubes — buckshot on one side, slugs on the other. Just flip the switch over to whichever you need to use. Plus it ejects from the bottom (bull pup) so it’s good for left or right handers.

    “The KSG is our first entry into the shotgun market. The size, shape and design are similar to the currently available Kel-​​Tec RFB rifle, but the KSG ejects downward, instead of forward. The KSG weighs 6.9lbs and is as compact as legally possible with a 26.1″ overall length and an 18.5″ cylinder bore barrel. Even with this compact size, the internal dual tube magazines hold an impressive 14 rounds of 12 gage 2–3/4″ rounds (7 per tube). The simple and reliable pump action feeds from either the left or right tube. The feed side is manually selected by a lever located behind the trigger guard. The lever can be positioned in the center detent in order to easily clear the chamber without feeding another round from either magazine. A cross bolt style safety blocks the sear, and the pump release lever is located in front of the trigger guard.

    The pump includes an under Picatinny rail for the mounting of a forward grip, or a light or laser. The included top Picatinny sight rail will accept many types of optics or iron sights. Forward and rear sling loops are built in, and a basic sling is included. The soft rubber butt pad helps to tame recoil.”

  8. Grinder says:

    Safety position is no big thing. I have a Mossberg 500 as a house defense gun and a couple of Remington 870’s. The 870 safety is on if it is raised on the right and off if it is flush with the trigger guard. I have never had to take my 870 down from a shoulder to see if the safety was off or on. Practice. 12 gauge is far superior to a 20 gauge in a defense situation. Multiple types of ammunition, greater knockdown, heavier loads and easier to find defense loads. while a 20 may do the job, a 12 gauge will out do a 20.

  9. mike says:

    I like 410s because you can also shoot 45s.

  10. ms6 says:

    The Mossberg is great for carrying in the sticks. With the pistol grip option it’s about 29 inches overall. Hard on the thumb crease if your firing multiple times. Definitely not for plinking. Great home defense if you know where to shoot so you don’t hit your family. buck shot will go through a couple of walls if not more.

  11. Papa_Ray says:

    Yea I like the idea of loading birdshot in one tube and 00buck in the other or maybe a couple of slugs.
    Start with a warning shot of birdshot to the legs and then if necessary switch to the other tube.
    If you have ever been hit with birdshot under fifty yards you know that it will not only get your attention but you will not want a second shot.
    For zombies shoot for the head with the big stuff, then follow up with a machete.

    • Zombie slayer! :-)

      Nothing backs up a combat shotgun like a machete. My edged weapon of choice!

      • Ciro DiCristo says:

        I too think a machete would be an intimidating weapon. but as I thought about it, would there be enough room to swing it in the confines of
        a hallway or small room? so I switched to a samurai sword which could thrust as well as slash.

  12. Mikel says:

    So why did they not mention the Saiga 12(a semi auto 12ga. AK)? Operation is just like the ultra reliable AK, holds from 3 to 21rnds(forget the 30rnd drum, it’s junk) depending on your chioce of mags/​drums and reloads faster than any pump. Love mine. And once you bullpup it, it’s shorter than most carbines while still haveing an 18″ barrel. Great for interior clearing and still able to reach out and slam a perp.

  13. DP says:

    Reliability. The pumps mentioned above are good guns, but the complex, flashy ones should be left alone. I shoot 3-​​gun matches, so I see (and experience) about every malfunction you can get. We all shoot semi-​​autos (except in “Heavy Metal” class where a pump is required, but this slows you down for sure) and there are only TWO brands that survive the challenge and end up in the hands of the best shooters: Benelli (Mark 2) with an 8-​​round tube and 22″ barrel and the FNH Mark 1 (I shoot this one). They are ULTRA-​​reliable and fast. 12-​​ga of course.

  14. rickyd says:

    I agree with you to an extent…The action on the Mossberg vs Remington are very different. The Mossberg has a single rail slide which can make the action rough and cause more frequent jams. The Remington has a dual rail slide which gives a smoother action and less jams. But when its all said and done its really up to personal preference.

  15. Jon in Arizona says:

    I have owned and used a Saiga 12, as well as two 870s, a Mossy 500, an Ithica Deerslayer, an 11–87 Police, a Win 1300, a High Standard punp, and a Model 10 B Police Bullpup. I sold the Saiga. It was reliable and patterned well enough, but a fully loaded magazine was difficult to insert against the closed bolt, was much slower to reload than a tube, and hung down in the way if I needed to take a prone position for a distance shot. Moreover, the Saiga is not built to allow tactical reloads, ejection-​​port emergency reloads, shoot one, load one drills and select a slug drills. In essence, the box magazine actually is less versatile than a tube magazine and also more restrictive. I fortunately have participated in many hours of professional shotgun training and believe a standard pump shotgun with a tubular magazine, a bead front sight and some functional method of carrying extra rounds (not a bandoleer sling, though) is the better choice for a HD shotgun. Check out Clint Smith, JD McGuire, Gun Site, and Front Sight for verification of my choice of defensive shotguns.

  16. Sushidog says:

    Yep, I’m getting one too. The bullpup design is perfect for maneuvering in tight quarters like inside my bug-​​out camper or vehicle.


  17. GMG8" says:

    I’ll stick with my 870. I already have the specialty rounds needed, along with #8 or what ever I choose.

    Grandpa had a 10 gauge, 410 is a nice snake charmer, have one, also. Good luck finding rounds in a “emergency”

    Get a “sidesaddle” & bandolier. Sidesaddle for Specialties & bandolier for “normal” rounds.

    Stick with what works

  18. Rich says:

    actually the 10 gauge ballistics are inferior to the 12 gauge the pattern spreads out alot faster although you may have more lead to throw down range if it isnt hitting the target it is useless, not to mention the extra weight of the gun and ammo then comes scrounging ammo it isnt as readily available plus it is tougher to find reloading supply’s not to mention the expense compared to 12 gauge.

  19. Rich says:

    Never fire a warning shot, never shoot to wound, if you are in fear for your life from an intruder do not be kind as the person in your house is there to rob you or hurt you. kill them or be a victim remember the person who breaks in have more rites than you do a dead man can not tak you to court and make you pay for being kind the rest of your life.

  20. Mikel says:

    Well to each their own. I’ve done many of the drills you’ve spoke of and have developed a manual of arms that work well for me. As for the box mag lacking versatility, again I disagree. They can be loaded depending on mission, I’ve never had an issue loading on a closed bolt you can lock the bolt back, pop in a specialty round, release bolt and lock your mag.

    But again, to each there own. I used several pumps while in service as an MP and was not impressed by any of them. Esp. in reliabitly.

  21. eddy james says:

    It was a lot easier to explain what really happened and how I was afraid for my life with out the thug whining about how he was going to get even or sue. I found him in the house and he didn’t hear me when I snuck up on him from behind ‚because the radio was on, and yelled “HEY” he jumped at least a foot off the ground it startled him so bad. When he spun around standing in front of the dresser I thought he had found the .38 that was in one of the drawers. At a range of less than 7 feet the 00 buck caught him in the right side took his arm almost completely off at the elbow and turned his liver into mush.Two of the pellets made it all the way through the body through one layer of Sheetrock. All he had time to do was yell “You Fu***** shot me” as he was falling over the bookcase.He bled out on the floor in seconds while the Four Seasons sang “Let’s Hang on to what we got” on the radio. Strange what you remember when something like that happens. Like the Smell of the gunpowder and the little pieces of black wool sweater floating in the air. And the damn cat trying to lick up the blood. It took the cops about 10 minutes to get there. long after it was all over. About 2 hrs at the police station and they kept my shotgun about a month before returning it. God I love Texas.

  22. DanL says:

    The best shotgun is the one you are most comfortable with shooting and taking out your target.12 or 20, if you hit the perp he will be put down if not immediatly ventilated!

  23. Brian says:

    Jon in Arizona you’re simply not giving the Saiga enough credit. Was yours properly converted? Were your gas ports properly bored? And reloading the Saiga without a LRBHO or even on a closed bolt should take considerably less time than putting 6 or 7 rounds in a tube come on man haha. Maybe you need some more practice I dont know but 20 rounds of 00 buck in less than 3 seconds is very effective for HD. I love my Mossberg don’t get me wrong but the Saiga is far superior. And hop on YouTube and tell me they are not made more “tactical reloads” when they’re are guys doing it in under 2 seconds.

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Jeff Anderson

Jeff Anderson is a 10 year veteran of the U.S. Army, a Master Fitness Trainer, and Master Instructor of Close Quarters Combat self defense. A full time fitness and self defense author, Jeff has trained thousands of men and women in the practical application of advanced military fitness methods as well as close combat tactics for "real life" self defense.

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