7 Best Semi-Auto Tactical Shotguns in 2024 + [Buying Guide]

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We explore the best semi-auto tactical shotguns of 2024, focusing on models like the Benelli M4 and Mossberg 930 SPX Tactical. These shotguns stand out for their balance of luxury, practicality, and affordability, offering features like reduced recoil, quick shots, and high-quality construction. The guide also addresses common questions and highlights various models’ specific attributes, like capacity, weight, and design, catering to diverse tactical needs and preferences.

More and more semi-automatic shotguns are breaking into the market each year and it’s easy to see why. These shotguns have all kinds of advantages over traditional pump-action shotguns like reduced recoil and quick shots. 

It’s no wonder people are looking for the best semi-auto tactical shotguns and manufacturers are enthusiastically addressing that demand. 

Unfortunately, there are still relatively few semi-auto shotguns designed for tactical purposes and even fewer that are high quality. 

To help you find them, we’ve put together this guide with our semi-auto tactical shotguns and our answers to common questions about this type of firearm.

Our top pick is the Benelli M4. This versatile shotgun combines luxury and practicality into a single semi-auto tactical shotgun. Let’s take a closer look. 

Quick Summary: Our Top Picks For Semi-Auto Tactical Shotguns in 2024
Benelli M4
  • Great for just about anything that you might want to use
  • It’s the standard shotgun of the U.S. Marines M1014 Joint Service
  • It’s cleaner and more reliable than those other systems, particularly over long shoot sessions
Benelli M2
  • It has an 18.5-inch barrel and 5+1 round capacity
  • Overall length of 39.75 inches, it’s just a touch shorter than the M4
  • Gas systems produce less recoil, but Benelli’s inertia-driven systems are still rock-solid
Mossberg 930 SPX Tactical
  • It has the highest capacity of any shotgun on this list, with an 8+1 round capacity
  • It has an 18.5-inch barrel
  • It uses a reliable gas system that also cuts down on recoil
Beretta 1301 Tactical
  • Compact 12 gauge with a black synthetic receiver and matching black anodized finish on the barrel and receiver
  • It weighs in at just 6.4 pounds with an overall length of 37.79 inches, thanks to the shortened stock
  • Is highly accurate and reliable
Stoeger M3500
  • More affordable semi-automatic tactical shotgun
  • This shotgun is available with a walnut stock and blued barrel and receiver if you want a tactical shotgun with a more classic look
  • This configuration comes with a 26” barrel

Here Are the Best Semi-Auto Tactical Shotguns (Our Picks) 

1. Benelli M4

Benelli M4

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When it comes to semi-auto tactical shotguns, the Benelli M4 Tactical Shotgun is the indisputable top-of-the-line. 

In so many things, you have to choose luxury or functionality, but with the Benelli M4, that’s not the case. And it’s great for just about anything that you might want to use a shotgun for, including hunting, home defense, and competition. 

There’s a reason that it’s the standard shotgun of the U.S. Marines M1014 Joint Service. In fact, the proprietary auto-regulating gas-operated (ARGO) action was designed specifically for the United States Marine Corps.

What makes the ARGO system different from other actions is that it’s cleaner and more reliable than those other systems, particularly over long shoot sessions.

The one downside? This kind of performance doesn’t come cheap, but if you have about 2k bucks to spend on a semi-auto tactical shotgun, the Benelli M4 is worth every single dollar.

As for other specs, the Benelli M4 has an 18.5-inch barrel and synthetic stock. At the end of the barrel is a modified choke to narrow the shot pattern and increase the shot’s range. 

You can get it with or without a pistol grip, but for tactical purposes, I prefer the pistol grip to help manage the recoil of 12-gauge shots. 

The ghost ring sights also perform well in a tactical situation, but there’s also a Picatinny mount on the top of the receiver so you can mount your preferred optic. Plus, the receiver is drilled and tapped for a scope. 

My preferred model has a titanium Cerakote finish on both the receiver and barrel, but you can also get it with a black anodized receiver finish and a phosphate barrel finish.

The M4 measures 40 inches overall and weighs 7.8 pounds. It has a 5+1 round capacity.


The Benelli M4 is the ultimate blend of luxury and practicality in a single shotgun, and it offers stellar performance for hunting, competition, and home defense, all in a single shotgun. 


  • Sling attachment points
  • Ghost ring sights


  • California, NY and Colorado compliant
  • Synthetic furniture
  • 18.5 inch replaceable barrel
  • Tapped for scope
  • Pistol grip option
  • Variety of after-market options


  • Despite mag appearance, only holds 5 rounds
  • Gas operation means more frequently cleaning
  • Fixed modified choke with supplied barrel
  • Expensive

2. Benelli M2

Benelli M2

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Want Benelli quality at a lower price point than the M4 offers? Consider the Benelli M2 Tactical Shotgun.

In some ways, the 12-gauge Benelli M2 is similar to the M4. It has an 18.5-inch barrel and 5+1 round capacity. With an overall length of 39.75 inches, it’s just a touch shorter than the M4.

The main difference between the two shotguns is that the M2 uses an inertia-driven system as opposed to the M4’s gas system. Gas systems produce less recoil, but Benelli’s inertia-driven systems are still rock-solid. It’s a simple design that’s reliable and easy to maintain. 

It also helps the M2 weigh significantly less than the M4. The M2 is a full pound (plus an ounce) lighter than the M4.

The M2 is not mil-spec like the M4, but it’s still a great shotgun. Plus, there’s a huge variety of aftermarket upgrades available, so you can always jazz it up later on if you want. 

With ghost ring sights and a pistol grip, the Benelli M2 is great for home defense. That pistol grip will also help you manage the heavier recoil of the M2’s gas system. It’s also suitable for competition and hunting, but I think defense is where it really shines. 

There’s no rail for mounting accessories, but the receiver is drilled and tapped for a scope.

It has a black synthetic stock, a black anodized receiver, and a blued barrel. 


The Benelli M2 is something of a kid brother to the M4. The inertia-driven system isn’t quite as high-end as the M4’s gas system, but it’s still reliable, easy to maintain, and generally high-quality. The fact that it’s more than a full pound lighter is probably also a huge advantage. 


  • Ribbed barrel or ghost ring barrel
  • Replaceable chokes depending on barrel


  • California, NY and Colorado compliant
  • Synthetic furniture
  • 18.5 inch replaceable barrel
  • Tapped for scope
  • Pistol grip option
  • Variety of after-market options
  • Cheaper than the M4


  • 5 rounds
  • More recoil than the M4
  • Expensive

3. Mossberg 930 SPX Tactical

Mossberg 930 SPX Tactical

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If Benellis are sportscars, Mossbergs are pickup trucks. Mossberg makes durable workhorses that get the job done and at a pretty approachable price point. 

So we had to include a Mossberg pick in our list of the best semi-auto tactical shotguns, the Mossberg 930 SPX Tactical. 

It has the highest capacity of any shotgun on this list, with an 8+1 round capacity. That’s three rounds more than either of the Benellis. Plus, it’s not picky about ammo. You shouldn’t have any problems cycling just about any 12 gauge round you put in it.

Like the Benellis, it has an 18.5-inch barrel. The end of the barrel has a cylinder choke which provides a wider spread. 

It uses a reliable gas system that also cuts down on recoil.

The 39-inch overall length and 7.78-pound weight put it on about the same scale as the Benelli M4. 

Though certainly tactical, this Mossberg shotgun is more traditional than the Benellis. It has a pistol grip, but it’s integrated into the full-length buttstock rather than a tactical pistol grip that protrudes underneath the shotgun. It’s very comfortable to hold with a gripped texture to help you grip tight. 

It has nice tactical sights too. The rear sight is a ghost ring, while the front is an M16 fiber optic post sight. There’s also a Picatinny rail that holds the rear sight and can also be used to mount an optic, like a red dot sight or scope. Since the front sight is AR height, it’s ideal for co-witnessing, if that’s something you’re interested in.

The rear-mounted tang safety, which you may recognize from Mossberg’s 500 models, is ambidextrous and easy to use. Just push it forward to activate. There’s also a cocking indicator located at the trigger guard’s front.

Of course, you won’t get the same quality with the Mossberg 930 SPX Tactical that you get with the Benellis, but that’s to be expected since the price is less than half as much. The Mossberg 930 SPX Tactical is widely used by law enforcement, however, so it’s still a great, reliable tactical shotgun, especially for the price. 

One downside: the aftermarket availability for Mossberg 930 SPX Tactical upgrades isn’t great. If you want to upgrade your shotgun, this isn’t the gun to get. Hopefully, that will change soon, but for now, that’s the way it is.


Mossberg is well-known for their excellent pump-action shotguns and the Mossberg 930 SPX Tactical brings that quality and reliability to a semi-automatic tactical shotgun. It’s also a more affordable alternative to pricey (but excellent) shotguns like those made by Benelli.


  • Extended mag for more rounds
  • Big charging handle
  • Mossberg reliability


  • 7 rounds in mag
  • California, NY and Colorado compliant without pistol grip
  • Synthetic furniture
  • Pistol grip option
  • Inexpensive
  • Variety of after-market options


  • Heavy when fully loaded
  • No forward sling swivel attachment point.
  • No  barrel clamp on extended mag

4. Beretta 1301 Tactical

Beretta 1301 Tactical

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Obviously, when it comes to tactical shotguns, practicality far outweighs looks. That didn’t stop Beretta from cramming both into the Beretta 1301 Tactical though. 

It’s a sleek, compact 12 gauge with a black synthetic receiver and matching black anodized finish on the barrel and receiver. 

The Beretta 1301 Tactical is around the same price point as the Benelli M2 (though a couple hundred bucks more, depending on where you shop), so keep that in mind as we go over the 1301 Tactical’s features. 

One of the most noteworthy features of this little 12 gauge is its weight. It weighs in at just 6.4 pounds with an overall length of 37.79 inches, thanks to the shortened stock. 

If the 1301 Tactical used an inertia system, I’d be worried that such a lightweight shotgun means a hell of a kick, but the gas system this Beretta shotgun uses helps mitigate that recoil, though I still wouldn’t call the recoil “light” by any means. Maybe “moderate.”

Specifically, the 1301 uses Beretta’s BLINK operating system. What does that mean? Well, it’s one of the fastest cycling operating systems in any shotgun currently available. 

Overall, the 1301’s design is highly accurate and reliable. It cycles most ammunition with ease and is very easy to disassemble and reassemble for cleaning and maintenance. 

The Beretta 1301 Tactical is available in two versions: one with a classic pistol grip that’s integrated into the stock and one with a protruding tactical pistol grip. The pistol grip style is the only real difference between these two versions, so go with whichever style you prefer.

Either way, you get an 18.5-inch back-bored, cold hammer-forged barrel with a 3-inch chamber and an improved cylinder choke to narrow the shot spread just a touch. The checkered fore-end helps you keep a secure grip alongside whatever pistol grip style you opt for.

On top of the aircraft-grade aluminum receiver is a ghost ring sight and a Picatinny rail for attaching another sight or an optic. The safety is oversized for easy manipulation. 

The Beretta 1301 Tactical has a 5+1 capacity, which looks weak after the Mossberg’s 8+1 capacity, but it’s the same capacity as the Benellis.


If you’re looking for a compact, lightweight semi-auto tactical shotgun, then the Beretta 1301 Tactical is the shotgun for you. Just be prepared to deal with the significant recoil.


  • The magazine extension has a barrel clamp
  • Long forearm protects long magazine


  • California, NY and Colorado compliant without pistol grip
  • Synthetic furniture
  • Marine coating option
  • Replaceable chokes
  • Picatinny rail included
  • Iron sights


  • Heavy when fully loaded
  • More limited after market options

Also Read: 8 Best Subcompact Pistols

5. Stoeger M3500

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If you’re looking for a more affordable semi-automatic tactical shotgun, the Stoeger M3500 is another great option. It’s right around the same price point as the Mossberg 930 SPX Tactical, but a little bit cheaper. 

It’s also a great option if you want a semi-auto shotgun that’s good for tactical situations, but also works as a general-purpose shotgun, particularly for hunting.

This shotgun is available with a walnut stock and blued barrel and receiver if you want a tactical shotgun with a more classic look. There are also Realtree Max-5 and Mossy Oak Bottomland camo options for those looking for a tactical and hunting shotgun in one.

If you’re looking for a more tactical finish, however, I suggest the black synthetic stock with a blued receiver and barrel. 

This configuration comes with a 26” barrel. That’s obviously significantly longer than the barrels on the other shotguns we’ve discussed so far, which is part of what makes the Stoeger M3500 a good general-purpose semi-auto shotgun. 

The barrel uses an interchangeable choke system and comes with four different chokes so you can use the right choke for defense or whatever you’re hunting.

The M3500 also boasts Stoeger’s Inertia Driven operating system, which is both fast and reliable. It’s chambered for 3 ½-inch shells, but will also cycle 3-inch and 2 ¾-inch shells with no problem. In fact, it cycles virtually all ammunition with no problem. 

Inertia-driven operating systems don’t handle recoil as well as gas systems, so to help you manage that, Stoeger has included their recoil reducer. It doesn’t come pre-installed, but it’s easy to install yourself. Like with any inertia system, the recoil is still pretty heavy though. 

Stoeger also includes their shim kit, which helps you adjust the drop and cast of the stock for a more custom fit. 

Weighing 7.65 pounds, the Stoeger M3500 is in the same weight range as the Benelli M4 and the Mossberg 930 SPX Tactical, which helps it manage recoil. 

Like most of the other shotguns on this list, it has a 5+1 capacity.

It has a fiber optic front sight, but no rear sight. However, the M3500’s receiver is drilled and tapped for a Weaver rail so you can attach your own rear optic of choice. 


The Stoeger M3500 semi-auto tactical shotgun is an excellent general-purpose shotgun that’s equally well-suited for tactical situations and hunting, and it even comes at an affordable price point. 


  • Camo or black color
  • Bead front sight
  • Inertia driven like the Benelli


  • Lifetime warranty
  • California, NY and Colorado compliant 
  • Replaceable chokes
  • Receiver tapped for optic
  • Affordable
  • Handles 2.75 to 3.5 inch shells


  • 4 round mag
  • Very limited after market options

6. Centurion BP-12 Semi-auto bullpup BULLPUP

Centurion BP 12 Semi auto bullpup BULLPUP

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Smith & Wesson is best known for their handguns. The S&W M&P (Military and Police) is a fairly new addition to their product line.

This bullpup shotgun with a 5-round detachable magazine. You may think you can attach a longer mag or a drum mag.

Not really unless you want the mag to seriously get in the way. The 5-round mag sticking out is bad enough.

Bullpups are a great design for close-quarters work, like home defense. The gun moves super fast.

The main drawback is your face is right next to the action. This will increase the sound level your ear experiences.

If you are left handed, the shells, unburned powder and such will eject into your face. Another big issue is the trigger. The system requires a linkage between the trigger and the hammer sear. It is just hard to get a good system in there.


  • Bullpup design makes it good for home defense


  • Super compact, less than 30 inches
  • 5 round removable mag
  • California, NY and Colorado compliant 
  • Synthetic furniture


  • Mag can get in the way
  • Not suited for left hand shooting
  • Trigger could be better

7. Hatsan Escort SDX12

Hatsan Escort SDX12

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Our last recommendation is the Hatsan Escort SDX12

This shotgun stands out from our other recommendations in that it incorporates elements of MSR (AR-style) rifles into a 12 gauge shotgun. 

One of the most obvious AR-style elements is the handle on top of the receiver. While these handles are less popular on current AR-15s, the concept is taken from the original M16, the military version of the AR-15. The handle is detachable and affixes to an integral Picatinny rail on the top of the upper receiver. 

There’s an adjustable rear sight built into the handle and the front sight is also adjustable. However, Hatsan also includes an additional optional flip-up front and rear sight set.

Another element clearly based on the AR platform is the Hatsan Escort SDX12’s synthetic tactical-style stock. Though the stock is fixed, it does allow you to adjust the comb height. As you’d expect from an MSR-style stock, the Escort SDX12’s stock has a pistol grip. The rubber butt pad helps with recoil management.

In addition, this shotgun uses box magazines that are visually similar to AR mags. It comes with three magazines: 2 five-round magazines and one 2-round magazine. The 2-round mag attaches neatly to the fixed stock for convenient access. A 10-round magazine is also available but is sold separately.

Matching the tactical-style stock is the synthetic fore-end. It has integral Picatinny rails on the top, bottom, and both sides allowing you to attach accessories like the included angled foregrip and foregrip bipod. The fore-end also integrates ThermoDefend Technology to help regulate heat.

The Hasan Escort SDX12 is gas-operated and has a 3-inch chamber. The upper receiver is made from alloy, while the lower is synthetic. However, the magwell is made from alloy for durability and smoother feeding. There are also swivel mounts for attaching a sling, though the sling itself is one accessory the Hasan Escort SDX12 doesn’t come with.

The 18-inch steel barrel is chrome plated to resist oxidation and allow for easy cleaning. It comes with five different chokes.

The Hatsan Escort SDX12 and all the included accessories come neatly packed in a hard case custom-designed for this shotgun. 

All of this sounds great, right? The downside? The Hatsan Escort SDX12 weighs a whopping 9 pounds. Again, a higher weight helps manage recoil, but that’s still a lot of weight.


The Hatsan Escort SDX12 is a cool MSR-inspired tactical shotgun that comes with a lot of neat accessories, including a nice hard case for storage and travel. On the other hand, it weighs 9 pounds. You can decide if that’s great for helping manage recoil or just too much for a tactical shotgun to weigh. 


  • AR 15 tactical styling
  • Adjustable stock
  • Rear sight doubles as a handle
  • Comes with 2 5-shot mags and a 2-shot mag stored in butt


  • Detachable magazine
  • Extended mags available
  • Ambidextrous bolt handle
  • Sling loops
  • 3 chokes


  • Rear sight handle makes installing an optic difficult
  • Not California compliant

Also Read: 7 Best Handgun for Beginner

How Does a Semi-Auto Shotgun Work?

For most shotguns, you have to manipulate some sort of mechanism, like a lever, bolt, or forend pump, to eject a spent cartridge and move the next shell into place for firing.

What makes semi-automatic shotguns different is that they can cycle cartridges automatically. There are two main systems that a semi-auto shotgun can use to do this.

First, they can use a gas system, similar to an AR-15. Gas-powered systems utilize the highly pressurized gas released when you fire a round to cycle rounds. Gas-operated systems are more common for semi-automatic firearms in general but are less common than the main alternative for shotguns specifically.

That alternative is an inertia action, also referred to as a recoil-operated action. While gas-powered systems use those high-pressure gases produced when you fire a round, recoil-operated systems instead harness the kinetic energy produced by the shot. 

Pump-Action vs. Semi-Automatic Shotguns

In the comparison between pump-action and semi-automatic shotguns, key differences are highlighted. Pump-action shotguns, known for their reliability and simplicity, require manual operation for each shot. On the other hand, semi-automatics offer quicker follow-up shots due to their automatic reloading after each trigger pull, but can be more complex and expensive. Both types have distinct advantages, making them suitable for different users and scenarios.

Pump-action shotguns are probably the most popular type of shotgun in terms of action style, so let’s take a closer look at how pump-action shotguns compare to semi-auto shotguns by examing the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Advantages of a Pump-Action Shotgun

So what do pump-action shotguns have going for them? 

The main thing is that they have a much simpler design, but this leads to several advantages. 

For one, a simpler design means that pump-action shotguns are cheaper to manufacture, which generally translates to a cheaper price for you. 

A simpler system also means less opportunity to malfunction, making pump-action shotguns reliable and tolerant to more kinds of ammunition.

Finally, the simple design also makes them easier to clean and maintain because assembly and disassembly are a breeze.

Disadvantages of a Pump-Action Shotgun

Now let’s talk disadvantages.

First is short-stroking. It can be easy to not fully complete a stroke when pumping your shotgun, especially if you’re under stress and/or trying to shoot quickly. Short-stroking leads to a malfunction that you then have to clear before you can resume shooting. 

Second, pump-actions are slow to shoot if you’re not experienced, and rushing the process can lead to short-stroking, as we just discussed.

And third, pump-action shotguns produce a lot of recoil. 

Advantages of Semi-Automatic Shotguns

So what are the advantages of semi-auto shotguns then? 

To start, don’t produce as much recoil as pump actions. Gas systems, in particular, have relatively light recoil. 

Since they don’t require manual cycling, semi-automatic shotguns allow for a significantly faster rate of fire. The lack of manual cycling also means there’s less jostling between shots, making it easier to keep your target engaged. 

All of these factors make semi-auto shotguns particularly well-suited for tactical situations and competition.  

Disadvantages of Semi-Automatic Shotguns

Of course, nothing comes without downsides.

With semi-automatic shotguns, the main one is the more complicated design. It makes these shotguns more prone to malfunction and trickier to maintain, especially for shotgun noobs. 

And, since semi-automatic shotguns rely on the gas or inertia of the ammunition to cycle, they can have a hard time cycling low-powered ammunition. 

Semi-automatic shotguns also tend to be more costly than pump actions.

Is a Pump-Action or Semi-Auto Shotgun Better?

As with many things firearms, which action is better just depends on what you want from your shotgun.

If you’re looking for something reliable, affordable, and simple to maintain, pump-actions are the way to go. They’re also great for beginners.

On the other hand, if you want to shoot as quickly as possible, semi-automatics are where it’s at. They’re particularly great for competitive shooting, including 3-Gun and trap shooting.

In the past, I would have said that the reliability issue of semi-autos makes them unsuitable for self-defense, but as technology has improved, the reliability of semi-autos has dramatically increased. As long as you’re using a quality semi-automatic shotgun with high-powered ammo, you should be fine. 

Also Read: 7 Best Handgun for Beginner

Buying Guide: Important Factors When Choosing Semi-Auto Tactical Shotgun

When choosing a semi-auto tactical shotgun, it’s crucial to consider factors like reliability under different conditions, the shotgun’s weight and ergonomics, recoil management, capacity, and the ease of adding customizations. These elements greatly influence the shotgun’s performance and suitability for specific tactical needs.

There are several important things to keep in mind when choosing a semi-automatic tactical shotgun:


In general, a tactical shotgun will have a shorter barrel than a shotgun for hunting, around 18 to 20 inches. 

A shorter barrel ensures that the shotgun is maneuverable in close-quarter situations, like a hallway in a home. They also have the advantage of generally producing a wider pattern, which is helpful when you don’t have as much time to line up an accurate shot. 

(However, if the barrel is too short, less than 18 inches,—or the shotgun is less than 26 inches in overall length— the shotgun becomes regulated by the National Firearms Act are requires additional legal hoops and costs to acquire.) 

Shotguns intended for hunting tend to have a longer barrel to help with accuracy, around 26 inches. If you’re looking for a more general-purpose shotgun, you’ll want to go somewhere in the middle, around 24 inches. 


At the end of the barrel is what’s called the choke. This is a type of muzzle device that affects the spread pattern of the shot by modifying the shape of the end of the barrel, usually with a taper. 

There are four main categories of chokes. 

A cylinder bore choke doesn’t taper at all, allowing the widest shot spread. Improved cylinder chokes, modified chokes, and full chokes are the other three main types of chokes and have respectively more dramatic tapers, decreasing the spread of the shot. 

So why bother with narrowing the spread at all? 

Well, the main reason is to control the spread at particular ranges. The narrower the spread, the more distance you get before the shots spread out too much to be useful. The closer the shots, the more stopping power, and since shot spreads as it travels, narrowing the spread increases the useful range of the ammunition.

Some chokes are permanent fixtures within the barrel, while others are inserted into the barrel and can be replaced. 


One of the most important factors when it comes to your shotgun’s ergonomics is the stock. 

The stock should neatly fit onto your shoulder. Generally, larger stocks are more comfortable to shoot because they absorb more of the recoil. 

Many tactical shotguns feature pistol grips, but you don’t necessarily need one.

Pistol grips can certainly help with maneuvering and aiming your shotgun, but they shouldn’t be considered a substitute for a shoulder stock for absorbing recoil. I don’t recommend choosing a shotgun with just a pistol grip. If you do want a pistol grip, select a shotgun that features both the grip and the shoulder stock. 

Stocks on tactical shotguns are generally synthetic to reduce the weight of the weapon and improve the durability of the stock. They’re also generally matte black in color to help the gun blend into the dark. 


Speaking of weight, you want a shotgun that’s not too heavy to be manageable. On the other hand, a gun that’s too light can also be a problem.

You see, the lighter a gun is, the less it absorbs recoil. Even though semi-auto shotguns have less recoil than manual shotguns, it’s still a good idea to pick a gun that’s hefty enough to help you out with the recoil. 

You’ll want to find a balance between recoil absorption and your ability to comfortably handle the weapon. I can’t tell you exactly where that balance is for you, but more semi-auto tactical shotguns weigh in between 6 and 8 pounds. 


You’ll also need to decide between 12-gauge and 20-gauge for your semi-automatic tactical shotgun. 

12-gauge is more popular, but 20-gauge is nothing to sneeze at either. 

12-gauge is the more powerful option and its stopping power is hard to beat. The problem is that stopping power comes at the expense of heavy recoil. The recoil of 12-gauge can be hard to manage, especially for those who are new to shotguns and even more experienced shotgun shooters with a smaller or weaker build. 

20-gauge is an excellent alternative for people who fall into that camp. It has significantly less power than 12-gauge, but still enough for defending yourself and your family. And the recoil is far easier to manage, so it’s great for beginners and others that find 12-gauge unwieldy. 

With that said, with practice and a proper stance, you may have an easier time handling the recoil of 12 gauge than you’d initially believe. It’s definitely worth trying out both before you commit. Fortunately, many gun ranges will have options in each that you can take for a spin. 

Whatever shotgun and gauge you go with, you’ll be able to choose from three main load types.

Birdshot is filled with many, many teeny tiny pieces of shot and, as you can probably guess, is primarily intended for shooting birds and other small game. It can also be used for clay pigeons, but it’s less than ideal for home defense, so it’s probably not what you want for your tactical shotgun. 

Buckshot contains larger pellets, most commonly with a 9mm diameter, though it’s available in a range of sizes. Again, the name gives away what it’s for: elk, deer, and assorted other medium game. You may notice that those types of animals are around the same size of an adult human and extrapolate that buckshot might be a good choice for home defense. And you’d be right.

The other option for home defense is slugs. Slugs are a single projectile weighing about an ounce. They have a longer range than shot, but obviously don’t give you the spread that shot does. The other issue with slugs is that they kick a lot. Shotguns already kick enough, so it’s probably easier for you to just opt for buckshot for home defense.


On a related note, you’ll also need to consider how much ammunition the shotgun can hold. 

Theoretically, more rounds are better for a tactical situation. However, after a certain point, magazines get too large and start to get in the way and generally become cumbersome. 

Fortunately, semi-auto tactical shotgun manufacturers are generally aware of this and try to compromise capacity and practicality, so most semi-auto tactical shotguns come with magazines that fit between 5 and 8 rounds.


Like with anything, you want your semi-auto tactical shotgun to be well-made and able to stand up to whatever is thrown at it.

Fortunately, buying a shotgun from a reputable manufacturer gives you some guarantee of the quality of the weapon, and all of the shotguns we recommend here come from quality manufacturers. 

Another way you can get an assurance of a semi-auto tactical shotgun’s durability is by looking at the materials from which it’s made. For example, look for a shotgun with metal components made from steel and synthetic furniture. 

Fortunately, most tactical shotguns are made with durability in mind.


Depending on your preferences and what you plan on using your shotgun for, you might want to be able to use some particular accessories. 

For example, if you’re looking for a competition shotgun, you’ll likely want to be able to mount scopes or other optics. For home defense, you’ll likely want a red dot, NVD, and/or tactical light.

Fortunately, most tactical shotguns are designed with those needs in mind. Many come with a Picatinny rail already mounted on top and most others come with the receiver already drilled and tapped for a scope mount.

If you want to be able to use a sling, you’ll want to make sure your shotgun allows you to mount one. 

Also Read: List of Top 5 Pistol Brands


Are Semi-Auto Shotguns Any Good?

Not only are semi-automatic shotguns any good, thanks to improvements in technology, but semi-automatic shotguns are also the best they’ve ever been.
In the past, semi-automatic shotguns have struggled with reliability compared to pump and break-action shotguns, particularly when using low-powered ammunition. However, in the past several years, designs have improved, making semi-auto shotties increasingly reliable. 
I’d no longer completely rule out semi-autos for situations where reliability is essential for safety, like home defense. They’re also very well-suited for tactical use and competitions. 
Semi-automatic shotguns have less recoil than manual shotguns, especially with a gas system. They also allow for a faster rate of fire than other shotguns. 

What Are the Top Tactical Shotguns?

The top tactical shotguns include:
Benelli M4 
Benelli M2 
Mossberg 930 SPX Tactical
Beretta 1301 Tactical
Stoeger M3500
Weatherby SA-08 Deluxe
Hatsan Escort SDX12

What Is the Most Powerful Tactical Shotgun?

It’s difficult to pin any specific tactical shotgun down as the most powerful. What I can do is say that as a category, 10-gauge tactical shotguns will be the most powerful tactical shotguns available.
But more power isn’t always good.
As we briefly discussed above, more power also means more recoil. 12-gauge already packs a punch, even with the lighter recoil of a semi-auto. 10-gauge is even worse. 
Plus, 10-gauge rounds are bulky so it’s not easy to carry spares on your person.
And to top it off, 10-gauge isn’t even better for taking down the targets you’re most likely to be encountering than 12-gauge is. Unless you plan on stopping vehicles, 12-gauge is plenty powerful enough. 
12-gauge ammo is also cheaper by far and much easier to find in stores. 
Bottom line: 10-gauge tactical shotguns are more of a novelty for the range than a practical tactical weapon. 

Final Verdict

Hopefully by now, with the information we’ve given you here, you know everything you need to know to choose the best semi-automatic tactical shotgun for you and your needs.

Our top pick is the Benelli M4 Tactical Shotgun. If semi-auto tactical shotguns were cars, the M4 would be a high-end sportscar. It’s even Italian. 

This shotgun is precisely designed for top-of-the-line performance, not just for home defense, but also for hunting and competition. 

The ARGO action is reliable while producing minimal recoil. The heavier weight of the shotgun helps manage recoil even further, while the pistol grip and comfortable stock help you manage the shotgun’s weight. 

The 18.5-inch barrel is maneuverable in close quarters, while the modified choke increases the 12-gauge shot’s effective range. 

All of that said, there’s not a single bad shotgun on this list and you can’t go wrong with any of them. We’ve put together a versatile list for you, with shotguns of a wide range of prices and various combinations of features like pistol grips, Picatinny rails, sights, and more. 

There’s sure to be at least one semi-auto tactical shotgun here that’s right for you and with the info we’ve provided, you should have everything you need to find that perfect gun.

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