If I Could Only Have One: Shotgun Edition


In the continuing series “If I Could Only Have One”—click here to read last week’s article about revolvers— I am looking at shotguns. When we look at the shotgun, we have many good choices.

We also have the inevitable feeling that perhaps the shotgun might be the only gun we would have if we could only have one firearm.

While a handgun is needed for concealed carry, home defense, area defense and hunting may be accomplished with the shotgun.

A shotgun is a versatile firearm.

Just the same, if you are limiting the shooter to just one firearm, it is like asking a mechanic to limit himself to one tool!

But then, some mechanics use a wrench instead of a ratchet to maintain a feel for the job, and some shooters feel that the shotgun is a great choice for most uses.

They will take game, protect the home, and even if it is overkill for small game, it is enough gun.

My primary chore is personal defense with the shotgun. That limits the choices. But then, some are versatile enough for home defense and hunting.

An advantage of the shotgun, is that a sturdy and reliable example may be had for less than the price of a similar quality handgun or rifle.

shotgun ghost ring sight
A set of aperture sights that offer easy adjustment are a desirable feature.

Primary Deciding Factors

When I look at a shotgun, there are two primary choices: the action type and the gauge.

I prefer a pump-action or a semi-automatic.

Single-shot shotguns and double-barrels are fine for sporting use, but I prefer more shells in the magazine.

I also like a shotgun that handles like a shotgun.

The modern AK and AR types are ok for folks that invest in training and learning to handle the rifle-like shotgun.

They come with commonality with the AR rifle in handling. For myself, I like a conventional stock and forend, although a pistol grip works fine.

Furniture with sufficient stippling and abrasion will aid in handling. An important choice is the shotgun gauge.

While the 20-gauge is a fine choice, I like the 12-gauge. There are many more choices in loads and the 12 hits harder, no denying this.

The 20-gauge hits hard enough with some loads. I am able to find 12-gauge when I cannot find any other shell.

12-gauge buckshot package federal
12-gauge shells are plentiful and effective.

A Note About Tactical Shotguns

Tactical shotguns are useful for hunting.

When it comes to turkey and wild boar, a relatively short barrel shotgun with aperture sights or a red dot are ideal for hunting.

So, the tactical pistol-grip shotgun isn’t ruled out for both defensive use and hunting.

A number of fairly affordable modern shotguns are supplied with choke tubes.

I think if I needed a defensive shotgun right now and could only find one of the least expensive shotguns without a choke tube I would be ok.

But, if I am going to make it work for every chore, I would really need choke tubes. A word to the wise, pattern your buckshot!

Buckshot isn’t as dependent on chokes as lighter shot. So, a tactical-type shotgun with choke tubes is getting to the top of the list. 

12-gauge shotgun
Choose a self-loading shotgun that is well-made, offers good sights and is fast handling.

If I Could Only Have One Shotgun: My Choice

A common truck gun is the Remington 870. I own a well-worn version that certainly will get the job done.

I have added the new XS sights magazine extension to give me a little more reserve. The balance is improved and the shotgun is even more formidable.

But this is a spare and one that rides in the truck.

For a single shotgun to be all that it can be, I would prefer a quality self-loader with a good magazine capacity — five shells or more — aperture sights, and the real estate available to mount a red-dot sight or low-magnification scope.

A Benelli M4 might be the choice, but $2000 or more is pretty difficult to come by these days.

Several of the Turkish shotguns are reasonable stand-ins for the Benelli.

The Toros Copolla as an example, and in my opinion, is fully-capable as a stand-in for the Benelli.

In fact, the trigger action is actually smoother than the Benelli and an extended trigger guard is another improvement.

The Toros offers outstanding performance at less than $1000. I like this a great deal.

From the aperture sights to the choke tubes, this is a formidable shotgun.

12-gauge shotgun
Another Toros Copolla variation.

If you need a good firearm, there are several options among shotguns that will serve well for personal defense and all-around outdoors use.

Some are quite inexpensive. I have made my choice, and the right shotgun for you may be just around the corner.

Consider whether hunting or personal defense is the primary concern. This may be the golden age of affordable quality.

What shotgun would you choose if you could only have one? Let us know in the comments below!

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