Should You Have a Pump or Semi Auto Shotgun for Home Defense

You will get a lot of different answers if you ask someone if you should have a pump or semi auto shotgun for home defense. pump or semi auto shotgun for home defense

There are a couple types of shotguns that we are going to immediately dismiss for home defense. These are the single shot, double barrel and bolt action guns. One school of thought is that “simpler the better.”

I subscribe to the other school of thought – when going to a gun fight take all the gun with you you can. Single action, double barrel, and bolt actions guns simply do not give you the firepower needed to defend yourself, your family and your home.

Pump Action

The pump shotgun requires the operator to manually cycle the action which makes it very different from the semiautomatic pistols and rifles many people are accustomed to using. The majority of problems you will encounter with the shotgun will be the result of failing to properly cycle the action.

The operation of the pump shotgun can be broken down to four steps –

  • PRESS – press the trigger which fires the weapon and unlocks the action. If not firing, PRESS the action release to unlock the action without firing.
  • BACK – Pull the fore end all the way to the rear. You want to hear metal on metal.
  • RELEASE – Release the trigger
  • FORWARD – Push the fore end all the way forward to close the action

There are several advantages to a pump action gun. Number one is cost. You are going to find a good quality pump at about three quarters the price of a semi auto. Pumps tend to operate better in dirty conditions and take poor maintenance better. Pumps can handle the reduced recoil rounds that might cause a gas operated gun to jam.

Also since the pump in the mechanism that operates the chambering of the round, you can easier put folding and smaller stocks on the gun (semi autos sometimes extend gas tubes into the stock.)

Of course pump actions have disadvantages too. I have personally many times seen experienced shooters short stroke the pump in stress situations causing the weapon to jam. There is no cushion of the gas operation in a pump so the recoil is usually heavier in pump actions. Laying in the prone or behind cover will make it difficult to smoothly operate the pump if you can at all.

 Semi Auto

 The operation of the semi auto shotgun is similar to other semi auto weapons and can be generally categorized as –

  • The firing cycle begins with the shooter removing the safety and placing their finger on the trigger.
  • Press the trigger;
  • The round will fire and the action will open, extracting and ejecting the spent round;
  • A fresh round is released from the magazine to rest on the shell lifter (carrier);
  • As the action closes under the compressed tension of the recoil spring, the shell lifter raises the new round in line with the chamber and the bolt moves forward pushing the round ahead of it into the chamber.
  • The locking lug(s) engage as the bolt moves completely into battery;
  • Releasing the trigger will prepare the weapon for a follow up shot.
 Gas versus Recoil Semi Autos

Gas operated semi-automatic shotguns which have been in production since the early 1960’s. These operate similar to other gas operated weapons in that the gas pressure resulting from the burning propellant is scavenged off near the muzzle during the firing cycle. The high pressure gas is directed back via the gas cylinder and piston to the bolt assembly causing it to unlock and move to the rear. This initiates the extraction and ejection of the empty cartridge case. As the bolt returns forward under the compression tension of the action spring, a new round is fed from the magazine into the chamber. The action closes and the lug on the locking block assembly engages the corresponding notch in the receiver.

With recoil operated shotguns; when the weapon is fired, the force of the projectile(s) being propelled down the barrel causes an equal and opposite reaction against the bolt face. This causes the bolt to unlock and move to the rear extracting and ejecting the spent cartridge case. The recoil spring tension then causes the bolt to return forward which chambers a fresh round.

NOTE: The main advantage of a recoil operated weapon over a gas operated one is they stay cleaner and there is no gas system to adjust.

The overall advantages of a semi auto is that of reduced recoil due to cushioning of the operation which leads to the ability to fire more quickly and effectively. In addition, you will never short stroke a semi auto.

You still have the semi auto disadvantage of the expense and maintenance requirements.


All in all, I recommend if you can afford it I recommend a semi auto for home defense. Your family will thank you for the reduced recoil and you will never short stroke it when you really need it.

I found good video that talks further about pump or semi autos. Check it out an let us know what you prefer as far as shotguns.


  1. Noel Stephenson says:

    I will take the pump because if someone is in my house and they hear you rack the pump; and you do not hear a window breaking or a door slamming as they try to get out of there; then you know you are dealing with someone stupid or really high. Then you know that your will probiltiy have to take them out.

  2. Frank Gagstetter says:

    Remington 1100 12GA for me!! :) Never a miss fire!

  3. I agree, if the perp doesn’t run out the door or through the window when there’s the rack of the pump than he’s either crazy for not leaving, drugged up, or is carrying a whole lot more than you which he had thought out this already and you have been targeted. He already knows what you have or its a paid hit. Rare yes but possible.


  5. I would NEVER want to give away my location. Keep quiet.

    • Agree, bad ide to let them know you know.. In a firefight you want the element of surprise and you want to keep the initiativ. You should dictate the rules , not your opponent. My wife gets the Ruger mini and Mossberg 935 semiauto. I get the Mossberg pump and one of the Glocks. Then I go hunting.

  6. I keep my 870 loaded, one in the Chamber and safety On. I hope they CANT hear me as I click off my Vang Comp safety.

  7. Me I would like a double barrel “greener” with a hickory stock. If both barrels don’t get them, then I can beat you to death with it. ;-)

  8. im about to buy a shottie that can be both semi and pump……..spas 12 :)

  9. I prefer the reliability of the pump. My 870 police does the job nicely. Nervous about a semi in a defense situation. I’m surprised the author did not mention reliability differences between the pump and semi. Jus sayin.

  10. David Napier says:

    What you said about birdshot is false….a test was done with all shotgun shells, and at close range,like in a house, the shot shell, like no. 6 and 7 shot shell done the most damage….I took out my double 00 buck shot, and loaded mine with number 6 shot….this test was done on tv just a few weeks ago…..

  11. The semi automatic every time. Against a criminal with them most likely using a semi pistol you need speed with pellets in close range in a home invasion.imo

  12. jim johns says:

    got the semi under the bed, the pump in the livingroom under the couch, 00 buck in both. I’m ready

  13. I did my testing with buck and bird shot also pistol calibers 9mm ,40s&w,45 acp and rifle calibers 30-30, 5.56, 7.62×39 . I found 5.56 to be the best for home defence for me. With a 16 inch barrel ar15 it’s easy to get around the house .over penitrating is minimal and if the target is missed there is only 1 bullet not accounted for not a bunch of pellets in some thing they shouldn’t be. All the pistol calipers at close that I had tested with hallow point ammo did not expand every time and over penitrating was a problem. 55 grain 5.56 did the most damage with out over penitrating much at all

  14. What about a full-auto shotguns ( USAS-12 , AA-12 ) ?

  15. Single Barrel is the simplest hence it never gets jammed or short-stroken.. Best reliable and if youre a quick loader, it shoots quick, too. Happy safe days everyone..

  16. I have a pump for self defense, and since I have been using pumps for 25 years, I am very comfortable with it. I just like the fact that with a pump, you control exactly wether or not there is a shell chambered, without loosing your aim or control of the gun. If you are not familiar with a pump, go with a semi.

  17. One of the previous posters said, let them hear you rack the weapon. In my own experience, I’ve learned that making noise or using poor light control gives your position away.
    Trying to scare an intruder into leaving might work, but it has a greater chance of not working. Use every advantage you can in this situation including stealth.

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