We Rate the Best Tactical Shotguns

We Rate the Best Tactical Shotguns

Publushed by:

Mathew R Reed

Last updated:

Winner: Rock Island VR80

Short summary

The Rock Island VR80 is our pick for the best semi-automatic tactical shotgun and best in show. The 12-gauge gas-operated shotgun has a 5+1 magazine capacity, a hefty weight of 8.27lbs, and a 20-inch contoured barrel.

The VR80 comes with loads of features including two five-round magazines, flip-up sights, thumbhole stock, and a picatinny rail for plenty of customization.

What people loved about this tactical shotgun was that it looks and feels just like an AR-15.

If you’re hesitant about making the switch or testing out what a tactical shotgun is like, this will be music to your ears.

This simple change in configuration makes it so much easier to handle and fire without having to retrain yourself and learn a completely new gun.

Previous owners also commented on how well-made the VR80 is, and this is a testament to Rock Island and their commitment to quality.

Everything from the 7075 T6 aluminum used on the upper and lower receiver to the hefty weight that makes it feel durable enough to last decades comes together nicely.

The price of the VR80 from Rock Island is another major selling point for it and it means the average shooter can get their hands on a quality-made gun for a whole lot less.

As an added bonus, you get your gun covered by the brand’s limited lifetime warranty, so this quality has proven itself to be long-lasting as well.

Some people didn’t love the AR-style sights that Rock Island uses on the VR80, though, so it’s a matter of personal taste.

If you’re familiar with shotguns you might also feel confused as there doesn’t seem to be much need for this kind of tech, so swapping out to an open sight might do better. It’s still fun to give them a try though, even if you don’t want to keep them long term.

Another downside to this gun is it takes some time to break in and you need to use higher brass to get the job done.

There were quite a few reports from people attempting to break theirs in and having no luck, or finding that they have to go back and try something heavier after firing something initially. Although it’s a pain, it’s a minor downside when you consider what else the gun offers.

The VR80 from Rock Island is our favorite pick and the best tactical semi-auto shotgun by far. It’s exceptionally priced with loads of features and a build quality that’s usually seen on firearms twice its cost.

This gun comes with a limited lifetime warranty and some exceptions, which makes it even better value for money. If you’re looking for a weapon with the AR-15 feel but all of the practical benefits of a shotgun, the VR80 is the way to go.

Quick Facts

  • Caliber: 12 gauge
  • Capacity: 5+1
  • Weight: 8.27lbs

Pros

  • Gas-operated
  • Feels like an AR-15
  • Can last for decades

Cons

  • Difficult to break it in

Runner Up: Benelli M4 Tactical Shotgun

Short summary

Benelli is one of the most respected names in the firearms world and if you’re looking for a premium tactical shotgun, their M4 is the way to go. This 12 gauge gas-powered shotgun uses the A.R.G.O system developed by Benelli with self-cleaning pistons and a 5+1 magazine.

Other noteworthy features include its pistol grip style stock, Picatinny rail, ghost-ring rear sight and fixed-blade front sight, just to name a few.

This tactical shotgun has some of the best accuracies you’ll find on a firearm today, and especially for rapid firing.

There are lots of elements that come together to give it this precision that shooters were thrilled to find, including the pistol grip and gas piston operation.

During testing, it fared very well for group shots and rapid-fire, so if this suits how you want to use your gun, it’s a smart buy.

Another major selling point that people raved about was the recoil or lack thereof, and not surprisingly this also helped them with accuracy.

The Benelli M4 Tactical Shotgun has amazing recoil distribution so you hardly feel a thing after you take the shot.

When done in rapid succession it’s especially beneficial which means no matter what you’re firing at or how many rounds it needs, your M4 will handle it.

Finally, the Benelli M4 also scored points for its ruggedness, and if you plan on using it outside of the home, you’ll be thankful.

As this gun was specifically made for the US Marine Corps, you can do whatever you want with it, including dropping in the mud, and it’ll still be standing.

The gas piston system used in the M4 is capable of self-cleaning and it’s easy for the user to poke around in as well.

However, it wasn’t all good news, as there were some downsides worth noting that were made even obvious because of the price.

The M4 is a gas-powered shotgun which means it needs more attention and a lot of cleaning. Those looking for a low-maintenance firearm will want to move along because this gun demands extra care.

Another negative is the huge price tag and how this gun is likely out of reach of the average shooter.

Of course, choosing the best tactical shotgun under $300 would be very different from what you get with the Benelli, and it’d be nowhere near as impressive, but if you’re only looking for a basic shotgun there’s no need to spend this much.

The Benelli M4 Tactical Shotgun is one for the ages and as soon as it was released, it achieved legendary status.

The price is high and it requires a lot of upkeep to ensure it’s in working order, but if you want nothing less than the best, these things won’t turn you off.

The Benelli M4 is one of our favorite tactical shotguns for many reasons, and we guarantee it will be yours as well.

Quick Facts

  • Caliber: 12 gauge
  • Capacity: 5+1
  • Weight: 7.8lbs

Pros

  • Self-cleaning
  • Pistol grip style stock
  • Incredible accuracy

Cons

  • Expensive

Alternative: Rock Island VR80-A

Short summary

This slightly different version of the classic VR80 from Rock Island has all of its best features including folding post front sight and adjustable folding rear sight, 5+1 round capacity, and the ability to take either 2 3/4 inch or 3-inch shells.

The VR80-A has a stunning Flat Dark Earth finish, Picatinny rail, reversible charging handle, and a unique spiral fluted barrel shroud, all adding to the final look.

As with the classic VR80, this one is also designed to operate like an AR-15 which a lot of people love.

If you’re brand new to shotguns or just prefer the feel of a rifle and don’t want to give up the best parts of your shotgun, Rock Island has found a way to combine both worlds in one simple package.

Another great thing about this shotgun is its fit and finish, including the Flat Dark Earth Cerakote on the upper and lower receiver that earns it its higher price tag.

Not only does it look the part, but it covers the 7075 T-6 aluminum that the brand favors when making their shotguns, and it means you’ve got yourself a gun that will last the ages.

Unlike its plainer cousin, the VR80-A 12 Gauge Shotgun from Rock Island isn’t one of the cheaper options out there for a tactical shotgun, but it’s still mid-range in cost.

Because of its FDE finish, it costs a couple hundred more than the original, which may be enough to turn some buyers away.

As there don’t appear to be many other changes from this version, you can save yourself some money and get the matte black instead.

Customers also noted that the VR80-A was tougher to break in than other shotguns they’d owned.

You’ll need to use a variety of shells to make sure it’s done correctly and spend a lot of time with the gun before making it a part of your home defense strategy.

While not necessarily a major downside, it can be a hindrance for those who want to start using it right away.

The VR80-A 12 Gauge Tactical Shotgun from Rock Island is one of the most visually impressive firearms on the market, and although it’s priced a little higher than its predecessor, you might the visual improvement worth it.

This is a dream come true for those who prefer the AR-15 style ergonomics with the benefits of a shotgun, so consider the VR80-A if you’re looking for a unique touch.

Quick Facts

  • Caliber: 12 Gauge
    Capacity: 5+1
    Weight: 8.27 lbs.

Pros

  • Folding sights
  • Reversible charging handle
  • Flat Dark Earth finish

Cons

  • Difficult to break it in

Alternative: Tristar Sporting Arms KRX Tactical Shotgun

Short summary

Tristar Sporting Arms have developed a budget-friendly and powerful shotgun with their semi-automatic KRX Tactical. This AR-style shotgun uses a removable choke system and features a full-length Picatinny rail and bridge front sight.

Other features include the two swivel studs, two five-round mags that are box fed and bottom loading, and a removable carrying handle, making it even better value for money.

What makes this a standout is the choke system, and for this gun specifically, they’ve used the Beretta/Benelli Mobil threads.

Along with the attached choke, you get an additional extended tactical choke that you can use as you need.

Having these two options for an AR-style tactical shotgun in this price range is impressive in itself, let alone the other features it offers.

Fans of this firearm also noted that it was one of the most comfortable shotguns they’ve ever used, and not just because it’s crafted with AR-style controls.

For your relief, Tristar Sporting Arms has included a rubber recoil pad and injection molded stock and forearm onto this gun which means even with hours of use, you’ll still be comfortable.

This is one of the most affordable tactical shotguns on the market and it’s built like something that costs a lot more.

Tristar Sporting Arms has done a good job keeping the most important features and solid construction while offering it at a lower price point.

There are loads of extras you wouldn’t normally find on a cheaper gun like carrying handle, removable choke system, and removable magazine, which people were thrilled to discover.

One of the major complaints about this shotgun is that the stock is connected to the receiver and molded to it, with no way to remove or replace it.

Although the stock on the KRX Tactical isn’t that bad, it’s not going to be the right fit for everyone, and having the option to replace it would have been a major selling point.

This lost it some of its worth as far as customization was concered and likely contributed to its lower price.

Another negative that people mentioned was that it only works with 3″ loads, so don’t attempt to cycle any 2 3/4″ through it otherwise you’ll have an issue.

Also, as detailed on the box that the manufacturer packs the gun in, the break-in period for this requires magnum loads run through it before you attempt to fire a field load, so don’t waste your time doing anything else.

The Tristar KRX Tactical comes with a five-year warranty which is a nice bonus for a cheaper gun, and it highlights just how well this has been made on a budget.

The KRX has a few design flaws that could have made it easier to personalize, but overall it’s an exceptional tactical shotgun with lots to offer in performance and operation, without having to spend a fortune.

Quick Facts

  • Caliber: 12 gauge
  • Capacity: 5+1
  • Weight: 7.4lbs

Pros

  • Exceptional choke system
  • Comfortable
  • Recoil pad included

Cons

  • Stock is connected to the receiver

Alternative: TR Imports Silver Eagle

Short summary

The Silver Eagle Tactical Shotgun by TR Imports is an entry-level semi-automatic that uses a gas system for operation.

This 12 gauge shotgun has loads of features at a great price point.

These include adjustable fiber optic front sight, adjustable and removable rear sight, Picatinny rail, and points to attach a sling.

Working with commercial three-inch shells and including a two and five-round magazine, it’s a simple and affordable way to get your hands on a quality tactical shotgun and comes in two colors of either Cerakote or black.

The best thing about this tactical shotgun is its gas system which makes it one of the most reliable guns out there.

This system allows it to utilize all of the gas pressure possible so that cycling is smooth and consistent, which means the Silver Eagle Tactical can be depended on in an emergency.

If you’re looking for a home defense shotgun in the tactical area, this is one of the best and reasonably priced.

Another bonus of this shotgun from TR Imports is that it’s built tough to Turkish engineering standards, so even though it costs less, it features parts like strong muzzle brake unscrews and a solid steel muzzle bar.

You’ll also get a hard case included with the gun to store everything, and you can feel the instant you take it out of the box that it’s going to last.

You get two magazines included with this, but unfortunately only one of them has five rounds in it. The other is just two rounds which might seem pointless to some users.

Although you can mix and match these mags with the FR98/99 and BR-99 that T R Imports developed, it’s still a little lackluster when you see what the other tactical shotguns come with in terms of magazines.

There’s a button that needs to be pushed to feed the rounds as well, which some people found it hard to get used to.

Another downside to this is that the Turkish brand is one of the unknowns in the US. It’s hard to find much information on them and if you’re trying to order a replacement part or find the right accessories to match, you’ll be in for a challenging time.

If you want something simple and easy to customize, the SE122 Tactical might not be the best fit.

There are lots of features on offer in the Silver Eagle Tactical Shotgun by TR Imports, but it’s missing a few notable things as well.

If you want to save some cash and get a powerful and reliable tactical shotgun and don’t mind adjusting to the changes that this gun comes with, there’s a lot to be thrilled about with the TR Imports Silver Eagle Tactical.

Quick Facts

  • Caliber: 12 gauge
  • Capacity: 5+1/2+1
  • Weight: 7lbs13oz

Pros

  • Very reliable
  • Strong build
  • Adjustable sights

Cons

  • Difficult to find replacment parts

Tactical Shotgun FAQs

A tactical shotgun goes above and beyond what your regular shotgun can do, and whether it’s for hunting or home defense, these guns are favored by many.

If you’re still new to the capabilities of a tactical shotgun and need to learn the basics, check out these FAQs that can help.

What Is The Difference Between A Tactical Shotgun And Regular Shotgun?

A tactical shotgun is designed for use in close-range combat situations and they are usually easier to maneuver, have a shorter barrel, and may be lighter overall.

These shotguns have other differences including no choke or constriction on the muzzle, although there is some grey area in defining them.

How Accurate Is A Tactical Shotgun?

A tactical shotgun’s strong point isn’t accuracy and especially not at long range and from around 30 yards, they start to lose some of their ability to be precise.

That’s why these types of firearms are better suited to situations where up-close combat is required and the shooter is working in tight quarters, which makes them a popular choice for home defense.

What Shotgun Shells Do Police Use?

The most commonly used police ammunition for shotguns is 2-3/4 inch 12 gauge buckshot but it differs for each state.

Unlike standard shotgun shells, though, law enforcement ammunition may have been optimized for these settings and sometimes offer benefits like less recoil.

Is The Shotgun Obsolete?

The shotgun is still considered one of the most versatile firearms ever made and is utilized by millions of people for many reasons.

However, some believe that the modern rifle has overtaken the shotgun as the weapon of choice because it meets the requirements of today’s shooter better.

Power and Precision in Every Shot

There’s nothing that can compete with the power and precision of a tactical shotgun and if you’re looking for a versatile firearm that can do just about anything, you won’t want anything else.

Our recommendations for tactical shotguns give you just a glimpse of what the best of the best looks like, so consider adding one of these multipurpose shooters to your lineup.

4/5

Rock Island VR80

Gas-operated
Feels like an AR-15
Can last for decades

Mathew R Reed

Mathew R Reed is a professional gun seller who runs a dedicated gun store in the suburbs of Oakland, CA. A hardcore hunting enthusiast since childhood, Reed has ample experience with guns and accessories. He is the founder of ArmorHoldings.com and creates some of the most helpful gun-buying guides and explainers. If not in the gun shop, you can find him on the nearest hiking trail or nearby hunting spot.