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The ideal home defense shotgun would consist of a short barreled model, 18- to 22-inches, chambered for 12- or 20-gauge.  Recommended action would be pump or autoloader.  

High quality pump action shotguns offer a distinct advantage over autoloaders in the sense that their operation tends to be mechanically reliable, even under the worst of adverse conditions.  They often represent the best choice for a home defense application because they can be stored or carried in a relatively safe condition:  magazine loaded, chamber empty, safety on, hammer down.  

From this state the pump can be brought to bear on an assailant very quickly.  There is no sound in the world quite as identifiable or as intimidating as the rhythmic "click-click" of a pump action shotgun being racked.  Again, in a home defense situation, the gun owner is cautioned to secure any loaded firearm, including a pump action shotgun, in a responsible manner.

A reliable, well made pump action shotgun can usually be purchased at a cost less than a comparable quality handgun.  Advantages of the shotgun are threefold.  There exists less danger of harming third parties through walls in the event of an errant shot; the potential for inflicting wound trauma to a criminal assailant is maximized, thus halting a violent confrontation quickly; and it is easier to hit one's attacker with a shotgun when compared to a handgun.     

A superior quality autoloader represents an acceptable alternative to the pump.  The action of the finer models tends to be flawless.  As with any autoloader, one must be careful after the initial shot not to inadvertently discharge the firearm.  

Practice unloading a cocked autoloader with a shell in the chamber.  Repeat the drill until it becomes second nature.  Naturally, do this routine in a safe place to allow for the potential of accidental discharge.  Always remember the primary rules of safety, and never touch the trigger until you are actually ready to shoot.

For versatility, it is desirable to select a shotgun with a receiver chambered for at least 3-inch Magnum shot shells.  This receiver will accommodate both 2-3/4-inch Standard and 3-inch Magnum shells, a worthy feature in the event ammunition ever becomes scarce.  The "Super Magnum" receivers now available will function with 2-3/4-inch, 3-inch, and 3-1/2-inch shells interchangeably. 

For home defense, however, use 2-3/4-inch shells.  The Magnum and Super Magnum loadings offer little incremental benefit in this type of application.  Their tremendous recoil makes shooting uncomfortable for many, a factor which inhibits follow up shot accuracy.  For the 12-gauge, shoot Standard 2-3/4-inch, 00 buck.  Shells for the 20-gauge should also be 2-3/4-inch Standard, loaded with #3 buck.

Accessories you might consider for a home defense shotgun include synthetic stock and fore ends (standard on some models), pistol grips, rifle sights (on deer barrels), bead sights (on field barrels), a sling (standard on some models), a means of securing spare ammunition, and a method of illuminating the point of aim during poor light conditions.

As a means of keeping extra ammunition handy, bandoliers are the best, shell holding stocks are acceptable, and side saddle shell caddies may be the least preferred due to their propensity to get in the way.  You may wish to attach  an extended magazine to the shotgun as a means of increasing ammunition holding capacity above factory standard.  These extensions are installed essentially without tools because they are machined to mate with the existing tubular magazine once the end cap is unscrewed.  An extension can add up to five additional rounds of capacity to the existing magazine, depending on shotgun make, model and barrel length.

A means of illumination is desirable.  In defending one's residence, especially at night, you need to be absolutely sure of the intent of any intruder.  Is this a criminal invasion of your home, or has one of the older kids decided to make a surprise, unannounced visit?  Could it be a room mate who had car trouble?  Tactical lights are available which mount to the shotgun forearm, providing a means of positively identifying any night time intruder.  Such a light allows hands free operation,  in the event the worst has occurred and lethal force must be brought to bear in the defense of one's life.

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