18 ½” BARREL:
Shortest length shotgun allowed by law is 18” long, so to still keep it short but not dangerously close to the illegal (without a special difficult-to-obtain permit) short-barreled shotgun, manufacturers produce the 18 ½” length.
Most shotguns are equipped with interchangeable barrels. If you have a 20” barrel on a shotgun, you can still buy an 18.5” and use it for its appeal as a good close-quarters weapon and accuracy.
PUMP ACTION OR AUTOLOADER:
Depending on your desire to fire semi-automatically and how much you’re willing to spend, either on of these styles are ideal for home defense.
To keep your options open, get a shotgun that has a 3” capacity chamber. You’ll likely be mostly firing 2 ¾” rounds, but since you can always fire a smaller round but never a larger round having a 3” chamber allows for greatest versatility.
NO CHOKE CYLINDER BORE:
This concerns the design of the interior of the barrel and whether it has a choke or not. The choke creates a slight restriction in the barrel diameter to force the shot pattern together which creates a tighter spread. A choke is great for hunting when you’re wanting to aim carefully and hit the target without having shot pellets scatter about uselessly.
Despite the misconception that a shot from a shotgun doesn’t really need to be aimed—just point in the general direction of your target and the wide spread of a buck shot is bound to hit—there is really only about an 8-10” spread from a choke-less 12 gauge firing buck shot, which is certainly narrow enough to miss a target in a time of urgency. It is the wide shot that makes a shotgun an ideal choice for home defense when compared to a rifle so be sure to make your shot as wide as possible and opt out of a barrel with a choke.
PLASTIC OR POLYMER FURNITURE:
The stock and fore end are called the furniture of the shotgun. In the past, this section used to be wood, but a good tactical gun of today usually uses black polymer for its furniture. Polymer is a much stronger construction than wood and so it can take quite a lot of abuse. Also, the appearance is matte in color and doesn’t reflect.
A finishing process on the metal that results in a matte black finish and non-reflective properties as well and making the weapon highly durable. Pretty much all shotguns have this process done.
With these few characteristics in mind you will be able to find yourself a suitable defense shotgun and be aware of what the different features are. There are several options available that will have all that you need—no modifications required—at a decent price.