Sub-$300 Home Defense Shotgun Project

So for some time now, I’ve been keeping an eye out for an affordable shotgun for home defense.  And by “affordable”, I mean “as cheap as possible without being made of cardboard.” I had the following criteria:

  1. It must hold a minimum of five rounds.  Not too difficult.
  2. It must be completely, totally, and in all other ways legal. (duh)
  3. It must be a 12 gauge.
  4. It must have a shoulder stock (I detest “pistol grip” shotguns, as they are difficult to control.)
  5. The total price tag must come in under $350, including accessories. At a minimum, this meant a light and a shell holder of some sort.

Well, I had resigned myself to waiting for quite some time to find the right deal when, lo and behold, it jumped up and sat on my lap.  A good friend of mine had a Mossberg Maverick 12ga he needed to get rid of, having the enviable problem of having more guns than he had room in his safe.  We met, I checked it out, and we agreed on a reasonable price.

Maverick 88

The gun as I bought it.

Luck was on my side in the form of my amazing and altogether too-good-for-me wife, who readily agreed that it would make a perfect birthday gift for me.  So, money burning a hole in my hot little hands, I met with my friend at a local dealer who had agreed to do the exchange. (Side note: This step was not technically necessary, but my buddy is a former police officer, and he likes to have a solid record of how every weapon is disposed. Since he agreed to cover the transfer fees, I had no problem with this.)  Unfortunately, the earliest day we were both available happened to be Black Friday.

Holy crap on a stick, was that little gun store hopping!  I think every other person in the city was buying a gun that day. The NICS system, which is usually pretty fast and painless, was an abomination of delays and down time. We stood outside smoking pipes and shooting the breeze for over an hour while the poor, utterly harried and severely underpaid staff tried desperately to get through to NICS on the phone.  Still, eventually we did get through, and I was on my way home with my new shotgun.

Since the gun was originally bought and set up as a field gun, I had some modifications to make.  First, I added a light.  The very same dealer we did the transfer through is a friend of mine that I do some computer support for, and he provided me with some “samples” from a dealer of a mount and flashlight he’d decided not to carry, since the local China-mart could sell them for about half his cost. Bingo, I now had a free mount and light.


light mount

NEBO Protec Long Gun Mount

The mount is a NEBO Protec long gun mount.  It clamps onto the tubular magazine, and will hold any 1” diameter light. It’s simple to install, and holds any 1” light securely. It will position the light so that it can be easily activated with my left (pump) hand, which I prefer to a pressure-switch mounted on the gun.

I know right about now someone is having a stroke because this isn’t “tactical” enough.  Well, get over it.  In my experience, simple is better, and that long cord looks like a wonderful opportunity for Mr. Murphy to come along and diddle me at the worst possible time.

To be honest, the light is no great shakes. The switch has an annoying “SOS strobe” mode, which means that in order to turn the light completely off, you must push the switch three times. Still, it’s aluminum and LED, so it should withstand the pounding. I’ll be replacing it later with something a little more suitable as funds allow.


I found a five shell, elastic buttstock carrier at Academy Sports.  Five rounds—a full load—on the gun ready to go, for four bucks and change.  ‘Nuff said.


Allen brand 5 shot shell elastic buttstock carrier.


Next up, what to do about that big honkin’ 28” barrel? I didn’t want to cut it down, as I can easily see needing a field barrel in the future. Besides, no matter how well you dress and reblue the cut end afterwards, there’s always a good chance it can rust on you.  So, to find a new barrel.

I wanted the short (18.5”) barrel, but here I ran into the nefarious influence of my arch-nemeses, the Tacticool tribe.  My first go-to for anything I buy online is Ebay, and this was no exception.  However, most of the short barrels on Ebay were these ridiculous things:

standoff barrel

Mall Ninja 9000 Tacticool shotgun barrel with super pointy bits


I can here them now: “It gives me another impact option to keep them off me. Plus it looks cool and scary!” Well, let’s address that.

If I need to hit you with a shotgun, the butt end works just fine. Besides, I’m sure I can jab hard enough with the plain barrel to move just about anyone back, although “poking” with the barrel of the gun is pure move BS, and a damned good way to get disarmed.

As to being “scary”; if the business end of a 12ga shotgun isn’t scary enough as-is, then a few pointy bits won’t help.

So, I continued to search for the proper barrel.  I found it at Cheaper than Dirt, who shipped it post-haste.  As with most everything from them, it was ridiculously well-packaged, and arrived in pristine condition.

Finally, everything was coming together. Here’s the breakdown:

  1. One Maverick model 88 12 gauge, purchased very lightly used at $150.
  2. One NEBO light mount and flashlight, obtained free (retail at about $20 from the local China-mart)
  3. One Mossberg replacement barrel, total cost after shipping: $90
  4. Allen brand 5-shell carrier, $4.

So, I ended up building my ideal home defense shotgun (and I stress that it’s “my” ideal) for $244. ($264 if I had purchased the light and mount.)

HD shotgun

My home defense shotgun for under $300

Thoughts?  Besides snickering that it isn’t “tactical” enough, that is?