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Letter Re: Recommendations on a 20 Gauge Shotgun?

Dear James:
I have been searching for a good quality 20 Gauge shotgun for home/retreat defense. I very much value your opinion and would like to know what make and model you would recommend. Also do you recommend a semi-auto or double barrel? What “extras” and accessories do you feel are the best? – Dr. Sidney Zweibel, Columbia P&S

JWR’s Reply:
In general, I much recommend a 12 gauge over a 20, unless you are very small-statured. 12 gauge shells are much easier to find (both now and post-TEOTWAWKI [1]), and they pack more of a wallop on the receiving end. There are also a lot of exotic shoyshell loadings available (such as CS tear gas) that are only available for 12 gauge.

I prefer pump actions. I would recommend a Remington Model 870 pump action. They come with 26″ or 28″ “bird” length barrels standard from the factory. OBTW, the Memsahib has owned both the Rem. 870 and Rem. 1100, both 20 gauge. Both were the “youth” models with short stocks. (The Memsahib is 5’2″ and weighs just 95 pounds.) She prefers the semi-auto action of the 1100, but it is generally agreed that they have reliability problems. John Satterwaite (the exhibition shooter) was quoted by a mutual friend as saying that he has three Model 1100s–“One to shoot, one as a spare, and one in the shop for repairs.” The Model 870 pump action, by comparison, is bomb proof. So if you opt for an 1100, get a LOT of spare parts!

In terms of accessories, I recommend that you get:
An 18 inch or 20 inch “riot” length spare barrel, threaded for choke tubes.
A full set of “Rem choke” screw-in choke tubes (including an Extra Full Choke tube for shooting rabbits or perched birds at maximum range)
An Uncle Mikes’ brand shell holder (The type with a Velcro closure flap)
An extra long sling (I prefer the M60 padded slings)
Locking quick detachable (QD) sling swivels. (The Uncle Mikes’ brand works fine.)
Sling swivels. (TOP mount a QD stud on the stock, and side mount in the swivel in the front so that the shotgun won’t flip upside down when carrying it assault style)
Choate brand magazine extension tube. (The end of a 6 or 7 round tube will be parallel with the muzzle of your gun’s riot length barrel.)
Some voluminous pouches to carry spare shells for your basic combat load. (Shotshells are very bulky.)