Stevens Model 320 Security Shotgun, by Pat Cascio

Not all shotguns are created equal. Some are meant for sport hunting, and some are designed for self defense. Today we’re checking out the Stevens Model 320 Security shotgun.


A lot of people find most shotguns pretty boring, and I might just be in that crowd these days. There are so many different models and makes of shotguns out there, and many look the same as the next one or the one before it. Most folks who purchase a shotgun do so with the thought of upland bird hunting or water fowl hunting. I have no problem with that at all. It’s a great sport to get involved in.

Home Protection

Then there are preppers and just plain ol’ home owners who want something a bit “more” for home protection than what a handgun affords them. They chose to go with what we used to commonly call a “riot shotgun”. I’m not quite sure how the short(er) barrel shotgun earned that title, other than I know more than a hundred years ago police were using the short barrel shotgun to quell some labor involved riots that turned into street warfare. Still, many police departments issue a short barrel shotgun, usually with an 18-inch barrel for officers to carry in their patrol cars. It is a force multiplier when you are in a solo patrol car. And it is comforting to have this “partner” close at hand.

Made By Savage Arms

The Stevens Model 320 Security Shotgun under review today is made by Savage Arms. In case you didn’t know, Savage manufactures long guns– rifles– for hunting and long range shooting competition, and their off-shoot– Stevens– is the main maker of their shotguns.

If On a Budget and For Home Defense

Many law enforcement agencies tend to go with the Remington Model 870 shotgun or a Mossberg Model 500 shotgun for their patrol cars, and I don’t have a problem with that. To each his own; however, the Stevens line-up of shotguns shouldn’t be overlooked, especially if you are on a budget and are looking at a shotgun for home defense, or whatever your needs might be.

Overview of the Stevens Model 320 Security Shotgun

The Stevens Model 320 Security Shotgun comes in 12 GA, which is pretty much the standard chambering in a shotgun designed for security/law enforcement work. Additionally, there is a wide selection of 12 GA ammo out there that will fill your needs, from birdshot for target practice to 00 Buckshot for serious self defense, to a rifle slug for taking some of the biggest game around.

Barrel, Dual Slide Bars

The 320 comes with an 18.5-inch barrel, and it can chamber either 2¾-inch or 3-inch magnum shells. I’ve never seen the advantage to going to the heavier recoiling and much more expensive magnum shells, and most law enforcement stick with the 2¾-inch shells. However, it’s good to know that the 320 can take the bigger shells. However, be advised your magazine tube will be downloaded by one round, because the magnum shells are longer and the magazine only holds 5-rds plus one in the chamber of 2¾-inch shells.

I like the dual slide bars on the Stevens Model 320 for fast action. Some pump shotguns only have a single slide bar. If you find yourself “pumping” the slide bar too fast you can literally bend the single slide bar, putting your shotgun out of service, which is not a good thing to have happen. The 320 also has a proven rotary bolt that operates smoothly. That’s a very nice touch. Their magazine tube is bottom loading, and ejection is from the right side of the receiver. The barrel material is carbon blue, and the receiver is aluminum with the stock manufactured out of black synthetic material for the roughest weather.

Pump Forearm

The pump forearm itself is also black synthetic, and, this is my one complaint– it is too long. You can’t mount a side shell carrier with five or six rounds on the left side of the shotgun. Otherwise, when you pump the action to chamber another round, it won’t allow you to do so. The rear portion of the pump forearm will hit a side saddle carrier. I was able to place a side saddle carrier with two rounds on the rear of the receiver and another shell carrier than holds 6-rds of spare ammo on the right side of the butt stock, plus a sling on the shotgun as well.

With a little bit of gunsmithing, you can easily trim part of the length off the pump action synthetic forearm, and that will allow mounting of 5 or 6 spare shotgun shells on the left side of the receiver. I’m not quite sure why Stevens made the forearm so long; however it is an easy task to shorten it, if you so desire.

Rubber Butt Pad

A nice rubber butt pad is on the butt, and it is welcome when shooting 00 Buck shot or heavy slugs. Additionally, the “pistol grip” area has a nice molded-in design on it that allows a really great hold when the weather is bad. That’s a nice touch, if you ask me. Also, we have the traditional front bead sight on the front top of the barrel. The safety is in front of the trigger guard, which works great for right-hand users but is a bit slower for left hand users. A tang mounted safety would be fast into action. However, the safety is really quick to push to the “on” position for right-handed users.

Never Failed To Perform

I fired a variety of 12 GA shells through the Stevens 320, everything from skeet loads, to the heaviest 00 Buck shot and heavy slug loads, and the gun never failed to perform, no matter how fast I pumped the action. I don’t really do “accuracy” testing with a shotgun, not even with slugs. Instead, we see how the gun will “pattern” for us, how many BBs or pellets can group on a target at different distances.

A Close-in Use Weapon

I like to think of the “riot shotgun” as a close-in use weapon. With that said, I believe that, when loaded with 00 Buck shot, the maximum range you can reasonably hit a man-sized target in the vitral areas is 25-30 yards. Anything beyond that, and the pellets start to really open up and miss the torso on the target. Also, the pellets that miss go down range, and they might hit an innocent person. So, we have to always be aware of what is behind and beyond our intended target. Some will say they can hit a deer sized target at 100-yards with a front bead sight. Good on them. I can’t do it. That is pushing the limits of the round and my abilities. If something is that far down range, I’ll reach for a rifle.

Have a Good Pump-Action Shotgun in Your Battery

I used to recommend a good “riot shotgun” as your first purchase, if you are getting into prepping or survival. However, while I believe you should still have a good pump-action shotgun in your battery, it shouldn’t be your first purchase based on the range limitations it offers you. If you are on a serious budget, I recommend a good little .22 LR rifle of some sort, because you can really reach out there with it, and ammo is still inexpensive, all things considered. Also, you can carry thousands of rounds of .22 LR ammo on your person, if forced to. However, with a shotgun, you can only carry so much weight at any given time, and that’s not a good thing. This article isn’t about selecting which guns for prepping but a test of the Stevens Model 320.

A Lot of Shotgun for the Money

In my neck of the woods, you can often find a Stevens Model 320 “riot shotgun” on sale for $169, and that’s one heck of a bargain for a really decent shotgun that will take care of a lot of your needs. Other similar shotguns can easily set you back double or triple that amount of money, and none of us are rich. So we make our choices based on our income, and we want the best our dollars can buy. The Stevens Model 320 is a lot of shotgun for the money and will serve your needs for years to come.


  1. With all of today’s pistols and AR-15s, shotguns just aren’t sexy. But many of us grew up with shotguns.

    A shotgun loaded with buckshot would be my weapon of choice in a target-rich environment (think urban). This is especially if the bad guys are wearing body armor. You can take them out of play long enough to escape ALIVE. ‘Alive and free’ is good.

  2. Ya I know, “They aren’t Sexy”, but a 4’10” frail granny can take out a 6’3″ linebacker, with his “pretty, sexy, handgun”….. people need to start thinking about functionality over “pretty, high priced, I want to impress my buddies”, type firearms. I’m an old grunt…give me an old M14 with 20 rounds and you can have any fancy 223 you like with as many rounds as you like, put a thousand yards between us and you will never get in range. Same thing with granny, give her a 12GA with 00 buck and don’t get within range with that fancy handgun!

  3. I use my 12 GA 18″ as protection when horeback riding and camping in the mountains
    where there are known to be griz and black bears that like my campsite and food as much as I do. Not to mention they will run off the horses and now it is Shanks Mare time.

    1. Well Vern, I sincerely hope you don’t run into an unhappy griz when all you have is your 12 GA. I’ll bet he/she would have her way with you and your food.

      1. So, jf a a 12 bore chock full of naught naught buck, or half dozen .69cal punkinball isn’t enough gun for griz… what is? A poodle shooter?
        I mean, we all know how dangerous that high powered, tank Killin .22 is.

  4. The economy of a shotgun goes well beyond the purchase price, there is also ammo cost. A round of buckshot cost less than a dollar and usually sends eight or twelve lethal projectiles downrange; that is much cheaper than any 8 rifle rounds! There is also the tactical advantage of eight or twelve buckshot pellets heading towards the target with each pull of the trigger. That is 48 to 72 projectiles with only six trigger pulls! Choose any attack weapon you like, if you are within 45 yards of a competent shot gunner you are at a serious disadvantage! If he has slugs you are in danger even at 100 yards or more!

  5. Everyone should have a shotgun. A very deadly weapon that can do so much with various loads. Help feed you or defend you. My funny memory is of a stranger visiting and seeing my shotgun, They kept saying “that’s a street sweeper” They kept saying it over and over. I think it scared the crap out of them. And it was just leaned up against the wall in a corner!

  6. The stevens 320 security model is a real turd. Spend a little more and go with a Mossberg 500/590 or a Remington 870. After owning a Stevens 320 for a few weeks, it had to go. Cycling issues, fit and finish issues. If a brand new mossberg/remington pump action is too expensive, buy one used, It will most defiantly be a major upgrade than the stevens 320 security turd.

  7. RE: 2 3/4″ vs 3″ ammunition – if one chooses to use 3″ for the extra shot capacity, it is very beneficial to test every 3″ round – manufacturer, shot size, shell type – one plans on using (plus ones not intended, because one never knows what ammunition one may be forced to use because of availability problems). Some shotguns are a bit tight on the ejection port size and/or contours, and ejection timing. Once the shell has been fired the crimp opens up, extending the length of the to-be-ejected empty shell, which sometimes causes ejection problems, especially if the action on a manually-operated shotgun is not operated in a sufficiently forceful manner. It’s also beneficial to deliberately mis-stroke the manual action with all intended ammunition to discover if there are user-induced ejection problems.

    And, don’t forget to pattern each and all of the intended loads at the anticipated usage distances; a 9-pellet 00 buck from manufacturer X will probably pattern differently from that of manufacturer Y.

  8. Like I told my like minded buddy once when he was biased against the using the .223/5.56 NATO round because of his reading/knowledge of that round tumbling, twisting and angle changes through flesh or objects, I made this reply to him…” if you think this or that round is ineffective at any range, are you willing to stand in front of that projectile when fired at you”?

    Made my point with him. It’s been said many times before, the best round/caliber to have for self defence is whatever you have on you at the exact time you need it”.

    Was it Massad Ayoob? Check out his “dated” 1970’s video interviews on YouTube, some 1 hour long, some 1.5 hours. I am being crass when I say dated. Watch 2 or 3 of his video interviews on gunfighting and self defence and you should realize that some things just don’t change when it comes to self defence.

  9. Shotguns are the most flexible of firearms:with a barrel change you can hunt anything from doves,rabbit,squirrel,turkey,rabbit,up to deer,moose and bear even two legged pests. A selection of chokes makes a single barrel adjustable to multiple rounds and conditions. Don’t forget that ammo is also far more diverse than just bird,buck,slug there are also many specialty rounds from nonleathal bean bags,breaching,flamethrower to signal(starshell,parchute flare,tracer). Not to be forgotten is the intimidation factor,the sound of a pump being cycled will make almost anything change its course of action and the sight of looking down what looks like a cavern has serious psychological effects. Financially a used shotgun(most aren’t used hard(unless a dedicated skeet/trap 3gun shooter)makes a lot of sense you can buy 2-3 for the cost of a black rifle and reloading your ammo can lead to even more savings and flexabilty. Would like to see a comparison of reloaders for shot shells.

  10. A most excellent critique / review of the Stevens 320, Mr. Cascio leaves out nothing that’s need to know info for us consumers so that we are well armed with good information before considering a purchase on a model 320, and he sprinkles his interesting and thought provoking review with various other important tidbits of information, we always get the whole scoop when Mr. Cascio does a review, be it firearms or any number of other potentially life saving pieces of SHTF equipment.

    Yes, one can get a more expensive riot type shotgun if desired; however there is a fair sized group of people out there who happen not to be financially capable to purchase those higher end more prevalent name notable defense / riot type shotguns. Thanks for the very well detailed and practical information on this Stevens shotgun! I am seriously going to look at one of these as an extra added level of protection…….in my truck!

  11. The Rock Island M-5 is also an excellent bargain. Available in matt black, in addition to a very handsome all weather version. On the used market they can be found for well under 200.00 dollars. Brand new in the box will set you back between 200 and 250 clams. Reasonably priced extended magazines are also available online. They are one of the smoothest running tubes I have ever experienced and trust me when I say I have run them all. When properly operated they are utterly reliable as long as you don’t short stroke them. They can handle 3 inch Mags but I would stick with 2 3/4 inch loads. May you all have a blessed remainder of your evening……………… Out

  12. The Winchester Model 12, and Ithaca Model 37 both had single slide bars, and they are considered some of the best shotguns ever.
    imho, Mossberg was responsible for the single slide bar fiasco with the early 500s cheap steel bars which were known to bend if used roughly… Mossy had to wait for Remingtons patent to expire to redesign the 500.

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