October 2013

Affordable Defense Shotguns: Benelli, Stevens, CZ Compete

When one shot can mean the difference between life and death, reliable performance outweighs any price considerations. But we found that the best isn’t always the most expensive.

Unlike the conflicts with bad guys depicted on television and in the movies, a home owner in a self-defense situation will rarely fire more than one or two shots. In most cases, the owner of a firearm specifically designed to stop the threat of an intruder will never fire even one shot in their home because they will never be put in such a position.

With the caveat that there might be a slight possibility of a zombie apocalypse or another type of breakdown of society, most self-defense shotgun owners are simply looking for a little peace of mind and a lot of confidence that their firearm will perform in a capable manner when and if it is required.

Nevertheless, it is also a fact that self-defense shotguns have been and continue to be a very popular item in the firearms market. Models from basic slide-actions that have been slightly modified from their field version counterparts to highly adapted tools designed to meet the extreme needs of law enforcement and military users are among the available offerings.

At a reader’s request, we selected several new models of self-defense shotguns that carry low to moderate price tags and pitted them against one of the popular veteran self-defense shotguns to see how they would perform. The 12-gauge pumpguns in our test included the Benelli Super Nova Tactical No. 29155 pump-action 12 Gauge, $559, which has been a self-defense staple for years, and the recently introduced Stevens Model 320 Home Defense No. 19495, $270; the CZ Model 612 Home Defense No. 06520, $290; and the CZ Model 612 HC-P No. 06510, $349.

All of the short-barreled pump-action shotguns are designed for a specific need and purpose — self defense — and do not easily lend themselves to other uses, such as hunting in the field or busting clay targets.

As one veteran gunsmith in our group noted: “Most of these shotguns will not have a box of shells fired through them in a year and a lot won’t have more than a half-dozen boxes shot in them during a lifetime.”

With this truism in mind, we limited our field testing of the four shotguns to firing at paper targets on the range and did not attempt any evaluation of how the shotguns would handle clay targets or birds in the air. These self-defense firearms are designed to be fired more like a rifle than a scattergun, so it would be unfair to judge them on the qualities found in high-dollar, better-balanced firearms that have a place in the field and on clay-target ranges.

Sticking with the types of ammunition that would handle most self-defense situations, we put the four shotguns through patterning and performance tests with a variety of shotgun shells. The ammo selection in our shooting bag included Remington ShurShot Heavy Dove 2.75-inch loads packing 1.125 ounces of No. 6 shot with an average muzzle velocity of 1,255 fps; Federal Power-Shok 2.75-inch loads with 27 pellets of No. 4 buckshot and an average muzzle velocity of 1,325 fps; and Winchester Super-X 2.75-inch 1-ounce rifled hollowpoint slugs with an average muzzle velocity of 1,600 fps.

When putting patterns on paper, we utilized the recently introduced Birchwood Casey Eze-Scorer 12x18-inch Transtar Blue and BC27 Green Silhouette Targets and the 23x35-inch Bad Guy, all on non-reactive paper. The targets, set at ranges of no more than 20 feet (typical of a home-defense situation), allowed us to realistically and effectively evaluate the performance of the test shotguns. We fired the Federal Power-Shot No. 4 buckshot at two targets, first at the Birchwood Casey Bad Guy set downrange at 20 feet and then at the Birchwood Casey Transtar Blue or BC27 Green Silhouettes about 10 feet to the side of the Bad Guy. The Remington ShurShot No. 6 shot was fired at the chest and head area of the Bad Guy targets, followed by a Winchester Super-X slug as a head shot.

It should be noted that all of the ammunition fired in the short-barreled shotguns produced quite a punch on both ends. These are not the type of firearms designed for extensive time on the firing range unless the shooter is immune from recoil. For the sake of our shoulders, a few rounds fired with each variety of ammunition were all that we deemed necessary for our evaluation. Here are the test results:

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