Tricks and Tips to Building a Defense Shotgun on a Budget

With most of us watching our pennies, buying a long gun for personal defense is not as cheap and easy as it once was. Recently I decided to try to find a true budget shotgun for personal defense but my tight budget had me doing mostly window shopping. That is until I took a different route and brought home a great deal, one that can be repeated by anyone if they try hard enough.

Beforehand, I decided it would have to be a 12 gauge pump shotgun — but since my budget was so tight that even a new Mossberg 500 was out of the question, which to choose from?  I had to find another way. I went into a local gun shop and spotted a used Remington 870 Wingmaster 12 gauge. While in excellent shape, it came equipped with a thirty-inch full choke barrel, hardly something you would want in a personal defense gun. Still, it was a Remington 870 and I knew the parts for these are like Legos — you can mix and match like nothing else. I was able to get the gun for a whopping $260 which included tax out the door. Not a bad start.

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The first thing I did was to price new barrels versus cutting the existing barrel down to 20 inches or less. I really didn’t want to mess up a nice vent rib barrel, especially since the one on the gun was like new, but I personally had no use for it, so I decided to try my luck and put it up for sale on Ebay. To my surprise, I got far more than I expected. I had checked around a couple of online retailers that buy and sell used shotgun barrels and had been offered $75, but after the auction ended, the barrel sold for $125!


I found a Remington 870 Wingmaster 12 gauge with a long field barrel for a steal. All I had to do was find a shorter barrel and viola – a budget defense shotgun. (Photo: David LaPell)

With some new money in hand, I went shopping again. I could have gotten one of the new Made in China barrels for about $70 or so and pocketed the rest but I instead decided on a rifle sight, 20-inch smoothbore barrel in case I ever did decide to take this gun deer hunting. The cost? Exactly what I sold the long barrel for, $125. So to replace the barrel I had broken even.

Any good defensive shotgun needs a sling, but again since this gun could be used for hunting I went the traditional path and added a standard sling for the wooden buttstock and a magazine cap. The cost there was $15 total. I had been up to $275 in and once I purchased a sling I shot up to a whopping $290.

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