I’ve done my homework on these things and I’m ready to share all of my opinions.
Bullpup shotguns are quirky and eye-catching. They boast a couple of advantages too. In fact, a bullpup configuration naturally suits the role of a tactical shotgun well. A hypothetical home defense situation might demand the need for tight cornering, for instance, and a bullpup shotgun’s length is typically a little over half that of a traditional full-stock shotgun. Perhaps counter intuitively, a few shotguns on this list boast a high capacity (even higher than most traditional shotguns). As a result of their emerging capabilities, bullpup shotguns as a whole are expanding their market share of tactical shotguns. It’s worth noting they don’t sell well to hunters and skeet shooters (which is probably to be expected).
In ranking these guns, I’ve used a typical home defense situation where you would need to shoot buckshot about 10-15 yards away as a metric. Other typical civilian situations seem to be better suited for traditional guns (except maybe simply showing off a new toy).
Also, a disclaimer: All five of these shotguns were very similar in many categories. The distinctions that separate them are very tiny, and so the rankings had to be more subjective than I would’ve liked.
Top 5 Bullpup Shotguns
|Make/Model||What Makes it Stand Out||Details|
5. Mossberg 500/590 Bullpup
Intrinsic reliability, mitigates recoil, smooth pump action.
18.5" or 20" tactical-length barrel
4. Remington 870 Bullpup Conversion
Reliable, converts in an hour.
Pump grip guard; rails on top, side, and bottom.
Holds 12+1 2 3/4" 12-gauge ammo and 14+1 3" ammo.
Feeds from two different barrels.
2. Saiga 12 Kushnapup Conversion
Can fire one-handed.
1. Kel-Tech KSG Shotgun
Two feeding tubes for 7+7+1 rounds.
5. Mossberg 500/590 Bullpup
The Mossberg 500/590 bullpup edition will start the countdown at #5. These Mossbergs are '80s movie stars, starring in Predator 2, Running Man, and Robocop, probably due to their futuristic appeal. Collectors should be on alert: Their value is set to only rise, because there isn’t anything like them currently being manufactured by Mossberg. (Update: I’ve been told there are bullpup kits out there for newer Mossbergs, and there’s a chance Mossberg will convert an existing shotgun to a bullpup for you.) And, being a Mossberg, they carry a certain degree of intrinsic reliability.
Like reliability, there are more pros that aren’t just superficial. The Mossberg 500/590 Bullpups are good shotguns, too.
- Even though the stock has a lot of gadgetry in it (as with most Bullpups), it does really well to mitigate recoil. This attribute is in part due to being heavy, which could be seen as a con.
- They still boast an 18.5” or 20” tactical-length barrel.
- They are easy to clean and break down for whatever purpose.
- The pump action is smooth and makes a great intimidating (for some too loud) sound, and it comes with a nice grip.
There are, of course, some nitpicky cons that prevent it from being higher on the list.
- The sight is disappointing to me. Admittedly, you won’t need a good sight if the target is close enough. Admittedly, you can change the sight to any one that you wish, if you know your way around a gun. However, I don’t think I’m crazy when I think that a sight doesn’t need to double as a carrying handle. Personally, I don’t value a carrying handle enough to start sacrificing optics. There have been vast improvements in optics since the gun came out in the 80's, so my critique might be a little unfair.
- Annoying and unnecessary grip safety (there’s another safety on the trigger).
- Heavy by any standard.
- Long/heavy trigger pull, although not unreasonable.
- The Mossberg 500 has a low capacity relative to others on this list (5+1), although the Mossberg 590 has a better capacity (8+1).
- High cost because they’re pretty hard to find.
- Ejection port is going to be on the right side next to your face (and literally in your face as a lefty, so lefties can’t use it).
The Mossberg conversions are still good weapons, and there isn't much that separates them from #1 on this list.
4. Remington 870 Bullpup Conversion
Coming in at number four in the countdown is the Remington 870 bullpup conversion. This is a great build, only takes about an hour to convert for the mechanically challenged, and although it’s virtually all plastic, it carries with it the Remington reliability. It's impressively almost 10 inches shorter than a traditional 870.
I haven’t carried out 10,000 round tests on these shotguns myself, but my top bet judging from a random sample of internet comments and intuition is that the Remington bullpup would perform the best on this list. Obviously I’d love to gather data to confirm that, but that’s just not practical to do for me at the moment. Sometimes reliability alone is the most important quality in a home defense shotgun. If you don’t feel comfortable buying a lesser known brand, the 870 bullpup will get the job done. Also, a Remington 870 + the conversion kit + accessories are going to be very reasonably priced at about $750.
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Other than a small edge in both reliability and price, the Remington doesn’t really separate itself from the pack much. There were three other small things I liked about it that I’ll mention quickly.
- First, it has a pump grip guard that prevents your hand from accidentally sliding in front of the barrel (which is a potential issue with other shotguns on this list).
- Second, it has rails on the top, side, and bottom for a sight, grip, laser, flashlight, and so on. While rails are an upgrade over the Mossberg, it’s something that I almost come to expect these days.
- Finally, it’s not super fast to reload, but it is faster than others on this list.
There are a few cons, none of which are deal breakers. The most significant of these in my home defense metric is the pump. The pump action is noticeably unsmooth, and this could be an issue with a gun that is already prone to short shucking (see comments—this might have been resolved). The second biggest issue is that it “only” holds 6+1, which is satisfactory, but like the Mossberg, isn’t exceptional. Third, like the Mossberg, its ejector port is on the right side next to your ear no matter what. This is obviously especially frustrating for lefties, but also frustrating for right-handers because of the smoke, noise, and heat that are right next to your face. This might seem inevitable for a bullpup, but we’ll look at a gun later that has a fix for this.
I’ll list the rest of my grievances:
- Takes a long time to clean—requires complete disassembly.
- Only one color.
- No place for a side saddle.
You might notice the Remington has similar problems as the Mossberg. The difference makers for me were Remington’s lightness and rails. Some small edges that the Mossberg has (such as grip and guards) can be bought for the Remington, and the price will still likely be cheaper.
Number three on the countdown is the Turkish UTAS UTS-15. I’m not sure why they didn’t go ahead and just call it the UTAS-15, they were only one letter short. Anyway, it’s a gun that immediately catches the eye (perhaps the word ugly comes to mind, but I prefer the term eye-catching). The UTS-15 has a lot of cool features that makes it and immediate competitor in the bullpup shotgun market. If you haven’t heard of its maker UTAS, you probably aren’t Turkish. I hear UTAS is kind of a big deal over there.
With that being said, it’s not a brand that I would immediately trust simply out of lack of familiarity. As expected, most of the negative comments that I’ve seen have been about reliability. The sources that I trust more seem to agree that it is in fact reliable. Nevertheless, I would recommend trying the gun out as much as possible before buying. Reliability is why I’m timid to rank this gun higher. Well, reliability and these small cons:
- Loud when moving,
- No choice of pump grip. The grip it comes with is frighteningly slippery, especially (potentially) when wet,
- Speaking of that, in my opinion, there isn't enough guard to prevent a hand from slipping in front of the muzzle,
- Like the Mossberg and Remington it only ejects to the right side, next to your face,
- Expensive in that most go for over $1300, and you’re going to need to add a sight,
- Relatively bulky.
With all of those cons, does it really deserve a high place on this list? I believe so, for two main reasons.
- For one, it holds 12+1 2 3/4" 12 gauge ammo and 14+1 3" ammo. That’s a ton. There aren’t a lot of situations where that isn’t enough to get the job done.
- The second reason compliments the first. The UTS-15 feeds from two different barrels, and UTAS designed a selector switch that allows you to choose which barrel to feed from. Not only is it nice to be able to choose what type of ammo you want, but also you’re given the choice to alternate between the barrels. Also, one feeding barrel is selected and then emptied, the UTS-15 automatically switches to the other barrel. The selector feature is unique and offers quite a bit of versatility in a small package allowing you to potentially choose between two different types of ammunition on the fly.
There are a few smaller pluses as well. The UTS-15 is incredibly light and durable because it is manufactured with state-of-the-art materials. It can optionally come with a built-in flashlight, laser, or an attachable extended barrel. The extended barrel could be handy if you wish to shoot skeet. It wouldn’t be anyone’s first choice for a clay gun, but it might be kind of a fun one to take to the range. It has rails to attach a sight, and like I said before you'll probably need to do that. Lastly, it's easier to reload than the other pump shotguns.
Just as a note: If I hear more sentiment that this is an unreliable gun, it will probably drop to #5 on the countdown.
2. Saiga 12 Kushnapup Conversion
Coming in at second place is the Saiga-12 Kushnapup. I’ll admit I was a bit biased against this gun at first. The finicky plastic look made me think the semi-auto Kushnapup would fall apart or have too much recoil.
My skeptical predisposition was soon lost after witnessing the firepower of this gun. Semi-auto of course is potentially lifesaving fractions of a second faster than pump shotguns. With that being said, I think even professionals are more likely to go through ammo faster with the semi-auto shotgun. This could lead to emptying a clip without adequate and thoughtful target selection. Pump versus semi-auto is a matter of personal preference, and that is probably what determines this shotgun’s place on a top-5 list for a reader.
As a side-note, whereas normally with semi-autos you have to worry about occasional faulty cycling (and no exception with this gun), I’ve seen pump Bullpup shotguns short shucked a lot too. I’d assume the Saiga-12 will reliably cycle with the right choice of ammo. I’d also assume the Bullpups wouldn’t be prone to short shucking once the shooter is familiar with the gun, and so I didn’t really let those things factor into my list.
The Kushnapup is undoubtedly a fun gun. There's not a whole lot of kick, and you can fire it one handed. Rich mavericks (or pretenders) might potentially try to dual wield two of these babies, but again, the ejector port is on the right side, which is troublesome. The one handed thing has been known to come in handy in a firefight because hands are sometimes at a premium. If one arm is shot, if you have to open a door, etc. it will come in handy (don't think that I've been in that sort of situation, but it makes sense).
There are a couple of more notes that I'd like to share with you.
- The capacity of the gun is low, but can be improved by buying an extended clip. Drum magazines don't work particularly well because with the bullpup configuration the feed is farther back; hence the drum magazine is gaudily sitting on your chest.
- There are sight rails, and you'll need a sight if you're accustomed to shooting traditional builds. Also, there isn't an easy, straightforward way to add a flashlight and a laser. The grip isn't optional but the one it comes with is satisfactory and ergonomic.
- Lastly, the Kushnapup conversion at times can be hard to find and acquire.
And with that, we move to #1.
1. Kel-Tech KSG Shotgun
The KSG is Kel-Tech's first shotgun, and it sets a good standard for Bullpups. I must admit I get a little swoony over it, so I ask that you bear with me.
The KSG started as a curiosity for most gun owners but it has earned some enthusiasts since it came out in 2011. Unfortunately, demand is high and they have gotten very pricey. One might have to be patient for the prices to come back down. Here is my take:
- Finally we come to a Bullpup that ejects downward, making it 100% ambidextrous. This wouldn't be such a big deal if the conversion kits and UTAS were more accepting of lefties, but when comparing it to other guns on the list downward ejection seems like a luxury.
- Also, at the range the KSG is more pleasant simply because there is less heat and smoke in your face.
- You want capacity? You have capacity. The KSG can hold 7+7+1 rounds, meaning it has two feeding tubes that hold seven rounds each and of course you can chamber a round. Like the UTS-15, this means that you can have 7+1 rounds of one type of ammo and 7 rounds of another, and quickly choose between each whenever you desire. Also, there's a handy slide release on the trigger.
- What really sets the KSG apart for me however is its lightness and compactness. There isn't a shotgun off the top of my head that I would rather have in tight corners or spaces. It doesn't look or feel like it should have 14 round capacity or an 18.5" barrel. Thus it is a true representation of what a Bullpup shotgun should be.
- It looks pretty sexy. The most similar gun, the UTS-15, is bigger than the KSG but I don't like the feel as much, and you don't get anything (except for a selector switch mode) that the KSG doesn't offer. There are pictures of the KSG everywhere for good reason.
- It's also pleasant to have rails. Like any of these Bullpup guns, if you're used to shooting traditional shotguns you'll probably have trouble at first. The KSG can be fitted with any optics you desire to fix this problem, and you can add things like a grip guard and other accessories to the bottom.
If I had to complain I would say that it's awkward to reload because the feed is so far back on the stock. However, I haven't seen a Bullpup that really solved this problem except for the Saiga with a magazine feed.
I would also complain that once a feeding tube is empty you have to find the selector switch and switch to the other tube or reload. This could be costly in the heat of action, although 7+1 is pretty good if you just count one barrel.
Lastly, the MSRP is pretty cheap in the $800-900 range, but they're hard to find so they will probably go for much more than that ($1500 plus or minus $500).
The overall package is just a fun and reliable shotgun. When the KSG is laid out on a table next to other guns, it's hard not to pick it up first. Hopefully Kel-Tech will come out with another model and/or there will be more shotguns like it in the future. For a first gen model, they knocked it out of the park.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Robert Mitchell jr on May 16, 2020:
Bullpup 12g shotguns
Josh J. on January 03, 2020:
Lol. Had a UTS 12. Came up in a trade and I had done no research on it but it looked sweet and the quick search on price said I wasn't getting ripped off.
They're reliable but very particular. For instance when pumping, the extractor makes contact with the shell for maybe the first eight of the pump then it rotates off. So you have to forcefully pump every time, if you get lazy and slow down it won't extract and will feed in a new shell and jam. On a range trip of shooting 100 shells, I cycled a fully loaded gun once without having. Plus, a product ”feature” ”by design”. The rear stroke resets the trigger and the trigger can be pulled and firing pin dropped on thin air before the forward stroke is complete. Thus, without lots of practice, rapid fire results in 1 to 3 shots and a loaded chamber with a dead trigger and no way to recock it. Just cycle and pick up live round.
It's reliable but requires a lot of training to work it. Enough range time that I knew I was never going to get. So I sold it.
Makes sense if you were military or police and you knew you went down and a bad guy took it, they would be quite ineffectual at using it to kill your team but just all around I'd stay clear if it
Darryl W on August 16, 2019:
The DP12 and more then that we’re not mentioned in this... what I do not understand is how the UTS15 was rated lower then the KSG! Have you fired fired the two? The UTS15 stays on target and a smoother shot then the KSG.
Luar omsofbonzvcz on March 28, 2019:
Guillermo F on February 24, 2019:
Why were not the Panzer Arms BP-12, and the FedArm FBS12 included?
GUK on January 11, 2019:
no way I would choose a DP12 over a KSG. Shitload more weight for 1 more shot. Must fire both shots before you can rack it. DP12 is way to large/heavy and wonky a system. As for the UTS the whole point of a Bullpup is to be small. So far the KSG is the bullpup to have.
H.wilmot on November 15, 2018:
Well clearly you haven't done your homework after all. You left out the best bullpup by far. The DP-12
J on October 26, 2018:
Wow, reading through some of these comments made me feel better about my self! Thank you retards.
Casey on June 10, 2018:
I own the UTS-15 and it’s awesome, had the choice of the KSG and that the functions are smooth and laser light combo was just a cooler gun looks scary as hell shoots flawlessly loads easy bit pricey but I gotta deal at 800. Glad I have this model vs the others
Yo on April 19, 2018:
Strange, I have not seen a KSG yet that isn't completely unreliable. How did this make your top spot?
Tom on February 15, 2018:
where’s the DP12 ? Your research sucks
Try something else to write about
Brett on February 15, 2018:
Where does the Standard Arms DP 12 rank on your list?
AMERICAN VET on January 26, 2018:
You referred to magazine tubes as barrels. Their is only ONE barrel on these firearms. A magazine is not a clip.
Now there is manufacturer that is making a similar Bullpup that does have Two barrels.
Also on the Mossberg Bullpup I got one not longer after they hit the market years ago and still have it.
I find it to be sort of "Clunky" in the action but Highly reliable.
I was going to get the 590 Mariner Marine Coat but never did ....
Also the slide release is far to the rear and inches from your shoulder.
I don't like the placement of it because it is awkward to clear a live round.
Now there are various semi-auto shot guns that will hold different capacity magazines including drums based on an AR or an AK type platform ..... those seem to be a better choice in my opinion because of the ability for fast reloads
Raging Rooster on January 15, 2018:
DP-12...Just plan BADASS! Now, if u get the custom silhouette choke tubes and short spike end caps....WOW! BADASS on steroids...PERIOD
Griff on December 20, 2017:
I was totally on board with your review until you refereed to a magazine as a clip. This makes me wonder if you are actually a gun person or just a hired writer.
Philip DeFina on July 22, 2017:
Excellent review as always . I am a former special operator for the US Army. I personally prefer the KSG. Thanks for all of your high level reviews
Brian on January 16, 2017:
Neither the Remington 870 nor the Saiga are true bullpup guns. They are merely compact designs. Check out the difference.
rph98jag on October 16, 2016:
This person has never had a home invasion situation. I have. A full auto short barreled Ak or a short 13" barreled SEMI auto 12 ga. Not legal but you are ALIVE. I came out of my bedroom and confronted a 6'4" intruder at 4' with my S&W .45. Got off two shots. I am 5'9" 61yo. Both nicked his right ear. Struggled he got my gun. Shot me ,grazed my head lots of blood. Left me for dead. No lights, lasers piky rails. Nothing!!! They just give home intruders something to grab!!
Tony C. on April 24, 2016:
I have a KSG, great gun and I'm a big Kel-Tec fan.
My DP-12 is even better, wow this thing is badass.
Darrell Kindley from Fort Worth, TX on April 04, 2016:
Awesome hub. My favorite is the Kel-Tech KSG!
Mike on January 30, 2016:
Dp12 hands down
M. Victor Kilgore on January 09, 2016:
I'm looking to buy a good shotgun, but didn't think of bullpup variants...great hub.
Alien Gear Holsters from Hayden on June 02, 2015:
Thanks for writing this! We're actually planning on making a video on the top 5 shotguns for home defense. So far the Remington Model 870, Mossberg 500, and Siaga 12 have gotten the highest praise from folks around the internet. We didn't even consider bullpup variants until I saw your article. Very cool!
John Albu from Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87102 on March 11, 2015:
Kel-Tech KSG is such a badass weapon! I would say that UTS-15 also has its charm, looks quite out of this world.
Don Gibbs on April 25, 2014:
I can't help but notice you missed the SRM 1216 - if you ignore the price, easily best of the bunch (but, $200 per magazine? yikes).
You also missed the (IMHO) better Saiga bullpup stock- CBRPS. that one is my price-adjusted best value pick.
It's just a shame Saigas are so hard to come by these days.
Blake Atkinson (author) from Kentucky on April 21, 2014:
Chaps- Awesome! I'd love to hear your take on it.
Irrenmann- The reviews vary wildly. I'll concede that the MAC review-- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVVii2K1j5k -- is discouraging and would suggest revision to the list. I've seen three other video reviews that were positive though. I'll be on the lookout for more info.
irrenmann on April 21, 2014:
I assume you're going to revise this to account for the torrent of bad news that's become evident about KSG?
Joseph Charles from Vero Beach on March 29, 2014:
Just got a Mossberg
Blake Atkinson (author) from Kentucky on March 26, 2014:
Thank you for your input, Michael and Ben.
Michael- I tried out one as soon as they came out and haven't tried one since. Maybe they've fixed the issue or I messed up somehow.
Ben- Good catch, I'll correct it after I submit this comment. I pulled that line from an email conversation, and I'm not sure what happened.
Ben Enjerry on March 24, 2014:
On the UTS magazine capacity, you stated; "For one, it holds 12+1 low brass 12 gauge ammo and 14+1 high brass ammo. " Are you confusing 2 3/4" shells with 3" shells and also shouldn't that be in reverse?
Michael D on March 09, 2014:
I personally own number 4 the bullpup unlimited 870. It is absolutely incredible. Racking the slide isn't very rough at all.... feels quite the same as the 870 out of the box. Great article!
Blake Atkinson (author) from Kentucky on December 10, 2013:
Thanks torrilynn and CaptainJoeySweet.
Captain, I'm pretty sure if I had linked this page to one that sells shotguns, it would have violated terms and conditions. Since I was speaking about them in general instead of trying to sell them, I think it's okay.
torrilynn on December 07, 2013:
Great article about shotguns. It was nice reading about them.
CaptainJoeySweet from Florida on December 06, 2013:
Thank you for this very informative article. As some one new to hub pages, I haven't quite figured out what promotional material is yet, and wasn't aware that product reviews like this could be published.
Great read though! I think its time to go out and buy a new shotgun!!