The shotgun is undoubtedly one of the most popular, glamorized and misunderstood weapons in American culture. For many they are considered the ultimate “multi-purpose” weapon, with the ability to fire various types of loads, including birdshot, buckshot, non-lethal, breaching rounds and slugs.They were (and still are in some locales) the “go-to” long gun for police departments.
The misunderstanding as I see it, with the Shotgun can be boiled down to one thing: Role Confusion. Guns are tools, and every tool is designed to do a job, and do that job well. No doubt about it that the shotgun excels at Close-Quarters work..it is the quintessential point and shoot weapon, offering devastating firepower at close range. Where we (civilians and LEO alike) have failed is thinking that the shotty is a RIFLE too. The introduction of sabot slugs back at the turn of the 20th century caused this. Depression era Police departments in a jam to stretch every dollar, started promoting the shotgun as an “all around” patrolmans long gun, giving them either the buckshot firepower to take out a bank robber and his crew or the slug option to take out their engine block in their get-away car.
Fast Forward 50 years and you saw this mis-understanding taken to a new level, where now you had “rifled” barrel shotguns, specifically designed to address the slugs lack of distance and accuracy, give an officer (and the civilian alike) the ability to fire a slug accurately out past 75 yds. These guns were often equipped with “rifle” type sights and as time passed, the “ghost” ring sight became popular. The role confusion/transformation was now complete…the shotgun was being used to do a rifles job.
Where does the Shotty Fit?
Simply put, the Shotgun is a Close-Quarters “niche” weapon. But before we go any further on that, we need to clear up another widely held (false) belief about the shotgun. Go in any gun shop in America, and sit around and listen to the “Armchair Rambo’s” talk and pretty soon you will hear a conversation that goes something like this:
Nieve Customer: “Yes, I am looking for a gun for home defense, what would you suggest?”
“Armchair Rambo” Gun Shop Clerk: “Well, I would suggest something like this” (takes down a Mossberg 500 Persuader 12 gauge off the shelf) “This here is a simple Mossberg pump-action 12 Gauge Shotgun; load this up with 00 Buckshot and it is simple as point and shoot..home invasion or burglar problem solved!”
Nieve Customer: “Hmmm…looks simple and the price is really not that bad!”
Armchair Rambo: “Yeah, a pump shotgun is as simple as it gets and listen to This: (racks shotgun once and waits a second before talking to add dramatic effect) “That sound right there is the scariest sound in the world to a burglar..it will probably scare off any intruder before you ever have to fire a shot!!”
Nieve Customer: “Sounds good! I will take it and some of those Buckshot ‘bullets you told me about too.”
Cash Register Rings………$$
(This episode may sound like a work of fiction, but God as my witness, I heard this conversation almost verbatim in a Gun Store near Dallas, Texas two years ago).
There are a multitude of things we could pick apart here, but in the interest of time and to stay on point, let’s stick with the widely held belief that a shotgun is the “ideal” weapon for home defense. What most un-educated civilians (including our Armchair Rambo Store clerk from above) do not realize about using a Shotgun for home defense is although it is true that the shotgun is simple to both operate and fire, and is a devastating weapon at close range, the ammunition typically touted and often recommended for this type of duty, Buckshot, is not what you would call “forgiving” in respect to backgrounds. Let me explain.
The human body is overall a soft target; made up mostly of tissue and blood, a single lead projectile can pass through us with hardly no problem at all. But a 12 Gauge 00 Buckshot load is made up of several projectiles, all traveling very, very fast in a spread pattern and just because they hit a little ole’ soft target like a human body, that does not mean they are going to stop, No, in fact they are going to keep going, through that nice sheet rock wall or maybe even through that plasma TV, into your sleeping child’s soft body in the next room where they are sleeping, then through the mattress they are sleeping on and then, maybe, coming to rest in the next sheet rock wall. Of course, by now, you have realized you have killed the intruder, but what you don’t realize, at least not right off the bat, is that you have also killed your 7 year old son in the next room. Again, this may sound like a work of fiction, but sadly it has happened.
Now, I know the opposition out there who say yes, but this incident could have happened with any other weapon, pistol or rifle included..,.to that I say True, but I also say, if they would have been using either a pistol or rifle, we are now talking about SINGLE Projectiles Penetrating, not SEVERAL Projectiles in a spread pattern..thus, the likelihood of harming a bystander would be greatly reduced.
Another argument that I have heard states, OK, since Buckshot is the problem, why not just go with Birdshot in the Shotgun..this solves your penetration problem. My answer: Yes, it solves the Penetration but does not solve your Lethality Problem. Birdshot is for Birds folks..not human beings. Our objective is not to “wound” or “wing” the intruder, but to kill them, to stop them from harming us further. I don’t care if you are talking about #4 or #6, shooting them in the face or in the chest, Birdshot ammo is NOT designed to KILL human beings; end of story.
Now, some of you might be expecting me to put the final nail in the coffin here, attempting to prove to you, once and for all, that the shotty IS NOT the best choice for Home Defense, contrary to what some of those Harvard educated Politicians in Washington DC have suggested. Including that bastion of Self-Defense Knowledge, Vice-President Joe Biden himself, who advised Americans to buy a Shotgun versus an AR-15 for home defense because as we all know, those “black rifles” are BAD NEWS and Civilians just have no business owning one, right??? Wrong Joe.
No, I am not ready to throw the Shotgun out totally as a Home-Defense weapon, although it is not my first choice personally, I still hold fast to the belief that the shotty fulfills the “niche” role of one of the best CQ Weapon’s available (with these heavily emphasized caveats).
TRAIN Realistically and TRAIN Often with YOUR Shotgun
Learn what AMMO works best for your needs
Understand the Dangers of Over-Penetration with Buckshot
Train in structures
Train with “No Shoots” as background targets
Learn how you can position yourself to change your background, if needed
Learn Weapon Retention with the Shotgun in CQ
Learn how to maneuver with the weapon efficiently in tight quarters
Learn Low Light Shooting with the Shotgun
Learn how to Fight with and without a Light on the Shotgun