I have talked about shotguns on several posts before, so bear with me if some of this a repeat of past work, but I just got to bang this out today to get it off of my brain…
I came across a couple of articles today that really made me appreciate the shotgun project I recently put together from a old warhorse gun I picked up robust and cheap. Actually, a shotgun is maybe one of the best firearms to consider buying used. The bolts and actions are generally very robust pieces, the magazine and spring are a simple affair and the barrels generally do not need much worry other than inspection for rust and pitting as rifled barrels are normally not the norm.
Shotguns excel in many roles that involve its use within 100 yards or so, outside of this parameter you may be better served by other weapons, but in most urban force-on-force confrontations 100 yards is normally “good enough” for most people. The devastating effectiveness of 00 buckshot in self defense shootings in the home is well documented and the advances in shot shell design have greatly increased not only its reach and effectiveness. In survivalist type situations as a tool for harvesting game the shotgun is a well tested master at this pursuit with lighter field and game loads.
The power of the shotgun not only lies in its almost larger than life barrel gauge but in the fact that it is capable of firing so many different shot, slug and specialty loads that its bound to be able to provide some type of service in whatever role it is called for and can be switched over simply by changing ammo, sometimes without removing shells from the magazine but directly loading them into the chamber.
- Bird/Field Shot: Smaller sized shot used for hunting small game and fowl, “birdshot” is generally used against animals only, but at close range can be devastating against human targets as well. Remington, for one, makes a dedicated home defense load made with high density shot designed to maximize energy dump on the target while minimizing over-penetration in house hold walls. Despite what people say about shot spreading out like a fan when fired, it actually travels in a column that disperses as the pellets up front meets air resistance, slow down and then get pushed aside by pellets behind them passing through the column. The shot impacts any single plane along its path in a series of impacts, not as a single round circle spotted with shot like pepperoni on a pizza (or sausage if that’s more your thing). The use of a measured choke can determine Generally, the idea is to pick a point in space where your target is going to be and place a column of shot in front of it for the target to run into. The length of time that the column takes to move in the space the target will occupy in its path allows for somewhat of a allowance for error on the shooters part, not much but some.
- Buckshot: 00 Buckshot, that’s all you need to know. Ok, seriously, buckshot is what most people recommend for use as a defensive load in smoothbore shotties, and with good reason. A single shell of 00 Buck is like the equivalent of nine .32 ACP rounds going down range all at once. There are other buckshot sizes other than 00, but again its what is pretty much universally accepted as the best choice of by all of the “experts”. Not too many aggressors will take one, let alone two, rounds from Mr. 00 and still pose a threat to anyone.
- Slugs: So, the idea of a 230 gr. .45 traveling at 900 fps sounds like your idea of a pretty good defensive round, how about 438 grains traveling at 1300 fps? That sounds a bit better doesn’t it? Well, that is a slug pretty much…and ounce of lead going really fast. The effective range of a slug generally varies from about 40 yards to over 100, although you can find examples of people hitting steel and such much farther than that. A lot of the variance in effective range si due to they type of barrel used, smooth or rifled, and slug, full bore or sabot. A rifled barrel with peep sights combined with a saboted slug gives you a both a pretty potent defensive reach and the ability to put large game on the table if need be as well.
Check out the following video shot by the National Guard over 20 years ago. Yeah, its cheesy but check it out around 4:30 when he starts talking about round selection…kind of germane to the discussion here…
- Specialty rounds: The nature of the size of a shotgun shell allows it be designed with a large number of different uses and payloads other than the above rounds. Signal flares, riot control rounds, less than lethal beanbags and even a fin stabilized 12 gauge GRENADE are now available (although I doubt you will find the grenade round at your local Dick’s Sporting Goods). For the purposes of this article a good “special” round is the Winchester PDX1 round which is a reinvention of the old “buck and ball” idea with a 1 ounce foster slug paired with three 00 pellets for additional affect. While the slug flies to the point of air it drives between the pellets and spreads them out just in case your aim is a “bit off”. I got a tube of PDX1 ready at all times in my shotty…and a box of 00 Buck to back it up. Take a look…
Furthermore, the basic design of the shotgun allows the rapid swapping of barrels on a receiver that can further tailor the shotgun to whatever you need it to be, from a self defense tool with a 18.5” full cylinder choke, to a deer slaying slug slinger with a 20” rifled barrel with peep sights to a clay and bird dusting blaster with a 28” ribbed barrel with screw in chokes. All possible with the same receiver and stock on each version of a different gun. While the 21” rifled barrel may do wonders with a sabot slug, it will spin a shot cup of field or buckshot out of control out of a barrel spraying over a target like most people think it does rather than putting it in a manageable grouping that is usable against a target. But again, when you can swap out a barrel in as little as a minute, what’s the worry?
Maybe the best thing about a shotgun is that it doesn’t have to be pretentious in order to be effective. You don’t have to have a black tactical bang stick with all the trimmings to be an effective tool for your arsenal. A classic 870 pump with a 26” ribbed barrel and 4 round tube will shoot shot, buckshot and slugs just a well as the tactical model and costs a lot less at your local shop new…and that’s if you absolutely can’t find a decent one used…which isn’t that hard, just take a look at the beauty up at the top of the page.
The shotgun, the “everyman’s SHTF gun”!