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The Shotgun: Old Technology Still Viable

Historically, the shotgun goes back many years, as the blunderbuss, arquebus and musket could all fire shot as well as solid balls. In 1728 it was known as a “fowling piece” as it was used mainly to shoot birds. The first recorded use of the term ‘shotgun’ was in Kentucky in 1776 when it was noted as part of the “Frontier language of the West” by James Fenimore Cooper. In short, the shotgun is no stranger to Americans and specifically, American shooters.

The shotgun has been used by the military and law enforcement for many years. The military used it in both World Wars, and in Korea, as well as in Viet Nam, and it even saw limited use in the Iraq War. The shotgun has long been a standard for law enforcement officers mainly because of its versatility. It can fire conventional shot and rifled slugs as well as less/non-lethal projectiles, tear gas, bean bags, flares, rubber projectiles and breaching rounds. This versatility is what makes it a good choice for home defense and personal protection.

There are many myths associated with a shotgun and most are false. The recoil can be managed with proper training and ammunition choice, or you can even change to a smaller gauge (i.e., 20 or 410 gauge vs 12 gauge). But let’s address a couple of potentially dangerous myths here.

1. You don’t have to aim – just point and shoot. This myth is so common it's almost laughable. A shotgun is not an ‘area weapon’. You will not mow down swaths of attacking hordes with it. At close range, it is possible to miss a man-sized target quite easily. The shot is held together by a plastic cup (wad) that peels away after it has traveled some distance from the muzzle. The rule of thumb is that 00 buck will spread 1-inch for every yard (3 feet) it travels from the muzzle. With some of the newer loads available, fist sized groups can be fired out to 21+ feet.

2. All you have to do is rack the action and the bad guy will run away. Well … it appears that many of the bad guys did not get that memo. Under the stress of a situation where you may need your shotgun, you may not rack the slide. Further, if the intruder/attacker is close enough to hear it, they are already too close! While there are considerations for having a loaded gun at the ready, they are questions you need to reconcile before putting your life and the lives of your loved ones on the line.

3. Make mine a pump – they never fail. While I do love a pump action shotgun, I have seen them fail to function on many occasions. To be fair, the malfunctions were generally shooter induced caused by ‘short stroking’ or not pumping the action fully from front to the rear and back. The main reason for short stroking is the shooter, combined with the ‘chemical cocktail’ associated with a critical event, and trying to operate the gun beyond their capabilities. This prevents them from completing what should be a gross motor skill. The second reason is often the length of the stock. Many stocks are too long which hinders smaller statured individuals from operating the gun properly. Modern, well made, well maintained semi-auto shotguns are very reliable and are another consideration when purchasing.

As for versatility, as mentioned, shotguns offer a ton of it. With rifled slugs it can be accurate out to 75+ yards or more. So equipped, it can bring down just about any game animal in North America. With #7-8 shot, all manner of small game can be taken as necessary. And, with 00 or #4 buck shot, it is an effective ‘manstopper’, when shots are placed correctly.

Even with our current social situation, shotguns are still available, the ammo is relatively inexpensive and there is little stigma attached as we may see with handguns and the ubiquitous ‘black rifle’. These things, while not deal breakers, should still be considered if choosing the shotgun as you ‘go to’ defensively arm yourself.

The last thing that must be considered is training. A stated above, the shotgun is not a ‘point and shoot’ weapon. The fundamentals of marksmanship still apply and there is a manual of arms that must be learned for your particular gun. A good training class should contain not only marksmanship fundamentals but loading/unloading and other weapons manipulation skills. Patterning your shotgun at various ranges, with your chosen ammunition, is also a must do.

Pump or semi-auto; 12 or 20 gauge; plastic or wood stock are all good. All in all, if I were to choose one gun for the ‘Zombie Apocalypse’, it would be a shotgun.

Be Safe · Be Effective · Be Ready


The Director's Desk

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