An Introduction into Choosing the Right Gun: Shotgun Edition
By Jason Wagner
Shotguns have always been a good all-around choice for self-defense, especially for when self-defense calls for close quarter battles and/or riot control.
Why a shotgun? Why not a rifle? The thing I like about guns is that, they’re like cats – there’s a gun for every type of person. Shotguns are basically the firearm of choice for people whom are expecting a fight at, or below 30 meters – the closer the better. Another admirable trait of shotguns is that they’re distinctly American; they can serve any purpose, and while they don’t necessarily specialize in every purpose, they serve as versatile and workable solutions for a variety of situations. You’re expecting enemies at long range? Equip a rifled slug barrel, attach the scope and load up some SABOT shells; not exactly rifle accurate, but you’ll probably ruin somebodies day.
The slight Problem of Recoil…: Males of slight build, and as is far more often the case, females are known to have difficulty when fielding shotguns. Difficulty in that when they squeeze the trigger, the recoil is so harsh that they have a very difficult time getting back on target, so that makes picking the right gauges all the more important, and even so, the problem may persist as an omnipresent issue that’ll need to be either dealt with through intensive training, or just avoided altogether with the use of a easier to handle weapon.
Primary Types of Shotgun Gauges:
10 Gauge: This is a fairly popular, yet popularly declining gauge of shotgun. As far as self-defense goes, the 10 gauge isn’t known for filling any roles that the 12 gauge isn’t fully outfitted for. The main reason the 10 gauge was chosen over the 12 gauge was usually for when people would set out to hunt larger breeds of game, and of course, it still fills that purpose quite adeptly; unfortunately, all of its stopping power lends itself to some fairly bruising (literally) recoil. Given that people like options, I don’t think the 10 gauge is going anywhere anytime soon.
12 Gauge: This is, by far the most popular caliber for shotgun barrels. That kind of popularity has to be backed up by some kind of reason or rational, and indeed it is; the virtues of the venerable 12 gauges are numerous, and here are a few of them: While still significant, the recoil is diminished from the 10 gauge, its got a high level of stopping power, common ammunition, almost perfect for home defense and this kind of shotgun can be purchased on a whims notice. On top of all of that, it has enough firepower to take down any non-armored assailant with absolute ease, and because it has less recoil than the 10 gauge, you can stay on target with less difficulty.
20 Gauge: The 20 gauge is another popular gauge for shotguns, and the reasoning for this can be summed up as: less recoil than a 12 gauge, yet it’s still potent enough to cut somebody down at 10 meters, and ruin somebody’s day at greater distances. Any lady survivalist should at least consider the 20 gauge; although, even at 20, it still may be a tad overbearing on the female frame.
24, 28 and 32: The higher you go, the weaker the boom, and the easier the recoil. Men would be wise to take notice of these, and the same goes for the women.
.410: The .410 is usually reserved for either varmint hunting/pest control, and for teaching youth how to handle a shotgun. It goes without saying that the .410 is considered the weakest of the commonly used shotgun calibers.
Types of Shotgun Shells:
Shotgun Slugs: These pack the most punch, and predictably, they deliver the most recoil to the user. These are, generally speaking used when hunting big game, and NOT for self-self; not that these cannot be used for self-defense, but their merits more or less engender them towards longer range fighting, something that’s unusual in a house environment. One of the primary advantages of the shotgun is that with birdshot, it fires an ungodly amount of pellets, and buckshot, it fires a large mass of pellets, so, with so many pieces of metal being ejected at once, you don’t need to be dead on target to hit your mark. With a shotgun slug, you’ve got to be dead on target. One final thing of note, if you’ve got utter confidence in your aim, there’s less chance of collateral damage when using the slug; unfortunately, if you miss, the slug will travel farther, increasing the odds that it’ll hit something.
With birdshot and buckshot, unless the person was shot in a crucial area, or hit at point blank range, chances are very good that they’ll survive; but despite surviving, they’re likely to be taken out of the fight, incapacitated without being knocked out, unless they lose nominal amounts of blood, that is. Because of this tendency to quickly take foes out of the fight, buckshot and birdshot make superb choices when when fending off multiple invaders. As I’ve probably said several times already, when you pull the trigger of a shotgun loaded with buckshot or birdshot, you don’t need to be aiming exactly at your target, so long as your aiming in their general direction, you’ll hit them; now that isn’t to say that if you’re aiming 4 feet away from them that the pellets will somehow hone in on them, but rather, shotguns loaded with buckshot/birdshot tend to be very forgiving if you’re a little off with your aim. A weapon that forgives inaccuracy greatly rewards accuracy, so it’s worth it for you to try out your newfound love a few times, whether it be at a firing range, or an area devoid of any people that could get hurt beyond your line of sight.
Buckshot: To nobody’s great surprise, these are named after their common use: Killing bucks, male deer’s. Buckshot shells are generally speaking, considered superior for the purposes of home defense; after all, they were designed for hunting flightless animals, and humans are, when you sum things up, flightless animals.
Additional Buckshot Information: Not all buckshot’s are created equal, and like all shotgun shells, they’re rated. With buckshot shells, they’re rated in their Aught. For example, 00 (or Double-Aught) is the most common choice; a 12 gauge 00-Aught will hold about 9 pellets per shell.
Birdshot: Again, just as is the case with buckshot, birdshot is named after its primary historical use: Shooting birds down from the sky. If you want to boil it down the important facts, the principal difference between birdshot and buckshot is that birdshot shells are loaded with many more, albeit smaller pellets. Birdshot shells are also rated, and in the case of these, the FF contains the very fewest pellets (almost on par with buckshot) wherein the 9 contains the most pellets.
Pellet Materials: Traditionally shotgun shells have been packed full of lead pellets, and to this day, lead pellets are revered for their lethality and minimal wear and tear on the barrel. Nowadays, now that the dangers of lead have been widely documented, many people prefer to use steel shot, and governments have mandated the use of steel shots under certain circumstances; unfortunately, steel causes much more wear and tear on the barrel, so, keep that in mind when deciding on your purchase of ammo.
Autoloaders/Semi-Automatic Shotguns vs. Pump-Action Shotguns.
Allow me to present an argument for either type of weapon.
Pump-Action: Pump-Action shotguns have long been valued as reliable and easy to maintain weapons that, even when shooting off heavy shot loads, rarely jam.
Semi-Automatic Shotguns: Semi-Automatic shotguns, or autoloaders, suffer from issues with jamming, but they have the benefit of being able to lay down withering amounts of fire in a very short amount of time, an amount of fire that you’ll be hard pressed to match from any other type of civilian firearm. Now, I know I sound like a real downer when it comes to semi-automatic shotguns, I really don’t mean to, yet, here’s the problem with the whole rapid fire thing; civilian shotguns simply don’t hold enough shells, even with an extended tube to just be blindly fired off with no regard.
Which type of shotgun should I buy?
If you’re capable of disassembling, and then reassembling a gun, while blindfolded, with no problem…AKA you know your way around basic and advanced gun maintenance, then a semi-automatic shotgun may be the better choice for you. Just remember that autoloaders, by nature, will always jam more than a comparably cared for pump-action.
If you take reliability out of the picture, the autoloaders easily take the cake; however, you cannot take such an important factor as reliability out of the picture.
A benefit and disadvantage inherit with pump-action shotguns: If everybody knows what an AK-47 is, than everybody recognizes the infamous sound that occurs when the pump-actions pump is pumped. Now, in theory that’s a good thing, most people short of hardened assassins will flee knowing the homeowner is armed and dangerous…They also know your location; now, like I said, most people will flee, most, not all – not all people care whether they live or die. Now, what does all of this means? It just means you’ve got yet another variable to consider with shotguns.
Shotgun Tactics: In a strange irony and contradiction, despite being amazing up close and personal weapons, the (often) extreme lengths (literal lengths, as in feet and inches) of shotguns can make them cumbersome to use in tight spaces. In the best of scenarios, it means that the weapon will slow you down a little as you maneuver, in the worse of scenario’s, it means someone will grab the barrel as you turn a corner. To minimize this problem, use your knowledge of your homes interior to your advantage, figure out the best routes, the best choke points to defend, preferably corridor’s, try to minimize your time turning tight corners, or avoid them altogether. Note: With some rather extensive special licensing, you can purchase shotguns with trimmed barrels.
What Shotgun Should I Purchase? Well, you could buy a custom made Italian shotgun for several hundred thousand dollars, or you could purchase the perfectly functional, affordable, reliable and extensively used Remington 870, or Mossberg (its pronounced Mozzberg) 500 that’s also well respected. Both the 870 and 500 are pump-actions, but that hardly takes anything away from them as the near-ideal entry level shotguns. Either type of shotgun is the kind of weapon that, even after your in possession of the snazzier models of shotguns, you’ll still probably want to drag your old, ugly and trustworthy pal out with you and into the field for some good old fashion wet work. The 870 and 500 come in a wide variety of lengths, materials, barrel types, so you’ve got plenty of choices with them.
If you’re more in the market for a semi-automatic/autoloader, try your hand at the Remington 1100, you can’t really go wrong with that particular make.
Above all else when picking out a gun, ensure that the weapon is the defender of you and your family, not the cause of tragedy. Keep the weapon securely locked up, when taking aim at someone, you better be prepared to fire and all of the other usual safety rules apply here.