On Shotguns

Borepatch confesses he’s not in love with shotguns. He obviously thinks there’s some shame in that, so I thought I’d pitch in.

Me neither. Compared to rifles shotguns are heavy, kick more, and hold less ammo. As for ballistics I’m also not floored with them, and because of the weight of the payload and the fact that most shotguns use fast-burning powder more frequently found in pistols rather than rifles their recoil is PUNISHING with full-power loads.

As a new shooter I was lucky enough to know somebody who owned a Weatherby Rifle in .460 Weatherby Magnum, now this is one of the more powerful of the African Dangerous Game loads, and the Rifle was a safari gun, not a bench gun so while not feather-light, it wasn’t a gun you wouldn’t be able to lug across the veldt of Africa. It kicked, and was a challenge to shoot…but that rifle paled in comparison to a simple Winchester 12 Gage loaded with #00 Buckshot. Think about that for a second, the .460 a skilled hunter can kill an African Bull Elephant weighing in at maybe 8 tons at over 200 yards with a single shot….meanwhile that 12 Gauge #00 buck is typically deployed against white-tailed deer weighing in generally under 175lbs at ranges inside of 50 yards. Heck Zercool has hunted turkey with an 870 Magnum shooting 3.5″ shells holding 2oz of turkey shot, and that gun is downright unpleasant to shoot, and he’s using that against fucking BIRDS.

Meanwhile my FAL weighs about the same as my Mossberg 590 Trench gun, holds 20 rounds to the Mossy’s 8 (which is in a “High-capacity” extended magazine), and I can land shots on a man-sized silhouette at 100 yards offhand without really trying and using cheap steel-cased factory practice ammo. Also while skilled shotgunners can top off their magazines scary fast with practice, I can stuff a fresh box of 20 into my FAL at an unimpressive speed before they’ve managed to stuff 8 new shells into their tube.

As I said over at Borepatch’s place Overall If I’m in need, I’ll be reaching for a handgun to fight to my rifle, and if I ever need to leave my home in times of extreme danger I’ll grab my archaic SKS rifle before I bother to cart the Scatter-gun around.

Now that’s not to say that shotguns suck. Logistically they’re pretty awesome as in situations where an angry mob or home invaders needs to be fired upon, chances are they won’t be wearing body armor (even soft body armor rated for pistol shot will generally defeat buckshot) and they won’t be sticking around for you to run your tube dry, let alone wait for you to reload, and a solid hit with #00 buck generally is seen as one of the best one-shot-stoppers out there.

Still I just think a rifle runs better, so I’ll be sticking with that.

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26 Responses to On Shotguns

  1. RuffRidr says:

    Man, I love shotguns. I think that just comes from my upbringing though. I’ve spent a lot of time bird hunting and shooting clay pigeons.

    To each their own.

  2. WallPhone says:

    Think of your Mossy with 00 as a machine gun with an eight-round burst.

    That gives you 64 .30 caliber rounds on a topped off weapon, and slipping in three shells is like inserting a 24-round mag.

    Don’t forget a price point one third, to one quarter a modern rifle, and an appearance proven to be much less biasing to the average jury member.

  3. The real strength of shotguns is shooting moving targets. I started my job with the Army analyzing air defense artillery and the guns are optimized exactly the same. Having spent some time shooting clays was really handy. Create a cloud of shot to counteract the inherent aiming uncertainty about the target.

  4. bluesun says:

    While it’s good to know how to use one (just like anything else), I really just don’t care for shotguns. Like someone over at BP’s said, if you don’t hunt birds and you already have a rifle, then it’s kinda not worth it.

    Luckily, there’s room in God’s world for people who like shotguns, and for people who don’t… and even people who like both!

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  6. karrde says:

    I originally got a shotgun because of deer season.

    In my State, about 35% of the hunting area is ‘shotgun only’, mostly because of the density of nearby population.

    Plus, the shotgun is kind of like the Swiss Army Knife. While it doesn’t do any particular thing really well, it does a lot of things. (With proper shell-selection, a single piece of hardware can be used for game ranging from deer to rabbits, as well as geese/ducks/pheasants/turkeys.)

    Later, I got a rifle for hunting deer in the rest of the State, and a lighter-weight shotgun for field birds.

    I keep both shotty’s because they’re useful for bird hunting when I want to go. And I have something else I keep around for quick-action home-defense.

  7. Greg Camp says:

    I enjoy having a collection of tools, just in the off chance that I’ll need this particular one. (Yes, I’m an accumulator.) I also like the idea of being able to send a one ounce, .72 caliber slug downrange at close to 1,600 feet per second.

  8. Erin Palette says:

    Much like Greg and karrde, I like my Mossy because of its logistical flexibility: the same tool can act as either a “64 round machine gun” or a .72 cal slugthrower, depending on ammunition. Plus, pump-action shotties are not especially picky eaters (compare that to my 1970s era bolt-action .22, which will eat PMC Sidewinders and CCI Blazers and *nothing else* without jamming.)

    • Weerd Beard says:

      Pump action shotguns CAN jam…I’ve never seen it happen.

      What I HAVE seen is newer shooters (who may have been me) learning to work the action FAST short-stroking the gun and either double-feeding or dumping the live shell on the ground and ramming pure American Air into the chamber.

      Still once you learn that a good pump-gun likes it rough they shoot as fast as any semi-auto!

      • Erin Palette says:

        I never said pump-actions don’t jam. I meant to say that shotguns, as a whole, are not picky eaters when compared to rifles, some of which can be as finicky as cats or children.

        • Weerd Beard says:

          Yep and some rifles will eat anything you feed them.

          But your point is VERY valid, if a shotgun is designed to handle the big round tube with a flush crimp on the end, there isn’t much to mess up that geometry on the planet!

  9. Bubblehead Les says:

    Yeah, I was there when we shot Zercool’s 3.5 12 Gauge. Sore for a week. But I keep one shotgun around, just in case. But I downsized to a 20 Gauge Mossy 505 Youth Model.

    But there are a few uses for a Shotgun that I can agree with. A) Those States and Cities where that’s about the only Firearm you can legally own for Self-Defense; B) those states like Ohio where there’s “No Rifle Allowed” for Deer (unless you’re doing Blackpowder); C) Wing Hunting; D) Trap/Skeet/Sporting Clays, etc. plus 3 Gun Matches; E) Riot Control.

    But even though I’ve made some wannabe punk Looters run away by cycling a Pump Action during a 4 day Power outage, I could use a Rifle and/or Pistol for almost any “Social Events” I might fall into. But, YMMV,of course.

  10. Pyrotek85 says:

    Yeah I’m not a huge fan of shotguns either, I sometimes find them a little boring even. Doesn’t help that I prefer lighter recoil in general. I do agree that they’re appealing in their simplicity and flexibility however.

    I’ve always wondered though, how do shotguns like the high end Benelli’s command such high prices (several thousand)? Is there an accuracy difference or something? I always figured not since they’re shotguns, but maybe I’m missing something. They just seem to be the kind of gun I can’t imagine paying more than a few hundred for.

    • Greg Camp says:

      Someone will always pay a high price, if you ask enough for the thing. A shotgun’s main claims to our use are its simplicity and reliability. Decorating them or tightening this and beautifying that are just wrong.

  11. McThag says:

    I own a shotgun because I think that a gun owner SHOULD own one.

    I too don’t care for the recoil with slugs.

    I used it a lot for shooting sporting clays for a while, but I haven’t touched it since my friends I shot with moved away. Those loads are much lighter and not so hard on the shoulder.

    It is a jack of all trades master of none type gun.

    As has been pointed out, they were intended as fowling pieces. Birds don’t take a lot to bring down and the spread is to maximize your chances on a small, fast target.

    I recall reading that other loadings for larger game come from two directions. The first is where you’re out hunting and had the opportunity for something bigger than a duck, but didn’t want to lug around two guns. The second is legality; many jurisdictions require a shotgun for hunting deer for part or all of the season.

    I am with Weer’d though, if a rifle is allowed; that’s what I am using. Better range, more accurate, better terminal effect, lighter ammo, faster reloads.

  12. Maverick says:

    You’re forgetting an important point, not everybody lives in the USA. Up here in Canada semi-auto rifles are limited to 5 round capacities with some very sparse exceptions and pistols to 10. The largest mags you can legally own for a rifle is 10 rounds in STANAG mags and that’s only because AR-15 pistols have been imported. Pump action shotguns on the other hand have no such limits.

  13. lucusloc says:

    Shotguns are fearsome weapons in CQB. There is not a whole lot that comes close to their stopping power under 25 yards or so. And while it is true that soft body armor at the IIIa level or higher can (*might*) save your life when facing a shotgun, the hit will still be debilitating and take you out of the fight.

    I have a shotgun that I keep next to the bed loaded with 000 buck in a 3 inch shell. Ballistics on the box say that’s 8 9mm pellets at 1600 fps. If you aim for high torso it is pretty much a guaranteed one shot stop, body armor or no, and in most situations the goblin will be leaving the home in a bag sans bronchial tube and aorta.

    And while the shotgun does have some versatility in the long range department (relative to 50 yards or so anyway) I definitely agree that it is far surpassed by rifles.

    I also agree that the tube feed is a less than ideal solution as far as feeding the gun goes, but that is hopefully being rectified with the new mag fed shotguns being brought to market. I have hopes that in 5 to 10 years that will be a mature and reliable system for feeding a shotty. Until then I will happily make the compromise for the sake of stopping power within the walls of my home. Any threat beyond that and I will reach for my rifle instead.

    • Weerd Beard says:

      Great. Comment, but two corrections.

      #1 Type IIA body armor is rated for shotgun pellets, and II for slugs.

      #2 I’ve seen competent shotgunners take slug shots at 100 yards with solid confidence out of a smooth bore.

      Rifled barrel and sabot slugs you’re talking 200-300the if you do your part.

      • Greg Camp says:

        But does the body armor in question deal with the blunt force trauma? The pellets or slugs may not get through, but I understand that they’ll still break bones, even without piercing the Kevlar.

  14. seeker_two says:

    Everyone should own at least one shotgun….preferably a double-barrel SxS or O/U. Easy to use & maintain, and it preserves the shotgun’s flexibility in a compact package.

    For everything else, a rifle or pistol-caliber carbine is preferred.

  15. savethegun says:

    Nice discussion. I’m a longtime shotgunner (grew up hunting fowl), and I often suggest new shooters buy shotguns because of my local gun laws (CA) and range choice (you can shoot shotguns at nearly every section of my local outdoor range except the handgun-specific section, and new shooters tend to LOVE trap/skeet). Also, no other firearm offers as much versatility in terms of load choice. I purchased an FN SLP Mark I two years ago, and it might just change your perception of a typical “fighting” shotgun. It’s very popular in 3-gun and it’s a whole mess of fun to shoot. The recoil has never really bugged me, but I could see how extended shooting sessions could become unpleasant (I also frequently shoot a .500 S&W handgun; recoil is relative) That being said, if I’m going into a gunfight- rifle first, rifle always.

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