Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Cliff Notes version: Why I prefer the shotgun

Over the years my advocacy for the shotgun, contending that the shotgun is a generally better self-defense weapon than a rifle or a carbine, has filled a number of blog posts. Some of those posts go into detail about pattern size and density, danger radius, and assorted, related minutiae. This time I simply give the topic a once-over. I have not succeeded in convincing very many shooters that you really are better defended with a riot gun than with a modern type of rifle, for all the details I have offered. I don't know that the quick overview will do any better, but here goes.


I prefer a shotgun for my personal and home defense long gun. I consider it the best fight stopper at short range. Nearly all justifiable self-defense shootings are at short range.

I do not think very much can be said against the effectiveness of 12 gauge buckshot loads. They are deficient in just one respect; they will not go through even the lightest body armor. They do, though, allow you to target, and reliably hit, the unarmored parts of the assailant. That is a good enough solution. Advances in body armor mean that some rifle loads that were surefire armor piercers some years back may not work on today's new and improved armor.  I have seen some of the experimental ideas going into the next generation of body armor. You can expect rifle-stopping ability in vests that are lighter and far more comfortable than ever before. The shotgun, though, remains a good way to attack gaps in any armor. I have heard of just one event, the North Hollywood shootout, in which the criminals had equipped themselves with head-to-toe armor that they had improvised for the occasion. They lost anyway, and the fashion did not catch on.

If you feel you need an armor piercing load for the 12 gauge, look into type AP-20 slugs offered by DDupleks for law enforcement use. You may need industry insider connections to get them, but there is at this time no US law against possessing them, and they appear to do as much as is possible toward increasing the penetrating ability of the shotgun. As with most rifle loads, there are some armors that will leave you stymied, but that is in the nature of the game as we now must play it. Armor technology has taken a big leap forward while projectile technology has remained nearly stagnant. The DDupleks slug is simply an adaptation of the conical point steel bullet, which was seen at least as far back as WWII.

An ammunition advance that is indeed significant is the tight patterning buckshot shells using a specialty wad. This ammunition is sold by Federal as FliteControl and by Hornady as the VersaTite. These shells throw patterns half the size of conventional shells when fired from cylinder bored or IC barrels. While a pattern that tight is frequently not what you want, it is a very useful option if you need to extend your shotgun's effective range. I keep regular buckshot shells on hand and also a small supply of the tight-patterning stuff. Usually the conventional shells are more suitable but the ability to simply push in different shells to produce much smaller patterns is a good option, better in many cases than switching to slugs, for slugs give up the shotgun's principal advantage, which is firing a spread consisting of multiple projectiles.

I think some gunwriters have expended far too much ink, and concern, over the scenario in which some of your buckshot misses the target and sails downrange, creating a hazard. You should be aware that it is likely to happen, but not unduly panicked at the prospect. Most shots fired in anger miss, whatever the weapon, with pistol bullets being particularly likely to go astray, so you need to confirm downrange-safe whatever weapon you're firing. You never miss? Yeah, tell me another. The stress of a live fire "two-way range" has a way of messing with your cool execution of practiced skills. In other words, it is not that you should be unconcerned with the cone of danger your shotgun produces, but you should be concerned about a cone-shaped danger zone also if you have a rifle or, especially, a pistol. Misses are a  probability bordering on certainty. Look carefully downrange to confirm Rule Four, whatever you're armed with.  On a slightly encouraging note, the absolute danger radius of buckshot is less than that of pistol bullets and far less than that of rifle bullets.

All in all, the shotgun seems to me to offer the best armament for the most likely defense scenarios, which are at short range, and are likely also to feature targets in motion and often happen in poor light. The shotgun's hit probability is higher than any other small arm's, its effectiveness is indisputable, and its fearsome reputation precedes it.


  1. thanks for sharing this i learn a lot and its very interesting. keep posting more
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  2. That's what I think is so fascinating about guns. As a sporting instrument, they work just amazingly.

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  3. I might now consider shotgun because of his devastating effect. imagine how the bearing scattered

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  4. Thanks for writing in such an encouraging post. I had a glimpse of it and couldn’t stop reading till I finished. I have already bookmarked you.

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