Monday, January 12, 2009

The Utility of a Shotgun

When it comes to self-defense or law enforcement, the shotgun is probably the most versatile tool we have available. The most common bore sizes are the 410, 28, 20, 16, and 12 gauge--and you might still find a 10 gauge here and there. Today, I'm just concerned with the 12 gauge which is probably the most common of all for law enforcement, military, defense, and sporting uses.

There is virtually no end to the types of rounds a 12 ga shotgun can fire. Here's a short list: Birdshot, buckshot, slug, flechette, fin-stabilized HE grenade, tear gas, rubber baton, TASER, and flashbang. That's just scratching the surface. Basically, if it has a diameter of .729" or less, it can be fired successfully from a 12ga shotgun. I've even wondered about weaponizing the caps from Pabst Blue Ribbon bottle caps (I have a lot of time on my hands).

The shotgun can handle a lot of different loads, but what makes them special is the "pattern" they shoot. By launching several (or several hundred) small projectiles in a pattern, you increase your likelihood of making a hit. This is cool when you break clay pigeons, or shoot ducks on the wing. This is a decisive advantage when fighting for your life.
While we're on the subject of defense, lets look at some common 12 ga ammunition. You should be able to find most of this stuff at your local Wal Mart.

First of all, birdshot (seen above). Birdshot is a collection of several hundred small lead or steel pellets. The size of shot is expressed numerically. The smaller the number, the larger the shot. Light loads, like #8 and # 7 1/2 are for shooting clay pigeons--they fire very small pellets over a light powder charge, which saves your shoulder. These light loads are not recommended for defense, but are plenty good for practice or breaking clays. The most common others are #7, #6, #4, and#2. Buckshot starts at #4 and works its way to #000. I prefer #00 buckshot (below) because the ball is of decent size ( .33") and you get up to 15 pellets in a 3" magnum shell. Apartment dwellers or people worried about over-penetration could probably drop back to a #6 Magnum (a common turkey hunting load) or a #4 buckshot and still pack a considerable punch.
Those who seek the ultimate in 12ga firepower need look no further than the slug (below). These are a solid .729" projectile that usually weighs in at 1oz. and travels between 1400 and 1600 feet per second. They can be accurately fired out to 100 yards by an average shooter (they drop like a stone after about 75 yards), but are abusive on the shoulder and are not as accurate as a proper rifle. If you need a measure of precision from your shotgun, simply shove a few of these in it. Suddenly your scattergun can be capable of pretty reasonable CQB-range accuracy, and with a hell of a punch.
Other "hybrid" loads are available. Below is one of my favorite odd rounds that is sort of affordable.
The above load is a .65" ball surrounded by six .33" pellets. I suppose this could be a pretty good defense round. Especially if all seven rounds hit home. I mainly bought them for fun.

Now for the nuts and bolts. A shotgun is an incredibly versatile tool to have for sport or for defense, as we see from some examples of ammo above. Remember when I said that shooting a pattern of shot was a decisive advantage? Well here's why: when fighting for your life, even if you're a highly trained individual, you will probably not be able to think- OR SHOOT straight. A shotgun helps you out if your sights weren't perfectly centered on your target, or if your trigger pull sucked. If your target is running from cover to cover, simply put the barrel on him and pull the trigger. It's important to remember that no firearm is a "death ray". Just because you make a hit doesn't mean you've ended the fight. However, making hits easier, and unleashing more projectiles with each pull of the trigger is a massive advantage.

Before I retire for the day, let me paint you a picture. An M4 modified to full auto (as opposed to "burst" mode like the military has) can fire about 750 rounds per minute. That's 12 per second. Suppose you pull the trigger like a normal person, you'll shoot probably three to five rounds. I'll call it five. So with every pull of the trigger, you get five rounds of .224" bullets. A magazine holds 30 rounds, so you effectively get six pulls of the trigger before a reload. If you're a civilian, and you don't want or can't have (thanks to anti-2nd amendment laws) the license to get a fully automatic AR-15/M4, then you get a measly, lonely, single round with each pull of the trigger.

With a 12ga shotgun and 3" magnum 00 Buckshot, you release FIFTEEN projectiles measuring .33" across. My shotgun will hold six of these rounds, and can be continuously topped off.

Now suppose you're fighting bad guys at ranges from seven to 100 yards. Which one would you prefer?

Now I admit that an M4 has the shotgun beat for ammo capacity (on semi-auto, which is what about 99.9% of civilians have thanks to restrictive gun laws and the high cost of getting licensed, provided your state allows it), accuracy, and range. But the situation above is something to think about. Cops and law-abiding civilians rarely defend themselves at any kind of distance. It's usually across the room or a couple of car-lengths from the good guy to the bad guy. Given those distances, I'd take the shotgun every time. The shotgun provides a better chance of a hit, and is likely to do rather a lot of damage. And considering that a good pump-action shotgun starts at about $350 (and goes up into the thousands, but there are many fantastic mid-level tactical shotguns for $500-ish), and an entry level AR-15 costs about $1000, make the choice.


James said...

I prefer the flame-thrower rounds.

Anonymous said...

Sorry I don't check into here more, but I find all this cryptic. I know "gun go bang" - "bad guy fall down." Ladies and Gentlemen, I'm just a caveman. Your world, frightens and confuses me...