Monday, February 18, 2013

Flatland Shotgun Curmudgeon

I don't pay shotguns much mind in the grand scheme of things. It isn't that I don't respect them. Quite the contrary--I believe the shotgun had more of a role in settling the west than did the rifle or sixgun, and it continues to be the most versatile and lowest-cost weapon available. I find handguns more to my liking, with tacticool rifles close behind. Maybe if I hunted, I would be more "into" shotguns.

I do enjoy busting clays and shredding cardboard zombies, so from that standpoint, I'd like to share some observations and a heavy dose of opinion.

My first pump-action shotgun was a Mossberg 500 with an 18.5" barrel in 12ga. It was under $200 (WAY back in 2003) and was built to that price. I like the Mossberg 500 as a "truck gun" or a pure utility piece, but it just didn't feel as nice as my friends' Remington 870s. Especially one guy's 870 Wingmaster. A Remington 870 Express would be a more apt comparison, anyway.

On to the Remington, the 870 express is a little more expensive, but feels a little more solid. The Wingmaster version is nicer yet, but gets on for Benelli money, and for Benelli money, I'll have the Benelli.

I am not prone to gun-snobbery, but since I shelled out the money for my Nova (and putting in some time behind a Supernova and M2), I can say that Benelli shotguns just feel better. The three different Benelli(s?) I've shot all have the perfect point of aim for me. The only American steel that came close was a well-tuned Remington 1187 that I used to decimate a box of clays at an Army buddy's 4th of July party. If you have lots of money, or don't mind eating hotdogs and rice for a month, the Benelli M2 is probably the best scattergun on the market. The "intertia recoil" system means simplicity and reliability, and I'm really surprised that Benelli went to a gas system on their even more expensive M4.

As I mentioned, I've also spent some time with a Remington 1187, which again, goes for Benelli money. See above. I've shot a Maverick 88, which I felt was a sort of cheap version of a Mossberg 500. And then there was a friend's FN TPS, which I do like, but it is a bit...portly. They used to be fairly affordable, but I haven't checked on them for some time. The TPS does a good job of taming recoil, but that is probably more down to its enormous weight than the ported barrel.

To me, a shotgun is a secondary weapon or a home-defense gun. The reason being that you just can't carry enough shotshells to stay in a fight very long. I once loaded a SAW pouch with buckshot to see how many it could hold, and it was about 60 rounds, but it weighed more than the moon and it took up one quarter of a tac vest. You could easily hold six 30 round AR15 magazines in the same space, and at a fraction of the weight. In my experience, light weight is important. As powerful and versatile as the shotgun is, its massive ammunition makes it difficult to justify on missions where it isn't a key weapon. However, in a home setting, the ammunition portability problem goes away. Or if you find yourself part of a mechanized patrol and you can use a squad vehicle (or a police car!) to carry a large quantity of ammunition that you can come back to and top off your vest from time to time.

And that's all I have to say about that...

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Lazy Sunday

I'm a terrible impulse-buyer. I will retire at age 77 because Uncle Larry at MidwayUSA always has a sale on something I "need". Yesterday, that thing was a Lee Load-All 2, which is a reloading press for 12ga (there's also a 20ga model). Yes, for $43, I gained the ability to produce 9-pellet 00 buckshot for roughly half of what even the cheapest cheap stuff costs. 

On that note, all there is left during this latest round of panic-buying of ammunition and guns is shotshells. Pretty much anything you want at only slightly inflated prices. I picked up some Remington Gun Club #8 shot for about $6 per box of 25, which isn't awful. The upside is that I can turn those empty hulls into fairly inexpensive and very powerful buckshot rounds. 

So today, some friends and I gathered at my sister's place to bust some clays. I brought along a couple of cardboard silhouettes and a box of Sellier & Bellot 9-pellet 00 buckshot just for fun. I came away with a new home-defense plan, and a new respect for Benelli. 

You see, I have been using my 20" frankengun AR15 as my bedside gun. It's a familiar platform in a capable caliber, so what the hell. Today, I ran through a couple of scenarios, just for fun, to see what my Benelli Nova would do at realistic distances with that cheap buckshot. 

My house is older, and has a choppy floor-plan. The rooms aren't very big, and the longest shot I would ever have to take would be about 30 feet. The distance from my bed to the bedroom door is just a little over half that distance. So I stood back at the seven yard line (21 feet for those of you who don't do math) and let each of my cardboard zombies have it. Results below:


 As we can see, at that distance, the pattern is very small, but large enough to not just be one large hole. Also, we learn that buckshot could be used to make a relatively accurate shot at home-defense distances. So, the Nova is now at my bedside, full of much better made Nobel Sport 12-pellet 00 buckshot. I really like the idea of being able to shoot a bad guy 12 times with one trigger pull. 

While we were out there, I got to wring out a Benelli M2, which I've lusted after for some time now. I just can't bring myself to write the rather hefty check for one. I'm happy to report that they are indeed worth the premium. The M2 is recoil operated, so there's no gas system to foul, and it is very light. The lightness made the muzzle pretty lively when cycling heavy loads (those cheap 00 buckshot rounds) but was really nice to use on clays. It even cycled some Winchester "reduced recoil and noise" #8 shot. It even said on the box "will not cycle semi-auto shotguns, you asshole!" (well, it said most of that). Oh, and that muzzle flip from the buckshot rounds is something you could probably train your way around. The Nova and Supernova just have enough weight on the front end that there is a noticeable difference in muzzle flip. I had just finished my buckshot experiment with my Nova when I started shooting the M2. 

So I guess I'm going to be into shotguns until the madness stops and I can once again buy centerfire components and .22LR. Now to get my nerd on with some reloading recipes for 12ga. Keep your stick on the ice.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Anonymity, Layered Security, And Other Unfortunate Realities

I've seen a number of articles smearing gun owners, and a particularly wrong-headed article about why people carry guns. That's where I'll start today.

Chief Ken James of somewhere in CA (sorry, I couldn't find exactly what PD he runs) says that people carry guns to "intimidate and show power". Really? After reading that, two things were stuck in my mind. First, was "this man must have literally NO penis at all". Second was a great song by King Missile.

There are a few problems with the Chief's assertion. First, most lawfully armed citizens choose to carry concealed rather than carry openly. If people can't see my how will I intimidate them and show power?

Second, the gun is the very last step in most people's minds. My friends and I generally have several steps, or layers of security before it becomes time for a gun. Iowa has a VERY low crime rate, and places with higher crime rates *cough* East Des Moines *cough* are places we try to stay away from. Also, most violent crimes occur between 10p.m. and 5a.m., so I try not to be out that late. It helps that I generally get up for work at 4a.m., so by 8:30p.m., I'm completely exhausted. It also really helps your odds if you don't consume alcohol in public--and stay away from bars and nightclubs. I'm too old for that shit anyway.

Third, a gun is just a gun. Any personification you invest in a gun is more a reflection of your psychology than any meaningful analysis of how an inanimate object feels or acts. If you think guns are for intimidation or for power, it probably means your gentleman's region is very, very small. It could also mean that you feel fearful and helpless and probably need a hug.

So how about turning that Freudian analysis back on me? Well, I think a gun is just a gun. It is a tool, something along the lines of a spare tire or a first-aid kit. it is something I carry in case of emergency. I don't go to town hoping I get to change a tire alongside the highway, or place a tourniquet on an arterial wound. I carry a gun (and a spare tire, and a first-aid kit) because I live in reality. In reality, bad things happen and we usually don't know when or where. I would be perfectly happy if I lived the rest of my life without having to fire another shot in anger, or having to change a tire in the pouring rain alongside I-35, or treat a severe wound. I'm not concerned with "showing power", and I have no desire to "intimidate" anyone.