The shotgun…One of the most revered, respected, and arguably the best and most effective close quarter fighting long gun you can employ. Throughout history, the shotgun, mainly the 12 gauge variety, has played a pivotal role in warfare and day to day survival and protection, even to this day. It has been trusted to protect money carriages in the times of the old west, to feed families since it first came to being, and has been declared as inhumane by Americas enemies in World War 1. Today it is used mainly for breaching and riot control in the military, at least according to my training. It still plays a vital role in Law Enforcement as a general purpose force multiplier that rides along daily in almost every cruiser…just in case. Today, it is still seen as the number 1 weapon to grab when looking to confront a threat in close proximity. Even our politicians recommend it for blasting holes through our front doors.

With this storied reputation around the world, I still can’t help but to feel that many people overplay the useful application of this firearm as a universal tactical instrument. I am not going to tell you all that the shotgun is useless, but I will say that I think it should be used where it works best. First thing we need to talk about is the fact that a shotgun slug is not going to turn someones chest into jello anymore than the Brown Bess would in the times of the Revolutionary War. There are other defensive loads out there like buckshot, but I would classify the slug as the most devastating and effective of them all. The way I see it, the 12 gauge shotgun is basically the closest thing to a modernized version of the Brown Bess that was used about 150 years ago, due to its ballistic similarities when using slugs. The Brown Bess is .02″ larger in diameter(.75 caliber) and typically fired a 545 grain ball of lead that would travel towards its target at roughly 1000fps with 100 grains of black powder. The 12 gauge rounds on the other hand, being .73 caliber, can fire a hollow 1 ounce(438 grain) slug at 1200 fps. Sometimes you can find 1.25 ounce slugs which will match the weight of the Brown Bess ball, but still will deform easily, which can cause debate on which round was more devastating to the human body.

Where the shotgun actually shines, no matter the gauge, it is in its broad versatility. This is why it have been invaluable to the military and Law Enforcement all over the globe. When we consider the effective range of the ammo we would use in our shotguns, like buckshot, we would be lucky to achieve 25 meters with a good tight shot pattern. Some manufacturers have made leaps and bounds in this arena, but for the most part, buckshot is working against variables that limit it to engagements under 15 yards. Then there are breaching loads, which I did not find to be all that effective on some thicker locks. Overall, I feel that the tactical loads for the shotgun are still leaps and bounds better terminally than we can find in other rifles and pistols. But here is the one thing that brings its effectiveness down to where it isn’t much better than a rifle or pistol….capacity. That’s right ladies and gents. With a limit of maybe nine rounds at best in a Mossberg 500, you do not really have much to throw at your targets in a hurry. And that is the other thing…you either have to pump it, or fight the recoil back on target and pray that the action doesn’t malfunction. The Benelli we used on deployment had horrendous malfunctions, even with buckshot, causing it to be a glorified pump action. With bullpup shotguns out now, we have small packages able to hold twice as many rounds and are even shorter. But that doesn’t fix the fact that running a shotgun is a lot different and challenging to run than a rifle.

Though the shotgun has flaws, I feel that it is still a very relevant gun for defense. There is so much variety in shotgun loads which makes it an obvious choice when you need something that can do anything from hunting to fighting in trench warfare. This kind of versatility is still unmatched, and still makes the shotgun an obvious choice for anyone who wants a good general purpose long gun for things within 100 yards. This alone makes the shotgun a must have for any firearm owner. What do you think?

by David Donchess

David served in the USMC for a few years, deployed twice and got wounded. Retired and moved to Alaska. Has a passion for reviewing and testing guns and gear of all kinds. Enjoys working to dispel myths and show that you can train and practice in a realistic, safe, and practical way.