(Courtesy of Tactical Life)

Ever since the 19th century, one of the most practical—and respected—weapons used by American police officers, soldiers and armed civilians has been the short-barreled shotgun. Lightweight, handy, easy to maneuver in close quarters and brutally effective at close range, it proved the perfect weapon for defending a homestead against marauding Indians, guarding a stage coach’s strongbox, calming a saloon full of drunken cowboys or facing down a band of bank robbers.

In the military, these shotguns first made a name for themselves during the Civil War as the preferred weapons of the hard-riding, grey-clad Confederate cavalry. In the early 20th century, short-barreled shotguns were the most capable of stopping fanatical Moro juramentados in the Philippines, and in the trenches of the Western Front, they proved so effective at stopping attacks by elite German Sturmtruppen that the Kaiser’s government threatened to execute any Doughboy captured with one.

During World War II, the USMC in the Pacific showed that pump actions were effective at jungle warfare and for stopping Japanese suicide charges. In the jungles of Vietnam, a rolling volley of 00 buckshot often broke up a Viet Cong ambush, while in Iraq and Afghanistan these shotguns have shown themselves to be equally effective at urban warfare and as breaching weapons for blowing open doors in buildings.

Today, pump-action and semi-auto shotguns are standard equipment for American police forces, and the gaping muzzle of a 12-gauge shotgun is just as effective at altering the anti-social tendencies of a group of urban gangbangers as it was a band of stagecoach robbers. As an NYPD officer once told me, “When viewed from the ‘wrong’ end, the muzzle of a riot gun looks as big as the entrance of the Lincoln Tunnel!”

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