It is the all-powerful, wall-shattering, body-vaporizing “boom stick” of television and the movies.
It can carve a door from the side of a home, blow bite-sized chunks from steel, and fold a man in half before throwing him across the room.
It is great and terrifying, loud and profound.
It is the shotgun….
… And everything you’ve heard about it is probably wrong.
We’re tearing down the myths. Come join me…
MYTH #1 : You Don’t Have To Aim
Shotgun manufacturers bear some responsibility for the widespread belief that shotguns don’t need to be aimed.
It is, after all, a smoothbore weapon, and thus inherently less accurate than a weapon with a rifled barrel. The typical no-frills pump action or double-barreled shotgun has a bead front sight and no rear sight to speak of. There may be a sight channel along the top of the gun, but this isn’t exactly what you’d call a high-precision system.
Nonetheless, if you’re going to shoot accurately, you do have to aim. This means sighting down the barrel or barrels and doing your best to put your slug or shot payload on the target.
Without a choke tube (what we call “cylinder choke”), shot from a 12-gauge doesn’t spread very much at the ranges at which a self-defense encounter occurs.
This means that there’s little practical advantage to using shot over using deer slugs (more on ammunition later in detail). A slug from a 12-gauge will put a hole the size of a quarter in the target.
Double Aught Buck (00 Buckshot) — often considered the “gold standard” for self-defense stopping power — contains nine balls that are each about the size of a nine-millimeter bullet. In practice this looks a lot like chucking a handful of bullets at the target and hoping you don’t hit anything you didn’t mean to hit.
If you load shot instead of slugs for self-defense, be aware of the collateral damage you could cause if all the component balls don’t enter (and stay in) the target. Of course, it goes without saying that a twelve-gauge slug will penetrate pretty deeply at close range. You can punch one pretty much through-and-through the average premanufactured trailer home.
Later, I’ll cover your choice of ammunition for home defense because—as you’re beginning to see—it matters WAY more than you probably thought.
The point I’m trying to make here is the one thing you CAN’T do when it comes to shotguns is just kind of wave your shotgun in the general direction of the bad guy and pull the trigger.
That’s a formulate for failure. Unfortunately, a lot of shotguns get sold these days with pistol grips and no shoulder stocks. It’s extremely hard to hit anything with a shotgun like that, at anything other than extreme close range.
So when you have a pistol-grip-only shotgun, you are immediately cutting the effective range of that weapon to the length of a very small room. This amounts to not aiming if your target is any farther away than that. (If you’ve got it in your mind you’re going to hold the weapon up to eye level, please check YouTube for videos of people punching themselves in the face with their own shotguns and other firearms.)
The point is: you have to aim a shotgun, even though its useful range is shorter than that of a weapon with a rifled barrel (such as a carbine like an AR-15).
MYTH #2: Just the Pump Sound Will Scare Him Off
Advocates of the pump-action shotgun for self-defense will often cite the deterrent effect of racking the pump. That fearsome sound, they tell you, will stop the enemy dead in his tracks, much like the red light of a laser sight on his chest might.
The truth is:
It might … but don’t count on it.
I forget the exact number, but anyone that has read enough NRA reports of armed citizens defending themselves with guns quickly realizes something – most of the time the armed citizen simply has to show they are armed. They never have to fire a shot and the would-be criminal simply runs off!
That’s great, and the same thing might very well happen for you with your home defense shotgun when you rack the action—and I pray that it does—but we don’t train for the best case scenario, we train for when we have to defend our lives plain and simple.
People who believe this is true often say that it is the reason cops use pump-action shotguns on patrol.
I hate to say it, but the reason cops use pump-action twelve-gauges is because pump-action twelve-gauges are simple, reliable, and relatively cost-effective. More progressive police departments issue carbines like the AR15 to their police officers.
The shotgun, or any firearm, might give you or me reason to wonder if we should change our behavior, if it was pointed at us. But pointing a shotgun and then racking the pump, much like racking the slide on a handgun, can also be seen as a provocative gesture.
One of the reasons that carrying with a round out of the chamber (Israeli style) is not always viewed positively for handguns used in self-defense is that racking the slide can be seen as escalating the conflict.
Think about it:
You’re confronting a guy who was trying to break into your house. You tell him to stop right there. He stops… and you rack the slide or the pump of your firearm. He may take that action as the indication you are about to kill him, and he might just come right at you in the hopes of stopping you so he can live.
Now, this isn’t to say that racking the pump might not scare a bad guy. It all depends on how reasonable he’s feeling. You just shouldn’t base your choice of firearm on this very unreliable notion that you’re going to scare people with it.
The bottom line is: If you’re going to point a gun at somebody, it had better be because you are justified to shoot if you do go through with the act.
You should never use your gun like a magic wand, waving it about in the hope that it will alter people’s behavior simply because it is a gun.
MYTH #3: You Should Pimp Your AR-12-Gauge
A frequent criticism of people who accessorize the Kalashnikov pattern rifle (AK-47 and variatns) is that they hang too much plastic crap on it, trying to turn it into a Russian-made AR15.
The reason this is silly is that the two are very different rifles.
The AR15 is sleek, accurate, ergonomic, and relatively fragile compared to some other guns. The Kalashnikov is durable, sloppy, and the opposite of ergonomic (right down the charging handle being on the wrong side of the gun because it’s part of the bolt).
Turning it into a look-alike of the AR15, complete with a multiple position stock and rails on every conceivable surface, just makes it try to be something it isn’t.
The same is true of people who try to turn their shotgun into an “assault rifle”.
If you look, you can find just about anything by way of accessories, and you can hang these all on your poor, unsuspecting pump gun.
That includes the aforementioned multiple position stock, a pistol grip, a foregrip, rails everywhere, multiple optics, a laser, and any number of other things.
But these accessories, after a certain point, just become a distraction. Many of them are solutions in search of problems, too: The typical AR15-style stock, on a shotgun, doesn’t make it more comfortable, and in fact makes it less so to shoot.
The same is true of some models of folding stock. If you are going to hit anything accurately at moderate distances, you’re going to want the shoulder stock out, and some of those folding stocks are like a sharpened piece of cement next to your shoulder.
Avoid the temptation to keep putting new accessories on your shotgun. The pump shotgun is useful because it is simple. Don’t overcomplicate it.
MYTH #4: “Get a Shotgun, Get a Shotgun, Get a Shotgun”
By far the worst advice ever given to the public on the topic of shotguns was given by Vice President Joe Biden.
I can’t say this with more emphasis: Joe Biden is a moron.
The man decided, like liberal Democrats so often do, that he was an expert on firearms.
Then he used the bully pulpit of his position to lie to the American public and spread misinformation, all in the name of telling people that they didn’t need to buy an AR15 because AR15 rifles aren’t good for self-defense.
Now, the opposite is true, especially for women: The ergonomic and relatively low-recoil AR15 is perfect for a female home defender. It has enough firepower with standard magazines to get the job done even against multiple opponents, it’s accurate, it’s easy to handle even if your hands are smaller, and the weapon makes it easy to track a target for follow-up shots.
Biden, though, basically said that it was shotguns, not the AR15, that were best for home defense.
Repeating himself like a mental patient, he whispered in a creepy voice, “Get a shotgun. Get a shotgun.” Then he told anyone listening that if they thought they heard an intruder, they should go outside and, with their trusty-double barreled shotgun (a two-shot weapon) they should fire a “couple of blasts” into the night.
That, concluded a beaming, idiotic Biden, would scare off anyone who might be thinking bad thoughts, thus saving the defender.
If you know anything at all about firearms, you know this is advice only a mentally handicapped person could offer. It isn’t just stupid and ignorant; it’s reckless.
In most states, even firing a deliberately aimed warning shot will put you in jail.
Shooting at nothing without aiming, heedless of the consequences and without giving any thought to what or who you might hit, is the stuff lawsuits are made of.
If you followed Biden’s advice, you would be LUCKY to be arrested. You deserve to be sued and ruined forever, because that’s the kind of nutty behavior with a firearm that gets innocent people killed.
So let that be a lesson to you: When you take the ignorant, made-up firearms advice of “experts” who happen to be liberal Democrats, prison is your BEST outcome.
It goes without saying that the shotgun is not a noisemaker that scares people away.
It is a deadly weapon and you must use it only when you are both legally and morally justified to do so.
That means ignoring anything a liberal politician has to tell you about self-defense with a gun.
The Cold, Hard Facts
If you are shopping for a home-defense shotgun, you basically have two choices: a pump action or a double-barrel.
The advantage of double-barreled shotguns is that they are even simpler than pumps (and thus more reliable). You can buy some home-defense models that have integral rails, too.
These are ugly as sin but you can mount flashlights to them. In a home-defense long gun, a flashlight is a great thing to have, because it is difficult to hold a flashlight and a shotgun at the same time.
Having a compact two-shot shotgun with a flashlight and possibly some sort of red-dot optic system is not a bad choice at all for home defense.
For greater firepower and more versatility, however, a pump gun is best.
Of course, as you may know, my whole “crazy” underground business didn’t start by talking about pistols. Or shotguns.
Instead, it all centered around one product – the Underground Assault Rifle System. So let’s get into my personal favorite… the AR.