Picture It: Sicily, 1922. Whoops, wrong channel.
Picture It: Your Bedroom, 2 a.m.
You awaken from a deep sleep to interlopers that have broken into your castle. You jump up in your tighty-whities, grab your trusty 12 gauge, and go off into the darkness to investigate. As you go down the long dark corridor of your hallway, you spy the shadowy figures loading up all your collectible Hummel figurines. No sir, not tonight! You take your pump shotgun and loudly SHUCK-CHUCK a round into the chamber. The Dreaded Sound sends the intruders into a Three Stooges frenzy, tripping over each other to get out of your home. As the police show up 30 minutes later, your tale of bravery has the officers patting you on the back and promising to buy you a beer.
And now back to reality…
Can this scenario happen? Sure it could—it’s a big old world and there are 8 billion people in it, so there are lots of improbable things that happen—but most likely NOT! In this scenario the homeowner is dealing with the disorientation from being awoken, the adrenaline rush of fight-or-flight, darkness, and last (but most importantly) a lack of training.
Since Mr. Homeowner never practices movement with his weapon of choice, he forgets he’s using a 28-inch-barreled duck gun and bangs it into every wall and door frame as he tries to clear the house. Finally, after spotting the shadowy figures, he racks the slide of his gun and makes The Dreaded Sound. In doing so, of course, he has jettisoned one of his three rounds, and let the bad guys know exactly where he was.
Shotguns aren’t shortcuts.
Shotguns are great tools for sport hunting, competing, and yes, self-defense—but it takes work and commitment to use them effectively, especially under stress. Furthermore, there are many myths about shotguns that are so common that even some “gun guys” believe them.
Stopping Power vs. Your Drywall
The stopping power of a good shotgun loaded with some #00 buckshot is legendary. A center-of-mass hit with just about any gauge shotgun will stop just about any human attacker. That said, if this is your home-defense gun, you need to worry about a phenomenon called “overpenetration.” (Get your mind out of the gutter and off that black-leather couch! We’re talking safety here!)
A lot of people think that buckshot and birdshot won’t go through interior walls. Simply speaking, that isn’t true. Most interior walls are largely drywall with maybe some insulation, and even smallish BB projectiles can go through them depending on a number of factors. Birdshot is less likely to do it than buckshot, and using rounds specifically designed for home defense (and thus with less powder behind the projectile) will also help. That said, knowing your target and what lies beyond it is still extremely important—and you should think of your interior walls as visual barriers, not physical ones.
Yes, You CAN Miss.
One of the great things about shotguns are that the shot spreads as it travels, but it leads people to think that “you can’t miss.” Nothing could be further from the truth. In general projectile spread of the shot is about 1 inch for every yard (3ft) traveled. So yes, you get spread, but in the 12-ft.-long bedroom, that’s only a 4-inch spread. That’s plenty of room to miss, especially under stress. You will need to aim.
The Dreaded Sound!
My favorite Fudd tall tale is that simply racking a shotgun’s action will make the bad guys find religion. Tactically speaking you just gave your position up allowing you to be ambushed. Also, as with any self defense firearm, if you do not have a round in the chamber, it is beyond useless. Shotguns can be relatively slow to reload, and if you’re using your waterfowling gun, you may only have a three-round capacity.
Make Your Shottie a Hottie.
No matter what shotgun I own, one of the first modifications I like to do is add an oversized safety. Most factory safeties are small and hard to manipulate. Having an oversized button or latch can give you a tactile feel of its position—is it on safe, or fire? Anything to make the shotgun easier to use is a bonus in my book.
After that, if this gun is just for self defense, you need to add a mounted flashlight. One of the basic rules of firearms safety is to know your target and what is beyond it. Shooting at shadowy figures is so not cool you can’t even see cool from where it is with FLIR vision and a 10X scope.
My next important upgrade is with the sights and aiming. Red dots are all the rage and eliminate some of the aiming problems shooters with aging eyes have. If you don’t want to worry about batteries, at least think about night sights, or fiber optics to go along with the flashlight.
Shotguns in late have come down so far in price that brand new pumps can be had for under 150.00 especially during sales. But don’t think that you should be stuck with just a pump. Don’t buy the pump just for the sound. Shotguns that are semi-auto guns also make sounds, and might be a better option if you want less recoil. Yes AR-15s are tacticool, but maybe it’s time you dust off the shotty and take it for a ride.
—James the “XDMAN” Nicholas Mr. UnPewFessional Himself
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