(This was written in Feb., 2013, after Vice President Joe Biden, or Shotgun Joe, gave the nation some really terrible, dangerous, criminal advice about home defense.)
The Vice President of the United States, one Joe Biden, if the press is to be believed, said, in public, that Americans should buy double-barreled shotguns for personal defense, and that if threatened, they should go outside and fire a couple of blasts, which should scare away most intruders. This has to be some of the worst advice ever given by any human being. I will address a few points very briefly, but the main thrust of this essay will be a discussion of shotguns, in general, as primary weapons for personal defense.
First, it is illegal in most areas to promiscuously fire live ammunition into the surrounding environment. This happens to be a law of which I approve, because guns, in general, including shotguns, discharge projectiles at sufficient velocities to kill or main HH Sapiens and other creatures, as well as to damage property. (“It’s only property! Don’t be such a materialist! Yeah, how about the baby that was sleeping under the window you just blew out?) These projectiles have to come to earth somewhere. (Biden may not be familiar with life on a planet that has gravity, such as the planet Pelosi, for example. Incidentally, this would explain as well as the Botox theory that entity’s gravity-defying facial structure.) When those projectiles come to earth, they are quite capable of doing serious injury to people. The liberals love to howl and snivel, “If it only saves ONE child…” Let’s change that to, “If it only kills ONE child, it’s okay as long as you don’t use an AR-15.”
Second, humans have two primary responses to fear: flight and fight. If your intruder happens to have a flight response, you’re good, except for all that innocent bystander trivia. However, if your intruder happens to have a fight response, you have several problems. (1), you have just announced your presence and your position. (2) You have just announced the fact that you are armed. (3) You have just launched into the atmosphere deadly missiles, in an unknown direction, giving your intruder a very plausible opportunity to say, “I thought she was shooting at me, so I shot back.” (4) You have just emptied your weapon, leaving you at your attacker’s mercy, even if he doesn’t have a firearm. (Are you ready to spar with a possibly drugged-up criminal, probably in the dark, with the lives of yourself and your family at stake? If so, you’re as much an idiot is this Biden entity.) and (5) You have just wasted two rounds of ammunition that you might need shortly if it turns out your intruder is actually a gang. Oh, and (6) You have just violated Heaven knows how many local statutes about reckless endangerment, and, if there is a shred of justice left in America, will be facing jail time.
Third, a 12 gauge shotgun is most emphatically NOT easier to handle than an AR or any other weapon of that class. In fact, the AK rifles and SKS rifles are works of sheer genius in that they are very easy for inexperienced people to operate. Why do you think you see so many mindless cretins carrying them around the world? My goodness, even a Jihadist can operate an AK! Those rifles are superb militia weapons because they are as nearly idiot-proof as any on the market. A shotgun has much, much greater recoil than an AR, making it a very poor choice for a person of advanced years, small stature, or physical infirmity, such as arthritis. The double-barreled shotgun, especially, is awkward and time-consuming to reload. The shotgun is longer than an AR, especially an AR with a compact stock, and much more difficult to swing or point in a confined space, such as a hallway or entryway. (This is not as much a factor if you figure on going out in the yard to indiscriminately spray buckshot around.)
In short, Biden’s advice is criminally insane and/or subhumanly stupid. It is proof positive of his utter incompetence and incapacity to handle the job, even one described by my cousin, John, Nance Garner, thusly: “This job isn’t worth a cup of warm spit.” The fact that Obama nominated him and still supports and promotes him is, likewise, proof positive that Obama is equally moronic and vastly more corrupt; Joe can’t help being what he is, but Obama likes him by choice. This administration is unfit for public service at any level, and the only proper response, at this point, is impeachment and incarceration, if not execution for treason. I would apply this judgment to all in the legislature who have supported them.
Last, and most significantly, the reelection of these cretins by a majority of the American population is proof positive that America is doomed. Unless you happen to be surrounded by close friends and fellow travelers, look left. Look right. Both of those people would rather see you dead or in chains than be held accountable for their own actions. Prepare accordingly.
Now. Let’s discuss the role of the shotgun in personal defense. I love shotguns. At close to intermediate ranges – up to about 50 yards – they are extremely effective against unarmored targets. With some modification, they can be made into very practical and flexible close quarters weapons, but off the shelf, most shotguns are, at best, compromises in this regard.
Vocabulary: A shotgun is a smoothbore shoulder-held weapon. “Smoothbore” means it does not have rifling – those spinney little grooves inside the barrels of “rifles.” This limits the accurate range and velocity of the projectiles. A modest rifle cartridge will push a bullet in the neighborhood of 1700-2000 feet per second, and be accurate to several hundred yards. A really hot 12-gauge round runs about 1500-1600 fps, and is accurate to 50-75 yards. Velocity gives you range and shocking power.
A shotgun can fire a solid projectile, called a slug, but the vast majority of defensive and sporting shotgun ammunition fires “shot,” or pellets. These pellets range in size from 1.3mm to 9.4mm. “Birdshot” is on the smaller end, while “Buckshot” is on the bigger end. (Buckshot gets its name from its use in hunting deer.) Shotgun ammunition is available in many different loadings. The “heavier” loads have more shot and more powder, making them more effective for defense, but also increasing the recoil significantly. Remember Newton? For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction? If you drive a lot of shot real fast, the reaction – “recoil” – is going to be more than if you drive less shot more slowly. The “lightest” 12 gauge ammunition will kick MUCH harder than an AR-15, or even an AK.
A “riot gun” is nothing more than a shotgun with a short barrel, generally 18 inches. The barrels were not shortened to make the shot spread, but to make them more easily handled in confined spaces, such as jails, alleys, and trenches. A “pump” shotgun is a magazine-fed weapon with a sliding pump that you have to pull to the rear and shove back forward in order to throw the spent shell out of the weapon and put a live one into firing position. A “semi-auto” shotgun, like any other semi-auto, uses the propellant gas (from that loud explosion) or the recoil, itself to drive the action backward, and a spring to shove it back forward. NOTE: the operations on a pump or semi-auto firearm are identical. The only difference is in whether you have to cycle it, yourself, or the weapon does it for you. “Automatic” shotguns, like “automatic” rifles, are illegal, and have been for many years.
MYTH 1: You can’t miss with a shotgun. Bull. Given that over 95% of all civilian shootings occur at ranges under 15 feet, the pattern (spread of the shot) is less than an inch. A .45 (diameter .45”) projectile gives you a margin of error between hitting and missing of about +/- 3/16 inch. So a shotgun gains you, at most, a half-inch of margin. That is insignificant, and damned sure doesn’t make it impossible to miss someone! People will tell you that if you have a short barrel, the shot spreads more. The minimum legal barrel length for shotguns is 18 inches. The most common length for “sporting” use shotguns is between 26 and 28 inches. The difference in shot spread, at common combat ranges, is, at most ¼ inch. Also, the shorter the barrel, the lower the velocity of the shot. You see, in a longer barrel, the gasses from the gunpowder have more time to accelerate the pellets. If you cut a barrel down to the point that you have an appreciably wider pattern, you will lose so much velocity that the impact will be much less, and your chance of stopping the fight proportionately less. (By the way, if anyone tells you to cut your shotgun down, even to 18 inches or more, you get away from that moron! Cutting down any shoulder weapon is illegal, and, even if you are justified in shooting an intruder, will get you in prison – really, really, really prison!)
MYTH 2: The sound of a pump shotgun being racked (that means pulling the pump back and forward) will scare off any intruder. This is dangerous, even catastrophic advice. Even if a person is sober, about half the population has a “fight” response when frightened, and will attack you when you rack your shotgun. Since you have just announced the fact that you are armed and plausibly have violent intent, you have invited what is otherwise a criminal maggot to enter under the full protection of the law if he burns you down. If your intruder happens to be drunk or stoned, all bets are off, and you can find yourself with more close-up trouble than you can possibly imagine – or manage. I actually fired a load of 12 gauge, #4 buckshot (thirty-odd pellets, about 6mm, or .24 caliber) into the mud between a punk’s feet. He sneered at me and said, “Man, if you choot me, I’ll tsue you!” I said, “Why, you damnfool, if I shoot you, you’ll die.” He’s standing there, splattered with mud, ears ringing, staring into the smoking hole in the end of that 870, (on which I had just racked the slide, by the way) and was utterly unimpressed. Never, NEVER count on bluff!
MYTH 3: A 12 gauge buckshot round is a 100% reliable, one-shot stopper. Police blotters are filled with stories of people soaking up two or even three loads of buckshot and continuing to attack, or at least to function aggressively. True, a shotgun is much more effective than many other weapons, but do not for a second believe that one round is going to end the fight. Consider, for a moment, how our military personnel have been known to function – even get up and run around and carry their comrades on their backs – after being hit multiple times by rifles and shrapnel. Criminals come from the same gene pool, and have the same physiology, even if sober, and on drugs – eee, forget it! Figure on having to shoot any attacker at least twice, no matter what you shoot him with. This means, of course, that a double-barreled shotgun, which can be loaded with a maximum of two rounds, it totally unsuited as a primary defensive weapon. Of course, it’s a lot better than a ball bat or kitchen knife, but if you have a choice, don’t go for any one of the three.
MYTH 4: Shotguns are easy to use and require no training or experience. This is usually related to the “can’t miss” myth, and/or the “just rack the slide” myth. No matter what kind of weapon you choose, LEARN HOW TO USE THE DAMNED THING! Loading a shotgun requires manual dexterity because you can’t just drop the empty magazine and slap in another one. You have to load the rounds one at a time by stuffing them into a small slot in the belly of the beast. You’re scared, stressed by being in a life-threatening situation, it may be dark (they love to cut the power before kicking in the door) you might be taking fire, your kids may be screaming in terror, (or worse, trying to run past you to get out of the house)…. The list of things that can make loading a shotgun one round at a time very difficult is long, indeed. What if your hands are cold, or you have arthritis? In my opinion, a shotgun, especially a pump, requires more training than does an AR. And don’t forget the tactical aspect, either. Because of the length of a shotgun, you will need to ingrain patterns of movement that prevent you from bashing the muzzle into a wall and possibly dropping the weapon. Again, whether you choose a butter knife or a shotgun for defense, learn it and practice with it.
In my opinion, a shotgun is not the best choice for a primary home defense weapon, and a double barreled shotgun is a piss-poor choice. Talk about difficulty in reloading and vicious recoil! The length of the weapon is a primary consideration. For example, it is utterly impossible to use one in your car, and even in a house, getting it around corners and through hallways can be awkward even if you practice a great deal. Consider the very short range of many civilian confrontations: under 5 feet. Even with a riot gun, that puts the muzzle well within his reach. Can you keep a strong, fast, athletic man who is too stoned to care from jerking that thing out of your hand?
On the plus side for shotguns is the undeniable stopping power, and remember, your objective in a fight is NOT to kill the guy, but to STOP THE FIGHT. Put him on his back, NOW! Render him incapable of pressing his attack, NOW! A shotgun is not a guaranteed, 100%, one-shot stopper, but it’s better than most handguns. The ability of a projectile to penetrate anything comes from its mass. A big bullet will penetrate more than a small bullet moving at the same speed. The pellets in a birdshot cartridge are much smaller than the pellets in a buckshot cartridge, and thus have less penetrating ability. This makes birdshot more attractive if there is a chance of your fire going through a wall and hitting someone on the other side. Birdshot is utterly devastating on a human body, and is no less a stopper than buckshot, unless… UNLESS!… your opponent is wearing body armor, or even very heavy clothing, such as motorcycle racing gear or a heavy leather coat. The impact will be as great, but the shot may not get into his muscle and nervous system, which means there is less chance of stopping the fight. Of course, you could try the government’s approach and use signage to create an armor-free zone around your home.
I would much rather have a semi-auto shotgun for home defense because it could be, if necessary, operated with one hand. It won’t be a picnic, because that sucker’s still gonna kick, but if you absolutely had to, you could hold it in one hand and get off several shots in a very short period of time. They won’t be as accurate as if you use both hands, but if one hand is otherwise occupied or injured, it could be done.
So the bottom line is: pick a weapon with which you are comfortable, get a good coach, use realistic training scenarios, and PRACTICE LIKE YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT, because… I hope that’s obvious. And one, purely personal note, pray for all you are worth that you never have to shoot another human being