"Serious" Shotguns 101...


Dave McCracken
June 30, 2003, 08:15 PM
Lots of us use our shotguns for recreation and fun, and some of us believe them to be the best defensive weapon for 25 yards or less, no exceptions. The energy a shotgun load dumps into a target is on the order of that of a medium car wreck. Concentrated in a pattern or at extremely close range,a .73 caliber, semi solid mass, nothing from another weapon works as well until we get up to crew served weapons.While there's precious few guarantees on this mortal coil, a shotgun comes close to guaranteeing threat management up close and sudden. The prerequisite is expertise.

The last time I looked at a database I cannot now access as a private citizen, the rate was one hit, one stop. 99% plus one shot stop ratios cannot be improved upon.

We can get this sort of performance for less than one week's pay. Cost effectiveness and protection galore for a pittance.

"Serious" shotguns are defined as those that human life or death are dependent on.They are thus defined by use.

People vary in opinion on brand and accessories, but there's common points as to what constitutes a good choice for a "Serious" shotgun.

Here they are:

RELIABILITY. Using the minimum criteria first espoused by Ayoob, this means it has shot 200 rounds of DUTY ammo glitchless.Duty ammo is that which you're willing to bet your life on, because you may be.

DURABILITY. Capable of being fired(With proper maintenance) thousands of times.

ACTION. Repeating shotguns like autos and pumps are the better choices, though plenty of doubles are found that can be used and fit the criteria. While autos are a bit more finicky than pumps, if it passes the reliability test and satisfies YOU, go with the auto.

LENGTH. 40" is about optimum,with a couple inches either way OK. It must be short enough to handle in a hallway or small room. The shorter the barrel, the greater the blast and flash will be, possibly crucial in low light.

ERGONOMICS. The user should be able to operate this when newly awake, in the dark and under highly stressful conditions. The MOA should be simple and unambigious. Naturally, expertise is a prerequisite.

Under ergonomics, we should include grip. Using checkering, soft plastic panels,or skateboard tape, the thing should not slip in hands that are sweaty or wet with blood.

TRIGGER.A safe 3-4 lb CLEAN pull makes good shotgunners look like great ones, and great ones into legends.

FINISH. "Serious" shotguns do not have to be all black,"Parkerized", or camo to be effective. Low shine is a minor plus in a HD(Home Defense) weapon and somewhat more in a CD(Community Defense) weapon, but if what you have is a little glossy, it's liveable.

When oiled, it should be reasonably resistant to rust. Most are.

FIT. Not the same as for a sporting shotgun, the "Serious" shotgun is used more like a rifle, and should be stocked like one. Less LOP, a little straighter to aid handling kick, and a bigger butt and pad than most sporting shotguns are what we're going for. Of course, one of the popular combos with a short and a long barrel set should have the stock fitted for the user and "Serious" work.

SIGHTS. While much good work is still done with a plain bead, most folks will benefit from a more visible front sight. A bit of Testor's Enamel in White or Bright Yellow may be enough, or one of the fiber optic sights.

SLUGS are an option useful to many people, though of limited scope in HD. While most folks can do good work out to 50 yards with a bead and practice, I've not trained anyone who did not see an improvement using open or peep sights. The much vaunted "Ghost Ring" sight is a peep sight with publicity. Not necessary items but nice to have.

SLINGS can be hazardous in a home, but are essential outside if it hits the fan generally and we have to militia things up and protect our communities. So, the "Serious" shotgun should be sling ready.

ACCESSORIES vary from nigh essential to nigh useless. A weapon mounted light for target ID is very close to mandatory. A magazine extension to add a round or two is quite useful, but not universally a great idea.

And please remember that a stock, short barrelled RELIABLE shotgun with zero addons and mods but with a fitted stock, good trigger and bead sight is a VERY effective weapon. Add or change anything you wish, as long as your expertise is such that only an equipment upgrade can improve your effectiveness, you'll hear no snivelling from me.

That's all for now, more later....

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Sir Galahad
June 30, 2003, 11:02 PM
Excellent post, Dave!

July 1, 2003, 01:20 AM
nice post.
1 question

Where did the number "200" rnds of duty ammo come from?

200rnds with or without cleaning??

July 1, 2003, 01:30 AM
I think that came from Massad Ayoobs book "In The Gravest Extreme"

Must reading for the self defense concious.

Cameron Lamont
July 1, 2003, 02:27 AM
Thanks again dave for taking the time to put thoughts to the screen.



Dave McCracken
July 1, 2003, 05:37 AM
Thanks, guys, another chapter becomes reality.

Nippy, I forget just where I ran across the 200 figure in Ayoob's writings. It's been decades.

A failure rate of less than .5% makes sense. And make that uncleaned,fired under minimal conditions. My HD 870, the oldest one here, has had 8-10K rounds through it sans hangups and FTFs. And much of that under less than ideal conditions.

Most folks I know wring their protective firearms out before making them such.
Many new,quality shotguns need a bit of a breakin period before they're capable of passing this test. A case or ten of ammo through a weapon work polishes things nicely as well as accustoming the owner to the piece. Again, BA/UU/R....

July 1, 2003, 03:53 PM
Wow, 0.5% failure rate.

July 1, 2003, 04:48 PM
Personally I would rather have a good 223 carbine for any type of personal defense use. But the shotgun is very effective.

In addition to what was said above. I believe a defense shotgun should have a weapon mounted light, good rifle or ghostring sights, side saddle ammunition carrier. Thats the essential. The optional and good things are pistol grip speed feed stock. (shotguns don't carry much ammo every little bit helps)

Dave McCracken
July 1, 2003, 06:54 PM
Kampfer, the failure rate on the 870 I use for HD runs less than .08%, with those 8K rounds and more behind it. Good shotguns are like that, as reliable as anything made by humans.

PAT, my HD shotgun has all of that except the light. If I find one that meets my standards, doesn't weight the muzzle excessively and costs less than the weapon, I'll get it. Target ID is crucial.

Mine also has the sidesaddle and a Lyman peep sight with the aperture removed, the original GR.

However, these are aids (of great worth) but not essential. This is a basic tutorial, hence the 101 in the title.

The addons may come later for the novice, right now the idea is to get them started off on the right foot.

And,once again, an unaltered repeater meeting the above criteria is an outstanding weapon out of the box. The addons add a little on, but much good work can be and is done with stock weapons.

Snake Jenkins
July 1, 2003, 07:59 PM
Well my Ithaca M37R (7 round mag modle) has had about 5K rounds through it (mostly birdshot but about 500 rounds of OO buck) and has never had a malfunction. I usually average about 700-800 rounds a year in it just to keep in practice and I use it to help others to get an idea of what a HD scatter is and how to use it. I know other makes/modles work wqell but this is what I chose and indorse.


July 1, 2003, 08:11 PM
I agree with PAT about the mounted light. I consider it essential for a home defense shotgun. Being able to ID the target in any environment is essential in my opinion. As for the cost, I can set up mounted weapon light for under $160 using an M3 (which can be had for under $100 if you look around on the net), a mount ($15 from CTD), and a pressure switch set up for shotgun use (~$40).

I don't think a sidesaddle is necessary if the gun is going to be used in a barricade role, but IMO there is no such thing as too much ammo.

July 1, 2003, 08:18 PM
I don't think a sidesaddle is necessary if the gun is going to be used in a barricade role, but IMO there is no such thing as too much ammo.

Forgive me my comments came from the patrol shotgun mentality not homedefence gun. You need a side saddle for your spare ammo and your slugs for the select slug drill. But in your home you may not want to select a slug.

Andrew Wyatt
July 1, 2003, 08:32 PM
I keep my HD gun unloaded.

The butt cuff is there so that if I grab only the gun, I have some ammo.

as such, it only has buckshot on it.

the bandolier has more buckshot and some slugs on it, that's my main source of ammunition.

Cameron Lamont
July 1, 2003, 08:59 PM
"An unloaded defensive firearm, pre-supposes one will be able to determine the future time and place of a violent encounter.
If one could predict the time and place of a violent encounter the need for the firearm would be negated."

Sir Galahad
July 1, 2003, 09:27 PM
Well said, Cameron.

Andrew Wyatt
July 1, 2003, 09:41 PM
It's just about as fast to get into action (round in the chamber) as a shotgun kept cruiser ready, and it has the added advantage of being more kid resistant. There are youngins who reside here rather often, who aren't here often enough for us to give them proper handling training. (the gun is behind a locked door, but should the door ever be unlocked accidentally, the unloaded shotgun doesn't immediately arm a robber, or a curious child.)

My father keeps his ccw piece loaded and handy at night, which means my HD gun is not the primary HD weapon in the household.

Cameron Lamont
July 1, 2003, 09:43 PM
The pistol is primary the long gun secondary?:confused:

Must be a Northern Hemisphere thing.


July 1, 2003, 09:47 PM
This is a great buyer's guide for the HD shotgunner.

Andrew Wyatt
July 1, 2003, 09:52 PM
The pistol is primary the long gun secondary? Must be a Northern Hemisphere thing.

No, it's a "we dont want loaded guns hanging around unsecured thing".

Cameron Lamont
July 1, 2003, 09:57 PM
I suppose I have forgotten what it was like to live with my parents...

July 1, 2003, 10:06 PM
Or with a roomate, wife, girlfriend...

Sir Galahad
July 1, 2003, 10:09 PM
"Unsecured" is when you leave the weapon on the hood of your car and go down to check targets when shooting in a remote area. In your own house, is secure. Though in Cali, that's probably a felony if kids are in the house. Well, there's the advantage of a Saiga-12. You can have a loaded magazine separate and just pop it in and rack the bolt. Oh, wait. You're in Cali. You can't have Saigas there; they're also a felony.

Cameron Lamont
July 1, 2003, 10:10 PM
I know... I know....

The wife wont let the girlfriend sleep over anymore.

Back on topic:

Great post Dave keep them coming.,


Sir Galahad
July 1, 2003, 10:12 PM
Or with a wife/girlfriend?! Not if you find a good wife. We have "his" and "her" guns in this house.:D Just like the towels, except different.

July 1, 2003, 10:13 PM
you're funny

Sir Galahad
July 1, 2003, 10:16 PM
Yes, I know.

July 1, 2003, 10:20 PM
Are they on seperate racks like a his and her towel :D that would actually be cool

Sir Galahad
July 1, 2003, 10:58 PM
In a roundabout sort of way, yes, actually. Except it's a shelf.

July 2, 2003, 07:27 AM
I pretty much gave up on my wife being a help in a defensive situation when I couldnt get her to shoot at anything but the knees when I take her target shooting. :rolleyes:

July 2, 2003, 06:44 PM
ShaiVong, have you tried dryfiring extensively?

July 2, 2003, 07:42 PM
I'm missing your point, i think.

Andrew Wyatt
July 2, 2003, 08:04 PM
shaivong: is she doing it on purpose or because she has a horrible flinch?

July 3, 2003, 04:34 AM
A little higher and she'd be deadly...

Dave McCracken
July 3, 2003, 05:58 AM
Shaivong, do both of you a favor and get her some lessons from a qualified instructor.. Spouses should not try to teach spouses, too much history. Also,many good shooters are poor teachers, no offense intended.

July 3, 2003, 06:09 AM
No, she doesnt have a bad flinch, she actually aims for the knees.

She has been ingrained (via her parents) with such a powerfull aversion to violence, that she will not use a method of defence that has the posibility to kill her attacker.

She has stated several times that she would much rather be killed by somebody, then kill to defend herself. :banghead:

Hence, even shooting at silhouette targets, she will only shoot at the knees.

I shoot at the head ;)

July 8, 2003, 12:45 AM
Dave- what are your feelings on a grip actuated laser aiming device for a HD shotgun? That way you just pull the trigger when the dot is in the right spot. It might have deterrent effect as well- I'd cease activity with a red dot on my chest!

Cameron Lamont
July 8, 2003, 01:54 AM
I'd cease activity with a red dot on my chest!

I'd cease with a shotgun pointed at mine...


Dave McCracken
July 8, 2003, 05:09 AM
Lazers are expensive,fragile,and require batteries. I like things simple on stuff that may need to be operated fast and well, with severe consequences for glitching.

OTOH, I saw an article recently where two small revolvers, both carry guns, were fitted with lazers, and fast COFs showed a BIG improvement in accuracy and no loss of time. I find that quite interesting.

I'd prefer to have a good light myself, but the idea seems worthy of testing.

July 8, 2003, 07:55 AM
How many people honestly look down at their chest in order to notice the red dot?

July 8, 2003, 11:02 AM
I walk around staring at my chest constantly, just for that reason.

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