Best length for sawed off shotgun...


AZ Heat
May 9, 2008, 03:27 AM
Taking all legality out of the debate, what length barrel would be the best length if you wanted a sawed off 12 gauge shotgun?

This shotgun would be kept in truck, home defense, etc. This wouldn't be used for hunting, just for protection and fun.

And try to stay away from the 2" barrel with pistol grip comments. I'm looking for suggestions that are practical and won't cripple the person shooting it.

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May 9, 2008, 03:32 AM
18.5 inches.


May 9, 2008, 03:36 AM
I'd say 14-16" minimum; in order to handle well, it still needs a stock, and there aren't really any advantages to going shorter than that, IMO. Much shorter than that and you start cutting the number of rounds your mag can hold, if its a pump or an auto.

Edit: 18" is as short as you can go without having to do the whole NFA thing.

Dave McCracken
May 9, 2008, 09:29 AM
Barrels less than 18",leaving legal issues aside, usually have some serious flash in low light. One load out of my 18" HD tool has a ball of blue flame a good foot in diameter.

I have shot a 14" barreled 870 and found the handling similar to an 18" barreled version, though a hair quicker.

I'd keep it at 18" and minimize the legal probs if I has to use it defensively.

May 9, 2008, 10:29 AM
On a pump gun or semi auto, cut flush with the magazine. 10.5 inches works for me.

May 9, 2008, 03:25 PM
With anything that isn't box mag fed you reduce the number of rounds you have if you go too short. This may or may not concern you. Like most things it depends on how you plan to use it and what traits are most important to you in the gun. In addition to round capcity there are the issues of patters, longer shots with slugs, muzzle flash, etc

With a box mag fed weapon you could go shorter with out sacrificing round capacity. See the Tromix 8" for a fine example of a HD SBS, and you can still have 20 rounds on tap with a drum or ten with a more compact magazine. Note however that going shorter on gas guns like the above will more than likely require modifying the gas system to cycle reliably. My friends is having his saiga converted and cut to 8". As soon as it come back from the shop I look forward to putting it through its paces. I might have one done as well after I get a chance to test it out.

May 9, 2008, 06:22 PM
Remington 870 with 4+1 capacity: 12"
Remington 870 with 5+1 capacity: 14"

May 9, 2008, 07:24 PM
My friend used to say anything over about a foot was a waste! I'd love a totally choped down pg SxS but I live in a no NFA state. I have read before in Cartridges of the World that anything over about 18-20" is just for balance and looks.

Dr. Tad Hussein Winslow
May 9, 2008, 09:22 PM
I'd agree; about 14", maybe 12".

May 9, 2008, 09:24 PM
21 inch is my personal preference.

20 was/is stock for some Riot barrels, and I like these a lot!

May 9, 2008, 09:40 PM
I realize you will comply with legal issues. You need to remember that the length of the barrel has nothing to do with how fast the pattern opens up. The myth about the 10" barrel being able to clean out a room is just that a myth. The deciding factor on how fast the pattern opens is the choke. A 10" cylinder bore (no choke) will open at 9 yds 2 in like a 18" cylinder bore at 10 yds.

Too many are not aware of this.

You also lose velocity in the short barrel.

May 9, 2008, 09:57 PM

What shotgun is that? I just found another SBS I need to build. :D

I have shotguns with barrels from 8" to 32". My favorite right now is a 12" barreled Remington 870. It handles nicely, is quite accurate, and still has enough weight to tame recoil.

May 9, 2008, 10:16 PM
PTK it looks like a benelli m1 super... i think 90 is somewhere in the name too.. :confused:

May 9, 2008, 10:28 PM
It looks more like a SBE I (or II) or maybe an M2 Field. Thanks for the Benelli lead! :D

AZ Heat
May 9, 2008, 11:38 PM
I guess I should have clarified this would be done to a single shot break open shotgun and not a pump action. Does that change any opinions?

May 9, 2008, 11:43 PM
Yeah, in that case, make one of these...

Link to the thread (

EDIT: I thought I'd quickly take a picture to show the 32" barreled single shot, 18.5" barreled Remington 11 with a seriously reduced stock, 12" barreled 870, 8" barreled single shot, and a pistol grip 8" barreled double barrel.

As you can see, the best compromise of size/"power" (number of shots, ease of handling, etc.) is the 870. Second, to me, is the 8" barreled single shot.

May 10, 2008, 12:51 AM
I had to go with 19.25 in order to keep the ribbed barrel...I couldn't's just "different". This was an old Mossberg from a pawn shop, cheap, scratched up, ugly. A little time in the shop, a sand blaster, some bluing, 0000 steel wool, polishing compound, and a set of Pachmayers...I think it turned out pretty good. With the rubber grips instead of the hard plastic, it shoots 3" magnum loads in comfort...the Pachmayer pistol grip has a hollow cavity up the backstrap to absorb recoil.

Anyway, since I'm posting it...opinions, does it look bad, good, okay???

May 10, 2008, 12:53 AM
Grrr...I have GOT to get a Compact Flash card for my camera...the phone camera just takes crappy pictures.

May 10, 2008, 12:58 AM
If it works for you, good. I personally find a stock much more useful than just a pistol grip - that single shot NEF with an 8" barrel used to have just a pistol grip, and it was worthless for anything but playing around at the range.

Owen Sparks
May 10, 2008, 01:37 AM
Years ago I was a guest at the local police academy range. I brought my chronograph to help my buddy test some reloads we were developing. One of the SWAT guys had a shotgun with a 12" barrel. He wanted me to chronograph it. The main thing I remember was how ferocious the muzzle blast was. I can't remember the numbers off the top of my head but the velocity loss was significant. I would not want to shoot that thing in a confined indoor area without ear protection. Buckshot loads use powders that are not intended for short barrels. Much of it blew up as it exited the muzzle making noise and flash rather than its intended purpose of accelerating the shot. I suppose a compitent reloader could tweak the loads a little using powders intended for handguns, but it would still be somewhat impracticle. The ONLY advantage of a shotgun this short would be for manuverability in a confined area. Preformance wise, it was a real turd.

May 10, 2008, 01:58 AM
According to Remington, modern powder in a shotgun burns completely in 25 to 36 cm [10 to 14 in] barrels.

Link (

Yes, I know, Wikipedia isn't a great source, but still...

May 10, 2008, 02:15 AM
Yes, I know, Wikipedia isn't a great source, but still...

I worked on the firearm content of Wikipedia for a year. I can tell you that it was as accurate as possible. The problem was that the damn gamers and movie buffs kept hijacking the articles and adding trivia.


May 10, 2008, 02:16 AM
I try to update articles there and keep them factual as well. I figure quite a few THR members do the same.

May 10, 2008, 12:59 PM
for a break down gun,, a good compromise for me is 24",,,handles good,,,points good,,,still shorter than a 18" pump or auto,,,,and if you play with them some you can get to the point where you can unload and load them pretty quick


May 10, 2008, 04:10 PM
I chopped down my old 16ga SxS to handles like a dream in tight spaces!

Fred Fuller
May 10, 2008, 07:21 PM
I started out adapting the house guns here to suit my wife, and after a while shooting them myself I discovered I really liked them set up that way. What we wound up with are 870 12 gauge pumpguns with 18- 18.5" barrels, stocks cut to 12.5" including the recoil pad, and full length field type forearms. Overall the gun is about 37" long and looks like a Youth Model on steroids.

If I wanted put up with the the hassle I could afford SBSs. But I see no need for them. 18" plus a bit for error's sake is just fine for me. And as for SXSs, my mom's old 311 20 gauge house gun (she gave it up at 79, saying it kicked too much- she has a 9mm Beretta CX4 Storm carbine now) was cut down to 18.5" with a 12" length of pull, and it's only about 3" shorter than one of the 870s described above.


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