Shotgun Safety Myth


November 4, 2011, 06:34 AM

This year I drew a deer tag. It is for an area that mandates slug use, no rifles, no exceptions.

The rationale for shotgun only areas is based on a safety arguement. The reason often sited is that slugs do not travel as far as centerfire bullets thus reducing the chance of hurting someone down range.

But after reading the above posted article from, I see that this arguement is silly.

I would also add another safety concern.

Most rifles tend to be more accurate than most shotguns, espically when ranges start hitting the triple digit mark. If you hit the deer, doesn't that reduce down range dangers? Also, at closer range, using a frangible rifle bullet will cause the bullet to fall apart going through an animal. A big chunk of lead is more likely to exit a deer pretty much in tact and hurt someone down range.

I think game department need to rethink these regulations and restirctions.

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November 4, 2011, 07:34 AM
While I agree that the laws seldom makle a whole lot of sense, I'd advise AGAINST using a "frangible" round on deer-sized game. You want a bullet that expands, but stays together. Frangible rounds are a good idea of varmints, but do the total opposite of what a good deer/big game bullet should WANT penetration in a hunting bullet, not something designed to break apart on impact

November 4, 2011, 08:33 AM
A better option. In some places they allow rifles, but require hunters to only fire from treestands that must be a minimum height above the ground. This way all shots are going down into the ground.

I understand the concern for safety when hunting in highly populated areas. As long as hunters choose their shots carefully there is no danger. But not all do. Some areas are archery only during the entire deer season.

Loyalist Dave
November 4, 2011, 08:48 AM
It's NOT a myth, and the research is flawed. Sorry, but if this research was peer reviewed it would provide deep belly laughs.

The article suggests the study started from a faulty premis. The idea is not that slugs are "safe", but that they are "safer", and as they missed the premis they could not then establish a definition for "safer" and thus determine if the safety margin was sufficient to warrant the regulation.

The study used a single type of projectile fired from a single platform using two methods of evaluation (max elevation and zero), and two measured distances (initial impact and impact plus point-of-rest after ricochet), without determining how the different platforms are used. They assumed the testing basis was valid and went from there.

The study omitted Foster and Brenneke slugs.

The study failed to research the history of the regulations, and to determine the basis for the claim that resulted in the regulation, and then test that basis, to possibly note that the regulation was once valid, and then show how it may no longer apply.


So what was wrong with the study as reported in the article, and what should they have looked at...

Determine if people had been struck by ND rounds fired at high angle, a minor miss of the animal allowing the projectile to travel beyond the target, overpenetration of the animal allowing the bullet to travel beyond the target (omitted by the study), by a ground ricochet, or by a ricochet from a verticle surface such as a rock upon an embankment or a tree (omitted from the study).

Determine the most common method that people or property are accidentally struck by the above scenarios. The conclusions at the end of the study should be based on each scenario.

Determine the method used to aim the platforms in the above scenarios for miss and over penetration, for how the sights are set does impact the actual results in the field...,

For example, the earliest shotgun only zones were established when shotgun slugs came in two types, Foster and Brenneke, fired from smooth bore barrels, at a zero point of aim of UNDER 100 yards, without optical sights. .30 caliber hunting rifles are normally sighted in at 100 yards+, with it being common to sight the rifle an inch or two high at 100 yards to make sure the point of impact is good from 100 to 300 yards, and the majority use optic sights. Today, however, it is probable that the majority of shotguns now use rifled barrels, sabot rounds, and optic sights, sighted in at 100 yards, perhaps beyond.

So the different trajectory of the rifle threw its projectile farther with a miss 4 decades or more ago, when such zones were established. So the regulation was probably based on factual data, once. HENCE you cannot lock the rifle and shotgun in at the same point of aim and compare the two results.

Unless..., the study could FIRST determine that the use of rifled barrels, sabots, and optic sights of the shotguns changed this to be more rifle-like in results. The study doesn't even look for this, and it needs to.

What I did notice, which was not mentioned, was that with all of its flaws the study did show that the .30-06 still went 67% farther on a straight miss than did the shotgun using the modern ammunition and barrel. Which suggests that previously the differences were more pronounced, and that probably was the original criteria, decades ago when the zones were first established.

So the answer is NOT that the "myth" was debunked, but simply that a proper study is now warranted.


November 4, 2011, 11:52 AM
I think if I lived in such area I would be pushing really hard for them to allow rifles but require hunting from tree stands. That's just simply the safest way to hunt, not to mention you get a better view most of the time.

November 4, 2011, 12:02 PM
and the research is flawed.All that is assuming no trees get in the way to stop the bullets.

Hard to find many deer around without some trees around too.


November 4, 2011, 02:35 PM
The tree stand idea won't help here, if there were trees they would not require shotguns. I think the issue is shotguns are becoming more like rifles. Rather than allow only shotguns, or in our case muzzleloaders and pistols as well, They should allow shoulder fired weapons with limited velocity, say 2300 fps, a minimum caliber such as .35, a soft point expanding bullet of 150 gr or more, limit barrel length and action to allow for blackpowder era type weapons and cartridges excluding semiauto and bolt. Since our state allows pistols in the shotgun zone I think it would be reasonable to allow breech loading shoulder fired weapons with a limited range of pistol cartridges or commercial cartridges similair to pistol cartridges or slugs. The list of arms and cartridges would have to be limited due to enforcement issues. No DNR could be expected to to test each wildcat or new cartridge to see if it meet the criteria so I suggest it be a limited range of existing actions and cartridges. Since I live in a slug zone but prefer rifles this has been an issue with me too.
Any other ideas? I have to say I understand the shotgun idea but I think it is becoming outdated. I would love to dust off my .35 Remington.

November 4, 2011, 03:31 PM
Not the case here RC. Not much much in the way of woods here. River ravines are generally wooded but not open to hunt for the public. There is a fair amount of open grass and swampy cattail sloughs to hunt with very small patches or strips of woods. The majority of deer hunting is in groups with standers and drivers. It's hard to find a place you can put a stand unless you own it here or are a close family friend. If you use one you pretty much have to take it with you each time.

November 4, 2011, 04:04 PM
Ah, but the big surprise comes at 0-degrees of elevation which would be more or less a typical shot at a deer on level terrain. Here the rifle, shotgun and muzzleloader projectiles travel 1,408', 840', and 686' respectfully plus ricochet distances of 3,427', 4,365', and 3,812' respectfully. Now the total distances traveled by the projectiles are 4,835' for the rifle, 5,205' for the shotgun and 4,498' for the muzzleloader.

exclude ricochet and the rifle bullet travels farther how often will one get a ricochet in the woods?

Ole Humpback
November 4, 2011, 07:29 PM
Dave, I think you just solved the Indiana problem of no rifle cartridges. Indiana has goofy laws on rifles such that they all fall into a range of "pistol power" level cartridges. The argument for years has been to define the energy level so that rifle cartridges with that level of power from the factory are legal to use. The push back has been that rifles of that power would shoot too far.

Perhaps it needs to be explained that the shotguns are able to shoot as far as the rifle.

November 5, 2011, 07:40 AM
Maybe shotguns shoot as far as rifles and maybe they don't. I think it is worth exploring.

Hunting with a shotgun I guess is better than not hunting at all. But if it is based on safety and that basis is wrong, than regulations might have to be changed.

I also think that the accuracy issue shouldn't be overlooked.

Granted, some modern rifled-barreled shotguns with some of those fancy sabot rounds can be pretty accurate. The same goes for muzzleloaders. If the range is less than one hundred yards I suppose any of these weapons should be able to hit target.

What if the deer is at one hundred and fifty or two hundred yards?

The best way to prevent a wayward projectile from hurting someone downrange is to hit the intended target. I submit that the typical hunting rifle makes that easier. Thus is also makes it safer.

When I mentioned frangible bullets I did not mean exploding bullets like you would use on varmints. I know that they should not be used a deer-sized game. I meant faster expanding bullets like Ballistic Tips.

There are many game laws based on false premises. In Washoe County birdshot users need to be at least one thousand feet from structures. What birdshot is dangerous over 300 yards away?

Anyway, wish me luck this morning.

1911 guy
November 5, 2011, 08:06 AM
When all shotguns slugs were of the "pumpkin ball" variety, the restriction make sense in some areas. Now that sabot slugs are the norm in most places, the line between shotgun and rifle is getting pretty thin. The NRA did their own study and combined that data with that of a similar study done by the U.S. Army. The conclusion was that a rifle and a shotgun using the most modern slug designs were so similar in distance traveled as to be a moot point. The rifle bullet of course does go farther, but not nearly the difference one would expect.

November 5, 2011, 05:26 PM
I agree about the accuracy issue. Today I shot a deer at 40 yards, the slug hit 4 inches from my aimpoint. I still killed it. A guy nearby not so lucky. He must have shot a least 10 times at something and didn't hit anything. How is filling the air with lead safe? I agree it is much safer to hit where you aim. No flyers by comparision and fewer shots taken. Agreed you should only make safe sure shots but stuff happens.

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