Perhaps no topic in firearms training is more misunderstood than that of the shotgun. In determining the circumstances in which the shotgun might be used effectively, it is first necessary to discuss the capabilities and limitations of this weapon. Only then can one make general recommendations regarding the use and application of this devastating weapon.
Because of commonly believed myths associated with the shotgun it has been inappropriately deployed many times and can become a liability rather than an asset. On some occasions, shotguns have been brought out to a high risk law enforcement incident or warrant service, only to be found as an encumbrance to the officers in the performance of their duties.
Anyone who has been around law enforcement long enough has seen shotguns laying on car hoods, shotguns leaning against cars, shotguns left alone on seats in patrol vehicles, one officer holding two or three shotguns while other officers control and cuff an assailant resisting arrest.
These situations represent circumstances where officers deployed a shotgun, then found it necessary to rid themselves of the weapon in order to assist in contact actions or perform other functions.
Also, we often see people keeping shotguns for home defense who have never trained with their shotgun, but will have it ready and waiting next to their bedside. Their intention is that this will be the first gun they grab when the time comes to check on that inevitable bump in the night or alert watchdog. They soon find that the shotgun is too big and bulky for opening doors, using a flashlight, carrying a scared and worried child to the safety of their Mother’s bed, fumbling for light switches etc.
So, why do people bring a shotgun to a situation and then find that it becomes a liability? Quite simply, because they believe that the shotgun has attributes that make it indispensable, particularly in circumstances where higher levels of risk might prevail.
Inevitably, people not properly trained in deployment of the shotgun, find themselves believing in an intimidating cure-all rather than in it’s true application.
Here are some of the myths associated with a shotgun that have led to false beliefs about this unique weapon system.
1) Anyone can handle a shotgun with minimal training. One need only to examine firearms training programs across the nation to determine that most students of gun handling believe this to be true. It would be unusual to find people that train with a shotgun three or four times a year, yet some of the same people that prefer shotguns as their home defense weapon of choice will train with their handgun at least that many times if not more. A simple examination of the basic shotgun skills possessed by these students while deploying the shotgun in training scenarios will reveal gun handling errors. Some of these errors, if performed in a deadly force situation would most certainly result in failing to properly operate the weapon or worse yet, accidental or unintentional discharge!
Regular training is necessary to gain and maintain the gun handling skills necessary to deploy the shotgun in a combat environment (Yes, when you are defending your home with deadly force it is a combat environment). If a person is intent on using a shotgun and cannot demonstrate basic and combat gun handling skills on demand then that person should not deploy a shotgun until they can successfully demonstrate the proper gun skills needed.
2) You can’t miss with a shotgun! Just examine some of the names associated with a shotgun; They are called scatterguns, alley sweepers, street sweepers and trench brooms, just to name a few.
Such names imply that all you need to do is point the shotgun in the general direction of your intended target and a hit is guaranteed. This fallacy can easily be demonstrated by placing targets at various ranges (four, seven, fifteen and twenty five yards) and then patterning commonly used buckshot rounds (#4 or 00 buckshot).
At close ranges (out to about 10 yards), the patterns are tight enough that it would obviously require that marksmanship skill to center the pattern effectively, keeping all buckshot pellets on target. At 15 yards or so, you will notice that the shot pattern begins to open significantly.
Marksmanship is still required to center the pattern, however, the shooter will begin to notice pellet deviation while using #4 buckshot. On average, several pellets will consistently miss the target, which becomes a very serious liability issue. Beyond 15 yards, similar problems will occur with 00 buckshot.
The training issue here is that if you want to hit what your shooting at, you had better start training with a shotgun as if it were rifle. Although most shotguns come with a simple bead sight, the shotgun will be much more accurate with a good set of rifle sights or ghost ring sights.
Once a good, reliable sight system is selected for the home defense shotgun, it is very important to pattern the shotgun on paper at various distances using duty buckshot and zeroing iron sights with slug rounds. This will allow better decision making when determining what type of round should be used based on the knowledge of shot performance at various distances. We’ll get into how to do that in the next post.
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To be continued…….