Much is said about fighting shotguns these days, though I'm not quite sure why. Contrary to popular belief shotguns are not the first choice for a home defense weapon. A shotgun works well in a panic room situation where a homeowner and family can fort up and wait for help to come. Most home defense situations aren't like that, though. A householder cannot stick a shotgun behind her back and see who is at the door, for instance, not without causing neighborhood talk.
A shotgun does have it's uses but they're narrow. A shotgun works best between three and about forty yards. If the ranges are expected to be closer than seven yards a handgun works better, and past forty, a carbine or rifle. And at the ranges past about twenty-five yards an open choked shotgun will be missing the target with at least some of those buckshot. Even when well aimed. And remember, the shooter is responsible for every single pellet.
The odd thing about buckshot is that a single buckshot pellet can be fatal while not a dependable stopper. And always remember that the only legal reason to fire on someone is to make them stop what they are doing, right now. And this is the fighting shotgun's sole reason. The multiple strike of several fairly substantial pellets has a much better chance of immediate incapacitation. And it does no good to the householder when the axe murderer dies three hours after hacking the grandchildren to death.
A single buckshot doesn't have a whole lot of bohemous to it, it's about like being hit by a .22 LR from a rifle. Now it's true that either a single buckshot or a .22 can be instantly incapacitating, it requres surgical precision. Which is why no one depends on a .22 unless they have no choice. Still, nine 00 buck hitting at once gives nine nice chances, the 16 number one bucks are even better, which is why many police departments are switching to number one.
The homeowner has another choice, number four buck. Police do not use number four much because the smaller pellets lose velocity and power fast. A cop will face possible targets at greater ranges than a citizen. At inside the house ranges a charge of 27 #4 buks will do everything a homeowner needs.
Now the choice of shot depends on a homeowners needs and the local laws. Here in Resume Speed, Texas a homeowner is allowed to go outside to stop certain crimes, including even theft after dark. Now I wouldn't be the guy who wanted to run outside and blow away a teen siphoning gas but there are things around the place that I'd be perfectly willing to lay someone down and hold for the Sheriff's Dept. And I'd want my shotgun in hand to make sure the kid didn't have a Saturday Night Harrison in his pocket. So my shotgun has a Winchester low recoil 00 buck in one barrel and a #1 buck in the other.
If I lived somewhere else I'd have all #4 in mine.
Yes, I have a hammer double for my fighting shotgun. There are several reasons why, not least that where I live my shotgun is the last gun I'd choose.. My first choice for inside is one of the handguns. My first choice for outside is my .45 Colt carbine. With the terrain around the house I can hit anything I can see with that. The only reason I'd grab the shotgun is if I wanted to hold someone while making sure that (s)he couldn't hurt me. Two rounds is plenty for that. Of course I an lucky enough to have plenty of choices as to what I'd grab. Many, even most, folks do not have those choices. For those a five or more shot shotgun is best.
Most people prefer a pump. Actually an autoloader works just as well and most autoloaders have the advantage of reduced recoil. Autoloaders have only one drawback and that is that they are somewhat um, choosy about the level of power in the shell. A pump does not know the difference between those new low recoil buckshot loads and the standard level ones. And most of the newer pumps can shoot a mix of two and three quarter inch shells and three inchers, some even three and a half. Although the hmeowner who chooses a three and a half inch buckshot shell has more shoulder strength than brains.
This is not to say that an autolader can't be adjusted for whatever power level one chooses, it's just that to change that power level requires a feld stripping at the very least and a trip to a gunsmith at the most. A pump can shuck whatever will go in the chamber and feed through the action.
Pay attention here: The myth that a criminal will pee his pants and surrender at the sound of a pump shotgun's slide being jacked back and forth is just that, a myth. Yes, a smart criminal would give up but if he's so damned smart, why isn't he at work or in school? Criminals are not the brightest of all the lights on God's Christmas tree. I'll say this again: if he is smart he won't be stealing your stuff. Criminals are mostly stupid. Others are on drugs and, no matter the IQ, drugs make for stupid decisions.
If a criminal surrenders or runs away at the sound or at "I have a gun, stop or I'll shoot!", well that is the best case senario. Still, I am unwilling to bet my family on best case. Here is something important: Before keeping a loaded firearm around to ward off criminals each person must decide the circumstance in which (s)he will take a life. A gun is not a magic wand. I can wave my gun about and criminals will still steal. I've owned guns for most of fifty years now and the world is still full of criminals. There is only one thing I can be sure my guns will do and that is shoot. And they won't even do that unless I tell them to.
Antigunners love to tout the "fact" that a homeowner is more likely to be shot with her own gun. Well, that is simple, a homeowner without a gun is more likely to die by knife or choking or blunt force trauma... Yes, I may die because of my own gun. That will be because there are more bad guys than I have handy cartridges and the survivors grab the hot iron out of my hands and beat me to death with it. Or, the reality, there are more armed bad guys and they kill me while I'm standing around trying to give Linda Lou a chance to get to cover and get her own shootin' iron into action.
It's time to mention something else. In addition to a gun lacking magical qualities, there is also no rule that says the good guys win all firefights. The US Military wins most firefights and I like to think that we are the good guys. Still we win because we mostly use massive imbalance of force. Same with police. Police win most firefights because if police know there will be shooting it ain't one bluesuit with one peashooter, it's a mass of guys with all kinds of guns and armor. Everyone who straps a patrol car to his backside knows that if the one on one firefight happens he's liable to be the one who ends up leaking blood all over. The bad guy always chooses the scenario!
In addition to deciding, long before loading that firearm, what circumstance you can kill a human, you must decide for what you are willing to die. I am unwilling to kill to protect my car or lawn tractor. I am also unwilling to let a thief go so I am willing to step out with a gun and hold that thief for the Deputy working my sector. I am also unwilling to allow that thief to hurt me, my wife or my dogs. So I have a working knowledge of the law on the use of firearms to protect life and property. I know that in Resume Speed, Texas I am allowed to shoot to stop all kinds of crime at night, without so much as a warning at night. I am allowed to hold those same criminals at gunpoint during the day and shoot if they threaten me or mine. And I know that the local DA is um, generous with the thought of threat. So I know I would rather not kill but will if I must. I know that I'd rather not die (even though I'm a married man) but I refuse to live in fear of petty crooks. These are my conditions. Someone so smart I don't remember who he was put it that "I shall live free or die trying."
So, there is much to think about before loading that gun. Now, again, it is my opinion that one should never buy a fighting shotgun first, unless the person lives somewhere where handguns are verbotten. And if I lived in one of those places I'd move. There's a lot of empty ground here in Resume Speed. Not many jobs but you can't have everything.
So, we've decided on a shotgun. Which one? Well, at the least, a double barrel, preferably a hammer double. Those can sit loaded forever, needing only to have the hammers eared back. The advantages of the double barrel are that, for comparable barrel length, they are around half a foot shorter. The disavantage? Only two shots. However, two shots of buckshot are still a lot of buckshot.
Mpst folks will choose a magazine repeater. There are a few bolt actions and at least one Chinese company is selling a copy of the old 1887 Winchester lever action. About those bolt actions? Well, they're cheap. They are better than no gun at all. They are not my fifth choice for a fighting gun of any kind.
That 1887 Winchester clone, well, it was an interesting creation back in the waning days of black powder. Some of the Cowboy Action shooters are having a lot of fun with them. Still, the stock design is suspect and the lever throw is very long making them slower to operate. And with the big loads they kick the snot out of the shooter.
The pumps are the most common choice. Unlike the autoloaders they can take any sort of shell so a person can load up those cheap shells for practice, some of those rubber ball loads to chase stray dogs away from her flowerbeds and then any combination of buckshot and slugs .
Most short barrel shotguns have cylinder bores, meaning no choke constriction. Most buckshot loads pattern better with Improved Cylinder chokes and slugs do well with that choke, too. If I were to choose, that would be the choke of my ideal shotgun.
The barrel length should be somewhere between 18 1/2 inches and twenty-six inches. If my shotgun were to have most of it's intended use outdoors I'd go longer, indoors, shorter. The most practical length is twenty inches or so. Check local laws, some states requite a minimum of twenty inches, I believe. Federal law limits the barrel to eighteen inches or longer. I believe one should always go at least a half inch longer than the law requires, just for safety. I hate the idea of overly political cops and DAs but such do exist. And it can be very expensive winning a case where a barrel is barely legal. Federal and state law here both say eighteen inches, mine are a hair over twenty.My shotgun is legal everywhere. There may be restrictions out the wazoo on how I may transport it but it is legal.
If my shotgun would only be used in a panic room or, say forted up in the master bedroom, the longer barrel would be best, every added inch of barrel makes the concussion of the shot a bit more bearable. And here is a secret: Firing even one round of the really big loads indoors from a short barreled gun will damage your hearing. There are more than one reason why the police haven't gone over to the three and a half inch shells firing 18 #00 buck per shot. The first three reasons is that they'll kick the shooter into the next Zip Code, they're overkill and after only a few shots the department will be buying a lot of expensive hearing aids.
The person buying the fighting shotgun should be very chary of all those tacticool items the unaware like to hang on their shotguns. The very first item to avoid is the extended magazine. You buy the pump shotgun and take off the magazine cap and lose that stupid little wooden thing that limits the capacity to three round, total, two in the mag and one in the chamber. That's the federal limit for waterfowl. The fighting shotgun ain't for ducks. So, then you put the cap back on and your magazine capacity is five or six.
If you need more than that you ain't in a gunfight, you're either in a war or you've graduated to murder. Many extended magazines have really iffy springs and you end up with a repeating shotgun that won't repeat. And some shotshells start to lose their crimps just a little with repeated firing and the shot buffer (those itty-bitty plastic granules) start to leak out. Sometimes even the shot. Again, this can give you a repeating shotgun that won't repeat.So, stay away from extended mags. The last reason is that shotgun ammo is heavy. A pump shotgun is already heavy enough for steady holding. That extra half pound of extended magazine and extra shells won't help the holding, only marginally help with recoil and will slow the shotgun down on finding or following a moving target.
Another thing to avoid are the lights on a shotgun. Really, it's okay to have such a light, just never turn it on. Consider where that light is, about two inches below the muzzle of the shotgun. Now, please, imagine putting the shotgun to your shoulder and your cheekweld on the stock, your eye right behind the sight.. Now, please, imagine the bad guy pegging his shot around three or four inches right above that light. No amount of Visene will remove the redness from that eye.
A tacticool item to think long and hard before applying is that ghost ring rear sight and high visibility front sight. Now if my fighting shotgun were to be used with slugs at longer ranges, say fifty yards or more, I'd put that ghost ring on. Thing is, these days I'm just an ordinary homeowner and if I were to shoot someone that far away from me, well, I'd be answering a lot of questions and I'd better have a slew of bullet holes in my house or I'd be leaving Resume Speed and my new address would have my name, a long number and then, Huntsville, TX. And if I did have a valid reason for shootig that far I'd have my thiirteen round .45 Colt that, with the right ammo can put a 250 grain jacketed hollow Point out the muzzle at durned near two thousand feet per second and shoot a two inch hundred yard groupl
In the real world that tacticool ghost ring sight is just about a half second slower to use than the plain front bead. This is at normal, inside the house ranges. Now, here on Earth the only thing we might think about is to put a bigger front bead on, either gold colored or white.
Otherwise the only thing your fighting shotgun needs is a trip to the gunsmith to have the stock cut down so that the smallest person authorised to shoot it has a perfect fit, complete with a good, real good recoil pad. See, you can afford this because you passed on paying for all that tacticool stuff.
The reason the stock should fit the smallest, meaning shortest pesron is that a taller person can adjust to a too-short stock easier than a short person can adjust to a too-long stock. And the best recoil pad is not too much. You only have to pay for a recoil pad once. A cheap pad and you'll pay every time you pull the trigger.
Now if you are the "average male" the factory stock should fit you fine. If you're much taller than about five ten the stock needs to be somewhat longer. Do not cry. One of those slip on recoil pads will add around an inch to the stock. That's good to about six four. Much bigger than six four, you don't need a gun, throw furniture.
If you are much shorter than about five eight, a shorter stock should be in your future. Best to call the local trap shooting club and find out who does the shotgun stock work around your area. Assuming that you aren't in your early to mid teens you are probably done getting taller. Spend the extra money here on someone who is a professional. Make sure the gunsmith understands that this is not going to be a wingshooting or trap shooting gun. There are some subtle differences between the ideal drop at heel and drop at comb (don't worry, any gunsmith worthy of the title understands these terms) of a wingshooting and a fighting shotgun.
Now the recoil pad. There are really only two to look at, the Limbsaver and the Pachmeyer Decelerator. They are about equal. Have the 'smith put it on and have the stock cut to fit, or lengthened to fit. Spacers are cheap and they come a quarter inch each so you can have a stock perfect for one.
Now I am around a half foot taller than my beloved who is plumb deadly with her little two inch LadySmith .38. She has absolutely no desire to ever shoot my shotgun. So, fine, my shotgun fits me. If she wanted to shoot my shotgun the stock would have to shrink by about two and a quarter inch and then a one inch pad stuck on. This would make the stock too short for me but the only real problem would be with my big ol' honker, The average shooter puts his dominate thumb over the wrist (that small part just behind the tigger) of the stock. A too short stock moves the face up toward the wrist of the stock. With the thumb over the wrist the recoil jabs the thumb and thumbnail wright into the nose, instant bloody nose.
Here is the test and the solution: When firing a new to you shotgun or centerfire rifle for the first time, wrap your thumb up real good with a bandana, hankerchief or shop towel and hold the hootin' iron normally. Fire a shot or two of normal recoiling loads. If the well-wrapped thumb stays away from your nose, you're golden. If not, use the method that post WW1 military shooters used with the M1903 Springfield .30-06. When that rifle was designed most of the men who designed, built and approved that rifle were men of the Civil War and Indian War generation.
Sometime between around 1865 and 1920 there was a big increase in average height. Better diet, water and air had much to do with it. Not to mention the folks who came from, say Scandanavia breeding with folks from, say Italy. My older sister married a man whose parents were pure Japanese, I can't remember offhand if they were first or second generation americans. He spent part of his boyhood in those relocation camps. At any rate, just because of the American diet he is about four or six inches taller than his parents.
I have no particular interest in race or ethnic groups here, it's just a fact that the average grew taller and heavier over the generations. Anyhow, here is the trick. Instead of folding the thumb over the wrist of the stock, keep that thumb parallel with the barrel. That way the thumb is out of the way and it won't ever bust you in the beezer. A cool little historical note: in WW2 the newer guys who wanted to look saltier than they really were fired their M1s like the old vets fired the Springfields, with their thumbs lined up with the barrel.
Anyhow, that's all a fighting shotgun needs. If your shotgun is a cylinder bore the only thing besides the (possible) stock work, the bigger gold or ivory bead and the good recoil pad is to have a gunsmith add a screw in choke tube. That's another thing that is fairly cheap. With a screw in choke tube you can set your shotgun up with the Improved Cylinder choke which is what factories have historically regulated their buckshot loads with. Slugs do pretty well with that choke, too. although the factories use full choke with those.
With the Cylinder bore the spread of the shot charge is somewhat less than an inch per yard with the cheap, unbuffered loads. Those cheapest buckshot loads will have a pattern about tenty inches in diameter at twenty five yards.Picture a circle that big with random scattered holes, all around the aiming point.. Now with buffered loads that circle is smaller with those holes closer together. The top loads are the ones with nickel or copper plated shot and the very best have the Federal Flight Control Wads or the Winchester #1 buck loads keep the best patterns. Of course if the shotgun stays in the house the load that patterns best down the longest hall is the one you want.
The single biggest advantage of the screw in choke tubes is that with them you can use your shotgun for more than just in case. Put that silly little wood dowel back in and you have a three shot legal hunting gun. Wingshooting at ducks or upland game is not the same as practicing in a funhouse or a Hogan's Alley but any shooting is better than no shooting. And while a twenty inch fighting shotgun isn't perfect for trap it ain't too bad for skeet. and, again, any shooting is better than no shooting.
Mossberg has several shotguns good for the job. So does Winchester. The Remington 870 is near legendary in the field. Many of these guns have interchangable barrels so one can go from a fighting shotgun to a goose hunter in a matter of minutes. If, of course you're mad at any geese. The wonderful old Ithaca Mod 37 still rides in a whole lot of police cruisers.
Pretty much anyone who makes shotguns makes a model that would do well as a fighting shotgun. If I was starting all over I'd look long and hard at the shortbarreled Chinese copy of the Winchester 97. It had everything I'd want, except the interchangable choke tubes and they are fairly cheap. There is simply no better safety than an external hammer. Five rounds in the magazine. And a list price new of around three hundred bucks.
You can still find some pretty good original models but then, someone who can sort out the good from the bad in guns ranging from sixty years old to a hundred and fourteen years old will not be much interested in my ramblings.
Now I have been focussed on the 12 gauge shotguns, they are simply the most common.The gun buyers who buy used can find some fairly nifty 16 bore guns, ammo is somewhat more limited but there is enough to make for a viable fighter. The smaller statured might also look to the 20 gauge. Their buckshot loads of number three buck or the three inch loads of number 2 are not anything I would like to get in front of and wiggle my butt.
Twenty gauge is as small as I'd go. There are simply no suitable loads in 28 gauge and a .410 is back to well, it's a gun, better than no gun at all but a good solid .38 would beat it for a fighting gun.
That's about all I know about the fighting shotgun. Within it's very specific limits there is simply no gun that hits harder. A charge of nine to twenty-seven buckshot hitting all at once is simply the most effective stopper of all. The downside? The ammo is heavy. At close range the shot charge has to be aimed like a rifle, it's very easy to miss with a shot charge only a few inches in diameter. The recoil is enough that it takes a bit of time to fire the next shot. A smart criminal will take his chances with the judge when faced with a shotgun but, remember, criminals ain't smart. And the real smart criminals aren't the ones in your house, they're criminals like the Democrat donor George Soros and the Democrat Donor Bernie Madoff.
Still, the main reason to have a fighting shotgun is the Cowboy Action or the three gun games. I shoot, or rather, used to shoot, before Linda Lou shattered her ankle, Cowboy Action. I've had the lever action carbine in .357 for a few decades now, although it lives with our #2 boy. Seein' as how I have that lever action Model 92 .45 Colt clone I don't mind too much, as long as he doesn't let it rust away.
Three gun is the one for the shooter with an autoloader pistol and a pump shotgun, any old fast firing rifle would do although the top scorers shoot some pretty fancy iron.
I chose Cowboy Action because of my interest in 18th and 19th Centuries. While the competition isn't perfect practice for a gunfight, any shooting is better than no shooting. and I put in enough time where shooting was all about something grim and ugly. Three gun isn't perfect practice for a gunfight, either. It's more perfect practice for the would be super trooper. Again, though, any shooting is better than no shooting and either game is enough to get a lot better than 99.9% of all the bad guys. And either game, somebody with about half of the stuff he or she needs can show up at a match and will proably be able to shoot the whole thing with his or her own stuff plus a choice of several different irons of the kid (s)he lacks.The best thing about the shooting games is that shooters are honest and generous. Shooters leave multiple thousands of dollars worth of gear at matches where they themselves cannot see it. And they will gladly loan very expensive guns out to near complete strangers.
I have been lucky enough to shoot original, factory engraved Colt Single Actions, original 1876 Winchesters, shotguns costing over fifteen thousand dollars, actual Sharps Buffalo guns, fine English double rifles and shotguns that cost more than our car when new. Meanwhile I show up with three Italian clones of the Colt Peacemaker, a Chinese clone of the 1899 double shotgun and a Brazilian clone of the 92 Winchester. Go to any of the shooting sports with a dose of humility, a desire to learn and a willingness to share in the work. You'll be given plenty of chances to try the stuff and to buy what you need. The members can be divided between the competitors and the shooters. Most of the shooters are there because the shooting is a lot more fun than the same old punching little holes in paper. The competitors just wanna WIN! That's kind of neat for the shooters. The competitors are always selling something perfectly good to buy something just a little bit better. And you know how the value of a new car drops just from driving it off the lot? Guns are about as bad. You will save a ton of money by lining up a few matches. Unless you catch the competitor bug. Then kiss your money goodbye.