Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Shotguns for Self Defense: How useful are they? (Shotgun Class Part II)

This post is a continuation of  "Shotgun Class Yesterday"

Pete said...
Wow, it seems you were really impressed with your shotgun class and training and you highly appraised the usefulness of a shotgun. Some you past comments concerning shotguns for self defense were negative. Did this class change your outlook? If so, what changes would you make for your own self defense and what recommendations would you give the rest of us for incorporating shotguns in our self defense (either at home or on the road)?
December 12, 2010 10:10 AM

Hi, I’m happy with the training, but the shotgun still has several disadvantages. You can minimize some with training but they are still there, and you also have to be realistic. Few people will ever have the skill I mentioned in the beginning of my previous post. If Benelli or Beretta sponsors you, gives you ammo and guns and pays you to shoot with their brand, by all means use whatever floats your boat. But the truth is most people will never have that level of training with a shotgun.
For a worst case situation, you still have a weapon that requires both hands to operate a mechanism per each shot. I’ll still take a big bore handgun, preferably something like my Glock 31 357 SIG for indoors and close quarters. That doesn’t change the fact that I’ll still have the shotgun handy and ready, along with other weapons. People that boast about how shotguns are the best weapons in the planet rarely ever take serious amounts of firearms training. If they did, they’d realize there are better tools out there for most situations that may present themselves. If possible, people should train with everything they see themselves using at some point, handgun, rifle, carbine and shotgun. This is the best way to tell what works and what doesn’t.
Again, it depends on the situation, and you keep several tools handy to use them within your possibilities.  My first go to weapon is my handgun. If just a second after picking my weapon I have someone crushing me against a wall or floor, for that kind of encounter I prefer to have a handgun so as to use my left hand to create/maintain distance and the other one to shoot him full of holes. What if someone is trying to enter your home and its taking him a few more seconds than planed? Maybe you can holster your gun and wait for Mr. Home Invader with a warm welcome shotgun blast. Depending on the situation and time available, that dictates your course of action, in this case the weapons and tools you’ll be using.
My recommendation is pretty much the same. For home defense and specially for close quarters such as the ones you have indoors, you’ll want a weapon that is easy for you to move around, but most important, one that is semi automatic and does not require to action a mechanism with both hands per shot. I’m sure that many of my readers wont take that amount of training. Not interested or maybe not within their means. To them I always recommend at least learning how to use a big bore handgun and taking at least a class with it.
During the shotgun class we had a guy that had not taken the previous pistol classes. He froze when he had to reload his pistol single handedly, had no idea of what to do.
A pump shotgun is a poor choice as your one and only weapon, specially poor choice for the novel gun owner. A shotgun is incredibly powerful, very rugged, but it does require a level of training and even with it has the mentioned limitations.
As I said in the Home Invasion post a couple days ago, there’s some criminals that you can send away with intimidation alone, including a replica gun, a 22LR, or an air gun, doesn’t matter, certainly a shotgun will intimidate this kind of predator. It does not mean that a replica gun is the best home defense weapon, and while it may scare away a thief, it might get you killed when dealing with a dangerous criminal.
What I would recommend is understanding that any weapon will require training. Shooting paper at the range and hitting a couple cans on the side of the road does not make you a shooter. You think you know how to fight with it, but you actually don’t even being to understand how much you DON’T know. Like a certain Clown fish told his son once “You think you can do these things, but you can't, Nemo!”. Knowing how to aim and shoot a gun without shooting yourself in the foot only means you’re not a complete disaster waiting to happen, its like getting your driver’s license issued. Sure, you know enough so as to not  kill the old lady crossing the street, but it will be almost a year before you know how to really drive and everything becomes second nature. The difference here is that with guns, you’ll not learn defensive shooting by going target practicing, no matter how many years go by. You have to take that Defensive shooting class, hopefully with a reputable instructor. It will be by far the best spent money in terms of firearms and self  defense.
Once that you understand that owning a gun doesn’t make you a shooter any more than owning a F-15 Eagle makes you a fighter pilot, then yes get a gun.
For home defense concerning people that wont do much other than basic safety training, a 38 special/357 magnum S&W or Ruger revolver would be my first choice. Anyone that will be more serious about self defense will find a Glock in 9mm or bigger to be a much more capable firearm for self defense. Again, the classes show you this. If you take your revolver to a handgun class, a few minutes later you’ll see how little capacity you have, how slow it is for you to reload compared to autos. If you take your fancy 1911 you’ll see that everyone else using Glocks seem to have endless amounts of ammo. You reload a couple times and the guy next to you still has a couple rounds left in his first magazine. When reholstering, you have to make sure engaging the safety becomes second nature to you, while the guy with the Glock doesn’t even have a safety to worry about, he just reholsters. At the end of the day, your hands will suffer every single sharp edge in your gun, most guns, 1911s , Berettas 92s, etc, they have a few sharp edges in their frames and your hands will show it. The Glock on the other hand, it has all its corners smoothened and is much more friendly to users that abuse them.
After the handgun, I’d get an AK47 in 7,62 x39mm. With soft points or good jacket hollow points it has terrific stopping power, you have much more ammo capacity, and unlike the pump action shotgun it fires semi auto with each pull of the trigger.
I would recommend to have a handgun (along with body armor and tactical light), then a carbine. You might add a shotgun to the collection of weapons ready to use, but that would be my order of importance.
If you want to go for a shotgun for self defense, then get a Mossberg 500/590 or Remington 870. Have sights installed. Have a side saddle installed to the frame and add a sturdy shell holder to the stock. Keep it loaded with Nº4 buckshot and have some slugs or sabots ready in case you need to make more accurate shots or shoot at distances further away. Consider the shotgun class to be mandatory here. That’s the only way you’ll learn to deal with some of the weapons limitations better. It wont solve them all, its still pump action and magazine capacity is limited, but it will sure help. Training is also the only way you maybe have a chance to deploy a slug if needed. Don’t train and your odds go down significantly. Stay away from semi auto shotguns. You have semi auto capability and that’s a big advantage, but you still open a new can of worms.  The SPAS 12 is awful, even some of the nice Berettas have certain loads and shell types that they favor. Saiga shotguns are pretty reliable but then again you can’t feed ammo into the mag like you do with a pump, and its still a shotgun with most of its deficiencies. This includes ammunition that isn’t as standardized as metal cartridges, with much more loose specs and tolerances. The plastic hulls are likely to deform when under pressure in a magazine, specially a detachable box magazine. Will it work well after sitting in a case for a couple years? Probably, but you at least know that metallic ammo will not deform under pressure like plastic does. For all these reasons, I’d play it safe and stick to pump action shotguns. Finally, if you’ll be using a shotgun for home defense, use it like cops do, with a handgun ready on your belt. Maybe that’s the secret as of why so many cops like their pump action shotguns so much, they always have a handgun to transition to if needed.

This is my shotgun, a Mossberg 500 with a (legal in Argentina 15" barrel) It was a two point sling and Stock Shell holder. 

Assortment of ammunition. FM magnum 12ga buckshot shell showing its contents. There also slugs nad Winchester N4 Buckshot.
This shell belt carrier is terrific. You just pull the shells out of it off the top. The shells are kept in place tight.

Bones said...
Re: plastic buckshot - exactly what kind of door did it penetrate. Was it the foam core/wood veneer type? I wonder what it would do to drywall at contact range?

Too bad about your hostage. I'm sure they'll recover.

Just curious: did the instructor talk about if there is ever a situation when it might be better simply to drop the shotgun? If you're out of ammo doesn't it become a liability?
December 12, 2010 8:33 AM

It went through a thick piece of plywood used to set the action shooting stages. This is the same as some of those hollow core doors. Foam is just for insulation, it wont even slow it down if the panels are made of thin wood. The ammo also went through the targets and plastic bottle on the other side, some pieces of wood burying deep into it as well as secondary projectiles. At contact range or a feet or two of range, I have no doubt that plastic buckshot will at least penetrate one layer of dry wall. Didn’t try it, but based on what I saw, I’d say that at contact range or a feet away, it will go through a dry wall. May or may not injure people on the other side depending on luck and distance. Keep in mind that the plastic wad alone can kill you at contact range. There’s this girl some jerk tried to scare at her bachelor’s party. He removed the shot from the shell, put the shotgun to her head and shot her, the blast sent the plastic wad into her head, killing her instantly. At contact distance, even if you remove the plastic wad and keep the powder in place with a piece of paper, the gas blast will destroy anything if you press the barrel against it at contact range. Stupid people and guns aren’t good combinations.
Another interesting thing worth mentioning. Rubber tends to harden with time. There’s been cases where very old rubber LTL (less than lethal)  ammo was used and it penetrated at ranges it wasn’t supposed to because the rubber became rock hard. Plastic buckshot is hard but it is designed that way. Even then it is not to be used at less than 10 yards distance from its target. At those ranges it can be lethal according to the manufacturers.
About your question, dropping a gun is generally a bad idea. Doing the drill like I explained it, there’s no speed difference between dropping it or not. The right hand lets go of the shotgun grip and goes immediately to the holstered handgun, just like you’d do when letting go of the shotgun. The difference is that your left hand doesn’t let go, it just keeps the shotgun to your side, its just as fast as if you’d drop it. You are of course, shooting single handed, which isn’t a big deal when what you really want is speed.
Take care folks.



Anonymous said...

"When reholstering, you have to make sure engaging the safety becomes second nature to you, while the guy with the Glock doesn’t even have a safety to worry about, he just reholsters."

Well, with the Glock he has to make sure he doesn't pull the trigger as he puts it back into his pants or he'll shoot himself like numerous cops on Youtube. I carry a G30 but think the .45 ACP Colt safety is a fine idea.

"The Glock on the other hand, it has all its corners smoothened and is much more friendly to users that abuse them."

Wow, your Glock must be on a different frame than mine! I find it to be the blockiest, least comfortable pistol to carry of any I own including Colts, Walthers, H&K, name it. The only reason for a Glock is reliability and, in some models, the mag capacity you mention.



Bones said...

Thanks for addressing my questions. For sheer versatility and power it's hard to fault a 12 gauge shotgun. Personally, I don't like them for the reasons you detail: 2 handed operation, etc..

A carbine length AR-15 type semi auto rifle is nearly ideal for home defense. Effective round, soft recoil, semi auto, large mag capacity and a round that does not over penetrate. Also light-weight enough to be fired with one hand.

Given a choice I would take an AR over a shotgun every time, with a handgun on the side. ;)

Anonymous said...

My wife (who introduced me to your site, btw) absolutely loves her Mossberg 500 Persuader. She's got it all tricked out, and I have to admit the lady can handle it better than most folks can handle a pistol. However, she's spent many, many hours and rounds at the range with it, as well as gone through a number of training courses. I thought her wrists were going to fall off after Urban Tactical, lol! She has a pair of Glock 21s and some other handguns as well, but she always goes back to the shotgun.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post, Ferfal, and one that makes you think about the choices one has to make when considering home invasions, which is one of the fastest growing crime categories in the US.

I live in a small town(pop.6500) that has never had a home invasion that I'm aware of, yet in a city 3 hrs. to our south they are occurring frequently, so I'm sure the criminals will move into our area over time.

I've installed steel doors, enhanced my dead bolt locks, and installed new windows with steel frames, so I've taken some steps for protection.

As for shotguns, they are not my favorite weapon. I have 2 Rem. 870 pumps, one with an 18" barrel and extended magazine, yet I trust my handguns much more.

I have a Kimber CDP-II in .45 auto that I really like. I use a Pachmayr 8-rd. magazine which gives me 9 rds. before I have to change over to 8-rd. magazines. I also have a Glock M-19 in 9mm which I use a lot and I like this pistol very much as well. Either of these options are preferable to the shotgun for a home invasion, IMHO.

If one does insist on a shotgun, my son has a Rem. 870 youth model that he had tricked out for his wife with a pistol grip, short barrel, holographic sights, and extended magazine. It's about as handy as a shotgun can get.

Best regards,
templar knight

Anonymous said...

With all due respect, I own and carry a Walther PPK (.380) and have also carried my Ruger P90 (.45) and I like the safety function better than the Glock "trigger safety". For me, it is second nature to disengage the safety as I draw. This is not theory; I have drawn both weapons in self defense and the safety did not hamper my performance. It is also second nature to re-engage the safety when the threat has passed. The capacity and durability arguments settle more firmly in favor of the Glock. However, in my experience with would-be (American) assailants, the only thing they want less than to talk to the cops is to get shot, so I never had to pull the trigger. In a SHTF situation it may be a different story, but that's when you do pull the trigger. I understand that in Argentina, criminals are bolder, are often protected by law, etc. and you may actually have more need for hi-cap mags there.

Also a word on the AK for home defense, or more properly a question. What are your home or apartment walls made of!? The walls of my 100 year old rented house are red brick, and I'm pretty sure a round of 7.62 would go through them, and into the neighbors, their pets, their car, etc. I have seen one video comparison between an AK and an AR, and while the AR round went through a cinder block at 30 yards and left a nasty divot, the AK round broke the thing into several chunks! Would red bricks fare much better? This is why Americans favor the shotgun. If you are worried about proficiency with a pump action, try a semi-auto.

As far as sharp edges on a handgun are concerned, you do get used to them with practice.

Anonymous said...

One other thing I forgot to mention, Ferfal, is that when we go to the firing range we always train and practice acquiring multiple targets at varying ranges within a set time limit, usually no more than 10 sec.

For instance, we set targets at 3 meters, 5 meters, 7 meters and 10 meters, one to the left, one to the right, and two in front at different angles. These 10" targets must be hit within a 10 sec. time interval in order to pass. The shooter may start anywhere but must hit all four targets in the alloted time. This may not be professional training, but it has really sharpened my skills.

templar knight

Maldek said...

I like the shotgun for home defense a lot.

There are a few pro's and con's to add to the discussion nobody did mention so far.

When I wake up at night and hear "noises" it takes a while to adjust. Not just the eyes - everything. I would miss a lot, even worse with bad light and moving targets.
With my shotgun I might at least hit "something" - so the shotgun is my first grab, not the 9mm.

It takes 2 hands to operate the shotgun (everything else is fancy commando stuff, I leave that to the tuff guys) so how do i open doors and hold my flashlight?
And no, you do NOT want to use a fancy headlight...

Next Con:
Have you ever tried to shoot your shotty in a relativly small bedroom - without protection for your ears?
Should your wife be present...well at least you wont be able to hear what she thinks about her lost hearing.

In very close quaters - the shotgun gives a decent blunt weapon. Not every intruder is a well trained expert.
A swift strike with the stock to the head might just be enough. Be careful not to shoot yourself when you strike ;P Best LTL move I can think of.

You only have 5-6 shots.

If you need more than 5-6 shots, chances are you are in trouble. Well actualy if you are not a fully trained survival expert (and even then, I noticed how my skills faded in the past 11 years since the military) 99/100 situations where I would need more than 5-6 shots should be solved other than shooting.

None of us is John Rambo.
If against 3-4 armed bandits a shootout will most likely get me killed. If not me, maybe they will hit my wife or one of the kids.

One I fight. Two I fight. With 3 it depends. More than 3 - I surrender. They shouldnt be able to enter the house undetected in the first place. If they manage that - I give them credit for it and will play sheep.

EN said...

Just my take from examining gunshot wounds, but there's no such thing as a magic pistol bullet. Gaining compliance with pistol bullets isn't easy and against multiple assailants the highest capacity mag may not be close to enough and you're likely going to need a second mag.

The twelve gauge is magic at pistol ranges, even with skeet loads, and five or six rds is good against multiple assailants, assuming you get hits. And any rifle is more likely to get hits over any pistol. Pistols are notoriously inaccurate when someone's shooting back at you.

Everyone needs to make their own choices on this, and God bless you all whatever you choose. For me it's the shotgun with #7 Shot, and a pistol in .45 (make and model depends on how I'm feeling). I live in a wood frame house with neighbors at 180 degrees. At 12 ft no one shot with a 12 gauge will notice the difference between 00 Buck and #7 shot.

As for guns going off in houses, I sleep with my weapons and Impact amplified hearing protection beside my bed... which has led to some interesting conversations with "guests". If I need to use any weapon I'll try and put them on, along with eye protection. I've seen the results of wood splinters in eyes from shootings. I have no date but I would bet that we're far more likely to get hit with splinters than bullets in a pistol fight.

Anonymous said... imitates art, as we see, courtesy of a Florida school board meeting that was filmed, an inexperienced shooter with what appeared to be a high-capacity semi-auto handgun miss someone at less than 10 ft., and then unintentionally discharge the firearm into the floor.

Luckily, this guy had no training, or several people would be dead or wounded. Thank God a security guard stepped up and shot the guy with a handgun before he did any real harm.

The obvious training of the security guard vs. the lack of training of the criminal puts it all in perspective. Train..train..and when you think you have it, train some more. Your point is well taken, Ferfal. Regardless of the weapon, training is the key.


Trey said...

This fellow used both to great effect.

russell1200 said...

Fer Fal: I am not sure I completely agree with you. I think we get to the same place, but I would take a different road.

Where you have injury reports, etc. to look at, nothing compares to the shotgun for KIA shots: In the the last ER report I saw 75% of shotgun injuries showed up dead on arrival. I think the rifle was next at either 50 or 60% Carbines were down with the pistols in the 30-40% range.

Shotguns have been found in combat use almost everywhere. But I am not aware of it being the dominant weapon anywhere: Southern cavalry in the American Civil War comes closest- but that is because they couldn't get their hands on enough revolvers.

But I don't think it has anything to do with limited ammo or two handed action. I think there are two reasons. In a military combat setting, its optimum range is just way too short. In a civilian setting it is too cumbersome and alarming. You cannot go to the grocery store to pick up a loaf of bread and drag along your shotgun without scaring everyone half to death. But you can carry a pistol.

So even though shotguns are much more deadly in close range combat, the difficulty of carrying it with you and limits of range have always kept it a secondary weapon. It is an excellent home defense weapon: but of very limited use to a civilian outside the home.

Anonymous said...

Here's an interesting news story where a jewelry store owner used his handgun and shotgun to kill three robbers.