Shotguns and Heat Shields in 2023

Shotgun and heat shields name a more iconic duo! Iconic as in mall ninja icon. People really like putting heat shields on shotguns and more power to you. It’s your gun, do what you want! However, today we are going to talk about heat shields and shotguns and why they are pretty useless these days. I think it’s worth mentioning no police force or modern military force rocks a heat shield on their shotgun and for a good reason. 

So we are all clear, a heat shield is an accessory that’s placed on the barrel of a shotgun. It’s often metal, but polymer ones exist, and in the past, wood ones also existed. The idea is that it will protect your hand from any accidental burns when it brushes the barrel. Shotgun barrels tend to be getty pretty toasty, so it seems like a great idea, and it was way back when they were invented. 

The Origin of the Heat Shield 

The modern shotgun heat shield is a Winchester design and premiered during World War 1 on the trench variants of the Model 12 and Model 1897. Winchester even owned the patent, and that’s why the company’s live Stevens used wood heat shields on their trench guns. Was the heat shield mall ninja-like in World War 1? 

No, not at all. It served a purpose there. This was an era where long guns were used in melee brawls. Bayonets and bayonet charges still occurred, and that might require some odd handling of the weapon. Touching a hot barrel certainly isn’t desirable, so the heat shield could help some if you went from emptying the gun to hand-to-hand fighting. 

Also, take a peek at the service rifles of the era. The handguard extended nearly the full length of the barrel and over the top. These provided the same protection. This type of wood handguard wouldn’t work on a pump action shotgun. The heat shields were a rather poor imitation of a proper handguard, to be honest. 

Why Are They Silly Now? 

Most engagements with shotguns are at short range and rarely are more than a few shots fired. In defensive situations, the barrel never has a chance to get hot. I’d love to find any evidence of a home defense scenario where the defender emptied their repeating shotgun in defense of their home. 

The same goes for police officers. If the shotgun leaves the cruiser, it’s rare that the officer is alone, and again rare they are going to fire so many rounds to warrant a heat shield. On top of all that, using your gun as a melee weapon is extremely unlikely in a self-defense scenario. It’s not like you have a bayonet on your shotgun. 

Even military forces don’t use heat shields anymore. In the United States, the military shotgun is very niche, and even when used, you’re surrounded by squad mates with rifles and machine guns. You won’t be suppressing the enemy with your Benelli M1014. If you use a shotgun, it’s close, quick, and likely brutal. We also aren’t using bayonets, and I’m sure people will point to the few examples of bayonets used during the GWOT, but let’s be real here. It’s highly unlikely. 

Also, modern soldiers and Marines are issued gloves, nice gloves, which means even if they accidentally touch the barrel, they are unlikely to notice. 

It’s a Decoration 

Heat shields are just decorations. I’m not hating on that fact. I own a Mossberg 590A1 Retrograde, and it has a heat shield, but it’s just a decoration for an old-school throwback of a shotgun. Your home defense shotgun doesn’t need a heat shield. I liken it to the battle-worn finishes that were all the rage a few years ago. 

It looks neat but ultimately just adds useless weight to your weapon and separates you from a few dollars.

Travis Pike
Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and teaches concealed carry classes.