Do you need to aim a shotgun?

Do you need to aim a shotgun? Thanks to television and movies, a lot of people don’t understand how shotguns actually work. We’ve all seen shows where shotguns blast circular holes out of doors, or where a scattergun fired down a hallway takes out three badguys. And of course good old Shotgun Joe Biden telling people to just go outside and “fire two blasts” to ward off intruders is comedy gold. But how true is all that? Are shotguns accurate?

The truth is you do need to aim a shotgun if you want to hit anything. To put this to the test, I took a Beretta 1301 and some Federal FLITECONTROL 00 buckshot to the range. We shot it at distances from as close as 3 yards to as far as 15 yards, which is about the longest shot I could personally take in my house. At 15 yards the Federal 00 buck was still shooting tight patterns that were 4-6 inches wide. At close range, it would put all 8 pellets into one big hole. That means two things: you do need to aim, but also that a shotgun with the right load is accurate enough to take a hostage rescue shot. We saw this for real in 2016, when a San Diego police officer shot a man in the face with a shotgun while that man held a woman hostage.

If you’re wondering do you need to aim a shotgun, we can absolutely answer “yes” to that. One of the key items to remember in any home defense situation is that regardless of why you’re shooting, you’re responsible for every round that leaves your gun. With a shotgun that means you’re dealing with 8 projectiles all at once. The best way to make sure that your rounds don’t hit something they shouldn’t is to hit what you’re trying to shoot. Even with a shotgun, and especially with a shotgun in a home defense context, that means aiming.

The next time someone says something to you about how shotguns just spray a huge pattern, you can turn to them and say “do you need to aim a shotgun?” Then reference the tests from the video that demonstrate that you do…if you want to be responsible.