The Defensive Shotgun


We start out your week with a piece by Don Copp about scatterguns–No, you can’t just rack them to scare people off, you snot eating simpleton. Get your learnin’ hats on. Mad Duo

A look at the Defensive Shotgun: its advantages, disadvantages, uses, and How We Make Them Work

by Don Copp

There are many who tout the shotgun as the do-all of the firearms world. Many will tell you the shotgun is versatile enough to be an effective CQB weapon as well as a rifle when needed. Much of the shotgun myth comes from its place as the standard firearm in many law enforcement armories, alongside the double action revolver.

The shotgun was perhaps chosen by LEOs because everyone owned one. In a time when firearms were a normal household item, almost all homeowners had a shotgun for pest control and small game hunting. The weapon was a natural transition for those entering law enforcement; since shotguns were used by so many, training with them was seen as unnecessary.

Even today, when the average police cadet receives up to sixty hours of handgun training, shotgun instruction is a mere eight hours in many states. Those eight hours aren’t enough, and many who use the shotgun don’t fully understand its limitations or advantages. Even today, many assume the average person knows what they need to know about the shotgun. And mythology about the shotgun lives on.


The shotgun holds this mythical position because of the stories surrounding it. One was used to good effect at the OK Corral, but most people don’t know the shotgun was fired from only a few feet away into Tom McLaury’s back as he fled. He kept running until he died a couple blocks away;  even with two loads of buckshot, he didn’t instantly fall.

Shotguns also rode the stage coaches of the Old West and were used by Confederate Cavalrymen. Coachmen believed a shotgun loaded with buckshot gave them a better chance of hitting an opponent while moving (but we’ve never found concrete proof of that). In addition, shotguns have ridden in patrol cars and been at LEO’s sides since the days the lone constable walked a beat.

Because so many people have used a shotgun during its long history, many myths still surround it. These myths need to be addressed, and maybe even dispelled.


One of the first myths which we need to dispel is one that’s been repeated by old timers to novice shooters forever: “All you need to do is rack a shotgun to clear a room, because everyone knows that sound.” In truth, in these days of political correctness when many people never even touch a gun, not everyone knows that sound. And while it’s distinctive, there’s no guarantee it will clear a room or that it’s a fight stopper. The sound of a shotgun racking is not going to make your opponent suddenly fall to their knees quaking in fear, nor will it send the vagabond running for their lives. It might be an attention getter; however, you don’t know what your adversary’s mental conditioning might be, nor what their training is. Flashing the shotgun around like a magician’s wand can change an easily-remedied situation into an out-of-control situation rather quickly. The shotgun is a tool like any other, and has no magical properties.

Another myth is “you don’t have to aim.” We can’t say how many times we’ve heard this argument repeated by armchair specialists. Like all tools, a shotgun must be used correctly to obtain the maximum effect. You can’t simply point a shotgun down a narrow hallway, shoot and hope for the best. There is no such thing as a “cone of death” with a shotgun; anything in its path will not be obliterated, shredded, blown backwards or otherwise disintegrate into a mound of quivering flesh. Shot fired from a shotgun has a pattern and depending on the distance and type of shot, there are gaps in that pattern. And as with all firearms, if you want to hit your target you have to actually aim at it.

I like shotguns because they do everything I want them to.” This statement is great if you are hunting upland birds or kicking the brush for rabbit. But it’s bad for a defensive shotgun. A shotgun is not a “do all” weapon. It can do many things but it either does a specific job well or it half-asses everything. This is why people are sometimes wrong to use a shotgun. Before you roll your eyes, read the reasons we say this. For now just accept that the shotgun, while versatile, is simply not a “do everything” firearm, especially as a defensive weapon.

The final myth of the shotgun we’ll address: “I can load it with slugs and use it just like my rifle.” It is not a rifle. The shotgun can be used as a solid projectile thrower, but this isn’t what it was designed for. It has limited range as a slug thrower and requires a special (rifled) barrel to make a slug (preferably a sabot) travel any respectable distance with accuracy. As a standard out-of-the-box firearm, the shotgun is a poor substitute for a rifle.
Freedom Rifle 1


Okay, four myths have been addressed. There are more, but we’ll limit the focus to just those. In order to proceed, we need to get really negative and talk about how a shotgun is a disadvantage to the defensive shooter.

While this next statement might fall into the myth category, we are going to address it here as a disadvantage. There are two parts to the statement and we’ll look at both. Many believe that all they need to end a fight are the few rounds held by the shotgun’s short internal magazine. After all, the shotgun is so powerful it’ll stop a fight with one round.

Not true. Stopping the attack depends on the placement of the round on the target. There is no guarantee a single load 00 buckshot will cause enough damage to stop an enemy. As noted earlier, even a double load of 00 buckshot might not be enough to immediately drop your opponent. Let’s face it; all you are really putting down range with 00 buck are eight or nine .32 caliber round balls with no expansion properties. That means the rounds enter small, travel small, and leave the body — if they manage to do that at all — small.

And let’s address the claim that preceded the power myth of the shotgun; you don’t need to reload because the shotgun is so powerful. In reality, the number one disadvantage of a shotgun is the limited ammunition capacity, which makes it not as powerful as people think. Most shotguns are limited to fewer rounds than a well concealed revolver. Tactical shotguns with extended tubes partially rectify this, but modern revolvers are capable of holding up to eight rounds in a less punishing package (we use the revolver as a comparison not because we recommend them, but because it is a package that everyone can relate to and has myths of its own). Most shotguns straight from the factory are restricted to two rounds. Removing the plug can increase this to as many as eight, but the standard is four. Not only is the shotgun limited in ammo, it is also slow to reload — unless one spends hours a week practicing — and even then, a speed-loaded revolver is still a faster defensive weapon.


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Don Copp, About the author:don01
Also known as, “The Dude”, Don is a former law enforcement officer, SWAT/ERT shooter, and department trainer. He has an undiagnosed affinity for archaic and antiquated weapons, which probably stems from watching too much Dead Wood. The, ‘Copp’ part of MilCopp Tactical’s namesake, there he munificently promulgates superlative fighting advice. Translated, that means MilCopp teaches and advocates a constantly evolving, amalgamated method of military and law enforcement tactics. They leaven those TTPs with lessons learned from continued training and ongoing experience on the sharp end; these TTP’s are based on a combination of hard lessons learned and practical real-world results. He also likes bourbon. Allll the bourbon.



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