Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Home Defense: Shotguns and Very Bad Advice

I like shotguns. Shooting skeet with a 20 gauge gives me great pleasure. I love the smell, the kick, and the power I feel when shooting a 12 gauge. I can remember the silly statement made by our Vice President, Joe Biden, “Just get a shotgun.” His idea is that you can defend yourself effectively with a shotgun. The mere sound of wracking a pump action should be enough.
“If you want to protect yourself, get a double-barrel shotgun,” Biden said in an interview with Parents Magazine back in February 2013. “You don’t need an AR-15. It’s harder to aim, it’s harder to use, and in fact, you don’t need 30 rounds to protect yourself. Buy a shotgun. Buy a shotgun.”
In the magazine “Field and Stream” in 2013 he said:
“I said, ‘Well, you know, my shotgun will do better for you than your AR-15, because you want to keep someone away from your house, just fire the shotgun through the door.’ Most people can handle a shotgun a hell of a lot better than they can a semi-automatic weapon in terms of both their aim and in terms of their ability to deter people coming.”
I’m afraid that about 99% of instructors would have to disagree with the Vice President. I say he doesn’t have a clue about weapons. He may have shot an AR and a shotgun, but he doesn’t understand defending yourself with these weapons.
Using a shotgun effectively requires that you know how it works in all scenarios. Here is some practical applications of shotguns. Despite popular belief, shotguns should be treated as a precision tool at close ranges. At actual self-defense ranges of 3-7 yards where shotguns are used for home defense, shotguns need to be aimed like a rifle; the gun shop commando mythology of “point and pray” simply does not work. Shotguns must be aimed like a rifle.
Many feel that the “spread” of a shot means you don’t have to aim it. That would be false. Like most guns, if you want to hit something, you’d better aim. Most people do not own or shoot automatic weapons, but the misconception is that you can lay down effective fire with a spray. This, like a shotgun blast, is a myth. (This is why the Army infantry teaches 3 round bursts from modern fully automatic military weapons.)
Determine what your pattern is for your shotgun. Many, but not all, shotguns firing a specific 00 buckshot load at 3 yards creates a shot pattern roughly the size of a silver dollar. When the distance increases to 5 and 7 yards the pattern wasn’t much larger than the palm of your hand. Now that is a general statement. Your mileage may vary.
You’ll also see a large hole in the target that most people don’t think a great deal about, caused by the wadding/shot cup of the particular load. The wadding is typically made out of plastic these days, but has been made of cardboard or even wood. This is one thing you should consider, how wildly erratic and the inconsistent behavior of the wad/shot cup has from shot to shot. While it isn’t likely you’d ever be in a position where you might have to use a shotgun to “take out” a hostage taker, it’s a little disconcerting to think that you could put every pellet on the bad guy, but still seriously lacerate or even or blind a hostage with the wadding, which can leave a nasty shallow wound. Just remember the wad does come out of the muzzle at a fast velocity and is dangerous.
The problem with a shotgun, or really any weapon shot indoors, is that most wall board walls will not stop a round. You need to be aware of this and act and train accordingly. Shooting a shotgun at a threat at 10 yards with 00 buck shot could very well miss and go through a wall toward innocents on the other side. I know for a fact that a 9mm 115 grain FMJ round will go through ¾ in plywood AND a 2/4 piece of lumber from 400 yards. So you can imagine a 00 buckshot that misses the intended target at 10 yards. This is very important to remember.
Like I said before, I like shotguns. I don’t use one as a home defense weapon but there is always one handy around our front door. I do NOT advocate the Vice President’s advice about shooting through a door. I would really hate to deliver pizza to his house! Every home defense instructor will tell you that it’s imperative to have target identification when using a weapon. That’s why a good flash light is an important piece of gear for home defense. You would not want to shoot a family member would you? Maybe a drunk neighbor in the wrong back yard? Maybe a teenager coming home late, or early? You never know. Target identification could save you and someone else from a very bad experience! Don’t shoot through a door. Not only that, do you know that the person on the other side of the door is armed? You would never know what might be coming back at you. It’s nice to know that stupidity remains in politics.
When considering a shotgun for self-defense, do your homework. Research and get correct information. Get good training and then practice. Learning discretion would be smarter than listening to a Vice President of the United States!
Semper Paratus
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