Bang goes the Boomstick!

Benelli Nova Tactical

(Pictured, Benelli Nova Tactical / Photograph by Sal Franco)

 In February, during a Facebook Town Hall hosted by Parents magazine, Vice President Joe Biden took questions from readers about gun violence. One question came from a reader named Kate who was concerned how gun owners would be able to sufficiently protect themselves if Congress passed a bill banning certain weapons and high-capacity gun magazines. Biden’s gaff, err should we say “advice” has sparked outrage across the nation, to include both sides of the political isle.

“Kate, if you want to protect yourself, get a double barreled shotgun,” Biden responded. “I promise you, as I told my wife, we live in an area that’s wooded and somewhat secluded. I said, Jill, if there’s ever a problem, just walk out on the balcony here, walk out, put [up] that double barreled shotgun and fire two blasts outside the house.”….”You don’t need an AR-15,” he said. “Buy a shotgun! Buy a shotgun!”

Over-Under Shotgun

(Pictured, Kurt Sipmann with Over-Under Shotgun / Photograph by Keith Sipmann)

The Vice President was trying to make a point that by firing two blasts from his double barrel shotgun, that it would frighten off anyone who might be trying to break in, etc. Considering all of the gun laws and ordinances cities and counties all over the US against firing a weapon into the air, this sounds sort of like ill advice right? Well, he is the Vice President of the United States, and people do take what authority figures say seriously. In fact, not long after Biden provided his “advice”, a 22 year old man from Virginia Beach had followed it, which landed him with charges of ‘reckless handling of a firearm’ – but the charges could have been MUCH worse had he actually hit or killed someone. Aside from the legal issues with the advice, there are some other issues we need to discuss about using a shotgun for home defense.

Like any other gun, a shotgun, or “scattergun”, is a tool. Like any tool, in order for it to work properly it must be used in the correct application to get the desired results. Contrary to Joe Biden’s advice, most firearms trainers do not believe a double barrel shotgun is the best type of shotgun for home protection. Mainly because you are limited to only two shells. And if you were Joe Biden, you would now be essentially unarmed after shooting your only two shots into the air. There are five basic types of shotguns that you would need to research before making a purchase; which are bolt-action, break-action, lever-action, pump-action and semi-automatic. Each type of shotgun can be further broken down into it’s own set of pro’s and con’s, but to keep this simple we will only cover the basics.


(Pictured, Kurt Sipmann with Over-Under Shotgun / Photograph by Keith Sipmann)

So what type of shotgun is best for home defense (if no other type of firearm is available)?

Generally speaking, most people think of a pump-action shotgun when thinking of a home defense weapon – mainly due to the audible sound of the racking of shells into the chamber. And this is fine for movies, but if your racking a shell into the chamber then you’re not really prepared for the event. The sound may be scary to some, but it really shouldn’t be used as a threat or deterrent. If you pull any gun out, you must be ready to use it – meaning a shell should be in the chamber ready to be fired. In my opinion the racking of the pump should be the last thing an attacker hears, not the first. A shotgun is not a defensive firearm. It is by far the most versatile and powerful firearm that a civilian can own and use.

So what’s best? This really comes down to how you’re going to use it and how much firepower you are looking for. Some pump-action shotguns like the Benelli Super Nova, Remington 870 and semi-auto shotguns like the Franchi SPAS-12 and Mossberg 930 all can carry up to 8(+1) shells in the magazine tube and most come in shorter 18 inch tactical models. Length of the gun could be an issue when clearing your house, so a shorter barrel may be of value in this respect. In comparison, break-action (double-barrel) shotguns generally only carry two shells; so immediately you can see the firepower advantage of a pump or semi-auto versus a break-action shotgun. If you’re looking for something that can carry more than 8 shells, consider the popular Russian made semi-auto, Izhmash Saiga-12 which can carry up to 30 shells depending on its magazine configuration. My personal opinion is to shop around and look for a nice balance of adequate firepower and good ergonomics – and stay away from pistol grip shotguns as they tend to transfer all the recoil into your hands and wrists.


(Pictured, Kurt Sipmann with Over-Under Shotgun / Photograph by Keith Sipmann)

What types of Shells or Ammo should you use?

The ammo market is just full of different types of shotgun shells, a lot of conventional shells with a splash of expensive “exotic” shells. Again, what type of shell to use is going to be based on what your intended purpose for the gun is. Generally speaking, you have 3 main types of shotgun ammo – buckshot loads, birdshot and slug loads. Buckshot loads are shells that contain lead balls with a large diameter and they are generally used for self defense and big game hunting. Birdshot loads, considered field or target loads, are shells that contain small diameter pellets that are normally used for bird and waterfowl hunting. Slugs are single projectiles very similar to rifle bullets. They have ridged sides that provide stability and rotation during flight. These loads offer excellent stopping capabilities, but do not offer accurate hits because of the careful aiming required. #4 or 00 Buckshot seems to be the most favored type of shells to use for home defense, but there really is no “perfect” ammo as each type has its benefits and drawbacks. Regardless of which type you are using, its very important to remember that any of the three types can travel through objects such as walls and even people. The best way to avoid over penetration is to hit your target, and thats where the training comes into play. Nothing can replace proper repetitive training.

– Stay alert, Stay alive.

© 2014 The Ballistic Blog

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