Prepper Guns: Firearms, Ammo, Tools, and Techniques You Will Need to Survive the Coming Collapse (2016)

SHOTGUNS

Introduction

Is a shotgun the secret to survival? Maybe, maybe not. But, you need at least one.

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“Buy a Shotgun. Buy a Shotgun.”
—Vice President Joe Biden

That was VP Joe Biden’s advice while on the ABC News network in response to a question from a reader of Parent Magazine. If you heard the rest of the segment you should understand that taking self-defense advice from Joe may be like taking career advancement advice from Lindsay Lohan.

He went on to say that he told his wife if she heard something suspicious to walk out on their deck and fire a couple of blasts into the dark. It was probably one of the most stupid things ever said by a vice president known primarily for saying stupid things.

Some say that he at least had the part about buying a shotgun right. But did he? Is a shotgun the best gun for defense?

The answer is, “It all depends.”

I don’t want to sound like some sniveling politician trying to play both sides, so let me make a more definitive statement.

Is a shotgun the best defensive long gun for a prepper?

No.

Should preppers buy shotguns?

Yes.

Contradictory?

Not really. I’ll explain. This goes back and forth, sometimes in a single paragraph, so pay attention.

The shotgun is not a good choice as a primary defensive long gun. Forget all the myths and misinformation out there. Forget Hollywood and forget the romance of racking that pump during a fight. From a tactical point of view, a shotgun is a poor choice for a prepper as a primary defensive long gun.

However, a shotgun does have a very strong position within the battery of guns that a prepper should have.

First, let’s consider why they make poor primary defensive long guns. A shotgun has limited range, holds limited ammo and is very slow to reload. The ammo is heavy and bulky and it’s difficult to carry a lot of it on your person.

There is nothing that a shotgun can do in a fight that a rifle can’t do as well or better. Even for close-range fighting, a carbine-style rifle in trained hands is as effective as a shotgun. Remember, when you are close (like inside-your-house distances) the shotgun is throwing a pattern with buckshot or birdshot that is effectively no larger than a single bullet. If you move to more open ranges, say in your yard, then the pattern of pellets will rapidly disperse until it reaches a point where it’s no longer an effective fight-stopper.

If you shoot slugs, then you have a single projectile, just like the rifle except it is effective to about 1/10 the distance of a rifle.

With a tactical shotgun, you have less than ten rounds in the gun, usually much less. The shotgun is very slow to reload, perhaps two seconds per shell or slower. A rifle will have thirty or forty or more rounds and reloading takes two or three seconds. So, with both guns empty you can have the rifle back in the fight with another thirty or forty-round magazine in about the same amount of time it takes to put one shell back in the shotgun.

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You can never go wrong with a Remington Model 870 in 12 gauge.

I am sure some will disagree with that so, okay, take two rounds. In fact, I’ll give you three new shells. Does that really make a difference?

The one exception might be a magazine-fed shotgun. You can reload a ten-round magazine relatively quickly, but all the other issues still apply. Also the reliability of magazine-fed shotguns is a bit spotty.

It’s easy to carry lots of ammo for a rifle in pre-loaded magazines. Most people can manage ten magazines easily enough. A loaded thirty-round magazine for an AR-15 weighs a pound. Ten loaded thirty-round mags will weigh ten pounds. That gives you three hundred rounds of ammo. To carry three hundred rounds of shotgun ammo on your body would be all but impossible. The weight alone would be too much, as it would weigh thirty pounds. Besides, where would you put it all? You would need a backpack just for the ammo. In the end, there is absolutely no tactical advantage for a shotgun over a battle rifle, particularly in a survival TEOTWAWKI situation where we may be dealing with social unrest and mobs of desperate people.

It’s true; a shotgun is an excellent fight-stopper at close range. Nine 00 buckshot pellets to the chest will knock the dickhead out of anybody’s attitude. But buck is only effective at relatively close ranges, and if the range extends much, it wounds more than it kills. Some loads like Federal’s FliteControl buckshot can extend the effective range much beyond traditional buckshot, so how far buckshot remains effective varies. The choke can have an effect, too. Most tactical shotguns are cylinder-bore and the shot with traditional buckshot loads disperses quickly. That set up may fail to put all of the buckshot pellets on a man-sized target in as little as twenty-five yards. A little choke, like a modified choke, can extend the effective range of buckshot, as can the new generations of wad systems like FliteControl. But no buckshot load I have tested is 100 percent effective at distances past fifty yards or so. Usually it is much closer than that. The key in knowing how far is to pattern your gun and load. You might get a pellet or two into the target, but that does not ensure the fight is over. Buckshot depends on multiple hits to be effective. Single pellets are not effective fight-stoppers.

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A shotgun is versatile with lots of ammo and choke options.

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Buckshot is very effective at close range.

To recap: At close range, buckshot can be very effective. But if that range extends, all bets are off. I have seen it used on deer, black bear, and hogs with mixed results. It can be very impressive or hugely disappointing. The reports of its use for defensive applications pretty much say the same thing. If you are close, like inside your home, it’s great stuff. But outside where the distance can increase rapidly, it loses effectiveness quickly.

Slugs are very effective out to 50 or 75 yards, maybe more if you can hit the target. That last part is tough without sights. We use Foster-style slugs in 3-gun competition, which are the same slugs that you would use for defense. I have seen them be very effective out to 75 or even 100 yards, if the shotgun has sights and the shooter is exceptionally skilled. With a bead, most guys are done at half that distance or less.

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Foster-style slugs are a very effective fight stopper.

The one thing about slugs is that they hit very hard. I know a cop who had to shoot a guy with a slug and he told me that it was the fastest he has ever seen somebody stop trying to kill him. I have seen Foster slugs used on deer, hogs, and black bears. They are very effective. When you get hit with a 1-ounce, 73-caliber projectile, it’s going to be effective. The slug is nearly ¾ of an inch in diameter and a full-power load will leave the barrel of the shotgun at something like 1,600 ft/s and carry in excess of 2,500 foot-pounds of energy. That’s more than five times the energy of the best defensive pistol rounds. Make no mistake, a slug is a fight-stopper.

Birdshot is also very effective inside a building at close “bedroom-type” ranges that are measured in feet rather than yards. With a magnum “turkey” load you are pretty much dumping a couple of ounces of lead into the bad guy at 1,000 ft/s. Something’s gotta give. Yet, birdshot is less likely to go through the walls and kill your neighbors in their house across the street while they sleep.

A shotgun is no good if you are dealing with a mob or a mass attack because it does not hold enough ammo and is too slow to reload. But it can be a very good defensive gun during most other situations. If you are dealing with single-issue problems, that is one or even a few bad guys, a shotgun is very effective in trained hands. It’s safer to use around your home, compound, or in urban areas—or anyplace that has other people lurking about whom you would rather not shoot. At least in terms of the projectiles not penetrating walls and hitting people on the other side.

You must be aware of pattern dispersion and that pellets can hit a person downrange who you think is out of the line of fire. Sometimes the pellets will spread out to amazing places, so the shotgun has an increased danger of collateral damage. When you fire a rifle or handgun you need to worry about one projectile on a relatively predictable path. With a shotgun there are multiple projectiles on a path that nobody can precisely predict.

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The UTS shotgun works well with slugs.

A shotgun is very effective for dealing with pests and predators around the home and compound. It is the best choice for fixing problems like snakes, rats, coyotes, and varmints of all kind. A shotgun does the job without the risk of over penetration or ricochet.

If you are foraging for food and hunting for small game that scurries and flies, a shotgun is by far the best choice. It’s very hard to hit a flying grouse with a rifle and I can tell you from experience that unless you make a head shot with a centerfire rifle there is nothing left to eat. A shotgun was designed for shooting birds and it’s by far the best choice for that chore.

A shotgun can handle big stuff too. Slugs were developed for hunting big game and are very effective on deer. They are safer than a rifle to use in settled areas because they do not fly as far before hitting the ground and stopping, which is why so many urban areas are shotgun-only for deer hunting. You can’t shoot deer very far away, but in the woods where ranges are not long, a shotgun will work. Out to 50 yards or so, a tactical shotgun with a Foster slug is a deer-killing machine.

So yes, Joe was right about one thing: “Buy a shotgun.” Every prepper needs a shotgun or two. Just get the right shotgun and then learn how and when to use it.

While a lot of fools promote the shotgun as “point and shoot” and the gun for people who don’t want to train, it’s all BS. Running a shotgun effectively in a defensive situation requires a skillset that is probably more difficult to master than a rifle. So, get some training.

Even from a foraging point of view, you need training. Hitting moving targets with a shotgun is much more difficult than the uneducated like Biden believe. It’s a much different shooting technique than with a rifle or handgun and it takes refined skills that are developed over time. If you are trying to feed your starving family, every time you miss is a tragedy. So spend some time on the sporting clays range and learn to shoot a shotgun well before it becomes life or death.

Yes, by all means follow Joe’s advice and “buy a shotgun!”

But do try to get the right shotgun.

Politicians seem to love the double-barrel shotgun. Remember that other fool John Kerry when he was trying to convince hunters he was one of them?

When asked what kind of hunting he preferred he answered:

“I’d have to say deer, I go out with my trusty 12-gauge double-barrel, crawl around on my stomach . . . that’s hunting.”

Well, maybe that’s hunting in his over-privileged, never-been-hunting, liberal, trying-to-fit-in mind; but every hunter on Earth knew he was full of shit.

First off, I have shot a lot of deer, but I can’t remember the last time I crawled on my stomach to shoot one. It happens, but not very often. Also, nobody but a novice or a dumbass, lying politician thinks about using a “trusty” double-barrel for deer hunting. They do not play well with slugs and it’s all but impossible to hit a deer with one past powder burns on his hide distances.

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Doubles are great; I love them and use them often. They epitomize the true concept for shotguns. While they are a bit outdated these days, those who love doubles use them for shooting flying objects, which is the primary reason shotguns exist.

(The exception might be Cowboy Action shooters who use doubles in competition. But those are mostly short-barrel “Coach Guns” designed for the sport. Many have external hammers, which are great fun and historically accurate, but a horrible choice for a fighting gun because they are slow to use.)

Traditional doubles are hunting or clays guns and are used mostly out of love for the design rather than any advantage they have over a modern shotgun. I have a Fox 16-gauge that is about a hundred years old. It is one of my favorite shotguns and I use it a lot hunting birds and rabbits, never deer; but if TSHTF I doubt it will see the light of day again.

No matter what Biden might think, doubles are not for defense. Sure, they will work. So will a single-shot. For that matter, so will a rock. How far do we want to take this line of thinking? Do you want something that will work, but with great compromise? Or do you want the best tool available to help you survive?

If you are serious about prepping, forget double-barrel shotguns. They are fine for foraging small game, but not much else. They are poor for defense. Why? Two shots, remember? What if there are three bad guys? They are poor for foraging for big game because they do not manage slugs well, which is also an issue for defense. Hitting a target at any distance with a double-barrel shotgun and slugs is a function of luck more than anything else.

As a prepper, you need a single-barrel, repeating pump-action or semiauto shotgun.

Which one?

Now we are opening a wide-ranging topic. There are a lot of options: tactical, hunting, and hybrids that bridge the gap; pumps; and semiautos. We have tube-fed traditional-style shotguns, bullpup shorties, and even magazine-fed guns based on the AK-47 or similar designs.

Read on, the information may make the choice easier.

To quote my least favorite president, “let me be clear,” as a prepper you will need a shotgun or two. Not for an everyday-carry, first-line-of-defense, personal long gun, but for all those uncounted other things when a shotgun is the best tool for the job.

Make sure you stock up on shotgun ammo too—lots and lots of birdshot, slugs, and buckshot.

How much? Figure out the worst-case scenario you can possibly imagine and how much ammo you will need for that. Then double it . . . twice.

Why?

If this thing goes south everybody, the misinformed and the informed alike, will have a shotgun. Most will not think ahead enough to have extra ammo.

That ammo you hoarded will be worth more for barter than gold.

Just think about how those antibiotics that ammo can buy will help keep your kid alive. Or how good a fresh, juicy steak will taste after a diet of MREs.

“Buy a Shotgun. Buy a Shotgun!”

Then buy lots and lots of shotgun ammo.

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Buy a shotgun. Buy a shotgun.