Choosing the Right Gun : Shotguns

Choosing the right ShotgunThis series of posts is all about guns. Not just about guns, but which ones are the best in each category. This category is “shotguns.” Remember, as I said in the opening post of this series I pick the best tool for the job. I am referring to it in terms of “mission.” For each mission there is a right tool. In this case I cam speaking of guns, and specifically of shotguns today.

As I was thinking through each scenario where a shotgun would be the right tool I came up with three:

  1. Home defense.
  2. Tactical situations (includes hunting).
  3. Anti-mod defense (and other SHTF scenarios).

So let’s get to each mission and review exactly what to look for and what my recommendations are. But before we do that just a little something from me, I am naming shotguns that I have personally used and owned. I am not going with high-dollar fantasy shotguns. I am simply covering the shotguns that us regular folks can afford.

Home Defense –

Violent Home InvasionFirst up is your standard home defense. This mission is probably the most likely one you will encounter unless you are a hunter. What I was thinking in this situation was “deterrence” being the primary objective. Yes, I know there are tough guys out there that will say, “I don’t want to deter them, I want to drop them where they stand. They threatened my family – game on!”  Yeah, that sounds good, real tough guy stuff, but I wonder if they have been in that position. I have been, twice, and I didn’t find myself wanting to kill anyone. I just wanted the intrusion to stop. Taking a human life is something I would rather not do, and to avoid it I will take appropriate actions. However, I will never risk the lives of my family or friends being overly compassionate.

double barrel shotgun for home defenseAll that being said we still need to identify the right tool for home defense. I think the shotgun is the exact appropriate tool for defending your home. And a double barrel 12ga is the right shotgun. And I mean a “side-by-side” double barrel, not an “over and under” shotgun.

I think there are a few limited scenarios where you might find yourself defending your home: 1) home invasion through the front door during the day or early evening, 2) burglary or kidnapping attempt in the middle of the night. Either of these scenarios can be extremely violent and potentially deadly. Properly responding to the assault as quickly as possible is going to make the difference on the outcome.

Let’s take scenario #1 – Home invasions are becoming much more popular in today’s world. The drug culture virtually ensures it and the increasing gang activity makes it a given. Normally, most folks would find themselves watching TV with their family during the evening if they are home. If someone is at home during the day, it is hard telling where a person might be. A home invasion through the front door is going to be extremely violent from the very beginning with one exception; the bad guys may knock or ring the bell to assess if anyone is home. If someone is not home then it is actually a burglary. If someone is home it is considered a home invasion.A home invasion only has one outcome for whoever is at home at the time – death. Or it could be even worse, kidnapping, rape, etc. If someone is violently Violent Home Invasionbreaking into your home with someone home they have zero intentions of anything but evil.

A family member is home and one or more bad guys start trying to come through a door as they attempt to enter the home. The first question to answer is “flight or fight?” If the family member is not trained or is young they should retreat to their designated hiding place. If the family member has been trained to use a shotgun they need to retreat and retrieve their double-barrel shotgun and continue to their designated hiding place. If the family member has been trained on using a shotgun and trained on repelling a home invasion they need to retrieve they shotgun and follow your family’s SOP. If you are the head of household you better retrieve that shotgun and head for the door where the bad guys are attempting entry.

Home Invasion If they are still at the front door and not gained entry I will give them one verbal warning that I am armed and they must leave or I will shoot to kill. If they don’t leave I will put a blast through the front door at waist level. If they still won’t leave then they get another blast at chest level. At that point you can transition to pistol or reload the shotgun if you have time.

Note: No, I don’t stand in front of the door while doing this. I am at an appropriate angle, maybe 45degrees or so. Also, our house has an angled window that you can see people in front of the door on the outside. If it was a serious attempt I would use the window to fire through if it was safe to do so.

The chances of bad guys continuing a home invasion after having received one or two blasts through the door is slim. But be prepared to continue the defense of your home. If you live in a state that doesn’t have a “Castle Doctrine” that enables you to defend your home, then move. If you stay in a “must retreat” state then you are a 100% loser and obviously don’t care about your rights, freedoms, liberties or your family.

Violent Home InvasionLet’s take scenario #2 – burglary or kidnapping attempt in the middle of the night.Let me clarify, anytime someone is breaking into your home in the middle of the night they have nothing but evil in their hearts. They know you are home and they are not scared to break-in which means they have no problem with the idea of confronting you. So once again, a double-barrel shotgun comes into play. If you are awakened in the middle of the night, hopefully by your dog that is barking their head off, you are at a distinct disadvantage, you are sleepy. Trying to be an accurate shot with a carbine or pistol is too much to ask of you or anyone else. A 12ga shotgun with 00 or 000 buckshot gives you plenty of opportunity to hit an assailant . And the wound from the hit will be traumatic to say the least.

What I would hope for is being able to surprise them and have them looking down both barrels of my shotgun and they would immediately surrender. If not and they try to assault me or my family then one or two barrels would stop them from doing any further harm. And that is the beauty of a double-barrel shotgun, two barrels.

If you look at a target after it has been hit with a single pistol round there is a nice neat hole. Same things for a rifle round, usually just a smaller hole. But, look at that target once it was hit with a blast from single barrel of a 12ga shotgun and the hole is massive. Now double that letting loose with both barrels. It is a devastating traumatic event to a body. An attacker simply cannot continue their assault.

IZH-43 Bounty Hunter II Shotgun

IZH-43 Bounty Hunter II

So here are my recommendations for basic home defense:

1)  IZH-43 Bounty Hunter II. It is made in Russia, takes 2-3/4″ 12ga shells and 36″ over with 20″ barrels. It is lightweight enough to not be burdensome, heavy enough to handle a 12ga round. The wood stock and fore-grip are beautiful. The gun was very reasonably priced at $300 – $400.

2)  Stevens 311 is a good option at $400 – $500.

3)  Don’t consider a Winchester Model 12. They start at $10,000 in poor condition.

4) I am not crazy about the Stoeger because it was too engineered for a “tactical” situation. A double barrel is not a tactical weapon in my opinion.Shotgun Butt stock Shell Holder

Note 1: I added a butt stock shotgun shell holder to give me four additional rounds if needed. Two are low recoil 00 buck and two are low recoil 1oz slugs.

Note 2: I have not added a sling to the double-barrel, I don’t want it getting in the way in the close encounters inside a home.

Summary – Double barrel shotgun is the right tool for home defense. Pick it up and pull the trigger and give the bad guys one or two rounds of 12ga deterrence at one time. It will stop them and there is no thinking or tinkering around with a more sophisticated defensive weapon.

Tactical situations (includes hunting) –

Tactical shotgun situationsWhen I am talking about a “tactical situation” I am referring to a situation where a life is at stake. That means a human life. Another way to put it, you must be a good shot with a good weapon to save, or take, a human life. Yes, that includes hunting for this conversation as well.

I took my first tactical shotgun class many years ago. I was impressed and surprised at just how much a shotgun could do when in the rights hands of a qualified shooter. Three more tactical shotgun classes later Tactical shotgun scenariosand I am more convinced than ever. I took those different classes with a wide variety of shotguns and found one shotgun to be significantly better than the others. But before I get into specifics about brands and models lets talk about the “tactical situation” a little bit.

There are lots of opinions out there concerning shotguns in tactical situations; a good case can be made for and against. I have been convinced over time that a good quality tactical shotgun in the hands of someone who is trained is probably the best all-round tactical weapon. Why?

1) It produces a devastating wound channel to a person. The shotgun is unrivaled for producing a traumatic shock to a bad guy’s body as you convince him to die for his cause vs. you dying for your cause.

2) If can break down a door with proper shot placement to the hinges and/or locking mechanism.

3) It can double as a hunting weapon for a wide range of large and small game.

4) You can’t beat that “racking” sound when chambering a round in a pump shotgun.

5) In class we learned that you can make a head shot on a hostage taker at 20yards with 00buck.

6) You can accurately shoot 200 yards with a Hornady SST round.

So for me, I am convinced of its tactical prowess because I’ve held it my hands and made it perform. But I also have seen a serious difference in performance of brands of shotguns while working in the field and taking the tactical shotgun classes.

Here are my recommendations:

Shotgun Benelli Supernova

Benelli Super Nova

Benelli Supernova is the best all-round tactical pump shotgun. I purchased model 20155 with ComforTech. The technology they developed reduces “felt recoil” by 48%. That allows me to use high velocity ammunition without it punishing my aging shoulders and arms. It comes standard with rifle sights, including a blade on the front. This allows for very precise aiming when it is needed. On the fore-grip it has the “Push-Button Shell Stop” that allows you to remove a shell from the chamber without automatically loading one from the magazine. This is especially useful if you need to change ammunition (i.e. from a 00 buck round to a Hornady SST round). The shotgun is only 40″ overall and weighs in at about 7.5lbs. I did not buy the pistol grip version because I tried that route previously and I prefer a non-pistol grip for tactical shotgun work where accuracy may be required. Benelli Super Nova ComforTech stockThe ComforTech system is amazing! The reduce felt recoil is significant. After shot all day during class I can tell a big difference physically. Shooting several hundred rounds from a 12ga shotgun can be wearing on you, the ComforTech system is a real bonus. Now I consider it a necessity.

Here are the modifications/additions for my Benelli Super Nova –

1) Once i had my shotgun sights zeroed in I placed a dot of florescent orange paint on the front sight at the base of the post to increase visibility during the day. I did it to improve my sight acquisition during high-speed shooting.

2) I added a Mesa Tactical 6-shot holder with Picatinny rail to the shotgun. There are plastic versions and other metal versions for this option. But for my experience Mesa Tactial has the best shell holder period. And no, don’t even talk to me about a butt stock shell holder for a tactical shotgun; they are not the best, or even a “right” option. If you ever put a Poncho-Villa sling on it with 20 shells hanging on the sling you are an idiot. The weight of those shells will destroy your ability to swing your gun on target. And the added weight will be dragging as well.

3) I installed my standard Blueforce Vickers Combat Application Sling on it just like my AR’s have. Makes the shotgun much easier to carry for any length of time.

4) I installed the magazine extender giving you two more rounds in the magazine.

Note: Benelli makes Tritium inserts for their sights. A good option to be sure. I prefer a tactical light in low/no-light conditions.  But the Tritium inserts are well worth the money.

Next to Benelli there is the Mossberg 500 (and variants). There is also the Winchester 870 and SXP. They are all good tactical shotguns. I own a Mossberg 500 and it is ok. But, here is why I chose the Benelli – at class two of us had Benelli’s and we let folks shoot them that owned the other options. They all prefered the Benelli Super Nova. Having shot the Mossberg for a long time before going over to the Benelli, I can tell you that Mossberg is not even in the same category. But if you want my ratings list, here it is (in preference order): 1) Benelli SuperNova, 2) Mossberg 500, 3) Winchester Model 870, 4) nothing other than those options.

Anti-mob defense (SHTF times) –

Violent Crowd during SHTF zombiesThis is a specialized category, one that many think will never happen. And it may not happen in any one person’s lifetime; but I believe it will happen at some point. This can be affectionately referred to as the “Zombie Apocalypse” gun. Imagine a large crowd, Zombies or otherwise, that is approaching your home or other defended position. There are literally dozens of them, maybe a hundred or more. Will a pistol protect you? No. Will your tricked out AR-15 be enough? No.

Why won’t those options be enough? Simple, not enough firepower. If you have several dozen people comping at you and you can’t run away you are going to have a hard time stopping them. Even with an AR-15 and 30-round magazine you just aren’t going to get the work done. Too many will get through to you. Also, remember that a 5.56 (a.k.a. .223) round doesn’t have a lot of stopping power. <click here to read ballistics info on the 5.56/.223 round>. So you need something that packs a huge punch and can deliver a massive number of rounds in a short period of time. One answer – Saiga 12.

Saiga 12 12ga shotgunThe Saiga 12 is an AK-47 version of a shotgun. It is a semi-automatic shotgun. You pull the trigger and it fire a round, no “pumping” required. It is extremely reliable, sturdy, needs little maintenance and can handle magazines full of rounds. There are lots of model variations out there but you are basically looking at a 41″ length, 7-1/2lbs weight, with a variety of sights available. There are tricked out tactical version that look might mean but the basic shotgun gets the job done for the need I outlined above. There is a wide-range of magazines available. If you are going to limit your magazine capacity to 5 – 7 rounds then get a regular “box” style magazine. If you are looking for a larger capacity then go for a drum magazine. Reason? More than 7 rounds box magazine and you will have a hard time keeping the gun low to the ground due to the “stand-off” or length of the box magazine.

Promag 20round drum magazine for a Saiga 12 shotgun

Promag 20-round drum

For drum magazines I will only buy ProMag magazines. They are great quality for the Saiga and I haven’t had a single problem.

So what makes the Saiga such a potent Zombie gun? The detachable magazine more than anything else. There is a 20-round ProMag drum magazine for the Saiga. With one round in the chamber that gives you 21 rounds of 00 buckshot heading down range into the mob of Zombies. That means 189 32cal. bullets flying at 1400fps into the bad guys. That can be devastating. How fast can you send that much down range? When I tested the Saiga in the field I fired 21 rounds in less than 15 seconds while maintaining “point&shoot” with the gun. I could take that down to maybe 10 seconds but I think I would lose any kind of aiming at all.

Shotgun Saiga12 - with Promag 20round drum magazineThink about what kind of defensive capability that could give you. If I had a battle-buddy and we both had a Saiga 12 with a 20-round drum magazine loaded with buckshot I would have confidence that we could take on a mob of 100+ and stop them. A good carbine to clean up the few who got through would be helpful. But can you imagine being on the receiving end of that kind off  firepower?

Summary –

Home defense = Double-barrel Bounty Hunter II
Tactical & Hunting = Benelli Super Nova
Zombie Ziller = Saiga 12

My next post in this series will be picking a carbine (a.k.a. battle rife) – look for it!

Final Thought –

I was in Big 5 Sporting Goods a couple years ago and saw this black shotgun on sale for $189. I asked to see it and was Shotgun Stevens Model 320 by Savage Armswholly and completely impressed the weight and feel of the shotgun. It was well balanced and just plain felt good in my hands. At $189 I couldn’t resist it. I took it shooting the next weekend and I love it!  No, it doesn’t shoot like my Benelli by any stretch of the imagination. But it also didn’t cost what my Benelli did either. So I have a fourth category of shotgun – “throw away.”  Yeah, this is the gun that goes under the truck seat for times when I am out kicking around and need something a little powerful than my pistol. At that price I can afford for it to get a little scratched up, stolen, or confiscated without suffering a big financial loss. So consider this as an option. Yes, pistol grip and all.


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