Thursday, June 30, 2011

“I sez, Shotgun shoot em for he run now.”


Jr. Walker & the All Stars got me thinking about shotguns. 

I’m exploring my tools' potentials and clarifying my assumptions about them.  This led me to the range to pattern my 20-gauge Remington 1100 shotgun.  It’s set up with a smooth bore slug barrel and I took a box of Federal 7½ shot shells with me.  Why 7½ shot?  I use the gun for local gun games and at the distances available, this load has enough oomph to break clay pigeons on a string and knock steel plates off posts.  I have a lot of it.

Equally important was my belief that the role of the shotgun in home defense would be that of heavy artillery.  I’d roll it in place and control a lethal funnel.  I also believe that the gun would play a role if local social order (limited zombie apocalypse!) broke down in my area.

Why 20-gauge?  Both my wife and I can shoot it effectively, and I have a bad right shoulder which makes me recoil sensitive.

My approach to patterning was simple.  I put up a big sheet of cardboard.  Put an aiming point in the center and backed off 10ft and fired one round.  I connected the dots on the outer edge of the revealed pattern, moved back another 10 feet and fired another shot.  I simply repeated this until the pattern opened up so much I had trouble finding the outer holes. Patterning a shotgun, however, gives you no information on penetration, a most important factor in stopping power.

Total  shotgun pattern

At 10 feet the 306 pellets make a nice 1.5 inch rat hole in the cardboard.  At 20 ft the rat hole grew to 2 inches and the pattern opened up to 10 inches.  Still not too bad from a sudden impact point of view.  At 30 feet the pattern opened up to 16 inches and it gets worse from there.

Two expectations I had were quickly shattered.  One, the shot would be uniformly distributed within the pattern.  Two, the patterns, if not circular in shape, would be shape consistent.  Both assumptions were wrong.  

I didn’t have a chance to study the patterns at the range, but I wanted to see the pellet density at some distance.  I chose 40 feet, a little over 13 yards.  I put up two sheets of cardboard, measured 40 feet and took a shot.

99.9% of all the 7 1/2 pellets are in that circle at 40 ft

Each hole represents some fraction of the total muzzle energy.  The round pellets are not very aerodynamic and lose energy fast.  To make up for this, you need to have a lot of pellets close to each other.  Being light they don’t have the energy to penetrate into deep tissue.  Low penetration equals low stopping power.

The result was pretty sad.  I sharpened the images as much as possible, but you can see the pellet density is pretty low.  In fact, too low to have a mass effect that would cause the shot to penetrate and stop a dangerous criminal    I’m not sure I have enough energy to knock a steel plate sitting on a post off at that distance.

The answer seems clear:  bigger pellets like 00 buck or slug.  00 buck is approximately .30 caliber, but a quick internet search suggests only 3 buck is available for 20-gauge.  3 buck is about the size of a .25 caliber bullet.

I’m still worried about over penetration, but excluding slug, that may not be a realistic concern.  Misses that leave my house and enter my neighbor’s is one reason I was thinking shotgun.  It looks like I’m still in search of an answer.

I have a tactical sling on the shotgun and I was reminded of early carry methods.  The first was called the American Carry.  

Bangs into your sidearm as well

It’s the way the Army carried while marching in all those WWII pictures.  Muzzle up and sling over the right shoulder.  You still needed a hand on the sling or the long gun would slide off the shoulder.   

The other was the European carry.  I have no idea where the name comes from, but I suspect it was from the hunting community.

Don't shoot yourself in the foot, Bobby!


The long gun was carried over your left shoulder muzzle down.  The gun still needed to be stabilized or it would slide off.  The best rational was it was fast to mount the weapon.

Stabilize the gun with your left hand on the fore-end.  The “draw” starts with simply swinging the muzzle up towards the right.  This slides the sling off the shoulder.  

Be quick and get it mounted before the charging rhino gets to you!

As the left palm rotates to the normal shooting position, the right hand comes up, establishes the shooting grip and pulls the gun into the right shoulder.  Safety, sights and trigger pull, that’s all that’s left to do.

It’s fast and adventure writers loved it, ‘cause they could work some nice color and action into the story.  But it still requires one hand to keep the gun in place.

I’m sure people tried some kind of intermediate position.  I call it the 'Atlantian' carry.  That’s the muzzle over one shoulder; the long gun crosses your back and the gun butt on the other hip.  Now that gun isn’t going anywhere and your hands are free.  The draw however is a little cumbersome. 

Slip the sling over your head, move the gun to the front, get the grip, don’t forget to take the safety off… No-No, I got a better way, swing the butt up in a great circle route around the body and mount the gun while making sure you don’t shoot anyone behind you or get crud in the muzzle…   No-No, Wait! Carry the gun butt over one shoulder and muzzle over the other hip, then you just have to grab the butt and swing the entire long gun over your shoulder, making sure there’s no tree limbs or low ceiling in the way… that’s not so hot either.

Face it, it’s called the Atlantian carry because you’re sunk any way you do it.

No, I’ll stick to my tactical carry in front.  I wonder how long it took us to discover that.


The butt is just about placed right, my hands are free and nobody's foot is under the muzzle.

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