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Shotgun Fun

Unlike pistols, which I spent a lot of time exploring on my own, shotguns, were something, on which I felt, I should be instructed. I don’t have a shotgun, and while my range rents a number of options, I felt it more appropriate to take on this long gun in it’s natural habitat, outdoors. Many shotgun wielding friends were willing join me, but since the nearest outdoor range is more than 1.5 hours away, finding time proved difficult. Eventually, I opted to wait for the Girls Gun Getaway.

Boy am I glad I waited and got my first shotgun lesson from Packing Pretty in the flesh!Packing Pretty & a 12ga turkey gun

The reason for my outdoor preference?
shotgun shells filled with slugs vs buckshotThe bang of a shot gun tends to be larger than most other rifles and this will be more intense in an indoor environment. Also, my range allows shotguns to be used, only when they are being used with “slugs” but “buckshot” is forbidden. The reason behind this is simple. Shotgun shells are usually filled with small beads of lead, called “buckshot”, but at my range buckshot is prohibited because the tiny lead balls can bounce back at the firing line.

While a group headed out on a squirrel hunt, Packing Pretty’s Gracie McKee and I headed to our hosts’ backyard range.(I know, I’m jealous too!) I had been told that the recoil was something to fear, but Gracie instructed me on proper procedures to minimize this issue. We began with a 12 gauge, the most common size shell for a shotgun. Pressing the stock firmly into my shoulder I dry fired and thought, “ok, I get the idea”. Then I inserted a shell and attempted to pump the gun. Something got stuck half way through the motion. Gracie got me unstuck and I tried again. Loaded, pumped, the shell fell from the bottom of the gun. What I learned from this embarrassing moment? Pumping a shot gun is a lesson in multitasking. While one hand pumps, the other presses a button through half the motion and releases the button through the other half. If you press the button all the way through the pump movement, you will lose you shells.

To be honest, my first trigger pull on the shotgun was after the gun was fully prepped and handed to me ready to fire. My shot was high, though some of the pattern hit the target. This is the beauty of a shotgun loaded with buckshot, accuracy is not key.

My second attempt at a 12ga was a much smoother experienceTurkey Gun with Eotek sight

Next I picked up the turkey gun, seen in the photo, with an Eotek green dot sight. The recoil was manageable, my accuracy was acceptable, moving the action was successful and I was happy to have learned about a new type of gun.

Note: While accuracy is not of the utmost importance when shooting a buckshot, the iron sights on a shot gun are very different from a pistol and take some getting used to. With a hologram sight installed, it is virtually impossible to miss.

Also Note: We realized later that the first gun I tried, was not feeding properly and may have needed a new spring.

The following day some of the ladies decided to do a little skeet shooting. Those of us who have never competed or hunted realize that tracking* is a skill we are lacking. (I recommend finding a way to try tracking a target as it may come in handy when protecting yourself. After all, what is the likely hood that an attacker will face you straight on, in broad daylight, at 5-10yards and stand still while you adjust your grip, stance and so on.) For skeet shooting we once again used buckshot but I was given a 20 gauge shotgun (slightly smaller than 12 gauge) in an over-under configuration (rather than a pump action). Unlike the guns from the previous day, this gun had no magazine tube. Pull the trigger once, BANG, then again, BANG, then crack open the action and the empties pop out so two new shells can be loaded. I probably watched 10-15 clays fly through the air and hit the ground safe from my muzzle, but somewhere in there, I hit one. I’m very proud of that solitary hit, can you tell?

I got one!
Thanks to Winchester Ammunition, I was able to try both 20 and 12 gauge loads, and between them, I definitely preferred the latter. With good form and practice, anyone should be able to handle the recoil of a shotgun. One surprise I found after shooting shotguns as well as rifles: it was not my right shoulder that got sore, but my left. With only minimal muscle tone and even less strength in my left arm than my right, holding the weight of an AR or a shot gun for any length of time, is difficult.

Thinking of a shotgun for home protection? As always, you can count on me to give you both sides of any argument…

Many people will make this recommendation and I can see the benefits:

Shotguns tend to be recommended for home defense because, in an emergency situation, when tensions are high, your accuracy my be lacking, but loaded up with buckshot, you won’t have to be as steady. Also, I have heard from a number of people, who keep a shotgun next to their beds, that they choose to keep the gun loaded but without a chambered round. Why? The sound of pumping a shotgun is iconic. The likelihood of an intruder hearing it, and not taking off in the opposite direction, are slim. Lastly, consider a collapsable stock, rather than wood, when choosing a shotgun. The former can absorb as much as 60% of the recoil.

However, allow me to point out a big concern for me, that may also be a concern for you:
My furry-babies
With buckshot, it is very likely that you will hit your intended target as long as the gun is pointed in the target’s general direction, but what sort of damage will the rest of your house sustain? I have a dog and cat whom I love dearly, if intruder were entering my house and my pets didn’t run and hide I would want the best weapon for stopping the bad guy that offered the least risk of hitting one of my beloved pets in the process. Of corse, if the choice were between the life of a pet or a human, the decision is obvious, but at this point in my life, risking my pets’ lives for more fire power, is not my preference.

*tracking- sighting-in and then firing on, a moving target

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  • KJA

    Shotguns are usually filled with birdshot, not buckshot. Buckshot is much larger.
    Yes a shotgun will require less accuracy, but it will not punch the massive basketball sized patterns people think they do. At close range, such as in your home, you can’t expect anything larger than a baseball sized pattern.
    As for the weight, if you’re just looking for a self defense gun buy a shotgun with an 18″ barrel. Smaller, lighter, and will allow the shot pattern to expand more rapidly.

    • dkmatthews

      “Shotguns are usually filled with birdshot, not buckshot.” <–this is a purely subjective opinion.

    • Leadsender

      If we want to be technical and correct. Shot guns are usually loaded with shot guns shells. Those shells can be either bird shot, buck shot or slugs. Also steel or lead. There are different sizes of bird and buck shot as well as different kinds of slugs.

  • Cobrawing

    I’m glad your first experience with a shotgun was positive. Taking the time to learn it is important, as too many people mistakenly take its handling qualities for granted. As you pointed out, the shot pattern can be somewhat forgiving (depending on load and distance) but in general correct aiming and handling is a skill that must be developed as you discovered. It is a devastating weapon both in psychological and destructive terms. In the hands of someone who has taken the time to learn it (as you are doing) very little compares.

    My preference for use in a defensive shotgun in an urban apartment or condo setting is to use #7.5 trap in lieu of buckshot. Slugs and buckshot can be a civil suit nightmare as they can easily breach adjacent walls and endanger neighbors and other family members. I discovered that #4 shot became a preferred load for me as opposed to 00 buck when a more powerful load was to be the load of preference. However, 00, 000 and slugs have their uses in various situations.

  • http://www.facebook.com/blogen.geezer Blogen Geezer

    Good article Gabby. Positive and friendly. As a hunter (kid) in the 1950′s, most hunters were male. Very few women cared for gutting the rabbits and pheasants after a day in the fields. Dad was the Game Warden, so we went afield often and in many different areas……to check the game for parasites (rabbits sometimes carried Tularemia) and nourishment issues of course ;>)… I never met a woman on any of our game management expeditions, although I think it would have been fun. Mom was competition target shooter, but liked the little ‘critters’ too much to actually hunt them. Although Mom could sure fry up a mess of rabbits, or roast a few dozen pheasants. Big extended family got through some tough economic times on rabbits and pheasants. Hope you go afield a few times…. to really ‘get the hang of it’… Bet you will enjoy it. Quail are pretty fast BTW… Taste great though :>)

  • RPercifield

    My experience is exactly opposite from yours, I started shooting a
    shotgun and rifle at the age of 8. However, I just started shooting a
    handgun within the past year. For home defense I use a Remington 870
    with a Blackhawk tactical recoil reducing stock. It works very well for
    me. I also have Trigocon ghost ring sights and a light mounted as well.
    For ammunition I use 00 Buck since I have some distance from my
    neighbors. I treat my shots for defense as if they were a rifle, since
    the pattern at most tactical distances within my home would have a
    spread of about 1-3 inches even with cylinder bore.
    For me it is about muscle memory and experience. I can load and unjam my shotgun blindfolded. For others this choice is probably not practical. Don’t get me wrong, I like my handgun, my proficiency is steadily improving with training, but not where I want it to be to rely upon it for self defense, when I have for me a better option. To me there is nothing like the massive impact of a shotgun round into a target to put them into a world of hurt.

  • http://www.ArmedCandy.net/ ArmedCandy

    Thank you all for the comments! You’ve taught me even more about shotguns!!