The shotgun is a great problem solver and best regarded as a tactical system. This is in respect to the great versatility of the shotgun and its payload. The shotgun may be used in fast-moving, short-range tactical scenarios. It may be fired in the home with devastating effect upon an invader with little chance of injury to a neighbor.
The shotgun may also be loaded with slugs that may be effective well past 100 yards. It all hinges upon choosing the proper load and being skilled with the use of the shotgun. For qualified users, the shotgun may be used with distraction devices, door-breaching loads, or paint marker loads.
Shotguns are used with special munitions to scare birds from the runway of major airports and are kept handy on fishing boats in order to put down thrashing, dangerous sharks brought up with the catch. The shotgun is the most formidable shoulder-fired weapon ever manufactured. The shotgun offers a good chance of striking an adversary due to the shotgun’s ability to launch multiple shot with a single pull of the trigger. It offers excellent hit probability due to a natural point and feel.
The shotgun must be carefully aimed at close range, however, the design and handling make getting on target quickly and getting a hit easier than any other long gun and particularly easier than a handgun. The loads discussed in the following pages are well suited to tactical shotgun use. I tested each in pump-action and self-loading shotguns. Only complete reliability is acceptable. Let’s look at the various types of loads available.
While many of us practice with light loads, be certain to get your time in with buckshot too. 00 (Double Ought) Buckshot will deliver eight or nine pellets in a pattern that increases with range. A rule of thumb that isn’t always set in stone is that the pattern increases an inch per yard past seven yards.
At 7 yards, my old open choke Remington 870 will deliver eight 00 pellets, from Hornady’s Critical Defense load, into a pattern approximately 5.5 x 6 inches. This is ideal for personal defense. As the range increases to 20 yards, the pattern has reached the point that it is no longer likely to place the majority of the pellets on a man-sized target.
15 yards is the optimal range for effectiveness with a buckshot pattern. Occasionally, one shotgun may produce a slightly tighter pattern than others. Shotguns fitted with choke tubes may use a full choke tube to increase the tightness of the pattern. Be certain to proof the shotgun with each load. As an example, my Mossberg self-loading Model 930 is reliable with Hornady Critical Defense, and I have proofed the shotgun with this loading.
12 gauge buckshot comes in several sizes and power levels. 12 gauge shells come in 2 ¾-inch, 3-inch, and 3 ½-inch sizes. Although my Benelli Nova Tactical shotgun is chambered for 3 ½-inch shells, I have never fired either of the longer shells in this shotgun. The 2 ¾-inch shells are plenty strong for personal defense and generate all of the recoil you are likely to wish to endure. The most common buckshot sizes are .36 caliber 000 buckshot, .32 caliber 00 buck, and .24 caliber #4 buck.
While each has merit in certain situations, the preponderance of evidence points to the effectiveness of the 00 buckshot loading. However, testing of the new Hornady #4 Varmint Express load is promising. This load uses 24 #4 buckshot pellets. The pattern is tight—very tight—and well suited for personal defense. Originally intended for use against predators at the limits of shotgun range, this loading has a place in home defense. For area defense and tactical use, 00 buckshot remains the best choice for shotgun use.
Hornady has developed a Critical Defense 12 gauge load. This load breaks 1600 fps and uses eight pellets. The lower pellet count reduces recoil and makes for a tighter pattern. This load is useful in automatic shotguns and is among the tightest patterning 00 buckshot loads. In the Mossberg 930 and TriStar Tec 12 shotguns I have recently tested, recoil is controllable and even comfortable.
Slug loads are indicated when there is a need for either greater penetration or greater precision. Some load the shotgun with alternating buck and ball—usually with two buckshot followed by two slugs. The Hornady SST is among the most accurate available. This slug gives the shotgunner plenty of long-range smash. This slug is recommended for rifled barrels. At personal defense ranges, the SST often proves accurate in all shotguns, but the shooter himself must gauge that accuracy.
We all love our shotguns, so the only question to ask is which load do you prefer for tactical use or home defense and from which shotgun? Share your answers in the comment section. [bob]
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