Letter Re: The Potential Combat Effectiveness of Shotguns

There is a fairly heated discussion going on at the FALFiles Forums about how useful a shotgun is in a Schumer Hits The Fan (SHTF) situation. I was curious, what exactly is your take on the issue?

Personally, I do not feel a shotgun can effectively replace a rifle, however, it still proves an effective tool when the extreme-close situation arises.
I suppose one can distill this argument down to only “defensive purpose” shotguns such as those built for tactical situations (3″ chambers and open/cylinder choke), those you aptly refer to as “riotguns”. While the effectiveness of a shotgun for hunting small game is readily apparent, where exactly would a defensive shotgun come into play using either various types of buckshot or slugs?
In what circumstances would a shotgun be a superior choice to a battle or assault rifle? Examples?

I, as well as many, value your opinion on the matter. Best Regards, — Kyrottimus

JWR Replies: While semi-auto battle rifles are more practical for most defensive shooting (most notably because of their capability at both short and long range), riot shotguns can definitely be effective at short range. In the dense North Woods, there is seldom any shooting beyond 50 yards, so they are adequate there. (Riotguns can be effective to 40 yards with buckshot and 90+ yards with slugs.) I also generally recommend riotguns for urbanites that live in cities or states with harsh restrictions on semi-auto rifles. In a city (again, range limited, by terrain) a repeating riotgun is generally more useful than a bolt action rifle, so if those are your only options, then go for a shotgun. But with all that said, assuming that you don’t live in a liberal fantasyland like New Jersey, if you only have the money to buy one rifle (and the requisite training)., or one shotgun (and the requisite training), then buy a semi-auto battle rifle!

With the addition of a spare “bird” barrel, shotguns can also be useful for foraging, since they are the only effective means of wingshooting. (And the only legal method, in many countries.)

Also, police have found that shotguns firing slugs can be more effective and safer than a rifle, in the specialized task of removing a door from its hinges. Speaking of which, building “entry” is incredibly dangerous, and frankly I can’t foresee the need of the average prepper to ever do so. But you never know. There was that one chapter of “Patriots“…

A couple of provisos:

Despite popular misconceptions popularized by Hollywood, shotguns must be aimed, much like a rifle. The bead sights that are installed on most shotgun barrels are insufficient. I recommend either buying a replacement barrel with rifle sights, or having these sights retrofitted.

Be sure to do some pattern tests at various distances with your shotgun, using full-power buckshot loads. (I generally prefer #4 buckshot–not to be confused with the much smaller and and much more common #4 birdshot, which is a standard load for duck hunting.) Even if you have a shotgun with a wide open “Cylinder bore” (no choke), you may be surprised how tightly it shoots, especially inside of 10 yards. Again, you can’t just vaguely point, you have to aim. If you plan to shoot slugs, again do some tests and zero your gun’s iron sights.

OBTW, I highly recommend the Four Day Tactical Shotgun course taught by Front Sight. This course builds skills, builds confidence, and dispels a lot of myths.