This is part 4 of my literary attempts at being an author. My 3 previous articles were about rimfire, pistols, and rifles. In this article I will attempt to explain what makes up a shotgun shell, the different types of shells and the sizes of the guns that fire said shells.
On the left is a typical birdshot round. I’m guessing it to be 8 or 7-1/2 shot. This shell is used for shooting small birds like quail or skeet and trap shooting for sport. Larger size shot like number 2 through 6 might be used for larger game birds like ducks, pheasant, and turkeys. The shell in the middle is a slug. In a 12 gage like is shown here this solid projectile commonly weighs 1 oz. and is about ¾ of an inch in diameter. This is a most effective round to win battles, however the range is limited to about 100 yards. The round on the right is 00 buckshot. Round of choice for most defensive uses. The drawback is that it often over penetrates and can kill or injure someone in an adjoining room. I recommend number four buckshot.
Number four buckshot normally has 29 pellets in a 2-3/4 inch 12 gage shell. 00 buck shot will have 8 or 9 pellets in the 12 gage 2-3/4 inch shell. The most common sizes of shotguns are 10, 12,16,20,28 and 410.
To determine the gage of a shotgun you just look on the barrel. Lol The way gage was determined before I was born was to take a lead ball that fit the barrel diameter and count how many balls it took to make a pound. The only exception is the 410 which is actually the diameter of the shell itself.
Left to right the 410 usually comes in 2-1/2 or 3 inch lengths. In this picture you see 4 00 buckshot rounds stacked on each other. This round would be a defensive round against two legged critters. The 28 gage round is used by some for skeet or hunting small birds like quail. It is not a commonly found round as is the 16 gage show next. The 16 gage round has lost popularity over the years and most people that shoot this size shotgun are probably using vintage guns. The next round the 20 gage is the second most popular shotgun cartridge. People like it because the guns are usually lighter to carry in the field and don’t have the recoil of the 12 gage. Several 20 gage guns are configured for self-defense and are certainly up to the task. The 12 gage shell shown next is a low brass bird shot shell. Notice that the metal doesn’t come up very far on the shell itself. The metal area is where the gunpowder is located. A shell like a slug or buckshot in a 12 gage has very noticeable recoil and if you shoot one you need to be sure you have the stock firmly held in the meaty part of your shoulder to prevent bruising. The 20 and the 12 gage come in 2-3/4 and 3 inch lengths and the 12 gage is also available in a 3-1/2 inch configuration. The longer the shell the more powder and shot are placed in it resulting in punishing recoil. The last and certainly not the least is the 10 gage. I have owned a couple of different 10 gage shotguns in the past and enjoyed letting my friend shoot them. The look of shock when they pulled the trigger was worth the $1+ price of the shells. Most 10 gage shoot a 3-1/2 inch long shell and kill on both ends if you get my drift.
Now that you know everything you need to know about shotgun shells let’s look at some of the many varieties of guns out there.
This is an old school single shot shotgun. You push the lever to the side on the rear of the receiver and the barrel drops down allowing you to load a shell in it. You close the action, manually pull back the hammer and pull the trigger. There is a small bead on the end of the barrel that you use to aim with. You do have to aim a shotgun. It is not a magic gun that takes out all evildoers in close proximity to you.
This is a double barreled shotgun. You can see the lever pushed to the right that allowed the barrels to drop to allow loading. With this gun the firing pins are cocked at closing. This gun has two triggers the front one will fire the right barrel and the back one will shoot the left barrel. Some higher end guns will have a small switch that will allow you to select the barrel you want to fire and only has a single trigger.
Having two barrels is an advantage because they can be choked differently. A choke on a shotgun barrel is at the end of the barrel and restricts the spread and the range of the shot. The common chokes are improved cylinder, modified, and full chokes. The improved cylinder allows the shot to spread faster and the full keeps the shot string together for a longer distance. Many guns will have what is called cylinder bore which is the absence of a choke and allows the shot to spread out the fastest. You will find that in riot guns used by police or self-defense shotguns. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the extra full chokes used for goose or turkey hunting to extend the range of the shot string. Most modern shotguns made for hunting offer screw in chokes that allow you the luxury of one gun to hunt multiple animals.
Double barreled shotguns are also available in an over/under configuration along with the side by side as seen in the picture preceding picture.
This a picture of an old design that has been reproduced but has never been very popular in our lifetime. A tubular magazine under the barrel hold usually 4 rounds plus one in the chamber. You load out of the magazine by working the lever downward.
This is a picture of a 12 gage pump. You put shells in the tubular magazine under the barrel and pump the black forearm to eject a spent shell and load another from the magazine. A popular misconception is that the sound of a pump shotgun loading a shell will scare off the bad guys. Well maybe, but I would not bet the farm on it. What it does do is alerts someone meaning you harm to your location. My thought is to have gun on safety with a round in the chamber. Taking the gun off safety won’t make noise and if you had to fire it to protect yourself or your family you get to go first. This is the gun I recommend for home protection. It doesn’t matter the gage 12, 20 or even 410. I recommend you use the largest one you feel comfortable shooting. Practice Practice Practice.
This is a semi-automatic gun designed for defensive use. It has sights for shooting slugs and a rail on top of the receiver to allow the mounting of an optic or scope. This gun has an extended tube to load extra round and sling swivels to carry it with a sling attached. The gun fires every time you pull the trigger and loads itself from the magazine.
This is a double barrel pump. It allows you to switch from one barrel to the other and you could have different ammunition in each magazine. Heavy and awkward but having 14 rounds or more available will rule the day. You have a rail on top to add sights or optics.
This is a relatively new kid on the block called the shockwave if made by Mossberg or a Tac-12 if made by Remington. Although technically a shotgun, to the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms it falls into an “other” firearm category. This allows for the short 14 inch barrel. Normally a legal barrel length is 18 inches. Cutting off the barrel of a shotgun to a length of less than 18 inches is a felony. I have owned one of these shockwaves in 20 gage for a short while. Very hard to hit anything with it. I do not recommend any shotgun without a normal buttstock for home protection. The reason is you have to AIM a shotgun.
To sum it up remember to practice, practice, practice.
Bravo Echo Out