View Full Version : Combat Effectiveness of 12 Gage Shotguns

Hard Ball
October 4, 2002, 01:18 PM
One of the important uses of a shotgun is as a weapon. Just how well does a 12 gage shot gun perform in the combat weapon role.

I attended a SWAT team competition this weekend. 22 agencies SWAT teams competed. The shotgun course was fired by a four man team so 88 officers fired it Only one officer went clean.. All weapons used were 12 gage semi automatics or pumps. All were fitted with rifle sights. Targets were at ranges of 10 to 60 yards. Some had to be engaged with rifled slugs, others with buckshot
I talked to several team captains. They all said that under combat conditions they feel that 50-60 yqrds is the maximun rande for slugd and 30-40 yards is the maximum range for buckshot. Essentially they felt that shotguns are pistol range weapons. I agree with them.

October 4, 2002, 02:16 PM
"Only one officer went clean.."

What does this statement mean?

October 4, 2002, 02:49 PM
"Essentially they felt that shotguns are pistol range weapons. I agree with them."

Actually pistols are shotgun range weapons, that are less effective. :D



CZ Gunner
October 4, 2002, 03:17 PM
Shotguns have been used in combat for 100's of years -- in one form or another.

Navy cannoneers onboard the early fighting ships used it in one form or another to mow down opposing forces. (Use by the Army was even more extensive.)

Modern sailors and soldiers continue to have them issued to them on a regular basis, as the need dictates.

As with any tool, it depends upon how you use it.

I'll take a shotgun every time for close in defense -- but 60 yards is really pushing the envelope.

Lock and load,


October 4, 2002, 03:21 PM
""Only one officer went clean.."

What does this statement mean?"

Generally it means that only one officer hit all the targets or perhaps made a perfect score, and that all the rest had some misses. Hopefully Hard Ball will confirm this.

Hard Ball
October 4, 2002, 10:48 PM
Yes, "going clean" means the shooter hit every target he was supposed to hit, did not hit any "no shoot (Hostage)" targets and did not make any other mistale which gave him a penalty. Ony one of 88 officers firing the course was able to do this.

October 4, 2002, 11:24 PM
If I have the luxury of choosing a weapon before an armed encounter it will be the "Gauge" every time. OO Buck give you teh advantage of putting 9-13 32 cal. rounds into the target with one pull of the trigger. Intimidation factor is huge. The sound of chambering a round in a pump shotgun is universal. Slugs are very accurate out to 50 yards and with a minimal amount of professional training can be very effective out to 100 yards.

I can shoot any long gun much more accurately past 25 yards than you can with a pistol. And as distance increases so does the truth of my statement.

A pistol is merely a tool to fight your way to your shotgun.

Double Naught Spy
October 4, 2002, 11:36 PM
Hard Ball, I am completely confused by your post. Are you asking what the combat effectiveness is of 12 ga. shotguns actually is or are you telling us what it is?

All I can discern is that you mention the gun's effective range, but not effectiveness. Nothing there concerns the impact or effect on the target by the rounds.

Interestingly, the information you garnered from the SWAT folks where you referred to it as "combat" effecitiveness is pretty much the same as effective hunting distances. As noted by Cowdogpete, a little practice can increase one's ability to get a slug on target at a much greater range.

October 5, 2002, 10:05 AM
Your weapon choice is dictated by your combat environment. If you are assaulting a single building and don't have to worry about bad guys down the street, then your max engagement will be down a long hallway (maybe 30yds?) In this type of scenario a shotgun is great. It is such a versital tool. You can use it to breach doors and extremely quickly put a ton of lead on target. Think about why .223, 9mm and .45 have large cap mags. Most people will double and triple tap targets when under a lot of stress. But with just one pull of the trigger you can put 9-13 9mm size holes in a target. My shotgun will hold 9 rds of 00 w/ 9 pellets each, that is 81 projectiles! If I run out of ammo and can't do a tactical reload then I transition to pistol till I get to cover and can reload. The wonderful thing is that this whole time I am still within pistol range.
This all said I would not want to have a shotgun in an urban environment as my primary weapon. UNLESS I was working with a team. In a team every member has a different role. In this case your shotgunner/breacher would be covered by a combination of M-60s, M240s, M249s, M14s, M4s.

October 5, 2002, 04:02 PM
you were sending me into a combat situation, but knew nothing about it, other than it was hostile I'd take a shotgun every time...Might not be best for ALL situations...but ALL I need for most situations

October 5, 2002, 04:14 PM
Amen, defaugh. My combat buck load contains twelve .33 cal copper plated lead balls. The choke on my gun is such so that they are effective to a mansized target out to 50 yards. After that I'm switching to slugs, brennekes, 3" magnums. One shot is all I'll need.

Hard Ball
October 5, 2002, 04:19 PM
Asa far as effectiveness is concerned most men hit by a rifled slug or 5 or 6 buckshot is out of actiom. IF you can hist then the shotgun is effective. What I am discussing is at what ranges can you expect to get hits with buckshot or rifled slugs. That determines how effective the shotgun is in actual combat use.

October 5, 2002, 04:33 PM
I wouldn't mind taking a run at your course with my tach shotgun.

Dave McC
October 6, 2002, 08:40 AM
Inside 25 yards,the shotgun is the BEST defensive weapon ever devised. The immense amount of energy dumped into the target is the big reason.

A Caveat,it takes a good bit of training and practice to utilize the weapon fully. For many people,the shotgun is the weapon they practice with the least, unfortunately.

From the bench, either of my two "Serious" 870s will group under 5" with slugs. Using a fudge factor of 2X, this means I can expect a very good chance of torso hits under field conditions in a crisis at that range. Others' results will vary.

Max for buck will be inside 50 yards, and oft inside 25. Only range testing will give realistic results with you, your shotgun and load.

As far as military use, during our Revolution one duty load was a bore diameter round ball along with 3 "Pistol Balls" in a paper case cartridge. At little more than bayonet range, it "Wrought dire execution amongst the foe"- Hamilton.

Andrew Wyatt
October 6, 2002, 12:40 PM
Well, I'm inclined to believe that What you saw at the SWAT championships was a training issue.

The Swat magazine 3 gun match had a considerably higher percentage of people shoot clean runs on both of it's shotgun stages (one of which included slug targets).

I've noticed that the majority of officers seem to not be gun people, and therefore don't take the time off duty to seek training.

October 6, 2002, 01:24 PM
Dave McC, I'm curious---what was the distance at which you got the 5" pattern with slugs?

It's interesting you shoud mention the "buck & ball" loads used in the Revolutionary War. These were also used commonly on the frontier well up to the 1880's. They were also a standard military issue pre-made paper cartridge for U.S. issue .69 caliber smoothbore muskets such as the M1842. The load was also used in the Civil War and was also available in .58 caliber for the issue Springfield and Enfield rifles muskets. There is a very good article in one of my muzzleloading magazines about buck & ball and I'll go through and give some highlights when I find the article.

I have seen a "slug & buck" load from one of the "novelty" shotshell makers. But I'd sure be interested in seeing a modern day buck & ball load offered by the big ammo makers with one single big round ball and maybe #4 buckshot. But, I'd like to see a load with one big round ball period, too. The ballistics of big round balls are like the bumblebee which is not supposed to fly but does anyway. The round ball is very effective, which defies some explanation. But a muzzleloader's .54 caliber ball---all of 220 grains---rountinely drops buffalo, black bear, and elk. The average fps velocity is between 1800 to 1500 fps depending on powder charge. Round ball can inflict some devastating wounds. I'd sure like to see some good old round ball loadings in shotguns.

Dave McC
October 6, 2002, 02:34 PM
That's at 100 yards, Kevan. And that's with the slug of choice. Other slugs give larger groups in these two 870s.

One of my fastest kills was with a 58 caliber round ball, with 80 grains of 2F behind it.I doubt she landed 5 feet from her last tracks.Done oa couple deer with a patched 50 caliber ball, good results there also.

I've seen 45-70 Govt loads with shot instead of a bullet,they're called Forager rounds and from the Trapdoor Springfield days.Some trapdoors were also modified by boring them to 20 gauge, and used an all brass, short cartridge.

Also, in the South there's a number of Buck and Ball, doubles worked over to fire slugs (Punkin balls) from one bbl with a backup load of buck in the other, and Express sights for the slug bbl.It was a specialized tool for close range deer hunting using dogs, usually.

Thanks for the history update.

October 6, 2002, 07:04 PM
Wow, Dave, those groups at 100 yards are encouraging, to say the least! I'm going to get me several boxes of different slugs and try my hand at that kind of shooting!

Dave McC
October 7, 2002, 05:17 AM
Kevan, I have good bench technique and have put lots of effort into slug guns,since they're my main venision getters. YMMV.

The Archives have some old threads on setting a shotgun up for slugs.

October 8, 2002, 04:10 PM
Combat Effectiveness of a 12 guage. We used them in Vietnam to bust ambushes. They worked fine. 50 yards was about the upper range we used them at. These were not Benelli's.

October 10, 2002, 10:24 PM
"Wrought dire execution amongst the foe"- Hamilton. that'd be the main idea as far as I can tell. Big balls at 1000 fps are dire. Shoot early and shoot often, as we say in Chicago.

Dave McC
October 11, 2002, 04:38 AM
Bruce, IMO Hamilton meant damage beyond the ordinary.

One company of 32 men firing one volley meant 32 projectiles towards the enemy using a standard musket ball. Using the B&B load meant one volley= 128 projestiles.

Jim Watson
October 11, 2002, 08:53 AM
I don't know of any use of shotguns by formed units since WW I. But they sure used them then. If you like the shotgun, you will appreciate this report by Jan Stevenson:

"Trench raiding was what the gun was intended for, hence the name. But it could be quite devastating against the massed infantry attacks characteristic of the Great War. Paul Jenkins recalled one incident when the '97s were used to give concentrated fire across a section of front after the rifles and machineguns had done their best."

"When those shotguns got going - with nine .34 calibre buckshot per load, six loads in a gun, 200-odd men firing, plenty more shells at hand - the front ranks of the assault simply piled up on top of one another in one awful heap of buckshot-drilled men."

October 16, 2002, 12:57 PM
I personally know that shotguns were used in Vietnam by formed units. Nothing like walking point with an Ithaca Model 37 loaded with fleschettes. I think there was an article in American Rifleman a couple of months ago about military use of shotguns - from WWI to today.:D

October 16, 2002, 01:26 PM
I guess I'm going to have to get me one of them thangs.....

October 18, 2002, 09:15 AM
I've always considered the range of 12 gage shotgun to be about 60 yards, with full choke and 28" barrell. Will admit that longest big game shot I've taken has only been about 50 yds, but have taken small game out to 72 yds. Don't use 00, only use 0 or 1B.
I've tried slugs out to 70 yds. but having to compensate for the drop was not worth the hassle.