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Old June 13, 2018, 05:20 AM   #1
Mustey
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Are combat shotguns legal for military use under the international law for conduct of war?

During my tenure with 'some army', I've been issued an M4 and a Glock 17.
In one training, I've been given a semi-auto shotgun to breech a door.
When it was done, the instructor asked us "what is the most dangerous
weapon on us right now?"
We all thought it must be the automatic assault rifle, to which he
said we were wrong.

He then loaded some .22 calibre shot shells (I think you call them
bird shot? Sorry, I am not a shotgun person at all) and quickly
emptied 7 rounds into the room without aiming.

The room was all covered with holes!

Sure, that's not very good if you have innocent people inside but
more often than not, we had to face full-on insurgents with no *real*
civillians around, for which the shotgun seems like the best tool, part
from calling in a guided missile through their window...

In other regards, the shotgun is actually safer, due to less likely
over-penetration.

But we were never issued shotguns. I once asked and was quickly dimissed
that it is indiscriminate fire and not allowed under "Geneva"

But I cannot actually confirm this.

Does anyone know any specific laws against militaries using shotguns
on enemies (not just their doors)?
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Old June 13, 2018, 05:42 AM   #2
2wheelwander
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Thanks for posting, I've always had this question as well.
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Old June 13, 2018, 07:18 AM   #3
Bartholomew Roberts
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As to laws of war, that is usually driven by the Hague conventions. These are agreements which apply only to signatory nations conducting war against other signatory nations. However, in practice, many non-signatory nations have adopted them as guidelines towards general customs of war.

The 1899 convention states:
“This declaration states that, in any war between signatory powers, the parties will abstain from using "bullets which expand or flatten easily in the human body.”

The 1907 convention expands on this to prohibit:
“To employ arms, projectiles, or material calculated to cause unnecessary suffering”

To my knowledge, there has never been an international judicial finding that shotguns fit into either of those categories. The Germans did protest against the use of shotguns in WWI - arguing that they fell into the unnecessary suffering category since absent easy access to x-ray or antibiotics, and the general environment of the war, small shot wounds were difficult to treat, often became infected, and led to a slow, painful death.

Even today, different nations have different interpretations of these rules. For example, the American interpretation is much broader than the British or Swiss version.

.22 caliber shot shells would be considered #4 buckshot. It is about the lightest load you would use on a 100-200lb mammal and doesn’t meet the FBI’s criteria for penetration.

I’m sure some of the others will be along to address some of the common misunderstandings about shotgun use. So, I’ll just stick to your legal question.
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Old June 13, 2018, 07:40 AM   #4
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There are similar myths against the .50BMG as an anti-personnel weapon, some believe it is anti-materiel only, and illegal for other purposes. "You have to shoot at the guy's backpack / belt buckle / eyeglasses / etc" for the shot to be legal.

There is a good article from the Marine Corps Association that says otherwise:
.50BMG is OK for killing in war

The problem with a .50 is weight and logistics. 30 rounds of 5.56 weight-wise is minuscule compared to the same of BMG. The rifle is longer and weighs up to 35 lbs.
And the smoke cloud (from smokeLESS powder) and noise are pretty good pinpoints.
But if the target is a mile+ away......
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Old June 13, 2018, 07:41 AM   #5
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The US Navy still continues to deploy shotguns for shipboard defense. It is a much more viable weapon than a rifle for inside the skin of a ship.
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Old June 13, 2018, 08:17 AM   #6
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As a Hospital Corpsman, I was offered either a pistol or a shotgun as a personal defense weapon. It was generally accepted that carrying a rifle, an offensive weapon, would void Geneva protections afforded medical personnel.
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Old June 13, 2018, 08:18 AM   #7
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Yes, of course shotguns are legit. The US Marines field the M1014, the military version of the M4 Benelli, loaded up with 00 Buckshot, 7+1+1 capacity.
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Old June 13, 2018, 08:31 AM   #8
Bartholomew Roberts
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A nice, scholarly, article on the use of shotguns and laws of war from a U.S.-centric point of view: http://www.lawofwar.org/Parks_Combat_Shotguns.htm

One thing you have to keep in mind is that when the Hague Conventions happened, it was A-OK to shred people to death with grapeshot. However, things like expanding bullets often left behind tiny fragments that were impossible to locate with the technology of the day and with no antibiotics, they were a source of infection as well.

As for shotguns, if they were effective in combat, they’d be used that way - laws of war or no. The fact fhat they are almost universally not used except in specialty roles - even by countries who do not observe the laws of war - is a big clue to their utility as a general use firearm.
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Old June 13, 2018, 08:38 AM   #9
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A shotgun will not fill a room with a cloud of shot. At 10 yds,#4 or 00 buck pattern will fit on a man's chest easily.

The 22 shot cartridge is #12 shot,about like coarse ground pepper. Fired through the rifled barrel of a pistol,it will scatter quite a bit,but whoever gave you that demo was misleading you.

Shotguns were issued and used in WW1,WW2,probably Korea,and Viet Nam before the contemporary wars.I recall pics of shotguns being used to smoke dope in VN.

If you use a shotgun to breech a door I would suggest if there is an enemy with an AK-47 on the other side of the door what are you going to do?Put your shotgun down and whip out your M-9? Stay alive
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Old June 13, 2018, 08:40 AM   #10
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Quote:
But we were never issued shotguns. I once asked and was quickly dimissed
that it is indiscriminate fire and not allowed under "Geneva"
LOL, Geneva pertains to POWs, mostly. I don't believe it says anything about issuing weapons to POWs or not. LOL. The Geneva Convention does not mandate weapons use. As insinuated by TXAZ, you seem to be the victim of military myth.
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Old June 13, 2018, 08:51 AM   #11
Bartholomew Roberts
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HiBC
The 22 shot cartridge is #12 shot,about like coarse ground pepper.
Just to clarify, I believe when he said “.22 calibre shot shell” he meant a 12ga shot shell containing .22 caliber shot. I doubt they were using a .22 loaded with snakeshot for breaching or that any sane person would regard it as the most dangerous close combat weapon available to a squad of infantry.
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Old June 13, 2018, 09:08 AM   #12
Mustey
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Maybe the shell wasn't what I thought it was and "room full of shot" was a bit exaggerated but at 15 meters, for 2 seconds, everything in the wrong direction of that gun would have been absolutely unhappy.

Sounds like even Miculek would be challenged to top that with an assault rifle.

And yeah, I could tell the instructor was "no expert", so I didn't ask any further.
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Old June 13, 2018, 10:19 AM   #13
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Quote:
they are almost universally not used except in specialty roles
They are most definitely carried -- and used -- in room/house breaching in the sandbox.
00 buck inside (not just door breaching outside)

...from experience.
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Old June 13, 2018, 10:33 AM   #14
mehavey
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At room ranges (3-4 yards) a shotgun's pattern is measured in inches
my images/tests/camera

At 25 yards:
20" Mdl-12/cylinder



At toom distances:

Last edited by mehavey; June 13, 2018 at 11:38 AM.
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Old June 13, 2018, 12:24 PM   #15
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Military NCOs, officers and instructors perpetuate many of these myths. I remember receiving instruction at least three different times that 50cal was an anti material weapon. I also was told at the same time that if you shoot at the soldier’s gear you were covered. I looked into it myself and determined that this information was false.
The US never signed The Hague treaty and is not legally bound by it, but we still follow it for the most part.
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Old June 13, 2018, 02:29 PM   #16
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I always chuckle a bit at "rules of war",,,

I always chuckle a bit at "rules of war".

I mean, what if you do break a rule of war,,,
Are the Combat Police going to come out and arrest you?

Aarond

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Old June 13, 2018, 06:24 PM   #17
Hal
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Quote:
I mean, what if you do break a rule of war,,,
Are the Combat Police going to come out and arrest you?
When all the dust settles - - if you happen to be on the wrong side,,,yes--they do arrest you & quite often give you rope burns around the neck.

If you're on the "right side",then little to nothing happens to you.

You might be too young to recall the name Wm Calley and the village of My Lai.

Pretty nasty business.

A bit closer to home...a fellow Ohio resident - John Demjanjuk had his life destroyed because he was accused of war crimes - none of which charges ever really stuck.

So - yes,,,,there can be real bad consequences for breaking the rules of war....or..maybe not...
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Old June 13, 2018, 06:24 PM   #18
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A point here is that different countries interpret international treaties and covenants differently. Without knowing which army you are referring to we can't really help you so far as to the particulars.
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Old June 13, 2018, 08:35 PM   #19
Doyle
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Quote:
You might be too young to recall the name Wm Calley and the village of My Lai.
William Calley pretty much broke ALL the rules of war (unless you use Viking or Visigoth rules). Not really a good comparison in this case.
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Old June 14, 2018, 02:41 AM   #20
Hal
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Not really a good comparison in this case.
Pray tell - why is that such a bad example? He did nothing that any number of executed Nazi's did, yet, they paid for their crimes with their lives.
Calley got off with a virtual slap on the back of the hand.

I'd say that supports my statement that:
"If you're on the "right side",then little to nothing happens to you."

Care to explain why you feel it's not a good example of that statement?
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Old June 14, 2018, 04:50 AM   #21
Mustey
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Churchill was a war criminal but, as he said himself: "history will be kind to me, for I intend to write it".
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Old June 14, 2018, 07:14 AM   #22
MTT TL
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Quote:
Does anyone know any specific laws against militaries using shotguns
on enemies (not just their doors)?
That escalated quickly from the above question to comparing Nazis and the My Lai Massacre. Not even sure where to go from here. Maybe the Soviet Gulags or the North Korean execution techniques?
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Old June 14, 2018, 07:17 AM   #23
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Quote:
Pray tell - why is that such a bad example?
Because what he did was clearly a "war crime" and the discussion in this thread was about using a weapon that was "questionable".

Kind of like comparing a race car to a bicycle.
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Old June 14, 2018, 08:03 AM   #24
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Did you miss the question by Aarond asking about what happens when you break a rule of war?
I was answering him, not the OP - - but - - it does go to the OP's question in a round about way.

If a weapon is disallowed, then a war crime has been committed.
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Old June 14, 2018, 06:27 PM   #25
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Quote:
Hal Quote:
….A bit closer to home...a fellow Ohio resident - John Demjanjuk had his life destroyed because he was accused of war crimes - none of which charges ever really stuck.
The heck they didn't.
Demjanjuk died in a nursing home in Germany awaiting appeal of his conviction.
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