Saturday, November 11, 2006

The shotgun: asset or liability in the ZO scenario?

The venerable shotgun is probably the most misunderstood weapon in the self defense conundrum. There are still people out there that think the shotgun is like a horizontal howitzer, blasting adversaries through the air, over vehicles, and causing body parts to fly across the street and onto the roofs of tall buildings. In the movies, a bad guy (or a good guy, for that matter) is hit in the chest with a single round of 12 gauge shot, and he can be blown off his feet, being stopped only by a wall or other solid object. A single round to the chest can not only knock an adversary over the fender and onto the hood of the '80-something Ares K Car, but all the way over the hood and onto the ground on the other side, rolling across the street or sidewalk until they hit a solid object.

Sadly, none of this is true. Sure, shotguns hit hard, but they won't put a million ball bearing sized projectiles into everything in the entire living room. Here's a hard fact to believe, if your knowledge comes from the movies: shotguns, even with a cylinder bore (no constriction of the shot column at all), still keep their entire mass within a circle about the size of an adult fist up to about 20 yards. That's hardly a weapon that doesn't need to be aimed.

Shot spread is one factor that limits the shotgun. There are two others: effective range and ammunition capacity. Along with a limited magazine, there is also the exigency that is the reloading of the weapon.

As stated, shotguns have very limited range, especially compared to crew served weapons and rifles. They should be used in close quarters battle, where they are very effective, but where their glaring weakness is also brought to the fore: if the MUD's are of the high speed variety, the small magazine capacity and difficulty in reloading the shotgun really become liabilities. One of the combat shotgun's greatest features is its compact size, especially the "professional" models, like this Wilson Combat Professional Model from their Scattergun Technologies division:

However! if the advantage is a shorter barrel, the magazine tube must likewise be shortened to maintain that advantage. Since both motor skills and communication among the MUD are limited, the typical assault tends to be en masse; sort of a suicide charge...or at least it would be, if they were alive. If there are more than a few targets that need to be eliminated, then chances are good that the shotgun will be run dry, with little time to reload the weapon.

Clearly, the shotgun is a very effective weapon in this situation, but if the shooter hasn't mastered the combat reload, they're in very serious trouble. There are some in the world who could just about eliminate the ZO by themselves, given enough ammunition. If you don't train to that level, you won't perform at that level. That, however, is topic for another blog.

The other disadvantage of the shotgun is that the ammunition is large, cumbersome, and hard to carry. The shotshell is a type of ammo that is best suited to a static position or for the short assault scenario, especially if the gunner has mobile protection. Some will advocate heavy shot loads, some will advocate slugs. The fact is, they are both valid types of ammo. Its a fact that a slug will have very little trouble penetrating the brain pan of any MUD, much less an "older" one with any significant bone strength deterioration. In fact, the "double" is not an unheard of shot with slugs. The double happens when a shot that destroys the brain of one MUD travels on through the cranial cavity to exit the other side, and then penetrate another that happens to be in proximity. A slug can take out multiple targets, but its not something to be tried for. Just take credit for it if it happens, and chalk it up to luck. Its up to the shooter not to let it be known that it wasn't intentional.

Buckshot is definately a valid ammunition. At close range, its devestating. Buckshot tends to hold is pattern very well at close range, so a good shooter can use a headshot with buck to end an encounter. Which particular buck load to use is up to the shooter, or perhaps limited to what is available. #4 Buck is very popular in defensive situations, but anything between #4 and 00 is good to go. It is not recommended to go much lower than #4 in size, but in a ZO situation, one must do what one must do. A rule of thumb is, if you can't knock a tall Pepper Popper with the load at about 15 yards, then using it on an MUD is a bad idea.

Shotguns are one of the few defensive weapons in the world that benefit from a one point sling. Typically, the sling mounts on a pump action shotgun like an 870 or 500 (if you don't know what those are, you have a lot more research to do before using this article for anything) are on the bottom of the stock, and occasionally on the side of the barrel/mag tube clamp. Using a two point with this configuration will cause the top of the receiver to tip outwards, making for an unbalanced weapon that will have to be collected into a shooting position before it can be used. If the buttstock mount can be modified to mount to the side or top of the stock, it can be used, but it will generally be a less than ideal situation. If you must use a two point, then there is only one sling manufacturer to go to: Blue Force Gear. Three points are out of the question, in all cases. On shotguns, single point slings are the way to go. They are not ideal for extended missions outside the wire, but they are adequate. In a breaching or assaulting role, they work well, especially if the shotgun is the main weapon of the team member. One point slings have the disadvantage of being less secure than two points are, but they have the advantage of having nothing in the way of the pump or sidesaddle.

Its been shown that shotguns can be an effective weapon under the right circumstances, but they can also be a liability if used outside their design parameters. There are, of course, other issues to be explored in the use of the shotgun. This is meant only to promote thought and give some pointers in the use of the shotgun in the ZO scenario.


Josh said...

I would contend that even something as light as #6 shot could easily be used as a barricade defense load or when clearing sensitive areas, such as barns or outbuildings with propane and/or red diesel tanks, areas where other living survivors are holed up, motor pools and hospitals. In those situations, distance is not king, but rather a single shot per target within a 5-10 meter radius. At 10 meters, #6 shot would deliver roughly 80% of the shot to an area the size of a MUD head, with each pellet carrying the velocity of a standard .22lr load. Imagine getting hit in the face with 70 .22's at the same time.

At longer distances however, out beyond 25 yards, the shot loses so much velocity and pattern density as to be relatively harmless to sensitive materials or personnel in the area.

In my own estimation, the shotgun is a weapon in and of itself that can only be relied upon in a ZO scenario by those well versed in its deployment. I would not feel unprepared or underarmed with nothing more than a side-by-side coach gun and a bucket of shells, which is not to say that that would be the preferred loadout.

Pump guns like those you showed, either based on the Remington, Mossberg, Winchester or Benelli designs, are really the only types that should be considered. Semi-auto guns of most makes are gas operated and must be adjusted manually to handle the differences between loads. This is inefficient in a run-and-gun scenario where one may have to use whatever ammo they can lay hand on. Single or double guns, while pretty and great for pheasant, are extremely inefficient. Pumps with the capability to accept up to a 3.5" shell will be much more efficient in this situation.

Another area that bears examination when it comes to personal weaponry is the light carbine. I will try and explore that later today.

Haji said...

I'm still not one to advocate going to shot smaller than #4. The frontal bones that protect the brain are the hardest and densest in the body. Everyone knows somebody who proves this out.;) I've used lighter shot on Pepper Poppers that a 9MM pistol can take down, but the shot hasn't had the punch to down that steel. That being the case, I'm extremely chary of recommending lighter shot to penetrate skull bones and still have enough penetration to destroy the brain. I'm attempting to get medical confirmation from a professional at this time. Stay tuned.

It is my belief that in the ZO scenario that the carbine is king. More to come on that topic.