Why I Like Shotguns

Why I love shotguns, Sheriff Jim Wilson
Richard Mann and I have this little running feud going. You see, he can’t stand shotguns and I wouldn’t keep house without one. Of course, I’m talking about fighting shotguns. Both of us are ex-lawmen and I guess we’ve just had different experiences. Or, it could just be that Richard has just imbibed too much of that corn recipe that West Virginia is famous for. He may not know that there is a difference between Jake and Shine, or found out too late.

In this day souped-up semi-auto rifles, the shotgun is often overlooked as a defensive tool. And that is a real mistake because it is an excellent defensive tool. One can stoke it with low-base birdshot loads for fighting inside the house, buckshot for out-of-doors, and slugs for when the ranges get a bit longer. And many of us can testify that it will hammer a bad guy the way no defensive handgun ever will.

Now, I absolutely don’t buy into the crap about the bad guys hearing you rack the slide on your pump 12 gauge and messing their pants. There are a whole lot of things wrong with that picture. But I will tell you that when a bad guy gets a close look at the business end of a sawed-off 12 gauge, he will often begin to consider Christian virtues and peaceful attitudes. And, if he doesn’t, you are holding the means to plead his case to a Higher Court.

The gun pictured here started life as a Remington 870 police model with ghost-ring sights. Since then, it’s had a shorter buttstock installed courtesy of Hogue Grips. It has also been to the Vang Comp Shotgun Clinic in Chino Valley, Arizona, for a little TLC. Hans Vang lengthened the forcing cone and back-bored the barrel to extend the range of my buckshot load to about 30 yards. Beyond that, I rely on the slug loads that are carried in the Galco cartridge boot.

A while back Bryce Towsley and I were pleased to do a little pro/con article stacking the pump shotgun against the autoloader. Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret: I don’t think there is really much difference at all. Take either one that suits you (Heck, get a good double barrel if you want to). A good shotgun is a mighty handy thing to have in a gunfight. In between shootouts, it will also take good care of the rattlesnakes and other critters that don’t belong in your yard and it can do a pretty darned good job of putting meat on your table.

The defensive shotgun is versatile, it’s handy, and crooks don’t like them at all…. especially when one is screwed on the end of their nose. That’s why I like shotguns.

This entry was posted in Gear, Guns, Hunting, Peace Officers, Personal Defense, Shotguns and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

168 Responses to Why I Like Shotguns

  1. Jim Stokes says:

    Sheriff, I recently purchased a Stevens 320 12-gauge for home defense. I’m used to pistols, but I’m a novice on a shotgun. I’d like a shorter stock (this one is awkward and takes too long to line up), but my local gunsmith (in Knoxville, TN) told me I’d lose the pistol grip. Are there other options? Am I too dependent on the pistol grip?

    • lloyd says:

      yes sir mod 37s deerslayers ive bought several over the years dont deer hunt anymore because of my health they make good home defense guns long live the ithaca 37s

  2. Ernest says:

    I remember a few of your articles about how handy lever-action rifles are over the pistol and shotgun. Hmm, could that be why I own one? That said, Pistol, rifle, shotgun, all have their place.

  3. Jason says:

    Good stuff, with the exception of the bird shot for indoors recommendation. That is a very dangerous thing to suggest. Bird shot might kill someone eventually, but it isn’t going to do so immediately, nor is it going to instantly incapacitate, which is kind of the point. It simply does not penetrate deep enough to do either of those things. There will be blood, and mess, and it will hurt like hell, but it stands a poor chance of instantly stopping an assailant, particularly one that is motivated, or on drugs, etc.



    Number 1 Buck is as small as I would ever go for SD. Remember, the guy dying a half hour later, or being incapacitated from blood loss 10 minutes later is worthless. IT needs to be NOW.

  4. John Odum says:

    A nice little twenty gauge sawed off double barrel sits next to my front door. D.B. As I call her is loaded with three inch number two lead shot. At close range that load of number 2’s will hit as one big slug. At twenty yards or so they will make a bad guys lungs look like a spegetti colander. I also have an AR sitting next to the back door as I may have to shoot across the pasture back there. As a trooper I once saw a burglar piss all over himself when he looked down the end of my 12 ga. Thanks again for the good common sense articles.

  5. Mark R. Holcomb says:

    .Compromise: JHP-stoked Keltec Sub 9 and .20 gauge single shot with external safety. Keltec for home defense, shottie for pest control.

  6. Hoss Dugger says:

    Very informative. Thanks…

  7. Pingback: A Jeep Gun | Sheriff Jim Wilson

  8. John Shirley says:

    Mr. Wilson, you have a long and distinguished career. But when you said, “One can stoke it with low-base birdshot loads for fighting inside the house”, you gave up all your credibility in a single sentence.

    • Bob McKellar says:

      I would tend to agree with the Sheriff on the birdshot matter. I assisted on one case where a home invader took a 20 ga skeet load of 7.5s just below the diaphragm from a distance of about 15’. In and out with a beercan diameter hole and a hand sized hunk of his liver laying next to the body. At living room distance birdshot is not far from a slug in penetration on soft tissue.
      Try it on a sheet of 1/2” plywood from 10-12 feet and see what ya think.
      Just my 2 cents worth.

      • John Shirley says:

        Then there was the case of the man who attempted suicide by shooting himself with birdshot. It took numerous shots. My father tried to impress me with the incredible destructive power of the shotgun by shooting an old log with #6 shot when I was 12. The effect was underwhelming. The sheriff has a lot of good stories, but I’ll look elsewhere for fighting advice.

  9. J.Moyer says:

    I have a short barreled pump gun close at hand at home, a trusted ally in times of need.

  10. Hoss Dugger says:

    Tactical 870 leaned up by my chair. Granted its only totin’bird seed, but….

  11. Vince Orr says:

    I have a VEPR 12 – AK style shotgun….and a more awesome shotgun never existed. Devastating firepower.

  12. Larry Berry says:

    Amen to the shotgun article. I also could not keep house without one or two.

  13. John Weber says:

    My agency like most agencies I know of use the Remington 870, although our special operations unit had some tactical 1100s. Now that I’m retired my choice of shotgun is my Ithaca 37. If I have the time to get my shotgun it is my overwhelming choice for home defense. Because I like to fire as little amount of shots as possible to end a threat.

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