A shotgun is arguably one of the most versatile tools in the modern survivalist battery. Capable of delivering a multitude of projectile loads, from birdshot to slugs, the shotgun has earned its iconic place in American history for good reason. Referred to in different times as the
“scattergun,” or “fowling piece,” the shotgun is a smoothbore firearm that is able to dispatch small game and big game alike. Shotguns are also solid home-defense weapons, easily lending themselves to tactical modifications.
The wide world of shotguns can be intimidating. In the contemporary marketplace, there is a shotgun manufactured for every application. Narrowing down which shotgun is best for you depends on what kind of job you need the gun to do. Are you a small game hunter, looking to harvest rabbits, grouse, or quail? Are you a big game hunter looking to put venison or turkey burgers in the freezer? Are you a tactically-minded individual, planning for a worst-case scenario in which you would need to defend yourself and your loved ones?
We’ve taken the liberty of picking out three different classes of shotgun, well-worth owning and adding to your battery. While the make and model of these shotguns is noteworthy, the physical characteristics of size, barrel length and gauge are why they were chosen for your consideration.
The tactical shotgun is made to confront close-range threats in short-duration engagements. When loaded with shells that carry multiple projectiles, such as 00 buckshot, it has an effective range of approximately 25 yards. When loaded with rifled slugs, the tactical shotgun is effective out to 50 yards. The most common tactical shotguns are short-barreled (18 inches), pump-action weapons, chambered in 12-gauge, with a magazine capacity ranging from four to six rounds. The tactical shotgun can be modified in many different ways, the most conventional modifications are the addition of ghost-ring sights, and tactical flashlights. The sights permit accuracy at the shotgun’s maximum range. The tactical rail-mounted flashlight allows the weapon to be more effective in lowlight scenarios, both indoors and outdoors.
Small game such as rabbits, squirrels, grouse, and quail require a shotgun that is accurate and manageable. Although shotguns chambered in 12-gauge can be effective in harvesting small game when paired with lighter shot loads, the 20-gauge shotgun is well-suited for the job. Small-game shotguns must be capable of delivering a lethal load while leaving game meat intact. The small-game shotgun must also be capable of busting through brush, and remaining effective at distances of up to 25 yards.
Smaller, accurate, and wieldy, the 20-gauge small-game shotgun fills its niche perfectly. Reduced recoil makes this shotgun ideal for younger or smaller shooters. The 20-inch barrel length commonly related to this class of shotgun makes it easily maneuverable in thickly forested areas where birds and rabbits tend to hide. Number 6 shot, paired with a modified choke will further maximize the 20-gauge small game shotgun’s unique abilities.
The big-game shotgun, chambered in 12-gauge or 10-gauge is meant to dispatch larger animals at short to medium ranges. Big game such as deer and turkey require a gun like this, with a long barrel (28 inches) and stopping power. The 12-gauge big-game shotgun has a maximum effective range of about 35 yards using shells that are loaded with multiple projectiles. The gun has a maximum effective range of approximately 60 yards when loaded with slugs.
Big-game shotguns paired with heavy shot loads (No. 1 or No. 2 shot) are also the gun of choice for avid waterfowl hunters. Harvesting big-bodied birds such as geese and duck requires a gun that can reach out and deliver a lethal payload on a fast-moving target. Modifying the 12-gauge big-game shotgun with the correct choke is the most common adaptation made to the weapon.