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  • Pitiful Aim

    Posted by James R. Rummel on May 11th, 2008 (All posts by )

    Most of the students in my charity self defense course eventually get around to asking my advice concerning the most effective home defense weapon. I always recommend a shotgun without reservation.

    There is a lot to be said for the humble scattergun. It is probably the most devastating close combat weapon there is, unless you have access to a submachine gun or a flamethrower. (And both of those damage your house too much.) Load it up with the right type of ammo and it will cure what ails you.

    They are also incredibly intimidating, which has caused more than a few violent criminals over the years to give up without a struggle when they found themselves on the business end of a 12 gauge. They are so scary, in fact, that the Germans accused the United States of war crimes when our troops started to use shotguns in World War I. The guys who embraced poison gas as a weapon thought that a Doughboy using a pump action scattergun in the trenches was beyond the pale!

    For more than a century, shotguns have also been the main heavy arm for street cops. They are extremely effective close up, but have less penetration and range than a rifle. Just the thing if you are concerned about innocent civilians, yet still have to take down a nest of criminals who have set up shop in a densely crowded neighborhood.

    As a last note, shotguns are easy to learn how to use, and to use well. This doesn’t mean that no training at all is necessary, just that it doesn’t take nearly as much time to turn a novice into a safe and effective defensive shotgunner as it does to teach the basics of using a rifle in an urban setting.

    All of that was going through my mind when I read this article by Bob Owens. It seems that the Chicago Police Department, reeling from a week of increased criminal shootings on the streets, is planning on buying 13,000 assault rifles and issue them to their patrol officers.

    Whoa, Nelly! Hold the phone! Are they going to invest in SWAT training for every single one of their patrol officers? Because that is what it would take to minimize the risk to innocent civilians that using weapons with such high penetration in a city would bring.

    No, of course Chicago wouldn’t invest in such training! They would never have the budget for something like that. Click the link to the Owens article and read how it is problematic for them to be able to find the money to buy the rifles, let alone the ammo needed for training and the infrastructure to keep the weapons in repair.

    Have I mentioned that shotguns are only about 20% of the cost of an assault rifle? They are even cheaper than most handguns! So why advocate a poorly reasoned plan to buy assault rifles when a cheaper, easier, safer, and extremely effective alternative is available?

    Because it is all an exercise in public relations. The city has been subjected to some bad press because of their lack of ability to control criminal violence, so this is an attempt to be seen as taking positive and highly visible action. Assault rifles are sexy and have a bad boy cachet, while shotguns are dull and pedestrian and lack charisma. The fact that it wastes money and actually puts innocent civilians at greater risk isn’t important, they have to look good on the evening news!

    You might think that this is an isolated event. Chicago has a few bad weekends, some ne’er-do-wells shoot each other up in gang territory, and the city tries to deflect criticism by buying some unnecessary toys for their boys. But I would like to bring this news article to your attention, which reports that several other police agencies are planning on equipping their patrol officers with semi-auto versions of military weapons.

    I suppose this post here at The Chicago Boyz will destroy any chance I have of employment as a firearms instructor for a major police agency. They’d never waste money on someone who says it is better to go with what works instead of what looks good on camera.

    (Hat tip to Glenn for the heads up on the Bob Owens article.)

     

    13 Responses to “Pitiful Aim”

    1. Shannon Love Says:

      The reputation of the shotguns might be the reason the Chicago police do not want them. Given the ignorance about the weapons they might find it easier to use the M4’s that people see soldiers using on TV than to use the less lethal shotguns.

      There are some practical problems with shotguns. They’re long. That makes them difficult to use inside vehicles and buildings and difficult to carry. You can’t carry pumps on a strap because of the risk of short cocking. There is also not a long clip automatic version.

      Police probably need bullpup shotgun that they can sling on their backs. Shotguns require a long barrel and a bullpup design would give them that without reducing making the barrel to short. Police could carry the weapons on their backs and swing them forward as needed.

      All this of course depends on the assumption that the Chicago police need more firepower. Unless, the police are being routinely outgunned and criminals are getting away because the police cannot kill them fast enough, then they don’t. Since I haven’t heard of any such events I don’t think such an upgrade is called for. It it was, I think the need would show up in Texas first.

    2. zenpundit Says:

      Police could use modified shotguns without the full stock, as an option.

      I’m in total agreement with you James. A shotgun is the best possible self-defense weapon for the average person who may be relatively unfamiliar with firearms, living in a densely packed environment.

      Nobody wants the tragedy of shooting at a home invader with a .357 magnum or an assault rifle and have the bullet go through the bad guy, the drywall of your house, your neighbor’s outside wall and then in to one of your neighbors. Not a great moment. And the shotgun will knock anybody down, no matter how large and imposing or high on drugs. Bullets don’t always have that kind of stopping power.

      And there’s something to be said, as you mentioned, for visually scary weapons often not needing to be used.

    3. James R. Rummel Says:

      Given the ignorance about the weapons they might find it easier to use the M4’s that people see soldiers using on TV than to use the less lethal shotguns.

      I know what you mean, but I think it is important to point out to our readers that shotguns are actually more lethal in close quarters combat than a semi-auto M4. It is just that the rifle has a greater chance of penetrating walls and hitting innocent bystanders who are far away.

      There are some practical problems with shotguns. They’re long. That makes them difficult to use inside vehicles and buildings and difficult to carry.

      There are ways to get around that problem. I’ve tried most of them out, and they work pretty well.

      You can’t carry pumps on a strap because of the risk of short cocking.

      You can’t? I do! Heck, I must be even more awesome than I thought!

      There is also not a long clip automatic version.

      Not clip. Drum!

      James

    4. Tyouth Says:

      Followed James’ link to the auto 12g with the drum. Very impressive: can’t see how anything could be more effective in urban combat, excepting the bulkiness.

      BTW, a choke is, I think, a gradual restriction of the barrel leading to a more concentrated pattern (?). Does that not allow for a shorter barrel?

    5. James R. Rummel Says:

      BTW, a choke is, I think, a gradual restriction of the barrel leading to a more concentrated pattern (?). Does that not allow for a shorter barrel?

      Choke is intended to control shot pattern. More choke means the pellets stay together in a tighter pattern for a longer time after they leave the muzzle because the inside of the barrel actually constricts a tiny amount at the far end. Squeezes things down a little bit.

      The way firearms work, the bullet or pellets are pushed out by a cloud of rapidly expanding gas. The longer the barrel the more velocity the projectile(s) gain because the gas has more time to push them along.

      So shorter barrels would mean that the pellets or slugs fired from shotguns would be moving a little slower, and the gun wouldn’t be as deadly or effective.

      But to be frank, there really isn’t all that much difference between a 24 inch barrel and a 30 inch one. Shorter barrels are available, and many people who are interested in home defense simply buy shotguns that are sold over the counter which are already equipped with barrels as short as 18 inches.

      Shotguns can be pretty compact, actually. Federal law prohibits any shotgun which has an overall length of less than 26 inches, but that is only two feet and two inches! Most are larger than that because they are so powerful that it becomes problematic to control the recoil in such a small package, but that doesn’t mean that all shotgun are required to be large and unwieldy.

      James

    6. Shannon Love Says:

      James R. Rummel,

      Folding stocks don’t reduce the barrel length enough. Drums are to wide. From reading and talking to door kickers in Iraq, having a compact weapon you can keep up against your body and whip up and down and sideways is very important in urban warfare. I think the police face the same issues given the weapons that SWAT chooses.

      In the unlikely event that cops do need more firepower, I think they need something like this or this.

      As for straps on pump shotguns, I was always warned against it and I know the military shotguns don’t even have straps. I suppose it poses only a minor risk. In most cases all it would do would provoke a jam or a dry fire. Not a big deal for hunters.

    7. James R. Rummel Says:

      As for straps on pump shotguns, I was always warned against it and I know the military shotguns don’t even have straps. I suppose it poses only a minor risk. In most cases all it would do would provoke a jam or a dry fire. Not a big deal for hunters.

      I’m a professional self defense instructor with 17 years of experience. I’ve never been a hunting guide.

      James

    8. mostlygenius Says:

      Mr. Rummel, we agree on a lot of things but I have to disagree with regard to this article. I don’t think you are as current on your facts regarding the M4 as you are on the shotgun. I have written more detail here: M4 vs. Shotgun for Law Enforcement

    9. John Richardson Says:

      Given that it is a police department, they wouldn’t be covered by the National Firearms Act and thus could have a shotgun with a barrel shorter than 18 inches.

    10. Dan Says:

      Any thought on these in 9mm for home defense?
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glaser_Safety_Slug

    11. ElamBend Says:

      We just had a discussion about guns in my office last week, with me taking the most pro-gun views. When asked if I had a handgun I truthfully responded no, because a) it’s illegal in Chicago and b) less effective and even dangerous in a thin-walled high-rise such as my home. I then extolled the humble shot-gun, including pointing out out one of the most effective qualities of a shot-gun in a home invasion scenario, one that James fails to mention: the sound of a it’s cocking. It is a universally recognized sound and if a sound alone can be used to discourage the invader/get him to leave, then all the better. Handguns are hard to see and even harder to control, particularly in stressful situations like who-the-heck-is-in-my-house.

    12. James R. Rummel Says:

      Dan had a question about Glaser Safety Slugs….

      Any thought on these in 9mm for home defense?

      I’m not sure that this is the correct forum to discuss ammo selection. If you would care to, please Email me at james_43202@yahoo.com to continue the conversation.

      But, if you just want a short answer, then they’re too expensive. I mean, we are talking over $3.00 USD per round!

      James

    13. john ellis Says:

      I agree that the 12 gauge shot-gun is the best self defense weapon. The Chicago police might be thinking more of “offense” attacking nests of gang members from a distance beyond the range of the 12 guage S.G.

      I have a question. I am moving back to CHicago – the city, to an apartment in a good building, but in a neighborhood where crime is always an issue.

      Do I have any rights to keep a shot gun in my own home for self defense? THis would never be brought out my home and unh like riffles, assault weapons the 12 gauge wouldn’t go through walls to possibly hurt neighbors.

      Do I have any rights to have a 12 gauge S.G. for self defense in the City of Chicago.

      Thanks.

      J