As firearms go, shotguns gather more than their fair share of misconceptions about how they operate and perform. Think that they’re a hit-anything-that-moves miracle weapon – then think again.
With most industries, there is always going to be a certain segment that will promote some vague, blanket features or benefits for products to help promote sales – and the firearms industry is not immune. Now this is likely more down at the dealer or retail level, but the perpetuation of myths and misconceptions isn’t helpful when it comes to actually making sure that consumers know what they’re getting into.
With shotguns, it seems to be a combination of general mistruths and their portrayal in popular media that provides a one-two punch for the misguided perception of what the weapon can and can’t do. The fact that you can consistently hit basically anything you point the gun at with devastating force, no matter the distance, would be patently wrong. Having said that, for home defense use within certain short distances and potentially within a confined space, shotguns can absolutely be highly effective. There are still limitations though. Seasoned hunters and competitive shooters will obviously know the difference, but for those others, some of the information out there can be confusing or downright dangerous.
Myth: No Need To Aim
The whole concept of accuracy and shotgun use is probably the most common source of misleading information. Shotguns are considered to be effective due to their ability to spread shot and hit targets more easily at close range without the need for accurate aim. In fact, many gun owners purchase shotguns specifically for that very reason. They don’t trust themselves or practice enough to feel confident hitting a target with a rifle or handgun. You also see this in movies and television portrayals of the character who ‘can’t hit the broad side of a barn’ so they opt for the shotgun as an alternative. The fact is that you do have to aim shotguns just like any other firearm.
As we know (or should know), shotgun accuracy and shot behavior is dependent on the gun type being used, the barrel length, ammo, choke, distance and how the weapon may have been patterned. Does 12 gauge buckshot spread out over distance? Of course, but inside of 10 yards, it can still hit as a single, tightly packed shot. If it were me and my life depended on it, I’d be aiming.
Myth: Shotguns Aren’t Accurate
If shotguns weren’t accurate, how is it that top-level competitive shooters and countless hunters do so well with them? Again, depending on your ammo and set up, shotguns can throw remarkably accurate shots and produce predictable impacts over specific distances.
That’s kind of the whole point. The effective distance for accuracy vs. a rifle will obviously be less, but we’re talking apples and oranges here.
Myth: Racking As A Scare Tactic
How many times have we witnessed a Hollywood scenario where the hero pumps their shotgun and everyone freezes? The very sound makes the bad guys question their motives and second-guess their next moves? This could potentially work, but I wouldn’t want to make an assumption. In some cases, an assailant may not recognize the sound or even care, especially if they’re under the influence of alcohol, drugs or are simply a highly motivated criminal type.
Myth: Shotguns Are Perfect for New or Inexperienced Shooters
Based on the belief that shotguns don’t really need to be aimed, some feel that they are the perfect choice to introduce new shooters to the sport since the experience can be ‘less technical’. The issue is that shotguns tend to be heavy, loud and they kick like a mule (for the most part). This can be intimidating and not the best way to build confidence. Many also only have a front bead for aiming, which isn’t ideal for learning the basics of shooting mechanics. Better to start with something like a .22 and work up to it.
Similarly, with inexperienced shooters looking for a home defense solution, sometimes shotguns aren’t the best choice due to the length, weight and recoil. They’re definitely not for everyone.
Myth: Shotguns Rarely Malfunction
There’s a popular notion that shotguns are 100% reliable and that they almost never jam or malfunction. Well they do, and more often than you think. This probably comes from the perception of the simplicity of the break-action models and how that might carry-over to pumps and semi-autos.
The internal workings of pump action and semi-auto shotguns are just as complicated and are as vulnerable to neglect as any other firearm. They absolutely require regular cleaning and maintenance if they’re going to operate reliably. There are also short-strokes and other feed/ejection issues that can occur, and shotguns can be notoriously difficult to clear.
Like most firearms, shotguns are designed and perform the way that they do for very good reasons. A specific type of weapon for specific types of applications. There are more myths about shotguns out there to be sure – the key is to be able to see through them.
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