I love shotguns. They are among the most devastating close range weapons available. Pump actions, autoloaders, or breechloaders—they’re all fun to shoot and highly versatile. However, Joe Biden’s ridiculous comments aside, there are truckloads of Hollywood myths the casual firearms enthusiast hears about these types of weapons. I think its time to clear the air.
You Don’t Have to Aim
Shotguns do indeed make excellent home defense firearms. I would argue there are better ones, but that is another post. A shotgun is typically reliable, deadly and easy to operate. However, I’ve heard people claim that you don’t have to aim a shotgun. This is obviously garbage. Yes, shotguns do indeed throw projectiles in a pattern that spreads apart the further away the pellets travel. However, the pellets in a shotgun shell don’t begin to spread apart until they travel some distance. Depending on what type of shot you are using, at 25 feet you may get as little as a six-inch pattern on your target. The plastic wad, which holds the projectiles together and increases muzzle velocity, simply doesn’t have enough time to open. Pointing the shotgun in the general direction of an intruder is not only careless, but also less effective. Just like a rifle, a shotgun must be pointed directly at what you intend to shoot.
Racking One in the Chamber
This is a misnomer and something that really gets under my skin—the thought that the sound of a pump-action chambering a shell will scare away an intruder. I’ve heard this from gun shop owners, dealers and private collectors alike. I have no idea where this came from, but this seems like a odious idea. When you chamber a shell in an otherwise quiet house, you just gave the intruder two tactically important bits of information. You gave away your location and the fact that you are home. If the crook didn’t have his gun out and ready, he certainly does now. Instead of fleeing, they may decide to start shooting in the direction of the sound. What could have been a very short; one-sided victory for the homeowner is now a two-way gunfight. This is something I would prefer to avoid. If you loudly chamber a shell and they do happen to run away, consider yourself extremely lucky.
Old TV westerns and Quentin Tarantino revenge movies can’t be wrong, can they? The gist of the myth is that a shot shell loaded with rock salt makes an especially painful home defense round. While I don’t doubt that getting shot with a load of salt would seriously ruin your day, I stand by the fact that this is generally inconsequential. First, rock salt is not nearly as dense as lead, therefore it makes a poor excuse for a projectile. When you fill a shot shell with a very course grain salt, you’ll notice the shell still feels empty. Very little mass means that those projectiles are going to decelerate very quickly. Outside of about 12 to 20 feet, you are not going to do much but make someone very angry. This brings up another point. If you are in a situation where you have to defend your life, wounding an armed assailant may just buy that person enough time to kill you. Either shoot to kill, or don’t shoot at all.
What are some shotgun or rifle myths you know of? Share with us below and help debunk the myths!The mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!’s blog, “The Shooter’s Log,” is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!