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The Extremely Utilitarian Defensive Enabled Shotgun

Tuesday, 09 April 2013 21:46 Written by 

Let’s imagine you are new to firearms and you have decided to run down to your local Gander Mountain or Dick’s Sporting Goods to buy a shotgun. The primary intended purpose for your new shotgun is home defense, but you are considering the idea it might come in handy for some game hunting applications after the world undergoes some societal breakdown. 

Let’s now assume you have certain reservations about explaining you requirements to the nice person behind the firearms counter, so you make the command decision to pick your purchase on your own. Are you 100% sure you’ve got this subject covered? I mean, what can be so difficult about buying a shotgun… right?

Be cool! Don’t panic! The truth of the matter is, about seventy five percent of “old gun hands” don’t fully understand all of the various nuances involved in shotgun buying. And believe it or not, there are numerous factors to be taken into consideration.

The Tactical Shotgun

Several years ago, someone discovered that if you add some bilious pieces of plastic and dark, flat colored paint to a product, then call that product “tactical,” they could sell it for a higher price. And, certain members of the public will gladly pay that price just so they can be the first prepper on their block to have one.

A good example of this statement would be the Mossberg “Chainsaw” 12 gauge shotgun.

It is nothing more than a standard model 500 “Persuader” 12 gauge with a 20 inch barrel, a pistol grip, (rather than a shoulder stock) but with a chainsaw handle attached to the forearm. The other (and more important) difference is; the MSRP just got bumped up a hundred and fifty bucks because it’s “tactical.”

Now, my dictionary defines “tactical” as relating to tactics, and generally, military specific uses. However, I’m really not sure the military (at least the military of the United States; even under the current regime) would be able to find a tactical advantage in a shotgun like the Mossberg “Chainsaw” model. Not only does it appear extremely clumsy, that handle has got to displace a lot of critical, usable space when carried, stowed or in the designing of a rack to fit it.

The Extremely Utilitarian Defensive Enhanced Shotgun

Personally, I find the use of the word “tactical” as being way too heavily used in the prepper marketplace. Not to mention the fact I find it annoying. There are tactical pistols, tactical rifles, tactical knives, tactical clothing, tactical bags and tactical sunglasses. If you look in the right places, you can even find tactical toilet paper in your choice of Desert, Urban, or Woodland cammo patterns.

In the case of my shotgun choices, I prefer to put together my own requirements and call it “extremely utilitarian defensive enhanced” or, EUDE. Just to make it sound clicky and ultra cool, I decided to use the acronym “ExUDE.” My ExUDE shotguns don’t have a bunch of goofy add-on bells or whistles; only what they absolutely need to get the intended job done.

Choosing Your Own ExUDE Shotgun

Before you hop on the bus and head for Gander Mountain to buy that perfect ExUDE shotgun, you will need to know about and understand the earlier mentioned shotgun nuances to help you through the choosing process. The most important aspect to understand revolves around the shotgun barrel.

Barrel Length

Barrels come in a variety of lengths; from no less than eighteen inches to out around thirty inches. You may find older shotguns that have barrels as long as thirty six inches. Legally, eighteen inches in the minimum allowable length in the U.S. however, most manufacturers have adopted eighteen and a half inches as a standard minimum length to avoid potential problems due to variations during machining, and to avoid pesky little problems with a certain autocratic government alphabet agency.

“So,” you might ask, “what makes barrel length an important factor?” Well, I’m glad you asked! The primary purpose of a shotgun is to fire a cluster of small diameter round pellets, rather than a single solid projectile such as in the case of a rifle. These pellets, (or “shot”) in some instances, number more than a few hundred per each round fired. After the shot leaves the barrel, it’s now called the shot column, and it goes from being a densely packed group to a slowly spreading cluster. The farther from the barrel the shot column travels, the wider the spread pattern becomes, out to the point where it eventually loses its velocity and falls to the ground.

Since the original intended purpose of the shotgun was for the taking of game birds in flight, it was necessary to use longer barrels (28”, 30”, etc.) to create higher pressures and therefore longer trajectories that could get the shot column up or out to the distances the birds are at. So then, in retrospect, a shorter barrel doesn’t lend itself to pushing a shot column out to greater distances. In other words, short barrels are better suited for up close and personal kinds of jobs.

For inside the home defense purposes, an eighteen (18 ½), twenty, or twenty four inch barrel would be better choices. In small rooms and particularly in hallways, (often referred to as “close quarters) longer barrels tend to be a bit clumsy and can hinder maneuverability when working around doorways or hallway intersections. But barrel length alone does not determine how well the shot column will do its work.

Barrel Chokes

Undoubtedly the most misunderstood aspect of a shotgun is the barrel choke. A choke creates a slight decrease in the inner diameter of a shotgun’s smooth bore barrel, as compared to the inner diameter of the barrel’s chamber (The chamber being the portion of the barrel where the entire shot shell is contained and fired from). It is the job of the choke to compress the shot column, in the last few inches of the barrel, prior to the column leaving the barrel. This action causes the shot column to stay tightly compressed for longer distances after leaving the barrel.

In short, the smaller the choke, the tighter the shot column will be as it leaves the barrel, and for a longer duration out to a determined distance before opening into a cluster pattern.

A choke may be machined as integral in a barrel, or it may be a separate part that screws into the end of a barrel (provided the barrel end has been threaded for that purpose), or it may be a screw in part that allows for several different choke settings by turning the choke body. Barrel chokes are designated as:

  • Cylinder Choke - A barrel designated as having a “Cylinder Choke” has no decrease in I.D. size as compared to the chamber. The shot column will open and provide an optimum effective yardage distance from the barrel out to less than 20 yards. A cylinder choke therefore has no actual choke value.
  • Skeet Choke: is .005” smaller than the chamber and keeps its shot column tighter out to 22.5 yards.
  • Improved Cylinder Choke - .010” and 25 yards.
  • Light Modified Choke - .015” and 30 yards.
  • Modified Choke - .020” and 32.5 yards.
  • Improved Modified Choke - .025” and 35 yards.
  • Light Full Choke - .030” and 37.5 yards.
  • Full Choke - .035” and 40 or more yards.
  • Extra Full Choke - 0.40” and 40 or more yards.
  • **A rifled type shotgun barrel has no choke (More on rifled barrels shortly)

A specialty tool is required to install and remove threaded screw-in / screw-out chokes. Some will accept a “universal type tool" while others require a proprietary (manufacturer’s specific) tool.

To further help understand barrel chokes, a cylinder choke is more often preferred in defensive use shotguns and the full choke or the extra full choke is preferred in the hunting of Wild Turkey. The chokes in between those are preferred for skeet, trap, sporting clays, hunting game birds and hunting small animals.

A rifled shotgun barrel is designed primarily for firing a Sabot, or plastic cased, slug type projectile. The spin is imparted on the plastic Sabot by the barrel rifling. The Sabot falls away from the slug shortly after leaving the barrel.

Rifled slugs, on the other hand, should only be fired from a smooth bore barrel. The spin placed on a rifled slug comes from the rifling groves that are precast along the slug’s outer diameter. The conflict that arises from using a rifled slug in a rifled barrel comes from the two different riflings not matching up when the round is fired. Lead from the rifling groves on the slug are sheared off along the edges of the harder steel rifling of the barrel, which causes a lead build up the is difficult to remove and tends to seriously decrease accuracy

Interestingly though, when shot rounds are fired through a rifled barrel, the shot column begins spreading open immediately as it is leaving the barrel, due to the spin action imparted by the rifling. The spread also tends to leave a “donut” shaped pattern on paper targets.

Generally, rifled barrels are manufactured in either eighteen or twenty four inch lengths.

Barrel information is stamped into (usually) the left side of a shotgun’s barrel. This information includes the shell length accepted by the barrel, the gauge, the barrel length and the choke designation. Otherwise, it will specify the barrel is rifled.

Many shotgun manufacturers in the U.S. make spare or accessory barrels in a variety of lengths, chokes and styles; giving the shotgun owner the ability to switch out barrels on one shotgun receiver. It’s a lot cheaper than buying several different shotguns. Barrels can usually be changed out in less than a minute.

Brief Recap

The longer the shotgun barrel, the longer the shot column trajectory. The smaller or tighter the barrel choke, the longer the shot column stays compressed before spreading open. Therefore a shorter barrel with no choke will result in a diminished trajectory and a rapid expansion of the shot pattern.

Shotgun Ammunition

I realize I pretty much covered this particular subject in my article, “Ammunition Reloading For Shotguns.” It isn’t a matter of geriatric dementia that I’m going over it again; I feel it’s needed to help pull the previous information parts together.

Shot Sizes

There are more than a dozen various sizes of birdshot, and there are about a half dozen different sizes of buckshot. Birdshot is smaller than buckshot. Most shot is made from lead, although some is made of bismuth and yet a few others are made from steel. Bismuth is heavier and harder than lead while steel is heavier and harder than bismuth. Steel and bismuth shot shells were developed to help prevent fouling of wetland game bird habitat with lead shot that can potentially cause serious health and reproductive hazards to waterfowl.

Different sizes of shot equate to different weights and as a result, different sustained lengths of trajectory. For example; if you were to launch a one eighth ounce steel ball with a slingshot, it will travel so far before its energy is expended and it falls to the ground. If you then took a one fourth ounce steel ball and launched it from the same slingshot, with the same amount of stored energy used to launch the one eighth ounce steel ball, you would see that the heavier ball traveled farther due to its extra weight. This same principal applies to the size of shot used in a particular shotshell load.

To try to put this into a perspective; if you were to fire a load of number four birdshot (a standard use Wild Turkey hunting load) through a twenty eight inch barrel with a full or extra full choke (again, standard use in Wild Turkey hunting) you are sending, essentially, a solid mass, 70 millimeter slug down range for the better part of about forty yards. At that point, the outer portion of the central mass has begun spreading out. After a few more yards, the entire mass has spread open and its energy is quickly decreasing.

At the other end of the spectrum, though; if you were to fire a load of # 7, #7 ½ or #8 birdshot from an eighteen inch rifled barrel, the shot column will open immediately upon leaving the barrel and expend the major portion of its effective energy within five to eight yards. For use inside a home, this would mean a significant decrease in the likelihood of full penetration of an interior wall or, cause much more than very minor injury to anyone struck should a portion of the shot spread make full penetration through both sheets of drywall of an interior wall.

Shotgun Styles

Shotguns are manufactured in several styles; a single barrel single shot style, double barreled models with the barrels being side by side or one barrel over the other, single barrel bolt action, single barrel lever action, single barrel pump action, and single barrel semi auto action. There are even some that have a shotgun barrel under a rifle barrel.

A single shot shotgun or a single shot shotgun / rifle combination gun are fine hunting / plinking guns but don’t lend themselves well in defense situations due to the fact they have to be reloaded after each shot fired. It is a slightly time intensive action, especially if you might find yourself outnumbered by bad guys.

Double barrels are outstanding shotguns for hunting and sporting uses, but again they are limiting for defensive use since they only provide two shots before reloading becomes necessary.

Bolt action, lever action, pump, and semi auto shotguns are great all around type guns since they allow for multiple shot before reloading is necessary.

Magazines and Magazine Capacities

Some shotguns, other than the single shot type, may have a box style magazine, for the feeding of fresh shells, while others have a tube type magazine that is set below the barrel. Magazine and tube capacities vary however. Many hunting style shotguns often times have capacity limiting devices inside the magazines that allow only two rounds to be loaded in the gun, to satisfy hunting regulations. This means two shells in the magazine and one loaded in the chamber.

When the limiting device is removed, a very simple procedure, tube style magazines will usually hold five shells.

Shotshell capacity in a tube type magazine can be somewhat confusing at times. For example; a shotgun may have a three and one half inch chamber, allowing the firing of three and one half inch length shells, three inch shells and 2 ¾ inch shells; and the listed magazine capacity may be shown as five shells. Some folks quickly discover they can only load three of the 3 ½ inch (or of the 3 inch shells) into the magazine and cannot understand why. The reason is; magazine tubes are measured for use with 2 ¾ inch shells.

Shotgun Accessories

There are catalogs full of accessories for a wide variety of shotguns; some practical, others just intended to separate buyers from their money. The thing most buyers fail to consider when buying accessories is the additional weight added to the firearm, and that they add another part that has the potential to break and cause a failure of the weapon to function. But, it is not my position to decide what you should buy and what you should avoid.

My ExUDE Shotguns

I have three shotguns in my prepper arsenal. One is a Mossberg 500, 12 gauge. It came with a twenty eight inch barrel with a modified choke. I replaced the Walnut wood furniture with flat black plastic parts. The stock is a folding type with a pistol grip. The folding stock can be detached from the pistol grip. The stock has onboard storage for three rounds. The replacement forearm is ribbed to provide for a better grip under adverse conditions. I installed a six round “Side Saddle” shell holder

I also purchased a twenty four inch rifled barrel which I keep installed most of the time. However, I can switch out for the twenty eight inch barrel for hunting and, I have one extra full screw in choke for hunting Wild Turkey. Additionally, I have installed a shoulder sling.

My second shotgun is a Mossberg 500 Persuader 12 gauge with a twenty inch cylinder bore barrel. The only accessories I have installed are a six round Side Saddle shell holder and a shoulder sling.

My third shotgun is a Mossberg 9200 semi auto 12 gauge that came with a twenty eight inch barrel and flat black plastic furniture. I purchased an eighteen and a half inch barrel and a shoulder sling.

I personally find little use for optics, lasers or lights on my shotguns so they are pretty-much bare-bones… extremely utilitarian and defensive enabled.

What more does anyone really need?

Last modified on Tuesday, 09 April 2013 22:11
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