Survival Shotgun Part 5: Myths Explained

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By Mr. Smashy •  4 min read

Thanks to television, movies, and popular Rambo talk there are lots of myths about the shotgun. If you are going to use yours effectively in a survival situation you need to separate fact from fiction. Here are some common misconceptions the smart prepper should be wary of.

Rack It

“The sound of a pump racking is enough to scare away an intruder.”

Fact: If you are racking your pump investigating a suspicious noise, you’ve made a tactical error.  You may have escalated a situation from a simple peeping tom or snooping thief into a full scale home invasion by engaging their fight or flight reflexes.

You’ve also announced your location to anyone that may have been trying to find you. Learn to load your weapon silently or leave it with a round in the chamber, whichever you’re comfortable and can safely do.

If you’re out in the wild, follow the safety rules you’re comfortable with (NRA Safety Rules, Col. Cooper’s Rules of Gun Safety), but be ready to bring your weapon to action quickly and quietly; your threat will usually not give you the luxury of a distinctive warning.

Room Clearing

“You just point the shotgun in the general direction of the bad guy, pull the trigger and it’s game over!”

Fact: You need to aim shotguns just like rifles and pistols.  Rounds like buckshot will spread one inch for every yard of flight, as a rule of thumb.  If you’re defending yourself from an assailant at 5 yards, the group of shot will be roughly 5″ wide, an easy shot to miss if you’re snap shooting.  If the shot was well aimed in the thoracic cavity, the result would be completely different.

Shooting your shotgun at targets setup at different distances and measuring the size of the spread is called “patterning” your shotgun, and it’s something you should do with your gun and with each load you shoot.  You’ll have a better understanding of how your shotgun performs and the limitations of each load.

If your buckshot pellets cannot hold an 18″ group (average shoulder width of a man) at 30 yards, but will at 25, you know that your effective range is 25 yards.  Try different loads in your shotgun for the best pattern.  Also, remember, you are responsible for each pellet that you send downrange and each pellet should hit your intended target.

Mix and Match

“I like to load in a slug in first, followed by two rounds of 00 buck, then then two rounds of bird shot.  If those two rounds of bird shot don’t end the fight, the buckshot sure will, and I keep that slug for insurance.”

Fact 1: Mixing ammo in the same magazine is not recommended.  You could pull the trigger and get an unexpected result.  If you need a different round, train on how to switch loads.

Fact 2: Birdshot should never be used for defensive purposes unless you have no choice.  The small shot does not penetrate and will not cause a stop, especially if the aggressor is determined.  There has been a documented report of a 12 year old girl surviving a point blank blast of bird shot.  Dick Cheney shot an 78-year-old man in the face with birdshot and the receiver lived.

Armchair Tactical

Everything you’ve seen in TV and movies about people getting shot with shotguns.

Fact: In close quarters buckshot and slugs do heavy damage, but people do not explode, fly backwards, and there is not always a huge window for them to fall through.  Train for quick follow up shots, dealing with multiple aggressors, reloading your shotgun when it’s run dry, and a especially the Tactical Reload (loading your magazine between shots.)


A single blast will open a door explosively.

Fact: Ballistic breaching is usually a two or three step process involving shooting frangible breaching slugs at the latch and bolt of a locked door, and then the door is pried or battered open.  If you’re lucky and have shot well, a good kick with a solid boot will open the door.

If you shot poorly, you can actually twist a metal door and frame together so an explosive breach, battering ram, or Halligan tool is necessary.

Breaching can be accomplished by a prepper with a shotgun and a partner with something like a Stanley FuBar, but don’t expect a dynamic entry on an unsuspecting party.  You can use standard buckshot and slugs for a ballistic breech, but frangible breaching slugs are recommended for safety.

What’s Your Favorite?

Every armchair tactical operator and mall ninja has a ton of great “shotgun myths.” Leave a comment and tell us your favorite.

Mr. Smashy

Mr. Smashy has been shooting competitively for more than 15 years. Scouted from a junior club rifle team for the state team, he has won state championships in several events over his years. Mr. Smashy currently competes in NRA Highpower, USPSC, Action Pistol, among others. Mr. Smashy has excellent knowledge of US service rifles, reloading, and marksmanship. Read his full interview here.