Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Praxis: Shotguns, "Poor man's flash-bangs" and other useful 12 Gauge stuff.

Winchester Model 1897 "trench shotgun" used in two world wars.

Shotguns have been used in America's wars since the revolution, only then they were called "fowling pieces." Early units of Confederate cavalry were armed with shotguns and some remained in service until the end of the War Between the States.

A Joint Service Combat Shotgun Program report on the lethality of shotguns in war states, in support of the use of the shotgun in warfare, "the probability of hitting a man-sized target with a shotgun was superior to that of all other weapons", and goes on to support this with statistics compiled by the British from the conflict in Borneo in the 1960s.

The buckshot typically used in a combat shotgun spreads out to a greater or lesser degree depending on the barrel choke, and can be effective at ranges as far as 70 m (75 yards). The delivery of the large number of projectiles simultaneously makes the shotgun the most effective short range weapon commonly used, with a hit probability 45% greater than a submachine gun, and twice as great as an assault rifle. While each pellet is only as effective as a small caliber handgun, and offers very poor penetration against an armored target, the multiple projectiles increases the likelihood of one or more peripheral wounds.

A number of compromises are involved in choosing a shot size:

* Smaller pellets lose velocity more rapidly and penetrate the target less
* Larger pellets means fewer pellets, resulting in a reduced probability of hits
* Heavier loads produce more recoil and less velocity than lighter loads
* Reduced recoil loads (less shot and/or lower velocity) may produce smaller patterns, which may decrease hit probability, -- Wikipedia.

Marine in the Pacific armed with 12 Gauge shotgun.

They were used in both world wars, in Korea and in Vietnam.

They continue in service today, especially popular for breaching doors.

A Mossberg 590 being used by a US Marine for door breaching in Karma, Iraq, in 2005.

They have always been the guerrilla's "butter knife gun" of necessity:

Due to the widespread use of the shotgun as a sporting firearm, it is used in guerilla warfare and other forms of asymmetric warfare. Che Guevara, in his 1961 book Guerrilla Warfare, notes that shotgun ammunition can be obtained by guerrillas even in times of war, and that shotguns loaded with heavy shot are highly effective against unarmored troop transport vehicles. He recommends that suburban guerrilla bands should be armed with easily concealable weapons, such as handguns and a sawed-off shotgun or carbine. Guevara also mentions an improvised weapon developed by guerrillas consisting of a sawed-off 16 gauge shotgun provided with a bipod to hold the barrel at a 45 degree angle. Called the "M-16", this was loaded with a blank cartridge formed by removing the shot from a standard shotshell. A wooden rod was then placed in the barrel, with a Molotov cocktail attached to the front. This formed an improvised mortar capable of firing the incendiary device accurately out to a range of 100 meters. -- Wikipedia.

While I have seen an inert grenade projected off of a twelve gauge using the Guevara method, I don't think I'd want to try that molotov cocktail thing. I used to work in a burn unit for a mercifully short period of time in the '70s.

But since shotguns are so ubiquitous, it makes sense to try to maximize their capabilities. In the 90s, I tried to popularize flechette rounds for 12 gauge "jack booted thug door greeter" purposes, the theory being that tungsten-steel flechettes could penetrate the ATF raid party vests then in use.

A reader, in response to my post on flash-bangs yesterday, forwarded a link to what he called "the poor man's flash-bang," which got me thinking again on the whole combat shotgun theme.

This is the ALS Technologies 1208 "Bore Thunder (Muzzle Bang)."

ALS bills this as a "low cost highly effective device (which) produces a stun/diversion effect by using a flash with an extremely powerful concussion blast from a 12 gauge shotgun muzzle."

ALS makes a number of useful cartridges for the twelve gauge, including the ALS1209
Aerial Pest Control (Delayed Bang). This is what is lnown in the vernacular as a "bird bomb." The ALS product description: "This low cost highly effective device produces a diversion effect by using German engineered pyrotechnics 75-200 feet from firing point. . . The Aerial Pest Control was developed as a diversion, animal control and personnel control device for use in a variety of applications."

The ALS 1209 "bird bomb."

Also made by ALS, the ALS1210S Door Breaching Cartridge.

Ever since the advent of modern 12 Gauge cartridges loaded with deer slugs, cops have been blowing the hinges off of doors with them. Modern door breaching rounds are designed to blow off the hinge but dissipate their projectile so innocents within the room are not hurt.

From the ALS product description:

This low cost, highly effective device is a frangible projectile made of powdered copper and tin pressed into a single projectile. The door breaching cartridge produces an effective means of removing locks and hinges from metal or wooden doors constructed of materials up to 16 gauge steel. Limited projection of hazardous debris and collateral damage on the opposite side of the door is minimized. . . The Door Breacher was developed to provide an alternative to the battering ram and limit exposure to shots fired from within areas upon entry.

The combat shotgun remains a useful tool of war. There are tens upon tens of millions of shotguns in the hands of the armed citizenry. It only makes sense to use what you have and optimize performance by using specialty ammunition.


Dakota said...

The shotgun is my favorite. I use #4 Buck in the house and 00 of course for outside duties. Good to see the 97 Winchester in action.... it's one of my favorites.

Also great for putting dinner on the table here in Pheasant/Grouse country.

Dennis308 said...

Thank You Mike for taking notice about the Bird Bomb. And I´ll look into getting a couple of the real flash bang cartridges,both can be useful.
I have the utmost respect for the shotgun as anyone who ever looked down the barrel of one Will Have.
I am alive today only because of someone else's piss poor maintenance of a shotgun that they had pointed at me and then pulled the trigger with every intent of finishing my existence in this world.
My advice to any owners of any brand of shotgun that has a screw on Magazine Tube(aka Winchester 1200 and some Mossburgs)is to take off the cap, clean it and the tube and then screw it back on with lock tight. The other guy failed to do that Thank God and I am still alive today.
Sold that shotgun years ago after the previous owner didn´t need said shotgun any longer.


Anonymous said...

Went to the ALS website and the .pdf order form states for LE only. Typical.
Wayne B.

Allen said...

as Navy Security, we had mossberg 500's with bayonet lugs for M16 bayonets.

we put the bayonets on most of the time...not to stick people with, but to present a sharp bit o' steel to whoever thought they would be able to control that shotgun by grabbing the business end.

bayonets and shotguns are a really good combo for crowd control too.

MadDawg308 said...

Excellent post, Mike! Your input on shotguns as modern weapons of war is spot on, as usual.

As far as flechettes go, if you load your own, they are still available in large quantities out there:

$4 a pound in quantity, enough for friends! Not a paid rep, just a satisfied customer....

Anonymous said...

I can't find a source on these anywhere, except for MIL/LEO with authorization required.

Anonymous said...

"Shotgun! Shoot 'em till they run, yeah."

And thanks for that WBTS photo, Mike. I am intimately familiar with it. I have forebears from TX who served in the CSA, 9th Texas Cavalry. Those cavalrymen were known to carry short-barreled shotguns, Bowie D knives, and maybe a revolver. The Confederate grey uniform indicates that the photo was taken later in the war, as initially those Texas Confederate cowboys wore civilian clothes.

My primary home defense weapon is the Remington 870 Police model, loaded with 00 buckshot:

Rhodes said...

Good article Mike, we don't give the old dependable shotie its due when discussing weapons of self defense.

Despite that there has never been so much so readily available in the category. The semi-auto 12 gauges are proving reliable, mostly inexpensive, and unleash hell very effectively.

Taylor H said...

Gotta love a good ol' pump action. Shotguns were so effective in clearing trenches during WW I that the Germans wanted them banned from combat.

Anonymous said...

I've been thinking very hard about picking up the Norinco clone of the old Winchester 1897 trench gun just for that big honking bayonet you can put on it.

I likes shotguns and I loves me them big honking bayonets!

Wish I could get one on my 870!

-Bubba Man (who loves sharp and pointy things)

Scott J said...

And one of the best values out there is this:

Get a used 870 out of a pawn shop for less than $200.

Send it off to Wilson Combat for the Remington Steal

Anonymous said...

Anybody who has actually used a 97 winchester will tell you of the pain involved with the bolt eating the back of your right hand. Nostalgia aside - it is not a good choice.

Do yourself a favor - go to the M12, 870 or mossburg.

Dennis308 said...

Why buy a use 870 for $200and send it anywhere most of the alterations are simple to make add extended magazine tube and WA-la you now have a defensive shotgun or just spend $459 and buy a Remington 870 tactical. Most of the cartridges are at a little ol´ supplier from Texas


Anonymous said...

Expedient fireball launcher?

Search Youtube for: "by MushiYoshi"

Carl said...

Blows a great big hole in the SUPCO US vs Miller decision where they said the shotgun had no military application. Stupid black-robed mafia!


Anonymous said...

Well, I recommend the Saiga S-12. The modern fighting machine. Magazine fed 12 gauge with 5 or 8 round magazines from the manufacturer. Don't get the crappy US made magazines.

Get your S-12 fighting ready by sending it to one of the best places. Rifle Dynamics, or Tromix.

Or, you could get one that is good to go from Krebs Custom.

Anonymous said...

Well, I recommend the Saiga S-12. The modern fighting machine. Magazine fed 12 gauge with 5 or 8 round magazines from the manufacturer. Don't get the crappy US made magazines.

Get your S-12 fighting ready by sending it to one of the best places. Rifle Dynamics, or Tromix.

Or, you could get one that is good to go from Krebs Custom.

Dedicated_Dad said...

Anonymous said...

Expedient fireball launcher?

Search Youtube for: "by MushiYoshi"

July 7, 2010 5:10 PM

While we're on the topic of "tater guns" - I stumbled over this in the "related":

PURELY as an intellectual exercise, surely some enterprising III-per could find a way to meld this with that:

The latter is a beer-can full of gas with a steel-wool "fuse." The gun is powered by hair-spray or other gas...

So much food for thought -- for intellectual-exercise purposes only - natch!!


Allen said...

instead of the "potato guns" about a small traction trebuchet? with a range around 200 yards or more depending on how you build it?

I'm thinking something like this made from a bicycle front fork and throwing cans/bottles filled with..well..whatever you want LOL

make it from junk, and taken apart and thrown in the back of a truck or scattered in the woods.. who would know what it was?

sure sounds like a good definition of "rebel artillery" to me!

Johnny said...

As I type, one guy with a shot gun is tying up 10% of Britain's armed police officers plus a whole bunch of cooks and bottle-washers besides: Police Release CCTV Images Of Raoul Moat.

And that's just for some kind of "domestic" gone bad.

The Powers That Be must know they're sitting on a powder keg in America - are they crazy enough to touch it off?

The Little Waster said...

There's two articles of good info on slugs and brenekes over at

So long as you have a cylinder barrel gun. bird cartridges can be adapted by cutting the end off, tipping the shot out and inserting a ball into the plas wad, then putting a strip of sticky tape over the end to hold it in. the ball is lighter than the shot load and will typically go through an 8" pine post at 10 yards.

above, helps in areas where slugs are regulated or banned.

A good muzzle loader with patched ball and double charge of black powder will put it through 1/8th inch steel plate. excellent seamless ("chrome")tube offcuts are available from places doing hydraulic rams if anyone fancies making a big bore.

re guy in UK:
The cops are bloody lucky it is a screwed up steroid fed bouncer from the town, not a fit sinewy country guy who understands how to cut wheel weights up to make buck shot, and knows fieldcraft and stalking.

tom said...

Sectional density of pellets is low, as is the same for slugs. I'll still take a rifle. At close ranges where you have to aim a shotgun, a rifle bullet will penetrate much better unless you're shooting round balls from a musket, at long ranges you are at a distinct disadvantage. There's a reason people don't carry shotguns around DG, be it Lions or Humans.

They have their usages, but they are a special purpose weapon unless you are bird hunting or prohibited by law from using a rifle. Rifle will ALWAYS be Queen.

When both shotguns and rifled muzzle-loaders shot round balls, there could be an argument more in favor of shotties. With modern projectiles, not so much except for special purposes. Sectional density is highly important in wounding and killing and pellets and slugs are on the loser side of that equation.

Anonymous said...

Also heard once upon a time that aluminum arrows could be fired from a .410. Also cutting a ring almost around a shotshell even with with the base of the wadding is pretty nasty as well....

Anonymous said...

A good source for these types of rounds:

J. Croft said...

A few years back I came up with a concept of enhancing the shotgun's combat range and effectiveness:

Hopefully someone can play with the concept, make something useful out of it.