Firearms have been around a long time. In the late 15th century the Ottoman Empire used firearms as part of its regular infantry. There are roughly 400,000,000 guns in the United States.
Your choices for selecting a firearm for personal protection can be a daunting task to say the least. There are pistols of every size, shape, and caliber. If you’ve ever watched an old western movie, you’ve seen the good guy spin a revolver or two in a dazzlingly choreographed manner. Revolvers are often affectionately called wheel guns, for the spinning cylinder that holds the ammunition. Then, there are semi-autos which come in an array of configurations. Single stack, double stack, striker fire, single action, double action and even single action/double action. There are even AR15 pistols. We have rifles, shotguns, and short barrel rifles. The list of choices seems endless.
Once you have made your selection you might think the hard part is over. Oh, and then there are accessories! There are holsters, lots of them. Ammunition comes in all kinds of configurations for different uses. There’s ammo for hunting, target shooting, and personal protection. There is even ammunition that shoots flames or bolo rounds! Don’t forget lights & lasers; scopes, red dots, and open sights.
Hopefully, after reading this article, you will have a fair grasp of the terminology that you will hear while shopping at your local gun shop.
Shotguns have had many different names over the years. The Blunderbuss and scattergun were early variations of the shotgun and were smooth bore (without rifling.) As shotguns evolved and became used more for shooting slugs, rifling was added for accuracy. A shotgun is the most lethal close-quarters firearm. They are forgiving in terms of accuracy and the sound of chambering a round is very intimidating. Different types of shot guns are available.
A breech loading shotgun is one that “breaks” at the barrel and the shells are placed directly into the chamber. Breech load shotguns can be found in single barrel and double barrel styles. The double barrel shotgun can be purchased in either side by side or over/under models. Some models use a combination of shotgun and rifle. Many hunters will use this type gun for hunting turkeys and other small game.
Although not widely used, shotguns have been manufactured as bolt actions, lever-actions, and even styled like a revolver. Fully automatic versions also exist but require special tax stamps to own statewide.
The most widely used and available shotgun variations are pump action and semi-automatic. The pump action has a forestock or fore end that is moved by sliding it forward and backward. This movement ejects a spent round and chambers a fresh one. Most shotgun versions require you to pull the trigger each time a shell is chambered to fire the round. Some models, like the Ithaca Model 37, have what is called Slam Fire. This allows you to pull the trigger once and while cycling the pump, it will fire all the rounds. This is not to be confused with a fully automatic function. Pump shotguns hold their rounds in what is called a tube magazine; the shells are slide one at a time down a long tube that parallels the barrel. For hunting purposes, an inserted “plug” allows only 3 shells to be loaded into the tube at one time. For target shooting or other purposes the “plug” can be removed and up to 10 shells, depending on gauge, can be inserted.
The Semi-automatic Shotguns are able to fire one shell after every trigger pull. There is no need to manually chamber another round. These shotguns work similar to pump action in their manner of loading ad capacity.
There are many shotgun shell rounds available for a variety of uses. One ounce slugs, can deliver over 3,100 ft/lbs of energy. They are most accurate with a rifled barrel shotgun. These rounds are often used for big game in a heavily brushed area as the slug deflects very little as it hits small twigs and branches. BB rounds range from bird shot to 00 buck shot. 00 often pronounced “double aught” buckshot rounds have 9 BBs measuring .330 inch in diameter. Birdshot mostly used for hunting and clay pigeons, lacks the penetration for personal defense. Other rounds available are Flechettes which has small dart shaped projectiles, Bolo Rounds that have two lead balls attached with cord which causes dramatic injury. A novelty round called Dragons Breath, are filled with Zirconium alloy powder. When Fired, the powder ignites shooting flames almost 20’ and is not recommended for indoor use for obvious reasons. Dog popper rounds are blanks for training hunting dogs. Bean bag and Rubber buckshot rounds are typically used as a more non-lethal option. Remember, any round fired from a shotgun can kill at close range.
Up next: Rifles as Lethal Firearms