With the current state of the world, there are many new preppers in America. With them, there are many new shotgun buyers. We would like to welcome you to our world. In the past, we have covered down on some pretty good prepping topics here on the Full30 Blog. Here at Full30, a good number of us on the team believe in the philosophy of prepping. We follow channels like Readyman Media, and Sootch00 for that exact reason.
With that in mind, here’s our complete guide to buying your first shotgun.
Why Have a Shotgun if You’re a Prepper?
As a prepper, owning a shotgun would seem a no-brainer, but if you’re like me, my focus has always been on rifles, with a pistol as a backup. But prepping is about doing without, stretching your supplies and making do with what you have. We dwell on the eventuality of a failure followed by a collapse of civilization, or on a more practical level, a loss of manufacturing and services we rely on for our day to day living.
We expect to live off-grid, because we assume public power, water, sewage and trash collection will end quite abruptly. It is right to conclude that all manufacturing will come to an end as well. Rome fell, not because of invasion, but because the last invaders broke the aqueducts and that city of one million people were without water. The population dropped to a few 10’s of thousands in just a very few weeks. It was nearly 1000 years before another city, London, reached a population of 1 million again.
A shotgun fits very well into this philosophy. When it comes to firearms, shotguns have a history that stretches back very nearly 200 years, and are not principally much more advanced than flintlocks, which date back another 200 years.
The durability of a shotgun is absolutely incomparable to a rifle. Shotguns have been said to endure hundreds of thousands of rounds passed through them with little or no maintenance. You cannot say this about rifled barrels, which will begin to lose accuracy after 1500 rounds or less.
The breadth of ammunition that can be used in a shotgun is also unmatched by any rifle, from simple bird shot, through many steps of pellet size, to solid slugs, to dragon fire and the list of exotic shot projectiles is too long to list.
Shotgun versus Rifle for First Time Buyers.
A rifle is about putting a lot of energy in a specific place accurately at long range, typically greater than 100 yards. Shotguns are about being up close and personal. A double 00 pellet is a .330 caliber projectile and typically travels at about 1300ft/s. It is NOTHING to laugh at. Your front door, table, car door, or the walls of your home, will not protect you. In close quarters combat, some would argue in favor of a shotgun rather than a rifle because of the larger shot pattern and lethality.
On top of this, there is a wider variety of ammunition available for shotguns when compared to rifles. With rifles, you generally only have a couple of different types of ammunition. All of those different ammunition types generally all do one job, shoot far, shoot fast, and shoot accurate. With shotguns however, there is a lot of variety. You have everything from 00 Buck all the way to crazy rounds like Dragon’s Breath out there.
For a good example of the types of shotgun rounds out there, we highly recommend checking out a some of the videos our creators have produced. There’s a reason entire videos are made about individual round types in the world of shotguns.
Shotgun versus Pistol for First Time Buyers.
While certainly a deadly weapon, one must concede that a pistol is a delicate application of deadly force. A single shotshell of 00 buck contains 9 pellets that weigh about 54gr each. That’s the weight of many 9mm rounds. Nine pellets delivered at close range at 1300ft/s is the equivalent of emptying your entire pistol magazine into your target, but with a single trigger pull.
Your main advantage in carrying a pistol is concealment. Your primary advantage to having a shotgun is devastating firepower at short range up to 25 yards and very effective stopping power at 50 yards and an ability to seriously wound and with a bit of luck, kill fools standing in the open at 100 yards, depending on your shotgun and the shot load you use. A secondary advantage is a shotgun is a superior bludgeon weapon compared to a pistol.
That said, depending on your environment, you may decide you need a weapon with you at all times. In that case, a pistol may be the better option for your self defense needs. Shotgun’s are far larger than handguns in every circumstance. Even the smallest legal short barreled shotgun is going to be massive when compared to a pistol. With that in mind, You need to decide what your weapon is needed for before you make the purchase. Then, purchase accordingly.
A Lifetime Supply of Ammunition.
Post-apocalypse, one cannot reasonably hope to manufacture shells, so getting a lifetime’s worth of use from any amount of shells you can hope to accumulate pre-apocalypse, is prudent planning. 1000 shells is not an unreasonable volume to acquire, store or even carry. This is one shot per day for nearly three years. (I hope you don’t plan to give away your position that often) The Winchester SS HS (high strength) shells have been demonstrated to yield more than 13 reloads per shell hull before the ends begin to frey. A thousand hulls could give a small community a lifetime supply of shells. Something to think about if you’re considering buying a shotgun strictly for prepping purposes.
Reloading Brass vs Shotshells.
Shot shells can be reloaded with very simple hand tools, no loading press is required. These tools are small enough to be carried in a pocket or backpack and used in the field. When short of components, shotshells can be filled with ad-hoc materials, ball bearings, small nuts and bolts, even rocks rather than standard lead balls. As long as one has gunpowder, shells and wads, there will always be ammo.
Everything You Need to Know about Shotgun Shells.
Shells are what goes into your shotgun. Almost anyone who has watched anything from a western to an action movie has seen this type of ammunition. What is not as commonly known is what’s in them. Here are the main components of a shotgun shell. It’s worth noting that some of these items may vary based on the type of shell used.
When the firing pin strikes the primer, it flashes and ignites the gunpowder charge inside the brass part of the shell. The wad, or sabot if it has a cup, is propelled out of the shell case, opening the top and it and the projectile(s) are discharged down the length of the barrel. The wad/sabot generally separates from the projectile(s) due to air friction and falls away.
Here’s a handy image guide that can help you with Shot Sizes.
Let’s not Forget Mini-Shells!
Standard 2 ¾” shells (above) are well known to all, but there is another class of shotshell that really bears consideration for preppers, and that’s the mini-shell. The mini-shell economizes both powder and shot, and this is an obvious bonus, while only marginally reducing overall effectiveness.
When your longer shells start to wear, they can be trimmed down to minis, and the reload life of your shotshells extends even farther.
Reviewers have given the mini-shell a bad rap because they don’t often cycle well in most actions, so let’s settle that issue first by talking about the OPSol Mini Clip, which is hard silicone insert that fits into the receiver and allows flawless cycling of mini-shells in any shotgun. When not using mini-shells, the OPSol can be easily removed and the weapon returned to use with full case sizes. Problem solved. Kudos to OPSol!
It’s also worth noting, that when you’re buying your mini-shell adapter, you need to be careful. There are a lot of people who imitate the OpSol product on Amazon. Make sure you are doing your due diligence. Always buy your OpSol products directly from OpSol to keep yourself from getting some Chinesium knock off!
Choosing Your First Shotgun.
Prime features for any shotgun should be; ease of carry, lightweight and I would say, high capacity. There are a few things you need to understand about shotguns before you go off making your first purchase half-cocked. You need to understand what actions exist for shotguns. You also need to understand the different gauges of shotguns that are currently on the market. We’re going to break that down here so you can make an informed purchase. Then we’ll send you off with some of our recommendations for tried and true shotguns.
Types of Shotgun Actions.
There are several action types that exist in the world of the shotgun. The most important ones that you need to know are hand-fed, pump action, and auto-loading. Each type has a specific use scenario, and it’ll be up to you to make the best decision according to your specific needs.
This is the shotgun equivalent to bolt action for a rifle. The barrel is exposed by unlocking a hinge mechanism, a shell is inserted and the hinge closed and locked again, making the weapon ready to fire. This is the slowest action of all shotgun types, but it does server a purpose. You may be asking yourself what that purpose could possibly be, but this again comes down to your location. You may live in a country that only allows hand-fed style shotguns. Again, we don’t know where you’re reading this from.
Pump Action Shotguns.
Pump action of a shotgun is a bit different than a semi automatic pistol or rifle, in that the user is required to manually cycle the breach with a pull-push action of his hand under the barrel of the gun to load a shell into the chamber after discharging the firearm. One might say this is a step between hand feeding and automatic … it’s half automatic, or just manual. Either way, the sound of a pump action shotgun being cycled is one that is universally known thanks to pop-culture.
As the name implies, the action automatically loads the next shell after the trigger is pulled. This is like a classic semi automatic rifle or pistol. This style of shotgun can most often be found on the competition shooting range. With that said however, it’s still a viable and awesome to use shotgun for tactical purposes. Weapons like the Mossberg 930 and Benelli auto-loader have seen use in every major conflict since their inception. And, they have been successful there.
What’s the Difference in Shotgun Gauges?
Rifles are categorized by diameter of their bullets, or caliber. Shotguns are categorized by the diameter of their barrels, called gauge. Shotgun gauge is rather like wire gauge, the smaller the number, the greater the diameter. This reverse relation comes from counting the number of full sized lead balls rolled through your barrel that would weigh one pound.
So, a 12 gauge would have the largest balls. Twelve balls … 12 gauge. A 20 gauge shotgun would accommodate smaller balls, more of them would be required to weigh in at one pound. The 12 gauge is the most popular, the 20 gauge is generally used for smaller, lighter shooters, but is still a capable defensive weapon, but there is also a 410 gauge shotgun, which oddly enough is measured like a rifle caliber, in inches. There are others, 10, 16 and 28 gauge for example, but 12, 20 and 410 are the most common.
Shotguns we Recommend for Fist Time Buyers.
There is NO shortage of shotgun manufacturers, makes, models, variations, or accessories. You could literally make a career of cataloging them and keeping up with every new item reaching the market. I won’t try to influence you too much except to point out a couple of models, a tried and true classic, and a personal favorite.
We have done entire guides to company shotgun lineups. Guys like Mossberg and Remington have been in this game for a long, long time. And, coincidentally, they know exactly what they are doing. Here’s our top picks.
The Remington 870.
Generally acknowledged as a classic modern shotgun. Pump action, offered with 21”, 26” or 28” barrel length with an overall length of up to 4’. Capacity varies from 3+1 to 7+1 (in the tube magazine + one in the breach). 11 million of this exact shotgun have been produced since 1950. Remington offers 26 variants of the 870 on their website. Needless to say, there’s a style of the 870 for you.
On top of all this however, the Remington 870 has some serious service history to it. In fact, it has been one of the most widely used shotgun by law enforcement departments throughout the United States of America. It has seen real life gunfights, and saved lives in the process due to it’s reliability as a modern combat shotgun. If you’re really looking for a solid choice, you cannot go wrong here.
The Mossberg Shockwave – The Only Non-Shotgun on This List.
The Mossberg Shockwave checks these boxes and then some for the primary features I listed above. Coming in at just under 26.5” with a 14” barrel, this 12 gauge pump with a 5+1 capacity of standard shells and 8+1 with mini-shells and bird’s head pistol grip, the Shockwave screams close quarters combat. Its firearm classification does not require a special tax stamp, which is a bonus for those on a budget. (It’s not technically a Shotgun.)
While a Shockwave may not be a first choice among shotguns or rifles to be used as a bludgeon weapon during close quarters combat when you run out of ammo, because of it’s small size and lack of full size butt, it is a light-carry and is easy to conceal. It’s open choke allows for any kind of projectile, from steel balls to rocks.
The Shockwave is not for the novice shooter. It’s lack of a full butt to brace into the shoulder while firing means you’ll need extra practice to wield this weapon with confidence in a combat situation and a bit of upper body strength would not be amiss when handling this stockless shotgun with full size shells. The bird’s head handle can be replaced with an arm brace that can be shoulder mounted for greater stability and accuracy. Mossberg offers 13 different variants of the Shock wave on their website.
You can read a really great review of the Shockwave over on Student of the Gun here.
The Mossberg 930 Auto-loader.
Mossberg’s auto-loader comes in a variety of different styles. There are four initial styles of 930 that you can choose from, Hunting, Tactical, JM Pro-Series, and and Pro-Series Sporting. Within each of these styles, there is a number of variations that allow the end user to ensure they are choosing the specific shotgun for their needs.
In total, there are 20 different versions of the Mossberg 930 for you to choose from. Each model has it’s own specific design with a specific task in mind. Mossberg has gone out of their way on this shotgun to ensure that there is a tailor-built auto-loader for just about every purpose you could think of.
You can check out our full review of the 930 here.
Saved Rounds and Conclusion.
The physics and technology behind shotguns have been with us for nearly 400 years. You might think that choosing one to fit your needs would be simple, but you would be surprised. There is a great deal of passion behind this category of guns and no shortage of creativity has gone into every detail of the weapons themselves and ammunition that can be used with them.
Any weapon is going to be a costly purchase and a costly hobby if you want to maintain a reasonable level of skill. Take your time shopping around and learn as much as you can before making your purchase.
As a first time buyer, especially if this is your first gun purchase, please consider a trigger lock, gun safe or strong box to store your ammo separate from your weapon, especially if you have children, including teenagers, living at home with you.