If you’re thinking about buying that first gun, but are not sure which way you should go, consider the shotgun. Since its early days, the shotgun filled several roles, as it does today. It remains the only firearm capable of fulfilling nearly all functions of a gun, with very few exceptions.
A shotgun is so darn useful because of its ability to shoot a wide range of ammunition. Shotgun shells fill just about every role you can think of. Birdshot shoots a large number of smaller pellets that cover a wide area, allowing the shooter to hit a bird or clay disk while it flies through the air. Buckshot, on the other hand, shoots a smaller number of much larger pellets. These heavier pellets hit with more energy as buckshot typically utilizes more propellant in the shell casing. Buckshot is suitable for home defense as well as large game, such as deer. The downside to both birdshot and buckshot is range. Outside of 40 or 50 yards, the damage caused by smaller pellets is very limited. For engaging targets that are around 100 yards, slugs are useful. A shotgun slug is one of a variety of projectiles that cause heavy damage due to their large singular projectile.
For most of us, price is always a factor when selecting firearms. Luckily, shotguns are predominantly inexpensive. They are among the most affordable guns on the market, and you don’t have to sacrifice functional quality when you buy cheap guns. A basic model pump-action 12-gauge will run you less than $200, and it will run like a top.
Another reason for owning a shotgun that many overlook is legislative protection. Handgun and rifle gun laws are always trickling down with varying success. However, even in countries where handguns and most rifles are illegal, you can still own a shotgun. For example, in the United Kingdom, their government prohibits owning virtually all handguns and semi-automatic rifles, with few exceptions. However, shotguns are still legal with a certificate. In many countries with the strictest gun laws, shotguns are still perfectly legal, allowing the general population some level of personal protection.
Most basic shotguns are also modular. A 30-second barrel change can transform your shotgun from a short home defense role to a bird-blasting field gun. The popular Remington 870 and Mossberg 500 lines have endless after market accessories you can use to tweak your shotgun into whatever role you want it to play. Grips, stocks, rails, lights, lasers, and red-dots are all readily available and easy to install.
Shotguns are so effective that during the First World War, the German government issued a protest stating that the Winchester 1897 pump-action shotgun should be illegal, citing that it was too deadly and caused unnecessary suffering to their troops. The Germans also felt it was unfair that Allied soldiers who were skilled at trap shooting and bird hunting would blast enemy hand grenades out of the sky before they landed in their trenches.
Almost a century later, ask the gun experts this hypothetical question: If they could only own one gun, what would it be? Most of them would give you two answers—either a .223 AR carbine or a pump shotgun. I would choose the latter, since you really can’t hunt upland birds with a carbine. If western civilization fell, a reliable pump action shotgun would provide protection, food, and peace of mind to its owner.