Shotgun Myths

Rocksalt Load

I love shotguns. They are among the most devastating close range weapons available. Pump actions, autoloaders, or breechloaders—they’re all fun to shoot and highly versatile. However, Joe Biden’s ridiculous comments aside, there are truckloads of Hollywood myths the casual firearms enthusiast hears about these types of weapons. I think its time to clear the air.

You Don’t Have to Aim

Remington 870 Pump Action Shotgun
Remington 870 Pump Action Shotgun

Shotguns do indeed make excellent home defense firearms. I would argue there are better ones, but that is another post. A shotgun is typically reliable, deadly and easy to operate. However, I’ve heard people claim that you don’t have to aim a shotgun. This is obviously garbage. Yes, shotguns do indeed throw projectiles in a pattern that spreads apart the further away the pellets travel. However, the pellets in a shotgun shell don’t begin to spread apart until they travel some distance. Depending on what type of shot you are using, at 25 feet you may get as little as a six-inch pattern on your target. The plastic wad, which holds the projectiles together and increases muzzle velocity, simply doesn’t have enough time to open. Pointing the shotgun in the general direction of an intruder is not only careless, but also less effective. Just like a rifle, a shotgun must be pointed directly at what you intend to shoot.

Racking One in the Chamber

This is a misnomer and something that really gets under my skin—the thought that the sound of a pump-action chambering a shell will scare away an intruder. I’ve heard this from gun shop owners, dealers and private collectors alike. I have no idea where this came from, but this seems like a odious idea. When you chamber a shell in an otherwise quiet house, you just gave the intruder two tactically important bits of information. You gave away your location and the fact that you are home. If the crook didn’t have his gun out and ready, he certainly does now. Instead of fleeing, they may decide to start shooting in the direction of the sound. What could have been a very short; one-sided victory for the homeowner is now a two-way gunfight. This is something I would prefer to avoid. If you loudly chamber a shell and they do happen to run away, consider yourself extremely lucky.

Rock Salt

Rocksalt Load

Old TV westerns and Quentin Tarantino revenge movies can’t be wrong, can they? The gist of the myth is that a shot shell loaded with rock salt makes an especially painful home defense round. While I don’t doubt that getting shot with a load of salt would seriously ruin your day, I stand by the fact that this is generally inconsequential. First, rock salt is not nearly as dense as lead, therefore it makes a poor excuse for a projectile. When you fill a shot shell with a very course grain salt, you’ll notice the shell still feels empty. Very little mass means that those projectiles are going to decelerate very quickly. Outside of about 12 to 20 feet, you are not going to do much but make someone very angry. This brings up another point. If you are in a situation where you have to defend your life, wounding an armed assailant may just buy that person enough time to kill you. Either shoot to kill, or don’t shoot at all.

What are some shotgun or rifle myths you know of? Share with us below and help debunk the myths!

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Comments (58)

  1. Lawinstructor: I am as concerned with penetrating walls and injuring a neighbor as I am with stopping power. The load in the chamber of my Riot King ia an Aguila Minishell, which throws four No. 1 buck (.30″, 40 grains) and seven No. 4 buck (.24, 20 grs) at ~950 fps from an 18″ barrel (I’ve chronographed the otherwise-identical slug load).

    Many Southerners, I’ve read, favor No. 1 for deer; it should penetrate adequately in flesh, yet Box O’ Truth and other tests indicate that it goes through a little less building materials than 00B, and 950 fps will produce less penetration than the advertised 1250. That load at that low velocity (a full-power shotshell would hit that hard at 25 or 30 yards) still produces 650 ft lbs, plenty. I’d rather it was eight pellets of No.1 (3/4 oz), but you get what they give you with factory loads.

    But the Aguilas use the 1 13/4″ shell and they don’t feed.

    We’re warned not to use handloads for self-defense; gives the prosecutor an opening to say we deliberately made more-deadly ammo because we’re a deranged wanna-killer. But it your loads are deliberately less deadly (but still produce adequate stopping power across a room) out of concern for your neighbors, could you defend using handloads on that basis in court after a shooting?

  2. I’m 66 years old but in my younger days me and my friends used to routinely prowl the apple orchards of southern illinois. Back in the 50th some of the owners of the orchards would cruise around looking for us. When contact was made the owner would give us a blast of rock salt from his trust shot gun. The idea wasn’t to kill you or scare you. The idea was to send a message stout of my apple trees. Getting hi with rob salt is unpleasant. It breaks the skin and gets embedded and stings as I mean stings. A shot gun she’ll full.of rock say I’s not a lethal weapon. But if you want to encour a general some to leave your property and stay goes then rock salt will do the tric.

  3. I think the “shoot to kill” reference comes from the mindset of “being invaded,” nationally. That’s a whole other ballgame, though. For home defense, I support what lawinstructor said – shoot to stop the hostilities out of fear for life, not to kill.

    1. Agreed. I see so many keyboard warriors talking about how they would always “shoot-to-kill” any attacker/home invader. All they are doing is opening themselves up for liability. If they are forced to shoot an assailant several times (as is common in self-defense situations) some dirt-bag with a law degree is going to convince a jury that the homeowner was “out for blood” and wasn’t just defending himself, but “intentionally killing the intruder, even after the threat had ended with the first shot”.

      People seem surprised by the fact that nothing ever truly goes away after it’s posted online, and it WILL come up in a criminal and/or civil trial.

  4. Racking the slide only has to work once. 80% of prisoners that were interviewed agreed that their greatest fear was an armed homeowner. Racking a 12 gauge leaves little doubt…of course you still have 5 shells in an extended tube to prove it.

    1. Assuming they don’t just start spraying gunfire from their AK-47 in the general direction they heard the sound come from. You may end up dead before you even see them. Odds are, you are more concerned with collateral damage (or fatalities) than they are.

  5. Chelle–The goal of any deadly force confrontation is to stop the aggressor It is possible a home invader might learn their lesson without being killed. Again, the goal is always to make the invader stop the aggression–not stop breathing!

  6. I promise you that I will not let an intruder leave my home in anything other than a body bag. If I do, and the idiot hurts or kills their next victim, then I am just as much to blame.

    1. Congratulations! You just gave some dirt-bag lawyer what he needs to make sure you lose a civil suit against anyone you kill. You may survive the gunfight, but you’ll lose everything you own.

  7. As a former police officer, for some time, when conducting a search in low or no light conditions with a flashlight, I would extend both arms in front of me and cross them at the wrists, with the wrist of my gun hand resting on top of the wrist of my hand holding my flashlight. During one such search, a fellow officer told me to actually hold my flashlight off to my side. The reason became obvious. The flashlight will give away position, and if a bad guy is intent upon firing on you, what better target than the light you are carrying. If you are holding the light in front of you, in the immediate vicinity of your weapon and the bad guy fires, they are firing in the general vicinity of your face. By holding it to the side, there is nothing behind the light but open space for the bad guy to fire at. Of course, this applies pretty much to handguns. I don’t know that I could accurately handle any long gun with a single hand, while holding a flashlight in the other away from my body.

  8. How about if you own a pump shotgun… ALWAYS keep one racked and the gun on safe?
    Very easy to quietly slip a safety off. Plus you get to keep another shell in the pipe… DUH???

  9. Not sure if this is a myth, or if it is substantiated. Is Silly putty a good home defence round? I have heard that it is dence enough to make a hell of an impact, but I haven’t seen much testing on the subject. What are your thoughts. I found this idea on youtube. There is video of this being tested on objects, but no mesurements are being taken, and it looks to be mostly backyard shooting.

  10. I most certainly hope that you dont consider yourself an expert, most of what you said is correct with the exception of the statement that you shoot to kill After you shoot an intruder and you tell the police you shot to kill the intruder, you will find yourself in a world of legal trouble. As a law enforcement instructor and a firearms instructor for 20 years both law enforcement and civilian I NEVER teach someone to shoot to kill. You shoot to stop the hostile action because you were in fear for your life You delivered accurate fire until the intruder ceased his hostile actions. (the fact that he dies does not matter, you simply shot to stop him as quickly as possible to end the threat)….I certainly hope that you dont continue to preach that MYTH

    1. Exactly. It’s amazing how many keyboard warriors “shoot themselves in the foot” by saying they “shoot to kill”….You know, because it sounds bad-ass or something. In reality, they are just giving some d-bag lawyer everything s/he needs to take everything you own in a civil suit.

  11. From personal experience, I must disagree with you on how far rock salt carries. It will easily break skin, and draw blood EXCEEDINGLY PAINFULLY at 50 YARDS. I know this for a fact, and that’s as much detail as I’m willing to go into on the subject. (grin)

    1. Great! When they return fire I’m sure you’ll be happy to know that they are in a lot of pain as you are lying in a pool of your own blood which is rapidly pumping out of holes made by REAL BULLETS.

  12. @David. If you do not intend on killing an intruder while shooting at them the court may see it as you didn’t feel your life was in danger and question your use of force
    I.e. shooting someone in the leg or arm to stop an attack.

  13. You get that racking a round into any gun from the movies. You have a tense situlation or very dangerous and you put a round into the action. That will not give away your sneaking in will it???

  14. The myth about racking the shotgun betraying your position,when I was a teenager, I crept back into the house one night. I thought I was going going to “get away” with coming back in after curfew(this was pre-cell phone days). Everything was going great until my Dad called my name(being cool I decided not to answer), I quickly stopped caring about being cool, when I heard that 12 gauge pump being racked(my gun at that), I was more than happy to call out my name. I would rather be grounded than dead. In my case that sound got my mind right real quick

  15. Most home burglaries occur during the day when the home is not occupied. There is a big difference between burglary and armed robbery. Most criminals just want something of value and a quick in-and-out. They avoid houses that are near busy roads or don’t have covert entry locations. The main thing a burglar wants is to NOT be caught, let alone get shot, especially here in Texas! I still believe racking a round will cause a burglar to run, not walk, away. Burglaries often go unsolved, because of the quantity and level of offense. The intended burglar knows murder are investigated on a whole different level On the other hand–if someone wants to break in to your home and kill you then you are probably never going to know about it. You’ll just wake up dead.

  16. I have to disagree completely with the article on shotguns. While it’s true that you need to aim them, they are still fierce weapons. I’ve spoken with many, many police officers over the last years, and everyone of them would tell you that nothing disperses a unruly crowd on the street faster than the sound of racking a shotgun. They are better than police dogs. So what works for a crowd won’t work on an individual?

    Also, the author posits that a home intruder upon hearing the racking of a shotgun by a homeowner gives away the homeowner’s position. It sure does, but it also tells the intruder that I’m armed and my weapon is hot. Who’s breaking into these people’s houses – Rambo? I’m sorry but as a criminal defense attorney for nearly a decade and an undersheriff for three years, I can tell you that most burglars or home intruders are cowards who don’t want a confrontation. They want to get in, get the valuables and get out as fast as possible. They hear a shotgun being racked and they’ll be out the front door quick as a bunny.

  17. If you know that the intruder is in the house with the sole purpose of finding and killing you then the racking sound may not be good. For every other instance the sound of the shotgun chambering a round is a good thing. There are so many things that can go wrong if you try to wait for and ambush an intruder. God forbid it’s not an intruder and just a foolish relative (happens a lot). If you are waiting for the intruder you also are not avoiding a gun fight as the author said; you are forcing a gun fight. Just because you have the tactical advantage does not mean it’s not a gun fight with infinite possibilities for things to go wrong.

    Also there are very very very few assailants that enter a house and hear the racking of a shotgun and don’t immediately turn tail and run. If you wish to some how pretend otherwise you are lying to yourself and horribly out of touch with reality. Entering a house with the hope of committing some unknown crime and then hearing that noise somewhere in the darkness will scare the living crap out of 99.9% and the ones that it doesn’t are smart enough to know that whatever they were there for probably isn’t worth the risk of a gun fight with an armed defender with multiple tactical advantages.

  18. Rock Salt is nothing like coarse grain salt – you will not be “dusted” by actual rock salt, you would be seriously and severely injured maybe killed because rocksalt is like gravel except harder.

  19. There is only sound more recognizable that the kachunck of a shotgun and that is the click click click of the hammer of a 357 being pulled back if somebody is breaking into my house they are there to either steal my kids things or hurt somebody both if which I have zero tolerance for and will automatically assume the latter is why you are there , think of this a round of factory bird shot which is probably what most people buy will hurt but if you should have to shoot somebody holding an automatic they will fire back and then what , at 25 feet it will go under the skin about a half inch or so and then you have a wounded armed bear in your house that you have just pissed off

  20. CTD Rob, you wrote in your article.. “Either shoot to kill, or don’t shoot at all.”
    You should know that you NEVER EVER say or write publicly that you should ‘shoot to kill’ a intruder or attacker, not even jokingly… that is basic self defense 101 training. You should go back and edit your article or insert a disclaimer. You shoot to ‘stop a threat’, and the best way to do that is 2 to the chest & one to the head if using a pistol or rifle and a shot to center body mass with a shotgun if that is what you are using. If you don’t modify your article, and someday [Heaven forbid] you have to use your weapon for self defense and do kill some poot misguided fool… then his family’s attorney or even possibly a left-leaning anti-gun assistant District Attorney might just confront you with this article and point out to a jury that you intended to ‘kill’ the intruder / attacker all along, not just stop him… because you have a history in writing of telling people to shoot to kill. You might end-up with a manslaughter charge or having to pay some bad guy’s family for their lost income & affection from their loved-one. Even if you eventually win at your trial, you would most likely be out over $100k in legal expenses and bond to get out of jail while awaiting trial. Just look at how the prosecutors did George Zimmerman down in Florida.. going back years checking on his FaceBook posts and interviewing his friends & neighbors to see if he had ever said anything racial. Showing bravado in a article isn’t worth that risk.

  21. To simply Blast away at someone in the middel of the night is simply a bad idea
    well It could be a drunk neighbor (happened to me)
    a teenager sneaking back home
    a police officer
    a fireman and the list gose on
    Most burglars do not carry Guns as armed robbery is a heck of a longer strech
    Racking a weapon allows all parties to stop ID themselves and defuse a bad situation
    The altertive being arested and possible court and legal fees

  22. One thing that I didn’t see: In the middle of the night, the lights are off, and all you might see is a shadow. Horror stories abound of gun owners killing family members because they heard the noise, went to investigate, saw the shadow, and shot a family member. Racking a round isn’t recommended on this site(?; yelling I’ve got a gun and know how to use it, or John, get the gun, ain’t a good thing either. Going through a dark house; what about a flashlight, or a headlight? what are the pros and cons, the bad guy still sees you, but you can identify who’s there.

  23. Another myth is that you can fire a shotgun without fear that it will penetrate several walls and kill your family in the adjacent room. There are several YouTube videos that show this to be a myth, and demonstrating just how many entire rooms buckshot or birdshot will penetrate before running out of energy.

    Since there are so many opinions about whether or not a criminal will leave upon hearing the mere sound of a racking shotgun, I think someone needs to ask some real criminals what the answer is. I think it will depend on whether the criminal is a non-violent burglar or a gang of felons with a history of violence who are hyped up on drugs. Of course, it’s difficult to perform that kind of psychological analysis at 2am in the dark…

  24. I must respectfully disagree with the “myth” that the sound of a shotgun being racked won’t deter a criminal. Several years ago, I left home in the middle of the night (I was a volunteer firefighter). Within minutes of me leaving, my wife heard the front door open. Thinking it was me returning, she got up to see what I needed. She saw flashlights being waved around in the living room. She reached under our bed and grabbed our Maverick 88, which we kept with 5 in the tube, but none in the chamber. As the lights began to get closer, she stepped out of the bedroom and hit the hall light with her elbow. She found herself staring at two strange men. She immediately racked one into the chamber, and brought the shotgun to bear on the intruders. A split second later they turned and bolted from the house as though their tails were on fire. Fortunately she didn’t have to fire, and no one was injured, but I shudder to think what might have happened if she hadn’t had the presence of mind to have that shotgun in her hands and be prepared to use it if necessary. The truely ironic part of this story is that when we first met, she was petrified of firearms. It was only after seeing how much fun shooting could be by going to the range and eventually hunting with me, she began to want to know more. I am so very proud of my wife, and thankful that she stood ready to defend herself and our son.

  25. As one who has been shot with rock salt at a distance of about 50 yards (I’ve “cooned” a watermelon or two in my day), I can assure you it works just fine at a considerable distance.

    One myth I was surprised to not see here was the myth that laser sites or mounted flashlights give you an advantage against an intruder. Actually, what they do is betray your location while you try to find your target, giving the home intruder the advantage.

  26. I guess popping around the corner with a shotgun that does not have a shell in the chamber is a good plan too, I’m guessing their gun is ready with one in the chamber, and they are a criminal, or you can hope they are like a predator praying on the weak and the sound alone show’s there is much more to lose or gain, or at least go into a bear den with a loaded gun. Just my 2 cents

  27. Wow! Really?
    Shotguns are pointed, unless you have a rifled barrel or rifled slug….it is desgned to “Scatter”, 18″ pump can be manipulated anywhere inside a house….”cat burglars” are not violent, they are thieves, not murderers….somebody doing a “home invation” on the other hand, deserves what he gets……and racking a shotgun LOUD and clear takes away the “element of surprize” for the intruder, and lets those down range know, I’m not playing, and if the intruder does not heed this warning, sucks for him……We as “Home-owners” are not violent by nature, but we will defend our family, we will prevail…..If you live alone or with no kids, fine….but over penitration is an issue in a stick-built home, it is also going to be VERY LOUD in close quarters……hand gun and a very bright light is next to my bed, also have your key-fob near also, hit the panic button for the car alarm, shifts the focus of the intruder, makes a big difference….rock salt? is it snowing?

  28. The whole idea of a rocksalt load was not necessarily to be more painful – they were created to wound but not kill, and wound in such a way that offers the least chance of permanent damage. The embedded salt grains would eventually dissolve in the body if they could not be extracted and they were never meant for “the kill”.

    Not loads that I would recommend for home defense, you want to shoot to kill in that situation. But being the father of two teenage kids, I can tell you you want to verify your target first so you don’t accidentally shoot the wayward teenager thinking to sneak back in at 2am…

  29. Another myth is that you need a 12 ga for home defense when in fact a .410 or 20 ga will do the trick as well. I know the 12 ga is the glory gun for shotguns just as people overpay for Glock pistols when cheaper alternatives will serve your purpose. The key to effective use of any gun is practice and familiarity. If you think effectively hip shooting a shotgun is an alternative then go to the range and try it. Even with practice it can become effective.

  30. Good points all – I don’t like the idea of leaving one in the chamber (although I do it in my carry pistols all the time) but I will have to think about that now. Always thought the idea of rock salt rounds is a little bit of fact and a great deal of BS. I know people that have used rock salt rounds to scare away wildlife and strays. Personally I think a blank would work just as well.

  31. Training, Training, Training.

    The U.S. Military has long held that you fight like you train. I am often frustrated by societies paranoia about guns in general. The more you use any weapon the more its function and deployment becomes second nature… IF … You are going to take on the responsability of owning a weapon and intend its even partial use for home defense you need to take on the proper mindset. 1am-3am is no time for self doubt. Know your home , Know your entries and exits , hang bells on doors and windows with different pitches so you can discern which room or direction the intruder is comming from. reasonably inexpensive are “Snap Caps” (
    )for repated safe loading Cycling and dry firing of your weapon until its as smooth as pu;;in on your pants.

    Heres one I heard … more of a question about something I took to heart years ago … I keep target loads or #7 Birdshot in the .12ga as I was told it is strong enough to decimate a human in 25-50 feet but can hang up in drywall and 2×4’s in order to reduce chances of over penetration into rooms occupied by innocents as at the time I had 4 children of various ages? Does this hold true?

    Thank You for your time ,
    Shawn “Ogre” Imlay

  32. Where did this “myth” come from? I don’t know but I had it confirmed by my brother (who has been a police officer for nearly 20 years). They got a call one night to respond to a break-in. When they got there the intruder was screaming his head off and laying in the bushes next to the house. He had broken his leg scrambling OUT of the window after hearing the homeowner rack his shotgun. The homeowner didn’t have to fire a shot but was able to defend his home.

    As for the rocksalt – you advise against loading rocksalt because these are less than lethal loads, yet CTD sells “less-lethal loads” for shotguns. I keep the first shell in my shotgun with the “2 Rubber Balls”, if you still want to fight after that you’ll be facing double ought buckshot followed by 9mm. If you’re a common crook stupid enough to try my house you won’t be back – if you’re a true bad guy wanting to harm my family you will be carried out (possibly in pieces!)

  33. First off…. a home defense or carry weapon should be loaded with a round chambered. The time it takes to rack a shotgun, pull a slide etc… can be the difference between life and death. I do agree that most criminals want the path of least resistance and many would possibly flee if they though for a second they would be met with opposition….. however, I would rather never take that chance. You never know what/who you are dealing with…… I prefer to not give my location/position away and the element of surprise can be paramount in a defense situation.

  34. Although I do believe that the action on a pump shotgun can be and is very intimidating I also believe most intruders will run if confronted with a firearm no matter the type!! Having a security system will prevent most burglaries too! But the best bet for home defence is a small semi-auto handgun that you can keep loaded and not worry about accidental fire! I personally have a 44 mag revolver. Although big and bulky it has an audible action, relatively easy to handle and will blow a hole through anything!

  35. I agree with everything in this article.
    1. An intruder armed or not deserves no quarter or warning. The only warning they will get from me is muzzle flash.
    2. Anyone that believes you don’t have to aim a shotgun. They have never trained with one.
    3. Why on earth would you turn a lethal round into a less than lethal round????
    Criminals won’t be packing rubbers knives or bullets. Leave the salt in the shakers and the lead in the gun.

  36. Having been a police officer for a decade now and having deployed a pump shotgun many times against criminals, I can tell you the mere sound of a Remington 870 being racked, scares the crap out of most bad guys. I have had had them piss themselves, cry and flat out surrender without ever giving any commands.

    Most criminals break into residences during the day when they hope the homeowner isn’t home. They do not want confrontation. To think a criminal is breaking into a residence looking for a gun fight is ridiculous. Any criminal short of one strung out on drugs or insane is going to hear that racking sound and go find an easier target to hit. And when they hear that racking sound, they may know where you were… After racking the shotgun, MOVE to another location. You still have the tactical advantage. Dial 911 and have the cavalry on their way with lights and siren going. You quietly hold your ground and if the burglar wasn’t smart enough to know to flee, he’s going to get a load of #6’s followed by loads of 0 buck shot until he is no longer a threat.

    To worry that a armed intruder is going to immediately start shooting at the sound of a racking shotgun is like worry someone is going to light fire to my house while I am asleep. It sure can happen, but the odds are far less. I keep my shotgun with 6 in the tube but no round chambered. It is far safer in that condition. I do not feel I loose any tactical advantage by keeping it free of a round in the chamber. Last, you don’t have to make a pile of noise when racking a shotgun. If done gently, it can be rather quiet…

  37. A big advantage of a shotgun over other types of firearm for home defense is that it has stopping power without the ability for a missed shot to travel outside the home. In my town the homes are only a few feet apart and a large pistol shot could easily travel through the walls and endanger innocents in the neighboring homes. A shotgun is a much safer option. Not saying I intend to miss, but in the heat of the moment anything can happen.

  38. Also, one must consider the possibility that there may be more than one intruder in the house already.

  39. There is a myth amongst Democrats that Joe Biden knows what he is talking about when it comers to home defense….

  40. Racking the shotgun is akin to firing a warning shot or yelling “I have a gun”…
    Neither is recommended.

  41. my pump 12 ga is racked and ready to go ~ safety off ~ at all times. …if I wake up after a loooong day and am a little groggy when an intruder comes in, I do not want to waste anytime or in the stress of the situation; forget to flip the safety off when I need to use the weapon.

    I have no little kids in the house and if/when I do have visitors, the gun is put up until they leave….just another part of responsible gun ownership.

  42. The fact is?No intruder wan’ts a fight, unless he is on a vendetta.Are the intruders all going to run? Most maybe, but not all.You don’t want to run into the lower percentile.I am armed and dangerous is the statement you are making.It’s affect is up to the intruder.He may think you are popping a top and join you or spit in your eye.

  43. I own two twelve guage shotguns. One is a pump with a short but legal length barrel. The other is a semi-automatic saiga. I never leave either one with a round in the chamber. I do however load both. My favorite, the Saiga has a loaded magazine in it and I pull to bolt back and fashioned a piece of wire as to hold the bolt back. If I have to use the Saiga. All I have to do is grasp the weapon in the ready position, aim, then with my thumb, push the wire safety off. As soon as I do, the bolt will fly forward and I open up. I do not believe in warnings or warning shots. I do not plan to have to face this piece of crap sometime in the near future, in my home or in court. Once an intruder is inside my home, he’s mine. Outside the home, because the liberal socialists have infiltrated our legal system. There’s always a legal question as to whether you had the right to defend yourself. Example, George Zimmerman. Inside the home at two or three AM, in the state of Florida, there is no question.

  44. I had a guy tell me he uses a 12ga(for home defense) because he can hit anything in his house “blindfolded” because as buckshot leaves the barrel it spreads in one foot (12″ of travel) to 3 feet!!!, I can’t miss, he says…

  45. I was at the Ft Worth CTD looking at AR platforms with a buddy last fall; he’s ex-army infantry, I’m an LE trained sniper; the clerk didn’t know our background. We got to talking with the clerk behind the counter about models and changing out uppers, etc.

    The myth perpetuated by that clerk about the 5.56’s ‘mid-flight tumbling’ as the source of its devastating terminal ballistics was amazing! Yes, the 62gr NATO load fired from a 1:7 twist barrel has a proven record of yawing upon impact. He obviously was overlooking tight grouping rifles ALWAYS print circular holes on paper regardless of range. In fact, elongated/oval holes on paper and growing group sizes are a signal of unstable, wobbly bullets in flight. Did he not know that?

    (I didn’t pose this to the boy but will here: If bullets do tumble in flight and miraculously do strike the intended target, how is it they seem to always get pointed nose first just before striking that deer? And why do they never seem to strike paper/deer/coyotes side-on or base first?)

    1. The first AR-15 by Colt, Model 601, had a 1:14-inch rifling twist. This combined with the Belgium version of the 5.56×45, which became the NATO round, was what you might call devastating. Even the Model 602 with the 1:12-inch rifling, might be considered devastating too.

      When you get to 1:7-inch rifling, it would be hard not to get a circular hole. Unless you are shooting targets, best to have a 1:9+ and the heaviest bullet you can get. The only reason for the 1:7 is that it has to be able to work in arctic conditions too.

  46. I kind of agree with Kicknbak (#3 above). It is true that racking your shotgun gives away your general position. That, in and of itself, reveals that you are home. A shotgun can’t rack itself. As stated, it means that you have a weapon and it is loaded. And very likely ready, able and willing to use it defensively. When the intruder hears that, yes, he knows you are waiting with a loaded gun. It also means he has totally lost the tactical advantage of surprise. One thing criminals fear is failure. They like the deck stacked in their favor be it firepower, physical strength, numbers or surprise. If the playing field is the least bit level, I believe they will likely retreat and search out an easier target. I have read interviews where criminals stated they were more afraid of a homeowner with a firearm than getting caught by the police.

  47. Yeah Kickinback, if only times were like that now. If I were the burglar, I’d be thinking added bonus; kill you, then I’d also have a shotgun.
    you don’t want to shoot anyone with anything BUT…… A factory load which anyone could buy in the store. I will wait while you guys go check your ammo. The reason for this should be obvious. If the liability and burdon of proof wasn’t enough on the shooter already, the D.A. will certainly paint an un-expected problem with your defense. Concocting shotshells, special made for home defense that fire those extreme loads at blistering velocity seems really cool at the dump when you turn an old washer inside out, but in court, it’ll take on a whole different conotation. Actually this advice applies to any firearm.
    We were always taught that you do point, rather than aim a shotgun. Try aiming when the covey rises, or when the rabbit flushes at a right angle.

  48. I just have to add to your list of what you’ve given away when you “rack one in the chamber”. I’m not trying to disagree, but… In fact, you have given away two more very important bits of information. The fact that you do have a gun, and the fact that now it is loaded, cocked, and ready to fire. You only have to picture yourself in the dark, and in the stillness of the night you hear this loud “Kachunk Chunk!” I don’t know about you but it freezes me in my tracks. We RV around the country and my own issuance of that sound has saved us from any further troublesome actions by others of foul intentions a couple/few different times. Glad that I never had to shoot of course, and very relieved that the intruder decided it just wasn’t worth it. If you are looking for a war, you can probably find it these days. However if you’re just trying to diffuse or neutralize a situation, and save yourself all the trouble & turmoil after the fact, then the simple racking of a round into the chamber of any loud actioned firearm in the night, is usually enough to turn most, if not all, evil minded critters to completely forget their plans and worry about their own skin for just awhile. Luckily, in our cases, they were concerned enough to turn away and even in quite a flurry disappear… maybe to at least consider what shape they could have been in right now if they had proceeded. I know I would.

    On another note, that rock salt idea sure did it’s job way back in our childhood days, it was considered a challenge to know where all the melon patches around town were and the fun of ‘cooning melons’ (not to be degrading in any manner, just what it was called) was considered more of an art, carefully planned and timed for ripeness. But that was another time and a much different world. Usually just once with the embarrassment of having your mom pick it out so it would quit burning was quite enough to discourage young mischievous teenagers from visiting that farm again. Sure, the results could have been worse, but ‘after the fact’ was never much considered back then. Much different today. Thanks for the memories and the great article, Roger

  49. Sir,
    Another myth is that a shotgun–or any long arm for that matter–is inappropriate for home defense because there’s no room to swing it properly. Bah!!
    It’s true that there are few rooms in a house big enough for someone to shoulder and swing a shotgun. But the homeowner isn’t shooting ducks, he’s defending his home. All he really needs to be concerned about is the area about the width of his bedroom door and four feet high. If he does venture out into the rest of his home it should probably only be behind a round or two of #1 Buck.

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