Episode-994- Why the Shotgun is the Ultimate Survival Weapon — 45 Comments

  1. Jack,

    Can’t wait to listen to this episode on my way home. I am glad you are covering this topic. I think shotguns are getting overlooked these days in favor of more tacticool weapons for survival. Perhaps those who came before us knew more about shotgun utility than we do today? All of the heirloom guns in my family are shotguns. Maybe there is a reason for that?

  2. Hey! Is that a photo of my shotgun? Winchester 1300 Defender. #4 Buck.
    Looking forward to this show (and am definitly NOT a gun guy), just finished last Friday’s marathon. Great job Jack, hope you completed a lot for episode #1000.

  3. Good topic. I have a shotgun by my bedside.

    I took Mrs. Backwoods to the range to shoot both slugs and buckshot out of our pump shotgun, so she could see the patterns at 7 yards.

    • Hey, I know Creek Stewart. He is a good guy with great skills. He just published a book on BOB’s and did a supporting bookstore tour. He was also on one of the morning news shows, “Fox and Friends” maybe.

      I think he’s made a few improvemts to the gun since that video came out.

      He would be a great guest on TSP.

      His website is
      Willow Haven Outdoor for those of you who are interested.

    • I don’t know Brian, it seams like that stuff he’s got mounted on there would get caught on brush and be difficult to maneuver with. Especially those side mounted shell carriers. Just one more thing to knock off or get tangled in. I don’t even like a scope on my gun at times for that reason.

      I agree the shotgun is the best choice for an all around gun. I think a good addition to that would be a bow or crossbow for silent hunting and reusable ammo. I think silence would be a good asset in an EROL or WROL scenario. I was reminded of this recently when our local duck season opened, you can hear those shotguns go off from quite a distance. Of course a bow isn’t worth much as a home defense weapon.

      Also a good gun to have is blackpowder. If you have the knowledge and a few simple tools you can make your own ammo and powder.

  4. I love my shotgun! I have a fully rifled slug barrel with iron sights for the 11-87. With full gauge/caliber buckhammers i can take out most anything in north america. 28 in shotgun barrel for the smallest, fastest doves.
    20 gauge 870 at the bedside. I actually hunt more with the 20 ga than the 12.

  5. At 53:05 you mentioned an actor who accidentally killed himself with a blank firing pistol. His name was Jon-Erik Hexum.

    • @Roscoe, thanks now I remember where I knew the actor from. The TV show “Voyagers”, only made it one season but I loved that show as a kid.

  6. Jack, glad to see you’re devoting an entire episode to this. I’ve been thinking about getting an AK or AR for quite some time now, and probably will someday, but my shotguns just seem so much more practical if times get tough, or even if they don’t.
    And what about this – lets say in defending my home I, God forbid, had to shoot someone. Would it make a difference to law enforcement, a judge, or a jury if I was using a shotgun vs a tricked out AR-15? Seems like using an AR might give the impression that I was looking for trouble, but the shotgun not so much. I dunno…just a thought.

  7. I have the Remington 12g model 1100 with mag extension and deer slayer barrel very nice set up

  8. Another gun that gets overlooked is a good quality air rifle. They’re quiet, cheap, powerful enough for small game, and you can store a lifetime of ammo for next to nothing. Not powerful enough for home defense, but great for lots of other purposes.

  9. D’oh, just realized I had 18″ and 20″ in that comment, should be 22″ and 28″.

  10. Regardless of the brand of ammunition, my particular shotgun shoots a good 12″ high at moderate ranges. I am planning on swapping out my bead for ghost ring sights. Fast, accurate, and adjustable to compensate for shooting high.

  11. Jack,

    Great show and excellent episode. As a gunsmith I would agree that the shotgun is the best choice for the “survival gun”. There are some elements that I think would help your listeners obtain even more utility from the shotgun. While sometimes controversial, and in some locations illegal, one should not discount flechette or “dime shot” for added capability. There are also pyrotechnical and even “novelty” rounds that have their place. Namely, signal flares, “Dragon’s Breath”, smoke rounds, and a type made by Fiocchi (although I believe to be discontinued) for pure “shock and awe”. An example of the Fiocchi round can be found at:

    I have used this round personally, and it is AWESOME. However, it is extremely dangerous and you need to be VERY careful in using it (after CHECKING YOUR LAWS). If you don’t, you might end up like this guy:

    Personally I don’t believe that any projectile exiting the muzzle of a firearm should be called non-lethal or even less-than-lethal. Maybe it should be called “potentially less-than-lethal”. However, if fired into a group of attackers, the “starburst” shell could have quite a demoralizing effect.

    I would also add that many shooters think they need to drop down to a 20 gauge when a 12 gauge has too much felt recoil. Installing a recoil reducer or “Dead Mule” into the stock can really decrease felt recoil. Many gunsmithing techniques can and should be considered before making detrimental decisions. We have the technology. Let’s use it.


    • Well flechettes are damn deadly and you can buy and load your own but like you said some major liability there. I personally would not do it at least in peace time so to speak. As for dimes that is a myth, it is all but useless.

      • I should have clarified that when I said “dime shot” I was referring to any junk people are willing to jam into the shotshell (staples, rocks, washers, brads, chain, wire, etc.). In the history of this country some of the muzzleloaders used were called “tube guns”. These “tube guns” were filled with all kinds of junk, and you could think of them as maybe a shoulder-fired fougasse? I probably should have just explained it the first time, since there really isn’t a comparable term in modern vocabulary.

        I first learned about “tube guns” when researching family history and learned a great-great-great-grandfather blew his foot off with one. With that said, this isn’t probably something that everyone wants to pursue using in their shotgun. My point was that there are many things someone in a true “survival” situation might need to seriously consider.

        All of these techniques should definitely be considered to be “at your own risk”, and either not used at all (to be in compliance with local laws), or only in the event of dire emergency (post-SHTF).

  12. Fwiw – my father helped defend his workplace (the Sears Inglewood store) during the Watts riots with a Browning Auto – 5 loaded up with buckshot. He never told me if he actually had to use it but I still have that fine old Belgian.
    During the Rodney King riots 27 years later, as we were “getting out of Dodge”, my carpool buddy “deterred” an angry looking group of about 10 -12 “gangstas” that were quickly approaching my car (while stopped at a traffic light) by pointing an extended mag/folding stock 870 loaded up w/ buckshot & slugs out the passenger side window at them. It was amazing how quickly they stopped their advance! 🙂 They stayed put until the light turned green and we were outta there!

    Also years back when we were still in CA I decided to come home early from a elk hunting trip in CO & surprise my wife. As I unlocked & came in the front door,I was met by a growling dog and the sound of a shell being racked in the chamber of my wife’s 870. Being on the wrong end of that weapon is definitely one of the scarier instances of my life and something I’ll never try again again. “That” sound is unmistakable!
    A shotgun has certainly earned it’s place in our defense plans!!

  13. Good luck finding a KSG, and if you do, expect to pay way over msrp until the hype dies and keltec can keep up. Same goes for their high capacity .22 pistol the PMR-30.

    A gun that almost falls into the “under $400, versatile ammo, 50-100yd range, large and small game”, would be the Taurus Judge, with the .410 shell/.45 bullet.

    Although to get 50yd stopping power you will need a long barrel “Raging Judge”, which I’ve yet to see under $400.

  14. Even though you made disclaimers of the episode not being “that good” because of your illness, I think this was one of the best TSP’s so far. It’s nuts and bolts, practical info like this that is invaluable for the survivalist/ prepper community. Jack, you rule.

  15. Thanks for answering a lot of my questions I sent you last week, especially about the less than lethal shot.

  16. While I can’t find any major faults with the episode something did kinda tickle me the wrong way. I won’t deny that the a shotgun is probably the best all around single gun, but with the exception of bird hunting it is not the best at anything in particular. If one is concerned with only owning a single gun for financial or whatever reasons, then it makes sense ..

    But .. why would one chose to limit him or herself to single weapon? Two is one and one is none and all that. We don’t just stock rice, we vary our food storage. We don’t invest everything in 1932 dimes or choose a single type of battery to store. Sure, the shotgun is flexible because of ammo choices but how much of that ammo can one reasonably carry or store? If you can only afford or carry X numbers of rounds, you now have to decide are you going to buy 1/3X in each of shot/buck/slug? How many of each kind of shot, etc? Is 1/3 of X enough of that particular kind of ammo? A shotgun might be cheap to acquire but often you end up paying almost as much for a second barrel and chokes.

    Its flexibility is neat, but ultimately it can be its own downfall as its additive costs start to become higher then just getting a second weapon.

    • Well first of all most people need a first gun as I said. So what if you buy the first gun and before you get to the second and third something goes to hell in a hand basket?

      Second you contention that with the exception of bird shooting the shotgun is the “best at anything” IMO is incorrect. I find it to be best for defensive use in a home invasion scenario. So when it comes to what say an AR or AK does better, mid to long range engagement, what is the average person most likely to encounter. When we remove fantasy Red Dawn scenarios we find mid to long range “defensive” engagement to be highly unlikely for the average person. So for the most likely needs a shot gun is actually best in my view.

      Lastly the point was never to limit yourself by choice to one gun but in reality many things can and might limit you to one gun, at least for time. Such as ammo, how many hands you have, etc.

  17. As a gun nut and prepper I agree that for survival a 12 gauge pump action shogun is the best choice for somone who wants a multi-puropse weapon. Used 12ga. pump guns range in my area from $200 on up, so in the scheme of things they are affordable. I own several and my survival gun is not stock. The first modification i made was shortening the barrel to 18.5″. This is still a legal size but is much handier in tight spaces. It seems short but when done propperly they still pattern reasonably well. The second thing i did was remove the recoil pad and cut the stock down to 12.5″ and then re- install the recoil pad(after sanding it down to fit smooth again), Im a big guy and like a longer gun for shooting clays and hunting but for my tactical/survival gun a shorter stock is much more maneuverable and mounts up well with armor or heavy clothing on. Now that I had the gun trimmed down to the propper size I went to work on the barrel again, I ported it. For those that dont know what porting is, its a series of holes drilled in the muzzle end of the barrel that do multiple things. Porting is done mainly to reduce muzzle jump, gasses escape the holes in the top of the barrel helping to push it down, secondly porting reduces felt recoil, and it also when done propperly can enhance the pattern of a shotgun when using birdshot and slugs. To port the barrel i used ms word to create a pattern of three rows of evenly spaced dots 2″ long. I then glued this to the muzzle of the gun on both sides of the front sight and marked them with a punch, use a a 1/16″ drill to drill the holes. Take your time, you don want to gouge the inside of the bore. Don’t worry about the burrs inside the bore, those go away with the first couple shots. The porting is done, now i took some camo spray paint and put a nice pattern on the gun. Range time is always an enjoyable expirence withe this handy little shotgun and it shoots very well.

  18. Jack,
    Thanks for an “old school” episode! I love the direction you’ve taken TSP in but a throw back like this is why I started listening while you were just a dude talking on his way to work!


  19. I just finished listening to this episode this morning and just have to say thanks! I have a CHL and a handgun, but no good means of home defense so I found all the information given to be very useful. Sounds like for me a short barrelled 20 gauge pump action would be the best option; now I have to figure out two things – where to practice with it, and where to hide it when I’m not home.

  20. this was a great episode. for those looking to pick up a good gun i found my mossberg 500 at big 5 for 300$. it came with both the 18.5″ and 26″ barrel. from what i have heard big 5’s usually always have this combo in stock. it’s a great way to get hunting barrel and HD barrel in the same back, and price-wise it amounts to basically getting a free barrel.

  21. The first (and so far, only) firearm I purchased was a shotgun. I’m probably an outlier in that I opted for a .410, specifically I picked up the Mossberg HS410. Here’s a decent review of it:

    My thinking was that since I was new to firearms, this would be a gentle(r) introduction to shooting (I know, I know, wimpy) in terms of recoil. I was also thinking about ways to reduce the flash/bang in an indoor firing situation, and I remember reading some noise-tests of various firearms, and the 410 was the least-loud after the 22.

    Even if I upgrade to a 20 or 12 gauge at some point, the 410 is ideal for my wife to shoot — she’s petite, and a complete novice, and I know she would not have much tolerance for recoil, and I don’t want to turn her off to shooting.
    So far, so good.

    I know that the .410 is the itty-bitty cousin of the shotgun family, and that with a .410 you can’t get most of the “all purpose survival tool” benefits of a 12/20 gauge shotgun (ammo more expensive and difficult to find, less practical/versatile for hunting, etc.) but for complete gun noobs like me and my wife, it was a reasonable first step for us to take.

  22. Right now all over the country retailers are gearing up for hunting season. Consequently, most of the big box stores have combo kits on sale. You can go to almost any Dicks, Walmart, Cabellas, etc. and pick up either a 500 or 870 combo kit (in 12 or 20, youth model, or full-size). You get a rifled barrel for slugs, longer barrel for birds, and usually a cheap, but functional scope. They are all priced between $300 and $400 (Mossberg slightly cheaper than Remington). Go get the combo kit. Then for between $80 and $120 you can add an 18″ shortened “defensive” or “tactical” barrel (for a 500 the 18.5″ from CTD is $80). For under $500 you then have the very versatile platform described in the show – one capable of home defense, taking birds or small game (shot barrel) or taking larger game with slugs. This is an incredible amount of versatility for the money.

  23. Howdy Jack, Great show and I agree with you 100%. I used to work for Texas Parks and Wildlife. The park officers turned in all their shotguns for credit towards ARs to GT distributors which has retail stores in Austin and Dallas TX. I was able to pick up a Police Magnum 870 from TPWD for just over 200 bucks it had a little rust but works great and shoots everything well. Very diverse gun. Thanks for the great show!

  24. You forgot to mention Saiga 12 and Saiga 20 in place of Benelli M4. $900 guns. Russian made. Also you forgot to mention reduced recoil of the Benelli M4 and Saiga, I am guessing by the videos about 1/4 recoil of a standard shotgun. Also forgot to mention lower recoil of the 18″ vs 24 or 26 or 28″ barrels. Less recoil could be better in defense situations in my opinion. Also maybe worth mentioning is any other enhancements that reduce recoil, such as but plate cushions or whatever. None the less great show.

    I wonder if anyone has made a lever action shotgun? Not that I’d want one.

    • I didn’t forget anything the show was over an hour long, you can’t name every make and model of everything.

    • They are both good guns. If I really wanted something tactical I would go with a KelTec, KSG. Well if KelTec could meet demand on well just about anything they make.

  25. Shotgun Choke Yardage Shotgun Choke Restriction
    Diameter difference between bore and shotgun choke

    Cylinder < 20 0
    Skeet 22.5 .005 of an inch
    Improved Cylinder 25 .010
    Light Modified 30 .015
    Modified 32.5 .020
    Improved Modified 35 .025
    Light Full 37.5 .030
    Full 40 or More .035
    Extra Full 40 or More .040

    Interesting chart here, I’d never heard of improved choke before this show. One thing Jack didn’t mention is adjustable chokes. I have a friend who showed me his 12 gauge with an adjustable choke that you twist to adjust. I’m don’t recall if there was a way to determine on each twist exact amount of choke or not. I’m also not sure if it goes to extra full or only open to full choke. I’d definitely add it to my 12 ga. when I get one. I have a 410 and I’m wondering if I can get an adjustable choke and add it to it somehow. I think it comes as modified choke. Its a Rossi Tuffy 410.