Friday, March 22, 2013

Basic Guns Part 3: Shotguns

So far we have talked some basics of the series and in Part 2 picked up a good used .38/ .357 revolver. Now we are looking to get a shotgun as our second gun. There is certainly some debate between different folks about which gun should come second (or first for that matter).

Here is my thinking with a shotgun. The reason I would lean towards a shotgun is twofold. They are affordable and versatile. Shotguns cost less than rifles, especially modern magazine fed type rifles. A pump shotgun in hand is a lot more useful than an envelope with $300 saving towards some rifle. Also shotguns are versatile and when you do not have a lot of guns that is important. So there is my thinking for putting it #2, moving on.

To recap the goal here is to get a basic gun that fits a tight budget but is still a good solid weapon to bet your life on. The distinction between this and the cheapest guns out there is significant.

I strongly recommend purchasing a pump shotgun. They hold several (5-8) shells are affordable, rugged and fairly modular.  With the same gun you can defend the home, hunt little birds, various pot sized stuff and big game then do all manner of recreational shooting. They might not be perfect for any of these tasks (except the birds) but can do them all decently. Shotguns are sort of like any other jack of all trades in that regard.

There are two pump shotguns I recommend; the Remington 870 Express and Mossberg 500. I've compared them recently and both are good guns. For our purposes here the Mossberg tending to be $50-75 cheaper than the Remington would be an advantage.

In Southern Arizona today you can regularly find a good used Mossberg 500 for about $300. Used guns tend to be expensive here since most of them are probably bought by straw buyers and shipped to Mexican cartels so a bit less is probably reasonable in other places. Remington 870's can be found at the same type of prices but either they are in a bit rougher condition or you would have to wait awhile to find a deal.

For barrel length you want 18.5-20 inches for defense and whatnot. If you hunted you would already have a long barreled shotgun. Follow the local used gun stuff places and eventually you can find a long barrel (or potentially a whole nother gun) at a good price. A shotgun with short and long barrels can do a whole lot of things. If I had to have 1 barrel it would be a 21" barrel that took chokes but that's a rare or custom job. Between an 18.5-20" or a 28" hunting barrel it would be a short barrel for sure. 

I recommend purchasing a 12 gauge with a 3" chamber. That way you can shoot almost every 12 gauge round out there. There are 3.5 in shells but aren't many in circulation and the guns that shoot them are a lot less common. Twenty gauge is an option but the shells are a bit less common. They recoil less which is an advantage for some. Honestly being a healthy averageish sized man with some weight behind me and muscle to pad my shoulder joint this isn't a concern. It is my opinion that this is a training issue and there are many small people who shoot 12 gauge shotguns. Personally I would suggest folks in that situation buy a youth sized gun, fit it with a serious recoil pad and shoot low recoil shells out of a 12 gauge instead of getting a 20. However a 20 is still a fine option.

There are other cheaper models of shotguns out there. I have not used and can not possibly discuss all of them. While I will not say they are all worthless junk I certainly will not recommend them. The only exception is the Maverick 88 which is the Mossberg budget brand. They are almost identical to the Mossberg, the difference is fit, finish and furniture, and as far as I know parts are compatible. For goodness sake you can get a Mossberg 500 or Remington 870 for a very good price.

It is worth touching on other configurations of shotguns. There are no well reputed consistently reliable semi automatic shotguns in our price range so that's not worth discussing. Single and double barrel shotguns are worth discussing. Bottom line in the do a lot of things including defense role they are not so good. For hunting and survival they are fine. In particular they offer a real value and can take cartridge adapters which is  pretty handy. I'll own one in the next year but for defense they fall woefully short. Do you really want 1 or 2 shots instead of several? The answer is hell no. Specifically to double barrels. Typically a double barrel worth owning can be sold for enough to get a decent pump gun which is probably a good idea unless it is a family heirloom. That leaves us with low end (but still functional) double barrel's and single barrels. My thoughts are twofold. If you ALREADY OWN one of these guns then it might be worth keeping. It can be your shotgun for awhile and down the road get a vastly superior pump gun and keep the older gun as a backup. If you do not own one then save another hundred bucks or so and get a good pump gun. You will not be disappointed.

For a little bit more money. This came up in the last post. If a person wanted to spend a bit more money I would recommend an older Remington 870 Wingmaster. They are blued which is a better finish than the Express and have a better fit and finish. The Wingmaster is the gun which made the Remington 870's reputation. If you are patient and toss in a couple more twenties it is a very nice gun.

Beyond just the gun. My basic shotgun setup would be:
Remington 870/ Mossberg 500
Buttstock shotshell carrier
Something to hold more ammo. I use an old SAW pouch.
750 rounds of ammunition:
250 rounds of buckshot. Folks like different sizes, I favor #4 buck but 00 buck is fine too. Honestly it doesn't matter. If it says 'buck' it is good to go.
100 slugs
400 rounds of mixed game loads 5, 6 and 7/8 shot.

Well those are my thoughts on that. Hope it gives you something to think about. As always input is welcome.


Brass said...

One of Rawles's readers had an interesting idea: use a bandoleer to hold 5-round boxes of slugs/buckshot.

LyndaKay said...

Have just printed this out for DH and I to review and discuss. Thanks for the good article and your listed shotgun package. These articles are so helpful.

Ryan said...

Brass, So you would have to get into the bandoleer then fumble into the box? I'll stick to my old SAW pouch.

LyndaKay, You are welcome and I am glad it is helpful. If you want to discuss any of this drop me a line at

Anonymous said...

Very lightly used 870 Express 12 ga. with 28" vent rib barrel private sale at gun show: $225.

20" barrel with rifle sights and choke tubes from barrel guy at the same gun show: $75 and the 28" barrel.

Having zero debt that frees up rat-hole money for targets of opportunity: Priceless.


Ryan said...

H, It's so hard to speak of prices beyond the regional level.

Great find!

Anonymous said...

Agreed, Ryan, and locally that was a below average price. But, a little luck is due every man now and again. The trick is, to plan ahead far enough to be able to strike when the opportunity presents itself.


Ryan said...

H, I agree. Some trades/ purchases you probably lose a little bit, some are even and every once in awhile you win. Often those wins are short notice or not exactly what you are in the market for. Either having a dedicated fund of a few hundred bucks for deals that pop up or being in a place where that flexibility is in the general fund is smart.

Anonymous said...

Let's see...

* Heavy, bulky ammo
* Short range
* Ineffective against even the cheapest armor
* Crap sights
* Crap accuracy
* Awkward, slow reloads

So why would I want to buy a shotgun again?

Anonymous said...

Let's see, why a shotgun...okay:

1) Significantly (with a capital "S") cheaper than a rifle
2) Significantly less likely to be legislated into illegality
3) Massive damage at short range. Can't penetrate armor? If guys with body armor busting into your home is a daily concern, it's time to move to a better zip code. Also: slugs. Problem solved.
4) Ammo that is actually available in the here and now, at prices that don't require a second mortgage
5) Spread (small though it is at close range) aids in hitting what ails ye
6) Far less likely to attract over zealous prosecutorial attention in some jurisdictions than a rifle
7) Cumbersome reloading system? If you either a) can't hit with 7+ shells at close range, or b) can't stop what you just hit with 7+ shells at close range, reloading is not your primary concern at the moment. (See body armor, above)
And finally,
8) Nothing says "it's on" quite like the sound of a shotgun being racked

So yeah, why not a shotgun for the average Joe?

Rastus McGee said...

good call on the pump part, weather a rifle or shotgun, more reliable than other wise, this also goes for 22cal in pistol or rifle, "milk carton" 22 bull it's wont work well in a lot of autos so a pump action seems better. Besides I think the most chilling sound in the world is that of the slide being worked in a pump!

Anonymous said...

Every gun show we have around here, one dealer sells 18" bead front sighted Remington 12 gauge barrels for $75. Have a Parkerized, dull finish. Not a bad buy at all for your 870 equipped bird hunter.

Ammunition for 12 and 20s is higher cost but nothing like the 5.56 and 7.62 military rounds - crazy expensive. I saw $6 5 round boxed 00 Remington green and yellow box at same show.

Anonymous said...

As an alternative the H&R Pardner at
Academy and other places at under $200 is a reasonable purchase. It's basically a clone of the 870 but made from a solid billet (it's milled). NOT a hunting shotgun but definitely a riot gun. The Pardner will take some of the furniture of an 870 (side saddle with dremel action on the slide, minor mod). Don't bother with tube extensions, not gonna happen.

Good points, thanks.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Popular Posts