What Ever Happened to the Police Shotgun?

Without appearing to be retrograde, what ever happened to the shotgun, the primary backup weapon in which I was trained?

The reason I ask this is because many of you who follow my blog know that I have been concerned about the use of deadly force by police in situations in which a suspect did NOT have a firearm and the lack of options officers have in these situations.

According to available data, up to 1/3 of police fatal shootings involved such a situation.

While we have talked about using 40mm shoulder-fired “bean-bags,” or other soft projectiles in these situations, their availability to street officers is very limited. So why not bring back the shotgun and buckshot rounds that could be fired into an assailant’s low extremities with a less-than-fatal outcome?

Wouldn’t it be better to wound a disturbed person who is threatening you and others with a knife or club than have to take that person’s life?

Consistent with most firearms training protocols today, shooting a person multiple times “center-mass” with a firearm is almost always a fatal outcome.

#00 Buckshot (9 pellets, approx. 32 cal.)

So, why not the shotgun? In my days as a police officer, I was trained to shoot low using a 12 gauge shotgun with #00 buckshot. I was even trained to “skip” buckshot off the pavement into the legs of a threatening person with the intention that these acts would take-down, but most likely not kill, a threatening person who is NOT armed with a firearm (although raising the barrel of my shotgun to “center-mass” within a range of 10 yards most certainly would put any person out of commission.

I think about all the videos I have watched over the past years of officer-involved shootings and how many of them could have resulted in a suspect’s injury, but not death, if a shotgun with buckshot had been used.

Secondarily, the shotgun can be also used non-lethally as a “bayonet-like” weapon using butt-strokes, smashes and thrusts to disable a threatening individual. (Most of us who served in the military are very cognizant of the variety of ways a “long-gun” can be used in one’s defense. See HERE at 1:56 min. — the suspect lived, no shots fired!)

Is this something that needs to be discussed among police trainers, officers, and their leaders? It seems to make sense to me.

For example, here are three patterns: #00 buckshot pattern dispersal at 5, 10 and 15 yards.

Note: #00 Buckshot consists of 9 pellets in a shell case. See picture above.

Pictures of pellet spread comes from this site.

Here are some tactical articles on the subject:


  1. Love the links you posted in this article. The problem is that the author of all those links is employed by the NRA which is the same organization that wants to get rid of or eliminates strict gun laws. Amazing the police have to depend on organizations like the NRA to provide training and research in areas like the shotgun.

    I believe another reason why the police are replacing their shotguns is because they are complaining about how the criminals have all the latest greatest weapons; therefore, they must keep up with the arms race when dealing with the criminals.


  2. Shotguns loaded with 00-buck are extremely gruesome to be shot with at close ranges…the idea of shooting someone in the lower extremities with a scattergun is a hoorible idea because shotguns are known to have the power to decapitate limbs because of the size of the payload being sent down range. The beauty of a shotgun is the versatility. Being able to load with buckshot for close range fight stopping, slugs for medium range stopping power out to 100 yrds and then theres less lethal loads that can be used for unarmed indivuduals like beanbags and what not. I would much rather be shot with a .223 or 5.56 rifle than be hit with a shotgun loaded with buckshot at close range. Looking at buckshot as a less lethal alternative is kindof asinine in my opinion.


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