A scattergun is an ideal short range weapon; a rifle is the biz when you have to reach out and touch a distant bad guy. Then again, it’s AR all the way for the po-po’s taking out psychos nested amongst a crowd of innocents (e.g., an active school shooter scenario). Or is it? .223 bullets are the gift that keeps on giving. And if we’re talking about johnny-on-the-spot armed response, cops gotta use whatever they got. And a shotgun with a slug (a rather large projectile) is good out to 50 yards and then some. So . . . what’s any of this got to do with bad guys [supposedly] up armoring? Which is, after all, the reason the police always give for ditching their shotguns for ARs. Here’s an idea: why don’t the cops carry both?

39 Responses to Police Shotgun RIP?

    • That’s weird, I know 12 year old kids who can use both a shotgun and a rifle with iron sights accurately… It really doesn’t take much to learn how to quickly and accurately use a gun.

      I assumed it was because giving cops both a rifle and a shotgun isn’t allowed because cops work for the government, and the government doesn’t want to make sense unless they are forced too.

      • Yeah, but those twelve year-olds you have in mind probably shoot much more often than most cops. I’m also guessing the ammo for those twelve year-olds didn’t just appear out of thin air. I’m not arguing the inherent usability of a firearm, just that it requires time and money to learn to shoot. Furthermore, I’d like the think that departments would require a little more than simply hitting steel from a bench at 100 yards. You don’t have to read this blog for very long to realize that individuals without adequate training typically suck at shooting under pressure. Give anyone a box of ammo and and hour at the range and I’m sure they’ll hit minute of bad guy with a modern rifle. I’d hope that you’d like to see a little more than that out of your law enforcement, however.

        • I’m just saying, I know young kids who can probably pass a police officers weapons training pretty easily, with a pistol, rifle, or shotgun. If I had a choice between all officers being armed with all 3 of those, or officers armed with 1 pistol, and tactically trained for 1 rifle, then I honestly don’t know which one I would want to happen. All I know is if the cop has to shoot someone outside my home, I’d rather he/she would be using a shotgun with birdshot or buckshot then a slug or a rifle shot.

      • Re cost:
        1) They already have the shotguns, why not keep them.
        2) There is an alphabet soup of post-9/11 agencies that would be happy to give every bumblefuck jurisdiction a pallet of M-16s with their tank.

        • TTACer: If they’re getting them free, then yeah, the only downside is training costs (assuming they train them, hopefully).

          David: I agree 100%. I think the better question is “barrier penetration or frangibility?” In a police environment, the latter gets my vote.

        • The police are in an arms race against the civilian populace. Granted, rifles are rarely used in criminal activities due to the concealability issue, but if/when the government gets too big for it’s panties and decides to start disarming the citizens, they will want to be armed effectively for the revolt that will ensue.

  1. I started my LEO career in 1981, when the only longarm for almost all police was the shotgun. I have studied this for a long time. We first looked at pistol-caliber rifles, like the short-lived HK 94 semi auto rifle, as an answer to the real problems with both usage and training for most officers with the shotgun. While techniques and some equipment has improved, the reason a long arm is needed really points to the use of a carbine over a shotgun. The point of it all was to have a firearm that extended the reach (and maybe the power) of the shooter past that of their handgun. Otherwise, why bother ? Likewise, the usage of 9mm sub guns or carbines has diminished as .223, with frangible loads, has been shown to be less penetrative of walls than most 9mm. While the shotgun still has a place in the arsenal, its limitations make it the second, not first choice, in law enforcement now.
    Obviously, this is my personal opinion, but backed by 30 years of usage and training hundreds of officers.

  2. In my metro they sorta already do. There’s at least 2 on the street per precinct at any time. As Homeland TotalitarianismSecurity, continues to waste billions and up-arm the police, my coppers expect to have one each over the next few years.

    Interestingly, “scatterguns only” in the rack. Ms in the trunk. They don’t want to advertise exactly what’s going on.

  3. A buddy of mine from college became a cop in the metro Atlanta area. Officers could choose to keep either a .223 AR-platform carbine or an 870 with them in the car. Initially he decided the AR because 1) that was the platform he was most familiar with, 2) he didn’t “want the liability of a scattergun”, and 3) tests from the Tucson PD had just come out showing that out of a variety of typical police weapons, 12 gauge has the most potential for over penetration through interior walls, while .223 had less potential than most pistol rounds. He has since qualified with the 870 and carries both in his patrol car.

  4. You can always load a shotgun with beanbags for crowd control. An AR – not so much. Wonder if anyone is thinking about that.

    • At least for the local police department in my area, they have specifically designated less-than-lethal shotguns with a bright orange stock and pump.

  5. I’ve never worked in Law Enforcement, so ill qualify the following with that at the beginning.

    IMO, police don’t need an AR15. With proper training a person can make a ranged shot with a pistol at over 50 yards-Air Force SP Andy Brown took out a rifle armed bad guy at a military confirmed distance of 70 yards with his 9mm FMJ equipped Beretta pistol. With proper training-read, more than twice a year qualifications of 100 rounds apiece-a police officer can use a Glock to do the same thing, as long as the trigger isn’t artificially heavier due to perceived legal reasons.

    Since this shift requires police agencies to fund expensive pistol training, im not holding my breath for a paradigm shift to LE weapon accuracy instead of more hardware.

  6. I don’t have stats to back this up, but my impression of officer fatalities it is mostly easily avoidable traffic “accidents,” followed by domestic violence/crazy person calls, with no-knock raids and their fellow officers tied for a distant third. Active shooter and bank robberies like the North Hollywood Shootout in 1997 and the 1986 Miami Shootout (quick, name another one) are rounding errors.

    I think the best thing to improve officer safety would be 1) making the cars safer and train the cops to drive better (see http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/avoidable-contact-do-cops-really-have-the-need-for-speed/) , 2) better research and training for dealing with volatile/drunk/drugged people. Whether to carry an AR or a shotty should be way down the list.

  7. A college friend of mine is now a cop in a very large city; last time I saw him he showed me the S&W M&P15 and Rem870 he kept in his squad car trunk.

  8. If all children were taught marksmanship and respect at a young age it would fix a lot of problems we have with guns being used inappropriately and those in law enforcement would already be more familiar with their weapons and possibly reduce training costs. But then again our country stopped all that and dropped the ball long ago. Especially the teaching of respect.

  9. We carry both, train on both, and assign a couple of guys per shift with dedicated bean bag shotguns in the trunk. The long guns are a deterrent and a tactical advantage, and we have 3 gun transition training drills throughout the year. Our department has a “shall carry” philosophy with long guns, bean bag guns, and Tasers. That’s not to say that our department doesn’t do some stupid and wasteful things, but I definitely appreciate the money spent on high quality tires and excellent ammo.

    If I know I’m headed to a gunfight, I’m taking an AR over a pistol any day, just like the active shooter in the Sikh Temple got taken out at a distance by a rifle. I know those things are very rare, but I would much rather be ready than get caught with my pants down.

    The flip side is that we are in CA, and will be phasing out our Vietnam – era and Gulf War surplus de-militarized M16s. I fear that these guns will be chopped to pieces, when they could be sold back to LEOs and the public. If I hear that they are getting destroyed, I’m considering filing a grievance. It bothers me when serviceable weapons are destroyed.

  10. For a few years a while back, I had a job that included repairing county police cars. They had shotguns in the quick release rack up front for all cars. Sergeants on up and SWAT team had M4’s in the trunk. Trunks had chains welded in and was padlocked. I know they train with both and qualify at least twice a year. My deputy sheriff uncle always grips about the qualifying on 12 gauge w/ OO buck!

    • Whatever, the men and women in my agency qualms with 870’s, 00 buck and a 13″ barrel. It kicks like a mule and no one complains, publicly that is.

  11. My only problem with the coppers carrying both is the training on when to use which weapon. I mean, do you train to engage out to 15 yards w/ pistol, 50 yards w/ shotgun, and past that w/ rifle? Seems logical to me, but it would make the training significantly more complex. Also, these are peace officers, not military operators. If they are needing to take a shot of more than 50 yards, it’s probably not something they should be tackling without tactical support.

    • The problem is that “tactical support” is often a long ways away. Columbine taught the LEO world that the previous tactic of containing the area and waiting for the SWAT team was ineffective for stopping threats quickly and minimizing the loss of life. So, all officers now have to be more prepared for fighting in a tactical situation.

  12. In my area of California I see both in the racks up front. I have no problem with the cops having AR’s. But I’m bugged that as a citizen in good standing I don’t have the same options for my car. But that’s an issue to discuss with the politicians and not the rank and file cops.

  13. TTACer’s comment is probably the most correct answer. Moreover, any time the brass decides what the rank and file might need on patrol or otherwise, they are likely to have made their decision without talking to said rank and file. Cops on patrol actually know what they need and what they don’t. Desk cops just don’t.

    I can understand that young officers recently returned from the sandbox might want to be up-armored, but experienced patrol officers will naturally cull their gear down to what they are likely to need and use. When political hacks decide what street cops need based on how much crap Homeland Security is willing to toss them, the results are always bad — and costly.

  14. You notice the term “Assault Rifle” was never used…Apparently its only an assault rifle if a citizen has one. Or perhaps someone at the news station knows a thing or two about firearms..

  15. Here at UC Santa Barbara the campus police have a middle rack in between the driver and passenger seat that has an AR15 and a shotgun.

  16. Most of the deputies I see picking up ARs are the younger guys fresh out
    of the service. The older guys stick with shotguns and/or high power
    rifles. Training is not an issue as 90-95% shoot for recreation as well
    as hunt. Fortunately, most are told to train (and preferably carry) all 3

    AR, rifle or shotgun just pick the right tool for the job .
    In rural Maine, armed confrontations happen once every 3-5 years.
    Response to accidents involving large animals happens 2-3 times per year
    per deputy. ARs are great against bipedal elements, but use on a moose
    or bear is just going to really piss it off.

    A good chunk of our population has a “scary black rifle”, but almost
    everyone and their grandmother has a hunting rifle. You may not
    get close enough to use an AR, let alone a shotgun.

    • That’s an interesting point. In my completely uninformed and unexperienced opinion, I’d rather have a bolt action .308 and a semi-auto shotgun for most of the scenarios that cops will likely have to face. It seems that clearing a building is when you might need quick follow up shots, and your aim might not be spot on, and if you’re sending something out to rifle distances, you’re probably not taking on a large group as a lone police officer.

      But I don’t really have any clue what I’m talking about.

  17. 1. Have seen this article referred to on TTAG: Full Spectrum Operations, July 25, 2012 in Small Wars Journal.
    2. Police are wearing military haircuts and BDU’s and carrying M4’s.
    3. With the demise of the Crown Vic, am seeing an increasing number of black suburbans deployed by our, admittedly, well funded PD.
    4. In other, crappy locales, similar vehicles were called Black Marias; were operated by internal security personnel.
    5. Do not know where we are headed.
    6. Am watching the proceedings with considerable interest.
    V/R JWest

  18. Got to waste that taxpayer money somehow I guess. And you better not question the militarization of our police forces, you unpatriotic communist traitor.

  19. We could go the stats route… How many times will an officer engage a criminal outside the range of a shotgun. Here is a thought… Ditch the AR, go with a combo shotgun. One barrel for rifled slugs or 00 buck and one rifled barrel. Need to engage a criminal at 200 yds. Slap on a cantilevered riflled barrel with optics. Toss in a few sabots and knock him flat with a 50 caliber hollowpoint. One gun, swappable barrels. The rifled gun can engage out as far as I would expect the average police officer can squeeze them off. Swapping barrels takes 15 seconds. Leave the ARs for Rural or special officers who engage maybe at longer distances.

  20. This is actually a good question.
    I forget who I saw the other day, I think the Sheriff and they had a shotgun and AR in the center. Both are good for specific situations and you could really use both, so why not. Scatter guns are dirt cheep compared to an AR. Yes ok there are expensive shotguns too, but your standard police scatter gun is not that expensive.

    • Because any actual shooting situation is closer to than a 3 gun competition than a lazy barrel and ammunition change. I’m going to grab the best tool for the job – which will almost always be an AR-15 (longer range, greater accuracy, more ammunition, faster follow up shots) – and go. Fast. Being slow is annoying when driving, and will certainly be a disadvantage in a gun fight. Try switching barrels during paintball and see how long you last.

  21. I’m surprised they are not using the full-auto or burst-fire M16/M4’s. Although the AR15 in semiauto is still a formidable weapon for our LEO’s. I agree that they need to amp up their weaponry to be more effective in their jobs. Sometimes you need more capacity and accurancy than a shotgun.

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