Mossberg 500 (courtesy shotgunworld.com)

“[Darion Marcus Aguilar] passed a state-mandated FBI criminal background check within minutes, paid $430 and walked out of the store Dec. 10 with the shotgun,” baltimoresun.com reports, “which authorities say he used Saturday to kill two employees at a skate shop in The Mall in Columbia before taking his own life . . . Maryland law does not place the same restrictions on hunting weapons such as shotguns as those that govern other weapons. A law passed last year banned the sale of assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, and some said that change may have prevented Saturday’s shooting from being even more deadly.” True story?

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129 Responses to Question of the Day: Which is More Deadly, Shotgun or AR?

    • Precisely. You may as well be asking if a person killed with a shotgun is deader than the person killed with an AR. When both weapons are lethal within the range in question, it’s only down to shot placement.

    • absolutely, it’s all up to the mind behind the trigger. I would go so far as to say that it doesn’t matter which one you are shot with, You are just as dead either way.

    • I think you’re right on, but I’d also add that it was very much the guy behind the trigger’s wallet that decided the weapon here- being under 21 and probably on a budget, I don’t think an AR wad even an option for the little douchebag.

  1. Quick! Justify and rationalize the new laws, before the sheep start to think!

    To answer the question, it depends on range and skill, but for an unskilled shooter within 100 yards, a shotgun is absolutely more lethal.

    • Well…thirty yards or so. At 100 yards, an AR with thirty round clip is vastly more effective. Far less recoil for follow-up shots, stupid accuracy, and plenty of power (twice the energy of a 357 magnum). Shotgun is more devastating at close range, but would you really want to get hit by an AR?

  2. The FSA2013 doesn’t matter at all in this case. All the weapons that are now banned in MD required that you be 21 anyways. He couldn’t have bought a standard AR legally if he wanted to.

  3. A law passed last year banned the sale of assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, and some said that change may have prevented Saturday’s shooting from being even more deadly.

    Funny, they didn’t say that after the Clackamas Town Center shooting, in which a guy with an AR-15 and high-capacity magazines killed exactly the same number of people.

  4. Bad people do bad things, end of story. Besides doesn’t a shotgun hold 5 rounds, sounds like he only used 3…

    • I think it was mission accomplished for the shooter. He wasn’t there to run up a body count. He was not a spree killer – this was really a domestic murder that happended at a mall.

      He was there to kill his Ex-, and (I believe) the guy she left him for (or current BF, whatever), and then himself. He could have done with with a break-open Drilling gun, or even a Katana.

      The Washington Navy Yard shooter showed how a shotgun could be used for a spree killing.

      • If this exact same crime happened a block away from the mall no one outside that town would have heard about it,

      • It could have been done with uncle joes double barrel. It’s not like that third shot hade to be especially quick. Hell, with shelter in place responses he could have killed half the mall with a .410 single shot for all of $75 from a pawn shop.

      • To date there is no evidence that Brianna Benlolo was Darion Marcus Aguilar’s ex, or that Tyler Johnson was the boy for whom Benlolo had left Aguilar, or if there is such evidence, the police have not released it. Right now, Aguilar appears to simply have been another profoundly unhappy and generally misanthropic people, who managed to keep his unhappiness and misanthropy hidden, until the day he took that shotgun to the mall.

    • My 3 gun shotgun holds way more than 5. With the extended mag it holds 13- 2 3/4″ shells. Heaven forbid an anti gunner sees a comp shotgun in action.

  5. I don’t know, he did ventilate his cranium with plenty of ammo still on him. He did not kill others for some reason.

  6. After being shot 30 times from an AR or taking 45 00 pellets I’m pretty sure which is deadlier will be the least of your concerns.

    • Absolutely it would have been a story. The anti-gunners would have used it as an example of how, if not for the strong anti-gun laws, he would have gotten a gun and killed hundreds, if not thousands of people. The fact that he was forced to use a knife would have proven their point, they would conclude.

      • Some guy in Queens today killed his girlfriend and her 25 year old daughter with a hammer while her four year old daughter was in the apartment. We won’t be hearing about this case in another day even though domestic violence is the cause here and in Maryland and in many other murders. Now, if a gun was used…

        • Mingdong Chen killed his cousin and her four children in New York City armed with only a knife. That was off the front page pretty quickly.

  7. In general, the AR-15. It has more rounds, therefore it can kill more people. But as all generalizations there are exceptions.

    • Does the car with the most horsepower always win the race? Does the boxer with the longest arms always win the fight? Does the heaviest wrestler always take the belt? Does the richest politician always win the election?

      wait, scratch that last one.

    • Not if you keep reloading while shooting. Thankfully this guy didn’t know about that, but it’s easy to take a few shots then top off the mag tube and keep going.

    • I couldn’t disagree more. Otherwise BBs guns or Paintball gun would be the most deadly, since they can fire hundreds of times before reloading.

      At close distance, quite simply, no firearm is as dangerous as a shotgun. Since attackers get to chose their engagement range, the lack of distance in a shotgun is not a hindrance.

      One round from a 12 gauge 00 Buck is 9 pellets, which is far more devastating that getting hit even a couple of time from a 5.56 round.

      • “One round from a 12 gauge 00 Buck is 9 pellets”

        Agreed when speaking of 12 gage 2 3/4″ – 00 shells… A 12 gage 3″ of 00 is 15 pellets. More holes bigger mess.

        Same painful sheet of music though.

      • Well then, don’t worry when the politicians decide to ban everything but shotguns. You’ll be fine!

        Comparing an modern rifle to a bb gun is much more absurd than comparing a shotgun to a rifle. Guess what, I’d be fine standing in front of a BB gun. Hell, I’ve done it as a kid. Not a big deal, it’s not going to kill you unless you’re the unluckiest SOB on the planet. A rifle can reasonably kill with one shot.

        This was part of the problem with a recent decision in NY; pro-gun folks want to have their cake and eat it too. They want to act like guns are just tools like any other (nope, the 2nd doesn’t protect hammers) and that standard magazines don’t provide a real advantage, but then complain when they get banned. Gotta get the message straight.

    • Yes Vhyrus, the car with the most HP does usually win, and the boxer with the longest arms does as well. As for reloading the shotgun, you do know you have a way to carry extra ammo for a quick reload of the AR-15? If you really think the shotgun is more dangerous then why are most soldiers armed with rifles, not shotguns?

      • 1) Shotguns are far less effective against the body armor worn by enemy troops
        2) Engagements frequently occur outside of a shotgun’s optimal range
        That being said, shotguns are frequently used by our military when mission appropriate (i.e. kicking down doors)

        • Troops should have both in their ranks. The rifle is the queen of the battlefield but the shotgun rules the castle.

  8. Hey, spinners gotta spin. If the facts don’t support your conclusions, then make stuff up or erect sufficient straw men to obfuscate the issue.

  9. I’d say they are quite different firearms, but at the end of the day they can both be equally lethal in the hands of a madman and this just illustrates the futility & stupidity of banning certain classes of firearms based on how scary they look.

  10. Neither one of these “evil guns” is deadly or dangerous. The gun is a tool which can be used for either good or evil, the gun operates the same way either way. The variable that could make either one of them deadly is the person on the stock end of the gun. The person is the only dangerous/deadly variable. Personnel responsibility is obviously frowned upon these days; however it is the person who kills not the tool used.

  11. RF; did you really state “high capacity magazines” when you actually meant ‘standard capacity magazines’ over 10 rounds?

    Now even you are becoming subverted by the new propaganda vocabulary rooted in anti-gun rhetoric.

  12. With a 12 gauge you’re firing 9 00 pellets or something like 27 #4 buck pellets with every trigger pull. We all know a shotgun is extremely dangerous in the hands of a bad guy. It’s not any less dangerous than an AR. The guy who shot up the Navy Yard last year didn’t seem to have much trouble using his to kill a lot of people, including one armed guy that he appropriated a second weapon from.

  13. Perfect example of why banning EBRs does nothing. He had many more rounds, but only shot two people before turning the gun on himself. Had he used a 30 rounder or even a beta mag I’m not sure if this would have turned out any differently.

    Don’t get me wrong, some POS having to stop and reload after 5 shots rather than 30 can provide and advantage to somebody equipped to strike back. But if you are talking about a gun free zone, the shooter can wreak havoc and reload at will with no worries about taking fire until the cops arrive.

    • You are forgetting an important aspect.

      A shotgun can be reloaded while firing, without a waste or rounds. Sure, you can tactically reload an AR, and save the magazine, but you can’t top off.

      With a shotgun, someone can shoot 3 times, still have 3 rounds left, put in 3 more rounds, and always have at least three rounds loaded.

  14. A 1 ounce hollow point slug is pretty damn devastating. I don’t know, but I don’t want to be shot with either.

  15. AR-15: one trigger pull one .22 projectile
    Shotgun: one trigger pull fifteen .30 projectiles.
    Do the math.

    • FINALLY! Someone gets it. Additionally, I recently bought some OO buck rounds for close to $1.00 each. 5.56/.223 is still over $1.00 a round around here. Shotty is less expensive per tigger pull.

  16. that change may have prevented Saturday’s shooting from being even more deadly

    What an incredibly infantile statement by a gunhater. Okay, so I’m being repetitively redundant.

    • +1

      The change may also have prevented an alien abduction or two. Maybe even a few tiger attacks. It almost certainly prevented a zombie apocalypse. Lookie – I can make shit up too.

  17. Pretty much what everyone here says: It Depends. Distance and what type of ammo the shotgun is shooting(Birdshot, buckshot, slugs).

  18. A Mossberg Persuader shotgun can hold 7+1 shells of 3″ buckshot. Each shell contains 15 .33 caliber pellets. Each pellet weighs 53 grains and moves at about 1200 ft/s. Each pellet has 172 ft-lbs of energy, which puts it between a single .32 ACP round and .380 for muzzle energy. Multiply that back out by 15 and you get 2580ft -lbs of energy. Multiply again by 8, the number of shells in a combat loaded Persuader, and you get 20,640 ft-lbs per magazine with a cheap $300 shotgun. The 62 grain 5.56 NATO round flies at 3100 ft/s, and has a muzzle energy of 1323 ft-lbs. Times 30 is 39690. This from a gun that costs at least $600, if you can find it that cheap, and is restricted in a lot of states. If I had to move somewhere where AR-15s were verboten, a cheap boomstick can still solve a lot of problems, up to 120 of them per loaded tube. And if I’m going to be ghoulish about it, if I want to go out with a bang on a budget, the shotgun is the answer.

  19. At combat distance, both are deadly, but the law of physics say getting hit with a full load from a shotgun is a wee bit more devasting. Sending 500-600+ grains of lead at 1300+ fps will do more damage than 50-60 grains of lead at 3000 fps. Being at the other end of the two is never advisable, however, in terms of one shot stops, Shotgun wins.

  20. When you pick a gun free zone; as the D.C. Navy yard mass murderer did; then kill the only armed individual that could immediately respond; as The navy yard shooter did; then have at least “8 minutes” to have a free fire zone where no one will be armed to stop the murderer; as the Navy yard shooter did; then use a standard capacity shot gun with 5 shots that can be leisurely reloaded; as the D.C. Navy yard shooter had and did; then you can murder “12 people and wound 8” with a shot gun as effectively with an AR-15 with as high a body count; as the Navy Yard Murderer did.

    So the Evil black gun with “high capacity clips” isn’t needed to be an effective mass murderer; just an innocuous 5 shot pump action shot gun (with the properly disarmed population as promoted by our “betters”), the gun promoted as the perfect self-defense gun by our eminent Vice-president Biden?

    Hmm, does this mean it isn’t the gun that makes a person an “unstoppable killing machine” but in fact, a regular man just has to have the intent to kill a lot of people and then he will find a way?

  21. Close in, the shotgun is the most deadly. Outside 100 yards, or for precision shots, the AR rules. I’ve got ARs, but would chose my Mossberg 930 with 00 for close in defense. I’ve got reloads on the stock with tactical slugs.

    I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the planning of the truly depraved murderer or terrorist. The Oklahoma City bomber, the incendiary bomb bus murderers in China, and the 9/11 terrorists did a whole lot more damage than any single person armed with a firearm.

  22. Depends on how far away you are.

    Anyway, the Columbia Mall shooter was only looking to kill two people. If he wanted to kill a great many more, he very well would have simply for the fact that very well could have — regardless of the swiftness of the police response to his antics. It was over in less time than the Arapahoe High shooting, which also benefited from an armed responder who was already on-campus.

    He chose not to kill anybody else. The low body count had absolutely nothing to do with any racist, sexist, anti-rights, and anti-Huamnist gun control laws.

  23. A violent criminal could use either firearm to great effect in a spree killing. It would all boil down to location, tactics, and ammunition selection. Spree killers have killed virtually all of their victims at close range so let’s talk about that and assume that the spree killer is able to put all shots on “center of mass”.

    Shotgun:
    If the spree killer is “smart” enough to use sabot slugs, they could easily kill two to three people with each squeeze of the trigger in a crowd, say 2.5 people on average. (A 300 grain .50 caliber bullet with a muzzle velocity of 2000 fps is going to punch right through an average human with plenty of retained velocity, mass, and surface area to be plenty lethal to whoever is behind the first casualty.) If the shotgun has a standard 5 round tube magazine, the spree killer could therefore kill about 12 to 13 people without reloading. But keep in mind that the spree killer can also reload “on the fly” without rendering his shotgun inoperable. In other words he/she could shoot two or three times, add two or three shells to the magazine, and repeat until he/she has no more shells. However, the substantial recoil of a 12 gauge shotgun shooting sabot slugs would increase the time to come back on the next target.

    AR-15:
    An AR-15 would probably kill one person with each trigger squeeze. If the spree killer were using standard 30 round magazines, then they could kill 30 people before reloading … and reloading would take less than four seconds for someone who is under stress and not practiced.

    Conclusion:
    I believe an average spree killer would kill a few more people with an AR-15 (with standard 30 round magazines) than with a 12 gauge shotgun (with a 5 round tube magazine) shooting sabot slugs. However, if victims are running around making shots to center of mass much more difficult, a spree killer using a 12 gauge shotgun with #00 buckshot could be more lethal than someone using an AR-15. Like I said, it all boils down to location, tactics, and ammunition selection.

    • Edit:

      A standard shotgun holds five rounds in the tube magazine plus one round in the chamber. Therefore a spree killer using such a shotgun with sabot slugs could easily kill 15 people (2.5 on average per trigger squeeze) without reloading … and reloading “on the fly” without making the shotgun inoperable means they could kill as many as they want until they either run out of shells or someone stops them.

      This really is close to a toss-up.

      • According to some reports I have read from Iraq and Afghanistan, most bad guys do not die from a single hit with a 5.56, and that it sometimes takes as many as 5 or 6 torso hits to stop them. BT, please correct me if I’m wrong. A chestful of buckshot is almost certainly going to be quickly fatal. So I would say shot for shot, the scattergun wins. Either way, if the shooter has any skill and is the only one packing heat, I don’t think it matters.

        • I can personally vouch for the piss-poor performance of the M855 ball round, having stitched a bad guy up his right side from his ankle to his shoulder and still could not kill him. Not only that, but when he recovered from his surgeries, he walked around in detention without even so much as a limp.

          Had it been M193, however…

  24. There are a LOT of variables. I’m guessing having more rounds wouldn’t have made a difference; the shooter appears to have accomplished what he was after, then off’ed himself.

    Don’t know if he was proficient with firearms or not. If he was not, having a pistol or rifle might have required more shots to accomplish his ends, plus with a shotty, you see the results immediately.

  25. I think the question of which is deadlier is moot. The answer may vary depending on the circumstances, but against unsuspecting civilians at indoor distances, the fact is that both are more than deadly enough to inflict all the carnage seen here and much, much more.

  26. Sounds like he had a personal grudge against these two people otherwise he could have continued killing with shotgun just like he could with a “assault weapon”

  27. Obviously, the AR has the advantage regarding ammo capacity, with a 30 round magazine. A 12 ga. shotgun with 00 buck or a slug hitting humans leaves massive destruction. 5.56 does not have a great reputation for instant knock down. I remember having to use multiple M-4 rounds in OEF/OIF to stop attackers, so in my experience I would NOT want to face a shotgun.

  28. For a single round? Shotgun, definitely.

    The AR, however, allows you to engage more individual targets with precision–30+1 of them. (A shotgun will take out two or more targets with one round only if they are standing close enough to each other to be in the same pattern.) Granted you might need more than one shot per target, but that could still be anywhere from 7-15 people if you are doing 2-4 rounds per target.

    So for this question to be meaningful, you have to decide what “deadlier” means. Number of people killed? I’d say the AR wins *with proper shot placement*.

  29. The AR is more deadly. Every time an AR fires a child dies somewhere while shotguns create a magical protective forcefield when you fire two warning shots.

  30. “some said that change may have prevented Saturday’s shooting from being even more deadly.”

    Dumbest thing I’ve heard in a while. He had plenty of ammunition, and explosives at his immediate disposal. If he had wanted to kill more people he could have done it easily. He chose not to; the weapon used is totally irrelevant.

  31. These are exactly the kinds of questions we should be answering by conducting experiments with inmates on death row. Why speculate.

    • Pretty sure a lot of pigs, sheep, dogs and costs have already died in the quest for these answers. I saw several creepy films from the 50s and. 60s about wound ballistics during my Air Force medical training. Creepy because they were black and white, and because of the almost cheerful tone of the narrator. Death row inmates might have been a better choice.

    • scientific studies show that people who died due to AR-15 type lead poisoning are just as dead as people who died from shotgun-type lead poisoning. The most important variable that predicted whether they died was whether they were shot in a vital area (r-squared = .9999). Other variables turned out to be loading the gun, and actually pulling the trigger, and aiming the barrel. But, those were correlated to hitting vital areas. Once fixed effects were accounted for, ammo had strong residual effect. Those shot with 1/4 oz of lead or less in a vital area were merely dead, those shot with more were definitely dead.

  32. people aren’t looking at this from the perspective of the troubled person. if the person plans to take their life, they are selecting a tool that will have massive damage for hope of it being quick and painless. if they plan to go on a rampage in hopes of being immortalized, they will likely choose a different tool. look at Adam Lanza.. AR to take out a mass of innocent people so he can be recognized in death where he failed in life. then a Glock 20 to kill himself and avoid capture. this troubled person in the recent mall shooting may have had a grudge based on spite where he wanted to cause anguish in retribution then take his own life. he wouldn’t need many rounds but would want them to be effective, so he chose a shotgun. even if an AR were available to him, I’m sure he still would have chosen the shotgun.

    • interesting theory. I wonder if Kurt Cobain and Ernest Hemingway used their shotguns in such a preplanned manner. Use of a shotgun for your own suicide guarantees results. .45ACP worked pretty good too in the case of Hunter S. Thompson.

  33. The VA tech killer used two handguns with 10 and 15 rd magazines, he just used a lot of them. The guy in Norway used a Mini-14, which is legal in every US state, Canada and much of Europe. In the end, all that matters was who was on the other end of that gun operating it and the amount of planning they put into their attack. All of us here know this because we all understand how firearms operate, but we’re just talking amongst ourselves, we’ll never convince anyone that legitimately believes banning pistol grips on and threaded barrels on some rifles, but not others, will dramatically reduce crime and or the body count of mass killing, anything. Personal opinion though? Pump action shotgun. It will reliably feed and fire, has a good spread and its projectiles are deadly.

  34. Shotgun. Synergy and velocity at close range. Lets take a box of Hornady TAP 12 Gauge 00 Buckshot. 2-3/4 inch, 8 pellet at 1600 fps. and 12ga 00 buck is about .33 diameter wise. In other words: 8 .32ACP sized rounds hitting the target at 1600fps AT THE SAME TIME. The human body has a difficulty coping with that much shock and trauma in such a short amount of time.

  35. I think the real question is this, if all he could buy was a shotgun but he really needed an AR-15 to do what he intended, is the shotgun deadly enough to kill a cop in an ambush and retrieve the patrol rifle from the car?

    What prevents people from murder are cultural/moral prohibitions and consequences. Once suicide is intended consequences no longer matter. If such a person wants to kill people they will kill people and no law in the world can prevent it.

  36. In large (as in 95%) part, the deadliness of the weapon depends upon the operator. In the hands of an experienced shooter who continuously tops off the magazine and uses buckshot, a 12 ga. shotgun is going to be very deadly at close range, even as compared to an AR. In the hands of a someone with virtually no firearms experience (as is frequently the case with mass shooters), I’m going with the AR. Far less recoil, easier to reload, and easier to operate than a pump-action.

  37. He walked around the mall for an hour before he knocked off these two. So, he had a mission. It would of not mattered what weapon he used.

  38. He bought the shotgun in Dec. and did hid murder in Jan. Did he have enough time and practice to make an AR an effective weapon in his hands? The simple pump shotgun has an easier manual of arms than the AR. Precision shots with a rifle take more time and effort to trrain for.

    In the mall either one will do the job, but the rifle has a range advantage(some malls have long, open spaces in them) that a rank amatuer may not have been up to using effectively.

  39. Gun murders are common in Maryland. What’s not common is lawful gun defense, because the good guys are disarmed.

    what’s more deadly? when only criminals have guns, regardless of type.

  40. The shotgun is much more deadly because amunition is easily available. .223/5.56 still isn’t abundantly available here. I can buy shotgun shells at any Walmart, sporting goods store, or gun shop in almost unlimited quantities. The cost is lower for both the gun and the shells – this shoud be an important point because many of the crazy killers aren’t rich. AR-15 habits are expensive.

  41. Up close the shotgun with 00. Getting hit with the full load is like getting hit nine times with a 9mm MP5 sub machine gun, all at the same time and in the same place. Over 25 yards the AR wins.

    Personal favorite up close is #4 buck in 20 gauge. 24 rounds of .24 caliber ammo hitting all at the same time, with less recoil. And the gelatin tests say it’s more devastating that 00 Buck.

  42. Too tired to read all the posts on this so if someone already said this, forgive me. In 1992, Dr. martin Fackler, head of the U.S Army’s wound ballistics lab, published his findings of a study. The study compared mass killings worldwide with shotguns and military “assault rifle” rounds, specifically, 5.56 & &.62×39. The score: shotgun, 76% lethality; military round lethality, 28%. This was over a ten year period.

    • i believe that. if you get shot in the stomach with a .223, your day sucks. of you get shot in the stomach with 9 00bk pellets, the next 30 seconds will suck until you die.

    • 1 shot lethality is about 95% with a shotgun. 50% with a rifle and 5% for a pistol. First hit probability with 1 shot follows just about that same pattern.

  43. I have an assault firearm 7.62 x 39 with 30 round clips great firearm for general purpose fire fights or deer hunting with a 5 round clip

    I also own a Bernili M-1 12 ga shot gun.

    If I was to pick the best all around defense and offence firearm the M1 is my first choice.

    Great out to 75 yards can hold 10 rounds of various types of ammo and using buck shot take out multiple targets with one shot or place on rapid firing take out crowds of criminals with a hail lead balls fired at them

    Of course the Benilli cost 6 times more then the Russian assault weapon but it has awesome capabilities

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