“Rochester police are investigating after an officer fired a shotgun while executing a search warrant,” whec.com reports. “Police say during the search warrant someone at the location reached for a weapon. An investigator then fired a shotgun at that person. No one was injured by gunfire.” Yes, well . . .
There are two ways to look at this incident. Either someone reached for a weapon while an officer was holding a shotgun or they didn’t. The account could be a cover story for an officer’s finger-on-trigger negligent discharge. Or it could be proof that you can miss — in this case thankfully — with a shotgun.
Indeed you can. When you fire a shotgun, the shot leaves the gun in a tight cluster. As shotgun pellets are balls — rather than the aerodynamic spinning bullet-shaped objects fired from a handgun or rifle — the pellets immediately begin to disperse or spread out.
The degree of spread on a number of variables, such as the “choke” (if any) on the end of the gun and the size and number of pellets in the shell you fired. Distance is the critical factor. The longer the shot travels, the wider the spread.
Depending on the gun and choke, shooting at a target seven yards/21 feet away — self defense distance — the spread of pellets will be somewhere between two and a bit under five inches.
Think of the cluster as either golf ball- or a softball-sized. If a bad guy’s standing seven yards away, could you miss them if you were throwing a golf ball or softball? What if you bloodstream is suffused with adrenalin?
Twenty feet is a long way inside the average American house; it’s slightly farther than the length or width of a medium-sized bedroom room. (Click here for average room sizes for small, medium and large rooms in the average American home.)
In a small bedroom — say four yards/12 feet from wall to wall — we’re definitely talking a golf ball-sized spread. Or smaller. You’re not likely to be firing from against the back wall to the edge of the entrance.
So yes, you can miss. Easily.
The good news: a shotgun is lot easier to aim than a thrown ball. That 18-inch barrel — the minimum size for an easily available shotgun — makes accurate pointing a cake walk. Unless one of your hands is busy doing something else.
Yes, there is that.
A shotgun is a two-handed firearm. You won’t be shooting accurately if one hand’s holding the gun while the other hand’s calling 911. Or turning on a light. Or opening a door. Or grabbing a kid.
Which is why a pistol is better than a shotgun for most home defense situations, save the situation where someone else is calling, illuminating or kid-wrangling. And you’ve assumed a defensive position, waiting for the bad guys/guys to appear. (The chances of a bad guy grabbing that long barrel during a walkabout is a thing.)
Then again, a shotgun is a devastating defensive weapon. Especially when loaded with double-ought buck, which [generally] fires nine .33 caliber projectiles. If you do manage to hit your target, it’s going to be a real conversation stopper.
If you don’t hit your target, try again! But always remember to aim your shotgun. Bottom line: a shotgun is a not a “room sweeper.” Your life may depend on understanding that fact — which can be easily appreciated with a little range time.
Oh, and don’t forget to have a shell in the pipe, turn off the safety and keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot. Know what I mean?