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A member of TTAG’s Armed Intelligentsia had a look at the new Kel-Tec KSG and raised an important point: “I don’t know how i’d feel about cops loading their weapon with lethal and non lethal ammo,” Alex opined. “A simple wrong switch or not racking the slide after the change could be life or death.” It’s an important issue for someone considering any shotgun for home defense . . .

A shotgun loaded with double-ought buck (or some other home defense round) is utterly devastating at close range. You still have to aim the thing, but if you hit your target, your target’s going to be on the “soon to be dead” side of unhappy. Once you start looking at defensive situations requiring a bit (as in any) distance, a shotgun needs a slug like an iPhone needs a strong signal. So equipped, a shotgun makes a damn fine rifle out to say 50 yards. Or, if you’re an Internet legend, farther.

Unfortunately, switching shells mid-fight is problematic. While all tactical shotguns make some provision for changing ammo on the fly, the process requires excellent coordination, endless training and OCD ammo storage habits. And before all that you have to decide to change ammo (i.e. think) in the heat of battle. Good luck with that.

As Alex points out, the KSG seems to offer an ideal solution: twin tubes for two different strengths of too bad for you. But it’s not, really. When it comes to gunfighting, complexity is about as welcome as a blindfold. Even binary bites.

Anyway, why bother? If you’re in the law enforcement business looking for a non-lethal solution to a two-legged problem, a Taser’s the way to go. If you’re a civilian, why would you fire a non-lethal round at a bad guy? Shoot or don’t shoot. Shoot to kill or don’t shoot. Seems pretty straightforward to me.

But then an AR platform or a handgun caliber carbine does it all. A shotgun may spread the lead and leave ’em dead, but the rifles are a lot more wieldy. They work close-in and far-out (man). In fact, one wonders if the KSG shotgun is all that it’s cracked up to be, real world effectiveness-wise. We shall see.

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  1. I would be shocked if law enforcement agencies use ANY firearm as a combination lethal/less-lethal weapon. Beanbag shotguns, where they are used, are almost always stored separately from ordinary patrol shotguns, and almost always painted a conspicuous color like green or purple, so that officers will know never to mix ammunition types and never fire a pink 870 at a suspect who’s shooting back.

    The KSG

    • As I was trying to say, the KSG can hold two tubes of different shells, but do you want to? Slugs are rarely the initial choice for a combat shotgun, and it would be a waste of the second magazine tube if it were filled with rounds you won’t end up wanting. The KSG will probably want to resolve its magazine selector switch issues before it goes to market, preferably by getting rid of the selector and making one tube automatically take over when the other runs dry.

  2. I don’t think that any PD would ever consider lethal and non-lethal loads in the same gun. Recently, a suspect was fatally shot by a cop who claimed that he mistook his sidearm for his taser. If that’s possible (I think it was a BS excuse), then switching between lethal and non-leathal ammo in the same gun would prove deadly.

    • If you’re referring to the Oakland incident of a couple of years ago*, this article discusses the role that inadequate TASER training played in the cascade of catastrophe.

      That being said, I have to agree with your larger point about the inherent recklessness of having lethal and not-as-lethal ammo in the same firearm.

      *The shooting happened in January 2009; the trial ended in November 2010, with Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer Johannes Mehserle convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

  3. Typically, less than lethal shotguns use an orange stock. Keeping both lethal, and less than lethal ammunition in the same weapon is a recipe for disaster.

    • Recipe for disaster?

      I’d proffer fully cooked and the delivery driver is ringing the doorbell.

      Beyond the truly accidental incidents, the sadder reality would be reading even more news reports about the “accidental” shooting death of the black/wrongplace/deaf/noncompliant person at the hands of LEOs.

      One final nitpick. A pump? With minimal recoil absorption? In a bullpup?

      Uh-huh. Hope you’re nowhere near the bad guy, ‘cuz that second shot is almost guaranteed to be wild.

  4. The only scenario I can think of that would be suitable for switching rounds mid-way through an encounter, would be to use one type of ammo to blow out a lock or hinge on a door then switch over to a round suitable for people.

  5. Like most above have noted, less that lethal shotguns utilize very obvious neon colored stocks so that there is no doubt as to what rounds are loaded in that weapon. It is a moot point to argue whether or not mixing the rounds in the KSG could have the potential to cause a lethal accident because that idea would not even be brought into consideration at any department worth its salt.

  6. I have always had a problem with the term non lethal. I’d much prefer less lethal or reduced lethality. Water cannon, rubber bullets, tasers, and even the lowly night stick can all either by accident or intent result in the death of the target.
    Force is still force and it’s application must be a conscious decision by the person weilding it. The whole concept of non lethal creates an attitude that it’s OK to use this tool because no one will really get hurt. And unfortunately sometimes that’s just wrong.

  7. Non-lethal weapon? One would have to try pretty hard to come up with one. That’s one reason dangerous psych patients are in a warm room that requires no linens, and are dressed in paper gowns. Anyone with an imagination can make a weapon from a magazine, pencil, coin, etc. given a bit of time and privacy. Not that much of either is required.


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