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Tactical shotguns are not my area but as I find anything having to do with smoothbores interesting, I have been redressing that gap in my knowledge by reading the new Gun Digest book “Tactical Shotgun” by Scott W. Wagner, a longtime law-enforcement veteran. It contains some solid advice on training, drills and techniques interspersed among more basic information and pictures of guns and ammunition.

One concept that challenged my ideas about shotguns is Wagner’s contention that a shotgun is not only not an area weapon as you see it represented in popular culture* (I knew that) but a precision weapon at close range. He cites instances like the case of the nightclub shooting of guitarist “Dimebag” Darryl Abbot in 2004. An officer with an 870 killed the shooter from 20 feet away with buckshot while harming neither a hostage nor any one of the 200 people in the club.

Therefore, for Wagner’s law enforcement purposes, the tighter a shotgun patterns, the more useful it is. He prefers the standard 8-pellet load of 00 buck to the 9-pellet load, as he says there is often a flyer pellet in the nine shot (the book has pattern pictures of both). In general, he says, most close-range shotgun patterns open at the rate of about one inch per yard which jibes with what I have seen. From my own experience shooting a stack of home defense ammo for a recent column, the Federal Flitecontrol 9-pellet load of 00 is a notable exception, spreading no more than 3 ½ inches at 15 yards and not containing the single flyer Wagner mentions.

For civilian home defense, incidentally, Wagner comes down on the side of birdshot loads as being lethal up close and less likely to injure family members. He backs that argument up with a ballstic test on supermarket chickens, complete with pictures. In all, “Tactical Shotgun” is interesting read, whether you want to shoot tactical shotguns or if, like me, your interest in them is entirely theoretical.

*The most ridiculous literary shotgun scene ever occurs in Lee Child’s first Jack Reacher novel “Killing Floor.” According to the narrator, an Ithaca Mag-10 Roadblocker loaded with buckshot has the ability, with one shot at 100 feet, to decapitate two people standing on the floor while killing someone else 40 feet in the air. That is quite a lethal pattern for a load containing only 18 pellets.

If you’d like to purchase Tactical Shotgun_, click here._