Selling Defensive Shotguns

Knowing defensive shotguns can help you help your customer find the right choice for their needs.

Selling Defensive Shotguns

Self-defense equipment is a popular and important topic in most retail gun shops these days. The average person often thinks of a shotgun as the best type of gun for self defense, whether in the home or otherwise. And it is still a very popular tool for law enforcement. But there are a lot of myths and misinformation regarding shotguns as a self-defense tool, whether used by the average non-sworn civilian or those civilians who have been sworn to enforce the law. (Yup, cops are civilians, too.)

There is no question that a shotgun is a good choice for self defense. It delivers a great deal of energy and is probably the most versatile of all self-defense firearms. But like any equipment selection, the choice of equipment is driven by its mission or purpose and personal choice. What is the best option for one person may not be for the next person.

So one of your jobs as a retailer is to help the customer decide what firearm is the best for use as a defensive gun. And to do that, you need to know the pros and cons of a shotgun as a self-defense gun.

Again, the shotgun is probably the most versatile of all firearms. It can launch a variety of projectiles but is also a thinking person’s gun, because it often has a limited magazine capacity compared to a carbine, rifle or handgun, and the ammunition used can be changed in the midst of a confrontation. The shotgun is capable of firing birdshot, buckshot, slugs and specialty projectiles for such things as creating noise or entering a structure. The operator of the shotgun needs to think about what is appropriate for the situation at hand, and at the same time, keep the gun loaded.

Whether your customer selects a semi-auto or a pump-action, encourage them to get good training. Defense with a shotgun, or any gun, is not only about shooting and hitting the target. It is also about fighting, which is far more complex than aiming and pulling the trigger. An excellent place for gunfight training is Gunsite Academy, Inc., located near Paulden, Arizona. Yes, it is expensive and time-consuming to get instruction from a place like Gunsite, but the instruction is invaluable. Gunsite is arguably the most prestigious of all gunfighting schools in the world. It trains military, police and special operators who work for government agencies that you may never have heard of. It also trains people who have never handled a gun before attending class, and the graduates are better shooters and gunfighters than most police. So encourage your customer to get good training, wherever that may be. It is essential.

One thing a good defensive shotgun instructor should do is teach the shotgun operator how to think during a gunfight so that the operator can and will select the right load for the job and keep the shotgun loaded and ready to shoot. Different shotgun shells are for different situations. Deciding when and knowing how to use those different shotgun loads is part of what requires analytical thought. And training is the key to being able to think clearly, make those decisions, and select the right load for a job in the middle of a fight.

While a longer-barreled sporting shotgun can be an effective defensive gun, most purpose-built defensive shotguns have shorter barrels. As made and sold by responsible manufacturers, those shotguns comply with the laws regarding barrel length. But be sure you know the laws governing barrel length and other factors in your jurisdiction.

Most defensive shotguns have a cylinder bore, which means they have no choke or constriction of the barrel at the muzzle. Some, however, have a choke, and some have interchangeable chokes. Actually any choke will work, but the most important consideration is how the particular shotgun behaves with the ammunition or load chosen for self defense. Whatever shotgun is selected by your customer, encourage the customer to test fire and pattern the gun with the same ammunition that they intend to use for self defense. Something as simple as a change in the manufacturer of the shotgun shell can have a dramatic effect on the point of impact and size of a pattern that a shotgun delivers, so the shooter needs to know exactly how his or her shotgun will act at various distances with the load chosen, and the shooter needs to be familiar with the substantial recoil generated by a shotgun so they know how to handle it and won’t be surprised by it in the middle of a life-and-death struggle.

A common myth is that with a shotgun, all the shooter needs to do is point the gun in the general direction of the threat and fire in order to hit the aggressor. That is categorically untrue. At typical self-defense distances, especially those encountered inside a house or other structure, even a birdshot load behaves more like a single projectile and does not spread into a pattern that will hit whoever is walking down a hallway. If you don’t believe it, get a shotgun, even one with a cylinder bore, and fire a birdshot load at three to five yards at a piece of paper. The size of the pattern will be only a few inches at the most. And it will be so small that if the gun is not aimed, there is a good chance that the target will be missed.

That brings us to another important point regarding shotguns: A defensive shotgun should have some type of aiming equipment installed. See the sidebar for a more in-depth discussion, but in short, the gun must be aimed, and that requires some type of aiming equipment. It could be a simple bead on the front of the barrel, a set of iron sights, or even a red-dot sight or laser. There is an opportunity for you as a retailer, so make a larger sale by including sighting equipment with the shotgun.

So what are the essential accessories for a defensive shotgun? Since most defensive situations occur in low light, and it is imperative that the target be positively identified so that you don’t shoot your spouse, child, or someone else you don’t want to shoot, a tactical light is one of those essentials. The gun should also have sighting equipment as mentioned earlier, along with a sling. A sling is like a holster for a handgun. It allows the user to keep the shotgun close for fast use if needed, and at the same time, it frees the user’s hands for other tasks. Lastly, some type of ammo carrier is a good idea.

Shotguns usually have limited-capacity magazines, so extra ammo and a way to carry it is needed in most cases. But a sling with shotgun shell loops is nearly worthless because it dangles and sways so much that it is hard to retrieve shells in a hurry. A much better option, even if the shotgun has an extended, higher-capacity magazine tube, is a side saddle that holds a few shells securely for easy access. That creates another opportunity to increase the amount of the sale.

If you have a gunsmithing operation at your location, you might be able to steer the customer into the gunsmith shop for custom modifications. Shotguns are prime candidates for custom modifications such as stocks and accessory rails to facilitate the installation of lights, lasers or red-dot sights. All these items can increase your bottom line. But for defensive use, don’t worry about fitting the gun for wingshooting. That is a very specialized area and is not needed for a defensive shotgun that must be aimed and is not just pointed.

If your customer is undecided about what gun to get for home defense, you can offer some pros and cons of shotguns to help the customer select the most suitable firearm. While a shotgun is not the only option, it is a good one. Your customer just needs to know some of those pros and cons.


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