Saturday, September 15, 2012

Sawed Off

I don't have much knowledge in this area, but I bet a reader does.

I don't own a shotgun with a barrel length less than 18 inches.  Or with a short OAL.  If I did I'd have to go through the whole ATF tax stamp rigamorole.

I know the attraction of a sawed off.  It's easy to conceal and more wieldable in tight spaces.  I also know that a short barrel means more shot spread and less effectiveness. 

Is there some sort of optimal sawed-off length?  Presumably 1 inch past the receiver is too short and just like a firecracker, and may even be dangerous for the user.  I know the effective range drops with short barrels, but what is the recommended range with the ideal sawed-off length?

Kind of a silly notion to think on, and of little practical use, but what they hey.  Knowledge is knowledge.


Sean D Sorrentino said...

I wonder if the real problem with short barreled shotguns is actually mag capacity.

Most shotguns are tube fed, and the mag is under the barrel. Unless you like to shoot open class 3 gun, no one uses a shotgun with a mag tube longer than the barrel.

Remington's SBRs for cops are 14" barrel. So are Mossberg's and Benelli's.

I'm actually more likely to get the 20" 590A1 shotgun. I hear good things about it's accuracy with slugs, and since it will be a something that I buy after my AR is completed, it won't be a home defense gun.

Also not good for zombies.

Old NFO said...

Sean is correct, 14 inches is probably the minimum 'effective' length... And 590A1s are GREAT shottys!

Murphy's Law said...

I loves me a Remington 870 SBR with a 14" barrel, 5-round mag tube, short buttstock, rifle sights and surefire light. That weapon will do darn near everything out to 50M or so, and it's light and quick to point.

Tam said...

The 14" bbl length is pretty much the de facto standard these days for everyone but us lowly peasants.

Short enough to move around inside of houses and get in and out of vehicles easily but long enough for a usable sight radius with ghost rings and a reasonable magazine capacity.

Anonymous said...

You also need that 14 inches for the gas expansion of the round to get the projectiles moving fast enough. Shotgun ballistics of multiple projectiles is better with the advent of the plastic sabbot but still.

Anonymous said...

As pointed out above, 14" is the standard length short-bbl shotgun today. As with so many things, it's a matter of balance, but shortening the barrel has very little to do with effective range, and almost nothing to do with pattern. It has mostly to do with velocity and muzzle blast and muzzle flash.

The velocity/barrel length curve for most non-magnum loads flattens out between 10-12", 2 3/4" magnum around 12-15", and 3" magnum around 18-22". So if you're shooting standard tactical, high-base or express loads, a 14" barrel is giving you a good trade-off between portability, muzzle velocity, muzzle blast and flash.

Note I did not say pattern. Hans Vang, of Vang Comp shotgun fame, has done work with VERY SHORT barrels, some as short as 6", and he says that the barrel length has very little to do with pattern. He says short=bigger pattern, like so many things about shotguns, are part of folklore that is really not supported by evidence, or was supported by evidence once upon a time but isn't relevant any more.

For example, "Everyone knows" that you need 30" barrels for hunting ducks and geese, and that 24-26 is as short as you can go for upland birds, but that's mostly about getting velocity out of barrels SHOOTING BLACK POWDER and about rate of swing and the ability to track moving targets based on the weight, balance and swinging characteristics of various barrel lengths. None of it has anything to do with modern ammunition and patterning with removable choke tubes in modern shotguns.

On Hans' advice, I bought my first 20" "do everything" shotgun years ago, and it's all I use for almost everything. Ducks, geese, pheasants, dove, quail, sporting clays, deer & boar hunting, coyote shooting, etc. Learn to shoot one shotgun well, and don't mess with it or swap parts and pieces too much, and you'll get really good with it.

If you want the tightest pattern around, use a Vang Comp barrel on whatever shotgun you get. My shortest shotgun is an 18" Vang Comp 870, and it has reliably done very well on coyotes at 60 yards with buckshot. I've shot a friend's 10" Vang Comp 870 and didn't notice any degradation in the pattern.