“Sawed-off shotgun” is a general term applied to those shotguns with a short barrel as well as often having a reduced or absent stock. Ironically, despite the title of this article, sawed-off shotguns are not illegal at all. Their possession is strictly controlled by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) in the same way that machine guns and submachine guns are. These regulations, coupled with the standard disqualifiers to firearms ownershipand the required fees, put these weapons out of the hands of most law-abiding gun owners.
While many believe the only lawful purpose of owning a firearm is hunting, the original purpose is that of self-protection. The rich history of the United States has numerous instances of regular citizens lawfully using firearms to defend themselves or others. On the broader scale, our citizen soldiers took on the defence and protection of other nations. The particular characteristics of the shotgun make it ideally suited for this role, given some limitations.
1). The shotgun is able to fire a varied payload including less lethal projectiles, slugs and differing sized shot (pellets). Whether shooting a single slug which averages 1 ounce of lead for a 12gauge shotgun or nine .33 caliber pellets for 00 buckshot of the same gauge, the shotgun is an awesome weapon. This versatility, and the relatively simple designs and operational features makes the shotgun a good choice for hunting and is one of the reasons they are very common.
2). The shortened barrel and stock make it more concealable and user-friendly in the close confines of vehicles and buildings. The shotgun came to be heavily relied upon in the trenches of World War I and II, enabling small groups to unleash enormous firepower in close quarters. This advantage has seen a need for shotguns in the current military arena where close quarters encounters are common and has resulted in various manufacturers updating their shotguns with current technologies such as lights, ammunition carriers and slings, to name a few.
The limitations of the sawed-off shotgun include the spread of the shot due to its shortened barrel. Depending on the type and size of shot used, this forces the user to be more aware of collateral issues surrounding his or her target. While the single slug seems to solve this problem, the shortened barrel decreases the velocity and accuracy of the projectile as does the reduced stock. There are rounds that have been developed for this type of firearm but any time you modify something it has an effect on effectiveness.
The hard lesson here is that the sawed-off shotgun shares some of the same characteristics of its unmodified version as well as having some advantages over it. But at the same time, it addresses a specific need for those who go in harm’s way.