Home | e-mail

Designs for every purpose

Shotguns and rifles are big and heavy compared to handguns. Yet they have endured for over seven centuries because they are so useful. Their power makes them useful for self-defense and hunting. Their accuracy makes them natural choices for target shooting sports.

Although rifles and shotguns are similar in many features and applications, they differ considerably in details of construction and in techniques of their use. A third type of shoulder arms, comprised of submachine guns, automatic rifles and machine guns has been so heavily restricted on the Federal and State levels that we will address them as a separate topic.

A typical rifle

Here is a typical self-loading rifle designed in the 1950s. It fires a small, fast bullet. Its main uses are target practice, hunting of small game and self-defense. It has very slight recoil, in part because the semi-automatic loading mechanism absorbs much of the kick. Standard magazines for it hold thirty rounds.

Bolt action in use

This typical bolt action rifle of 1890 design fires a heavier bullet and kicks quite a bit harder. It must be operated manually after every shot and its fixed magazine must be reloaded after every five shots. This type of rifle is now relegated mostly to hunting.

Below (left) is a single-shot carbine of the same vintage. It was designed for training and so doesn't kick very hard,nor does it have much power. It must be reloaded manually after every shot.

Below (right) is a flintlock musket from late 18th century. It is very slow in use and less accurate than newer designs. Very much care must be exercised to use it safely.

Falling block single shot

A musket

.308 surplus ammunition

In general, rifles which are similar to military designs are best choices for all-around use. Those tend to be robust, reliable, relatively accurate and use commonly available ammunition and magazines. Surplus ammunition is often available for a fraction of the cost of commercially produced cartridges. Similarly, a 30-round magazine of a common design may cost less than a 4-round magazine of a less common type.
My battle rifle protects my other guns
Even those who have no use or affinity for battle rifles should recognize their value. In the countries where only weapons of little defensive use have been permitted, individuals had little recourse when the government eventually decided to restrict all other types as well. In America, owners of combat weapons ensure that the sports shooters remain unmolested by the would-be prohibitionists.

A few of the many available types

Shotguns are valued for the massive power they deliver at close range. They are extremely versatile and can use a wide variety of ammunition to fit almost any purpose.

Current shotgun designs have been developed between 1870s and 1960s. Further development has been much restricted by Federal laws prohibiting introduction of more effective models.

Single-shot .410 is better than nothing

The oldest and simplest type is a break-open shotgun. These can have a single barrel or two, arranged side by side or one over another. These are useful for hunting and shooting at clay pigons (trap or skeet). The .410 shown is one of the weakest shotgun calibers.

Below (left) is a 12 gauge pump shotgun. It holds four rounds in the magazine, can be used for any purpose. The recoil is noticeable if heavy loads are used.

Below (right) is a self-loading shotgun made primarily for self-defense, though it can be used for hunting and sport as well. It holds five rounds.

870 is versatile

12ga autoloader is good protection Hi-res
Universal sign language

A 12 gauge shotgun throws over an ounce of lead with each shot. For comparison, most rifle bullets weigh less than a quarter as much. Velocity of shot or slug falls off quicker than velocity of a rifle bullet, reducing danger to neighbors if a shotgun is used for home protection.

When used with shot, shotguns are pointed rather than aimed with sights. That makes them effective on moving targets (such as sporting clays, fowl or attacking goblins). That effectiveness, combined with the intimidating size of the bore makes shotguns popular for self-defense.



Protection of human life from predators is a noble cause. Use of effective tools in that cause saves millions of people from victimization every year.

Why people own guns

Fight, flight or surrender : Depending on others : Wearing arms : Homedefense : Real guns? : Martial Arts

Technology of firearms

Long guns : Handguns : Becoming a gun owner : My Garand : Art of the Arms : Image library

Politics of self-defense
Gun control : Stay Safe : Effective guns : Necessary Evil : Media Bias : Get active
A fable : FAQ : Support this site : My forum : Newest posters