Five Reasons to Pull The Trigger on a Short Barrel Shotgun

The old-fashioned sawed-off shotgun was so appealing to the criminal underworld that politicians felt compelled to place some hardcore restrictions on who could own one. That’s something we have to live with. And it is well worth the headache of the tax-stamp for a short barrel shotgun. Here’s why:

1. Maneuverability

We’re not hunting geese with short barrels. The short-barreled shotgun (SBS) is meant for tactical offense and efficient self-defense. The short barrel gives you greater maneuverability inside buildings. If you know you will be outside, and not in confined spaces, then a full-sized gun will work fine.

short barrel shotgun
If you work in tight places, a short barrel shotgun is a great option.

2. Full stock

Many of the shotguns that try to stay compact often shorten their stocks. These are often called PGOs (pistol grip only). They’re not technically shotguns, according to the ATF. They are firearms. And they are hard to control because they don’t have stocks. The first shot is easy, but muzzle flip is absurd. A full-sized stock with a short barrel is much easier to control.

short barrel shotgun stock
Pistol Grip Only guns are hard to control.

3. Easier to load

Bullpups have a devoted fan base. Guns like the Kel-Tec KSG have incredible capacity, but loading them may be a bit awkward as the rounds have to go in below the stock. The method can be learned, but it requires practice.

4. Familiar manual of arms.

While we’re talking about the way the gun operates, I’d add that there are advantages to going with what you know. I’m running a Remington 870 because I know the 870. I grew up hunting with one. Before I gave Uncle Sam some money he didn’t really deserve to allow me to cut off the barrel on this one, I used it as my go-to home defense gun. Go with what you know.

Ghost ring sights on a short barrel shotgun
A good set of ghost ring sights works nicely.

5. Better balance

A fully loaded KSG is a beast. Dumping 14 rounds of high-brass buckshot is one of the most heady shotgun shooting experiences you can have. Most of the bullpup models that have taken off are either double-barreled or have two magazine tubes.

That’s a serious benefit, but the gun can get cumbersome. My 870 is lighter, easier to swing, and the whole package is very well balanced. Because it is thin, it is also easier to conceal.

barrel of short barrel shotgun
Just watch that support hand.

The point of the SBS is its ease of use. Anything that detracts from that is nothing but a distraction.

David Higginbotham is a writer and editor who specializes in everyday carry. David is a former backcountry guide in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Boundary Waters Canoe Area who was a college professor for 20 years. He ultimately left behind the academy for a more practical profession in the firearms industry and was (among other editorial positions) the Managing Editor for a nascent Mag Life blog. In that Higginbotham helped establish The Maglife's tone and secure its early success. Though he went on to an even more practical firearms industry profession still, he continues to contribute articles and op-eds as time and life allow.

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