Sunday, September 14, 2014

Shooting milk jugs


We had a house guest yesterday.  The person is very slender and lives in downtown Lansing.  They are thinking about purchasing a firearm for personal protection.

Their initial inclination is to buy a handgun.  But what I know of the difficulties they would have finding a place to practice and the shelf life of handgun skills I am definitely nudging them toward considering a shotgun.

I took them into the backyard and they shot some milk jugs suspended from the clothes line.  The range was 7 paces.  I loaned them my Mossberg 500 with the Reddot scope.  The gun was pretty heavy for them. I imagine it was the equivalent of me holding an 8 pound sledge out at arms length.

7/8 oz of bird shot whacked this milk jug pretty good.


They went five-for-five.  The person was so geeked and stoked on adrenaline that they were trembling.  They definitely want to do it again.

Matching the firearm to the shooter


This person will probably be better served with a single-shot 20 gauge with a decent buttpad to soak up some recoil than with a Mossy 500.  Single shots are very light which makes them easy to handle but the recoil can be fierce.  The pump is heavier and it takes strength to work the mechanism with authority.  (Nice short essay on a lady using a single-shot to good effect HERE)

Given the right kind of single-shot and good reloading technique one is less handicapped with a single-shot than you might think.  I once got three shots off at a running deer with a single shot by using the left-hand reload technique.

Shown here with 12 gauge shells.
This technique is easier to pull off with 20 gauge because the shells are about 1/10th of an inch skinnier and are easier to wedge between your fingers.

One requirement of the single-shot is that it vigorously eject the shells upon break-open.   With enough practice the user can perform the reload without looking.  Not all single-shots will do this.  If the seller of the gun will let you, stuff a fired hull into the breach, close the gun and then open it.  If it launches the empty over your shoulder you are in business.  If the seller will not let you do this, most of the single-shots with good ejection characteristics make a distinct "Pop!" sound when they are opened.  If you open the gun mechanism slowly the "Pop!" will occur when the firearm is about 1/5 the way open.

A 12 gauge can be handloaded to 20 gauge recoil levels.  The birdshot loads used yesterday were that type of load:  7/8 oz of shot, an appropriate wad and about 17 grains of Alliant e3.  Just to close the loop for the new shooter, we went downstairs and I had them reload five shells.  For those shells we used Federal hulls, Federal wads and 9 single-ought buckshot and the same 17 grains of Alliant e3.  This load will be a slow mover at about 1100 fps but single-ought at that velocity will not bounce off a bad guy.

I have a feeling that some pieces of 2-by-8 planking are going to die the next time this person visits.

Final thoughts:  Most people are not warriors.  A seldom mentioned advantage of a single-shot firearm is that it forces the user to cut-to-the-chase.  Single-shot firearms do not allow the user the luxury (sometimes a fatal luxury) of warning shots, or shooting to wing them or shooting without aiming.   If you are standing there with a loaded single-shot you have already made the decisions.  You will aim for upper-center of mass and you will not hesitate.   You will not be slowed by gratuitous cognitive dithering because there are no other options to consider.

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