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3 reasons shotguns are better than AR-15s (for police)

Wednesday, September 16, 2015 12:01
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For many years shotguns were the long guns of choice for law enforcement agencies. Today, many police departments have turned in these trusty scatterguns for AR-15s. Personally, I believe this is a big mistake—the option of a shotgun in a tactical situation is important. As such, here are three reasons shotguns outperform AR-15s in the realm of law enforcement.

Mechanics and parts

There are so many ARs on the market today that all shooters, including police officers, need to be aware and beware of shoddy parts. Substandard guns and manufacturers cloud the consumer experience and dictate buying practices so that, when officer’s lives depend on their guns working well which is to say all the time, departments cannot take a chance on buying even run of the mill guns. (Frankly, I wouldn’t even trust many big name AR manufacturers.)

By contrast, nobody disputes the pump shotguns durability and reliability across the market, nor that they work very well for defense. Simple parts and mechanics means that the pump shotgun will work even if you do have to treat it roughly.

Terrain and distance

Location, location, location. That’s the mantra for business. And, in police business, if you’re in an urban area, that means you’re pretty close-up. Sure, there are rural areas in most every jurisdiction. In that case, it’s good to have something that can reach out a ways, but in reality, most police encounters have been and are close enough where a shotgun slug can do the trick. With a lot of practice, even hostage taker headshots can be done safely with either .00 buck or a slug, again depending upon the distance. If that doesn’t fly, then just use a handgun.

By the way, AR-10s in .308 are of course also too risky, in my opinion, to be used in most law enforcement capacities for the reasons I listed above: as a cop or as a shooter, you’ve got to consider your backstop and over penetration.

Stopping power

Severing and mutilating a medulla oblongata (the brain stem) creates what’s called flaccid paralysis. Would you rather risk using the terminal ballistics of a .223/5.56mm or a rifle shotgun slug or .00 buckshot? What about chest cavity wounds? I’d have to shoot someone 10 times with a .223 where I could blast them in the thoracic chest cavity and into the heart with a 12 gauge slug. Sure, it’s nice to have both options, but if you have to choose one in an up close and personal encounter, the shotgun makes a much more devastating impact (pun intended).

In the end, I like having the option of both an AR-15 and a shotgun in law enforcement but I definitely think that police departments that do away with training for or using shotguns in the field and consider them a thing of the past are foolish. Sure, the AR has a lot more rounds, but the lethality of the .223 and the pure stopping power of the 12 gauge shotgun just doesn’t compare when it comes to the realities of modern police work. Frankly, if I had to choose, I’d take the shotgun over the AR-15 at my job most every day. But don’t get me wrong, I really like my AR and I’m glad I have that too.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of

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