Is A Sawed Off Shotgun Better?

Have you ever wondered what benefit a sawed off shotgun barrel gives you? Does it spread the shot more? Does it remove the need to aim? In this episode of TFBTV, Patrick breaks out his short barrel Remington 870 and tests a barrel sawed to 14″ with a hacksaw against a 20″ barrel with a cylinder bore. Does reduced barrel length change anything? There is only one way to find out!

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Transcript ….

[coming soon]



Patrick R

Patrick is a Senior Writer for The Firearm Blog and TFBTV Host. He likes guns and has liked shooting guns for as long as he can remember. You can follow Patrick on Instagram @tfbpatrick, Facebook, or contact him by email at TFBpatrick@gmail.com.

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


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  • ExMachina1

    I’m skeptical that the spread is increased by 200%. I’ll attribute any difference in the patterns here to the rough end of the hacksawed barrel.

    • A.WChuck

      They used to make “duck bill” shot spreaders as well.

      • Major Tom

        Duck bill chokes are still made. They’re useful when hunting waterfowl such as…ducks!

        • Tassiebush

          Well pehaps if you shoot tightly packed flocks of them on the water at 10m from a prone position. Not conventionally recommended.

          • Major Tom

            They’re for shooting birds not just in tight groups but out to 30 to 50 meters. The increased dispersion from a duck bill means a higher probability of hitting the bloody bird especially if it takes off flying from your dog.

            Against conventional humans or bears or whatnot, yeah it’s not as useful. They have a tendency to be a bit more built of sterner stuffs than birds.

          • Tassiebush

            I’m not convinced it’s a useful concept for birds either. I don’t think anyone uses them seriously for that purpose if they understand shotguns for that purpose. If you look at how shot strings pattern when a shotgun is used on flying or running game there is already elongated dispersion in the direction of the swing. If someone used the duckbill I reckon that string would be too long and thin lacking enough pattern density. I’m pretty sure from everything I’ve read on them previously that they were developed and deployed in the Vietnam war with the purpose of high hit probability for a point man in close range contacts. There were a few contexts in Vietnam and the idea was probably more valid earlier before they existed in Malaya where wounding someone in opposing group was serious enough to be effective even though it wasn’t a man stopper necessarily. This is where the very thick vegetation made it hard to overrun each other, the encounter was close and quick and in the tropics such wounds were very serious for guerrillas who lacked the medical support and antibiotics. not a very usual situation even for a shotgun.
            I still reckon they’d suit a poacher for flocks of birds on the water or ground at close range.

    • A.WChuck

      Maybe he cut a barrel that had been back bored?

  • Noishkel

    Hmm, interesting points. But did you guys ever ponder putting a slug down range through an SBS? Or perhaps looking into trying this with something like a bean bag round? Something like that at least opens up new options for the use of the weapon. Personally I wouldn’t mind keeping a bean bag in the chamber for the first shot. That way if it’s just one stupid thug you don’t have to necessary kill them.

    • Kivaari

      I found bean bag round to strike randomly upto 12 inches from POA. They were so inaccurate at the NTOA test range of 15 yards that we switched to rubber baton. Rubber baton would clover leaf at 15 yards, and POA and POI were the same. Bean bag rounds are known for causing fatalities due to the erratic trajectory.

  • Haulin’ Oats

    Patrick,
    You should consider putting a red dot reflex sight with a selectable reticle on that shotgun.

  • Rnasser Rnasser

    Pat, I really liked your impersonation of the gunshop owner…

  • Ken

    If that’s your HD buckshot load, I highly recommend that you try out the Federal 13200, low recoil w/flite control wad. You’ll get much better patterning, a lot longer hit-range probability, and less of a chance of fliers even at longer than hallway distances.

  • Gary Kirk

    Will watch video later (no chance at the moment), but am wondering what the original barrel was? Both length, and designwise? Could be cutting it down that far got back into the forcing cone eliminating any straight walled portion to stabilize the shot column..

  • Kivaari

    Try some better grade low recoil Remington or Federal ammo. My 870-14 inch guns were throwing tight patterns. 25 yard pattern were great with either the Remington 8-pellet load or the 9-pellet Federal. Full power loads had more open patterns.

  • AUGunsmith

    Putting the longer barrel on your SBS no longer makes it an SBS. There are multiple ATF letters out there saying this. Since you are not required to notify the ATF about re-configuring back into a title1 firearm, A weapon that does not meet the definition of a NFA firearm is not
    subject to the NFA and a possessor or transfer needn’t comply with NFA
    requirements

    • Kivaari

      The receiver is “on the NFA rolls” regardless of barrel length. I you choose to go back to a standard barrel permanently it needs a letter to NFA to remove that serial number from the rolls.

      • AUGunsmith

        Regardless of being “on the NFA roll” if it is not an NFA item by definition, it is not an NFA item. As soon as he put a 18″+ barrel on that shotgun, it is no longer an SBS. He is able to travel across state lines, sell it, transfer it, loan it to a buddy, do anything he could do with a shotgun that was never SBS-ed. You are under no obligation to remove an item from the NFRTR.

        • Kivaari

          I always did mine. Like semi auto SBRs where I could install a long barrel and then somewhere down the line the owner of the non-NFA item could install another short barrel, and get caught. I’d have a hard time proving I didn’t sell the SBR to the new owner. I always had the items removed from the rolls in a CYA manner. I did this with two Uzis and a TC Contender.

        • Cymond

          “As soon as he put a 18″+ barrel on that shotgun, it is no longer an SBS.”
          I’ve seen letters that say it is ok to temporarily use a full length barrel on a SBR, and it remains a SBR as long as the owner still has the short barrel.

          FWIW, I think ATF has flip-flopped on this before.

          But yes, it could be transferred as a Title 1 firearm with the longer barrel, and yes, ATF notification is not required (but probably wise).

  • Steven Steenhout

    Had a Remington 870 National Firearms Act (NFA) registered Short Barreled Shotgun (SBS) with a 12.5″ barrel. Found about a 10% power loss over a standard 18″ barrel, also found the best choke tube configuration was a rifled choke tube. It helps open up buckshot at close ranges, gave a more uniform pattern with bird shot and gives improved slug accuracy at distance. Also found the side folding Choate Tool Corp, pistol grip stock to be the most efficient and a rubberized fore grip (Hogue or Pachmayr).

    Today you can buy the Remington TAC14 or the Mossberg Shockwave both sport 14″ barrels without the hassle of the NFA tax stamp. Nether have choke systems though, that’s a gunsmith option. Both are a lot of fun to shoot, they only have a pistol grip though, but they are also good candidates for the NFA Form 1 + $200.00 SBS, if you want to put a stock on them.

    • Kivaari

      Most of us want the pattern to stay tight. With buckshot from a standard shotgun it is easy to miss a standing man at 35m. Random hit s possible, but per pellet power is low. Even getting a reliable hit at 25m can be hard, so why increase your odds of missing? With the low recoil loads from Remington and Federal it is easy to keep all the pellets on a typical bad guy target. I know I want tight groups.

      • pvw20

        Me thinks that the only people who need to shoot someone at 35 meters with a shotgun would be a LEO. The average Joe Blow defending his life/loved one/home? Better have some damn good lawyers on speed dial.

        • Kivaari

          That’s what I was concerned about it. Although later on we used rifles or SMGs and reserved the shotguns for less lethal. I sold my last two SBS M870-14″ to a local PD. As long as the ammo used was the low recoil loads the guns would do a number at 35m. That department did not issue rifles at the time and loved shotguns. Most local agencies now have M4 carbines and shotguns.

          • pvw20

            Rifles probably are a better option for LEOs in this day and age. I’d like to think shotguns still have a small role to play tho; for nothing more than to satisfy my love for shotties.

          • Nicks87

            You are right. Depts. are moving away from shotguns for anything other than less-than-lethal options. .223/5.56 is much more versatile. Plus nobody wants to have to reload shotguns in stressful situations. Lots of used police shotguns popping up for sale on the gun websites.

      • ShooterPatBob

        Speak for yourself. “Most” of us looking for home defense shotguns don’t have a 35 foot long hallway, much less 35 meters.

  • Blake

  • pun&gun

    You *do* point a shotgun rather than aim it (slug guns excluded, obviously). Most people just don’t understand what that means. It’s by no means an imprecise “general direction” thing; skilled clayshooters can hit 6″ discs flying through the air with a full choke, so it’s hardly inaccurate. It does, however, depend on lots of practice, a well-fitted gun, and human binocular vision with focus on the target.
    As to whether a shotgun’s the best thing for home defense with that usage in mind… nah. Home defense is something where I’d rather be able to account for everything that leaves the barrel, rather than relying on a pattern not to diverge too much.

  • BrandonAKsALot

    STOP MUZZLE SWEEPING ME!

    I’ve actually messed around with my Vepr 12 all the way out to 100 yards with bird and buckshot. I will say that I had targets on 4 seperate stands and didn’t realize that I was hitting all of the at 100 yards with birdshot. I would say that was about a 12-15 foot spread. Nice and tight. It was about an 8 foot’ish spread at 50.

  • Christian Hedegaard-Schou

    Isn’t the point of a “sawed off” shotgun to reduce overall length so that it’s more maneuverable inside a vehicle or home/building?

    In that case shorter is better always, regardless of the shot pattern size, especially at the shorter distances in which you would be using it for defense in the first place.

  • OldDude

    As for the sound of racking and/or firing a shotgun not getting serious attention… I disagree. As a police officer, two of us responded to a bar fight one night and grabbed the 870’s as we arrived. Upon entering the bar, it was pandemonium inside – virtually all of the 20 or so non-English speaking patrons were involved in fighting, and with the music playing it was very loud. Both of us racked the 870’s as we shouldered them. Except for the music, you could have heard a pin drop. It was like a commercial…. they simply froze. I also doubt that any home invader will stick around very long after a shotgun goes off. Unless they’re on some serious stuff, most crooks will pee their pants trying to get away from a shotgun being fired at them, especially inside a house.

  • OldDude

    Oh, and +1 on the muzzle sweep. You’d have never been MY partner like that.

  • Blake

    BTW here’s a good example of how not to handle a home-defense situation:
    http://www.military.com/daily-news/2017/06/16/trial-green-beret-killing-test-limits-make-my-day-law.html

    “A former Army Green Beret crossed the line into vigilantism when he shot an intruder three times in the back in his detached garage.”

    “Galvin was indicted in April 2016 by a 10-2 vote by an El Paso County grand jury, which concluded that he failed to provide adequate warning before firing on Carrigan.”

    • noob

      That makes no sense. Colorado has the Make My Day law to protect home owners like Galvin from home invaders, and yet they still charged him and dragged his name through the mud. Does that mean that the Gwinnett county, Georgia woman who in 2016 shot and killed one of three armed home invaders in her driveway would have been indicted if the had taken one step out of her front door during her defensive action if she’d been in Galvin’s shoes and under Colorado legal principles?

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/774d8d5a2a71a893529621b6c42749c68f8e8179b45d867dbd865967bef75ccd.jpg

  • Jonathan Ferguson

    This was scientifically tested in the AFTE Journal; ammunition selection made more difference to the pattern than the barrel length if I recall. With certain ammo the cut down barrel made almost no difference. Pretty sure they didnt get 200% pattern size with any combination of barrel length & ammo.

  • ErSwnn

    Now…is a SBS about spread…or about maneuverability? Certainly some would be seeking concealment but those are going to tend to be people who aren’t lawful in any way, guns or not. But to my own thinking…or tactic… I’d want the power of a shotgun, the lessening of over-penetration and the mobility of a shorty. Which is why I have one.

  • noob

    Aomebody should invent a multiple reticle reflex sight that has a laser rangefinder in it for 0 to 35m range and selects the appropriate circle reticle size based on what you are pointing at and load pattern data you enter in with your smartphone. At those close ranges it could be pretty useful.