I have been spending a lot of time shooting the shotgun, reading about the shotgun, watching videos about the shotgun, over the past couple months. These are some of my thoughts.
The greatest weakness of the shotgun is not the lack of capacity, as many people argue. In fact, barring side-by-side, over/under or single shot shotguns, I don’t think capacity is an issue at all. This is largely because (to steal a term from Greg Ellifritz), shotguns tend to be conclusive. Meaning, they end fights quickly.
The greatest strength of the shotgun is that it fires multiple projectiles with a single press of the trigger. Generally, most 00 buck loads are 8 or 9 pellets that are .33″ in diameter. Being shot by a full load of 00 buck is, at least on a conceptual level, similar to being shot with 8 or 9 rounds of 9mm from something like an MP-5, except it all happens at once.
The shotguns ability to end fights so quickly, and in essence hit the target 8 or 9 times with a single trigger press negates the capacity issue. A shotgun that holds 4 or 5 rounds is not that big of a deal because most fights don’t require 4 or 5 rounds to be fired from a 12ga shotgun. In addition, the shotgun is one of the few types of firearms that can be reloaded without being unloaded. So even though the gun only holds 4 or 5 rounds at a time, I can put more rounds in it as I go if needed.
So what is the greatest weakness of the shotgun? In my opinion (which is worth what it cost you to read this), it is the limited range of buckshot. Some might argue that a shotgun’s range can be extended with the use of slugs, which I agree with, it can, but that is a compromise solution. If the strength of a shotgun lies in the multiple projectile round (i.e. buckshot), when we use a slug in a shotgun we are taking away the shotgun’s strength in order to gain range. While perhaps a necessary compromise if range is what is needed, a shotgun is best suited to the close range gunfight. That is where the shotgun excels.