The myths go on

Tam linked to a blog posting where they tested various loads against drywall. The intent was to address the common myth about what can and can’t go through drywall, thinking shotgun loads will have little penetration and rifles will go right through to the next zip code.

The Box O’ Truth has covered this many times. I’ve blogged on it too. But hey, I’m not going to deny someone a fun day at a the range. 🙂  Besides, more supporting evidence is always welcome.

Their conclusion? Same as the others: rifle rounds penetrated the least. Well-designed .223 Rem/5.56×45 NATO rounds will fragment and yaw. That’s how they do their damage, but it also means a dramatic loss of energy and penetration potential (after initial impact) thus all those over-penetration concerns are addressed. Buckshot? It just keeps going and going, and where do those pellets land? A hollow-point handgun round hits drywall, plugs the cavity up, and now it’s going to act like a ball round and just keep penetrating, no expansion to help slow it down. More info here.

So really, I know what conventional wisdom is, but it needs to be updated because the data and facts support it. Kudos for CTone for helping to spread that word. 🙂

But despite that, some myth remains. One commenter on CTone’s posting, Laughingdog, said:

Honestly, a shotgun really is the ideal choice for a home defense weapon for most people, but not for the bullshit reasons so many instructors give (e.g., won’t penetrate drywall, you don’t have to aim, etc.).

You can get a good pump action shotgun for less than the cost of a good handgun, and much less than the cost of a good semi-auto rifle. That pump action shotgun is also easier to operate than most semi-auto rifles. Most people can figure out a pump-action without a lot of help.


To clarify the point I was trying to make there. The average person is not going to spend the money on a good rifle. They also aren’t going to spend the time training with that rifle. So, for that type of person, a shotgun is a good choice, but not because of the myth that it won’t go through the walls.

Laughingdog, I’m not picking on you in particular, just you happened to say what a lot of people say. First yes, shotguns generally can be obtained much less expensively, which is something in their favor. But easier to operate? I’m not so sure. Most rifles are a simple point-and-click interface. If you want to talk inexpensive shotgun, that means a pump-action. While yes most people can figure out the notion of a pump, it doesn’t magically happen — you still have to have practiced with it. And when the flag flies, are you going to remember to “point-click-rack-point-click-rack”? And if you do, to not short-shuck it? People have trouble with flicking off manual safeties when the flag flies — especially people who don’t practice — so why would they remember to rack the shotgun? And how about reloading? It’s far easier and faster to drop an old and insert a fresh magazine, it’s far more cumbersome to reload a shotgun (which has such low-capacity to begin with). Don’t think your situation will require a reload? How do you know that (and it’s not just about number of rounds fired, what about malfunctions?) Take a look at the Magpul Dynamics Art of the Dynamic Shotgun video and you’ll see how complex the shotgun weapon system really is.

If you’re not going to train (and that’s a whole other matter), you really need the simplest manual of arms possible. When you eliminate the commonalities between a rifle and shotgun (e.g. both require flicking off a safety, both have to be aimed), the rifle is going to be simpler, in theory. I say in theory because the rifle could have some of its own issues, like holdover. But the decision of what tool to use is not as simple as “oh this one is better because of X Y and Z”. You have to choose the right tool given the context. That right tool could be a shotgun, that right tool could be a rifle, that right tool could be a handgun, that right tool could be something else. The best you can do is talk frankly about all weapon systems, give people information, then let them make the best decision that fits them. Corollary to that is if you then find out your decision wasn’t right, fix it; don’t be afraid to admit mistake or fix a problem or upgrade your situation… your life hangs on it.

I will say tho, Laughingdog did make an excellent case to use to dispel another horrible myth of defensive shotgun use.


I’m just glad I’ve gotten all of the other instructors at the range, as well as about half of the salesmen downstairs, to accept that bird shot is not acceptable self-defense ammo. Even the stubborn ones finally cave when I say two words to them to describe why bird shot sucks for that purpose: “Dick Cheney”.



Good one! 🙂


2 thoughts on “The myths go on

  1. “Same as the others: rifle rounds penetrated the least.”

    Depends on the rifle caliber.

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone shortstroke a pump. I’m sure it happens, but compared to the number of AR, pistol, and semi-auto shotgun failures I’ve seen the ol’ pump action appears to be super robust.

    • I should have been more specific. We’re talking about .223/5.56, not like a .30-06. The general sort of “AR-style/M4gery carbine” type of rifle.

      I’ve seen people shortstroke a pump. Heck, even in that Magpul DVD, Chris shortstroked it once (and I thought it was cool they left it in and not edit it out). Heck, during the Givens CP2 class I stroke-stroked the trigger reset on my handgun one time. So, short-stroking can happen, especially under pressure.

      But no question, the pump is going to be more robust. Me personally, I’d prefer a pump over a semi-auto because it’s going to feed and work no matter what.

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