"This article refers to shotguns designed for use by law enforcement agencies and private civilians. For related variants intended for military use, see
A riot shotgun is a
shotgundesigned or modified for use as a primarily defensive weapon, primarily by the use of a short barrel. [cite web |url=http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/riot%20gun |title=Riot gun |accessdate=2007-09-18 Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law. riot gun n: a small arm used to disperse rioters rather than to inflict serious injury or death; especially : a short-barreled shotgun] [cite web |url=http://saami.org/Glossary/display.cfm?letter=G |title=Gun, riot |author=SAAMI Glossary |accessdate=2008-09-18] The riot shotgun is used by military personnel for guard duty and was at one time used for riot control, and is commonly used as a patrol weapon by law enforcement personnel, as well as a home defense weapon by private citizens. [cite web |url=http://www.chuckhawks.com/guns_home_defense.htm |title=Guns for Home Defense |author=Chuck Hawks |accessdate=2007-09-18] [cite journal |url=http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m3197/is_12_48/ai_111971509 |title=Long guns still popular home-defense option |journal=Shooting Industry |month=December |year=2003 |author=Massad Ayoob] . Guns of this type are often labelled as tactical shotguns or special-purpose shotguns to denote the larger scope of their use; however, these are largely marketing terms.
The primary characteristic of a riot shotgun is a "short" barrel (generally 14", 18-18.5", or 20" in length) which makes the shotgun more compact and easy to handle, easier to store inside a police vehicle, and more suitable for quickly aiming at stationary targets. Generally they have an open (cylinder-bore) choke, to cause the shot to spread quickly and to allow use with other types of projectiles, and they may be equipped with bead, rifle, or ghost-ring sights. Riot guns are most often
pump-actiondue to their low cost and reliability, but in recent years a number of semi-automatic shotguns designed for defensive use have become available and are used by military, law enforcement and civilians alike.
Most riot guns are chambered in 12-gauge and can handle 2.75" "standard-length" or 3" "magnum" cartridges. Most non-shotshell loads, such as
less lethalammunition like bean bags, are made only in 12-gauge. However, 20-gauge and .410 shotguns in riot gun configuration are also available. Smaller bores are popular for home defense, as the reduced power and recoil make them more suitable for less experienced shooters who, nevertheless, may need to defend themselves in their home.
Another defining feature of riot shotguns is their high capacity. While most hunting shotguns have between 2-5 rounds capacity (often 3, to comply with regulations for bird hunting), riot shotguns generally have a magazine tube as long as the barrel, allowing for 6-9 shells to be loaded depending on the model and length of shells loaded. This provides for as many rounds as may be needed to disperse a crowd or take down multiple suspects.
Configurations of grips and stocks for riot shotguns vary widely, but virtually always feature reinforced plastic "furniture" instead of the wood common on hunting firearms. As compared to hunting shotguns, riot guns more often feature pistol grips, with or without a shoulder stock. Without a shoulder stock (or with a folding stock), a riot shotgun becomes more compact and thus able to be used in very close quarters. With the stock, the pistol grip facilitates control of the weapon and provides a more ergonomic grip when the shotgun is fired from the shoulder. Foregrips, or forends, also vary, usually with the inclusion of a pistol grip (further increasing control and absorbing recoil), and/or the addition of an accessory rail or other mounting point for a tactical light.
The multiple projectile ability of a shotgun greatly increases the probability of a hit on an assailant, and the multiple projectiles increase the likelihood of a disabling hit. Though many sizes and configurations of shotshell are used by police, among the most common is the 12-gauge 2 3/4-inch (70 mm) 00 ("double-aught") buckshot shell, which consists of 9 .33 caliber (8.5 mm) round lead balls, each of which is similar in size and velocity to a 9mm/.38 caliber handgun bullet. This shot spreads out to a greater or lesser degree depending on the barrel choke, and can be effective at ranges as far as 75 yards (70 m). The delivery of the large number of projectiles simultaneously makes the shotgun the most effective short range weapon commonly used, with a hit probability 45% greater than a
submachine gun, and twice as great as an assault rifle.cite web |url=http://jagcnet.army.mil/JAGCNETINTERNET/HOMEPAGES/AC/ARMYLAWYER.NSF/c82df279f9445da185256e5b005244ee/6ae1de28fab6310685256e5b0054ec6b/$FILE/Article%202.pdf |title=Joint Service Combat Shotgun Program |author=W. Hays Parks, Special Assistant for Law of War Matters, Office of The Judge Advocate General, U.S. Army Washington, D.C. |accessdate=2007-09-18] The ability to use shotgun slugs extends the range and penetration capability of the shotgun. Police officers in the US commonly secure a shotgun in their vehicles, for use when armed resistance is expected or at any time greater firepower than the officer's sidearm is needed.cite journal |url=http://www.policeone.com/police-products/firearms/shotguns/articles/1286216 |title=The Police Shotgun: Versatile, Powerful & Still “The Great Intimidator” |date=July 4 |year=2007 |author=Bill Campbell |journal=The Police Marksman]
Riot vs. combat shotguns
The division between the riot shotgun and the combat shotgun is blurry, and may be more a matter of application than design. A combat shotgun would be used in military combat situations as a primarily offensive weapon, where a riot shotgun would be used in law enforcement or civilian situations as a primarily defensive weapon. Common additions to a combat shotgun would be provision for attaching a
bayonet, and the addition of a ventilated heat shield over the barrel to prevent the operator's fingers from being burned by a barrel heated by multiple shots (though this heat shield is a common addition to riot shotguns as well). The U.S. Army specifications for shotguns require a metal trigger guard for durability, which reduces the number of "special purpose" models used by police that would also be suitable for the military (the Mossberg 590A1 and Benelli M1014are the standard-issue pump and semi-auto shotguns currently in service).
Riot shotguns are also more limited in range than combat shotguns by the nature of their use. A combat shotgun is considered effective out to 75 yards (70 m) because on average at least 1 pellet of a 9 pellet 00 buckshot load will hit a human sized target at that range. This is enough to degrade the combat effectiveness of an enemy soldier, but it is not enough to reliably disable an assailant in a defensive situation. For that, there must be multiple hits to the target, enough that one or more pellets will hit a vital region. Generally this is well under 40 yards (37 m) with a cylinder bore barrel. Beyond this range, slugs and good
iron sights are recommended, extending the range to over 100 meters. [cite web |url=http://www.frfrogspad.com/shotgun.htm |title=Some Thoughts on the Combat Shotgun |author=John Schaefer |accessdate=2007-09-18]
Less lethal alternatives
The latter part of the 20th century saw a new role for the riot shotgun, with the advent of a wide variety of
less lethalammunition for police use. These vary from the early "bean bag" shooting flexible baton rounds, rubber bullets and other impact munitions, to tear gasand, expected to be released in January 2008, a 12 gauge electroshock weaponfrom TASER International. Using the shotgun as the delivery system allows the officers to quickly choose a lethal or a less lethal weapon, so responding officers can adapt to changing situations; An officer in a standoff can quickly eject a chambered buckshot cartridge and replace it with a less-lethal cartridge such as a bean bag, and is not required to unload the magazine as with most rifles or handguns. Alternately, one officer can be equipped with less lethal munitions, while others, equipped with buckshot, can provide a backup in case the less lethal rounds fail to stop the target. [cite web |url=http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/206089.pdf |title=Impact Munitions Use: Types, Targets, Effects |author=NIJ] [cite web |url=http://taser.com/products/law/Pages/XREP.aspx |title=Taser XREP |publisher=TASER International, Inc.]
Entry and breaching shotguns
The entry shotgun or breaching shotgun is a role that can be filled by a standard riot shotgun, or one further modified for these purposes. They may have an extremely short barrel and often only a pistol grip rather than a buttstock, or a folding or collapsing buttstock if it is provided with one. In addition, the barrel often has a
muzzle brake, used to disperse hot gases that might otherwise be deflected toward the shooter. It is often used with breaching rounds, as its extremely short length is ideal for quickly disabling locks and entering the forced door, and may be equipped with a special "standoff" device at the muzzle for use when breaching. Since these shotguns would in most areas be classified as short barreled shotguns, they are highly restricted under gun controllaws such as the National Firearms Actand generally only used by police and military. [cite web |url=http://world.guns.ru/shotgun/sh17-e.htm |title=Remington 870 Shotgun (USA) has pictures of Remington "Entry" and "Breaching" models] [ [http://www.mossberg.com/images/Mossberg_Guns/930/New/54125.jpgPicture] of a Mossberg 500 Tactical Cruiser, with a special breaching barrel with stand-off device on the muzzle]
*"Give Us More Shotguns!" by Bruce N. Canfield, American Rifleman, May 2004
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