Sawed Off Shotgun

Other than making it shorter and therefore easier to conceal, what other advantages are there in sawing off the barrel(s) of a shotgun? I would think it would make it somewhat less accurate… but that’s just a WAG.

It causes the shot pattern to widen considerably, so, yes, at range, it makes it less “accurate” because fewer of the pellets are going to hit a man-sized target; however, it also makes it *more *accurate in that increases the chances that some of them will hit your target.

I don’t follow. Can you explain the second part of your statement with a simple example?

It doesn’t make it “more accurate,” it just makes it more probable that at least some pellets will hit the target.

Shortening the barrel gives you a wider cone of shot, but with fewer pellets in any section of said cone. Result: greater chance of hitting something, but with a decreased chance of hitting something a lot. The only real reason for shortening a barrel much beyond the legal limit is concealability, ie bank-robbing and other such anti-social activities.

Why is it more probable with a shorter barrel?

Hold a handful of rice about two feet above a paper plate. Open your hand. Most of the rice will land on the plate.

Now take the plate and tack it to the wall. Stand ten feet away and throw the rice at the plate. Not so much of the rice will hit the plate. However, if you had ten or fifteen plates tacked to the wall, chances are you’d hit most of them with at least some of the rice. Also, if the plate was swinging back and forth instead of tacked to the wall, chances are you’d still hit it with some of the rice.

Backup and 'splain yerselves folk!

A shotgun cartridge can have one bullet (called a ‘slug’) that is the size of a sewing thumbcap. But most cartridges have more smaller ‘shot’ that can be a few balls the size of peas (‘buckshot’ I do believe) to hundreds of tiny BB’s (‘birdshot’). I think you can have rifling in a shotgun (causes the slug to spin and increases accuracy - think how an American football is thrown), but most shotguns are smooth inside the barrel. The pellets are round, not very aerodynamic, and when they come out of the barrel they start to tumble and spin and go off of their true-line course.

Let’s take an example of say, 10 pellets, in a cartridge. They come out of the barrel and immediately start to spread out in a cone shape. So, hypothetically, shooting a wall 10 feet from the end of the barrel will look like:

.  .  .
. . . .
 . . .

Think of the shot pattern as a cone, with its point at the exit of the barrel. All the shot at a given distance will be within the circle of the large end of the cone.

With a long barrel, it’s a narrow cone. If your aim is off a certain amount, the shot pattern circle at the end of the cone will miss the target. With a short barrel, it’s wider cone. Your aim could be off the same amount, but the edge of the larger shot pattern circle will hit the target.

An anology would be if you shot at something with a quick burst from a garden hose. With the nozzle set on spray (wide cone), there’s a greater probability of wetting your target than with the nozzle set on stream (narrow cone). It won’t get as wet as if you’d hit it with a stream, but you’re more likely to hit it.

Okay. So if I was trying to hit a duck some distance away I would want the long barrel but if I was being attacked by 10 people running towards me I would want the shorter barrel since I could hit more of them in a single shot… but it would be less lethal by comparison.

I always thought that shotguns would blow a big hole in someone so I wasn’t thinking about bb’s having that lethal of an effect.

So do shotgun manufacturers make shorter barreled shotguns, or are the universally illegal?

I have zero experience with sawed off shotguns, but some experience with hunting shotguns. Hunting shotguns come with various chokes that have an effect on the shot pattern. Chokes range (in increasing effectiveness) from cylinder bore (no choke) to inproved cylinder, modified, inproved modified, and then full (there may be chokes other than these). In addition, the choke is installed at the muzzle end of the barrel (some barrels have fixed chokes, others have interchangable chokes). To get an idea of the effect of the choke on shot pattern, imagine a paper target with a 30" diameter circle printed on it. Now let’s shoot at it at a distance of 30 yards with a full choke and a load that has, for example, 100 pellets in it. If we look at the target after shooting it, we may find that all of the pellets hit the target within the circle. Now lets change the choke to a cylinder bore and shoot at the same target. We will now see that the only 60 pellets hit within the circle, and 40 hit the target outside of the circle. With the cylinder bore, there are less pellets on target than a full choke, but a greater likelyhood of hitting something near the target with the 40 pellets outside of the circle.

I don’t think that it’s the shorter barrel that causes the wider pattern, but the fact that cutting the barrel removes the choke from the end of the barrel. A sawed off shotgun has a cylinder bore. The shorter barrel may have an effect on the shot pattern, but it’s probably less that due to the removal of the choke, though any effect it does have probably leads to a wider shot pattern.

Arrgh! hit the wrong button. And a few replies have come in, so, you probably get the picture, but I’ll continue anyways.

At, say, 30 feet, the pattern would look like this:

  .  .  .
 .  .  .  . 
  .  .  .

Let’s say that is with a normal shotgun barrel at least 24 inches long. But if you saw off the barrel down to an inch or two, then the spread pattern will look like this at 10 feet:

  .    .    .
 .    .    .   .
   .   .   .

And if you have a double-barrel, sawed-off shotgun, one trigger pull would look like this at 10 feet:

   .    .    .   .   .   .
 .    .    .   .   .   .   .   .
    .   .   .   .   .   .

And this at 20 feet:

   .      .      .     .     .     .
 .      .      .     .     .     .     .     .
    .     .     .     .     .     .

So, in close-quarter spaces, say a bank atrium, you can pretty much be sure you will hit whatever is in front of you without having to really aim too carefully. But you would also hit people on the sides of the target too…With one trigger pull you could easily wound/kill 2 or 3 people. And this is just using an example with 10 shot per cartridge. Think about bird shot with over 100 little metals balls going everywhere.


The shortest legal barrel available is 18.25". It is sometimes refered to as a “riot” barrel. Cylinder bored. Handy for defense and bear hunting, not so much for birds and the like.

There is a minimum legal length. I had a single shot, break-action, pistol-grip shotgun that had the exact minimum barrel length- I think it was 18inches in Colorado. I used it to hunt rabbit.

Not true. My favorite weapon of all time simply because of its sheer audacity is the Serbu Super Shorty, which is classified as an AOW (Any Other Weapon) under the 1934 National Firearms Act.

Oh- I think .410 shotgun shells work in some 45 Colt chambered weapons. Leinad sells a single-shot derringer like this…Talk about a short barrel! So, 20, 12, 10 and 4(?) gauge shotguns have a minimum, but 410’s do not.


That is so cool! I didn’t know that! I want one!


      • I got into a discussion of this on another (weapon-related) forum–there is a shotgun bore named “cylinder”, but unless it is a rifled bore for slugs-only, even a cylinder bore has a slight choke at the muzzle end. I have read that this has been common practice on all shotguns made since the early-20th century. The bore is tight at the chamber, flares out a couple thousandths of an inch along most of the length, and then closes back in to the chamber’s diameter at the muzzle. Shotguns that have truly-“straight” non-chokes tend to allow the shot to spread out more than is generally useful (in sporting situations).
  • And of course, no sawed-off shotgun thread is complete without the obligatory link to the Serbu Super-Shorty:

So then, if it’s calssified as an AOW, then is it technically not a shotgun (despite using shotgun ammo) and does not violate the 18.25" min. barrel length?

IwantitIwantitIwantitIwantitIwantit!!! :smiley: