The military shotgun can bust doors, destroy obstacles, cow prisoners of war, deploy tear gas, and unleash a devastating pattern of lead shot with a single pull of the trigger. Until the day these missions go away, shotguns are here to stay.

Military shotguns are an invaluable part of twenty-first century arsenals. As limited as the shotgun is, it can do things traditional military firearms cannot. The military shotgun can bust doors, destroy obstacles, cow prisoners of war, deploy tear gas, and unleash a devastating pattern of lead shot with a single pull of the trigger. Until the day these missions go away, shotguns are here to stay.

One of the most popular civilian firearms, the shotgun, also has a role as a military weapon.

Originally designed as hunting weapons, many armies turn to shotguns for a variety of roles, including close combat and obstacle breaching. Although shotguns are too specialized to replace battle and assault rifles in infantry units, their utility will keep them in arsenals worldwide for the foreseeable future.

(This first appeared last month.)

Shotguns are big bore long guns designed to hunt fast-moving birds and small game. In order to maximize hit potential, shotguns typically fire a cartridge filled with metal shot. Instead of a single bullet, shotguns eject tiny balls of shot in a set pattern covering a wider area. The most common shotguns, 12 gauge shotguns, have barrel diameters of 18.5-millimeters (as opposed to 5.56-millimeter for the M4A1 carbine) and pack one twelfth a pound of shot. Alternately, instead of shot pellets a shotgun can fire solid lead slugs.

Shotguns are not terribly suited to combat: shotgun shot has a maximum effective range of thirty yards, at which point velocity and predictable shot groupings quickly decline. Solid slugs are useful out to a maximum of one hundred yards. As a result shotguns are ineffective during combat in rolling terrain, with sight lines out to four hundred yards or more.