The choice of having a shotgun as a main survival weapon along with a handgun can be a good thing if you choose to have a 12-gauge. The shotgun is versatile in that birdshot for small game, buckshot for personal close-range home defense, and rifled slugs for hunting larger game, like deer. Of course, that also depends upon the terrain in which you must survive. Out in the western plain, desert and mountain states, a high caliber rifle is best because of the distance between you and the hunting target. In a heavily wooded area or swampland, the shotgun is great for hunting.
The ammunition is relatively cheap, especially birdshot, compared to high-caliber rounds in a rifle.
The shotgun is a mid-range firearm that is traditionally used for close-quarter combat (CQC) and in regards to home defense where targets are less than 25 yards, the 12-gauge buckshot round is awesome firepower. Buckshot (and slugs) will bring down an angry bull moose or a territorial grizzly. Also, in the case of home defense, just the look of the big-bore shotgun being pointed at a human predator is enough to make them think twice. Ammunition is versatile and they even make 12-gauge flare rounds, which might be a good idea to have a few around in the bug-out inventory. I say a few because they are not cheap. They come in colored smoke and aerial flares like in the marine flare pistols you see aboard boats to meet US Coast Guard regulations. Beware, though, firing these, at least the flares can be dangerous and if not an emergency against the law. Whenever they are used, clean the bore as soon as possible.
Shotguns normally require little maintenance, whether you choose a side-by-side, an over-under, a lever action, pump action, or semi-auto – under normal conditions.
Sabot rounds, the rifled slug, as aforementioned, will give you a bit more range, but a rifled barrel is paramount for accuracy and increased range. It also inhibits the pattern of shot rounds. Buckshot is not effective past 40 yards and accuracy is lost when rifled slugs reach 100 yards.
If you choose the lever-action, pump, or magazine-fed semi-auto, the capacity is limited compared to rifles in those groups. And another thing to consider, when addressing the five principles of survival weapons, is weight. A shotgun in a quick-draw scabbard mounted to a backpack is cool, until you have to lug it around for any kind of distance. They do make drums for certain shotguns, like the Saiga with a large capacity, but 8-10 rounds is going to be the limit. The lever action shotguns hold between 5 and 7 rounds. The only disadvantage of a lever-action shotgun (or rifle) that I can think of is it is difficult to operate in the prone position. Of course, a bipod mounted at the front would help in that department.
If you intend the shotgun to be your defense/survival weapon, you need to practice at the range with your sidearm on your hip or in a leg holster. You need to practice the loading and reloading technique and transition from empty shotgun to your pistol for speed and accuracy.
As far as what type of shotgun, once again personal preference applies. If you like the Old West firearms and not concerned with capacity, that is one way to go – or a combination of Old West and modern firearms. But remember the weight factor and ammunition consideration.
The pump has been a favorite since Winchester first started using them, available in rifle or shotgun models. But with today's modern technology and designs, tactical autoloader shotguns are hitting mainstream for the shotgun enthusiasts; which would most likely be a good choice for survival situations. The Benelli M2 Tactical with its recoil operation is also popular, especially with law enforcement. Benelli, as Uberti and Beretta are well-known Italian manufacturers famous for their quality. Beretta bought out Uberti, but their replica Old West firearms are still primo. [Excuse the Latin] The M2 has modern hardware and a pistol grip not unlike an M16 or AR-15. It is a beauty and reliable with its patented Inertia-Driven system.
The Ithaca Model 37 Defense Gun, the Mossberg 590 A1 with M4 collapsible stock, and the Remington 887 Nitro Mag Tactical. Personally, if I was to choose a pump shotgun, the Remington 887 tactical model would be my choice; of course, I like Remington overall. Remington is one of the few firearm manufacturers that still make their own ammunition. It is a good way to ensure that the proper load is used for their firearms. Scott also thought it “stood out” when he tested the Remington 887 Nitro for his book.
Maybe he did not choose the M2 Tactical by Benelli because of the price.
US Air Force veteran, Tim Ralston invented the X Caliber Gauge Adapter which allows the shotgun enthusiast who would like a versatile survival firearm. The adapter system comes in the following calibers: .380, .38Spc/.357, 9mm, .45ACP, .45-Colt/.410, .40, .44-Mag, & 20-gauge. It is part of his Gear Up operation.
This has added a new ballgame when it comes to choosing between rifle or shotgun.
The X Caliber comes in an OD pouch that holds all the caliber adapters mentioned above that fits in any smooth-bore 12-gauge shotgun. It lists for $449.99 for the kit. Single adapters are $55 each. But for the ultimate survival preparedness, the pouch containing all those calibers would be useful, provided you keep it store in dry place and maintain it like any rifle barrel should be maintained. If, in a survival scenario, you are able to obtain one of those calibers – you can use it even if you do not have a rifle or pistol in that caliber. Innovation, love it.
Tim Ralston is the guy who shot his finger on the episode of Doomsday Preppers, National Geographic. Ralston also operates “Gear Up” online where you can order the adapters, other products and information.
Following videos are from Gear Up Center by Tim Ralston: