U.S. Combat Shotguns

by Leroy Thompson, Osprey Publishing, Oxford, England, 2013

The shotgun, scattering multiple rounds at close range rather than a single bullet from a distance, is a nasty weapon whose use by U.S. military forces is something few know or particularly wish to know. Nevertheless, argues Leroy Thompson in his entry in Osprey’s Weapon series, the shotgun has probably seen more use by Americans than any other combatants, starting with flintlock blunderbusses blasting at attacking Indians whatever scrap metal and glass an 18th-century settler could get down its smoothbore barrel. From those origins, U.S. Combat Shotguns traces the perfection of the single-barrel pump action shotgun and its use from the Philippines at the turn of the 20th century to the present.

Coming fully into its own in World War I trench warfare—when Germany alleged that it violated the Geneva Convention, a claim the Americans ignored—shotguns tend to be meted out as supplemental weapons to the regular rifles and machine guns, always ready for situations for which they are best suited.

In Vietnam, where jungle ambushes often brought the opposing sides into close contact, shotguns were a staple for point men, soldiers clearing dwellings, guards or South Vietnamese police. Special Forces, Navy SEALs and other such units had at least one shotgun among their multipurpose small arms arsenals when on missions in enemy territory. Vietnam also saw considerable variation in the theme, including automatic shotguns firing multiple rounds in seconds and the “duckbill” spreader choke, which scattered the shot horizontally for maximum effect against a massed assault.

Some soldiers made the shotgun their weapon of choice and developed personal preferences between the hand pumps and automatics. Such pros and cons are given firsthand treatment in the Vietnam section of U.S. Combat Shotguns, covering all types used during the conflict before moving up to their current descendants.


Originally published in the October 2014 issue of Vietnam. To subscribe, click here.