I don’t want to take anything away from the revolver or rifle but if the truth be known the gun that won the west was really the shotgun. The double barrel double hammer shotgun was made in flintlock, percussion and later a break open for shotgun shells due to its popularity. More western lawmen and guards carried a shotgun than a revolver or rifle. Many of the settler wagons headed west had a shotgun under the seat ready to grab in case of Indians or a chance to bag supper. The short double barreled shotgun became the gun of choice for stagecoach guards and other lawmen due to the deadly cloud of large shot it could throw at outlaws and bandits. Terry’s Texas Rangers were feared in the War between the States due to the fact the most of them carried short double barrel shotguns to fire as they rode across the battle field. The shotgun is capable of gathering game or defending the homestead. Almost anyone can hit a target that is not moving with a shotgun and with a little practice the fox will not even get close to the hen house.In my younger years of riding fences and windmills in the Chinati Mountains of the Texas high desert I carried a revolver on my belt and a short shotgun in a saddle scabbard. The shotgun got much more use on the trail than the Colt. If I had to spend the night out on the trail that shotgun often took blue quail or a cottontail to go with whatever can goods were in my saddle bags. When I put my bedroll out for the night that short shotgun was placed on my right hand side and gave me comfort for the night.
The shot shell can be loaded with modern smokeless or black powder as needed. The break open can even be loaded with loose powder, wad and shot with a primed brass in place making it very versatile to keep it charged for survival. Loaded with birdshot you can gather dinner, kill a poisonous snake or defend the poultry house from a predator. If you choose to load the shotgun with buckshot you can drop a coyote at 65 yards, stop intruders or add a deer to the winter food supply. Loaded with slugs or round ball the shotgun can drop big game at a distance or humanely dispatch large livestock to butcher. A twelve gauge shotgun can vaporize a block of ice at ten feet and remove a charging grizzly’s head at the same range if you ever had to face a charge from a dangerous animal.Lately I have grown fond of a 12 gauge coach gun with 20 inch double barrels just like the old stagecoach guards carried. It is handy from the truck and one barrel can be loaded with birdshot while the other can be loaded with buckshot leaving you ready for any situation. Of course having to look at the bad end of a double barrel twelve would have a psychological effect on two legged intruders in my opinion. The biggest drawback to shotguns is the limited distance at which they can be used, the weight of the shells, weight of the gun itself and the cost of ammunition. In our two seat UTV, the ranch truck or in a saddle scabbard on horseback the weight really doesn't matter as much.
I recommend #7 1/2 to #4 shot for snakes and night time vermin around the homestead. I shoot standard 2 3/4 inch loads and save the 3 inch magnums for hunting large predators or big game. If shooting one of the light weight short shotguns be sure and install a recoil pad even if just one of the slip on types. Recoil from a light weight 12 gauge can be punishing. My favorite buckshot is #4 buck as it has three times the pellets of #00 and gives a much better pattern. I have made coyote and bobcat kills out to about 65 yards with that load and can't imagine 27 pellets of .22 caliber ball not dropping a two legged predator anywhere inside that range. When working on the ranch I carry a twenty inch double trigger side by side double barrel with bird shot in the left barrel and buck shot in the right barrel. The front trigger fires the right barrel and the back trigger fires the left barrel. This way I am prepared to solve rattlesnake to varmint problems on the spot. If need be I can even fire both barrels at once, I don’t recommend it unless you really need the power as the recoil is pretty stout. Stay safe, Wild Ed