Shotgun Stopping Power
To most people stopping power is taken to mean a projectile fired from a weapon will incapacitate an animal or person, stop them in their tracks as it where. Usually stopping power and lethality are two different things. Energy transfer and shock is what determines stopping power. Certain projectiles penetrate more easily and may cause a through-and-through injury that may be lethal but may not stop a person or animal immediately if it has not struck a vital organ. The projectile had limited contact so energy transfer is less. A person in a combat situation that receives a through-and-through may function long enough to discharge a round in your direction.
Shotguns have tremendous stopping power. The projectiles are either numerous in the case of buck shot or birdshot so there is maximum contact or they are slugs that maximize energy transfer. Rarely will a person be able to function even for a few seconds regardless of the lethality of the shot after being struck. Simply put the person goes down. Your objective in any combat situation is to neutralize the threat immediately. You have to know that once struck your aggressor is down for good. This is crucial when there are multiple targets and you cannot focus solely on one.
The momentum of a shotgun shell is greater than any handgun cartridge available. The sheer physics of this will abruptly stop any forward motion of any individual and may even force someone back a few steps. The momentum from a handgun cartridge is simply not enough to move anyone back or pick anyone off their feet as depicted in many Hollywood movies.
What typically happens to a person that is shot for the first time is disbelief, fear of traumatic injuries and then physical pain all in a microsecond, which accounts for the so-called “one-shot” claim. The person may be alive but is so surprised by actually being shot they have been stopped from engaging in combat. This contributes to any weapons stopping power.
Ammunition and distance plays a key role in stopping power. The shotgun shell must be of sufficient strength to penetrate and destroy vital organs. Slugs and buckshot have this stopping power while birdshot may at very close range. Usually stopping power is of a greater concern when engaged in close quarter combat. Your aggressor may only be feet away so they have to go down for you to escape or to engage other targets. Therefore, distance is not always a factor, when determining the shell. Energy transfer, distance and shell size all effect the actual penetration, which is essential as far as “stopping power”.
Shotgun stopping power is important in hunting and self-defense. Not putting an animal down may cause you to go hungry and causes unnecessary suffering on the animals’ part. In a self-defense situation, it may mean the difference between surviving and not.
Remember regardless of the shotgun, shells, distance and other factors there are no guarantees when it comes to stopping power. Having the proper training and knowing your weapon also plays a role. What you think is one-shot-stop may not be the case, so always be prepared to send multiple rounds downrange and never assume anyone can be stopped with one shot.