If the .22 rifle is the first firearm to acquire for survival, the pump shotgun is absolutely a good choice for the second. While the .22 rifle will handle small game hunting and reasonably sized animals, the pump shotgun can address hunting birds in flight and literally every animal on the North American continent. The wide variety of ammo enhances your game getting ability with loads like bird shot, buck shot, sabot slugs and hard cast lead slugs. More exotic and unconventional rounds are also available making the shotgun a truly universal firearm. Add in the reliability of pump action and you have a robust firearm for hard times. Whether two or four legged threats, the pump shotgun is capable of addressing both and with the right training, just about anyone can be prepared to as well. Reliability, ease of use and diverse ammo options make the pump shotgun a good choice for the survival firearms collection.
Pump action shotguns have a well-deserved reputation for reliability. Autoloaders can be finicky as “low recoil” rounds may not cycle the action. The pump action can cycle various size shells in any order and the added capacity of extended magazine tubes provide a firepower advantage over over/under and side-by-side 2 round shotguns. Once the basic manipulations are understood such as chamber loading and unloading without chambering rounds, the user can quickly unload a round and prep the chamber with a specialized round while training the muzzle on the target. I often carry a variety of rounds including size 6 shot, slugs and buckshot in a stock shell carrier for versatility. Another benefit to the pump action is even if the first round fails to extract, the user can cycle the action again to grab the brass and eject it the second time around.
The pump shotgun is also very controllable with proper training and correct fitting. Smaller framed shooters need not a full length of pull size stock nor do they need a full 12 gauge. Shorter barrels to 18” are also easier to bring up on target for women and children.Composite stocks cut down on weight and generous buttpads reduce felt recoil. Furthermore, smaller youth sized stocks are available and the 20 gauge is more than sufficient for hunting and self-defense. On that note, it is often said “the sound of the 12 gauge pump will scare away someone in your home.” To this I ask, how is racking the slide different than brandishing a knife? Also, if a firearm is drawn without the intent to use it, should it have been drawn in the first place? There are other options available, like a solid place to retreat to and a reliable phone to reach the authorities, if taking a life is outside the capacity of the firearms owner.
Back to the outdoors, many shotguns have interchangeable barrels allowing the owner to use a longer ribbed barrel for birds and a cantilever barrel or rifled barrel for deer and large game. These combo barrels can be paired with extremely water resistant shells for waterfowl with sabot rounds for effective knock down power and humane hunting of large game. In dangerous game territory, I often carry my Remington 870 Marine Magnum with hardcast Brenneke Rounds. With this firearm, I don’t have to worry about the effects of inclimate weather and with 6+1 rounds, I feel confident I could put down what I need to if an uninvited guest makes it way into camp. An added bonus to the standard pump shotgun is the vanilla appearance. Some firearms draw a lot of attention for “cool factor” while the shotgun simply blends in.
Pump shotguns are on the more affordable side of the price spectrum. In a previous article I mentioned how a .22 rifle could be purchased with a lifetime’s worth of ammunition for less than the cost of a handgun. The shotgun is almost as affordable and the ammo is equally available in most places firearms are sold. Just like the .22, it is also a firearm transportable almost anywhere broken down in the back of a vehicle separate from ammunition. Both .22 long rifle and pump shotgun can fit in a single large long gun case that can serve as a locked container in a home for security. This case can also be grabbed in a hurry in a “leave home” scenario and it won’t leave the survivor/outdoorsman without options. From field to home and all points in between, the pump shotgun completes the most basic survival firearms pairing everyone should have. Before adding handguns or centerfire rifles to the mix, training and range time should be spent familiarizing oneself with the ins and outs of these two first. While more specialized firearms are meant for other hunting and defensive situations and the survivor/outdoorsman should own what they feel is appropriate for their needs, the basic .22 and 12 gauge combo can accomplish just about anything making them the first 2 firearms one should own.
About the Author
Kevin Estela is the Founder and Head Instructor of Estela Wilderness Education. He conducts private and semi-private wilderness and urban/suburban survival courses, tests and evaluates knives and equipment for various companies, is a Mountain Khakis Professional Ambassador, and is a life-long outdoors enthusiast with additional pastimes in canoeing/kayaking, fishing and cooking. Kevin's work has taken him from Los Angeles, CA to the United Kingdom and many points in between. Kevin is ranked in both Sayoc Kali and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and is a shooting enthusiast. Kevin is formerly the Lead Instructor for the Wilderness Learning Center. When not teaching outdoor skills, he is a full-time High School History Teacher and Track and Field Coach who lives in Connecticut.