There have been many variants used when applying the term “Tactical Shotgun.” It can be a full sized semi-auto/pump shotgun set up for military/police use. It can involve ghost ring sights, red dot sights or a variety of other optics.
Barrel length can generally vary from 18” out to 20” and may or may not include an extended on board ammunition supply such as a sidesaddle or magazine extension or both. Many will use an aftermarket light source.
To some, a “Tactical Shotgun” is defined by a parkerized or matte black finish. There are also those whose notion of a “Tactical Shotgun” is a shotgun overloaded with extraneous aftermarket products which serve minimal to zero use other than aesthetic value. These are commonly referred to as “safe queens” and are rarely if ever used for much outside of an occasional trip to the range or to show friends.
So, what really is a Tactical Shotgun and how best to define it?
Let us approach it this way. A duck hunter knows the area in which they hunt. They may need a longer 24” – 30” barrel with a vent rib. One who hunts pheasants or other birds typically found in brushy areas may need or opt for a shorter barrel to maneuver easier. A deer hunter with a shotgun might prefer a rifled slug barrel approximately 24” in length with or without a scope.
Essentially, the shotgun is tailored for its intended use.
So, where did it really start? Some could go as far back as the Revolutionary War though the more realistic time period takes us to the mid to late 1800s. On or about 1858, the term ‘coach gun’ came into use when Wells, Fargo & Co. began regular stagecoach service from Tipton, Missouri to San Francisco, California.
Originally, they issued shotguns to their drivers and guards to defend against thieves, robbers, bandits and Indian Tribes. The trip was approximately 2,800 miles one way through extremely treacherous areas. Both drivers and guards saw quickly that the regular full length barrels posed an immediate problem with maneuverability. There were no schools or training programs for the stagecoach drivers or the guards though they learned quickly they would have to develop certain tactics or techniques for dealing with threats that would typically ride up on them quickly. Either the driver or the guard would have to immediately access their long-barreled shotgun to address the threat. For obvious reasons, this became an immediate problem especially for those guards assigned to ride within the stagecoach to protect passengers, gold, payroll or other valuables.
In order for the shotgun to be usable, it had to be tailored to the job at hand. Thus began the use of the term ‘Coach Gun’. Interestingly enough, the oft used phrase ‘riding shotgun’ was not coined until around 1919.
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