Recently I received a Winchester SXP Marine Defender shotgun for testing and evaluation, and this got me thinking. Yeah, I know. Me thinking is a big stretch of the imagination, but just go with it, OK?
You hear a lot of scary scenarios from the prepper community. Some of them are realistic, others – not so much. Nuclear war, contagion or maybe just the threat of Joe Biden becoming President – there are an infinite number of possible tragedies that might dropkick us right back to the age of foraging, scavenging and no more Taco Bell runs at 3am. Whether or not you believe that the world will revert to Cro-Magnon times, it’s still a good idea to think about preparedness.
Depending on where you live, there are everyday threats that might cause you to be on your own for a while. Live on the east coast? Hurricanes knock on the door each and every year. West coast? How about those earthquakes? Flyover country? Tornados can come at any time. Washington DC? The congressional 401k plan might decrease in value, and that would be tragic indeed. No matter where you live, there are very real threats to all of us. Rosie O’Donnell could get her own TV show. Piers Morgan could become White House Press Secretary. Bill-ary Clinton could be elected President. Who knows what kind of epic disasters we might face?
With this in mind, I started thinking about my ideal qualities of an SHTF shotgun. You know, when the masses become all cranky and protesty because the Kardashians stopped doing reality TV.
While pondering all the ways civilization could end, I came up with a list of ten things I really care about in a save-my-bacon and shoot-my-bacon shotgun.
While the bluing on a Beretta DT-11 will make me stop and gawk, that doesn’t help much when we’re all eating 12-year-old canned pudding and squirrels.
I want a shotgun that requires no maintenance except for loading. No more oily t-shirts to wipe it down before retiring it to the gun safe. Hey, in the end of civilization scenario, none of us will be lugging around a humidity-controlled gun safe anyway, right?
Our example Winchester SXP has a matte chrome finish. It’s silverish, but lower glare due to the rough finish. You can also get them in black chrome, which offers the same corrosion resistance with reduced visibility.
This one comes at a price. And that price is pain. The lighter the shotgun, the nastier the recoil – especially with a 12 gauge. And extra-special especially if you’re shooting slugs or buckshot – both likely ammo choices if you’re really in an SHTF scenario. Recoil has nothing to do with this particular Winchester SXP model, but rather its six pound weight.
Even still, I’ll take a six pound shotgun like the SXP as I might be hoofing it. One less pound of shotgun weight translates to an extra six pack of canned pudding I can carry with me. Calories are critical in the apocalypse, right?
I’m looking for a little suggestion and debate on this one, so feel free to comment below. My “default” thought is to stick with a pump gun like this one, as you can make it run by brute force if necessary. Since all the junk blows out the barrel, there’s not much to clean in the action.
I’ve had some pretty good reliability success with modern semi-automatic guns, and the lightweight semi-automatics are certainly less painful to shoot. Even still, I’m kind of liking the ability to make the gun work with muscle power if required.
This shotgun has a sturdy pump action, but with an extra feature. The action is inertia assisted, for lack of a better word, to speed up repeat shots. You’ll also notice that it has a rotating and locking bolt, somewhat like an AR-type rifle.
Usually, having a short barrel is a bad thing that can lead to confidence issues. With my SHTF shotgun, I’m wanting an 18” barrel for sure.
Yeah, it won’t swing like those competition 30-inchers like the FN SC-1, but how often are you going to be shooting fast crossing clay targets? I have yet to see a zombie that that can work a clay launcher worth a darn. For the kind of use that a post-apocalyptic world will demand, a little extra velocity from a longer barrel won’t matter either.
I’ll take the portability and compact size any day. Who knows? You might be foraging indoors for rusting cans of lima beans. You’ll want a compact shotgun so you can maneuver in that abandoned pantry without knocking over the trash can and drawing attention from the Zombies or squatters upstairs.
A Plastic Fantastic Stock
While I love the beauty of a wood stock as much as anyone, Zombies, ravenous mobs, road warriors and whomever else walks the earth in the end days won’t give a hoot about the looks of my stock. In rotten conditions where gun maintenance lags behind necessities like eating and waking up above the dirt the following morning, wood stocks aren’t all that utilitarian. Wood swells when wet, dings when it gets hit and tends to break when you whack a particularly fresh undead carnivore across the squamous suture. One more thing – fancy wood stocks can have some glare, and if you’re needing to sneak up on an unsuspecting dinner a dull, non-reflective stock can’t hurt.
I’m going plastic like on the Winchester SXP that inspired this diatribe. Plastic stock, hard rubber recoil pad and plastic forend to operate the pump action.
Well, actually I would prefer a 3 ½-inch chamber, but I figure that might be tough to find in a compact, lightweight pump shotgun. The 3-inch chamber in the Winchester SXP will do just fine.
Why, you ask? Well I certainly would prefer NOT to shoot 3 and 3 ½ inch shells from a light shotgun like this, but if I ever have to forage for ammo, I’d sure like the flexibility to pick up just about any 12 gauge box I can find. Picture this scenario. You go on a scavenging journey to an abandoned Wal-Mart to scrounge for food and ammo. It’s been three years since the end of the world, so the store looks pretty much the same as it used to on any given Saturday. At least you’ll get the same level of customer service. You make your way to the sporting goods department and find a whole slew of discarded turkey shells because they were too long to fit previous foragers guns. OK, that’s kind of a long shot, but we’re talking hypotheticals here.
Ghost Ring Sights
While real sights aren’t ideal for moving clays of fowl, they’re great when it comes to defensive shooting or hunting with slugs or buckshot.
The standard Winchester SXP comes with an interesting sight arrangement right out of the box. It’s got a traditional brass bead up front, but the company also adds a snap-on fiber optic front sight. The plastic sight mount wraps around the barrel and clicks into place. There’s even a small notch so you jam the whole assembly right up against the front sight bead to make sure it’s centered on top of the muzzle.
If this were to become my SHTF shotgun, I’d choose the SXP Ultimate Marine Defender model as it comes standard with ghost ring sights, a receiver rail and side rails up front.
The Winchester SXP I’m staring at as I write this provides a great example. Pumps are simple to start with, but this one has a drop out trigger group held in place by a single pin. Poke that out with a pocket knife or nail and you can rinse, shake or dust off the trigger components. Couldn’t be easier and no special tools required.
I’d just as soon not have any, but if the gun already is threaded for chokes, I’ll take a cylinder bore tube or something close to it. While I might want a tighter choke tube for longer range airborne meal selection, the cylinder bore is a great compromise that allows consistent performance with slugs, buckshot and birdshot at closer ranges. Besides, who wants to carry around spare tubes and a choke wrench?
I shot a number of buckshot loads through the Winchester SXP with its cylinder choke and it had no problem keeping 9 and 15-shot buck patterns on a torso sized target at 25 yards. That’s more than sufficient.
Being a glutton for recoil, I also shot quite a few 1-ounce slugs at 25 and 50 yard targets. Even without ghost ring sights installed (yet!) I had no trouble with minute of dinner accuracy. Add the ghost rings and you could hit plate-sized targets at 100 yards if you do your part.
Lights, Laser, Action!
For short term emergencies like natural disasters or civil unrest, I’m not too worried about battery powered devices. Even for longer term challenges, today’s lithium batteries have a heck of a long shelf life, so it’s feasible to have a viable multi-year supply.
Having tinkered with shotgun-mounted lights and lasers at the past couple of Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun events, here’s what I like. I’ll mount a short Picatinny rail segment on the strong hand side of the barrel, up close to the muzzle. On that rail, I’ll put a Crimson Trace Rail Master Pro with 100 lumen light and integrated laser. The strong side placement keeps it out of the way of my support (pump) hand for daylight operation but keeps it within easy reach if and when I need to turn it on.
What say you?
Obviously I had a little fun thinking through some of the things I would care about when it comes to selecting bug out or even end of the world shotgun. I’d really like to hear from you though. What features would you prioritize and more importantly, why?
MSRP of the Winchester SXP Marine Defender is $399.00