Dangerously Stupid: The Idiot with the Sawed-Off Shotgun

Minimarts can seem like easy targets for stupid criminals looking for quick cash.

It was 0500 on a Monday. The young man who clerked the local minimart was in the back corner of the store straightening up the milk jugs. His partner, a local teenaged girl, was in the restroom. The man walked into the store quietly wearing a long black raincoat. It was both too warm and too dry out for a raincoat.

This particular Quik-Stop was within line of sight to the local military base.

The minimart was located within spitting distance of the front gate of the local Army base. However, this early the PT (Physical Training) crowd was not yet cranked up. The minimart, its associated parking lot, and the surrounding neighborhood had not yet awakened for the day.

Properly maintaining a commercial business takes a lot of work. This particular morning the clerk was getting ready for a busy day.

There wasn’t a bell on the door, so the clerk arranging the dairy products did not hear the man come in. According to the surveillance video reviewed later the man feigned interest in a magazine long enough to get a feel for the store. He then quietly made his way to the distracted clerk.

A cut-down shotgun is an easily obtained criminal gun in many parts of the world.     

Once within a few feet of his target, the man swept his long black Army-issue raincoat aside to expose a wicked-looking cut-down 12-gauge shotgun. The young clerk still had no idea there was anyone else in the retail portion of the store. The man then calmly rotated the gun up, oriented it on the back of the unsuspecting clerk’s head, and squeezed the trigger.

Things inevitably get frenetic in a robbery. In the heat of the moment bad things happen.

The clerk was dead before his body hit the ground. The noise of the heavy short-barreled shotgun discharged within such a confined space must have been deafening. Regardless, the man regained his wits in short order and made his way to the cash register.

The young lady locked herself in the restroom to ride out the robbery.

The teenaged girl heard the gunshot, locked the door to the restroom, and stood atop the toilet. She remained in this position throughout the whole sordid episode. The newly-minted murderer not twenty meters away never knew she was there.

Modern cash registers are fairly tough to breach.

The man, his ears undoubtedly still ringing mightily from the shotgun blast, replaced his shotgun underneath his raincoat and addressed the electronic cash register. He studied the device for a few moments before timidly trying a button or three. Alas, this machine demanded some kind of code to operate.

Our hero had clearly not thought things through.

He had just precipitously retired said code along with the unfortunate young clerk vicinity the refrigerated beer cooler. Just as the man was becoming frustrated the door opened and a local businessman walked in unawares.

The hapless businessman had no idea how lucky he was.

The business guy was obviously an early riser, and he had a habit of picking up a local newspaper at the minimart as he made his lonely way to work. This morning he did not recognize the face of the skinny guy behind the counter, but these teenagers came and went.

The local patron bought his paper just like every other day.

He grabbed his paper, smiled, and dropped a quarter on the counter before turning to leave. He never noticed the cooling corpse in the back of the store.

In a pinch a cut-down shotgun makes a passable club.

Stunned, the armed robber-turned-murderer dropped the quarter into his pocket before returning his attention back to the register. Once the business guy was clear of the parking lot he retrieved his shotgun, reversed it, and bashed the keypad with its butt. By now he was getting worried. He was running out of time.

At close range little can rival a 12-gauge shotgun for raw power.

In desperation the man hefted his shotgun, jacked the slide, and pointed it at the register. He stroked the trigger and unleashed a charge of birdshot into the machine at near contact range. Shredded keys blew across the store, and the LED display disintegrated. The cash drawer, however, remained closed. In fact, the shotgun blast had effectively peened the thing shut for the rest of time.

Once he realized he couldn’t open the register the idiot murderer just ran.

Realizing that this operation was now doomed to failure, the dangerously inept murderer replaced his shotgun underneath his coat and fled the scene. Once a decent period of time passed the young woman carefully peeked out of the restroom. These were the days before cell phones, so she grabbed the store phone and called the cops.

The Gun

The British Brown Bess flintlock musket was one of the world’s first effective shotguns.
“Buck and Ball” was a common load consisting of a single musket ball and several individual lead shot.

David Fenimore Cooper was purportedly the first person to use the term “shotgun” in print. British Redcoats were known to charge their Brown Bess muskets with a combination of shot and a standard musket ball to form a “buck and ball” load. With a barrel diameter of three quarters of an inch, this smoothbore flintlock musket packed an impressive payload. This puts the Brown Bess close to a modern 10-gauge from the perspective of pure geometry.

This Confederate Infantryman is armed with a wicked side-by-side shotgun.

The shotgun as we know it really came into its own in the middle of the 19th century. Scatterguns were fairly widely used during the American Civil War.

Doc Holliday used a 10-bore fighting alongside the Earps in Tombstone, Arizona.

Doc Holliday purportedly wielded a short-barreled 10-gauge side-by-side coach gun during the famed gunfight at the OK Corral. Holliday was an Old West legend who was likely responsible for shedding a great deal of blood. However, Tom McLaury that fateful day in Tombstone was supposedly his only historically verified kill.

Shotguns like this Browning Auto-5 are common sporting arms found the world over.

Modern shotguns number in the tens of millions and are found around the globe. The fact that shotguns are commonly used hunting arms typically makes them the last to fall victim to gun bans. However, the determined miscreant can still conjure a superb concealable close-quarters weapon out of your typical sporting scattergun.

The gauge system used to describe shotguns has English origins.

The peculiar gauge system used to identify a shotgun bore is an English contrivance. The number reflects the number of pure lead balls of a certain diameter that make up a pound. Therefore a lead ball that perfectly describes a 12-gauge bore weighs one-twelfth of a pound. That’s the reason smaller numbers mean larger bores.

Shotgun shells come in all shapes and sizes.

A theoretical one gauge shotgun would fire a one-pound projectile. This is, incidentally, the same diameter as a golf ball. For whatever reason, a .410 bore is an exception to this rule and is actually 0.410 inches across.

A cut-down slide-action shotgun is an easy DIY project so long as the proper federal rules are followed.

A typical slide action shotgun sporting a pistol grip and a shortened barrel is a devastating close-quarters tool. Longer barrels will always produce superior performance, but the gaping maw of a cut-down 12-bore is invariably attention-getting.

Cutting back a shotgun barrel is easy. I used a cutoff wheel on a table saw for this one.

Transforming a typical Remington 870 sporting gun into such a tool requires a hacksaw, a rasp, about 20 minutes, and a total disregard for federal gun control law.

This cut-down 12-gauge side-by-side shotgun is a devastating close-quarters weapon. Recoil is fairly impressive no matter what you load it with.

A side-by-side shotgun also makes an effective and concealable close-quarters gun once properly pruned. I have legally shortened three shotguns by means of a BATF Form 1. Each iteration requires its own $200 transfer tax, fingerprints, and interminable wait, but the transformations can be undertaken easily with simple tools.

I turned the front sight down out of the machine screw using a drill press and filled the void between the barrels with JB Weld.

The pistol grip on my side-by-side took a little trial and error, but remounting the front sight beads required nothing more than a drill press, a hand tap, and a little patience.

The Rest of the Story

When this young soldier didn’t show up for PT he was declared missing.

The shooter was a young enlisted soldier posted to the nearby Army base. Nobody really knows where he went after the shooting but it wasn’t to PT. Once he missed the Monday morning formation he was reported absent, and the military admin wheels began turning.

The TSA and airport security as we know it represent a relatively recent thing.

This sordid episode took place in the early nineties, before 911, and airport security was unrecognizable from what it is today. The modest local airport offered regional service to the larger hubs, but you didn’t have to pass through a metal detector to board the plane. That’s hard to imagine today, but it was not unusual back then.

Pre-911 many smaller airports did not have much security at all.

The soldier boarded the airplane with his shotgun tucked inside his carry-on. He changed planes in Dallas and made it aboard the second plane still with his shotgun in tow. By the time the sun set on the day, he had killed his first man, and then he was back home with his mom.

I’m a dad. Unexpected visits from kids are always cause for celebration.

He didn’t bother telling his mother he had blown an innocent man’s head off in a botched robbery that morning. She was just pleased with an unexpected visit. Moms the world over are generally excited to see their kids and might not be inclined to ask too many questions.

This is a pretty typical criminal-used short-barreled shotgun.

There was still no connection to the shooting, but federal authorities nonetheless made a phone call to the young soldier’s home of record looking for the guy. Once they found out he was there somebody someplace put two and two together. The feds took the idiot kid into custody without a fuss. They seized his illegal shotgun as well.

Army Privates are the backbone of the military. However, in my experience they not infrequently exhibited fairly poor judgment. We used to call those spectacles RPGs or BCGs. That’s short for “Rape Prevention Glasses” or “Birth Control Glasses.”

The motive was simply money. As near as anyone could tell the shooter and the victim had never before met. Army Privates don’t get paid much, and this one had undoubtedly overextended himself. In my experience of supervising such knuckleheads, it likely involved an exorbitant car payment, a cheap girlfriend with expensive tastes, or some overpriced stereo equipment. For such as this an innocent man died.

This rocket scientist ultimately killed a man for a quarter.

I lost track of what happened to the murderous idiot soldier. He’s likely still locked up someplace. If rank stupidity was a capital offense he would be at the front of the line to the gallows. Throughout it all his take was a whopping twenty-five cents, and that for a newspaper he nominally sold.

When done properly via a BATF Form 1 a short-barreled shotgun makes an exotic yet relatively inexpensive addition to the seasoned gun collection.

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About the author: Will Dabbs was born and raised in the Mississippi Delta, having been immersed in hunting and the outdoors since his earliest recollections. He holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Mississippi and is the product of a traditional American nuclear family. Where most normal American kids get drunk to celebrate their 21st birthday, Will bought his first two machineguns. Will served eight years as an Army Aviator and accumulated more than 1,100 flight hours piloting CH47D, UH1H, OH58A/C, and AH1S helicopters. He is scuba qualified, has parachuted out of perfectly good airplanes at 3 o’clock in the morning, and has summited Mt. McKinley, Alaska–the highest point in North America–six times (at the controls of a helicopter, which is the only way sensible folk climb mountains). For reasons that seemed sagacious at the time he ultimately left the Army as a Major to pursue medical school. Dr. Dabbs has for the last dozen years owned the Urgent Care Clinic of Oxford, Mississippi. He also serves as the plant physician for the sprawling Winchester ammunition plant in that same delightful little Southern town. Will is a founding partner of Advanced Tactical Ordnance LLC, a licensed 07/02 firearms manufacturer and has written for the gun press for a quarter century. He writes solely to support a shooting habit that is as insensate as it is insatiable. Will has been married to his high school sweetheart for more than thirty years and has taught his Young Married Sunday School class for more than a decade. He and his wife currently have three adult children and a most thoroughly worthless farm dog named Dog.

{ 20 comments… add one }
  • John R. Weber November 22, 2020, 12:55 pm

    ‘David Fenimore Cooper’? Was that James Fenimore Cooper’s father, son, or brother?

  • Ej harbet November 21, 2020, 3:27 pm

    I preach not clearing your bed in condition white. The murdered clerk is sad testimony to this. Like alot of cops I call convenience stores stop n robs and if im near one my mind is in elevated awareness until I’m out of the parking lot. As for a form one im definitely considering a hammer double and while the muzzles would be slightly in front of the fore stock id not do anything to the butt stock save adding a recoil pad. It might get a folding bayonet as well. Id feed the beast buckshot for the goblins and practice with birdshot.all reloads.ill end with the obligatory repeal the nfa infringement. As I right this thats a dream that might not come true.
    But when I came of age ccw,legal suppressor ownership in Missouri and the right to have a auto knife was not legal. Who knows

  • Mac McDonald November 17, 2020, 2:28 pm

    Like they say, guns don’t shoot and kill on their own…it takes a people-idiot to do it, no matter the weapon and any weapon could and does suffice. An interesting if brief/limited history on shotguns and becoming sawed-off, some bore/load info, etc…and of course all-too-obviously careful to portray the idiot as white at such times as these, rather than the all-too-commonly usual and customary black perpetrator. But worst of all was the fake, if not criminally counterfeit “quarter” in the photo. Surely this story was worth a genuine two-bits…but maybe not.

  • Sir Grumpus November 17, 2020, 1:38 pm

    It’s rather astute of the GunsAmerica.com author to note that a “cut-down” shotgun is easily obtained by criminals in many parts of the world. Three things are particularly interesting about this statement: 1) a gun author made the statement 2) The only reason they are illegal is in that they don’t meet peculiar ATF modification standards which are of no use for public safety 3) examples of essentially the same thing in a completely legal form are shown later in the column. I’m sure criminals all over the world are out scouting the black markets for this particular style of illegal weapon instead of buying a legal shorty option or just heading to the local department store for a hacksaw to “modify” their legal stock and barrel.

  • Bob November 17, 2020, 11:45 am

    My God, what a long drawn out, rambling article!!! Including pictures of things like a quarter for those who have never seen one, a picture of a Mom for those who have no reference point of one, a stack of newspapers (ok those might be less recognized in today’s world), a flying airplane, young soldiers, almost all of the pictures having no direct connection to the incident being described and fillers like a shotgun lesson and a gauge lesson. Rather than telling what was the final ending to this tale, the writer just says “I lost track of what happened to the murderous idiot soldier. He’s likely still locked up someplace.” ! WTF! How lazy of a story teller do you have to be to not even look up the final word about the guy you were just telling this long story about?! Mr. Dabbs has a mile long bio showing that can, and has has done everything, including being a doctor, and even writing for the gun press for 25 years, so this can’t be an example of his usual work. The way it’s laid out it’s almost like he got paid by the inch, from top to bottom of the article rather than by the word. Or that Guns America Digest took an outline for a story he gave them and created a long drawn out article. Bottom line, I’m not saying I could do better, I’m saying how disappointing to see this kind of thing in a GAD newsletter.

  • Jerry S November 16, 2020, 3:53 pm

    My only thought is why do we bother to house these guys for the rest of their lives at our expense. Sure he lost his “freedom”, but what does that matter to him now? Society needs a thorugh cleansing of these animals.

  • Tommy Barros November 16, 2020, 3:21 pm

    Ithaca Model 37 Stakeout – IF you ain’t got one… too bad!
    Nuff Said!

  • Slim November 16, 2020, 12:10 pm

    Just think, if the so called soldier was smart enough to just dump the gun in a trash can and go to basic or whatever he was doing as a so called soldier he would of never been caught! But instead he fled to his mommies and kept the gun!!!!! Sad part is the poor kid who had his head blasted off world of surely given him every penny since it wasn’t his anyways and how much could possibly be in any register let alone one that is at a convenience store at the break of dawn! This world is filled with morons and thing is only morons have kids in most cases and rarely it’s a well planned event like for example BOTH parents having jobs, being able to actually raise the child and be around for much needed shit like don’t go kill a 711 employee over a few hundred bucks max, stuff like that! But instead it’s always two moron parents that can’t take care of just themselves and is going raw dog as it there’s no repercussions of that and WHEN the kid comes out its being raised by moron kid parents! We have MORE than enough people…. STOP HAVING KIDS MORONS!!!!!! Let the well equipped people who would be good parents since they KNOW HOW to do the BASICS at the very least!

    • Trevor_Phillips November 16, 2020, 2:24 pm

      Maybe your parents shouldn’t have had you.

  • Nicks87 November 16, 2020, 11:42 am

    7-11 was a part time job…

  • Bill November 16, 2020, 10:58 am

    God must truly love stupid fools, he makes so many of them.

  • Kalashnikov Dude November 16, 2020, 10:58 am

    The way Will Dabbs here talks about the proper execution of manufacturing a sawed off shotgun must include exhorninant taxes, and permission from government to exercise a basic right of the people causes a loss of trust and respect for him in me. If 2020 has shown us nothing else, it’s been a glaring example of the failure, WILLFUL FAILURE of government to keep established order, even ceding control of streets and entire cities to unchecked mobs. In light of these realities, along with the highest law of our land clearly affirming the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed since 1791, it’s time to throw off such infringements that would cause good men and women to be inadequately armed against common criminals, let alone tyrants in any given situation. It’s really long past time to take our Republic back from servants who’ve hijacked it, and the criminals they protect. Wake up people! Wake up Will Dabbs…..

  • Eric Holder November 16, 2020, 9:28 am

    Sad story. We should ban convenience stores to ensure this does not happen again. But seriously besides stupid comments people who work in them are really brave, no gun, no body armor, no radio for back up. Nothing. Honestly they deserve “thanks for your service” way more than military and cops. No pension and way under paid too.

    • Trevor_Phillips November 16, 2020, 2:22 pm

      , Honestly they deserve “thanks for your service” way more than military and cops” where your parents brother and sister?

    • MARK MYER November 16, 2020, 3:26 pm

      To Eric Holder, if only you would have governed Chicago with the wisdom and insight you commented on this post! My son worked afternoons to closing in a convenience store while waiting to get into Navy. Nothing nefarious happened to him but every night I was a typical apprehensive father till he got home. It is a sad state of affairs when a parent feels his son is in a safer environment aboard a warship ready to deploy to whatever hotspot in the world as to working alone at a gas station a mile and a half from home.

  • Zupglick November 16, 2020, 9:02 am

    We all become stupid when hormones take control.

  • Mort November 16, 2020, 8:42 am

    I bought both of my legal (18.5″) Mossberg JIC pistol-grip shotguns for less than $350 each.

  • Mike in a Truck November 16, 2020, 7:37 am

    Dr.Dabb’s story reminds of an ancient tale, from so long ago babies born then are now grandparents. We had a fairly new private in our battery.Good enough egg that married his high school sweetheart and now was living in an apartment off post. His bride was all he talked about and listening to him she was a combination of Stevie Nicks,Farah Fawcett and Grace Slick.She wasn’t. Far from it.We had to go to the field for an extended ARTEP. Recovering after being in the field for a month, our young lad was called into the Battery Commander’s office and given the sordid news.It seems his young bride was picking up car loads of soliders,taking them back to her apartment and um, entertaining them.She would then drop them off and pick up another car load. She wasnt selling Saigon Tea, she was giving it away! Wasn’t long before guys were showing up at the troop clinic proclaiming: Sir it burns when I pee! Well our little lass was a mouse trap. About a month passed and no one saw our privates wife, her parents called and called and he would just say she was busy. Concerned they contacted the post M.P.s Our boy cracked under interrogation. Seems he had taken her out “hiking” in the desert.Shot her in the head and buried her. Theres a moral to this story here somewhere…dont fall for girls that look like Stevie Nick’s even if they dont?

    • Norm Fishler November 16, 2020, 10:04 am

      That’s what happens when the little head overtakes the thought process.

  • Michael Angelo November 16, 2020, 6:13 am

    Great story and clips.

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