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Everything You Need To Know About a Sawed-Off Shotgun


A sawed-off shotgun is regarded as a gangster or villain's old-school lethal weapon. It's the kind of weapon you'd expect to see in a zombie apocalypse in the movies. But there's more to this firearm than meets the eye.

Continue reading to learn more about this "interesting" shotgun.


What Is a Sawed-Off Shotgun?


A shotgun that has been sawed off

Credit: iStock


To be considered legal under the National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934, a shotgun must have a barrel that's at least eighteen inches long and an overall length of at least 27 inches. A sawed-off shotgun, sometimes known as a sawn-off shotgun, short-barreled shotgun, shorty, or even a "boomstick," is a shotgun with a shorter barrel, usually less than 18 inches. It also often has a shortened or missing stock.

People typically use a sawed-off shotgun for self-defense or as a close-range weapon. When used up close, it can be extremely destructive because it delivers very powerful bursts of damage. In fact, it's so potent that it can take out just about anything or anyone with a single shot.


Reasons for Using a Sawed-Off Shotgun

 what can you use a sawed off shotgun for


Individuals use sawed-off shotguns for two main reasons: concealment and spread:




Sawed-off shotguns are short, making them easy to hide under a long jacket or down the side of a tall boot. Because the barrel is shorter, they also have less recoil, making them easier to handle with just one hand.




When you fire a sawed-off shotgun, the pellets from the ammo spread out much more compared to a regular shotgun. This means that even if you do not have a perfect aim, you have a much better chance of hitting your target.


Uses of a Sawed-Off Shotgun


An image showing the bullet chambers of rifle gun

Credit: BBC Science Focus Magazine


Military Use


During the American Civil War, Confederate cavalry relied heavily on sawed-off shotguns as their primary weapons for close-range combat.

Fast forward to today, both the military and police departments use sawn-off shotguns with barrels typically ranging from 10 to 14 inches (25 to 36 cm). These short shotguns are easier to conceal and carry because they're smaller and lighter.

They come in handy in tight spots like caves, tunnels, and close-quarter battles. They are often called "entry shotguns" because they're commonly used when forces need to forcibly enter buildings. Their short length and easy handling make them more practical in these situations, even if they don't hold as much ammunition as larger shotguns.


Civilian Use


Traditionally, Italian farmers and shepherds relied on this firearm to protect their livestock and vineyards.

However, during the 1960s, sawed-off shotguns became quite common in robberies in countries like Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand. Robbers would shorten the shotgun barrels to make them easier to hide. As a result, many people still associate this type of shotgun with criminal activity today.


What Does Shortening the Length of a Shotgun Barrel Do to the Barrel Length and Shot Spread?


A rifle with the shotgun barrel that has been shortened

Credit: Sumally


Shortening the length of a shotgun barrel does not have a major impact on the pattern of spread of the pellets unless it is reduced to less than half the length of a conventional barrel.

The type of cartridge used and the choke, or constriction, found at the muzzle of a shotgun barrel, have the most impact on the pattern.

In a sawed-off shotgun, the choke is removed by cutting off the end of the barrel, which usually only extends about two inches (about 5 cm) inward from the muzzle. A cylinder bore is formed as a result, resulting in the broadest spread commonly found in shotgun barrels. Special "spreader chokes" or "spreader loads," are designed to spread the shot further, and are used for an even broader pattern.


Is it Legal to Possess a Sawed-Off Shotgun?


A rifle sitting on a tree trunk out in nature with a tree growing out the trunk

Credit: Pew Pew Tactical


Since 1934, many gun manufacturers in the United States have stopped producing sawed-off shotguns. At the time shotguns with a barrel length of fewer than 18 inches were prohibited.

Today, if you want to own one, there are rules to follow. A sawed-off shotgun must meet certain length requirements for civilian use, as set by different organizations. It needs to have a minimum barrel length of at least 18 inches and a total length of 27 inches.

But, if you want one with a barrel length shorter than 18 inches, you can do it legally, but you need a permit before buying or cutting the barrels.


Here's how:


  1. Complete Form 4: This is the "Application for Tax Paid Transfer and Registration" form.

  2. Provide your fingerprints and two passport-sized photos.

  3. Get your stamp: Pay and get approval for a $200 tax stamp. You need a new one for each transfer, whether it's within your state or across state lines.

  4. Wait patiently: It takes six to nine months to get your permit.


    Is It Legal to Possess Two Sawed-Off Shotguns?


    man walking on dirt road holding shotgun on shoulder
    Credit: Envato Elements/ Miguel_SR


    When it comes to owning two sawed-off shotguns, the legality largely depends on the jurisdiction and the specific circumstances. In the United States, for example, the legality of owning multiple sawed-off shotguns follows the same guidelines as owning one. Each firearm typically requires its own separate registration and compliance with the National Firearms Act (NFA) regulations. This means that if you want to possess two sawed-off shotguns, you'll need to go through the same process of obtaining the necessary permits, paying the associated taxes, and waiting for approvals for each firearm individually.


    How Does One Go About Making One?


    A man holding a rifle with both hands out at the range

    Credit: American Gun Association


    You can get the barrel shortened by using a hacksaw, sawzall, or carbide chop to saw them and trim them to the required length. If you’re looking for a saw kit that can get the job done faster, the BLACK+DECKER 20V MAX Saw Kit is a great option to consider. If concealment is a priority, the buttstock can also be reduced to a primitive pistol grip.


    Myths and Misconceptions


    hunter loading gun with shot shells
    Credit: Envato Elements/ Kohanova


    There are several myths and misconceptions surrounding sawed-off shotguns. Let's debunk a few of them:


    Myth 1: Sawed-off shotguns are illegal everywhere.


    Fact: While they are heavily regulated in many places, it's not accurate to say they are illegal everywhere. However, the legal requirements for owning one can be stringent, and compliance with local laws is crucial.


    Myth 2: Sawed-off shotguns are more lethal than regular shotguns.


    Fact: The lethality of a shotgun depends on various factors, including ammunition and range. While sawed-off shotguns can be effective in close-quarters situations, their reduced barrel length often leads to decreased accuracy and range compared to their full-length counterparts.


    Myth 3: Anyone can easily convert a regular shotgun into a sawed-off shotgun.


    Fact: Converting a shotgun into a sawed-off shotgun is often illegal without the proper permits and compliance with regulations. Attempting to do so without the required knowledge and documentation can result in criminal charges.




    A sawed-off shotgun can fire approximately 395 times, which equals 790 standard rounds or 395 reloads when it's in top condition. These short-barreled shotguns are extremely deadly at close range.

    If you're thinking about using a short-barrelled shotgun for any reason, it's crucial to fill out the necessary paperwork first. To avoid legal troubles, be sure to understand the rules about barrel length restrictions and follow your state's laws. Owning a sawed-off modern shotgun is legal if you have the proper license and registration.

    And if you're interested in improving your shooting accuracy, consider checking out EasyShot Shooting Targets. They can help you enhance your aim and precision. Shop with us today.

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