4 Gun Myths That Will Get You Killed

This is a guest post by Andrew Bettsgun myths

4 Gun Myths

If you have been around guns long enough, you have probably run across an “expert” who has been kind enough to share his wisdom with you. He might have been wearing a greasy John Deere hat and overalls or he could have had his black BDU trousers bloused into his jungle boots, but the one thing these experts all have in common is bad advice. If you did not know any better, you might even have believed him.

Here are a few commonly held ideas that are dead wrong.

Racking a Shotgun

It sounds like a good idea, right? Why shoot someone if you don’t have to? If you think someone is in your home, work the action on that ol’ pump gun and the worst thing you will have to worry about is cleaning up the mess they leave in their shorts. Except real life isn’t a movie.

Chambering a round in a shotgun certainly seems like it would frighten any rational person into fleeing. The problem is that people who break into occupied homes are not known for their clear thinking and rational behavior. What’s worse is that the only thing that is really sure about fear is that it elicits the fight or flight response. That means that a person might flee, but they also might be frightened into fighting, especially if they are accustomed to a violent lifestyle.

What’s worse is that they now know where you are and the fact that you are armed while you do not know where they are. It is possible that hearing that sound could prompt them to leave, but it could instead panic them into emptying their 9mm Hi-Point through your daughter’s bedroom wall. Alternatively, they might wait in your living room for you to poke your head around the corner. The point is that their actions are not remotely predictable. If you wish to avoid shooting a person, you should stay in a safe place and wait for the police. That is your safest course of action anyway. By all means arm yourself, but keep that bolt closed on a live round with the safety on and your finger off the trigger.

Gimmick Ammo

Manufacturers have been making extraordinary claims for quite some time and PT Barnum famously reminded us that there is no shortage of customers to buy those products. There is an almost endless variety of claims that could be made. They usually fall into one of two categories, though. They either claim some sort of magical shape like the ammunition above or they use a fragmenting design. In the case of the former, it is truly snake oil. There is nothing magical about the shape of the Lehigh Extreme Penetrator.

We can see in the video that it creates a wound that is, if anything, less impressive than 9mm FMJ of the same weight. The same goes for any other manufacturer making fantastic claims about hydraulics and fractal geometry. When it comes to fragmenting designs like Glaser, Magsafe, or the newer G2 RIP, they all suffer from a similar problem: fragmenting the bullet causes it to increase surface area and the now separate projectiles lack the mass
to penetrate deeply enough to reliably incapacitate. To make matters worse, these types of bullet are usually lighter than normal for their caliber, which also leads to insufficient penetration.

Over Penetration

The over penetration myth often revolves around the use of a particular cartridge for defense. For example, someone may claim that it is a poor idea to use a .357 mag or .223 Rem for defense because “you’ll shoot through the neighbor’s house”.  In reality, any cartridge that is capable of penetrating a bad guy deeply enough to reliably incapacitate him will also penetrate multiple walls if you miss your target.

Similarly, most defense loads will penetrate about 14” of tissue, no matter what the caliber. This is the ideal penetration depth and the standard which any quality ammunition will be designed to meet. It is far more important to choose ammunition  that will reliably stop a threat and train to put the rounds where they need to go. Those two factors will reduce the number of rounds that need to be fired, which reduces the potential for misses and reduces the probability that some uninvolved third party is injured. For what it’s worth, though, we know of no incident where a private citizen fired their weapon in a justified shooting and their bullet injured an innocent person.


There are several claims that usually go along with the recommendation to use birdshot. One of them is that it will not penetrate interior walls. This is absolutely untrue. Most birdshot will indeed penetrate interior walls but even if that were true, how could something that was stopped by a thin layer of gypsum have any chance of causing enough damage to stop a man from harming your family?

Another claim is that birdshot acts like a slug at close range. This is also false. It is true that at close range the pellets have not separated much but they penetrate independently. There is no magical power binding the shot pellets together. Even when they are physically held together with wax as in the test above, they penetrate far too shallowly to be relied upon for defense. To put these test results in perspective, the majority of the pellets penetrated less than the .177 caliber BB used to calibrate the block. Would you choose a BB gun for home defense? Birdshot is for little birds.


Andrew Betts served with the Arizona National Guard for over 12 years, including a tour to Afghanistan. Visit his YouTube Channel for more great shooting information.


    • I’m not going to be taking advice from the Deliverance guy. That hillbilly is a moron. He would be simply ignorant if not for the fact that he thinks his uneducated opinion more valid than actual experts. Bird shot does not penetrate adequately for defensive use. Period. End of transmission. If someone advocates the use of bird shot for defense, you may safely disregard anything else they have to say and you should openly laugh in their face.

      • Funny how my friend killed a 400 pound grizzly with 6 shot bird shot at 6 to 12 feet away bird shot is as deadly as anything !

        • I am the Pastor of a small congregation in North Carolina. Last week 3 people from our congregation were murdered when a neighbor kicked in the door carrying a shotgun loaded with bird shot and killed all three. I don’t know who the moron is here, but apparently bird shot at the right range is very effective.

        • OK, birdshot can kill. So what? .22 or even a BB can kill, if it hits the right place at the right range, which it can do but generally by accident. I wouldn’t necessarily bet my life on it. The original point is valid, it does not necessarily constitute a reliable defensive load is still a valid point.

      • Well, you’re taking too simple a view of birdshot at home defense distances; a birdshot blast at 20′ will pretty much mimic most any other type of blasts bar a slug since the energy is still fairly focused at that distance. Seriously, you even get hit with the wadding. I’ll offer that buck will penetrate deeper, but that’s like kicking a guy in the dick 15 times instead of only 12: it will still hurt. FWIW, I wouldn’t use birdshot for the simple reason that if I’m going to use a firearm against an intruder to get him to stop his unsocial behavior then it would be fairly stupid on my part to use anything other than optimal ammunition. That means 12-guage buck. Also, I wouldn’t escalate my ammo, either, i.e., bird in chamber, then next shell is buck, then next shell is a slug, etc.

  1. First off, you lost me with the ad hominem attacks. Second, what makes his opinion “uneducated “? I had never heard of this guy, so I watched his video. He seemed to back up what he said, so no problem there. Next, I went to his group’s website. I’m not sure if you checked it out, but there are people in that group with some actual credentials. So, what makes your opinion more credible than his? I sure hope it’s a bit more than “I was in the guard”. I have some buddies in the guard and I’ve shot with them….

  2. Wow ain’t you all that? Calling people names because you were in the National Guard, wow that makes you an expert. I was in the guard, I got the opinion you are an asshole

  3. Tom Gresham will disagree with you on the birdshot. But what the hell does he know?

  4. At indoor defensive ranges bird shot will stop most people. Birdshot will penetrate a typical interior wall, BUT assuming that the initial impact on the wall was at 10′ or more, there is very little danger of birdshot doing serious injury to a person any reasonable distance beyond the interior wall. So, birdshot is actually a reasonable choice for the first round from a shotgun for home defense, especially if the shooter has the sense to use an enconsenced defender strategy.

  5. R. Wittrock says:

    For years professional hunters in Africa have preferred to use a Win Model 12 (12 ga) for tracking wounded, soft skinned dangerous game in heavy brush where a close range charge is anticipated.

  6. If someone points a 12ga at me from 10-15′ and pulls the trigger its not really going to matter what load it was. Period. Pretty sure it’s going to stop me from doing whatever it is I was doing. Don’t think so, feel free to stand in front of one. Make sure to post a video for us.

  7. No disrespect, but hiding quietly in your closet and waiting for the police to show up is just asking for an intruder to eventually find you. If the cops take too long and you’re female, well…

    The purpose of having a home defense shotgun is to have it with you and to let the suspect know you are aware of him. I’m going to say that again: the purpose of having a home defense shotgun is to have it with you and to let the suspect know you’re aware of him. No disrespect, but I think the author would be hard-pressed to provide any evidence that indicates, no, even mildly suggests, that an intruder would just as soon advance against an armed homeowner rather than flee. He might find incidences where the homeowner CLAIMED he told the intruder he was armed before he shot him, but from what little I’ve seen many suspects who survived shootings claim they didn’t know a homeowner was even present, much less armed. There is, however, endless evidence showing that intruders will almost always flee when they’re discovered by an armed homeowner. Again, no disrespect to the author, but I would venture that there is no factual basis in his belief that hiding in a closet while an intruder makes his way through your family’s rooms is a safe thing to do. Well, maybe it’s safe for the person with the shotgun, but not the rest of the family as the intruder visits each in turn. It takes a strangely powerful person to choose to hide while armed as an intruder has his way with family members.

    Further to that point, racking your shotgun may or may not attract attention to your location, but it leaves no doubt you are armed. Consider also that, as an armed homeowner, you, at some point, if you have the time, will call a warning to an intruder. If there’s no time you’ll shoot him anyway if he’s close enough to be a personal threat.

    FWIW, I will not keep a shotgun with a shell loaded in the chamber. I am more worried about a possible ND from it falling over than I am of a home intruder. This all makes for healthy arguments.

    • I have a police officer who years ago told me never go looking for the intruder in your home sit and wait for them to come your way .., .. if you go looking for them they will
      Likely see you before you see them ..

      Also you assume thsts the intruder is of sound mind , most times they are not .. especially in today’s world , of drugs and crazies out there that don’t care if they live or die …

      I have hunted for 49 years and often times bird shot even # 4 shot leaves the bird or rabbit still alive … so to say birdshot is effective enough on human tissue is irresponsible ..

      Could it be sure it could be but why chance it , if shotgun is all that is available use 00 buck shot game over .

  8. Norm Halliday says:

    If your shotgun somehow fires by falling over, you need to rethink your choice of shotgun.

    I’ve heard shotguns racked over many years, but what if your intruder hasn’t, then what? Not everyone knows that sound.

    Waiting for law enforcement in a defensible position is a good idea. Having the proper training and practiced skills of clearing your home is another.

    There are many issues to take into consideration when deciding to search and clear your home. How many people live in your home? Where are they located, are they frightened and have moved.

    Target acquisition and recognition are even more critical when in your own home. A quality weapon mounted light is preferable and use of these are tools and skills need to be practiced, not just at the range but in the home as well.

    It’s not enough to be armed, you should be trained and practiced to be able to respond to a threat in and around your home.

    • I believe you’re overthinking the issues here. Quick point: if you DON’T think a shotgun can go off if it falls over then you don’t really know shotguns. No disrespect dude, but any shotgun can go off if it falls over. That’s the thing with shotguns. Now, as for your argument that a home intruder might not know what the sound of a racking shotgun is, I’m trying really hard to limit the snarkiness as I try to figure out how to address that. Home intruder: “Man, it sure is quiet in this house I’m invading. Uh-oh, I wonder what that loud sound that I have never in all my years of home invasions have ever heard? I wonder if that’s the sound of a dog barking? No, I’ve heard a dog. A toilet flushing? No, I remember hearing one of those. Well, since I don’t know what that sound is, I guess the smart thing to do is to go to where that sound came from.”

      Seriously? You really think that the possibility of a home intruder not recognizing the sound of a racking shotgun should be an issue of discussion?

      Look, ragging on you is probably unfair, and I’m sure I’ll regret it. I can’t fault anything else that you said: in a perfect world we would all practice procedures for clearing a home, and practice how to safely locate and gather you family members. In most homes these concerns are easier to address because of room proximity; in my home the rooms are adjacent to one another. But, yes, if the homeowner plans for contingencies centering on home intruders then he’s done what, in my opinion, the vast majority of armed homeowners fail to do. I would venture that your comment regarding the flashlight as most telling; how many armed homeowners have a weapon nearby, know to to get to it, know how to ensure it’s ready, but don’t have a flashlight with it? That means the homeowner will move from room to room either in the dark, not being in a position to locate and illuminate a suspect, or else he’d have to turn on room lights, which places him at a disadvantage. Perhaps the author would have been better advised to fit a flashlight into the dialogue rather tgan a comment on gimmick ammo.

      I disagreed with the author’s premise that an intruder would just as soon run toward an armed homeowner than away from one. I have always been a proponant of alerting a suspect that you are armed and aware of him, and that he needs to take the opportunity to leave. Abundant evidence shows that the suspect will flee, but In that supremely rare instance in which the suspect does not flee, you are still armed, and still aware of him.

      I am no real expert, and people can absorb my comments or reject them, but I sometimes take issue with articles in popular venues such as this that offer questionable advice that might influence someone to learn a behavior or procedure that might be based on one person’s theory, even if it goes against a widely-held opposing view.

  9. Doesn’t really matter which weapon for home defense, an intruder is going have something to think about when he knows a balls out gun fight is going to go down. Too much work for crack money

  10. Been thinning out Rocky J’s Cousins (Pocket Gophers). With Bird shot they would go for a tumble and then right themselves and run underground. With #1 Buckshot they would die in place. Lots less suffering.

  11. Remember gents, this is just one man opinion. I myself land 3in slug because I want not just the first intruder but the second and hopefully the third to all feel the pain at once, what can I say I like to share. Intruders don’t usually work alone, but as a CYA sometimes yes they might.

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