The Double-Barrel Shotgun

In my first book, Touch of Texas, the heroine’s defense weapon of choice was a double-barrel shotgun. In the interests of research–and because I wanted to shoot one — we added a double-barrel shotgun to our Cowboy Action Shooting collection.

Shotguns come in all barrel lengths. The Stoeger side-by-side we shoot is modeled after the 1881 Baker double-barrel shotgun. While the earlier double-barrel shotguns had two triggers, one to fire each barrel, the Baker had a single trigger that was pulled twice to fire each barrel in succession.

Prior to the late 1870s, shotguns had external hammers which had to be manually cocked. Until the hammer was cocked, the gun couldn’t be fired. That meant the gun could be loaded and leaned in a corner, but it wasn’t useful until the hammers were pulled back.

The style of shotgun I use in Cowboy Action Shooting is referred to as a “Coach Gun.” That means the barrel is between 18 and 20 inches long.

The term “coach gun” comes from the popularity of the shorter barreled shotguns that fit in the footwell of a stagecoach or alongside the driver with the butt of the shotgun on the seat. A shorter gun was more easily lifted and pointed at the target when needed. And a shotgun has a broader impact pattern so the shooter doesn’t have to be quite as accurate. Where a rifle shoots one bullet, a shotgun, with 9 to 100 pellets in the load of shot, will cover approximately 2’x2′ or as much as 3’x3′. That makes it a perfect gun for defending a rocking, bouncing stage, or to fire from horseback when pursuing–or being pursued by–the bad guys.

Have you read a book where the double-barrel shotgun has been used?  Which scene is your favorite? I’ll give a copy of TOUCH OF TEXAS to one of you who leaves a comment.

Tracy Garrett
History, Texas, cowboys, horses—these are a few of Tracy’s favorite things. Check out her westerns at www.TracyGarrett.com.

34 Comments

  1. Your gun posts are so interesting and informative, Tracy. I’ve read that the shotgun was the weapon of choice for some of the old gunfighters, like Doc Holiday, because you didn’t need to be a good shot. You just blasted your enemy to kingdom come.
    I wrote a book where a spunky old woman scares off a band of bad guys by threatening them with her shotgun. They could be pretty formidable. Have a great day.

  2. My hubby has one of these! He loves his guns! I love a scene where the woman of the house takes a stand to help her man during a Indian attack! No matter what men thought , it took a good woman to hold down the fort!

  3. I believe I need to share this post with my husband. 🙂
    Great post.
    campbellamyd at gmail dot com

  4. I am sure I have read many western themed books where a double barrelled shot gun was used. But off the top of my head, I can’t come up with a title.
    Good Post…

  5. Can’t bring any particular book title to the empty forefront of my brain. But the movie Stagecoach comes immediately to my mind.

  6. Elizabeth, you’re right about the Doc Holliday reference. The shotgun is a natural for self-defense.

  7. Kim, the west would never have been settled without the women.

  8. Share away, Amy. Glad you liked the post.

  9. Wasn’t it El Dorado where James Caan was such a terrible shot that John Wayne gave him a shot gun, and he still couldn’t hit anything?

  10. CateS, Stagecoach is one of my all time favorite movies. And you can bet there was a double-barreled coach guns tucked beside the driver.

  11. As for books….all my books use rifles, not shot guns. My women especially (the men too of course) are far too accurate to need a shotgun. 🙂

  12. Thanks for stopping in, Kathleen O.

  13. One thing I didn’t mention, Kim, is that although this is a perfect weapon of choice, it packs a whollop! I put it to my shoulder to fire it at a target and didn’t brace myself – one foot slightly in front of the other. I pulled the trigger and nearly landed on my bustle!

  14. I believe you’re right, Mary. Funny!

  15. Mary, your women are some wonderful, strong ladies. Love them!

  16. I’ve read quite a few books set in western times and yes a shotgun was used. You mostly hear a revolver being used more than a shotgun. I like when the heroine uses one and is a good shot.
    jennydtipton[at]gmail[dot]com

  17. Me, too, Jennifer. A woman taking care of herself is one of the great messages in Romance, I think.

  18. Wow, Tracy. That gives me all kinds of ideas for use in books. You know, I always learn something when I pop in over here! Y’all are great. 🙂

  19. Great post Tracy. I always learn something new with every blog. I know little about guns, but as a true Texan of course we have them in the house. I don’t use them much in my story by name … just a Winchester rifle (because I’ve been at the Winchester House in San Jose, California), pistol, rifle, or shotgun. Linda and I were at the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum a few years ago and had an opportunity to handle a Colt Walker Pistol. Heavy, heavy. There is no way some of the cocky cowboys in movies take that pistol out of their holster, whirl it around and shoot … not with that gun for sure. Thanks for a great post.

  20. Tracy, loved the post but I was glad to see that you added about your gun packing a punch. I have shoot many different guns and they all seem to leave me bruised. But I know that I can shoot them should the need to protect myself or my home.

    Can’t think of a single book that I remember the guns that were used in them. Lets correct that, a western because the book I just finished was a modern day cob story. Loads of guns in it!

  21. If you are on Facebook, go look at the page TODAY IN THE OLD WEST – their post yesterday was on Billy the Kid using a double-barreled shotgun to break out of the Lincoln County jail.

  22. Hello, Suzanne! You need to come back and visit sometime soon! Thanks for stopping by.

  23. Phyllis, The Texas Ranger Hall of Fame (in Waco, TX) is one of my favorite museums ever. And you’re right, there’s no way those rhinestone cowboys used a real Colt. lol

  24. I have to laugh, Connie J. You should see the bruise I’m sporting on my right shoulder from shooting on Saturday. lol Oh, well, it will heal–before I go out and do it again.

  25. Hi Tracy, great info here! I suppose I have read a book with a double-barrel shotgun, but mostly I recall Colts especially Peacemakers. Sounds like the perfect weapon when somebody is pursuing you–chances of hitting your enemy are greater.

  26. I grew up reading the books of Louis L’Amour so probably those inclueded a double barreled shotgun. Don’t recall the names of the books but I do remember that it left a terrible wound to a body.
    Enjoyed reading the comments.

  27. I am sure I have read a book with a double-barrel shotgun in it… with all of the westerns I have read… just can not recall a specific one…

  28. Avatar

    There must have been a double barrel shotgun in at least one of the books I’ve read. Guess the gun used doesn’t leave as big an impression on me as other parts of the story.

    I’ve never fired a shotgun but my dad had a twenty guage and a twelve guage. No double barrels though.

  29. LOL! Great post, Tracy! I confess that I haven’t paid enough attention to the weapons when reading to recall which heroines defended themselves with shotguns (vs. rifles) 🙂 I do like it when a woman is competent at it and can take care of herself (and sometimes her man ;))

  30. Shotguns make so much more sense for defense when accuracy is a problem, due to motion or lack of shooting ability. We have a 410 and 12, 16, and 20 gauge shotguns. The 12 gauge has quite a kick. Unfortunately my husband hasn’t had much of an opportunity to hunt the past few years.

    I can’t remember the names of the books, but two I read this past year had women alone at their cabins. One had her father’s shotgun over the door, loaded and ready to use. The other kept hers leaning against the wall near the front door within easy reach for herself or her young son. As isolated as many women were, they had to be able to let others know she was capable of defending herself, and a shotgun is the perfect weapon. Just point in the general direction and pull the trigger. They know you are bound to hit something and they don’t want to be it.

    Thanks for sharing.

  31. I have read books where the double shotgun was used and a lot of times it was the heroine using it. My father used to have a double barrel shotgun.

  32. I imagine that most women weren’t trained to hunt as they grew up like the men were. That meant accuracy was more of an issue for them–and for some men, too. A shotgun takes away some of the need for accuracy. You have to aim at the target, but you don’t have to hit square on it. Of course, anyone standing beside your target is in the line of fire, which means your character can’t fire until they are clear.

  33. I can not recall a book at this moment with a double barrel shotgun. I have added a Touch of Texas to my Goodreads list.

  34. Thanks, Cindy! I appreciate that. What I remember most about a scene with a double barreled shotgun (not mine) is the heroine, having never shot a shotgun, grabs it and pulls both triggers at the same time. That’s like getting hit by a running horse, I imagine. Shooting one leaves bruises. I can’t imagine shooting two at once. Talk about landing on your bustle! 😀

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