Shotguns are fairly versatile weapons due to their simplicity. They are essentially smoothbore weapons with a bore diameter between 18 and 20mms depending on the choke used. This makes it easy to shove a variety of projectiles down the barrel. The normal round we’d see used are buckshot, birdshot, and slugs. Yet, when it comes to military shotgun ammo, things get a little weirder.
Today, we will take a peek at some of the odd, weird, and wonderful projectiles designed as military shotgun ammo. This list will include ammo used in the past or currently and a few experimental rounds that never made it out of testing. If you’re a fan of the scattergun, you’ve come to the right place.
M1030 breaching slugs
Shotguns can be multipurpose weapons that can border on being tools. One of their talents is the ability to breach doors. Doors in urban combat are quite common. When locked, they present a barrier to fighting forces and might need to be removed and done so quickly.
Normal buckshot or slug can do the job but present a threat to the people on the other side of the door and the breacher. Normal military shotgun ammo will deflect or penetrate and cause harm. The M1030 breaching slug provides troops with a purpose-built round for breaching while limiting risk.
The M1030 slug is a solid projectile made of powdered steel. The powdered steel is held together with wax. When the solid slug hits a lock, hinge, or doorknob, it breaks apart instantly while still allowing the breacher to breacher.
The XREP shell
I remember going through non-lethal weapons training and being tasered by the X26. It was not a pleasant experience. The main downside was the limited range of the weapon. Taser saw this and realized a longer-range option would provide a better less-than-lethal threat. With that in mind, they designed the XREP shotgun shell.
I learned about the XREP at this nonlethal weapon’s course, although thankfully, we didn’t get hit by them. Military shotguns are often used for nonlethal or less-lethal roles. They can fire various munitions, including bean bags, rubber buckshot, and now the XREP.
As far as military shotgun ammo goes, this one is high-tech. This solid slug is a fin-stabilized projectile that’s super lightweight. The slug still uses gun powder for propulsion. When it strikes the target, a series of four electrodes pierce the target’s skin and clothes and deliver an electric shock. The XREP gives soldiers and police officers a long-range, repeating electric weapon for less lethal use.
The jungles of Vietnam ensured engagements were often quick, brutal, and close. In this environment, the shotgun found new life among fighting men. The jungle and the trenches offer a unique environment for the shotgun. The military noticed how handy the shotgun could be at these ranges and began experimenting with longer range options that kept the spread of buckshot but improved penetration.
This led to a new military shotgun ammo known as flechette rounds. Yep, they don’t just exist in Call of Duty. These flechette loads used a series of small, fin-stabilized sharpened projectiles. The idea was that they could increase range while keeping the spread and lethality of buckshot.
The Western Cartridge Company loaded shells for the military with 20 flechettes. Each flechette was .73 of an inch long and weighed only 7.3 grains. The flechettes offered an increased range but didn’t do a great job at penetrating, so they never replaced conventional buckshot.
SCMITR takes the cake as the best-named military shotgun ammo. The SCMITR load was an experimental shotgun load that was a lot like flechette rounds. Development started as part of larger programs like the CAWS and SPIW that theorized that hit potential increased when firing multiple projectiles.
The SCMITR rounds didn’t use small, needle-like flechettes, though. Instead, the round fired eight razor-edged stamped sheet metal arrows. The goal was to provide a shotgun-like load that could be effective out to 150 meters and could penetrate body armor. Keep in mind that the body armor in the 1970s wasn’t that great.
The SCMITR succeeded in its goal. At 150 meters, the razor-sharp arrowheads struck within a four-meter circle and could penetrate 3mm of mild steel. The CAWS program was shut down, and so was SCMITR, unfortunately.
Slugs provide shotgun shooters a solid chunk of lead that greatly improves the effective range. Those are great, and the FRAG-12 is a slug round that certainly boosts range, but it also increases kill potential by exploding. The FRAG-12 round is an explosive round of military shotgun ammo developed by Combined Systems Inc.
These exploding slugs were never adopted but provided a rather effective shotgun load. The round had an effective range of 200 meters and would explode on impact. The explosive radius was fairly small and was contained to 1 meter. However, the slugs could be fired rapidly and repeatedly from pump and semi-auto shotguns. You could stop vehicles, take out machine nests, and more.
The main downside is the high price. Conventional 40mm grenades offered a much bigger explosion at a lower cost. Plus, shotguns hadn’t had much time in the sun during the Global War on Terror.
The shotgun is a misunderstood weapon that most troops will never see or train on. In its role, it’s incredibly effective, but it’s also very niche.
Different, specialized military shotgun ammo can increase the weapon’s effectiveness. Sure, with some ammo things get weird, but the big open bore of a shotgun makes it easy to shove a lot of things through the gun and still rely on it going bang.