Measuring a mere 1.75 inches, ‘stubbies’ may be perfect for training, home defense – even some hunts.
Story by Phil Massaro Photos by Massaro Media Group
Buy a shotgun!” Such was the advice of our sitting president when it comes to the defense of the home. While Mr. Biden and I don’t agree on many points – I could probably count those points on one hand with fingers leftover – he might not be entirely wrong with that statement, though I don’t see folks giving up their AR-15s anytime soon. Biden’s point was that the shotgun is easier to aim than a rifle and is a more effective weapon for self-defense. Having used both firearms for decades, I don’t entirely agree with him here, but as stated, he’s not entirely wrong. A shotgun can be a very effective tool, providing the wielder can use it properly and that he or she understands the facts and performance of the chosen gauge and load.
In film, Hollywood has shown us that the simple act of racking a pump shotgun will force potential enemies to their knees in surrender. That might not be the case any more than aiming a shotgun in the general direction of a target will guarantee a lethal hit. And training someone to handle a firearm in a defensive situation – where the shooter is stressed and motor skills are diminished – with a hard-kicking 12-gauge loaded with magnum shells can sometimes be counterproductive.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” so goes the old adage. And I can tell you that curing a flinch is no easy task, even for the veteran shooter. In addition, looking at the penetrative qualities of a good number of handgun and rifle projectiles inside the residence, the risk of over-penetration is a legitimate concern. Where am I going with all of this? I’m talking about the new “short” shotshell and its applications in the target, hunting and defensive circles.
MOST OF OUR American 12-gauge shotshells come in 2¾-, 3- and 3½-inch lengths, with even the shortest of the lot being offered in a magnum variant. Some of the European 12-gauge guns have been chambered for 2-, 2¼- and 2½-inch lengths, but those are a rarity here in the States. This new crop of shotshells measures a mere 1¾ inches, offers a very light recoil and report, and is perfect for training, home defense and a number of other applications. With options for birdshot, buckshot and slugs, these diminutive shells are much more potent than they appear and might actually be a near-perfect choice for the home. There are two sources for these shells right now and they are both available in 12-gauge only. Aguila loads their Minishells and Federal has introduced their Shorty shotshell line; both are 1¾ inches with brass heads and both offer similar shot/slug choices.
Aguila has offered their Minishell loaded with 7½ shot, with a 5/8-ounce load at 1,200 feet per second, as well as with a hybrid load of buckshot, which mixes seven pellets of No. 4 buck with four pellets of No. 1 buck, with the whole party also leaving the muzzle at 1,200 fps.
Their slug load uses a 7/8-ounce lead slug at 1,300 fps. All three loads come in 20-count boxes. Federal has released their Shorty shotshells in two different product lines. Their standard “blue box” ammo line has 15/16 ounce of No. 8 shot at 1,145 fps, the buckshot load features a buffered load of 15 pellets of No. 4 buck, and the 1-ounce rifled lead slug has a muzzle velocity of 1,200 fps. This trio gives a performance very close to their longer counterparts.
In their Personal Defense line, new for 2022, Federal now offers a Force X2 Shorty shotshell, packed with six pellets of 00 buck at a velocity of 1,245 fps. This wicked little package features a half-dozen of the FX2 copper-plated buckshot pellets, which are designed to split into two equal pieces upon impact, effectively turning six into 12, all the while greatly reducing the chances of overpenetration. I’m a big fan of the Force X2 stuff, and the fact that it’s loaded in the Shorty configuration just adds to the versatility of the product line. If a half-dozen fragmenting 00 buck pellets doesn’t sort the problem, you might need backup.
These shotshells will certainly function in the single- and double-barreled guns, as well as in certain pump shotguns. I’ve found them easy to feed and load in the Remington 870– both the Express and Wingmaster variants – but the Mossberg 500 and its offspring require an adapter to get the Shortys and Minishells to feed properly from the tube magazines. I used the OPSol Mini-Clip 2.0 with the Mossberg shotguns; simply compress the adapter and slide it rearward toward the base of the receiver and those little shells will feed without issue, though you’ll have to remove the adapter should you want to use the longer, more popular shotshells.
My Stevens Model 320 – an affordable little pump gun that is light as a feather and perfect for turkeys – will feed the short shells … sometimes. If the gun is held upright in the shooting position and the slide is worked smoothly, I have a good chance, though I can’t count on it. And, sadly, all of the autoloaders I’ve tried have failed miserably with the short shells, though they can be single-fed for training purposes.
I FEEL THAT the short shells are one of the best training tools for teaching a new shooter the fundamentals without punishing them with excessive recoil and report. Nothing breeds confidence like a good-looking target, and after a few sessions with the short shells, you can easily move up to more traditional shells in the same shotgun without changing any of the aspects of the firearm. The safety will be in the same place, the trigger feel doesn’t change, and the gun fit is exact. Were I to use these shells for training, I’d begin with the Aguila line, bump up to the Federal Shorty line, and then to the full-house stuff. For those who are truly recoil-sensitive, the Aguila slugs could be used for deer hunting at close ranges, and that 1-ounce slug in the Federal load will certainly handle both deer and bear at sensible ranges.
For garden pests, for plinking, and even for squirrels and rabbits, the birdshot loads will work just fine. Perhaps instead of buying a kid a youth .410-bore or 20-gauge for his or her first shotgun, a more viable option might be a 12-gauge that they can use for their entire life, but fed with these short shotshells. The recoil – or lack thereof – is certainly one of the most advantageous aspects of the hunting shells. Lastly, the defensive potential of these shells cannot be overlooked. In a Mossberg 590 with a long tube, I got 13 shells in the magazine. I’ll say it again – in reference to the president’s home-defense mentality – firepower does not make up for marksmanship, but having that many opportunities without reloading has an allure. A handgun bullet will definitely out-penetrate buckshot, but that isn’t always a good thing, especially inside your home where a loved one may be in the next room.
At 10 paces, with an improved cylinder choke, I got 10- to 12-inch patterns with the Aguila buckshot loads, a bit smaller with the Federal blue box buckshot, and those Force X2 buckshot loads printed a 4-inch group (yes, Mr. Biden, you’ve got to aim it properly). Whether you choose Aguila’s blend of No. 4 and No. 1 buck, or one of the Federal loads (I really like the idea and performance of the Force X2 pellets), grab some of these shells and put them on paper or blow up some water jugs. I’m willing to bet that you won’t be disappointed.
I’ve heard these short shotshells referred to by many different names, from stubbies to shorties to minis to shorts, but I must admit the best I’ve heard yet came from the OPSol website, where they refer to them as “hater tots.” You can even buy a T-shirt with the definition printed on the chest.