The term "riding shotgun" can be traced back to the days when stagecoaches played a big role in getting important people and cargo to a destination on time. Such trips often necessitated both an escort, and a security man toting a short-barreled shotgun up front with the driver.
Why were scatterguns so popular and effective? The spreading shot pattern could take down an assailant or supper with equal efficiency, and one didn't need to be a precise marksman to achieve the desired result. And now, with cowboy action shooting gaining in popularity, and modern security experts again touting the benefits of the shotgun for home defense, Stoeger® has six reincarnations of the Old West short-barreled shotgun in its Coach Gun line.
I recently purchased a Stoeger Coach Gun and put it through its paces. I was looking for lightweight, reasonably compact camp protection in bear country that could double as a home-defense firearm. I chose the basic 12-gauge Coach Gun capable of firing both 2-3/4" and 3" shells. It's a side-by-side double-barrel intimidator with 20" barrels and weighs a mere 6-1/2 lbs. The stock is grade-A walnut with the firearm's overall length a shade over 3 ft. The length-of-pull is 14-1/2" and it points instinctively with a brass bead seated between the two barrels.
With one barrel choked Improved Cylinder and the other Modified (the chokes are fixed on the basic model) I decided to conduct live fire tests with both 2-3/4" rifled slugs and 3" 000 magnum buckshot at what I consider to be a reasonable range for self-defense justification of five paces. Oh my. I'd interviewed a former law-enforcement officer about the shotgun before my purchase and his assessment of both slugs and 000 buckshot as close-in "game enders" is certainly accurate. All 20 pellets and both wads punched holes through the target in a pattern about 6" wide and 3" high with the bead centered on the bullseye for a point of aim. Slugs produced holes nearly 1" in diameter within an inch of the target center and each other. Pity the felon or black bear that violates my 15-ft. perimeter with nefarious intent. Again and again the little scattergun demonstrated devastating close-range firepower and exceptional accuracy while remaining surprisingly easy to control, even with heavy magnum loads. Target acquisition was lightning fast, so this gun is sure to be a winner with cowboy action shooters.
A nice safety feature is the auto-reset safety that puts the shotgun's safety in the "on" position each time the barrel-opening lever is pushed to the right to break the action and reload. The Coach Gun also has two triggers, one for each barrel that makes it easy to have different loads in the two barrels. This lets the shooter select the best one for the situation. On a recent camping trip into black bear country I kept the "buck-and-ball" option open with a slug in one barrel and one 000 buckshot shell in the other. For home defense, buckshot or large birdshot is best to prevent over penetration and potential harm to innocents.
All of the Stoeger Coach Guns are light, compact and potent. The six different configurations let you choose the one best suited for your purposes and cosmetic preferences. Retail prices for basic Coach Guns start around $300, and expect to pay about $100 more for one with all the bells and whistles. At those prices, I consider the versatile and sturdy Stoeger Coach Gun to be an exceptional value. For more information about the Stoeger Coach Gun, visit your nearest Cabela's retail store.