The shotgun: brutally effective at close range

A video has surfaced on LiveLeak showing the fatal shooting (richly deserved) of a suspect by a police officer in San Diego, CA in 2016.  The DA’s analysis (link is to a .PDF document in Adobe Acrobat format) includes this assessment:

Mr. Juan Carlos Fernandez had been issued a court-ordered restraining order forbidding him from contacting his former wife. Fernandez continued to harass and stalk her. On November 13, 2016, Fernandez went to his former wife’s family residence. His ex-wife’s father went outside to talk to Fernandez. The boyfriend of his ex-wife arrived, confronted Fernandez, and the two began to fight. Fernandez walked back to his car and retrieved a handgun. Fernandez chased the boyfriend and threatened to shoot him. The boyfriend ran from the scene and Fernandez grabbed his ex-wife by the hair. Her father attempted to pull Fernandez off of her. Femandez shot the father in the head. Fernandez then shot his ex-wife’s grandfather and mother, injuring her grandfather and killing her mother. The bullet, which killed her mother, also struck his ex-wife in the chest. Fernandez grabbed his ex-wife by the hair again and dragged her to his vehicle attempting to shove her into his vehicle. Fernandez placed his ex-wife in a headlock, put the gun to her head, and pulled the trigger. The ex-wife heard the gun click, but it did not fire. Officer R. Bainbridge arrived on scene and saw Fernandez standing in the street, holding his ex-wife by the head with Fernandez’s handgun pressed up against her temple. Bainbridge ordered Fernandez to drop his weapon and get on the ground multiple times. Fernandez responded by threatening to shoot Bainbridge and Fernandez’s ex-wife. Fearing Fernandez was going to shoot the ex-wife, or Bainbridge and his partner, Bainbridge fired one shotgun round to Fernandez’s head, killing him instantly.

There’s more at the link.  The shooting was ruled fully justified under the circumstances.

Here’s the video.  BE WARNED:  It may be in black-and-white, and therefore not as gory as color would be, but you’re still going to see a man killed.  It’s a graphic illustration of the effectiveness of the shotgun at halitosis range.  The wound isn’t shown up close, which is why I’ve felt it OK to embed here;  but even so, DO NOT WATCH IT if you’re squeamish.

I reckon that would have been a closed-coffin funeral.


EDITED TO ADD: Police bodycam footage of the incident may be viewed here. I won’t embed it, because it’s from a rather closer perspective.


  1. Send that boy a Marksmanship Award and an Official Attaboy on department letterhead.
    The officer did more good for society in the span of firing one round than probably everything else he did all that week, prior to that.

  2. @Unknown at 5:43 PM: I'd use buck in a heartbeat at that range – even birdshot, if necessary. It wouldn't spread out very much at all in less than ten feet. In particular, Federal's FliteControl wad keeps buckshot together at much longer ranges than traditional rounds, making it possible to take accurate shots at up to 15-20 yards, even with buckshot. It's impressive stuff.

  3. Blogger Unknown said…

    Good thing his first round was a slug, I would not have faith in buck even at that range. BTW, how did you know that was a slug?

    That would be interesting to test at close range. I seem to recall putting all 9 rounds of 00 buck on a paper plate at 25 yards at some point.

  4. On the other hand, when I worked at the local state home for the criminally insane, there was one wiry short (5'4") guy who took a shotgun blast dead center to the chest from about 20' away, while buck naked and carrying the severed head of his 11yoa 'girlfriend.' He then proceeded to throw the head and charge, only to fall after about 10'. Drugs and mental illness make a powerful combination.

    Imagine the luck of missing every vital spot around the heart. Yes, it shredded portions of his lungs but the valiant hospital staff fixed that. Comments about fortunately or unfortunately shall remain my own. Yeah, right.

    Word of warning – even the vaunted 12ga shotgun with 00 Buck may not be a sure show-stopper even with a catastrophic hit location. That's why you double-tap.

  5. A shotgun in a hostage situation? Either the cop really knows how to use a shotgun or he has no clue. I do hope the lady had her eyes closed to protect them from burning powder.


  6. @Al in Ottawa: Sometimes you have to play the hand you're dealt. In a situation like that (see the description above) the police officer had no time to consider alternatives. He had to take the shot right away, and he didn't hesitate. A powder burn here or there, maybe even a more serious burn (e.g. to the eyes), won't kill someone. The perp might have done, if he hadn't been stopped right away. Q.E.D.

  7. Well well, proof positive that shotguns are quite effective on zombies.

    In all seriousness though, thumbs up to the officer for a good shoot. Cops have taken a bit of a beating of late, and I'm glad to get a story where one 'charged to the sound of the guns' so to speak.

  8. So far, I see no data indicating a slug was used. Frankly, at that range, it would have made no terminal difference. However, a slug would have presented more of a hazard to those downrange of the perp. Buckshot would not carry the same distance after passing through.

    Typically, cops carry 00B in their shotties. Might be slugs in his side saddle, though.

    As one video comment noted, if it was buckshot, it hadn't even left the plastic shotcup yet.

  9. Just in case, and for those who haven't patterned their shotguns….

    Police commonly use what was once referred to as a "riot" shotgun, one with a cylinder bore barrel; cylinder bore is a straight tube, no choke (the choke is a slight tapering of the last few inches of the barrel, in a slightly hourglass-like shape, intended to gently squeeze the shot charge together to reduce the tendency for the pellets to spread apart in flight; such spreading out of the shot charge is inevitable).

    If one patterns one's shotgun by firing it at a steel patterning board, large piece of cardboard or paper, one finds that cylinder bore barrels allow the charge to expand outward at a rate of approximately 1 inch in diameter for each yard from the muzzle. A 12 gauge barrel is, nominally, .729 inches in diameter, so figure a roughly 2 inch diameter pattern at 6 feet, 3 inches at 9 feet, and so on. Eventually, the pattern spreads so much that gaps appear in the pattern, and when those gaps allow the target – of whatever that particular target may be – to not be struck by an effective number of pellets in whatever load the ammunition being used has, the maximum effective range of that particular shotgun barrel and ammunition has been reached. With most defensive combinations, that's around 18 yards.

    The actual choke (as opposed to what is claimed by the manufacturer) is determined by patterning, based on the percentage of the pellets striking inside a 30 inch diameter circle at the patterning distance (the standard reference distance is 40 yards, intended as a common maximum range for hunting). The usual reference numbers are: cylinder bore: 40%; improved cylinder 50%; modified 60%; full 70%; extra full 75%.

    Patterns can be tightened with "buffered" shot charges, using a lightweight granular material mixed into the shot to reduce the soft lead pellets tendency to bounce into each other while traveling down the barrel and "flat spotting"; the aerodynamic disruption caused by distortion of the pellets from a perfectly round shape is a substantial contributor to spread of the shot charge as distance increases. And, adding more pellets to the shell – a "magnum" shotgun load has more pellets but no greater velocity – increases the probability that more pellets will strike the intended target.

    Contrary to popular belief, shotguns in defense must be aimed, just like a rifle, rather than "pointed." If one intends to use a shotgun as a defensive weapon it pays great dividends to pattern it at expected distances with the ammunition to be used.

    AFAIK, there are no off-the-shelf "riot" shotguns with anything but cylinder bore barrels; it is possible, however, to have a barrel made, or altered, to increase the choke, which will increase the maximum effective range of the shotgun.

  10. Since he definitely killed one person (the mother), attempted to murder two more (the father with a head shot and the grandfather) and then attempted to murder the ex-wife with another head shot, then the Officer concerned saved a lot of bother and expense, quite justifiably.

    No doubt had he gone to trial, then we'd have heard how unfair life had been to him and that he was the victim here.

    Good riddance to bad rubbish.

    Phil B

  11. Yet another vibrant immigrant, gunned down by the police while innocently talking to her girlfriend and her family. /sarc

    And yet, this will be recorded as a white-on-white shooting. Remember that the next time you look up the crime statistics.

    Good reaction by the cops. That's level headed thinking, and good shooting.

  12. As others have noted with shotguns and multi-pellet loads it's all about range and being absolutely familiar with your particular shotgun and load. Personally I'm a fan of #1 buck for close range and slugs for anything over hallway distances. If I switch brands or loading I go test the stuff. A remington slug out of your shotgun may be capable of headshots at X yards but a federal or winchester may wander all over or vice versa.

  13. Not positive, but IIRC, the load-out in our shotguns at my prior department were 1) slug 2)&3) 00 buck 4) slug. And then the orange tipped shotgun was loaded out with all bean bags, which at that distance would likely have been fatal as well.

  14. Crazy Al:

    Benelli switched to replaceable chokes in their tactical shotguns, probably in the late 90's.

    The problem with this is most shooters dislike the thought of firing slugs through a reduced choke. My observation is that the cyl choke is never changed out after purchase.

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