My entry into the field of self-defense shotguns is recent and sad.

My wife's brother was a friend and always crewed for me in regattas at the yacht club. We brought him to our home for hospice care so he could go pain-free with dignity and grace. This was not easy, and I cannot say enough praise about the people who work in hospice care.

After his death, it became my task to clear out his apartment. I vaguely remembered he had told me about an old shotgun, but I was surprised at discovering one in the water heater closet. Those helping me clear the house were scared to touch it. Being the only gun guy in the family, I brought it home.

It was a Mossberg 500A 12Ga. Pump, which can be purchased for $80 to $150. Someone had chopped the barrel to make this a tactical shotgun. Whoever did had no idea the choke that controls the dispersion of the shot is in the last few inches of the barrel, or he may have only planned on shooting slugs.

Either way, the great thing about this model is the ease of switching barrels, so I ordered a proper 18.5-inch barrel and discarded the mangled barrel.

I cleaned the gun. The action was in great shape. Next step was checking the pattern of the new barrel with 00 shot. The effective range proved to be about 35 yards. Past this point, the shot spread into a thin pattern that cannot be trusted to stop a threat.

Several myths abound in our culture about shotguns:

The spread is so wide that you do not have to aim. This is not true. At typical room distances, the shot — depending on the gun and choke only spreads about 4 inches. This does require some marksmanship skills.

Most intruders are unlikely to be deterred when hearing the first pump of a round being chambered. It is not an advantage to give someone breaking into your residence. You do not want the sound to give away your position in the house, and you do not want to give away the time to chamber a round.

In a fight, seconds count. Keep the gun locked from kids, but keep a round in the chamber. Chambering a round in the stress of the moment is not something you need to do.

What convinced me of the value of a self-defense shotgun was several things. The first time I hefted it, I noticed it was not any longer than my carbine and can be quickly effective in small spaces.

Also, I am sure everyone has been exposed to the caliber wars on the Internet and whether your preferred pistol rounds would stop a determined threat. I suspect the shotgun might make the caliber wars academic. The shorter ranges and multiple loads can save you from collateral damage in an urban environment.

One additional factor for me is that Texas has a lot of Public Hunting Lands, however most of these are limited to shotguns. By making a fast simple barrel exchange, I can open up my hunting season.