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November 15, 2006

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Discussion Topic: Are Shotguns Really Safer During Deer Season?

In 2004, an unfortunate hunting accident prompted Pennsylvania legislators to consider expanding the number of counties in which the use of rifles would not be permitted for deer hunting. But the results of a state sponsored study stands to change matters. From The Morning Call:
Although it may be a couple months before details are made public, state Sen. Lisa M. Boscola, D-Northampton, announced the study will state that hunting with shotguns is not inherently safer than hunting with rifles.

Boscola — who last year organized a meeting between Burns and Game Commission officials to address the rifle vs. shotgun issue — said the findings essentially kill any plans to expand existing shotgun-only restrictions. . . .

Some states, including neighboring New Jersey, Ohio and Delaware, don't allow any rifle use by deer hunters.

But the new study seems to refute conventional wisdom — used as the basis for shotgun-only rules across the nation — which holds that using shotgun slugs, which have a much shorter range than rifle bullets, reduces the odds of an accident.

What do you think?



Well we can't comment much since you haven't outlined the results of the study. My GUESS is that most hunting accidents are not caused by random bullets flying for miles but rather unexpected close range discharge where a shotgun could easily be more dangerous.

John <><


I hunt OH where it is shotgun only, orange required and 3 shot plug required. They have more injuries and fatalities in the 10 day gun season there that we have had in VT in the past 10 years with rifle hunting for 16 days, bowhunting 3 weeks and ML hunting 10 days. I dont think its the range that does it, its the stupidity of the moron behind the trigger in most cases.


Once again there is not enough information presented to accurately disect the issue. If the attemt is to reduce close range accidendts and the study bears this out, that is one thing. I doubt this to be the case since a short range accident is just as likely to occur no mater what firearm is used. If the study was to reduce the number of long range incedents than it would be a completely different issue. Rifle bullets will fly farther unimpeded than will a shotgun slug. That is a fact.


I live in Maryland, but also hunt Ohio. Pretty much all of Maryland is shotgun only now. My poor deer rifle, a Marlin 1895 in .444, is just gathering dust in the gun cabinet. I have never agreed with the shotgun-only regulations. They assume everyone has a .270, 30.06, or 7mm. The .444 probably has the same effective range as a slug (not counting Hornady's new ammo), so why shouldn't I be able to use it? And what about the shooters using 30/30 or 35 Rem. Those rounds aren't going to go much further than a good slug round either, unless maybe you shoot at a 45-degree angle into the air. I usually hunt from a stand, so I am shooting down anyway. Safety is up to the shooter, not the gun.

Ohio's regulations don't make a lot of sense, either. They require plugged shotguns but allow centerfire handguns. What's to stop someone from using a Thompson Contender chambered for a rifle caliber?


Shotguns aren't any safer than rifles. Here in Indiana, we can use shotguns or rifle calibers in a handgun but not in a rifle. Doesn't make sense. The problem is in unsafe handling of a firearm and in firearms which are inherently inaccurate for hunting big game, i.e. shotguns or 350 yard rifle cartridges in a handgun fired by a "seldom" shooter. When I first moved here, we had a man killed by his father in bow season because his father "thought he was a deer." Can't identify a man from deer in bow season at the usual 20 +/- yards! Go figure.


Most important to safety in discharging your firearm is making sure of your target and what is beyond it.

New York has been expanding its rifle zones into what had been shotgun only. Safety courses and consciousness has contributed significantly to making accidents very rare -- which makes it hard to tell how much risk might be introduced by the new rifle areas.. yet the few accidents that occurred in rifle zones involved shotguns, not rifles, last year.




Ed Woodward

I hunt South Carolina where the gun season in some counties goes from August 15 to January 1. All hunting casualties by way of being shot by another hunter occur when the shooter pulls the trigger on a human he "thought was a deer." This number includes orange clad creatures, thought to be a deer, riding all terrain vehicles. There is no fixing stupid. It will get you in trouble every time. The answer is prosecuting the shooter the same way we now prosecute drunk drivers who kill people.


I believe shotguns may be more dangerous than rifles, as more rifles probably have a scope than shotguns, and allow better identification of the target for those inclined to shoot at what they think is a deer.

Jeff Narusch

I live in Ohio and never understood the reasoning behind shotgun only statewide. You can take out your .223 after woodchuck or coyote but; not a rifle for deer. The accuracy of a fine tuned rifle setup vs. shotgun is night and day. Most states are ran by politics not trained experts that run their DNR's or people from the firearms industry. Once again a few make the choices for the many. Vote your sport and we can make positive changes.

Ron Fine

A well placed rifle shot is generally more likely to find it's mark than a slug fired wily nily from an unscoped shotgun. Lawmakers generally do not have the savy required to make the correct decisions in this regard. All they do is look at the end flap on a box of .30-06 cartridges and read the warning that they are dangerous for up to five miles.

Ron Fine

A well placed rifle shot is generally more likely to find it's mark than a slug fired wily nily from an unscoped shotgun. Lawmakers generally do not have the savy required to make the correct decisions in this regard. All they do is look at the end flap on a box of .30-06 cartridges and read the warning that they are dangerous for up to five miles.


I hunt in Michigan, where only north of a certain point are you allowed to hunt with a rifle. I live south of that point, so I have to deer hunt with a shotgun and I haven't had a single problem with it. Find good ammo and use a scope and you can be just as accuarate with a shotgun as with a rifle, just keep it under 150 yards.


You folks need to get off of discussing whether shotguns are safer than rifles/pistols. Here in Illinois we have a governor and the mayor of Chicago that want to do away with us being able to hunt deer using any weapon that is 50 caliber or 12 guage(50 cal).They must go.You folks at Field &Stream are not the only magazine..other magazines are babbling about how great sabot slugs are and how far they will travel and how accurate they are.Well you all keep it up and here in the Land of Lincoln we will be using slingshots and tomahawks.They are even down on bowhunting due to it being inhumain and very painful to the animal.Well I suggest you all find something of more interest to chat about and lets just hope we get to keep our shotguns.....Thank you JohnE


I live in Illinois - shotgun state that allows muzzle loaders and handguns. At the *very least* they should allow a guy to hunt with a pistol caliber lever gun. That would be a step in the right direction.

The modern slug guns are basically .72 caliber rifles, so why not a .30 caliber rifle?


In Indiana you can use a slug gun, muzzleloader or handgun. Your choice of firearm. I could complain about the short range of these firearms but I feel 150 to 200 yards is pretty good performance. I've never shot a deer beyond 60 yards and my slug gun has always put 'em on the ground. Based on some of the other comments I feel blessed to have the choices in Indiana and hope it continues.

Philip Brown

Apart from the 'stupidity' factor I imagine that a large part of the problem is the promotion of shotguns with slugs as safer than rifles. Shotguns may have a shorter maximum range than some rifles but they are just as dangerous in careless hands. If a person has been told repeatedly that a particular type of firearm is less dangerous they are more likely to take questionable shots, and wind up causing injury or damage.


I personally don't agree with shotgun hunts. In the wmu where I live it is only shotguns but two miles north it turns over to rifles. The major factor with shotguns is safety but sabot slugs will outrange a 30-30. We have to use shotguns for deer but we can use any rifle we want for bear. It just does not make any sense to me.


I firmly agree with Patrick on this one because what he said was right on - "Safety is up to the shooter, not the gun." My suggestion to the Pennsylvania Wildlife Deptartment would be the implementation of a mandatory hunter safety class, and once completed each hunter should be required to carry some form lisence representing successful completion. To further press the issue hefty fines should be imposed for hunting without this. I'm not completely sure this would solve the problem unless the class was significatly difficult and thorough, but I believe my suggestion would be a step in the right direction.


I grew up in Illinois doing the slug thing for Deer. I was fortunate to move to Colorado in 1998. The freedom of arms choices for hunting in this state is great. I wouldn't move back to slug world for love nor money.


As Patrick said above: "safety is up to the hunter, not the gun." I'd like to add that there is no cure for stupidity. Most politicians have a very shallow understanding of the issue. More stringent hunter safety instruction, hunter-driven, would be a start. To answer your question directly: rifles and shotguns are equally dangerous with misplaced shots, possibly for different reasons.

south jersey piney

The problem in any highly populated state is that there are too many weekend warrior types that show up for firearms deer season. I live in NJ and believe me when I tell you that every shmuck with $27.50 in his pocket will run to the local Walmart and buy a resident license the Sunday before opening day. These once a year nimrods then proceed to the woods and shoot at anything that remotely resembles a deer. It gets worse every year as the NJ Div. of Fish & Wildlife has had to deal with fiscal cuts across the board. There simply aren't enough game wardens to go around. It would be great if F&W would institute some type of mandatory hunter safety refresher course every few years. Unfortunately, I don't see this happening until there is a fatality and lawyers get involved. Perhaps it would be better to have every licensed hunter sign a waiver stating that they will be held personally and financally responsible for any injuries resulting from poor firearms safety practices. Just my two cents.

David Honish

My guess is most 'accidents' are really negligence when shots are made at what is heard, rather than seen. The range difference between rifle / shotgun is irrelevant in such cases. I doubt many over the hill 1,000 meter gunshot wounds occur?

Brian Johnson

I live in Ohio and hunt in Ohio but I go to school at Penn State and it sickens me that my classmates are awarded the chance to use rifles and I am not. I love the hunting in Ohio but I would really like to have the regulations change if at least for a few counties.


I live in Minnesota and had the opportunity to hunt two deer seasons this year (early season antlerless and regular firearms season). The early season antlerless was in specific intensive-harvest zones in Northern Minnesota so I had the opportunity to use a rifle (i used a borrowed .270). I hunted the regular firearms season down closer to where I live in southern MN, which is shotguns-only. I will agree that alot of safety is about who is behind the gun firing it and that it is much better (in most situations) to use a scoped rifle. I practiced shooting slugs with my shotgun (I use rifled slugs with my regular barrel) until I felt comfortable that I could kill a deer within 100 yards and as well shot the .270 a bunch. Both guns killed deer this year, and I'll say that I wish I had the option of using a rifle for both deer because it is simply much more lethal in terms of accuracy and range as compared to my shotgun.

I just wanted to throw in something that I read on one forum and that was someone's concern that shotgun slugs were more dangerous than rifles in wooded areas because of a slug's ability to clear through brush that a rifle bullet could not... any thoughts?

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