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Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton

"The West Coast's Premier Expeditionary Training Base"

Evolution of shotguns in the Marine Corps

By Sgt. Christopher Duncan | Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton | February 13, 2015

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The Marine Corps has employed and retired various shotgun weapons to continually enhance its war-fighting capabilities to sustain the mantle of America’s premier expeditionary force in readiness.  

According to the National Museum of the Marine Corps, the shotgun has been in use as early as WWI for various purposes, like breaching, riot control and clearing trenches.

“In WWI Marines used the Winchester Model 97 as a trench gun and in WWII Marines used Stevens Riot Guns,” said Bruce Allen, museum specialist with the National Museum of the Marine Corps.

In 1966 the Marine Corps requested a modern high firepower shotgun and eventually adopted the Remington 870.

“Vietnam also saw the use of the Savage Model 177E,” said Allen.

As time passes, technological advancements are made and the Corps strives to remain adaptive by training Marines to employ the use of weapons like the Benelli M4 Super 90, which is a 12-gauge shotgun also known as the M1014, which has been a part of the Corps’ arsenal since 1999.

“I think the M1014 is the best shotgun the Marine Corps has right now,” said Gunnery Sgt. Trocon Bestman, an anti-terrorism force protection officer here. “We used others in Iraq and the M1014 was the most accurate I’ve used for breaching in comparison to those shotguns.”

One of the most significant changes from the shotguns previously used is a collapsible buttstock which shortens the weapon by eight inches, allowing for more maneuverability around tight corners and over obstacles.

“We used it during my last deployment to Iraq, in 2007,” said Bestman. “We used it for breaching, mostly. Once you get the hinges, it’s easier to separate the door Savage Model 177E.”

Breaching is a technique used to enter areas that are restricted by obstacles, such as doors or walls.

“There are a few ways to breach a door. You can pry doors open with a crowbar or tool, pick the lock or use explosives, but the M1014 was a lot more effective in my opinion,” said Bestman, who is also the area guard chief for the 11 to 18 and 27 Areas here.  “A shot to each hinge and you’re in the door quick and with little mess.”

Special Reaction Team, Area Guard and military police units here train with shotgun weapon systems frequently to ensure they are prepared to use these weapons effectively. There have been many shotguns in use today; to include the Mossberg 500 and the Remington 870, also referred to as the M870, which has been used by the Marine Corps since the 1950’s.

Some of the shotguns that have been used but are no longer in service by the Marine Corps are:

• Remington Model 11: 12-gauge, used from 1905 to 1950.

• Winchester Model 1897: 12-gauge, used from 1910 to the 1960’s.

• Remington Model 10: 12-gauge, used from 1910 to the 1930’s.

• Winchester Model 1912: 12-gauge, used from the 1910’s to the 1960’s.

• Ithaca 37: 12-gauge, used from the 1940’s to the 1980’s.

Although investing in the most up-to-date and effective equipment is an important aspect of warfighting, some feel that what determines success is the Marines using it.

“When it comes to any weapon, the effectiveness of that system depends on how the operator uses it,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Michael Ventrone, Director of the Formal Marksmanship Training Center here.

Many believe that training is paramount to ensure tactical proficiency.

“There are many factors that come into play; training with the weapon enough to acquire muscle memory, understanding the different types of ammunition and the strengths and limitations of the ammunition, and understanding the minimum and maximum distances for the weapon,” said Ventrone.

Knowledge of the weapon and its capabilities can often only be learned through repeatedly using them. According to Ventrone, manuals aren’t enough to ensure performance when it counts.

“It’s also important for the shooter to understand that the weapon systems minimum and maximum distances maybe be different than what the technical manual says,” said Ventrone. “All of these factors come into play when attempting to effectively put rounds on a target and these pieces need to come together in a fraction of a second.”


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