Contrary to what some “gunstore cowboys” might tell you, racking the shotgun will not scare away a bad guy. Instead, it will let the bad guy know where you are, it may reduce your ammunition capacity, and based on my own experiences in a variety of real world situations, it is generally not good thing to do. I was told it’s OK to tell cop stories, as long as they make a point. Now, on to the stories….

Story #1

While on our department’s SWAT unit, we served an arrest warrant – taking into custody a suspect in a violent sexual assault. His use of an edged weapon, and the particularly heinous actions he took during the attack, indicated the suspect could resist the arrest with weapons or violence. The small house where he lived had been surrounded, and our team in place near the front door.

We announced our presence, and directed the suspect to exit through the front door. As he did so, one of our team members, who was armed with a shotgun, rose from his concealed position to cover the suspect. As he did so, he racked his pump shotgun. Later he explained he had done so, to let the suspect know he “meant business” and “hearing the shotgun rack would terrify the suspect into complying…”

Now the reality. Racking the slide of a fully loaded shotgun, the team member (who should have known better), accomplished several things as I watched from a long cover position. First, he expelled a shotgun shell onto the ground – where at least three of the team members who approached to take the suspect into custody and clear the residence had a slip hazard. I watched as each of these team members came very close to stepping on the shell, one actually moved the shell as his boot contacted the shell as he moved past the area to enter the front door.

The other thing the team member accomplished was to reduce the amount of ammunition in his shotgun by 20%. At that time we were using Smith & Wesson 12 gauge pump shotguns, with folding stocks. The magazine capacity was four shells, with a fifth shell in the chamber. By racking the slide, he sent one-fifth of the ammunition his shotgun held onto the concrete porch. When you are dealing with a potentially violent suspect, and whoever may be in his house with him – why would you ever want to throw some of your ammo away?

Story #2

Working as a narcotics investigator, we were doing a no-knock search warrant service at the mobile home where we had made several controlled drug buys. We were using a dynamic entry where the first person enters toward one direction, the second enters and heads the other direction, etc. Everyone is dressed in “raid gear” very clearly identifying those entering as being with the police or sheriff’s department. Everyone also clearly yells “Police” or “Sheriff” to make sure those in the residence knows who they are.

As he entered and started to sweep the room for threats, the second investigator engaged the occupant of the home who was sitting in a reclining chair, watching television. In his lap, between his legs, was one of those aftermarket remote controls that looks like a pistol. Point the remote at the television and pull the trigger, and the channel changes. This man made eye contact, and then started reaching into the chair, the area between his legs.

Our investigator was carrying a Benelli super 90 semi-auto shotgun, as he saw the occupant in the chair, he brought the shotgun up and pointed it at this guy, yelling for him to freeze. The guy looked back, and as he was staring directly down the barrel of the shotgun, continued digging in his lap, to get the gun shaped remote control. He got a grip on the remote, and began pulling it out – what – to turn down the volume on the TV?

Our investigator (who was a deputy sheriff with many years of street experience and a former member of the SWAT team), saw the guy was ignoring his commands to freeze, and saw the gun shaped remote coming up. Based on what he was seeing in slow motion in front of him, he knew he was about to be shot, and after confirming the sights were lined up, he started to pull the trigger.

Those who sell drugs from their home rarely have spotless and well organized homes. Most have trash and junk throughout, and conducting a search of a drug house always requires sorting through trash and assorted crappy junk. As the investigator was continuing to yell commands and at the same time putting additional pressure on the trigger, another team member was entering and heading to clear the area at the rear on the house as he was crossing behind the investigator.

As he was crossing behind, he stumbled and tripped over some object on the floor, and bumped into the investigator as the trigger was being pulled. The bump was enough to cause the investigator to lose the sight picture, and move the shotgun to the side as the shotgun discharged. The shot charge went past the guy’s head and just over his shoulder, missing him by no more than an inch or so, and putting a two inch diameter hole in the wall.

Who knows why this idiot went up against a 12 gauge pointed at him. Albert Einstein once said something to the effect of: stupidity was the most powerful force in the universe, infinite in its scope. Perhaps this guy had so much stupidity in his head, it was enough to deflect the shot charge. I can tell you that if a loaded shotgun pointed at his head didn’t deter him, “racking the slide” would not have worked either.

Story #3

We were in court. The judge made his decision and spoke in legal to those in the courtroom. The bad guy was about to go to prison for many years due to his drug arrest by our team. When his attorney started to translate what the judge had said – and the bad guy realized he only had about 30 seconds of freedom left, he quickly ran out the door before the bailiffs could take him into custody. Our guys, along with the uniformed police in the area and other law enforcement officials in the courthouse, were suddenly drawn into a vehicle pursuit as the bad guy jumped into his car. Then after he crashed his car several blocks away, a foot chase into a residential neighborhood.

With officers from several agencies, we were quickly able to establish a perimeter, with our bad guy located somewhere within. Luckily for us, a cable TV employee was up on a telephone pole doing some wiring, and watched the bad guy as he jumped fences between back yards. He pointed out in which backyard the guy was hiding, and one of our investigators went to search that area, carrying a Remington 870 12 gauge pump shotgun he had obtained from a marked police car of another agency.

In the backyard, the guy had tried to hide under the cover of a hot tub, and when he had gotten out, his drenched body and shoes left a clear trail from the backyard into the covered patio area. Unable to open the back door of the house, he was still hiding in the patio area. Our investigator saw a wet leg and shoe poking out from behind a table and at shotgun point, directed the bad guy to scoot out and into a clear space.

The bad guy spent a moment sizing up the situation, and the investigator, and decided to do as he was told. Once clear from the table, the investigator approached and directed the bad guy to put his hands in a position to be handcuffed. As the investigator moved in to put the handcuffs on, still holding the shotgun in one hand with the muzzle pointed up, the bad guy spins over to fight with the investigator. The shotgun held by the investigator was no longer pointed directly at the bad guy, but until he rolled over, he didn’t know that.

The investigator is grabbed by the bad guy who intends to do whatever he needs to do to escape and avoid prison. But, before the bad guy gets too far, the investigator uses the shotgun as a blunt force impact weapon – and “buttstrokes” the bad guy in the head. The degree of force in the strike was as much as the investigator could generate – to do anything less might have put him at risk of being disarmed, Of course the investigator hasn’t changed his grip on the shotgun, so as he hits the guy, his finger puts enough pressure on the trigger to cause it to discharge – putting a hole in the roof of the patio cover.

The bad guy feels the impact as he hears the discharge, and thinks that he’s just been shot in the head. He now, and only now, suddenly decides to stop resisting – and becomes amazingly compliant – yelling “I give up!” “I give up!” and “please don’t shoot me again…” He was willing to fight a law enforcement officer with a loaded shotgun pointed directly at him. It took him believing he was shot before he was willing to back down. Do you think someone “racking the slide” would have caused him to run away?

Story # 4

We had information on a serious bad guy with some seriously dangerous intent. Intelligence reports identified him as having military experience in Special Forces. Like you might see in the movies, we sent law enforcement to stake out the four main access routes into the area from the direction he was traveling. Our unmarked vehicles would confirm the vehicle if it were spotted, then marked units and uniformed patrol officer would do the stop, with our investigators offering back-up and support.

Sure enough, within about 90 minutes, his vehicle was spotted, confirmed and stopped by the sheriff’s department. Several marked vehicles stopped traffic and several deputies with handguns and shotguns began a felony traffic stop, and directed him to get out of the vehicle. He was argumentative, and would not follow directions or cooperate.

As he was causing problems for the deputies, a sheriff’s department supervisor rolled up, He was on the SWAT team, and instead of bringing another shotgun to the mix, he pulled out his department issued HK model 33 (?) (223 caliber rifle, semi-auto, but with a shortened carbine length barrel). As he pulled the rifle out and held it pointed up for safety as he moved to join the deputies, it was obvious this guy recognized the silhouette of the rifle – because all of a sudden, he started to be compliant and cooperative.

Again, multiple law enforcement officers point loaded handguns and shotguns at this guy and no reaction. Someone suddenly brings a rifle into the picture, and he realizes he might really get hurt because things just got real. Do you think this guy would have stopped what he was doing if you “racked the slide” on a shotgun?


These are but several examples where I have personally been involved where bad guys had no respect for trained police officers pointing loaded shotguns at them. I have also been in many other similar situations where I or other officers were using handguns and gotten similar responses.

Please believe me when I say that anyone who tells you racking a shotgun will scare someone away – doesn’t know what they are talking about. Also, anyone who says you can’t miss with a shotgun should not be trusted in any other firearms advice they may offer as well.