Okay, loyal 19FortyFive readers, brace yourselves for one more 5 Worst Gun lists. (Last one, I pinky-swear.)
After talking about so many handguns and rifles – in centerfire and rimfire calibers alike – now it’s time to skewer shotguns.
But first…Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa; though I’ve done my fair share of shotgun shooting in the past 34 years, for hobby and official law enforcement duty purposes alike, I haven’t fired anywhere the variety of different shotguns out there like I have with handguns, military-style rifles (semiauto, full auto, and bolt-action alike), and submachine guns.
Ergo, I’ll have to turn to secondhand sources. i.e., full gun writers and enthusiasts.
Winchester 1897 Trench Gun
The first one in the list is courtesy of the ever-savvy Travis Pike of Sandboxx News, a USMC veteran who served two tours in Afghanistan. In a September 2022 piece titled “THIS IS WHY SLAM FIRE IS SILLY AND WHY SHOTGUNS DON’T NEED IT,” he makes mention of the Winchester 1897 Trench Gun and how it got Kaiser Bill’s undies in a bundle during the First World War:
“While shotguns were effective weapons, they didn’t have a chance to make a big difference, even though Germany declared them inhumane. They arrived in France in April of 1918, and the war was over by November 11th, 1918. I assure you that the guns didn’t end the war in six months…I told you that whole story because the 1897 had the slam-fire capability, which does separate it from most modern shotguns. People assume that slam-fire capability and the Winchester 1897 were so fearsome that the capability must have been useful…It sounds great, but in reality, it’s silly. Slam fire isn’t useful for a few reasons. First, it makes the shotgun impossible to control decisively. Shotguns are sharp-recoiling weapons, and control is a must-have.”
This fully-automatic shotgun(!!!) is yet another one that enters into my brain and makes its way to my typing fingers from there courtesy of Travis Pike, this time under the auspices of being my 19FortyFive colleague, in an April 2022 article titled “The Craziest Shotguns Ever Designed For The US Military.” Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF): “Sadly, even this gun wasn’t always reliable, especially in the unforgiving jungles of Vietnam.”
The 7188 was basically a Remington 1100 modified for full-auto fire, with an extended magazine tube, a bayonet mount, and a barrel shroud tacked on for good measure. Neither the 7188 nor any of the other guns listed in Travis’s article made it past the “’cool idea in testing’ stage,” but the standard 1100 remains very much in production, with roughly 4,000,000 having been built in the past 60 years.
The remaining guns on this list are courtesy of Phil Bourjaily’s July 2022 article for Field & Stream titled “The 5 Worst Shotguns Ever Made.” Phil is from a hunter’s perspective – as you probably guessed from a publication title like “Field & Stream” – whilst Travis writes from a military perspective. Topping Phil’s list is the Boito Double:
“If you’re too young to remember K-mart, think of it as a cheaper Wal-Mart. K-Mart had a gimmick, the Blue Light Special, a flashing blue light set in an aisle so you knew something was on sale. ‘Blue Light Special’ became a punchline for anything cheap and shoddy, and the term applied in spades to the Boito doubles…The Boito’s sole virtue was that it was cheap, although fortunately, not cheap enough for my dad to buy me one on impulse. If he had, and I had kept it pristine all these years, and it hadn’t broken yet, it would be worth $175 today, forty years later.”
Winchester Model 11 SL AKA Model 1911 SL
Product #2 on Monsieur Bourjaily’s ignominious list, and for darn good reason: getting its owners killed!
“Tragically for several Model 11 SL owners, paper shells of the time often got wet and swelled up and stuck in the chamber. If you tried to clear the stuck shell by setting the butt of your Winchester semiauto on the ground and pushing as hard as you could on the barrel, it could slam fire. And if you had your head over the barrel at the time, you shot yourself in the face…It happened often enough that the Model 11SL earned the nickname ‘Widowmaker’…Given that it actually killed its owners, the Model 11SL is probably the worst shotgun of all time.”
Phil doesn’t bother to mention how many lawsuits (if any) were filed against Winchester by the surviving loved ones of the deceased Model 11 SL owners.
However, John Taylor, in a March 2022 article for Outdoor Life, corroborates Phil’s assertions in an article bluntly titled “The Most Dangerous Shotgun Ever Made: Winchester’s Model 1911 SL.”
Definitely not to be confused with the ever-beloved Model 1911 .45 caliber autopistol!
Yes, that’s right, even a gun bearing the name of arguably the greatest inventive genius in the history of firearms can make a 5 Worst List! Mr. Bourjaily’s reason for putting the Salt-Wood Browning on the list is that attaching salted-wood stocks onto blued steel gun parts resulted in the guns rusting from the inside out in a distressingly short space of time. Browning initiated this crackbrained scheme in 1965 before finally coming to its collective senses in 1972.
Christian D. Orr is a Senior Defense Editor for 19FortyFive. He has 34 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011.
From the Vault