When you hear the word shotgun, only a couple of things can pop into your mind. Hunting or killing. Depending on where you live and how you were raised, you’ll definitely lean one way or another. Shotguns have been a standard firearm in the arsenal of the US private citizen as well as militias and the military, since they were first created back in the 1800s.
Shotguns were primarily used to hunt fowl because the little critters are quick and when in flight, it’s almost impossible to pick them off with a rifle unless you are a crack shot. In the “wild west” days, the shotgun became a standard for guards of carriages. The passenger at the front of the coach would almost always use a 12 gauge shotgun, loaded with buckshot, to fend off would-be robbers. This is actually where the term “riding shotgun” came from.
Something drastic happens when you saw the barrels off of a shotgun. This perfectly innocent piece of American heritage becomes a highly concealable and devastating illegal weapon if in the hands of a criminal. People may think the small shotguns used by the military or special police units are “sawn-off” but they are manufactured that way. The only reason a person would have to saw the barrels off their shotgun is to deliberately cause harm to other human beings. This doesn’t mean only criminals do this. It’s a perfectly viable way to defend your home as well.
Sawed-off shotguns are illegal almost everywhere because of the simple fact that your average joe has no reason to own one. Period. A shotgun is a killing weapon. You don’t ‘wound’ someone when a handful of BB’s are blasted at them with enough force to blow a hole through a brick wall.
Criminals have known this for over 100 years and use it to their advantage. When a criminal or gang is facing a rival faction, odds are they will be engaged in some close quarters combat. With a sawed off shotgun, you can clear a hallway or small area full of people instantly because the pellets spread much faster than with regular length barrels.
A good example is if you take a look at your couch. If you were to shoot that couch from say 3 feet away with a sawed off shotgun, you might take out one person. Take two or three steps back, however, and that entire couch is destroyed.
If you are caught with a sawed-off shotgun, be prepared to face a fine and possibly do some community service, depending on where you live and your criminal record. If you are a felon, you’ll go right back to prison without passing go or collecting $200. I live in Montana and it’s a little more liberal here but in other states, just play it safe and don’t modify your firearms.