By Dick Martin
No, it was not to down pheasants and other water fowl that can be found in abundance in places where the military finds itself. During the days of my stay in Korea, I had a pleasant daily walk from the BOQ to the Battalion Motor Pool and my office as Battalion Maintenance Officer. It was about a ten-minute noisy walk, replete with hundreds of cackling pheasants. Being from South Dakota but not an avid hunter, I relished the thought of telling my hunter-friends about my discovery. However, sometime during my experience in Korea, I learned that pheasants, as South Dakotans know them, are native to Korea. I was crushed that I would not be able to relate my discovery to my hunter-friends.
First significant use of the shotgun goes back to the Civil War where, as the rule of the day, buck and shot ammunition was used by the soldiers in their smoothbore muskets. While he was a major in the Spanish-American War, John J. Pershing witnessed first-hand the devastation that shot guns wreaked upon the enemy. As a result, when General Pershing became commander of the American Expeditionary Force during WWI, he saw to it that his doughboys were armed with shotguns.
The shotgun was most effective in point-blank combat found in the trenches of WW1, the jungles of the SW Pacific, the hordes of Chinese in Korea, and the jungles of Vietnam. Depending on the situation, shotguns were adapted to bayonet attachment, and interchangeable barrel lengths of 10,14 and 18 inches. The shotgun also came in an over-under version where the top could be an M16 gun and the bottom part a shotgun.
The firearm fills a niche that traditional military weapons can’t. In the hands of a soldier, the shotgun can burst through doors and let loose a crushing array of multiple lead shot. Until the day there is no war, the shotguns persist as a permanent fixture in the army’s arsenal as well as on a rack on the rear window of hunter’s pickup trucks.
Paraphrased from an article taken from Pages 40-42 on the December issue of Army Magazine entitled Blast from the Past by David McCormick.