12 Gauge Shot to the FACE!

This patient is no stranger to physical violence, as evidenced by the titanium plating that repaired a mandible fracture. But now, rendered blind by the shotgun blast, life will look much different.

In my profession, I see lots of people who have been shot in the face. Rarely, do these people die immediately. They sometimes succumb to an infection, or other complication, but rarely do they die in the immediate aftermath of the gunshot wound. This mostly applies to pistol caliber rounds and I’ve seen all manner of them ranging from .22’s all the way up to the mighty .45 hit someone, somewhere in the maxilla or mandible, and the wounds, while often horrific and ultimately disfiguring, don’t always render the recipient unconscious even. In many cases though, the recipient DOES stop doing whatever they were doing BEFORE they were shot in the face.

Case in point…this person was the recipient of two blasts from a 12 gauge shotgun loaded with shot and there are twenty five plus pieces lodged in their face and neck, all resulting in superficial injuries, EXCEPT FOR the injuries he sustained to the eyes, which resulted in immediate blindness due to the ocular damage. Eyes are a superficial structure…it doesn’t take MUCH to render them inoperable.

But, like in so many cases I’ve seen before, the, “psychological stop,” that occurs with a significant facial injury isn’t to be overlooked. People get into a mindset of singular purpose (retreat and seek medical care) when they’ve taken a round of any kind to the face, and that is safe to say, vocationally generic! Good guy, or bad guy, when people get shot in the face, they most typically break off the attack! A rare exception to that I can think of is superhero Jared Reston. His case is uncommon though. I see a number of these patients come through the surgical service at my work and they most always change their tack, as soon as the round hits!

So something to consider and think about. I am not a fan of birdshot for defensive purposes as I think that the pellets lack the mass to penetrate once they encounter tissue resistance. The hollow bones of the face don’t resist ballistic attack well; they most always perforate or fracture and let whatever is coming in, come in! In this case, nearly all the wounds were superficial, and except for the few that were removed with digital pressure or a small forcep (think popping a BIG zit) the rest were left in place, as many are adjacent to vital neurovascular structures that would be potentially hazardous or further debilitating to remove.

So, in summary, small shot…leave it for smaller animals. Use time tested buckshot in a shotgun that you’ve patterned with said buckshot. The shot placement here was good, and in a civilian context, it was a win, because the actions of the recipient ceased immediately. Remember, we’re not trying to assassinate anyone as responsible Civilian Defenders…we’re just trying to get home. If you fire a shot and get a good hit, and the attacker breaks off, mission accomplished! Top off, check yourself for injuries, grab some cover if you haven’t already, keep your head up and get on the phone to the police. So next time someone tells you that a headshot with a shotgun is invariably fatal, well, you can argue that it isn’t EVERYTIME!

Thanks for reading! -Dr. House

Don’t discount the value of a Remington 870 loaded with quality 00 buckshot. It’s my choice and many other far more learned people for good reason! You don’t need the latest AR to have an effective civilian long gun.


Taurus 856 TORO

Gotcha…I didn’t tell you WHAT KIND of pistol! A revolving pistol, and why not? Taurus 856 TORO and Holosun 407K green.

If you’ve been around for a bit here, you’ll recall that my site used to be called, “REVOLVER SCIENCE.” After awhile, the late Dr. William Aprill talked me into calling the site something else, and so I settled on CIVILIAN DEFENDER. The thought being that revolvers were past their apogee of development and that there wasn’t any sense in beating a dead horse talking about what was widely becoming historical knowledge without much utility, besides to the, “FUDD X,” gang (so eloquently coined by friend Darryl Bolke) who started using revolvers at the beginning of the semi auto era, and continued using them. Many of us during the 1994 Crime Bill used revolvers with great aplomb in service and in concealed carry applications.

Thanks to a volatile gun industry, capacity restrictions, modern/effective defensive ammunition and more states granting either Constitutional Carry, or carry permits, there has been a big uptick in revolver sales and use. Some are calling this a REVOLVER RENAISSANCE. I think the proliferation of better/improved designs, and the simple utility of revolvers has recaptured the imagination of the shooting public, and the relatively small national firearms training community (Tom Givens estimates that the national training community that progresses past a permit class is approximately 10,000 members strong) who NEVER STOPPED using revolvers can now be public about it in ways that actually encourage revolver neophytes to join the dozens of us (literally DOZENS OF US) revolver users.

As the technology in sights, trigger, holsters, ammunition and reloading devices has improved, revolvers are still going to revolve! There is lots going on in the lock work of the gun to allow the cylinder to turn and the hammer to draw back, all from the pressure on the trigger of the revolver. The relatively short sight radius of compact or snub revolvers, combined with a relatively heavy trigger pull and with a grip that can be altered relative to the shooter’s hand to change the geometry of the trigger engagement are all problems that can now be overcome with technology.

The short sight radius and difficult to see sights of the J frames, D-frames and Ruger products of years past proved challenging for some people. Brightly colored paint, or XS EXPRESS type sights and fiber optic tubes have been used to improve the sight picture of the small revolving guns. Adding a holographic sighting system to a compact revolver, offers a few distinct advantages that can be overlooked by people who aren’t hardcore revolver enthusiasts.

1. MATCHING GUN AND AMMO FOR POINT-OF-AIM and POINT-OF-IMPACT COINCIDENCE. If you’ve fiddled around with revolvers and defensive ammunition with any great degree of care, you’ve probably noticed that it can be either VERY easy to find a defensive loading (and a corresponding practice load) that corresponds to the point of aim. Meaning that when you press the trigger and send a shot at a given range, the hole in the target (point of impact) and the sights (point of aim) are aligned. Sometimes you get a great revolver that doesn’t have issues finding a load it likes, sometimes you can’t find anything that works for the gun. With the holographic equipped revolver, the POA/POI is easily adjustable by adjusting the elevation, windage (or both) to the loading you have available.

2. INSTEAD OF SETTLING FOR THE POA/POI OF WHAT WORKS FOR YOUR GUN, AND SETTLING FOR WHATEVER THOSE BALLISTIC QUALITIES ARE, YOU CAN SELECT FOR BALLISTIC CAPABILITIES AND ADJUST FOR BALLISTICS. I like to zero my revolver carry loads for 21 feet, and if I have to stretch out the distance, I’d rather adjust since the most common distance as Civilian Defenders we’re likely to be engaged in is within conversational distance and/or inside the length of a car. So if I have a loading, like a 110 or 130 grain loading that shoots really high, with the holographic sight, I can adjust any discrepancy away! This is also works in ammo droughts or traveling when Walmarts and truck stops will have classic loads available (like 158 grain RNL, LSWCHP, SWC or the like). Gold Dots in the 135 grain variants have been dead on in some of my J frames and awful in others. TO DATE, I haven’t had a J frame that won’t shoot 148 grain wadcutters to POA at 7 yards. YMMV.


FUDD-Xers can’t help our fascination with wanting to hand electronics on revolvers. We have a had a few notable films in the past that inspired our technical imaginations.

Who can forget XXX’s S&W 629 with a C-More sight? I thought it was super!
Kurt Russell with his Ruger GP100 and very obviously concealable laser sight in, “Tango & Cash.”

For a discreet, concealable, and versatile compact carry revolver, Taurus has really stepped up their game. In the last three S&W revolver purchases I’ve made, two of the guns had to go back to the factory for repair or correction (crane that had bad metallurgy and deformed after shooting and one M69 whose barrel sheath unclocked from the sleeve). I have FOUR Taurus revolvers, three of which are 856 and one that is an 856 Ultralight that is ported. They have all worked flawlessly though two cases of USAF ball and I’ve loaned them to several students in my classes to use. Everyone has found them to be handy, accurate and 100% reliable. Caleb Giddings has recently joined Team Taurus and his firm straddling of the competition and self defense worlds has proven to be very effective and good for business!

I ran out of 130 grain FP-FMJ so I decided to zero on another commercially ubiquitous loading, the 158 grain RNL. It took several turns on the dial to get the elevation lowered enough to get me on target. I have the 32MOA, “Donut,” setting on, and at 7 yards, the donut is about 3/8 the size of the B8 bullseye. Works well!

I have NO FINANCIAL interest in Taurus nor was I compensated anything by them. All the guns, optics and ammunition in this article were purchased by me.

These are VZ grips. I bought them off of Amazon. They’re better than the OEM grips for my hands. YMMV, as grips are highly individualized!