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U.S. Marines with Marine Air Support Squadron (MASS) 2, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, fire M1014 shotguns during a live-fire range at Range 22, Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan, Sept. 7, 2023. MASS 2 conducted this training to familiarize themselves with the M1014 shotgun and increase proficiency in rear area security operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Kyle Chan)

Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan. (September 7, 2023): In this photo by Corporal Kyle Chan, Marines with Marine Air Support Squadron 2, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, fire their M1014 shotguns during a live fire exercise to increase their proficiency in area security.

It is likely these Marines toted their first shotgun as youngsters, playing the big game hunter, bagging their first quail. This national affection for the dependable twelve gauge is confirmed in a report by the Federal Institute for Justice that estimates forty-nine million Americans have shotguns in their homes. This familiarity naturally led to their use by America’s military and the weapon continues to play a critical role in combat to this day.

Today’s high-tech shotguns trace their roots to the Blunderbuss or “thunder gun” invented by the Dutch in the 16th century which became a staple of U.S. military in Colonial times. Legendary gunsmith John Browning invented the first lever action, pump action, and auto-loading shotguns in the late 1800s and his designs are still in use today. The American military began fielding shotguns on the battlefield during the final stretch of World War I. American Expeditionary Forces used these “trench guns”, while limited in range, because they could dramatically increase the probability of a hit. In fact, these “scatter guns” fired double odd buckshot that caused such grievous wounds, the German government issued a formal protest.

The development of the repeating pump-action shotguns in the 1890s led to their use by the US Marines in the Philippines and by General "Black Jack" Pershing in his pursuit of the Mexican revolutionary outlaw Pancho Villa in 1923. The original shotguns have been developed into a breaching tool that gives troops a lightweight and effective way to open doors, gates, and any other obstruction in assault style warfare practiced today.

The M1014  pictured above fires 2.75- or 3-inch shells with about 150-foot effective range and is used by both the Marines and Army forces due to its reliability. Manufactured by Benelli’s, this semi-automatic shotgun is ideal for close quarters combat and is now equipped with modern optics and attachments.

The M1014 played a major role in recent operations in post-invasion Iraq where U.S. forces used their combat shotguns to clear out suspected insurgent hideouts in house to house fighting. Thanks to time spent on the firing range, Marines with Air Support Squadron 2 will be ready to use this veritable weapon if needed.