In recent posts I’ve discussed single shot shotguns as tools for your survival arsenal. The oldest way of making a multiple shot firearm was to add a second barrel. Double guns remain popular to this day. Side by side shotguns have experienced a revival with the advent of cowboy action shooting, while over/unders are very popular with trap, skeet, and sporting clay shooters, as well as hunters.
Over on Blog O’Stuff, I’ve posted recently about the Baikal MP-310 (IZH-27) over/under that I got a couple weeks ago. See here, here, and here.
The Baikal guns in particular offer a couple nice features for the prepper. First is chrome plated bores. That means easier maintenance and better weather resistance. The chromed bores will be especially handy if you shoot any shells loaded with black powder or Pyrodex. The other is that they come with sling swivels. They are old fashioned Euro-style 3/4” swivels. I bought a suitable sling from Hastings Distribution which fit perfectly and was inexpensive.
A well-made double, whether it’s a side-by-side or over/under, is a good hunting tool and not a bad defensive weapon. Doubles offer redundant firing mechanisms and the ability to load a different kind of ammo in each barrel. For example, if you’re hunting you could load one barrel with birdshot and the other with a slug.
Doubles also allow you to shoot ammo that won’t feed well in a repeater, e.g., Aguila 1.5” mini shells.
A double barrel shotgun is a rather intimidating looking weapon. Having two ~3/4” holes pointed at your face says, “GTFO OR ELSE!” in pretty much every language. While you should not rely solely on intimidation, if it prevents you from having to drop the hammer on another person I’d say you’re coming out ahead. Most defensive gun use doesn’t require any shots being fired, so this shouldn’t be totally discounted.
Another nice feature of break open guns compared with most pumps or semiautos is that they are shorter, because there isn’t much action behind the breach. For example, a Remington 870 Express with a 28” barrel is 48.5” long. The Baikal O/U with the same barrel length is 3” shorter.
Most double guns take down easily without tools. My Stoeger SxS Coach Gun and the Baikal take down by removing the forearm by opening a retaining lever. You then break open the gun and pull the barrels off. With a little practice you can takedown or reassemble the gun in about 10 seconds.
Break open guns make it easy to use a sub-gauge adapter. Savage used to sell the “Four Tenner,” which allowed you to shoot .410 bore shells in a 12 gauge shotgun. There are a few vendors of similar products nowadays (search for “sub-gauge adapter”).
Break open singles and doubles have a very simple manual of arms. They don’t require learning how to use a magazine or a slide release. This is an advantage if you need to use one as a hand out gun.
If a single shot doesn’t provide enough firepower for you but a repeater is more complex than you’d like, check out a double gun.