Humble Shotgun Emerges as Preferred Anti-Drone Defense

( – Our entire lives have been either enhanced or taken over by high tech, depending on your point of view. Computers and algorithms inhabit everything from our household appliances to our cars. But it’s not just civilian life that’s become digitized; it’s warfare, too.

Drones of some sort or another have been used in military combat dating back to at least the Vietnam War. Today they’re much more sophisticated, with powerful onboard computers in a lightweight casing. They can go where no other kind of craft can go.

But what do you do if you’re on the side of a conflict that needs to combat the drones? It looks like a low-tech solution may be the best: the shotgun. They were used by new Americans in the Revolutionary War to push back the British, but they’re finding new applications in combating the small flying machines that increasingly characterize modern warfare.

What makes such a “low-tech” solution so useful? The simplicity. Shotguns are different from guns that fire a single bullet. Instead of firing one hard object with great potential to miss the target, shotguns are loaded with cartridges of “shot,” small pieces of metal that fly in different directions when the gun is fired. They’re less precise, but they have a wider “spread.” You have a better chance of hitting a moving target with a shotgun than with a pistol or a rifle.

And that’s why they’re so effective at taking out drones. There’s a reason they’re used in sport shooting at clay pigeons, and what makes them apt for that sport is what makes them a good choice for neutralizing drones. It’s the same activity—downing a small flying target.

Birdshot is a good choice because you don’t have to destroy a drone to render it functionless. All you have to do is hit one of its small plastic rotors and it drops to the ground as it loses its balance.

Russia is one country that has figured this out. A story from May claims Russian soldiers are “begging for shotguns” to take down drones because they’re more reliable than electronic jamming equipment. Ukraine is doing the same, giving its troops shotguns and training them to take down enemy drones.

The problem with electronic jamming technology that aims to confuse the drone’s navigation abilities is that drone operators can just change the frequencies on the fly. But frequencies won’t stop a flying lead pellet. The character Scotty from Star Trek summed it up best with a line from 1983’s Star Trek III: The Search for Spock: “The more they overtake the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain.”

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