Claire Brophy personifies why a shotgun - and knowing how to use it - can level the playing field against an attacker.
"I'm a 5',5" female," the East Memphis woman says after unloading a few shells at Rangemaster gun range, 2611 South Mendenhall Road (www.rangemaster.com). "A male intruder or attacker comes in, that's going to be really difficult for me to fight him off.
"This is a way I can equalize my disadvantages."
A shotgun is the great equalizer. With a single .60 caliber slug or a shell with nine pellets, it packs a lot more punch than a handgun designed for convenience and precision.
"You're essentially getting nine bullets with one press of the trigger as opposed to one bullet with one press of the trigger," says Tom Givens, owner and chief instructor at Rangemaster.
Unlike what you see in the movies, a shotgun's blast pattern cannot go through walls or spread the length of a room.
"At typical indoor distances, the pattern's going to be quite small," says Givens. "At 15 to 20 feet across, the pattern's the size of the palm of my hand."
To prove it, Givens set up two paper silhouette targets, one at 15 feet, the other at 21 feet. He loaded a .12 gauge shotgun with shells and fired away.
The shots left a hand-size hole in the right-breast area of each target - with no collateral damage.
"If you miss with a shotgun, it's no more effective than if you miss with a pistol," Givens says.
Lynn Kugele of Germantown is a certified handgun instructor, but within the last year, she decided to take shotgun classes, too.
"I wanted to be able to feel like I could shoot something that was decisive if someone breaks into my home," she says. "Plus, there's nothing like the sound of that racking (loading of a shotgun) in the quiet of the night. You just can't beat it. It tells anybody what you've just done."
You can find registration information for shotgun classes at Rangemaster by going to www.rangemaster.com or calling 901-370-5600.