Close Quarters Combat, or CQB or CQC, is battling the enemies within in bad breath distance, and is focused on 3 elements of strategy: Surprise, Aggression/Violence Of Action, and Speed. In short, catch the enemy by surprise, overwhelm him with physical force, and do it quickly enough so he is unable to respond. It should not come to any surprise that this strategy of war was developed in the trenches of Europe during WWI. Men holed up in trenches dug in the pattern of mazes. Some of these networks of trenches were like cities in and of themselves.
One does not need to look further than a SWAT team taking down a drug house to recognize the similarity tactics and strategy. The genesis of which was born in the trenches of Europe over a century ago. In the WWI era, soldiers were still issued long guns for battle at ranges of 800-1000 yards. Warfare would not see the advent of CQB, clearing street by street and house by house until WWII and Hitler’s Blitzkrieg tactics. Hand guns were issued to officers, not to the common foot soldier. The long battle rifles like the Springfield 1903 and Mauser 96 were unwieldy and slow to operate and reload. Thus entered the Trench Gun, the 12 gauge shotgun with a shorter barrel to accommodate movement in the claustrophobic confines of the trenches.
Technically speaking, a Trench Shotgun could be any shotgun cut down to size, using no chokes. But the classic definition of a Trench Shotgun includes a heat shield over the barrel, a bayonet lug for its blades attachment, and a 20 inch barrel. This is the configuration built by the Army for Trench fighting. This provided the fighting man a devastating combat tool in close quarters. Nine 33 caliber buck shots per round with a 5 plus one capacity. With a Winchester 97’s ability to slam fire, a soldier could unload 6 shots in 2 seconds. That’s 54 thirty three caliber projectiles in 2 seconds. Considering the tight spaces were about as big as the average hall way, it’s basically a wall of lead.
These trench guns were so effective and intimidating that the Germans filed a protest against their use, and promised to administer harsh punishment for soldiers captured with one. There is no documentation of whether or not the Germans followed through with their threats, but there is no doubt these weapons are effective, and they are the basis for some of the CQB tactics in use to this day. It is not uncommon to find at least one member of an elite unit in LE or Armed Forces carrying a modern day shotgun which had its roots in WWI trench combat.
In parts 2 and 3, I will cover the actual guns employed as trench guns. I’ll cover their history, current availability, and their modern clones. The 3 most recognized models are the Winchester 97’, Winchester 12’, and Ithica Model 37.