Left 4 Dead
Advanced Literature for the Hand Cannoneer
Dec 2, 2008
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II. Philosophies of Buckshot...
III. Philosophy 1: Positioning..
IV. Philosophy 2: Efficiency...
V. Contact info...............
Oh, the shotgun. What would a zombie game be without a shotgun?
It’s not a difficult weapon to learn. I’m sure you’ve got ‘point,
shoot, and reload’ down by now, so I’ll skip the easy stuff. The point of
this guide is to simply illuminate you to a few subtle points, not hold your
hand from the beginning.
To get it out in the open, I’m writing this because no matter what
server I’m in, everyone takes the bloody hunting rifle or assault rifle.
And I’m certain they know exactly what they’re doing with it - really, I
believe them. But now and then I’ll see one of them decide to ‘branch out’ a
bit and dust off the ol’ street sweeper. And before you can say "this phrase
is a cliché!", they’ve spat their whole clip and someone’s chewing on their
head while they reload. No finesse. And without this barking piece of metal,
things can get real ugly, real fast.
So scoff if you must at a ‘guide to using the shotgun,’ but our good
friend the hand cannon deserves a little attention.
A quick aside - and in caps, for all the ‘skimmers’ - THE REALLY
IMPORTANT PART OF THIS GUIDE IS PHILOSOPHY 2. If you already know THAT stuff,
this guide is probably not so useful to you. :)
Dec 3, 2008: v1.0 finished and revised. Submitted to GameFAQs. Current as
of this date.
==Philosophies of Buckshot== 
There are two major (and simple) philosophies I would like to discuss
in this guide. The first is positioning, and can be used well with either
shotgun. The second is reload efficiency and, while not completely exclusive
to the automatic shotgun, is most useful when pumping is unnecessary.
Before I get to the philosophies, though, there are two simple points
of setup to deal with so that we're all on the same page. These concern
targeting and range.
Targeting: Clearly the shotgun is meant to be a CENTER OF BODY MASS
weapon, so don't aim for the noggin. Sure, all your friends will scoff at
your low headshot count while they smugly sit back and snipe, but they’ll
never quite figure out how YOU always have the ‘most infected killed’ award at
Range: The shotgun is moderate-to-short range, not just point-blank.
It IS possible - and quite feasible - to do a little moderate range firing.
Don’t expect miracles, but don’t pull out that pistol just yet. That group of
three out there by the cop car at the end of the alley? Move a TINY bit
closer and that’s one shot, three kills. Practice your range. It’ll make a
difference when you NEED to pop that smoker off your friend out there!
Now on to the good stuff!
==Philosophy 1: Positioning (All Good Shots go to Zombie)== 
Keep in mind, as you read this section that this ONLY deals with the
positioning of the fight. Much of this is well known by experts to the FPS
genre, but without it, philosophy 2 becomes next to useless.
The shotgun (like the other weapons) has excessive piercing damage -
through flesh, especially (though walls are no exception, buckshot into
drywall is a rather mean affair when compared to a rifle bullet). In
addition, the pump-action shotgun you generally begin with has 8 shots before
the reload. So you need to bloody make them count! Positioning properly will
make the difference.
There are, excluding special zombies (for which each scenario is
different), three typical situations a hand cannoneer may find themselves in.
The first is a general skirmish, the second is a swarm (we call them
s***storms in my circle), and the last is a regroup. Each of these will be
covered with respect to positioning.
First is the general skirmish. In this situation, the group may
either be in tight formation moving up an alley (NEVER bloody happens in pub
servers!) or loose formation, running around like chickens in the yard. There
aren’t a LOT of zombies, but there are a fair few, and they know you’re
around. In this situation, I hate to say it, but the shotgunner finds
themselves quickly outclassed by the other gun-toters. It is in these
situations that the range of the shotgun should be tested, while the other
guys do the grunt work. This is, however, that time for you to be a hero -
your position should be the center of the group (if formation is tight)
protecting teammates (with melee if you can’t get a clear shot), or simply
running about trying to lure zombies into lines (if the formation is loose).
I suggest luring zombies into lines, of course, because the piercing damage
frequently guarantees you a shot/kill ratio greater than 1.
Second is the s***storm. This is where the shotgunner shines. Your
best position is just in front of a bottleneck - either a doorway or a
hallway. ONE SHOTGUNNER, WITH ANY SHOTGUN, CAN HOLD ANY ONE BOTTLENECK WITH
NO HELP. This can be done using the efficiency philosophy in addition to the
positioning philosophy. If a storm cometh, yell, cajole, coerce, or otherwise
force your teammates back until this highly defensible spot is available.
From this position, the s***storm is reduced down to simple efficiency. It
is, of course, assumed that the other teammates are standing farther back and
watching other routes. Obviously you can’t shoot behind yourself. I think
this is a fair assumption, seeing how this is a team-based game.
"But what," you ask, "Do I do if caught in the open? In a lobby,
maybe?" Eliminate as many possible vectors as you can. Get against a wall,
or near a teammate (although in pub servers nobody seems to trust one another,
if you successfully communicate to the teammate "I’ll watch the right" and
they BELIEVE you and keep their attention to the left, things will be a titch
easier). If none are available, your positioning is reduced to simply ‘line
up zombies and shoot,’ which is more difficult than it sounds. Aim
specifically to shave off one ‘edge’ of a square of zombies attacking a
teammate. Melee often. I know this is a little useless, but the efficiency
philosophy will make s***storms a breeze. I’m not there, though, so bear
The final situation that is common is the regroup situation. More
often than not, if you’ve been efficient in dealing with a s***storm or boomer
attack, you’re the first one who is no longer surrounded by zombies. If your
teammates have rifles, though, they are in some serious trouble and are most
likely encircled. If they’re DOWN, this becomes real simple - point at the
crowd and shoot. Three well placed shots (along the right angles) often
removes this crowd. Aim for chest level or above, so as not to hit the
If the teammate is NOT down, you must be more careful. Position
yourself to take down the edge of the circle that the teammate is not looking
at, aim at chest level and slightly AWAY from the interior of the circle
(where your friend is), and pull off a quick shot. From here, you can either
run in close and melee from directly behind your friend (to actively help them
see and hit more stuff), or you can get another angle and pick off another six
zombies with one shot. Both are acceptable moves - although the teammate’s
health (and server difficulty) should be taken into consideration. Friendly
fire can really piss someone off, and this operation is practically surgery!
Finally, quick advice for all situations - be sure to turn around and
melee now and then to keep the stragglers off of you!
==Philosophy 2: Efficiency (All That Stuff You Didn’t Already Know)== 
This is the part of the guide you should REALLY be reading.
Positioning is nice if you’re a pure sniper trying to figure out how to use a
shotgun, but most people are pretty skillful with ‘good to stand here - bad
to stand here’ stuff. However, NOBODY SEEMS TO UNDERSTAND HOW TO RELOAD THE
So here’s the deal. You have 10 shots and a pretty quick reload -
per - shot. It takes a LONG time to reload an empty clip. But there’s one
end-all secret to shotgun efficiency. Read it three times, now:
You can fire your weapon at ANY TIME during a reload on a HALF EMPTY
That’s right - if you hadn’t noticed, any time your clip reaches
‘empty,’ your character has to re-**** the weapon before firing. This isn’t
so bad on the pump-action shotgun, but it is HORRIFYINGLY IMPORTANT FOR THE
So never, ever, ever, EVER let your ammo counter reach zero! Tap that
R button EVERY TIME between shots, and slow down your firing rate! Remember -
YOU HAVE PIERCING AMMO. When the swarm cometh, take down a line of zombies -
four or five, maybe six - and hit that reload button. By the time that extra
shot is in the chamber, there’s another group ready for you to shoot, and
you’re still high and dry. If they’re coming FASTER than that (like if you’re
running into them), you can stop the reload and fire INSTANTLY as long as your
ammo counter never touched zero. Thus, there is NO PENALTY for reloading!
The other very important trick to note is the ability to reload during
melee. Poke the reload button FIRST and start hitting that right mouse button
like a madman. While you're whacking zombies, you can watch your ammo counter
go up. If the counter never hit zero, feel free to switch from melee to
gunfire without ever having a lull in the action.
The real take-home message is reload like you’re a soldier in Team
Fortress 2. Now then: to the three situations a street sweeper typically
The first situation is, as I’ve detailed, the skirmish. As I’ve
already stated, your friends have this part DOWN. Let them do your job. Your
ammo chamber should seldom get below 7 in this situation. Consistently
reload. This is a good time to practice hitting the R key.
The second situation is the s***storm. I have one rule of thumb, and
one time when you should break it. This rule of thumb is NEVER GO FULL AUTO.
You simply don’t NEED to. One shotgun blast is enough to remove almost all
infected within range of the blast. That second shot? Might damage some
infected further out that aren't a threat yet anyway. The third and fourth?
Practically pointless. By the time you STOP your full-auto panic reflex, you
have to reload - and THEN you’re in some trouble. If that ammo counter made
it to zero, you have to **** the weapon before you fire again - so your panic
reflex has effectively cost you an extra half-second of vulnerability, in
addition to the vulnerability time inherent in putting one shell in the
weapon. That's enough time for a zombie (or horde) to get within range and
hit you ONCE. On expert, that's near-fatal.
So position yourself as directed in Philosophy 1. Nice narrow door?
Simply fire and reload. Repeat. If they get REALLY close, give ‘em another
quick shot to give yourself more room. BUT RELOAD. If, for some reason, you
get down to 1 or 2 shots, start the reload and melee for a minute. Fire when
you feel you have enough in the chamber to warrant firing, and get back in the
saddle. S***storms are cake like this - even on expert.
But, as dealt with above, you’re seldom in such BEAUTIFUL positions.
Should you end up outside, or with little cover, there is one maneuver you
should be familiar with - the sweep. This is the one time you should break
the rule of thumb. Essentially, identify an arc of about 120 degrees from your
standing position where no teammates stand (or on "easy", identify an arc that
you’d simply like to be able to see through, teammates be damned). Start at
one end of the arc, and break the rule of thumb. Go full auto, and spin
through the arc. It takes a little practice not to spin too fast OR too slow,
but it’s a very easy maneuver to learn. As long as you’re careful with
friendly fire, this will break you out of circles very quickly. Be careful to
watch your ammo counter - if it gets down to 1, stop firing and start the
reload-melee cycle on the rest of the circle. From here, you’ve broken out
and can probably make it to a better position or free up teammates for the
If the sweep is not a feasible maneuver, you’ve simply got to make do
with firing into the ranks. As always, do not fire QUICKLY, and never let
your ammo get to zero. This may seem counter intuitive - if you’re in a poor
position, you’ll be swarmed and tempted to fire too fast. Instead, let melee
be your friend. Fire, start the reload, melee into the horde two or three
times, fire a few times, and repeat the whole process. With the combination
of this and the sweep, s***storms - even when in a poor position - can become
very, very simple affairs in which you do not suffer damage. Your teammates
with their inferior weapons, though... :)
The regroup can be dealt with using the same tricks as given in
Philosophy 1, and the reload/melee/fire cycle as given above.
Although little information resides in this diatribe that cannot be figured
out otherwise, hopefully it was easier for you - and if I see you in game with
a shotgun, hopefully you won’t let me down by pulling the full-auto at every
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. I often go by the pseudonym
"Myrmidon" in game.