Foreword: Many Fiddleback Forge fans are gun guys as well as knife guys. I’ve spoken to more than a few over the years on the forums and at the Fiddleback Forge User Weekend about shooting sports and defensive use of firearms. Rumor has it, Andy himself is a bit of a gun guy. To change it up a little here, I wanted to present a handful of tips I’ve picked up over the years related to one of the most common firearms used to protect your home, the pump shotgun. Recently, I attended the SIG Sauer Advanced Defensive Shotgun Course and it reinforced some great habits everyone should adopt if they decide to rely on a scattergun to protect their life and the lives of those they love.
The pump shotgun is a highly useful tool but it requires training. Contrary to the advice of our former Vice President, you can’t simply shoot through a door when a home invasion is taking place. The person on the other side of the door could be your child running into your room or perhaps a neighborhood drunk who is at the wrong house, means you no harm, and is simply unaware of their actions. Moral and legal obligations of lethal force set aside, learning how to use a firearm like the pump shotgun means adopting good habits. Many of these are applicable across all firearm platforms. When these habits are adopted, your chances of success increase dramatically. Here are 5 of the top habits you can begin incorporating into your pump shotgun training.
1. Sustained Reloading
6, 5, 4, 3...shotguns tend to have limited capacity. Even those with extended magazine tubes can hold a limited number of rounds compared to a modern sporting rifle with a 20 or 30 round magazine. Shotguns run out of ammo quickly but they should not run out of ammo before you know it. A good practice is using sustained reloading. If you send 2 rounds downrange, load 2 immediately. If you fire 4 rounds, load 4 rounds. Keep that shotgun topped off or in the words of my SIG Academy Instructor, “feed that pig.” If your shotgun is equipped with a side-saddle that holds spare ammunition, practice reloading it from this point. This allows you to keep your hands closer to the firearm than reaching into a pocket elsewhere. Should you need to bring your firearm to action, your hands will be that much closer to the forend.
2. Touch Points (Press check)
Press checks are free. The purpose of a press check is to inspect the chamber and make sure a round is loaded. Firearms can malfunction and failures to feed happen. With a pump shotgun, one hit the slide release lever on their Remington 870 or Mossberg 590 and partially rack the slide back to visually inspect for a plastic shotgun hull. This process, done incorrectly, can lead to a live round getting launched out of the receiver before it is fired. What helps in the press-check process is having a known touch point. This means, when the slide is pulled backwards, you know where to stop your hand on the receiver to reach into it to feel for an unfired shotgun round. A live round will feel like a well-done steak whereas a spent hull will squish like a rare steak. The touch point also lets you inspect the chamber with your tactile sense instead of relying on your eyes if in a low/no light situation.
3. Pattern Buckshot
One of the benefits of a shotgun is the incredible array of ammunition available. The standard 00 buckshot round has 8 or 9 pellets of roughly .30 caliber. .30 caliber is loosely equivalent to a 9mm round in diameter and those 8 or 9 pellets will impact your target at the same time. This amount of firepower is commanding but it can get out of control if you don’t know what your 12 gauge’s tendencies are. My 12 gauge, equipped with Vang-Comp porting, likes Federal Ammunition Flitecontrol buckshot and will keep all 9 pellets on an IPSC-sized target out to 20 yards. At 25 yards, a pellet or two will be off. This matters because each pellet is a projectile with my name on it. I want to make sure I hit what I aim at and no round goes astray. The good news is, very few homes have more than a 20 yard hallway and buckshot may be an appropriate round for home defense. I use the word “may” since overpenetration is always a concern and a decision you must make. Whatever decision you make, make it after you get a chance to pattern your shotgun for different rounds. You may find one load works better out of your firearm than your friends or mine. Do a “walk back” and check when your shotgun reaches a maximum range for buckshot.
4. Far-Threat Slug Drills
A shotgun is a formidable weapon indoors but it should not be viewed as being limited to close range work only. There may be a circumstance or situation where taking a shot at a long distance is warranted. There may be a time when using a single projectile like a 1 ounce slug makes more sense than buckshot. For these times, “far-threat slug drills” should be practiced. Simply put, this drill means dumping a round out of the chamber and inserting a slug instead. All you need to do is rack the slide, ejecting the round in the chamber and the round on the elevator bars and dumping a slug over or under the receiver into the chamber instead. There are other ways of getting a slug ready to fire but this is the fastest. Learn to do this drill without fumbling and get a slug in your gun quickly. Also, while you are training, learn where you slugs are zero’ed for and don’t forget this. I’ll admit, at the SIG Advanced Defensive shotgun class, I held middle of the “A” zone while sighting in at 50 yards. My shotgun’s iron sights were last sighted in at 100 yards and the 1st 3 shots hit high and outside of the 8” circle. When I held low on the target, the next couple 3-shot groups landed right where I wanted them to.
5. Bilateral Shooting and Level Changing
In a perfect world, all shots would be taken from your dominant shoulder in the most comfortable position. We do not live in a perfect world and the reality is, you may not end up using your shotgun the way you are used to training. Learning to manipulate your firearm bi-laterally, that is from either shoulder, and from different positions including kneeling, squatting, prone, and roll-over prone are essential skills and habits. Shotguns have an aggressive recoil and learning to control this recoil with good push and pull technique is important to quick follow up shots and stability. Additionally, from either shoulder, learning how the recoil impacts your base kneeling, squatting, and laying down will help you develop a familiarity with your firearm that may pay off in an awkward situation. You will perform under pressure the way you train and if you don’t train all possible shooting positions, you will simply not perform how you desire.
One of the best ways to learn these 5 habits is to seek out instruction from qualified sources. Simply reading about them is not enough, you have to put these thoughts and words into action, correct action. I’ve attended many courses at the SIG Sauer Academy and Stretz Tactical. Both of these training companies can help you build the skills you need. After you equip your shotgun with the bare minimum of accessories including a good sling and a weaponlight, invest in some training. Spend more money on ammo and burn good repetitions that will make you more proficient. Simply having a shotgun in a gun safe is not enough. Develop good habits and your actions will be more professional and effective improving your odds of success.
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