Things you may not know about the Tactical or Home Defense Shotgun

Did you know that the most common Civilian Owned Weapon is the 12 ga shotgun, and the most commonly owned shotgun is the Pump Action Shotgun?  Did you know that the 12 ga shotgun is just about the most lethal close quarters weapon system in existence? By “close quarters”, I am talking 0-50 yards, and when set up correctly and using the right ammo, that range can easily be extended to 100 yards or slightly more. Did you know that every single police car in this country has a 12 ga shotgun in it? The reason why is simple… a shotgun is an absolute fight stopper! The power is pretty devastating.

But it is also only a tool, and you need to know how to use it effectively to obtain best results. Also, the set up of the weapon is key to good performance. Here is my hard learned opinions on how to best set up these guns for tactical/competition use and home defense. These opinions have been formed during the last 2.5 years and going to 4 Front Sight Tactical Shotgun Classes, and competing in local 3 Gun Competitions. Plus that I’m a quick learner when it comes to guns, so here we go.

To Start: First you need a shotgun. Most will start with a pump action and the Mossberg 500/590/590A1, and the Remington 870 are the most common. The US Military has settled on the Mossberg 590A1, and police have generally used the Remington 870 for the last 20-30 years.  Note:  These are not Field Guns, they are Tactical Guns. (Some call them Riot Guns.) I have seen the short comings of the Remington 870 in action in all 4 of my classes and decided based on that experience that I personally like the M500 series best as it is easier to run than other brands. They are ambidextrous in operation, have a larger ejection port which makes single loading easier, and they are less expensive to begin with. They are also simpler to take apart and put back together which usually means they get taken care of better.

I have two M500s; one is set up as a Tactical Gun with a 20″ barrel with rifle sights and full length magazine and cost me $205 on sale at Big 5 20+ years ago. I’ve got about $500 in that gun now, and it works great.

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The other is a recent buy that I got slightly used from a Local Hardware Store for $160 to use as my Home Defense Gun. It has an 18″ barrel and 5 round magazine. I’ve got about $300 in this gun.Things you may not know about the Tactical or Home Defense Shotgun 3

I added Magpul Furniture to each gun as well as a Brownell’s Steel Safety with a raised rib to facilitate operation.  Both guns have side mounted sling swivels so the gun can be carried cross body or slung across my back if I have to run.  I also mounted Velcro side saddles to the left side of the receivers of both guns and consider them to be the way to go for carrying extra ammo on the gun.

Brownell’s Steel Safety facilitates easier safety operation for $15.

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Velcro side saddle, easy on easy off. You can reload one of these in seconds, and find them on eBay for about $10.

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Both the HD gun and Tac Gun have a Streamlight TLR-1 mounted to the underside of the Fore End ($90).

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It should be noted that Tactical Shotguns need to be set up quite differently than Field Guns.  The “Length of Pull” is generally shorter, about 12.5″ as opposed to 14.5″ or more for field guns.  This is because the Tactical Stance is different, being more “squared up” to the target, and crouched slightly forward.  This is done to get more of your body behind the gun to absorb recoil better and facilitate faster follow up shots.  If you aren’t squared up and leaning forward you will find yourself being pushed back onto your heels as successive shots push you rearward.  You will also find out quickly if the gun doesn’t fit you correctly as it will beat the snot out of you.  The fundamentals of shotgun shooting do  apply here, just more so, as lots of times you are using more powerful ammunition than you would normally use for shooting doves. But even dove loads get old pretty fast if you are not mounting the gun right. You need to have your cheek firmly on the comb of the stock and have the toe of the stock in the shoulder pocket and have the gun hauled into your shoulder with your right hand and arm. You should be able to support the gun held level with just your shooting arm and hand. This frees up your support hand to deal with ammunition and reloading and running the pump.

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Set up: I have found that Magpul’s stocks and fore ends allow you to fit the gun to your individual stature fairly easily. These stocks have easily adjustable length of pull, and the comb height is also adjustable so that you can get the proper cheek weld on the stock so your eye aligns with the sights as you mount the gun. I also found they have an adapter available that allows use of a Remington Synthetic Recoil Pad that is about 50% larger in surface area than the pad that comes with the stock. It distributes recoil over a larger area which helps reduce felt recoil.  Remember, shotguns do kick; you have to learn to deal with it.

Another thing to talk about as to shotgun set up is the Sights. IMHO all Tactical Shotguns need to have rifle sights! They are, for all intents and purposes, .73 caliber rifles! HD guns not so much, but even so, they can benefit from having rifle sights as well. In any event, the front sight needs to be very visible. I prefer a Williams Green Fiber Optic type of sight blade.  These show up well if the gun has a light when used at night, and in sunlight they are very hard to miss. My HD gun has an XS Tritium Big Dot Front Sight which shows up very well in the dark. It would be used in the house so pinpoint accuracy is not as critical. Just being able to quickly acquire it is most important.

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It should be noted that it took me three classes at Front Sight to get my M500 set up sorted out so that the gun was pleasant to shoot for the whole class. The first two 2-day classes were 200+ rounds each, and a 4-day class was nearly 500 rounds.  In the first class the gun was nearly stock.  It literally beat the snot out of me and I came home with a black and blue shoulder and cheek, and also a pinch on my cheek under my hearing muffs. It left a big hickey on my neck which I had to explain when I got home. The second class had the Magpul furniture, but not set up right and the results were similar but not quite as bad.  The third class was a 4-day and I had everything I had learned from the first two classes as far as technique, and the setup had been refined to nearly perfect, and I had one other thing going for me. I had sent the barrel to Hans Vang for the Vang Comp Process.  This consists of lengthening the forcing cone, back boring the barrel and porting the muzzle. The difference in felt recoil is dramatic!!!! I shot nearly 500 rounds wearing only a Tee Shirt and Shorts and had no marks on me whatsoever!!!! Controlling the gun is so easy a Caveman can do it. Recoil is smooth and strait back with no significant muzzle rise… in short, this gun is an absolute joy to shoot. It patterns 00 Buckshot into 7″ at 25 yards! An unaltered barrel will be lucky to do 15″ at 15 yards. – Check it out, it is worth every penny!

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For my last class I took a new-to-me Browning A5 that I refurbished and set up as a Slug Gun.  Since I already knew how to set the gun up and what I was going to be doing from my previous classes, I had little problem learning how to run this gun. It is so much faster than the pump gun it is scary!

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Ammunition: There is more stuff you can shoot out of a 12 ga shotgun than you can shake a stick at. It ranges from rock salt to birdshot to buckshot to slugs to little missile lookin’ things that will blow a 4′ dia hole in a concrete wall!

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For shooting in a class you would use mostly #8 birdshot as the emphasis is on running the gun and gun handling. I recommend Walmart Federal at $21.74 per 100. You would also use some buckshot, and they also teach how to do a “Select Slug” Drill where you have the gun loaded with something else and a target presents itself at a longer range, so you transition to a slug load. Low recoil slugs are the way to go as 1 oz. at 1300 feet per second will knock down anything you need to shoot. Nothing lives thru a slug! Even body armor! Point being you don’t need to shoot high based slugs which have a serious effect on both ends. Life is too short!

There are slugs that shoot like really nice center fire rifles out there and I even make some of them.

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That group measures 1 x 1.5  center-to-center shot at 50 yards with open sights and a rifled barrel. Its accuracy is easily viable well past 100 yards and at 550 gr it is pretty devastating. A trip to YouTube will turn up a zillion things you can launch from your gun; some are pretty cool, others not so much, but people have been shooting all sorts of things from shotguns for a real long time.

The last thing I’d like to talk about is training: When talking about Tactical Shotgun use, or Home Defense, if you haven’t gone to an accredited shooting school in the last few years for a Tactical Shotgun Class or are recent X military or a current LEO, you have a lot to learn. Just learning how to run the gun efficiently is a topic in itself. Shooting these guns is more fun than you can imagine and once you see exactly how much power you are holding in your hands it will give you a level of confidence that you probably haven’t experienced before. Everything you learn can only benefit you, even if you are only a hunter.  But as a hunter with tactical training, if a bear charges you, you will be able to deal with it decisively instead of trying to out run him!

Have fun.  Randy

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