A look at the tactical shotgun

Without question, the Tactical Shotgun is one of the most misunderstood weapons of all time. Riddled with myths and war stories that obscure its true capabilities, this highly efficient home and self-defense arm has yet to reach its full potential. Learn its real world capabilities and limitations with us at FRONT SIGHT.

Tactical shotguns utilize two types of ammunition: (1) buckshot for close range and, (2) slugs, further out. Notice that I didn’t say long range — shotguns are not rifles, since their absolute, best-case maximum range is 100 meters. Buckshot, with typical cylinder bore choked barrels, is general efficient out to 15-20 meters. Past that, pattern deterioration becomes excessively rapid.

From a practical standpoint, we feel the best definition of the term max-effective range is the longest distance at which you can place a minimum of 85% of the pellets solidly in the target. For purposes of perspective-giving, we use the Taylor Combat silhouette target, which is 15.75 inches wide and 25 inches tall, with an 11 × 13 inch chest cavity, for this purpose. Tighter patterns and thus increased maximum effective range can be obtained with custom choking, the best of which, in my opinion, being produced by Vang Comp Systems.

I am not an advocate of muzzle braking because the vents channel hot propellant gases up through the shooter’s line of sight, debilitating his vision and obscuring the target with either muzzle flash or air disruption. Rely instead on proper technique for best weapon control.

Buckshot and slugs do not often shoot to the same point of aim. Moreover, points of impact versus point of aim from brand to brand and even from lot to lot with the same brand varies, often wildly. So, keep this in mind and check your patterns and slug zeros often.

For best long-term Ready Reliability, store your shotgun with the (tubular) magazine loaded to capacity minus one or two shells. If your gun has extraordinary magazine capacity, say 8 or 9 rounds, you may even wish to leave out two or three rounds to insure maximum follower spring service life. Once this procedure is completed, perform a chamber check to insure that the gun is not loaded. Then, disengage the safety and pull the trigger to release all trigger-group spring tension.

With Slide-Action shotguns, unlock the action for fast employment and leave the safety off because, under the stress of someone breaking into your house, you may not remember to disengage it. With the chamber empty and the hammer down, this mode of Ready Storage is quite safe and both quick and easy to use.

Practicing transitioning to a handgun if your shotgun malfunctions, as a universal procedure, is a classic example of firing range, rather than tactical, mentality because it doesn't work in all situations. For example, if you're using the weapon in a home-defense role, you will have no handgun available. (Few people sleep wearing a handgun, right?) It’s far smarter to learn how to clear malfunctions. Both kinds of common stoppage (Types 1 — Failure To Fire and Type 2 — Failure to Eject) can be cleared in 1 second or less — considerably faster than you can abandon the shotgun and change to a sidearm — making the dump the shotgun and go for your pistol maneuver the best solution only for certain kinds of Special Operations situations.

If you think you and your shoulder may not be able to withstand a four-day shotgun course, think again. With correct stance and weapon handling, recoil is controllable and discomfort is minimized. In fact, utilizing state-of-the-art techniques such as we teach at FRONT SIGHT, you will have no problems at all! Our course is designed to give you a full, clear, real-world perspective on the tactical shotgun. In fact, here’s a little challenge — HOW GOOD DO YOU WANT TO BE? Come see us and we'll take you as far down this road as you wish and perhaps, along the way, even save your life.

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