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The shotgun has been a staple for defensive use since its inception, providing enormous firepower at short to medium range engagement distances.  However, with the recent focus on modern sporting rifles being recommended for defensive use, is there a place for the venerable scattergun?  I’m of the opinion that one should arm themselves based upon necessity, budgeting concerns, and effectiveness.  While a MSR provides enormous firepower in easy controlled and compact packages, the barrier of entry can prove to be rather daunting for those starting out on a more involved and prepared defensive outlook.

Shotguns as Tactical Weapons

Perhaps the most common usage of shotguns in a defensive or offensive situation aside from civilian use is providing an upgrade in firepower to law enforcement personnel, who use the weapon platform to provide support in close range engagements.  For the average civilian a shotgun can still prove to be a highly viable weapons platform for defensive use.  Flexibility in ammunition choices especially aids in proving to be a highly useful platform, tailoring to the shooter’s needs depending on length of engagement.

A tactical shotgun doesn’t need to be black and covered in rails.  It can be a shorter barreled old blued steel and wood long arm of yesteryear and prove just as effective.  The tactical shotgun isn’t a design choice, but a method of execution and use.

So, what makes a good defensive shotgun?  You want something that can easily utilize a variety of ammunition, including low brass and high brass loads.  A shorter barrel is definitely preferred, making for ease of maneuvering in closer quarters. 

 Semi-automatic or pump is up to user preference, pump being a little easier to maintain due to the simplicity of the design.  Magazine capacity should be kept at minimum to five rounds, more being obviously preferred.  Preferred models are also down to preference, but Remington, Mossberg, and Benelli all make top quality shotguns for tactical use.

Source: YouTube/Magpul

Source: YouTube/Magpul

Training With Shotguns

Defensive or tactical shotgunning requires a different mindset to the rifle or pistol, due to the nature of the reload and the potential extra manipulation of the slide.

Proper technique with the slide of a pump action should be forceful, allowing no room for short stroking the shotgun.  Strong and clear ejection of empty hulls allows the next round to be fed reliably.  Failure drills should be implemented, using snap caps for dud primers and jams, something anyone already training on a rifle or handgun should already be prepared to drill for.  Course of fire should be steady with an almost rhythmic property to allow the shooter to properly compensate for the somewhat stout recoil some shells provide.

Reloading is the most crucial of the drills to perform, barring some specialized magazine fed shotguns, tactical shotguns are fed manually into a tubular magazine and require steady fast work to load properly under duress.  Any shooter can fire a full shotgun, but loading from empty and remaining viable within a fight is a completely different skillset which requires time and dedication. Proper reloading technique should keep the muzzle pointed at the target.

A heavy emphasis must be placed in retreating to cover while maintaining point of aim on a target, with a secondary emphasis on transitioning to a sidearm to maintain course of fire and neutralize a threat if cover is not a viable option.  Reloading hammers home the limitations of the shotgun as a platform, where a reload would take seconds in a rifle or pistol, it can be a much more time consuming task for maintaining fire and still remaining in the fight.

Going over realistic and useful drills for shotgun use is a very wide topic, with no real correct answer but rather an adaptation of technique and careful research necessary for a shooter to know what works best for them.

Source: YouTube/Magpul

Source: YouTube/Magpul

Sights: Red Dot, Bead, or What?

The defensive shotgun is heavily reliant on the sights used by the shooter.  Some are comfortable with the bead, others a traditional rifle or ghost ring sight, and some opting for a combat optic like a red dot or holographic sight.  Personal preference for me points towards the ghost ring, but all options are certainly viable.  The modern shotgun was developed around the bead, which is excellent for quick target acquisition but suffers at range.

Ghost ring or rifle sights provide a degree of comfort for users accustomed to operating a MSR, with the transition in aim requiring only minor adjustments.  Rifle sights or ghost rings are ideal for use with rifled or sabot slugs as well, which is a definite bonus when attempting to aim at distance.

Red dots offer a great compromise between the easy visibility of a bead with the additional benefits of aiming at range, providing a highly visible sight designed for optimal acquisition under stress.  I think they are a great addition to any fighting shotgun, but I would rather opt for a good set of iron sights.  As with any fighting arm, pragmatism and ease of use are heavily important.

Source: YouTube/Mrgunsngear Channel

Source: YouTube/Mrgunsngear Channel

Ammunition Choices: Double Ought or Others?

A shotgun is a highly versatile animal when it comes to variety in ammunition choices.  The cornerstone of offensive and defensive use in shotguns generally centers around 00 buck, for solid reasons.  Propelling 9 .30 caliber pellets between 1100 to 1300fps makes a bad day for the unlucky recipient that happens to be standing downrange.  00 buck makes for a great load for defensive and offensive purposes alike, providing an ample saturation of projectiles at an intended target.  Slugs also extend the reach of the venerable scattergun, taking the effective range out to 100 yards easily and delivering a whopping hunk of lead in short order.

Source: YouTube/Gun Talk Media

Source: YouTube/Gun Talk Media

Shotguns will never outshoot a properly fed rifle in trained hands, but make for an edge in close quarters.  Close quarters allow a 12 gauge to shine, placing out a fair amount of firepower in fairly short order.  But as with any weapons platform the limitations and shortcomings must be considered.

In short, train yourself with the shotgun but also be a disciple of the rifle and sidearm.

Click here for other close quarter training.