Friday, May 18, 2018

Basic Training - Shotgun

Hours 8,9,10,11,12

As I told you at the outset, we'll go with the Remington 870. The .mil has used it, and half a dozen other guns, going back to about the turn of the last century. (Cue up The Wind and The Lion for some worthwhile scenes with one.)
They currently use the Mossberg M590. Mossberg does one thing right that Remington gets wrong: they put the safety on the backstrap, where it belongs, and where you can operate it rapidly with your strong hand thumb, instead of behind the trigger guard (which is functional, but more awkward).
In every other way, IMHO, the Remington 870 was/is a better gun (at least, it was before now-bankrupt RemCorp starting larding it up with all kinds of plastic parts to cut costs and quality). I have a M590. (In addition to most of a rack full of 870s.) It has a barrel heat shield, and a handy bayonet lug, always a thing near and dear to any Marine's heart. Mine sported a non-standard 12-inch M7 bayonet during the Rodney King riots.
But you can buy and add the heat shield and bayonet lug to any standard pump, with a couple of parts, and a minimum of work.
At any rate, the 870 is probably the vanilla-ice-cream commonest shotgun in America at this point. But if you're working with a Mossberg, a Winchester Defender, a new or vintage Ithaca, or any number of other pump shotguns, you'll get the job done. So at the end of the day, I don't care what you've got, as long as you know how to run it accurately and safely.

Focus on learning that, whatever you're rocking.

Hour 8 - Nomenclature, Firing Cycle, Disassembly/Assembly/Function Checks/Maintenance
Shotgun basics x 2:

Shotgun functioning:

(Note, to find Reassembly, video 4 of 4, click on the link inside the video at the end of section 3. The http addy for it is a dead link for some reason.)

Two ways to go about it

(And a thanks to BillN in comments who spotted what I didn't, which was the spaz-ex on the other video when guy got flustercated, and lost his mind. My apologies for not catching the last 30 seconds of stupidity.)

Note for users: one thing I highly recommend you do with your 870, or other pump if the part(s) are available, is to replace the factory-standard small dark shell follower (the part that pushes shells back into the action during loading) with an aftermarket hi-viz heavy-duty plastic or anodized aluminum follower. I use a bright international orange one, so that I can see the action is empty at a glance. If I can see orange, I know there's nothing in that tube. It's also bigger and beefier than the OEM factory part, and therefore more reliable and less prone to jamming or tangling the shell follower spring.
It's a $5-10 mod, and you can do it in about a minute at home without tools, during normal disassembly for cleaning.
Do it.

Hour 9 - Immediate Action, Ammunition selection

Shotgun ammunition basics:

Hour 10 - Basics of Marksmanship and Moving Targets

The first video is prime: when firing a shotgun, lean forward more aggressively, and ride the recoil as you shoot to work the pump, so that when your muzzle comes back down, you're already set to fire the next round. I'm an average-sized guy, and I kick ass with a shotgun since learning that some decades hence. Your weight should be forward onto your leading leg. Then the recoil of full-power 12ga buckshot is inconsequential, and even the heavier magnums are tolerable.

When you're shooting at a moving target, coming or going doesn't really matter much.
Side to side does. The rule with clay pigeons is to pull the muzzle through the target, from rear to front, and pull the trigger as you get to the front edge, while still swinging the barrel. It works with clay pigeons, it works with birds on the wing, it works on feral pigs, and it works with bad people running across your field of view.
The beauty is, you can practice all you want at the local trap, skeet, or sporting clays range, to get the swing speed right. If you try to fire a shotgun like you aim a rifle, at a moving target, you'll miss behind them (and if they're not inanimate objects, they'll probably pick up speed getting away). Ask me how I know.

So spend some quality time practicing on trap or skeet (put a longer sporting barrel on the 870 if you do), get a new hobby, and build combat skills without looking like it.

Hour 11 - Course Of Fire

The entire USMC shotgun training for security personnel who use one, comprises a grand total of 2 hours of classroom time, and two hours of firing practice. The detailed breakdown is here. You should note that the orders section on shotgun training for additional security personnel in the first reference doesn't even require actual live fire training.

If live fire is conducted, following the breakdown in the second link, you fire 18 rounds of standard load 9-pellet 00B at 3 targets, (the CoF staggers it so you've fired 6 rounds at each target of the three by the time you've moved forward from the 25Y line to the 10Y line) engaged in the specified order in the second reference, from 25Y, 20Y, 15Y, and 10Y. 30 pellets (out of 54 possible: 9 pellets@ X 6 shells per target) impacted into each target is a pass, and qualification is a simple pass/fail.

That's it.
You can do the same thing most anyplace you can shoot, or you can replicate the exact full course to specification.
Your call.

A shotgun for defensive use should only be loaded with buckshot (00, 000, or #4) or slugs.
(Birdshot is lethal at muzzle range, and a mere annoyance after a very few yards distance. Don't try it. It only works in cheesedick Jason Bourne flicks, not real life.)
As a Rule Of Thumb, shot spreads approximately 1" in height and width for each 1 yard of distance from the muzzle. (Hardcore geeks, IDGAF if it's a bit more or less, I don't care about chokes and barrel lengths, nor about patterning the shot spread. That rule is literally,"close enough for government work". Pay attention to the general rule.)

Remember this guy? So, now you know he was about 6Y away from the muzzle,
assuming a cylinder bore weapon. Which was right in the sweet spot for
the person shooting at him.

So that means the ideal range for engagement is between about 6Y and 20Y for an average human target (given that the average person's torso is 18-20" across when facing you full-on). It'll still be quite effective closer up, but beyond 25Y, pattern spread, and a limited number of pellets, means that you'll start dropping pellets off the target (which flying lead you're still responsible for when it's continuing downrange past your target), and by 50 yards, the likelihood of an incapacitating hit with one round of buckshot on a man-sized target becomes prohibitively futile. Not impossible, just generally not worth the trouble.

Slugs, especially with a rifled barrel, turn a shotgun into a large-caliber hunting rifle with a 100-200Y range. If you have the slugs, if you have the barrel, if you have the sights, and if you've taken the time to train with all that in order to be able to use it to maximum effect.

If not, you get a roughly 100Y effective weapon shooting a rather devastating slug, with the accuracy of a Revolutionary War musket, at ranges a pistol is more difficult to be good with, without a lot of practice. And a weapon that's essentially worthless at normal rifle engagement ranges, particularly at 200Y and more, when you can't hit your target, but anyone even with a rusty old AK can hit you.
In short, great weapon indoors, in trench warfare, or in heavy brush or jungle, but not so good on prairie or desert plains unless the other team has nothing but clubs.

It is not a magic wand. Its forte is hammering relatively close targets with a devastating amount of damage, if they're not wearing a protective vest. (Most vests, including the 1980s-era PASGT military vest, were/are rated to stop fragments the size and velocity of shotgun pellets, among other things. Hips and heads if necessary, kids.)

A standard (2 3/4") buckshot round fires 9 .33 caliber pellets. At, say 10 yards, that turns your face or chest into hamburger. You tend to stop.

At 75 yards at a running person, you might get a hit or three, or you might miss them entirely, with all the pellets you fire.

Hour 12 - Sights, Lights, Lasers and low-Light Shooting

Shotguns need to be aimed.
And, just like pistols and rifles, there is no end of things you can add to them to help you see, ID, and hit your target. Some work better than others. The key is to know about them, try them out, and make sure before you make something a must-add, that what it gets you is worth the time, trouble, and expense.

A light is not a bad idea, to ID your target. The down side is that it also IDs you as a target to them.

Sights that only you can see in the dark, even without NOD, are even better.

Wearing NOD means you don't need the light, or the glowy sights.

You decide, and try it out for real, on a range, before you commit to something, and understand the pros and cons.


That concludes the marksmanship module, and Week One of basic training.
You're halfway finished.

Next, we start on fieldcraft.

Expect some administrative tidying up over the weekend, and perhaps a teaser, but I don't expect to start posting the next section this side of Monday for the meat and potatoes.
If I can do so, I'll do it like this week: all posts for the nominal day posted in the same day, rather than stringing it out over a month or more.
We'll see how that best-laid plan works out in reality, but that's where I'm headed with this.


Anonymous said...

Glanced through to the load video; wanted to see if the guy was gonna do the empty reload through the ejection port and happy to see that he did. I also liked seeing "rocking the recoil" for multiple shots. All Good Stuff.
As a Boat Guy, particularly as a riverine guy, the shotgun was our primary individual long gun (the M2HB was our "rifle"). I'm an 870 guy and it is our "family standard" in either 12 or 20. Love those guns.
Will be looking closer through the offerings and may comment further (next interested to see how slugs are covered; love me some slugs).
Whether or not it's covered I will emphasize the need for slings on shotguns. I also like the "sidesaddle' shell holders for the left side of the receiver. Tritium sights and a light mount complete the ensemble
Within its parameters the shotgun is a devastating weapon.

tweell said...


Thought you might be interested, given past history. The USA was incredibly lucky (or the Lord was looking out for us) in 2014. Will that continue? I'm not betting on it.

Aesop said...

There are sites that are on my own mental "Chicken Littling rabid fruitcake" sites, for exactly this sort of headline.

Ebola growth is logarithmic, not "explosive".
That characterization is pure clickbait hype.

But since you asked...

RandyGC said...

Just for S&G I once shot a round of skeet with the riot barrel on my Mossy 500.

Devastating on birds flying at or away from you (stations 1,7,8), not so much on the crossing shots (Stations 1-6, with 4 being a right total bastard).

Good stuff Aesop.

Anonymous said...

I used my Benelli M1 Super 90 at the trap range. First time I went 25/25.
I had to doing it on the rack. The barrel was too short otherwise.

Anonymous said...

"I had to SLING it on the rack"
Goddam machine, presuming to correct me

Anonymous said...

I'll leave you with one last comment; shotguns are great on the water. Doing board and search ops on boats they are near perfect. Using the M16/M4 is not desirable since the higher velocity harder bullets have more likelihood of ricochet on the water, endangering your cover boat people and anyone else in the vicinity. Slugs are great for holing boats unless they're dugouts.
Boat Guy

Aesop said...

Noted. I can see your point there.
Probably pretty good for repelling boarders too, which was why they issued them for sea detail/anchor watch on board LHAs and such.
Slugs would carry the length of the flight/hanger deck, and buckshot was good from the flight deck to the waterline, or anything more confined.

Anonymous said...

Waaay good for repelling boarders. The other nice thing is aboard a warship where you have some sensitive gear a buck pellet is not as harmful to such as ball would be. With decks made from HY-80 it's also possible to skip shot underneath launchers and the like.
Back in the bad ol days when we were "nuclear capable" some folks took repelling boarders pretty seriously. That was my first dalliance with the 870 as a weapon; it is now a full on romance.

Bill N. said...

I have been checking out the videos and have looked about half of them. I haven't checked out the videos on maintaining an 870 yet but Brownells normally puts out good product. The loading and unloading video looks like the guy doesn't have a clue how to unload it, says F*** It, and fires all the rounds in the shotgun. If you really want to know how to load and unload a shotgun this is a better video The demonstrator is Bill Jeans who use to be the Operations Manager for Gunsite and he knows his stuff. He has also done one of the better Shotgun Operator videos I have seen which is available from Panteo. You should really delete the shotgun ammunition video as the guy doesn't know what he is talking about. For instance he starts talking about the Rio 20 gauge buckshot load. He doesn't know that the "20/70" marking is referring to 20 gauge with a length of 70 mm or 2 3/4. Rio says the pellet size is #1 buck but when I measured it is actually about halfway between #1 and #2 buck in size. He also talks about how there 50-60 pellets of #9 birdshot in a 12 gauge shell. Typically a 12 gauge will have at least one ounce of shot and depending on if it is pure lead or an alloy there will around 570-590 of #9 birdshot per ounce. He says a 20 gauge is almost as good as a 12 gauge but doesn't realize most 20 gauge buckshot is #3 with a weight around 23 grains while the standard 12 gauge is 00 with each pellet weighing around 54 grains or over twice of what a #3 buck weighs. The heavier 00 will carry further and when it hits something will penetrate deeper.
There are a couple of critical things that weren't discussed when using a shotgun. Short stroking the pump is the most common malfunction. Getting some dummy rounds such as A-Zooms to practice loading and cycling the action will help a new shooter learn to run the gun. The other omission is the need to pattern a shotgun. Different brands of the same size buckshot may pattern completely different. As a rule of thumb smaller shots seems to have bigger patterns and one needs to determine when the pattern will get so big it will miss or erratic it can't be counted to be effective. Shooters need to pattern their shotgun with different loads to see what works best in their shotgun. One that I would always test in the 12 gauge is the Low Recoil Federal 00 with the Flite Control wad. There is an eight and nine pellet version and often one of these will give the tightest and most consistent patterns when tested against other brands.

Aesop said...

Thanks for the input.
As you might imagine, I was going through about 50 video clips/day getting last week's stuff together; if there's a clinker in the pile, I'll swap it out for something better.
Some of the stuff I discarded that you never saw was YouTube "Yeegads!"-awful, but I'll happily dump that vid if it goes off the rails towards the end. I plead guilty to probably only watching some of the later ones about 3/4 of the way through. I didn't think someone could screw up something as basic as ammo in 5 minutes, but it's YouTube, so I'll take a look, and swap it out if needs be.
You might also have noticed I didn't hesitate to poach Gunsite instruction videos for the pistol, and I have no doubt their shotgun stuff is up to par as well.
The trouble with YouTube is that if you didn't make it yourself, shoehorning someone else's stuff into your lesson plan can be problematic. (And it was, X 10, believe me.) It may be what finally gets me to make my own videos for every single lesson, at some future date, and swap them in over time.
IIRC, short-stroking was covered in the malfunctions video, as the leading cause of problems.
And A-Zoom and similar snap caps are the go-to when practicing with any weapon.
I may even be known among a few close friends for slipping a couple into their magazines (both semi-auto and pump) and cylinders to induce malfunctions during firing strings, both to teach them how immediate "immediate action" is supposed to be, and to spot people who were trigger-jerking and flinching in anticipation.
I am that evil. ;)

As for patterning a fighting shotgun, sure, go ahead, if you want.

Unfortunately, the pellets are addressed "to whom it may concern" every time you fire them, so to "pattern" a pump gun would probably take a full 25-rd box, X every different load you're considering, and a new target for every shot, at all working ranges from 10-25Y, if you're serious.

If a shotgun for serious social work (particularly an 870 with a 20" deer bbl. and rifle sights) won't throw all the buckshot pellets into the torso area on a man-sized silhouette at 20Y or less every single time, the problem is either the gun itself, or a loose nut behind the trigger.
If it will do that every time, then refining that further is a pretty esoteric skill for becoming basically trained in using it, which was the point of the exercise.
You'll note the detail-obsessed USMC standard is only 30/54 of the 00B pellets at 10-25Y, i.e. only 61%, on a pass/fail standard of marksmanship with the weapon.
(IMHO, if you cannot get at least 48 out of 54 00B pellets from six 9-pellet standard 00B loads into a torso target every single time, holding center of mass, even if you fired all of them from 25Y, you should probably stick to something more accurate, and/or stop buying cheap ammo from the bargain bin.)

Anyone with the time - we're probably talking most to all of day, more time than I would and have taken to teach someone the shotgun from buttstock to muzzle, and how to operate it - plus the inclination, the attention to detail, and the extra $50-200 bucks to burn on shooting up different buckshot loads, should by all means do that, but it doesn't make a helluva lot of difference in most cases.
It will give someone an idea of the difference when shooting a lot of buckshot, especially if they've only been practicing with birdshot all the time, which isn't nothing, and get them another hundred rounds' practice time with the weapon.

Skipping such patterning wasn't an omission, it's just something fairly pointless for a 5 hour indoc, especially on a weapon that is, at best, a tertiary choice.
(Patterning a hunting weapon with birdshot loads is another cup of tea entirely.)

People with greater resources are free to go beyond the basics on their own.
Thanks again for the feedback.

Anonymous said...

You're likely getting weary of me recommending Clint Smith but there are great videos on the web. His commercially produced ones cost money but are well worth it IMO.

Aesop said...

I'm sure they are, but that doesn't do anything for putting together accessible content to anyone with internet access.
There's great training over in the right column too, but folks have to pay and show up for that as well.

John ShootBetter said...


Great stuff, all of it. One point I'd call out a little more is that one always starts a fight with a shotgun in an ammo-critical situation. Learning to work the pump is critical, and you cover that well. But learning to feed the tube from the side-saddle (a critical component of any fighting shotgun), and learning to feed the chamber directly from the side-saddle are critical skills for anyone who wants to fight with a shotgun. Said skills are applicable for fighting with many types of bolt, pump or lever-action rifles also.

And +1 for clay bird shooting practice. IMHO that's some of the most fun you can have with your clothes on, and between cheap shot shells and cheap clays, it's one of the cheapest ways to have fun with a firearm. I can't prove this, but I think wing shooting improves skills with other types of firearms on moving targets. I read a long time ago that a ridiculously high percentage of WWII fighter aces were accomplished wing shooters before they started hunting America'a skyborne enemies.

Thanks for this series, it's all great stuff.

Aesop said...

That last is gospel.

In my younger years, working firearms wholesale/distribution, one of the guys I worked with (had to have been in his 70s if he was a day, but he'd never give the company his right age, and he was funny as hell to chat with) had been a trap and skeet shooting champion when he was a youngster, and come WWII, he was made an officer in charge of training aerial gunners for B-17s and B-24s out in Utah.
They started guys on flat-ground trap and skeet, then eventually graduated up to shooting M2BMGs from the beds of trucks driving a circuit to teach guys to bring the tracer stream through the target from behind, or work it into where they'd be from the lead, depending on whether they were coming or going. (When both target and shooter are moving, it gets more complicated.)

And most fighter shots then were multiple .50s at ranges around 500 yards or less, so it amounts to the same thing as wing shooting with birdshot as far as perspective.

Anonymous said...

One thing I perhaps didn't make clear is that there's a bunch of Clint Smith on youtube.

Aesop said...

Understood. I'll seek it out then, by all means.
At last count, I have about 50 different versions of survival manuals.
There's always another way to skin a cat.

Anonymous said...

Long's the damn cat gets skinned, doesn't matter whose method...

1chota said...

Just got home from the He-Man match in Raton, NM. 3 gun match; 308, 12 gauge pump, 45 auto.
Technically difficult and physically demanding.
I am almost 71 years old; it was hard but not beyond doing.
I highly recommend it to all who think they can.