Defensive Shotgun with Tom Givens of Rangemaster.
(note, if there is a technical mistake, it is mine - not Tom's).
I recently had the opportunity to take Tom Given’s (www.rangemaster.com
) Defensive Shotgun class. First, I’ve trained with a good number of instructors and Tom is one of the finest. Not that the others weren’t great but Tom is superb. His courses have a depth to them that the scholar and scientist in me deeply appreciate. You get historical, theoretical and practical knowledge in one package.
The course was offered by KRtraining (www.krtraining.com
) – Karl Rehn’s outfit and another great venue. Before more details – I paid for everything, so this isn’t a puff review and the money well spent. I’ve trained with Tom before and attended the Polite Society, so when he was coming to KRtraining – I had to sign up.
Defensive Shotgun as offered in a one day format was designed to go offer shotgun basics (equipment, ammo, sights), history of the gun and how to run it.
Of course, as members of the gun world – we know that all men are instinctive shotgun warriors. The gun cannot miss. It will not fail to stop someone. In fact, the simple sound of effects from the gun being racked will send hardened sociopaths fleeing into the night. The gun is so easy to use that you don’t have to train.
Well, not really. True, most defensive gun uses seem to turn out well. No shots fired and the bad guy fled! Whoopee! But Tom trains you for when it becomes a real fight and you do have to run the gun. Untrained and unpracticed civilians can be subject to user induced malfunctions. Short stroking, failure to remove the safety, failure to chamber a round in a semiauto gun, not understanding the bolt release, etc. – are all seen under stress in the nonpracticed community.
Thus, we shot and shot with birdshot and buckshot. The idea was ingrain correct motor patterns and use them under timed and stress circumstances. Of course, a one day class must be followed up by practice on your own to maintain the skill.
Most of the class used pump guns. The majority were Remington 870s with a few Winchesters and Mossbergs. There were a couple of semiauto guns. Interesting, they seemed a touch more difficult to manipulate in the rapid fire, reload drills.
The class started with a review of shotgun and ammo types. If you want the whole song and dance, take the course or buy the DVD from Tom.
Some interesting equipment tidbits and recommendations (you can disagree):
1. Use 2 ¾ controlled flight 00 buck – 8 pellet. Federal makes a line of such. Why – it gives amazingly tight patterns at distances for the home defense user. You want a tight group to avoid flyers. Forget the room filling pattern mythology. Only a newbie or wannabee spouts that. The geometry of an 8 shot load is less likely to produce a flyer than a 9. Tom told us of a hostage shot where 8 hit the BG righteously and the 9th flyer did serious damage to the innocent.
You must pattern your gun – the heuristic is one inch per yard of expansion. But you have to see what yours does with a given load. For example, one shooter bought some Nobel buckshot. At about 12 feet, it completely filled a man sized target with an off target flyer. You cannot afford a gun that inherently misses the target at that distance. I shot some Federal low recoil 00 and got a pattern about 4 to 6 inches. But a round of the Federal controlled flight load through my 1300 at the same distance made one solid hole, no flyers.
One shooter had a rifled barrel – and guess what. A round of birdshot made a donut pattern that covered the whole target with the center almost untouched. That was a consequence of the rifling which is for a deer gun in states that mandate such for hunting. You don’t want it in a defensive shotgun with buckshot.
2. Lights on guns – not needed by the home defender and makes the gun heavier and more unreliable.
3. Pistol grip only guns – very hard to control – NO. Pistol grips on full stocks – transfers much recoil to your wrist and hand – Ouch – so not recommended.
4. Rubber shot, OC shot – for law enforcement circumstances and not you. If you don’t want to use something lethal – don’t pick up a gun.
5. Don’t keep the gun fully loaded as mag springs in shotguns are weaker than pistol mags and can get crappy. Also, remember the safety doesn’t make the gun drop safe and keeping it on a HD gun isn’t that useful. Not having a round in the chamber is better for safety. Tom demonstrated how he keeps guns cruiser ready for quick usage and safety.
6. Keep the 20 gauge away from the 12 gauge – load a 20 and then try to shoot a 12 – the twenty can get stuck and you blow up!
7. Some kind of visible front sight works fine. Tom likes rifle sights. I had a fiber optic as it was standard on my 1300. He demonstrated correct sight picture (Oh, you need a sight picture – I thought you couldn’t miss – but you can).
8. Stocks are too long. This is a major point and I should have mentioned it earlier. Tom says most shotguns have stocks based on sporting guns and in the 13 to 14 inch range. It makes shouldering the gun and manipulations in the aimed position difficult. This is esp. true for people under 6 feet. Thus, he suggests taking an inch off or getting a shorter aftermarket stock. He let us should his modified gun in a quick move and it was much easier.
There was more fun equipment stuff.
Now to the range.
The purpose was to learn to run the gun quickly and efficiently. We want to minimize user errors. A pump gun has a bolt release, a slide, a trigger, safety, a mag tube that you stuff shells in with some funky ramp thingee. All can lead to booboos – like no BOOM or DAMN, IT WENT BOOM (you ok? Uh, say something?).
We first emphasized stance – one wants an aggressive one or else repeated shots will drive you back. You want elbows down to ease in moving around the house and reducing your target area. It is stronger for retention. This was hard to do and we coached each other. Elbows down also reduced twisting the guide rods for the slide which can get you into some trouble.
One thing Tom did was have us paired to watch each other. This was for correcting behaviors and also to activate mirror neurons. Three cheers that modern neuroscience is impacting the gun world!
Tom demonstrated proper head alignment, grip, cheek weld and sighting. Trigger control and position (straight on the receiver). Follow through was incredibly important for the pump guns. Work the action, reload the mag! Tom wanted to hear that click, ching-ching in dry fire. Trigger press and action cycled.
We repeated this many times to ingrain the pattern.
Moving to live fire, we used birdshot and practiced loading and topping off the gun with the gun pointed at the target. Tom was clear that sporting reload practices are not useful in a fight and can be dangerous because of muzzle control issues and speed. We would load by inserting a round in the chamber and then topping off the tube.
One major drill was called “Rolling Thunder” which was a hoot but with a serious purpose. It went as follows. Four or five shooters were in a line. The first in the line would load one round and fire. Then the second did the same he heard the first shooter’s shot, then the third, etc. But after you shot, you had to reload two and shoot two when the rotation got to you. Then, three rounds. Then four. By the time you got to four, you had to move quickly! If you fumbled, the group was to berate with good natured but insulting cat calls. We did that several times.
We then moved to buckshot with similar drills and changing distances to pattern the guns. As mentioned before this is crucially important. In the archetypal HD fight, it seems to be an assumption that no one will be around the bad guy. That might not be the case. You cannot afford a loose pellet as some buckshot rounds are prone to produce. In another class and in matches, I’ve done the hostage shot – it’s interesting. Tom says consider the longest distance in your house – I measured mine and used the Pythagorean Theorem (math!) to get the max distance of 20 yards – that would give something of a spread with 00.
We also learned out to reload safety without cycling the gun which can damage rounds. We tried different ready positions for ease, safety and retention. One thing is that carrying a shotgun aimed at a target or an unsupported low ready can get tiring. Think about it if you want to deal with a surrendered BG. If you say – that won’t happen – har, chest puff, har, har – remember the courts and moderators don’t like blood lust.
In summary – awesome course. I would have liked to take a tactics course also with the shotgun but we only had one day. So Tom rightly concentrated on running the gun.
Will I make the shotgun my go to home defense long arm? I’ve trained with handguns, ARs and the shotgun (this being my second shotty course). My first go to gun is a Glock – if we get to the safe room, then the AR is my choice. That’s another debate.
But I believe in eclectic training, I want to run well whatever I get to and the shotty lives next to the AR. The 1300 is an awesome weapon and I wouldn’t hesitate to use it. I’ve decided to keep it stoked with slugs (Hornady Taps). I’m not hunting turkeys and want the rounds to go to point of aim.
If you can study with Tom, do it and go to his Tactical Conference. One of the best instructors around! Remember I paid for this. Also, for the TX crowd – Karl Rehn runs a great training facility with his instructor set and great guests.