Tactical Response: Fighting Shotgun
19/20 NOV 2011
Instructors: Steve Carey, Tim Morris, David Jordan
Students: Eight students, including multiple alumni of numerous courses. Among the eight students, there were six alumni and I’d guess among the six of us, we had several dozen Tactical Response courses between us. The usual suspects attended: IT guys, a cop, a lawyer, and so on. As always, I stayed in the Team Room and as usual so did other fine fellows who train hard and live right.
The class began as usual at The Gear Store with a classroom portion to include the safety briefing. Tactical Response takes the safety of students very seriously, and the safety briefing covers how it is that we won’t need the medical bag but what will happen if we do. The four rules of safety are explained and the reason for running a “hot range” is made clear. The balance of the classroom session covered shotgun specific topics, including the methods to combat reload a shotgun.
One point of emphasis all weekend was loading/reloading a shotgun. We all know academically that a combat shotgun holds 6-8 rounds unless you are running an NFA gun, in which case it is less even than that. This academic comprehension really hits home when you begin to run drills. I’ve spent a lot more time training with rifles than with a shotgun, and I really had to adjust my ammunition management awareness level. It hit me that as far as ammunition management goes, the combat shotgun is akin to a revolver: limited capacity, slow to reload. Making your shots count and pushing rounds into the gun at any opportunity are keys to being a proficient shotgun operator.
To that end, I took the advice of the instructors and stuck a piece of hook and loop tape on the side of my shotguns to function as a side saddle mount for the shotgun trays I picked up from Special Operations Equipment the day before. This was an excellent piece of advice, a perfect piece of kit and I will always have this arrangement on my shotgun. With this setup, I can grab a shotgun left patrol ready (magazine full, chamber empty) and outfitted with a side saddle for instantly mobile 6 IN the gun + six ON the gun= 12 rounds of 12 gauge goodness to go lickity split. There is about a zero percent chance of side saddle induced failure or breakage and I don’t have to grab a bag or other rig to get in the fight. This arrangement proved to be the fastest and most reliable reload option I had and this improvement alone was worth the price of admission. See photo below for the single best modification you can make to your combat shotgun:
I used a Mossberg 500 and Remington 870, both configured with SOE single point slings and Surefire fore end lights. I used an SOE 12 gauge micro rig and a duty belt. The SOE micro rig is a shotgun specific chest rig that, set up as I had it, stows thirty rounds of shotgun ammunition oriented and located for reliable and fast reloads. All of my gear and guns ran flawlessly, and I cannot recommend highly enough the SOE micro rig:
We moved to the range by mid-morning. Day one was a gorgeous fall day in Tennessee. At the range, we began with basic pistol drills (DEA dot drill). Most of us had been in Tactical Response courses before, so this was familiar to us. The drills progressed to include the “meltdown” drill (one pistol round, one shotgun round, one pistol round, one shotgun round) to practice transitions from shotgun to pistol. Transitions from primary to secondary are a staple in Tactical Response courses and are, of course, included in Fighting Shotgun.
Other drills ensued, some of which transfer to any long gun and some of which are shotgun specific. We shot from multiple positions and distances. One-handed manipulation drills are always a challenge because no one likes to practice those outside of class. Shooting on the move drills highlighted for me one of the great things about a shotgun: slightly imperfect shot placement can still accomplish the desired result.
The weather on training day two was the inverse of day one. It was raining when we awoke, it was muddy everywhere and it rained off and on all day. I personally like to train in inclement weather because adverse conditions expose weak gear and weak technique, and both of these weaknesses must be addressed. As day two stretched on, more equipment failures occurred, and so did learning what works and what doesn’t.
Day two built upon day one and took us deeper into “shotgun specific” training. We worked with slugs at 50 yards and 100 yards. Ringing the bell with slugs at 100 yards produced wide smiles from all around. We patterned buckshot from bad breath distance to 25 yards. Variances in gun and ammo combinations were noted, and if you are going to grab your shotgun with buckshot when there is a bump in the night, you must know the pattern at the prevailing distances. I had done this before, but it is always interesting to see the single ragged hole that nine .32 caliber pellets make from three yards, as well as the nine holes in the torso that some of the guns produced from even twenty yards. One classmate’s gun was patterning smaller than a dinner plate at 20 yards, others were significantly more open than that.
We worked team drills and this again reinforced the ammunition limitation of the shotgun. I had done team drills in various rifle classes. Team after team found itself “behind the curve” trying to sustain fire, move, cover and reload. Success required a deliberate rate of fire, good communication and slick reloading skills. We wrapped up the day with more slug shooting and a hearty round of “Rolling Thunder” which proved that none of the very smart, well-trained and highly motivated students in this class could follow simple directions or count as high as four.
During every moment of class, the eight students had the benefit of three instructors “walking the line” confirming proper technique, correcting improper technique and improving students’ proficiency. All of our instructors were encouraging, knowledgeable, and personable, on the line and outside of class. One of the great benefits of attending classes at Tactical Response is that you get to immerse with your classmates and instructors.
A few words about gear: Make sure your ammunition works with the gun you are bringing; multiple ammunition-related problems were experienced in this class. Loctite is your friend, and a lifetime supply of it costs less than the sight, screw or doober you won’t be able to find when it flies off your gun in the middle of a drill. I can just about promise you that your brand new shotgun has not a lick of Loctite on it, so your sights and stock screw are at risk. Ask me how I learned that the hard way (thankfully before this class). Good gear works but it costs money; cheap gear breaks and undermines your training. In shotgun land, single point slings and standard stocks are king, all else is the most likely point of failure or frustration. Play dress up before you come to class and verify that you can reach your gun, your magazines, and that you can actually move and shoot with the gear you have assembled. Think about what you are trying to learn and how you will actually use your gear before you decide which gear to buy and bring to class. Check with people who have been there and done that before you buy the crap on the cover of the latest cool guy magazine. Stuff that looks cool in the catalog or in the store might not work or might not be durable, and even if it does work and is durable, do you need it for your intended purpose? If you are going to spend the money to have a gun and train with it, it makes sense to have good quality peripheral gear that is actually relevant to your real situation.
This was my fourth trip to Camden to train with Tactical Response. This course was every bit as good as the others, and I highly recommend it. Go to Camden, stay in the Team Room, train with Tactical Response. You won’t be sorry.