View Full Version : Some HD shotgun observations....

Dave McC
November 21, 1999, 09:42 PM
During my cybervoyages I've hit lots of BBs and sites about HD and shotguns. There's an amazing amount of misinformation, myths and untruths out there, and I'd like to address these to help folks out and make the world a little safer.

My qualifications include 10 years of teaching part time for the Md Dept of Public Safety. I instructed hundreds of Correctional Officers to shoot, including with shotguns.

You don't have to aim a shotgun.

Only if you don't care if you hit or not, and why shoot at all if that's the case? At 15 feet, the pattern is smaller than a shirt pocket.Tied into this one is the myth that hip shooting can be effective. Maybe, but after shooting hundreds of rounds from the hip(formerly part of the qualification course) I'm using the sights and shooting from the shoulder at anything more than contact range.


A shotgun can be used by anyone effectively.

The only people I saw becoming more than barely proficient(load,fire,etc) were those that liked shotgun and shot recreationally.
A shotgun will NOT substitute for expertise.

A HD shotgun NEEDS lots of accessories and gunsmithing.

Basically, anyone who is proficient only needs an ammo capacity of at least 2 shots and reliability. All the rest of the bells and whistles are nice, but not as crucial as some folks,including dealers and makers, would have you believe.

The best accessory for anyone is lots of ammo. Technology CANNOT substitute for expertise either.And, this melds into the mag extension question....

Extended mags may or may not be a good thing from the capacity standpoint, But, face it, if 4 or 5 rounds of shotgun ammo don't control a situation, probably 6 or 7 won't either. In those scenarios,backup's what is needed, not a deeper ammo stash.

However, there are a coupla advantages to mag extensions besides more beans in the wheel.The extra weight cuts felt recoil,and slugs oft group very much tighter when the bbl is clamped to an extension. In effect, it stiffens the bbl.

A pistol grip instead of a regular stock aids effectiveness.

BULL! We had to train with folders for a while and it was harder for most folks to qualify with the PG setup. And, until we grow hinges in our forearms, it doesn't make the piece more handy.If you're auditioning for Miami Vice II, get a pistol grip. If you want to keep on living, use a full stock. BTW, full stocks with pistol grips seem OK, but offer no advantage I can see.


You need 00 to be effective...

Or 000, or #4 buck, or whatever.

At typical HD ranges, one could load the shells with breath mints and they'd still be lethal. Find what works for you in your use environment and stay with it. A HD pump shotgun can be mix loaded if desired with say, two duck loads up first, then slugs or 00,depending on circumstance.

And, depending on a shotgun/ammo combo and not testing the pattern is kinda useless.

Finally, a shotgun worked by a cool and experienced shooter is perhaps the best tool for HD inside of 25 yards. Shoot safely and often.

Hope this helps, sing out if there's questions, disagreements, or anything else...

Al Thompson
November 21, 1999, 10:41 PM
Agree completely. Only caveat I would add is that number 4's are more effective than 6's or 8's in a HD environment.

Seems the afteraction of one of our prison riots indicated that lighter loads required you to be *really* close. 4s were chosen due to the increased penetration.

I really like the "breath mints" line and am going to add it to my vocabulary.

What's your opinion on the "1 inch per yard" idea? Refers to the anticipated shot charge spread.


Dave McC
November 22, 1999, 06:49 AM
Thanks, Giz. I've heard of that one inch per yard rule for a few decades, but never tested it out. Some variables, like choke, forcing cone length, pellet size, roundness, wad, velocity,etc, kinda make the "Rule" pretty elastic.

And, for HD I'm no fan of large pattern spread. I'd prefer all the pellets striking in a .80 caliber to 5 inch pattern, center mass. Pellets outside the pattern pose a threat to the wrong people.

I did some testing a while back with duty ammo and weapons. The ammo was standard Winchester 00 2 3/4" loads, and the weapons were 870s with 18" IC choke bbls. Targets were standard FBI silohuettes. Around 40 rounds were fired, half at 15 and half at 25 yards. At 25 yards, no target showed all 9 pellets in the vitals.

A brief check later with my personal 870, zero choke, lengthened forcing cone, gave 2 targets out of five with all pellets in the vitals. I heartily recommend having the forcing cone done.

November 22, 1999, 09:41 AM
Dave McC,

Thanks for all your wisdom. I'm still researching the topic (i.e. trying to find a range that will let me rent/shoot buckshot), but your information has been very helpful to separate the crap from the reality.

Breath mints!

I love it.


Maybe I should load the first shell with PopRocks. Oy, they sting like mad I'll say that...



November 22, 1999, 09:49 AM
Mr. McC

What's the typical cost for having a forcing cone lengthened on an 870 barrel? I have a couple 870's including a new HD model.


Dave McC
November 22, 1999, 01:36 PM
My guess for the cost of doing the forcing cone is around $50,Expresso. Or, if you're handy, Brownell's sells the tool. Since you've multiple 870s(as I do), it may be better to buy the tool.Since I haven't done Daughter's 20 ga combo, I've two bbls to do on that one so I might get the 20 ga tool.

Jon, maybe Poprocks are the more modern version of rock salt loaded shells. A childhood foray into crime taught me the effect of same.

November 22, 1999, 02:57 PM
Your observations were pretty much accurate. I do think that Law Enforcement agents could benefit the most from mag extensions and weapons lights (sure-fires). Since most agencies deploy one man cars, it would not hurt anyone to add a few more rounds in the shotgun magazine. If the officer goes to a call which turns ugly, it would be kind of nice to have all those rounds available.

Now, there are some stupid accesories, like forward and aft pistol grips. I have even seen a heat guard, who the hell needs a heat guard on a shotgun? But, I would recommend a sturdy weapons light any day for anyone who owns a shotgun for HD. Since most attacks occur a night, it would be kind of nice to have a light on the weapon instead wrestling with a mag-light in your weak hand. Have you ever tried to fire a pump action shotgun one handed? It isn't cool...

This topic did remind me of a saying that I heard a long time ago, "It is better to have and not need than to need and not have".

The point is, do you really know what your going up against in the middle of the night? I do think that you could easily go overkill with the accessories and turn out a awkward handling gun.

Then again, I remind myself of the old saying, "Keep it simple, stupid".

Dave McC
November 22, 1999, 08:23 PM
Mixed feelings about mounted lights for HD. Right now,w/o a light, my 870 runs over 9 lbs, and while it handles fine for me, I doubt most folks could wield it satisfactorily.

Once upon a time, I bought an adapter for a Mini Maglite and stuck it on. It did not help balance or handiness at all.

OTOH, target ID is crucial....

Al Thompson
November 22, 1999, 10:56 PM
I really like the light on the gun concept. I've had two and do not plan to be without. Best place I've used it was/is for outdoor varmits. The SureFire forend kits are very expensive, but very nice.

As far as the Inch per Yard rule, I've shot enough to be wary of it - just wondered if your experiance coincided with mine. Some of the stranger things I've witnessed was a buddy's 870 putting 8 out of 9 OO pellets on a E Type silouhette at 50 (!!!) yards, each time for 5 shots. Never duplicated that again.

My experiance is that 25 yards is about it for consistant results from OO or larger buckshot.

I had a SGT 870 that had the modified choke sleeve in it. It was effective at 50 yards with #1 or #4 buck. (paterning anyway) Never could get all of the pellets on the target though. Usually about 14 out of 16 for the #1 loads.

My current two 12 guages are very adequate in the house. The outside problem is handled by my 12 guage with the SureFire light in the forearm and a magazine full of #4 buck.


Bennett Richards
November 23, 1999, 12:09 AM
I REALLY like the SureFire lite foregrip with the Z-11 hand loop attached. Aids in retention and not as likely to get snagged as a sling.....

Dave McC
November 23, 1999, 08:41 AM
To each his own,Giz. Re #4 buck at 50 yards, I'm not sure each pellet has sufficient retained energy,but I admit I haven't crunched the numbers. Doing so makes my head hurt(G)...

Agreed on 25 yards, except in very unusual cases.Some of the guys that do semipro turkey shoots may have some input about chokes and boring that may apply.

Shotguns can sure come up with some headscratchers. One year at the range for the hunter's sight in day, I saw one gent with a Model 97 16 ga,full choke, put three slugs into a cloverleaf at 100 yards,then do it again when someone said it must have been a fluke.Bead sight,no rib. He was the grandson or G grandson of the original owner, and said it has taken a trainload of meat over the years. Go figure!

And slings should not be on a HD weapon, just something to get in the way at a terribly wrong time. The HD 870 here at Casa McC has none, the 870 dedicated to deer hunting does.

Bennett, never had a problem with retention except with the original corncob forearm on the oldest 870 here,ca 1956. That forearm is now on the 870 set up for birds and clays, where a little slip is not crucial. But, if it works for you, I see no downside from here.

Al Thompson
November 23, 1999, 11:39 AM
Hi David,

I think #4 is a bit light for people but it works very well on coyotes and other small predators. My favorite blend of size and pellet count is #1 buck.

You mention older guns - I have a Ithaca M37 with the 4 round magazine and a 20 inch barrel. Gun came from the factory with a Full choke barrel. Interesting idea - I'm surprised it hasn't seen more execution.

And your dead on the money as far as the turkey guys are concerned. Very different ball game and some of the results have to be seen to be believed. Jim Carmichael did and interesting write up on that a few years back.


November 23, 1999, 04:50 PM
Very well said Dave.

damn near anything else iI could say I've already said in AR vs. shotgun.

And BTW I'm not a cop, not a grunt, not a jack booted stormtrooper or a private eye. I'm just a guy who hunts a lot and likes to bust clays and uses a remmington 870 as a back-up gun for elk.

Funny thing though.. you all must have some DAMN long hallways to be worried about a 25 yard HD shot. ;)


Dave McC
November 24, 1999, 07:48 AM
The 37 is one great design, too, Giz, another J B Browning masterpiece. Amazing, just how many of his ideas are still in production, 70 some years following his demise.

IMO, a tactical shotgun with a full choke is not a bad idea. One 870 here takes a modified tube when it's not deer season. Then, the rifled tube goes in.

And it's not 25 yard long halls, it's the typical maximum range, the area in which the shotgun really shines.

Last FBI stats I saw, average range in a shotgun confrontation was more like 7 feet.

November 28, 1999, 01:10 AM
Dave - so, in your opinion, at 10-12 feet, would #7-8 birdshot be effective for HD in a 12ga IC choke against a BG wearing shirt and light jacket? South Georgia here, not much heavy winter clothing out there.

November 28, 1999, 04:00 AM
Pete I agree, I know this is for HD but it can turn into real combat and all the vets that used shotguns talk of always loading them and keeping them full during combat.

BTW if you use benelli for defence they eat up the ammo so damn fast you need all you can get, after about 2 seconds your empty.
Vang has built guns pattering all 00buck pellets on man sized out to 50+ yards over and over, you just have to find the load your barrel likes best.

I hear a lot of talk over shot size, will this be adequate or that or this one? Just use 000BUCK or slugs and you know it will take anyone down provided you do your part and put the lead on the BG, but then again,

If you are recoil sensitive, know that a friend of mine shot a rock salt load completly through a 3/4" sheet of plywood at about 7 feet away, the mints are no joke, I like certs best for defence as it does the job and leaves house smelling nice.heheeh

Dave McC
November 28, 1999, 07:07 AM
Clogbert, yes. At 10-12 feet, the load will hit like a solid bullet around .80 inch in doameter, then fragment. And, penetration through walls and hurting a non combatant is less likely. Note the "LESS". Always be sure of your backstop.

Not thought about much, but there may be a place for the ammo makers here they're not filling at present. Postulate a HD shotgun load for tight places and short range. Let's drop the payload to say, 5/8 oz for starters. This will help the folks that are recoil shy.

Make it steel shot,to reduce overpenetration, say, in BB size, and cut the powder to keep the velocity around a nominal 1200 FPS. Use one of the old spreader wads to optimize the spread.Less powder means one might keep some hearing after an incident.

Howzat sound, folks?

Ober, if you've got your HD shotgun loaded with slugs, I hope you live in a rural area with no close neighbors, or failing that, no likeable ones.

November 28, 1999, 06:47 PM
Gee, unless you are a LEO or military, what's wrong with whatever shotgun you already have, and what ever shells you keep around for any other purpose. Unless a person lives in a REALLY big house, I would think any shotgun round would do the job at 20 or 30 feet. Unless you are looking for an excuse to buy another gun, (which I always am) why does a person need a hi cap, black parkerized, flashlight holding, ghost ring sited, side saddle carrying weapon for HD? Now if you want a gun like that, I say go for it. (I have a couple myself)

Good shootin to ya

Big Bunny
November 28, 1999, 08:28 PM
Dave.. I have found that a pistol grip on a 20" pump aids comfort and pointibility. Mini-maglites are bad news due to element damage after one shot...ie it goes out !
US3=BR3 size, a bit heavy for HD. Try 1oz trapload in BR7 or 8 size out of a 20" barrel cylinder choke for first two shots, then Br4s and THEN buck and slug. Good idea ?

***Big Bunny***

Dave McC
November 29, 1999, 04:53 AM
Plateshooter, any shotgun with an ammo capacity of at least two shots is one great HD weapon for a qualified shooter,regardless of load,with caveats. One acquaintance had an old LC Smith SXS 16 ga in the closet with bbls lopped off at around 20 inches. I regard him as well prepared.

The tweaked stuff, like I have several of, is overdoing it. However, I spent 20 years of my life working in prisons, where mild paranoia was a very good mindset. So, Casa McC is set up to repel boarders, as it were.

Bunny, we used folding stocks w/ pistol grips for years and the troops had trouble qualifying with them. Also, no advantage in handling that I can see unless one develops a hinge in his forearm. After shooting hundreds of rounds from the hip, any shotgun of mine is A, gonna have a shoulder stock on it, B, be fired from the shoulder at more than contact range, and C,will be used with sights.

Try running a fast traverse course with and w/o a shoulder stock,check scores and time. Bet you'd yank that PG off in a heartbeat!

As for ammo, I'm heard pros and cons about mix loading. And, have done so myself. I'm not enthused about folks using slugs for HD, except in rural areas, VERY rural areas. Even so, the side saddle in my primary holds two Brennekes, along with 00. Justin Case...

November 29, 1999, 06:46 AM
Dave McC
I hate to even drive by a jail or prison, I couldn't imagine working in one for 20 years. I can see why you would have a different view than those of us who haven't been so exposed to that side of society. Most of my shotguns are for the plate games, and over the years, I have found a ported, 26" barreled semi auto with trap loads is the fastest for me. The gun shoots very softly, and the recovery time for the next shot is minimal. It probably is a bit long for running around the house with. I guess everything is a compromise eh?

Good shootin to ya

Dave McC
November 29, 1999, 07:30 AM
Plateshooter, your choice of weapons sounds effective to me, if not QUITE what I prefer.

As for prisons, they're dirty, dangerous, corrupt and soul killing. Not all the criminals are in cells, some were my bosses and co workers.

While a lifelong hunter and combat vet, the prison experience is what made me into a HD and PD advocate. Life's too darn short to have it shortened further by some one who regards other people as merely tools, or recreation....

November 29, 1999, 01:40 PM
So which load is more effective, Certs or Tic-Tacs? Could you subsitute a role of breath mints for a slug?

Since Mento's are sort of squishy, could they be considered non-lethal? I know those dumbass Mento commercials are enough to make you kill yourself!

Dave McC
November 29, 1999, 07:52 PM
Since each shotgun is a law unto itself, patterning is mandatory, Pete....

Whew, got outa that one(G)....

Big Bunny
November 29, 1999, 08:27 PM
No Dave, I meant a pistol-grip on a fullstock 12GA- not a folder with a pistol grip - these I hate.

I do usually fire my pistol-gripped 12GA FULLSTOCK shottie from the shoulder, I find it very quick and especially with HV homeloaded, 800X powered 1,400fps 1oz slugs it reduces the felt recoil substantially.

Bunnies and crows have fallen to the 20" cyl bore at close, often very close, ranges.

I assure you Dave, all my shooting ...(and even comments on the FL)...is from the shoulder !!

***Big Bunny***

Big Bunny
November 29, 1999, 08:36 PM
Addendum...Dave your hated pistol-grip is actually an inseparable part of my wooden 12ga stock and cannot be taken off...except by the the use of a wood saw!

Perhaps you can fantasise over that sometime in your quieter moments...

Dave McC
November 30, 1999, 07:20 AM
Actually, in my quieter moments I'd rather fantasize about Shania Twain, or being Showermeister for the Swedish Bikini Team, Bunny.

As for PGs on full stocks, the shooting I've done with them has shown no clear cut advantage either way.If it works for you...

Big Bunny
November 30, 1999, 05:48 PM
Yes, Dave it does, but only for a specific short barrelled pumpie for a specific purpose of ultra-short range,slug and car-gun.
I had a chat with a member of the local TRTeam(police) and he agreed with me over PG(fixed) 12GA stocks for their house-clearing work, but said they have now to restock theirs to standard, as senior police decree it looks too "fierce and agressive" on TV !

Politically Correct rules OK!

So we will agree to differ, thats what makes a forum like FL so different and enjoyable.

(Incidentially my nom-de-plume comes from OZ slang, a "bunny" is one who gets the blame or 'carrys the can' for someone else(mug, dupe, fool). Like the infamous Australian Federal "buy-back" firearms confiscations we as firearms owners have had after the Tas Pt Arthur Massacre(35 tourists dead).

Self flagellation?
You guessed it, Dave, I had all my firearms registered and legal, I trusted the/our Governments and suffered badly.......... Never again....)

***Big Bunny***

Dave McC
December 1, 1999, 06:00 AM
Sorry to hear that, BB. I quit trusting my govt in South East Asia,1970.

As for police weapons looking too nasty. I just don''t see it.But then, I'm no politician,thank God....

Dave McC
January 30, 2000, 02:24 PM
Bringing this back up for the new folks....

February 4, 2000, 01:25 AM
Good to see this thread, Dave McC. I had a discussion over load selection with a know-it-all who kept saying he was an LEO. Turns out the guy's been on the job about six months. Kept insisting that the ONLY effective load for the 12 gauge scattergun was OO buck or larger, As if there was some magical line there. OO buck--great. O buck--just won't cut it. I finally figured out I was wasting my time since all he could do was repeat what he'd been told. Personally, I like #1 buck in a standard, unplated 16 pellet load for my Benelli. I figure that's the best compromise, not to mention my neighbors are some distance away should pellets go through a window and down the street.

February 4, 2000, 02:23 AM
Guys, you didn't mention the one breath mint that makes the most sense, Lifesavers! Now you just have to decide which flavor.
How about opinions on ammo brands? Are most good quality so you only have to worry about pattern? Or are there some poor quality it's best to just avoid? I'm looking at Federal Tactical, S&B, Win. I'm new to shotguns and am trying to get up to speed using everyone's experience. Thanks, T

Dave McC
February 4, 2000, 07:16 AM
Thanks, guys.

As for ammo, I know of no US made bad stuff, as far as reliability goes. Each shotgun is a law unto itself as to what works best in it for patterning. Take two shotguns with consecutive serial numbers off the assembly line and test them, chances are each one "Likes" a different load.

While lower recoil loads like trap loads are a valuable part of any training session, no session's complete w/o shooting some duty loads,whatever they are. Rarely, there's an incompatability that should be discovered in practice and rectified, not in the midst of an AS scenario.

I use 00,simply because it was my duty load, its effectiveness is legendary and there's a lot of it still laying around the Casa. However, the first instructor school I was sent to was manned by some FBI types, and they did fine work in the demos with #4 buck,fine work indeed.

We tested some #1,for possible use in the towers,and liked it for the slightly thicker pattern,but bureaucratic inertia triumphed and the system stuck to 00.

And, there's something to be said for the old mix loading. In a pump, that means the first one or two up are smaller pellets, like #4-8 shot, with some heavier loads behind for better penetration through say, your refrigerator. There's both pros and cons, so think it over.

Pros, lesser penetration of walls and a lower chance of injury to a non combatant, family member,neighbor,etc.Lower risk of serious damage from a ricochet,too. This last is mayhap more theoretical than real, I've heard of few ricochet injuries in real AS scenarios.

Cons,less effectiveness at longer ranges, if the scenario moves outside, or you live in one BIG house.Also, there's skip shooting techniques that work best with buck, tho they tend to be special case apps.