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Weapons

Combat Shotgun Basics

Operating a tactical 12-gauge with rifled slugs allows an officer to engage targets accurately at longer ranges.

November 15, 2011  |  by Leonard M. Breure

In law enforcement, the shotgun is best suited for short-duration, close-range engagements. In recent years, with accessories and action jobs, the shotgun has become a tactical weapon for officers. Let's look at the weapon's value in tactical roles.

First, let's consider several basic attributes of the tactical shotgun. When loaded with shells carrying multiple projectiles, such as 00 buck, it's a short range (under 30 yards) weapon that delivers minimal penetration. When paired with rifled slugs, it becomes effective out to 100 yards and can offer substantial penetration.

A tactical shotgun also needs sights. While a short-barrel shotgun with a simple bead sight has rapidly decreasing accuracy as range increases, a properly sighted weapon with ghost ring sights offers excellent accuracy out to the ammunition's maximum range.

Ghost ring sights have been one of the substantial improvements in the past few years in modifications and accessories used to convert a plain shotgun into an advanced tactical tool.

Other trends, such as pistol-grip-only, offer nothing more than Hollywood hype and can be tactically detrimental. Lastly, there seems to be a misconception that a shotgun is just a "big pistol" and that the tactics and techniques are the same. Not the case. The shotgun is completely different not only in it's design, but also it's employment.

There are essentially two types of tactical shotguns. The classic police "riot" gun is usually a pump action, short-barreled weapon. These are by far the most common and most modified. The second type is the newer semi-automatic weapon. Often incorrectly called an "automatic," these self-loading, repeating firearms are more complicated and therefore more likely to malfunction.

Typically, the biggest advantage a semi-auto offers is slightly reduced recoil. Barrel length is typically 18-28 inches. Short barrels have a slight advantage in close quarters action. Magazine capacity ranges from four rounds to as many as 10 with extended magazines added on. Remington, Mossberg, and Winchester all offer several variations on the basic concept. In my experience, an 18- or 20-inch barreled, pump shotgun with a capacity for six to eight rounds, ghost ring sights, and possibly a tactical flashlight makes the best choice.

When preparing a shotgun for tactical use, safety should be your prime con­sideration. Point the muzzle in a safe direction and engage the safety. If necessary, unload the weapon. Inspect the chamber and magazine. When you're satis­fied that the weapon is empty, perform a basic function check. Make sure the barrel is not obstructed. Cycle the slide several times using the slide release. Make sure the slide release locks the action and that the safety works properly. Then cycle the action several times by pulling the trigger to unlock the slide as would happen when firing.

Now you'll want to load the shotgun. Again, with the muzzle pointed in a safe direction, close the bolt, disengage the safety and pull the trigger. This allows the hammer to fall on an empty chamber. Having done this, you can fill the magazine to capacity with appropriate ammunition. If you might need to switch from one type of ammunition to another, load one less round in the magazine than normal. This allows you to switch rounds by placing a shell in the magazine and cycling the slide using the slide release.

You can then quickly change from buck (loaded for close range engagements) to a slug (for longer distances) should the need arise. With the hammer down on an empty chamber, the shotgun can then be secured for later use or carried safely.

Should the need arise that you must employ your shotgun quickly; it can be ready with little effort on your part. Remember, it's not always necessary to immediately cycle a round into the chamber. Keep in mind that with the hammer down on an empty chamber, you can do so in a fraction of a second with­out having to locate the slide release (usually found forward of or alongside the trigger group). If it should be necessary to fire, you can just cycle the slide and your weapon is ready.

After firing your first shot, immediately release the trigger and cycle the slide fully. In some guns, cycling the slide without releasing the trigger will allow the next round to fire without warning when the bolt returns to battery. Failure to fully cycle the slide will allow a fresh round out of the magazine without ejecting the spent round. When the bolt is brought forward, a jam often requires the gun to be disassembled to correct the issue.

Providing that you have extra rounds with you, you can effectively reload your shotgun without sac­rificing instant firepower. If you maintain your grip on the stock with your strong hand, additional ammo can be fed into the magazine with the weak hand. You should always reload what you shoot as soon as practical. If you fire two rounds, then reload two rounds.

If you empty your shotgun, you can quickly reload one round by placing it directly into the ejection port. Cup the round in you left hand and roll it into the ejection port. Then immediately push the slide fully forward chambering that one round. Now you at least have one round to depend yourself with while you reload the magazine.

Use the following procedure, when the shotgun has been fired or a round has been chambered and the weapon needs to be returned to a safe condition. First, engage the safety. Then slowly pull back the bolt, exposing the chambered round so it can be removed from the chamber without letting a round out of the magazine. At this point, the remaining rounds can be taken from the magazine by depressing the shell stop on the side of the loading port. The weapon can then be secured or returned to readiness for continued use.

Tags: Shotguns, Firearms Skills


Comments (7)

Displaying 1 - 7 of 7

Frank @ 11/24/2011 8:12 AM

Shotguns are the best defense weapon. I have three shotguns my favorite is my Remington 870 with a duckbill muzzle. This type weapon was a big hit in Nam spreads buckshot horizontally.

Jim @ 11/24/2011 8:19 AM

That was a decent article I guess. The title was Combat Shotgun Basics and that's certainly what it was, the basics. I guess I can't fault the author for that although I really didn't see much in the article that I didn't know by the time I came out of the academy.

One thing did confuse me in the writing however. On the first page the author mentions "If you might need to switch from one type of ammunition to another, load one less round in the magazine than normal. This allows you to switch rounds by placing a shell in the magazine and cycling the slide using the slide release", implying that this is an acceptable tactic. In the second to last paragraph however, he states that this should be avoided since it will be hard to accomplish in a life and death situation. I happen to agree with the second statement. But I'm confused as to what the author thinks. If he advocates it, advocate it, if he doesn't, don't.

Robert Shaffer - Ex LA Co @ 11/25/2011 12:35 PM

Not a bad article. Used to use the Ithaca pump with LA County but in my experience would give it a range up to 50 yards with 0 or 00 buck.

Martin Sonnenfeld @ 11/26/2011 10:01 AM

Because all LE training is extremely concerned with public safety---as it should be---very few trainers refuse to recognize that the shotgun can be effective at distances beyond 20-30 yards because not all of the pellets hit the target which is usually defined as the human outline. In rural areas where there is nothing behind the target besides grass and trees, errant pellets will not preclude me from using the shotgun even if only a few of the pellets hit the target. If all the pellets had to hit a goose to kill a goose, no one would ever take one home.

Alan @ 5/15/2014 10:57 AM

Regarding self-loading shotgun versus pump-action shotgun: a well-trained shotgunner will have no problem, but how many "home defense shotgunners" are well-trained? Shooter-induced malfunctions with the pump shotgun are common on police ranges. The self-loading shotgun is less sensitive to shooter-induced malfunctions. Which is more likely to cause a malfunction: administrative cleaning under stress-free conditions or cycling an unfamiliar action under life-or-death stress?
It's a matter of training. Anybody want to take up the banner of the "simple to use" spear? No moving parts!

Alan @ 5/15/2014 11:03 AM

Where'd you get the "Most deadly force encounters occur at "across the room" distances. And time is one of the bigger issues. Most encounters last 2-3 seconds." If that is from the FBI report on law enforcement officer line of duty deaths, it doesn't really apply to home defense--some of those dead cops were killed with their sidearm still in their holster. How long does a home invasion last? How many intruders?

DaleC @ 6/24/2014 11:59 PM

While I understand the arguments for the pump in the case of a malfunction, here is my argument for the semi-auto. I have fired, literally, thousands of rounds through my Remington 1100 hunting gun, mostly low powered #8/#9 field loads, but a good bit of high-brass #7 and various buckshot loads with not a single malfunction of any kind. I have run hundreds of rounds of higher powered defensive loads through my 1100 Tactical gun without a single malfunction of any kind.

In the, highly unlikely, event that my 1100 misfeeds/misfires/etc, I will drop it and use my 1911. Simple. Given my past experience, I trust the 1100 to cycle more than I trust ME to cycle my Mossberg.

I find it curious that I have never heard anyone apply the same "easy to clear a jam" logic to an AR/Ak that they do to a pump shotgun.

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