Few items in the police arsenal are asked to wear as many hats as the duty shotgun. This ubiquitous tool is being increasingly relied upon to perform a wide range of roles-many never imagined even 20 years ago.
The Remington 870, Mossberg, and a handful of other brands remain the mainstay of police duty shotguns. Aside from a series of semi-exotic models with ultra-short barrels and/or a host of specialty sights and accessories, the basic pump gun remains king on patrol. And for good reasons.
The solid dependability of the proven pump design has always been an integral part of the role the shotgun has played for law enforcement. Virtually "cop-proof" from the get-go, a recruit can be trained to use a pump-action shotgun quickly and easily. The effective firepower possible is both a confidence booster when the chips are down and a real-world equalizer when push comes to shove.
From the double barrel Greener hammer-gun of the Old West, to today's plastic and alloy models, a shotgun in the hands of an American lawman is virtually a part of the uniform, much as a World War II G.I. needs a Garand in his hands to complete the picture.
But this same familiarity can often breed a sense of complacency and unless training is kept rigorous, carefully honed skills can be easily lost. And just as importantly, new tools to augment the scattergun may pass by un-noticed by the disinterested trainer or officer.
A Drawer of Goodies
Many officers lavish a great deal of care and attention on their duty handguns. The thoughtful purchasing of personal weapons, attention to practice, maintenance, and upgrades are common when it comes to a duty pistol.
Yet the shotgun, often an "issued" piece of equipment, suffers the fate of neglect and even abuse. The "Hey, it's not mine" syndrome can be seen in the battered stocks, worn metalwork, and binding actions of all-too many shotguns in patrol car racks. I've personally pulled trash-and worse-from the barrels of shotguns mounted in "pool" cars during my own career. Incredible? You know better than to ask that. Just think back to your own experiences.
With the almost unbelievable range of products, accessories and tools to help keep a duty scattergun running smoothly, any officer would be remiss not to take advantage of them. Some simple ideas, in the form of innovative products, can turn that almost invisible daily passenger in your patrol car into a new, powerful partner.
The options available are legion. From precision sighting systems for slugs and rifled-barrel combinations, to cleaning tools, stocks, chokes, specialty ammunition, lighting devices, racks, and safety devices, the options are almost limitless and can turn that old, blue-worn battle horse into a thoroughbred with little effort or investment.
Rather than being a comprehensive "round-up" of accessories for duty shotguns, we'll take a look at some important categories and sample some ideas of what can be expected. As in anything having to do with officer safety, before a significant piece of equipment is adopted it should meet stringent standards. Cleaning equipment is one thing-complicated electronic sights, mounting gear, or loading accessories are very definitely another.
The commonly encountered brass front bead is becoming the sure sign of the "old school" on a duty shotgun. Many agencies are equipping their shotguns with aperture sights, low power optics, or the newest generation of fiber-optic sighting systems.
Mossberg's ghost ring is typical of the genre and is available on most of its models. Wilson Combat's Scattergun Technologies Division offers the TRAK-LOCK ghost ring sight and it can be retrofitted by Wilson's to virtually any police shotgun.
Express Sight Systems (formerly AO Sight Systems) offers the innovative 7/24 Pro Express Sights for Remington sighted shotguns and the "Big Dot Tritium" front sights for any shotgun. The Express Sights offer a shallow "V" rear that the big tritium dot front sight simply nestles into. Easy to see and extremely fast, the Express Sight concept is quickly catching on.
HiViz has introduced the "Tacsight," designed for absolute durability in extreme conditions (like bouncing around in a patrol car and being abused by cops). HiViz uses a unique "LitePipe" to offer an illuminated sight picture using concentrated natural light. The fiber optic sight is rugged and comes encased in a machined aluminum mount, complete with two mounting screws for police applications.
The AimPoint CompML2 is a Rolls Royce of aiming devices. This mil-spec unit uses an illuminated dot and can be mounted on short, tactical shotguns or the new breed of precision, rifled-barreled shotguns. This new breed of shotgun, loaded with high performance saboted-slugs, can be used as a close-range counter-sniper rifle and is superb at penetrating to reach a barricaded suspect.
The ability to deliver the slug with precision using an electronic sight has obvious advantages, especially in low light situations.
Ditto for Leupold's line of quality optics. Many of its compact scopes can do double-duty on a police shotgun. The VX2 1-4x20 is a variable power model, specifically intended for shotgun applications. When coupled with Leupold's Quick Release mounts, an officer equipped with a precision shotgun can quickly turn it back into a fast-acting, close-quarters weapon in the blink of an eye.
Along with precision sighting devices, the ability to quickly and easily align sights and scopes is important. The Sight Lines Lens from Stoney Point is a simple device that quickly clamps onto a rifle or shotgun, allowing the user to verify alignment and diagnose sighting-in problems.
The Gun Vise from Tipton Gun Cleaning Supplies is an ideal "third hand" when working on a duty shotgun. Virtually indestructible, the tabletop unit holds a long gun securely while you clean, adjust, or mount sights. The padded cradle and jaws protect the gun's finish and the molded-in compartments hold solvents, oils, and small parts. These are worth their weight in gold to anyone who has ever tried cleaning patrol shotguns on the trunk of a unit parked in the lot.
Good cleaning gear is essential and too many agencies allow their gear to deteriorate into an old tackle box crammed with worn-out brushes and dirty patches. A particular problem spot, often overlooked-mostly due to poor cleaning equipment-is the shotgun chamber. This important area is the "home port" for the round and if all is not correct there, malfunctions can, and do, occur.
Kleen Bore's ChamberMate Shotgun Cleaning Tool solves the problem. The heavy-duty phosphor bronze brush with tapered tip is specifically designed for cleaning powder fouling and plastic residue from the chamber area. This is a rugged tool with a stout aluminum rod that should be a part of every cleaning routine.
The Tetra Gun lineup of cleaning products offers solutions for any cleaning problem. Tetra's proven solvents, oils, and preservatives are military tough and stay put in the most extreme conditions. The handy spray "Action Blaster" solvent gets the crud out of the nooks and crannies and makes a quick clean-up easy, often with no need for a detail-strip of the weapon.
Tetra's "touch-up blue" allows an armorer to keep his department's guns in top cosmetic shape, which helps to instill a sense of pride-encouraging troops to care for the equipment. If the guns look good, officers will be more inclined to take care of them. If they are beat-up and worn...well, you get the idea.
You've got to have a place to put 'em and Big Sky racks has the answers. A common sight in patrol cars, boats, planes, and virtually anywhere you need to store a long gun, Big Sky can keep your shotgun secure until you need it. A quality rack helps to keep the gun stable and protects it from many of the daily knocks and bumps that can break sights and generally abuse a duty shotgun. Plus, with today's liability concerns, a secure shotgun just makes good sense.
Light 'Em Up
A light on a duty gun is almost an integral part of the plan. With today's high-intensity lights and lithium or rechargeable batteries, every street cop can be equipped to do battle in the dark.
SureFire's line of maximum performance lights has become legendary in police circles and its shotgun light is a common sight on SWAT and duty shotguns around the world. Tough and dependable, it allows two hands to be kept on the long gun, while applying the light as needed with the pressure switch on the forend. This kind of technology should be mandatory on any police shotgun. Period.
With the explosion of interest in less-lethal applications, many agencies are installing shotguns into patrol cars, pre-loaded with less-lethal rounds. Most are distinctively marked somehow. One of the easiest ways is with a brightly colored stock.
Ram-Line offers a complete lineup of colors and styles. From bright yellow to international orange (and a range of colors in between), the stocks are easy to install and assist in making the introduction of a less-lethal shotgun into a tactical situation a much safer proposition. They are rugged, impervious to solvents, and withstand the daily abuse of patrol work with aplomb. Cleanup is with soap and water or other cleaner.
Knoxx Industries LLC offers two stocks with interesting features. Its CompStock HardSleeve and COPstock Folder both help to reduce felt recoil by as much as one half. Great for today's smaller-statured officers.
The COPstock Folder offers a pistol grip and folding stock convenience coupled with that significant recoil-reducing feature. Both features may be important in tactical situations.
The shotgun ammo list is almost endless and starts with basic buckshot, ending up with exotic explosive rounds, ceramic breaching rounds, gas, less-lethal, reduced recoil buck and slug, rubber bullets, and a host of other varieties. This assortment is one of the primary reasons that shotguns remain a staple in the field, even when faced with the wave of rifles being issued or approved for duty use.
From rifle-like precision with a single projectile to delivering a deadly load of buckshot; from less-lethal to gas; or even blowing doors off their hinges, the police shotgun is as versatile as the ammo you feed it.
Another interesting innovation from Knoxx Industries is the Sidewinder Conversion Kit. This allows a pump shotgun (depending upon the model) to be converted to hold either a 10-round drum magazine or a six-round box magazine. This would allow almost instant selection of ammunition type, depending upon the situation at hand. Go from less-lethal to slug in the time it takes to switch magazines.
While the big makers offer police shotguns (like the Benelli M4; Remington 870, 11-87; Mossberg 500 series) sometimes a custom unit or a rebuild of existing guns is appropriate.
There are many custom makers and Wilson Combat's Scattergun Technologies Division can accommodate any need. Scattergun's Standard Model, #SSTD-P, is typical of its offerings and can give a police agency a "turn-key" shotgun, with virtually every feature and accessory needed with no fuss and muss. Scattergun will also rebuild your existing guns and turn them into shotguns that will be the envy of all who see them.
Take your time and re-think that old battle-worn relic in the trunk. A new stock, sights, specialty ammunition, and a tune-up can put real life back into that war-horse and make it as timely as that fancy new patrol car it rides in.
Roy Huntington is the former editor of POLICE and the current editor of American Handgunner magazine.
For More Information
Big Sky Racks
Express Sight Systems
Knoxx Industries LLC
Tipton Gun Cleaning Supplies