Improving Your Shotgun Skills

When talking about personal defense, one of the common remarks we get from gun owners is, “I’ve been shooting guns since I was a kid, and I don’t need any training.” This is even more common when talking about shotguns. Hunters and rural folks, especially, have, in fact, spent many years shooting shotguns. But hunting with a shotgun is a bit different from fighting with a shotgun.

Just one example will illustrate my point. The bird hunter, to be successful, must focus attention on the flying bird and swing the shotgun out in front of the bird, so the shot load coincides with the bird’s continued flight. In other words, he or she shoots where the bird isn’t but anticipates where the bird will be when the shot arrives. On the other hand, the defensive shooter, whether shooting buckshot or slugs, aims the shotgun at the target similar to a rifle.

The defensive shotgun benefits greatly from some modifications that would be out of place on the hunting piece. Since the fighting shotgun is to be aimed like a rifle, a set of iron sights is a great addition, especially when shooting slugs at any distance. The fighting gun should also have a shorter buttstock than what is found on the sporting piece, especially when various family members use the gun. A carrying sling is convenient for when the defensive shooter needs their hands free. It may also be an excellent idea to add some sort of light and a means of carrying extra ammunition. When properly tricked out, the fighting gun won’t look very much like your favorite quail gun.

Fortunately, most professional defensive schools offer shotgun classes. They will show the student the distances that buckshot is useful and where it would be advisable to switch to a shotgun slug. Also, they will teach the student a quick way to switch between buckshot and slugs. Living in a rural setting, I use the same technique to switch out my buckshot and replace it with a light load of #6 shot when I need to deal with a poisonous snake or another varmint.

Taking those defensive classes will also show the student the importance of testing various shotgun loads in their shotgun. A particular shotgun will pattern some types of ammunition better than it will others. Testing my own gun, I found that a specific brand of 00 buckshot would only put all of the pellets onto a target out to about 25 yards. Switching to another brand of 00 buck would deliver the payload to almost 35 yards. And, shotguns being what they are, your results may be just the opposite.

A shotgun is a devastating fight stopper. And that is especially true when the shooter takes the time to get good training and learn their individual shotgun. In particular, that person learns that they really can miss with a shotgun and learns how to avoid that.

Some have called the shotgun the thinking person’s defense gun, and I think that is an appropriate description. Get busy and enhance your defensive shotgun skills.

A version of this post appeared in Shooting Illustrated.

This entry was posted in Home Defense, Practice, Shotguns, Training and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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