Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. This applies to defensive pistols, rifles, and shotguns. For today, let’s discuss shotguns. It is tempting to add the latest gadget to any platform. The question that the owner must ask is, “how will this help me?” and “is this necessary?” Much of what is available is truly fluff. You may believe your shotgun looks cooler but in fact it is detrimental to the functional operation.
Let’s start with the stock. A pistol grip stock is out! Take it off. Unless you have a legitimate reason to try to conceal a shotgun, get rid of it. They are good for bank robbers and shark fisherman: at that, a real stock would be more effective for the fisherman. They are not accurate and a shotgun has too much recoil to control the gun. Plus it hurts your hand! A full size stock allows you to point and aim if needed quickly and take a follow-up shot if required. Remember, you are accountable for every pellet that leaves your gun. We do prefer a shorter length of pull on a defensive shotgun that your clay gun for compactness and to run it more like a rifle. A pistol grip on a stock or a Magpul SGA stock is very practical. The combo is very controlled for defensive use or for turkey hunting as we use our shotty more like a rifle.
Collapsible stock require their own paragraph. They might look cool but bluntly, they suck. They absorb no recoil. They do not align your eye properly with the rib or rail and you typically need to lift your head to see a proper sight picture. Bottom line-they hurt! If you don’t want to take our word, go try one and shoot a box of 25 rounds of 00 buckshot. Be sure to post a picture of your bruised cheek and face on our Instagram account after!
Optics and sights are a question that often comes up. Your home defense shot gun does not need them unless you have a place in your home that is longer that 20 or so yards. Most people do not have such a space. Somewhere over 20 yards a slug might be preferred over buckshot and as such a small red dot would be handy. Home defense distance requires nothing more than a bead or two on your rib. An optic is just one more thing that will snag or get knocked out of zero. Ideally you are using the shotgun defensively with both eyes open and using a form of instinctual shooting. Beads are meant for this style. If you prefer no sight, try a fiber optic pipe on your gun. This item will be sure to break off on a door jamb or at some other inopportune moment. If you like being punched in the cheek (see above note on stocks) try a high mounted ghost ring set or a high mounted optic. This style will force your cheek off the stock and it will feel like a left cross from Mike Tyson. The only enhanced set of sights we have found to be an upgrade and practical is a set from XS Sights. They are made of steel with a tritium insert. If you have a rail on your receiver it is awesome paired with a small Ghost ring. They all mount low enough to ensure you keep your head down on the stock!
Extended choke tubes are an item that will just make your gun longer. You don’t need your XXX Full turkey tube or the latest shark tooth door breacher from hell. Unless you are breeching doors or actually know how to do so, a fixed cylinder or a flush fit choke is more than fine!
Slings can get caught on door knobs etc if you are not wearing them correctly. I keep a sling next to my gun and can install it in a spilt second if desired. If I’m in my boxers checking out a strange noise at night I do not want a sling. If you know how to use one to your advantage, it can be handy if you are dealing with a child or need to open a lot of doors.
Lights are paramount to identifying a potential threat. This is one item that should be mounted to your gun. You need both hands to run your shotgun and holding one in your teeth is not practical. It need not be super powerful. In fact there is too much of a good thing with light as the reflection or splash will blind you if it is too powerful. Somewhere around 100 lumens is plenty for residential interiors. I’m partial to Inforce weapon mounted lights these days. Robust and sturdy and easy to operate. Mount your light properly. Take the shotgun to the range and run 50 rounds through it to ensure your attachment is sturdy. Better to know now that when you actually need it. Duct tape is not a long-term solution by the way.
By the way, if you are getting the idea that less is more on an HD shotgun, you are correct! Get rid of the crap on your gun and get some training. We have defensive shotgun classes coming up this spring. Look for the dates! Cajunarms.com
Shooting a gun is not a natural human action. Even experienced shooters will often flinch trying a new gun or caliber. Recoil anticipation is the number one shooting error!
To add insult to injury, if you flinch and hit a bad first shot, your follow up shots will often be as bad, or worse as you do not have full control over your gun! For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Newton was right!
We are proponents of new shooters using larger and heavier hand guns to learn HOW to shoot. We are not saying it should be their carry gun, but larger guns are great to learn the mechanics on and gain confidence. We see far too many women shooters in our classes toting little micro pistols. Hubby isn’t even in class with her while their better half is getting punished by the latest cute little gun that he decided was appropriate! Ouch!
Recoil management is easier to learn on a larger gun. It helps soak up recoil with its mass. It later translates to a smaller one easily.
Grip has the largest impact on controlling recoil. We teach and utilize the thumbs forward grip. New shooters are easier to teach. Re-teaching older shooters and getting them to change their thumb-over-thumb or teacup grips is more difficult. We never “force” students to change but strongly encourage them to try “our” way for the duration of class. We have some good shooting students with funky grips. They are safe and perform well. No sense in force feeding them something that will not necessarily allow them to perform better. However, we do move them from their bladed stance to a square one.
The points of contact created by the thumbs-forward grip give most shooters better control of their sidearm. The heels of your palms should be in contact with the gun and with each other, the thumb of your non-dominant hand is pointing forward, resting against the frame below the other thumb. The result is skin covering just about 100% of the grip. No gaps. Think of driving your gun towards the target aggressively. Your thumbs-forward grip along with your locked wrists and elbows (elbows locked is optional) control recoil and allow follow-up shots more quickly. Many prefer to keep their elbows slightly bent which allows multiple shots more quickly. It also soaks some recoil up.
Your grip comes with a square-to-target stance, with your nose over your toes and knees bent. This is an athletic stance that allows easy movement in any direction. It also gives you less exposure to one single bullet from a bad guy taking out both lungs and your heart! Think of its as a fighter’s stance. Keep both of your eyes open and keep your pistol centered on your body. You are in a fight, fortunately you have a gun! A good fighting stance allows the shooter to drive the gun on target after each shot and to transition between multiple targets.
Your grip should be very firm. More firm than a brisk handshake. Keep relatively equal pressure with both hands and keep those thumbs forward. Your thumbs play a large role in mitigating recoil. This will cam your wrists forward as well, effectively locking them.
A right handed shooter’s left thumb ideally provides lateral pressure to the frame reducing the natural tendency for a righty to push the gun left when shooting rapidly.
Another element that is often overlooked is trigger control and reset. Keep your finger in constant contact with the trigger after firing the first shot. Release the trigger just far enough to feel and hear a click. Repeat as needed. Running your trigger in this fashion allows for faster shots and reduces the likelihood of jerking the trigger or other bad things to occur. Prepping and reseting the trigger is also a means of follow through. Driving your gun toward the target and having constant contact with your finger on the trigger is a main element of follow through. However, when transitioning between multiple targets we emphasis that your finger MUST come off the trigger and index high. Competition shooters game this to shave seconds off their time. In the real world you cannot have your finger on the trigger while possibly crossing an innocent bystander. In our higher level classes we also emphasize that the muzzle must also clear bystanders in conjunction with trigger finger index.
You can control recoil on any gun or caliber with proper grip, stance, trigger control, and follow through. Dry firing is great for many aspects of defensive shooting. To tame recoil though, you must get out and shoot! Join us in 2018 for a wide array of training courses!
If you are forced to employ your gun in defense of life, there is a very real chance that you may be injured. 80% of gun shoot shot wounds are survivable. There are ways to ensure that you are among that 80%. The biggest thing you can train is your brain. Your mindset to prevail and live another day is your best defense to a good offense. Once the fight for your life is on, you must believe that no matter what, you will prevail. It is important to interject here that the “end all” is not a dead bad guy. It is ensuring the bad guy stops doing bad things and that you and other “good guys” see tomorrow. You need to be willing and have the mindset that you will not give up.
All that being said, you may need to fight through a major injury to ensure the ending is how you’ve pictured it. Mastering various techniques to overcome injury is a great step in this process, but that cannot happen without the proper mindset. Having the will and the mental fortitude to beat your opponent is the strongest tool in your kit.
When you are hit, your resolve must grow stronger, not weaker. Your focus must shift to launching a counter attack so fierce that your opponent will be looking for a way out. It doesn’t matter what your hit with. The mindset is the same. A switch needs to be flicked from defensive to offensive. You cannot lose.
Air soft or simulation training can help foster the proper mindset. If you get hit, keep going acknowledging the fact you have sustained an injury. Our training with SIRT laser trainers can provide a similar experience. The laser down’t sting, however. If you have never been hit hard with a a fist or a kick, take some open hand self defense training. Know how it feels to be stuck hard, even knocked out. Fight your way through the pain. It is better to experience such in a controlled environment like a dojang or kick boxing ring for the first time rather than on the street!
When on the range, practice shooting with your non dominant eye. It is possible to sustain various injuries to it during a defensive struggle. You will quickly see that it is a skill that needs practice. Tape over your shooting glasses so you do not cheat! Remember, practicing any solution to an injury while using a gun could be very dangerous. Many scenarios can safely be practiced at home using safe dry fire methods.
Practice one handed draws. Both dominant and off hand. Present and shoot various strings. In our classes we review the draw with the weak hand. Can’t reach your gun? Many folks re-think their carry position after practicing this. You will need to either use your knees or the ground to assist you in getting a grip on the gun. Again, practice this without ammo.
Ever rack your gun one handed? How about a one handed mag change? Try it using dry fire. Find a solution that works for you. Many of these scenarios are taught in our classes; some with ammo, many without. If you are looking to round out your defensive skill, taking a class under the close supervision of a professional teacher is a great and safe idea.
Shooting from the ground and other awkward positions are another area to practice. What if you can’t get up from the ground? What will you do? Have you practiced it? Have you even thought about it?
How about a compromised grip or one that is slick with blood? Can you still run your gun?
The reality is, if you need to defend yourself with a gun it will not go like you imagined. The bad guy will not be perfectly square and perpendicular to you. There will be obstacles. There may be injuries - including your own. Train for reality. Contact us for more info. Or better yet, sign up for a class!
Jim Benoit's thoughts on guns, gear, & training
CAJUN ARMS & TUSCARORA TACTICAL TRAINING
WEST CHESTER, THOMPSONTOWN, PA