First Responder Shotgun Review


Originally posted at:

HiTS Shotgun Add-On Class AAR

Name of Company: Hardwired Tactical Shooting (HiTS)

Class: HiTS 1-Day Add-On Shotgun Class

Date: Sunday, June 16, 2013.

Location: Dallas, Texas

Why shotgun, and why this class?

During the Great Ammo Drought of 2013, I decided to focus on skills I could improve on, without a second mortgage to buy pistol/carbine ammo. I took training in first aid, pistols, edged weapons, conflict avoidance/gerbil voodoo, pistols, shotguns, first aid and pistols. 

This class was a one day add-on to the HiTS Advanced First Responder Pistol class. The Advanced First Responder Pistol was held on the day before, with most of the students staying a second day for the shotgun class. The instructors for this class are Darryl Bolke and Wayne Dobbs of Hardwired Tactical Shooting, or HiTS. Both are retired career LEO’s who have decades of experience with shotguns as a conflict resolution tool. Honestly, when I think of shotguns I think of guys like these. It was their “big stick” for years, and they know them very well.

Equipment I used: The shotgun I carried in the class was a spare Remington 870 that I use as a testbed. I had a spare Aimpoint H-1 and other parts laying around, so I used this class as a final “gut check” for that weapon. It had already done several range trips with any failures. 

Specs: A vent rib 18.5” barrel, XS Big Dot tritium front sight, Vang Comp jumbo safety, Vang stainless steel follower, Vang +2 mag extension, Wolff mag spring, VCAS padded QD sling, GG&G forward QD sling mount, shortened Speedfeed 12” LOP stock with a pair of Noveske QD sling mounts embedded in the stock. It started life as an Express, but has had the trigger group replaced with a Police Magnum set of guts. It’s also got a Police Magnum extractor/spring kit and ejector. The receiver itself is the only thing remaining from the original shotgun. It has a Mesa Tactical 4-shot shell carrier, with a Mesa Tactical Picatinny rail on top for the Aimpoint H-1. I threw a Tango Down cover on the H-1, because I had it and wanted to bang it around some. And it’s got an old Surefire lighted forend, with a Malkoff 200-lumen floody LED in it. I like the older Surefire 618 “Laser Products” forends, they just seem to handle better for me.

Ammo: I used Federal low-base field loads, with 7 ½ shot as the practice chow. For the drills with “carry ammo”, I used the Federal 9-pellet Flite-Control 00 Buck (LE132 00) and the Federal Truball Deep Penetrator Rifled Slug (PB127 DPRS). Both provide excellent accuracy, and patterned very well out of my 18.5” cylinder bore barrel. The Flite-Control stuff has to be seen to be appreciated.

Students for this class were a broad spectrum. We had instructors from other training organizations, competitive 3-gunners, and also several Federal LEO’s in the class. There were also a couple of folks like me who just wanted to get better with a shotgun.

Class began with a safety brief. HiTS should be well-known by now for their emphasis on a through and meaningful safety brief. I’m not talking the mind-numbing “don’t drink and drive” Powerpoint before a long weekend many of you have sat through. This is a very well thought-out explanation of how the four safety rules prevent increasing one’s orifice count, and in particular with the weapons being used that day. Some of the info we got was shotgun-specific regarding safety.

This led to muzzle discipline. When can/should you actually point the shotgun at the person of interest? When should you use a low ready? When is pointing a firearm an aggravated assault?

Backstops were discussed. This becomes even more important when slugs are involved, compared to shorter-range buckshot. “Bad guys make great backstops” – which stresses the important of always getting your hits. Even with the shotgun, in this class accuracy was always stressed.

The hoary old chestnut of “racking a slide will make them run” was discussed and dismissed. Their advice was that racking a shotgun slide just ID’s a weapon to the opponent.

Equipment selection was brought up, and talked about in very good depth. One of the main reasons I took this course was the decades of experience the two instructors had carrying and using shotguns. Also, we had other instructors and LEO’s in the room, who very helpfully shared their advice. This was a really useful discussion, and I took copious personal notes. The usefulness of a light on a shotgun was stressed. Sights were also talked about – the differences and application for each type – bead, ghost ring, RDS.

Most of all, patterning was preached. Knowing exactly what your shotgun would do with your ammo choices is crucial. I’d been to the range the weekend before, and had patterned mine with the cheap field loads as well as the defense ammo. The results repeated themselves in class, which was good.

We then went out to the range, and everyone patterned their shotguns. This was done at 5, 7, 10, 15 and 25 yards with buckshot, and at 10, 15 and 25 yards with slugs. 

Interesting point about reliability: While we were doing this first set of pattern tests, one of the student’s shotguns went hard down. This was a Remington 870 Police Magnum, used by a very highly skilled shooter. He immediately diagnosed the issue, and switched to a backup shotgun he brought with him. The point of this is that ANY weapon can fail, and bringing a spare to a training class is an EXCELLENT idea. He repaired the issue on his primary during the lunch break, and it was back in action with no more problems during the rest of the day. Understand – I’m not calling this guy out in any way, I’m pointing out that backups are essential, and he had his. Didn’t slow down the class a bit, either.

There was another shotgun that went hard down later during the day, it was an 870 Express. The other shotguns were a mixture of 870 Police Magnums, Mossberg 590’s and a Benelli M4. 

We worked all day from multiple ready positions, using them from various engagement distances from 3 to 25 yards. That was the max distance allowed on that range. 

Constantly, the mantra of “Feed the Pig” was preached. It does not matter if you have an M-60D or a Remington 870, ammo management becomes a critical element of your success or failure. Topping off the shotgun was constantly performed. Shooting your weapon until it was empty was considered a user-induced malfunction, akin to short-stroking it. I was lucky/blessed by the gods/both, I only had one short-stroke all day. More on that later.

We did multiple drills, all of which taught a lesson. The first of my two favorites were the Rolling Thunder drill, which emphasizes ammo management and awareness of fellow shooters. The line starts by firing one round, starting with the shooter on the left and working down the line and then back. The number of rounds increases by one, until you have to fire five rounds when it’s your turn.

This goes well, until the person next you has their shotgun experience a stoppage. Usually it was some of the cheaper zinc-based shells, with a lot of hot plastic hull debris in a very hot chamber. I brushed out my chamber during lunch, based on previous AAR’s I had read. This was a great drill to practice Feeding Your Pig. Unfortunately, instead of “Rolling Thunder” it turned into “Spastic Rumbler” – credit goes to Wayne for that zinger. But it’s an excellent drill that I’ll practice with friends.

The other favorite was the LAPD D Platoon (SWAT) Shotgun Qualification Course. We did this last drill of the day, with a 90 percent score to pass, and 100 percent of all projectiles were to be on the target. This course of fire has 6 phases, using a total of two slugs and eleven 00 Buck 9-pellet loads. Naturally, this was where I had a short-stroke on the 5th phase, on the 5-yard line. You had to fire two 00 buck rounds in 2 seconds, starting from a low ready with safety on for that portion of the drill. I short-stroked, and turned a decent performance into a flaming ball of suck and fail. 

Round count: They told us to bring 20 slugs, 50 buck, and 250 birdshot. I ran through a bit more than that. Part of that was due to me loaning ammo to some folks, and partly due to the fact that I just like shooting things with shotguns. 

Verdict: I’m definitely a better shotgunner from this class. I have more skills with my 870 and ammo. I have better confidence in my ability to place a slug into a chest or forehead at distance. It’s not my primary home defense tool, or even my secondary HD tool. But it’s specialist weapon, fitting a specific, specialized role. And I know how to better utilize it in that role. Money well spent.

And I loves me some Aimpoint: Put red dot on bad person. Depress trigger. Bad person get large air-filled hole in body. Lather, rinse, repeat.  

Additional note: There were some really, really sharp folks in this class. If they wish to step forward and identify themselves, that’s awesome. I do not know if they wish to remain anonymous or not, so I did not name them. Some of the LEO’s really like being out of the spotlight. That’s why I never shoot any pictures at a class. But they know who they are, and it was a great pleasure to meet them, talk to them and pick their brains. They very generously shared their skills and their experiences, and I tried to soak that up like a sponge. I appreciate the men and women that helped train me, and will look forward to buying you a beer or ribs next year when I come visit you. 

If I can answer any questions, just ask.


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