5 Essential Drills for Your Home-Defense Shotgun

posted on January 19, 2020

Shotguns are powerful and effective fighting tools. To get the most out of your defensive shotgun, you need to understand its limitations in range and ammunition supply while taking advantage of its power and versatility. Here are some drills you can practice to learn more about your defensive shotgun.


Shotguns can fire an amazing variety of loads, from light birdshot to heavy buckshot and single projectiles–slugs. After selecting your defensive load, you need to pattern it. The pattern is the spread of the shot at any particular distance, and we can observe this by firing into a paper target. I suggest you pattern your load at 5, 10, 15 and 25 yards on a silhouette target. Different ammunition in different guns produces different patterns, so pattern your gun to understand how it shoots.

Select Slug

One of the great advantages of a defensive shotgun is the variety of ammunition it can fire. As an example, you may find your buckshot load has become ineffective at 25 yards due to the size of the pattern. This indicates the need to switch to a single projectile–a slug. To quickly switch to a slug, load a round into the magazine tube and run the action. This kicks the shot shell out of the chamber and replaces it with the slug.

Load What You Shoot

Most defensive shotguns have a limited ammunition capacity, something like 4, 5 or 6 rounds. While there are few problems that can’t be solved with a couple of rounds of shotgun ammunition, it’s best to get the gun back up to fully loaded capacity. Carrying extra ammunition on or with the gun is a good idea and you can practice keeping the gun up by doing a shoot two, load two drill; fire two shots and reload the magazine tube with two more.

Port Loading

With the action open, simply drop a shell into the ejection port and close the action. That’s the quickest and easiest way to load the chamber of an empty shotgun. If there is an urgent need to shoot, fire that round and repeat the process. The magazine tube can be topped off when time allows.

Loading To Hot Standby

If you want to set the gun up the way most police agencies do you can load it to hot standby, also known as cruiser ready. No, the police don’t load this way because they want to scare people by racking the action, they do it because the safeties on shotguns usually lock the trigger and not the firing pin. Cruiser ready is simply a safer way to store the gun until it is needed.

To load to hot standby, check the gun and make sure the chamber and magazine tube are empty, safety off. Check it again. Close the action, point the gun in a safe direction and pull the trigger. This unlocks the action and gets it ready to be racked without having to use the action bar release. Now load the magazine tube to capacity and store the gun in a rack or safe. When needed the gun is ready to go by simply running the action. A side benefit is this sets you up to do a select slug drill if needed because there is now a space in the magazine tube.

These five shotgun drills are the foundational skills needed to use the defensive shotgun. After patterning your gun and practicing these skills you will have a better understanding of managing the fighting shotgun.


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