Competitive-shotgun shooters gain an edge for defense because many stages require the use of barriers and moving to cover.
In defending your home with a shotgun, nothing is more critical—not the gun chosen, the load, the choke, your home-defense plan or your theory of how it’s all going to go down—than actually being able to use a shotgun under pressure. How you practice is how you’ll perform on game day, so every chance you get you should be on the range. But, simply loading the shotgun and shooting at stationary targets from a standing position won’t cut it. Here are four drills to help you better prepare for actual home defense with a shotgun.
Many shotgun drills focus on reloading from the sidesaddle, but the problem is reloading a tubular-magazine shotgun is a slower process than for a box-magazine-fed firearm. Unless your adversary is holed up somewhere, the reality is you’re usually best advised to seek cover to reload. This will work better than simply standing out in the open, reloading one shell into the chamber at a time and firing it. For these drills, you’ll need at least one target and an obstacle or barricade to act as cover to mimic a hardpoint in your home. Always be sure to follow all safety rules, particularly making sure to keep your muzzle pointed in a safe direction at all times.
Run and Reload With one round loaded in your shotgun and standing in the open, fire the shell in the chamber, causing the gun to go dry. When it does, immediately run (or sidestep) to cover, but while doing so reload one round into the chamber before shoving two rounds into the magazine as quickly as possible. Remember to not crowd the cover, but stay back a few feet so when you shoot from it, your barrel will not stick past it. Once reloaded, stay behind the cover and fire three more shots, then reload one more round into the chamber from cover as you assess the situation. Repeat several times before placing the cover on the opposite side relative to the target and running the drill again.
Clear and Cover Shotguns sometimes fail, and when they do, you’ve got to get it working again without standing in the danger zone. Perform the “Run and Reload” drill as above, except replace the shell in your shotgun with a dummy round (or an empty hull) and two rounds in the magazine. When the shotgun fails to fire, immediately move to cover while simultaneously racking the action to clear the jam. If you see or feel the shell eject and a new one chamber, immediately continue shooting from cover. If it does not eject, work swiftly to correct it before reloading two shots and firing again from cover.
Moving and Shooting One of the toughest skills for anyone who doesn’t regularly practice it to perform is to shoot while moving, because our entire lives we’ve been taught that it’s dangerous to do so. Fact is, if you find yourself in a gunfight in your home or elsewhere, remaining stationary in a non-fortified position is often a terrible mistake. If your adversary moves to get a better angle on you, you might have to move to counter him or her. You might need to change your location to help a family member, or even simply to improve your position. The point is, a fight is dynamic and you never know how it will play out, so you must be able to shoot while moving.
For this drill, set up two barricades such as barrels, walls or target stands to act as places of cover. Set them 7 to 10 yards apart. From one place of cover, fire a shot and immediately move to the next point of cover, firing two more shots while on the move. Swiftly reload when you reach the second cover point. Start out this drill by walking while firing—as you get better and more confident, racewalk, jog and finally go full speed. If your shots are not on target, slow down until they are, then speed up as you gain proficiency.
The Snake Shoot Plenty of people who have experienced real-life shootouts report having to shoot from awkward positions as they used the only cover or concealment they could, such as firing under a bed or automobile. Therefore, you should be adept at shooting your shotgun while lying down. There are many ways to accomplish this, depending on the cover at hand, your body type, nimbleness and your gun, but you need to figure out what works best for you. For this drill, a huge cardboard box, a wooden pallet or even an old door, held 1 foot off the ground by two bricks or target stands on either side will work.
Place small targets at 1 yard, 5 yards and 10 yards from the obstacle so you can get an idea of your sight pictures from various shot angles. (I lay down a blanket to keep dirt and ants at bay.) Near the cover, practice going prone and shooting by whatever technique works best for you and your shotgun so you can hit all three targets. Some shooters prefer to roll on their left- side/shoulder while resting the elbow of the support arm (for right-handed shooters) on the ground, while other shooters prefer to roll on their right shoulder to shoot the gun with the right elbow on the ground.
Others might prefer their belly squared on the ground. Spend 5 or 10 minutes figuring out what works for you and make sure whatever position you choose does not cause your shotgun to malfunction. Then, start the drill from a standing position behind the cover, get into a prone shooting position quickly and shoot three shots at each target before reloading and standing back up to repeat the drill.