Tips, Tricks and Hacks for The Scattergun

Life’s too short to not use all the hacks you can find.

posted on January 10, 2024
finger off trigger of shotgun

Over the years I’ve learned a few tricks that have helped me keep my shotgun clean and ready for action. I hope they help you, too.

finger off trigger of shotgunSafe Trigger Finger Location Alternative
The NRA’s second rule of gun safety says: “Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot,” and the current American gun culture has done a stupendous job of letting folks know if they transgress. These days, it seems if you put your finger anywhere except alongside the receiver, there’s a good chance you’ll be scolded by some self-appointed gun-safety officer from across the range. The “finger alongside the receiver” technique was borne from newer handguns, many of which do not have a manual safety. As such, the handgun’s frame is a great place to place the finger before you engage in the actual act of shooting, because it keeps the finger away from the trigger, yet in contact with the gun so the trigger can be easily found. As a side benefit, it also tells everyone at the range that the shooter knows what they are doing.

However, the NRA rule just says to “keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot,” and not “keep your finger on the receiver until ready to shoot.”  For plenty of guns, such as certain shotguns that have trigger-guard-mounted crossbolt safeties, the best spot for your trigger finger when your sights are not on target is on the safety button. Placing the finger here allows instant access to the trigger to fire the gun in two moves, not three. Besides, in a defensive situation, you don’t want to let the bad guy know that you are not ready to fire. But, with your finger on the trigger guard ready to disengage the safety, often it’s tough for onlookers to tell.   

gun cleanerHomemade Barrel Cleaner
Need to clean your barrel but don’t have a fancy cleaning rod? No problem. Here’s how to make a less expensive—and better—one:

Take an old cotton T-shirt and cut it into about 10, 1-inch-wide strips approximately 2 feet long. Cut 3 feet of string or paracord and make a loop knot at one end. Place the strips in the loop then tighten it so the strips can’t come out. Then find a lead fishing weight (lead is best because it won’t scratch steel)—or use a slightly smaller slug—and bore its hole out with a drill so that it can be affixed to the other end of the string. Oil the rag with whatever cleaning solution you prefer, send the weight down the barrel from action to muzzle, pull the cloth through and voila! There you go. Add or subtract strips as needed for a perfectly snug fit in the bore.      

shotgun pointed downStore Your Defensive Shotty Pointed Down
If your designated method for staging your home-defense shotgun is propped up in a corner of a room (or, better, inside a rapid-access safe), strongly consider propping it up with its barrel pointed down, resting on the ground. There are several reasons for this: First, if the gun were to mysteriously discharge (which isn’t really possible, but it’s always better to be safe), having the barrel pointed at the ground is generally safer than up into the room. Second, I find the shotgun is easier to grab and quickly control by reaching for its grip with my trigger hand rather than by the fore-end with my weak hand; and third, if you’re like me and clean your shotgun once about every three years, it’s surprising how much dust can accumulate in the gun by way of the muzzle. Storing it barrel-down combats dust bunnies in the bore.  

shotgun buttstockFit Cheekpiece Height
If you prefer to run an optic on your shotgun, trust me when I tell you that you’ll benefit from a cushioned, raised comb. Shotguns are designed to have four points of contact with your body, and having your cheek firmly welded to the stock during ignition greatly enhances control and speed of follow-up shots while significantly reducing felt recoil. Get a couple quarter-inch-thick, 6-inch-long pieces of closed-cell foam rubber and cut them out so that they will pad the area of your cheek that contacts the stock. Use one, two or three strips depending on the height of your optic, so your eye is aligned perfectly through the optic as you mount the gun. Then buy high-quality tape like black duct tape and don’t get cheap with it as you securely wrap the foam to the stock. You are done when none of the foam is showing. Depending on your tape job and the color of your shot-gun’s stock (hopefully it’s synthetic and not wood), your new raised comb might look terrible. But, after a few dozen shots you’ll send me a thank-you note.


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