There's nothing quite like the sound of racking another round into a shotgun. That telltale double click lets anyone in your home know you're now locked and loaded. But there's more to mastering your shotgun than a single shot, and today I'd like to share some of my favorite drills to run through the next time you're on the range.
Because let's face it. Practice is the most important element to mastering any skill, especially if you want to ever have any accuracy whatsoever with a firearm, and a shotgun is no different. If you ever want to get comfortable, you need to do these drills.
Safely storing your shotgun
But before we get into it I want to touch on safety just briefly, because it's particularly important with shotguns.
I shouldn't have to tell you about the dangers of keeping a firearm loaded in your home, but shotguns present a unique risk. They aren't drop safe. If you've a round in the chamber and the gun propped up beside your bed happens to fall, it's highly likely it'll go off.
You're much better off keeping the magazine filled, and only ever chamber a round when you've got the shotgun in your hands, and are in full control of the weapon. So do me a favor, be safe, ok?
Determine your range
The first in the drills is to help you get an understanding of the effective range of your shotgun. Set up a target about 5 to 7 yards away, and take your shot. With a marker circle the outermost pellet holes, and write down the distance of your shot.
Take five steps back, and repeat. Circle the outermost pellet holes, then do it again. You want to keep moving back until you start to notice your pellets begin missing the target, which is your safe engagement range. It's usually somewhere between 25 to 35 yards, depending on the particular shotgun you have and the buckshot you're using.
Quick reloading drill
Because most shotguns have a very low capacity (some only 6 to 8 rounds), it's imperative you're practicing your reloading drills. If you're not able to reload quickly, you're going to be at a distinct disadvantage using a shotgun in a fight.
Of course, I'd recommend doing this with dummy rounds only, unless you're at the firing range. Here's how it goes…
- Fire on your target with 2 or 3 rounds then confirm the hit
- As soon as you've confirmed the hit, grab a shell and start reloading
- The key is to be deliberate in your actions, focused on speed
- As soon as it's fully reloaded, take aim and start firing again
- Repeat as necessary
Emergency reloading drill
Now it's understandable in a real-life situation, your shotgun is going to run dry, and you're not always going to be able to keep the magazine topped off. So, you need to learn how to do an emergency reload. Some people call this a speed reload.
This is best done on the range, with 1 or 2 rounds in the chamber. Once you hear the "click" from your empty trigger pull…
- Do a half-pump and grab a new shell
- Drop the new shell into the action
- Complete the pump and bring the shotgun up
- Take aim, and start firing again
- Repeat as necessary
Swapping out your slugs
If you're anything like me, your shotgun is really only loaded with one type of shell at any given time, but you need to remember it's a multipurpose weapon. And the guy sure as heck isn't going to wait for you to swap out your buckshot for slugs.
You have a number of ways to perform this drill, but probably the easiest is to swap and discard. Here's how it works…
- Ensure you've got your slugs handy
- Cycle your gun, ejecting the chambered buckshot shell
- Slip a slug shell into the tube and chamber it, ejecting the second buckshot shell
- Then load a second slug into the tube ready to fire
Of course, you will be losing live ammo throughout this process, but in my opinion, that's not going to matter if you're able to load your shotgun and get your shots off.
Improving your precision drills
Now there will come a time when you're trying to hit someone, but you've not got a clean shot. Perhaps they're sheltering behind an obstacle, or they may have even taken a hostage which you will need to cater for. You've no time for guesswork, and your precision here could make all the difference.
I usually setup my targets behind other obstacles so they are only partially exposed. Then engage as normal, taking care to avoid landing a hit on any of my obstacles. I like to run speed tests on my accuracy, as well as taking precise shots on demand when I am in the middle of another drill. You can always use a sight on your shotgun to help you focus.
Personally, I think this is one of the most valuable drills you can run with your shotgun, because while it's a rather unforgiving weapon, in the real world you need to take care with every shot you take, and you're not always going to have a clear target. As you improve, you'll get a good understanding of what shots you'll make, the ones you may perhaps "get away with" and of course, the hail mary's that you should never attempt.
Getting good with a shotgun isn't as easy a task as learning how to shoot with a pistol or a handgun, but with a little practice, and the right drills, you can turn it into a potent weapon in your home defense. For me, I know that if I hear something go bump in the night, it's the shotgun I'll be reaching for. Even if it's after the SHTF.