The tactical shotgun is a misunderstood tool. It’s often seen as old school and easily replaced by the modern carbine. The shotgun is a viable weapon that has the ability to be the most versatile weapon in an armory. The shotgun is a very powerful weapon, for this article we are looking at the 12 gauge specifically. The other calibers are viable, but the modern tactical shotgun is a 12 gauge.
To understand the shotgun you have to understand its weaknesses. There is a good phrase from Dirty Harry, “Man’s got to know his limitations.” A man (or woman) should also know their weapon’s limitations. Lets look at the biggest flaws.
First and foremost the range differential. The shotgun versus the rifle comparison is always ruled by range. The shotgun lacks range. Even with slugs you are limited to roughly a 100 yards. A hunter with a slug gun can go further, but a smoothbore shotgun is not a slug gun. Even a hundred yards is a long shot with a smoothbore slug, most practical uses will be at 50 to maybe 75 in a fight.
Our next issue is ammo capacity. Most shotguns do not hold more than 8 rounds. Some magazine fed models can hold more rounds, but the real, average shotgun is limited at 8 rounds. A standard rifle can easily carry 30 rounds, and you even reasonably carry 40 rounds of ammunition. Even a duty sized handgun can carry double a shotgun’s capacity.
Lastly, we have recoil. For a beginner, the recoil from a shotgun makes it a difficult platform to use and learn. Your basic buckshot is going to have substantially more recoil than the modern rifle or carbine.
To run a shotgun or any gun for that matter, your goal is to take the weaknesses of a weapon and beat them. The magic happens when you get past the basics of using a gun and start addressing the weaknesses. Running the gun is figuring out how to run it efficiently despite its weaknesses. Some of this means changing the weapon, but most of it lays in the person carrying the gun.
What is a Tactical Shotgun?
To have a tactical shotgun you need a few things.
- A good reliable gun, Mossberg, Benelli, Beretta, Etc
- An 18 to 20 inch barrel
- A good set of sights
- Sling mounts and a good sling
That’s really it. Anything else is a bonus. I prefer to keep my tactical shotgun lightweight and pointable. The only addition I add is a side saddle to carry some extra ammunition. A shotgun is a simple weapon, you don’t need a rail system, an optic, or anything outside of the basics. Those extras can be nice, but aren’t necessary.
Addressing the Weakness
The first weakness is range. We can’t change the principle of the weapon, we can’t give a shotgun the same range as a rifle. So what we have to do is mix both proper equipment and proper technique.
This is why we have a good and proper set of sights. I prefer the ghost ring LPA adjustable rear rifle sight, and a good solid front sight. A bead sight works well, don’t get me wrong, but if you want to maximize both range and accuracy a good set of adjustable sights are perfect. When you choose an adjustable set of sights you want to dial them in for your slug of choice. A good set of sights can only get you so far.
The next step is experimenting with a variety of slugs and finding what works best for you. I like the Winchester PDX standard slugs, they tend to shoot the best from my Mossberg 930 SPX. Start working on your marksmanship, get behind that gun, and start practicing with slugs. Learn how to shoot those slugs. When it comes to slug training you can treat it as rifle training. The same basic marksmanship and tactical methodology works almost the same.
Again we can only extend the capability of the shotgun so much. If you begin adding larger and larger magazines and longer tubes the weapon will get heavier. The weapon will start to become more and more unwieldy. I keep my tube at 7 rounds plus 1 in the chamber.
The key to being a successful shotgunner is being good at reloading, and topping off. You need to learn how to load fast, and efficiently. Topping off is the art of keeping the shotgun ready to go at all times. There are different methodologies to this, but the general the shoot two, load two is the most widely accepted method. It is pretty self-explanatory. Mastering the reload from a weapon’s side ammo carrier, or from a belt, pouch, or whichever you choose to reload is critical.
My method is to reload from my belt or plate carrier first. My use of the side saddle is for when I need to reload as fast as possible. Practicing the shoot two, load two method also teaches you ammo management. Obviously, there are times when you can easily run dry. That is also why it’s important to be able to reload from dry rapidly.
The first step is getting a round in the chamber and getting the weapon pointing back on target. Then feeding the tube while keeping the weapon on target. This is your tactical reload. If there’s a lull in the fighting you can reload the weapon by twisting it sideways and resting it in the crook of your firing arm. This is an admin, or ready reload.
If you are rocking a pump action shotgun you know the recoil is going to be substantially stronger. There is a benefit to this recoil. You can use the rearward momentum of the weapon’s recoil to help you pump the weapon. With a semi-automatic shotgun, you are actually going to feel less felt recoil than with a pump.
Regardless of the type of shotgun recoil management is going to be critical. Recoil management is easier said than done. To master the shotgun you need to hit the range and start shooting the weapon. The only way you can really improve your recoil management is to become so used to a 12 gauge recoil it’s merely a mosquito bite. In terms of gear, the only thing I’ve found to work is a simple Limbsaver pad. It’s amazing what less than 15 bucks can do for you.
Run your Gun, Not your Mouth
The shotgun is the most versatile weapon you can fire from the shoulder. A load of buckshot deals more damage per shot than any other standard shoulder fired weapon. A solid tactical shotgun is an excellent weapon for home defense, as a truck gun, or in the patrol cruiser. At the end of the day, it’s another tool in the box.