I’ve been enjoying quite a lot of high quality training this year, but have wanted to see what the other quality instructors in the area have been offering. One thing I’ve never done before is take a shotgun class, so I was very interested in the Home Defense Shotgun class that Tim Chandler and FPF Training offer. Tim has been on the Primary and Secondary podcast, and enjoys an amazing reputation for his courses.
I was fortunate enough to be able to get in to it, and have an AAR for you… more after the break!
You have heard me drone on and on about Green Ops in previous AARs. FPF Training is one of the other high-end training providers in this area (the third, I think, would be Modern Samurai Project). FPFT has a very wide variety of courses, and hosts a number of guest instructors every year. John Murphy runs FPFT, and he has an amazing local rep. You can see his bio here.
The instructors were Tim Chandler and Sid (whose last name I didn’t get – sorry!). They were assisted by a guy named Matt. Tim did most of the demonstration shooting, but the few times that Sid and Matt got behind the guns, they did some pretty good work, too. From what I can tell, Tim is basically a training junkie gone pro, which is alright in my book if you’re a good trainer – and he is. You can see his bio here. Sid was a cop for 25+ years, and apparently spent some time behind a gun, too. This is an interesting contrast to the military-focused instructors I’m used to in other classes, but it’s not like you’re gonna find military guys who are running-and-gunning with shotguns, either. It’s mostly a civilian weapon.
FPF Training has their own range out in Culpeper, VA, which is about a two hour drive from where I live in MD. We all met at a Shell station and took a convoy there. This was an excellent plan, because it’s pretty much impossible to find the place from the road even if they tell you where you should be looking. The range itself is somewhat austere; there’s a couple porta-pottys, a couple sheds, a shed-classroom, and the range itself (which you’ll see in the pictures). No electricity, water, or (in my case) cell phone reception. On the plus side, it was spacious and well-designed, so that was good. I also liked my car being so nearby – we unpacked our stuff on to some folding tables, but I could have left a substantial amount in my car trunk with no problems.
As usual, we should look at is what the course is supposed to teach, so as to set expectations:
The objective of this course is to cover the topics most relevant to the use of the shotgun as a tool of home defense including:
- Selection/configuration of the defensive shotgun
- Proper ammunition selection
- Reliable loading and operation of the shotgun
- Shooting technique and recoil management
By the end of the course students will demonstrate competence in the handling, loading, and rapid, accurate use of the shotgun at common home defense distances. At the end of the day students will shoot a shotgun qualification course.
This is a shotgun 101 class, in other words. That was alright with me, because while I do have some time behind a shotgun, it’s never been much beyond throwing some random stuff down a static range at a leisurely pace.
Shotguns through the class varied considerably. There were a number of pump guns, which I think were mostly 870s. I saw a few semi-autos, too, but couldn’t identify them (other than a Mossberg 930 that went down). I brought an 870 with a Fab Defense AGR-870 stock adapter on it. This was to try to get the grip closer in order to use the lever-style safety I had installed. This worked alright with my Mesa high tube adapter, but I felt like it could be better. And it was… kinda!
Unfortunately, I quickly discovered that the buffer tube wouldn’t stay clamped on it, so my stock rotated freely after a bit of recoil. Here’s your Hebrew Hammer Blog PSA: if you’re gonna go that route, buy the FAB Defense stock full setups, don’t try to build your own. The gun was still shootable, but I borrowed a loaner 870 for the qual (which I’ll discuss later).
I carried shells on an SOE 12ga Micro Rig and a few of their shotgun cards. While my 870 stock adapter turned out to suck, I was very happy with the chest rig. It was easy to reload from, and IMHO, a lot faster than fishing in pockets for shells. You can see a 5.11 VTAC shotgun pouch in the top left – I had this in case I ran the rig dry, but that never even came close to happening. I it took it off my belt after the first string. I saw a lot of other people with big open pouches, which I think worked fine for static shooting, but I’m not sure how well they would have worked in a scenario with more movement.
I brought a sling, but we were apparently not using slings. I was really not a fan because I love slings, but I guess you’re not really going to use a sling in a home defense situation, so it was a little harder to object to. Safety concerns were cited as well.
The class description claims you need 250 rounds of birdshot and 50 rounds of buckshot. I wasn’t counting my shots, but based on the ammo I had left, I’d estimate we only fired closer to 125 rounds of birdshot, but were ballpark to the 50 rounds of buckshot estimate. This isn’t a big deal, I don’t live for high round counts, but I probably wouldn’t have bought a third hundred round case of #6 Winchester if I had known this. Well, I guess it’s not gonna go bad in storage. I also brought along some cheap Estate 00 buckshot, and some not-so-cheap Federal LE 8-pellet reduced-recoil 00 buckshot.
I know I’ve harped on making sure your stuff works before class, so it was a little embarrassing when I had stock rotation issues, but… a lot of guns malfunctioned and went down in this class, way more than I’ve ever seen in a pistol or rifle class. I’m not sure if it’s because people tend to screw with their shotguns’ parts more, or if current Remingtons and Mossbergs just suck, but it was not pretty. Tim and company seem to be big fans of the Beretta 1301 Tactical with Aridus Industries upgrades, and it was pretty clear why; those guns were simpler and just kept running… if I ever buy a semi-auto tube gun, that one’s on the short list, to be sure.
There were 14 people in the class; age range was fairly diverse, there were a couple women, and a couple people of color. It’s nice to see gun culture turning from all-OFWGs to something a little more representative of our area. Experience levels ranged from “competition” to “never used a shotgun before”. People on the more-experienced half of that spectrum were put into the first group on the line so the second group could watch. This is the first time I had seen that kind of relay division, but I thought it made a lot of sense, and worked very well.
The first part of the class was a lecture. The projector was down, but we were close enough together that I could see the laptop just fine. The lecture was primarily focused on “criminals will break into your house in teams and rape/kill your family” and “how you can use a shotgun to prevent this outcome”, along with a bit of discussion on “don’t shoot people with birdshot, it sucks”. I may be forgetting some other portion, but those are what I remember. I would say the lecture was very convincing, and I thought the videos, while tough to watch, were pretty good at showing the possibilities. It was really very interesting to see how the realities of a home invasion scenario could be a lot more rapid and violent than I think are popularly portrayed.
We took a short break, and then came back to get the safety and medical brief. I want to give Tim a lot of credit here; he spent considerable time on this, and had a very good medical plan in place if there was an emergency. Keep in mind that it was really unlikely an ambulance could even get to the range in the also-unlikely event it could find it in the first place, so this was a bit of a different situation than at, say, the NRA HQ range where you could just call 911 and get service reliably and quickly. Thankfully, it was a very safe range day – no one even got flagged by a muzzle, as best as I could tell.
The classroom portion was now finished; it was off to the range!
As I mentioned above, the class was separated into two relays. This seems to be standard for reputable outfits, and you got a lot of personal attention from the three instructors. They were pretty chill, and let you know when you had a problem, but also acknowledged when it was obvious that you knew you screwed up. I will say this: there is nothing like a shotgun for giving you instant feedback if you have a stance/control problem, and I have a large bruise under my right eye to prove it!
Tim is a big proponent of the “push-pull” method of shotgun shooting. You pull the shotgun back into your shoulder, and right before you shoot, you push forward on the handguard. If you got your long gun training on intermediate-caliber rifles like I did, this is a little counter to your instincts, because on rifles, you usually get taught to use your support hand to pull back on the handguard. Push-pull makes more sense in a shotgun context due to the heavier recoil of slugs and buck, and, again, this was convincingly demonstrated by Tim via shooting the shotgun accurately with little muzzle rise without even resting it on the shoulder.
I once heard an adage about competition shooting that I think is pretty true on the whole:
- Pistols: shoot them fast
- Rifles: shoot them accurately
- Shotguns: reload them fast
Tube-fed guns, once you’re past basic mechanical function, are all about reloading. Thus, we did quite a lot of reloading with our shooting. We had a lot of drills where you’d shoot X and then reload Y, sometimes with an emergency reload in there. On a pump gun, you’ve got to think a bit about where you’re placing your shells.
There was a significant portion of the class devoted to patterning. Here are some less-than-surprising facts that you know in your head, but probably don’t know in your heart until you see how your gun performs in a controlled setting:
- Cheap buckshot usually patterns badly at short ranges (15yds or less) without a really good barrel (like a VangComp or similar).
- Nine pellet buckshot produces nasty fliers with regularity.
- 8-pellet Federal Flite-Control is amazing ammo, but if you got your barrel’s cone modified to deal with using the previously-mentioned cheap buckshot, it might not be so hot with this stuff.
Before class, I was grumbling about paying 70cpr (or whatever it was) for that premo Federal Flite Control ammo off SGAmmo. After it, I was A-OK with it, and glad I bought extra.
Near the end of class, we had a timed qualification test at 5yd, 7yd, and 15yd ranges. Here is my target when I got done:
A couple not-so-hot shots due to being a little off with the bead sight, but on the whole, I’d say I got him pretty good in the CNS triangle. Everyone passed the qual; it wasn’t the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but it was nice as a capstone to the class.
After that, there was a brief session on using your shotgun from behind cover. I hauled out my Salvo 12 for lolz; it turns out shooting from cover with a giant suppressor on the end of your shotgun can be a little tricky from a distance perspective, but it was otherwise roughly the same running an AR-15 from cover (with one exception; you can’t just use the Green Ops choke-up method for support-side cover shooting, at least with a pump gun, because there’s no magwell to hold on to).
By the way, quick review on the Salvo 12: it’s a crowd-pleaser and not overly-gassy, but it also doesn’t make a shotgun quiet like a rifle suppressor does to a rifle, and it adds a whole bunch of weight to the worst place on your gun to add it. I’ve never been hunting, but IMHO, it feels like something I’d slap on a hunting shotgun while I was sitting in a blind waiting for some unfortunate buck to stroll by. For home defense, I think it would only be even moderately usable on an SBS, and maybe in a shorter suppressor configuration.
I enjoyed the class a lot, but I don’t know if I walked out of it a tube-fed shotgun guy at heart. There is a big part of me that just wants a shotgun to work like a semi-auto rifle with detachable mags; just slap that mag in there, rack the charging handle, and run the gun, which is more-or-less what I do with my Saiga 12. Instead, I’m spending brainpower on tube-magazine management, and it’s like, is this really where I want to be devoting brain cells if it’s SHTF time? Granted, in a home defense scenario, I’d be starting with a loaded tube and topping it off (shoot-one-reload-one, right?), so it’s perhaps less of a concern in the real-world than a class setting. Tim’s argument against detachable-mag shotguns was essentially that carrying an extra magazine wasn’t going to happen in a home defense scenario (vs a side saddle on a tube gun), which I guess is fair in the context of the class.
I do know now that I’m not a pump gun guy. I’ve tried repeatedly, and it’s just not happening. These classes are as much about equipment validation as skills learning, and working that pump is just another thing to keep track of and go wrong. And bead sights seem to suck a lot, too.
Anyways, don’t let my whining distract you from the fact that this is a truly excellent class for getting those fundamental shotgun skills, and you should take it if you’re even remotely interested in the subject. I’m looking forward to taking another shotgun class in 2019 with Tim and FPF Training, and I’m hoping that maybe I’ll learn to love tube-fed shotguns like everyone else does. I recommend FPF Training’s Home Defense Shotgun with no reservations.