3 Rivers Tactical Training Solutions, Inc.

Pittsburgh, PA

The Pittsburgh area's premier firearms and tactical training provider.

AAR: March 8th, 2014 - Tactical / Home Defense Shotgun

3 Rivers Tactical Training Solutions held a Tactical / Home Defense Shotgun class this past Saturday, March 8th, 2014 at the Beaver Valley Rifle and Pistol Club. 7 students had signed up for the course, but one had to cancel at the last minute, so we ended up with 6.

The weather was marginal. After how nice it was in the area on Thursday and Friday I was hoping Saturday would be as well. Didn't happen. The weather started out nice enough, and proceeded to get worse all day long. Not much rain but some sleet here and there. Also, unfortunately, there was still some snow and ice on the range, so we didn't end up doing some of the movement drills that I wanted to do.

Sometimes we are at the mercy of weather and range conditions.


The 12 gauge shotgun is the most devastating weapon in the small arms arsenal. But it has it's limitations - particularly in the areas of preforming reloads and ammo capacity. Running the 12 gauge shotgun has become something of a lost art over the past decade or so. The AR and AK carbines are considerably more popular in the self defense / tactical world by a huge margin. However, I'm still a strong believer in the shotgun. It's an awesome weapon that gives the shooter significant options in terms of slugs, buckshot, breaching rounds, etc., etc.

Most folks out there think shotguns are simple weapons. They absolutely are not. The shotgun is a thinking mans gun. The shotgun is a difficult weapon to reload, and manipulations are not anywhere near as simple as most think. Most people think that all there is to know about running a shotgun is moving the fore end of a pump gun. Nothing could be further from the truth. Pump action shotguns made by different companies perform differently, are reloaded differently, and have safeties and slide releases (on semi-auto guns) in completely different locations. Pump gun reloads are completely different from semi-auto shotgun reloads. The list goes on. 

Most folks don't like the shotgun because of the recoil. They view the weapon as painful and as a result, avoid it. The reason why the recoil of the 12 gauge shotgun hurts some folks is because they do not properly mount the butt stock of the shotgun. They place the butt stock on or very near the ball of their shoulder joint. This is incorrect and if a shooter does this it is only a matter of time (a short time) before their shoulder doesn't feel too good. When the shotgun is mounted with the butt stock in the proper location, you can literally shoot a shotgun all day long and not feel a thing. 

And finally, using a shotgun for hunting or shooting skeet and trap is nowhere even remotely similar to using a shotgun in a tactical / self defense situation. They are worlds apart.

After the safety and emergency medicine briefings, we started this shotgun course as we start all of our shotgun courses - with a demonstration and examination of the performance of different types of 00 buck shot. We tested a total of 7 types of buckshot. This is a significant eye opener for most. The performance 00 buck shot varies widely from manufacturer to manufacturer. Most are very surprised to see how much this is so.

For this demonstration we fired a total of 3 rounds of each of the 7 types of buck shot - one each from the 7, 15, and 25 yard lines. In the pictures below, the small black circle is the patterning from the 7 yard line, the red circle is the 15 yard line, and the large black circle is from the 25 yard line. 

All of this buckshot was fired out of my Mossberg 590A1, which has an 18 inch barrel and ghost ring sights. 

  • The first round we tested was standard military issue buckshot, manufactured by Olin. 9 pellets. As with pretty much all 7 of the round we tested, results were satisfactory at the 7 yard line, and then quickly went down hill.
  • Next up was standard Winchester 9 pellet buck shot. Definitely better than the military load, particularly at the 25 yard line.
  • Next we tested a Remington magnum buck shot load, which was 12 pellets. As you can see in the pic, a very nice pattern at 7 yards, completely unsatisfactory at 25 yards.
  • Next up was the Winchester PDX1 Defender round. This is a hybrid round consisting of a 1 oz rifled slug and 3 buck shot pellets. I am not a fan of this round - AT ALL. To me it's the worst of both worlds - a small slug than usual, and only 3 pellets of buck shot. No thanks. Accuracy wise the slugs were pretty good, but as you can see in the picture, the pellets were way off at 25 yards.
  • Next up was the Speer Lawman 8 pellet round. This round actually performed the best, which was somewhat of a surprise. In the pic you can clearly see the patterning from 7, 15, and 25 yards. I aimed at the same place on the target on all three shots for exactly this reason. This is a VERY good personal defense buck shot load.
  • We left what I thought would be the two best performing buck shot loads for last - the Federal Personal Defense load with the FliteControl Wad, and the Hornady Critical Defense with the Versatite wad. I've used the Federal FliteControl round for a while now and have been very happy with it. This was the first time I've shot the Critical Defense round.
    • First was the Hornady Critical Defense round with the Versatite wad. 8 pellets. I thought this round would perform much better. I was very surprised to see a pellet outside the silhouette. I definitely expected better performance from this round.
    • The last round we tested was the Federal Personal Defense round with the FliteControl wad. This is a great round. I was a little surprised to see such a large pattern.

As you can see from the photos, the Hornady, Federal, and Speer rounds performed much better than the others, with Speer shooting the best pattern. The point of this exercise was to demonstrate to the shooters that all buck shot rounds are not created equal. In a personal defense shooting, we are each responsible for every projectile we put downrange. If you are going to use buck shot in your personal defense shotgun, made sure you shoot it on paper at known distances so that you know exactly where patterning becomes unacceptable.

Right after the buck shot demonstrating we moved into shotgun reloads. I'm a HUGE fan of the velcro side saddles on the market today. These are a MUCH better option than the traditional plastic or aluminum side saddles of yesteryear. The limited ammunition capacity of the shotgun makes a side saddle an absolute requirement for me in a personal defense shotgun. 

Reloading the shotgun is time consuming and not easy for those unfamiliar with reloading a shotgun in a tactical environment. It's not at all the same thing as reloading a hunting shotgun after shooting a few rounds at a rabbit or bird. Everyone got the swing of it after the first few drills, and everyone got better throughout the day. Which is the whole point of attending a training class.


  • Cory reloads his Mossberg from his side saddle. I know, he's tough to see wearing all that multi cam. Trust me, he's there.
  • Josh - another member of the multi cam mafia. He shot an older Mossberg with just a bead sight for most of the day, and did very well. 
  • JW shooting the only semi-auto gun in the class. His is the Mossberg model 930 SPX Blackwater edition. The speed difference between a semi auto shotgun and a pump gun is very significant.
  • Andrew below ran an KelTec KSG shotgun. This is an interesting weapon - not only does it have a rail to mount optics, back up irons, lights, etc., it also features dual magazine tubes. This allows the shooter to load a tube with buck shot and a tube with slugs, and the shooter can very quickly switch between the tubes with the flip of a selector. I'm not a big fan or very much that KelTec makes, but this is definitely an interesting weapon. Note: The pink shells are in support of breast cancer awareness. Save the boobies!
  • Joe attended his second 3T class and did very well with his 870.
  • Mark was attending his very first professional firearms training class of any kind. He did very well and kept up with the class all day.

Below, Cory running is Mossberg. Note the orange shell in his side saddle. This is not a live round. It's a dummy round. I handed out 3 dummy rounds to all the students. They were added to their ammo supplies, and made it into their shotguns at random intervals throughout the day. The purpose of this was to get the guys experiencing and clearing malfunctions. The best way to gain experience at clearing malfunctions (with ANY weapon - pistol, shotgun, or rifle) is to encounter them at random times during a training course.

One of the things about the shotgun that drives me mildly to moderately insane is when I hear people who think they know what they're talking about say "Shotguns are short range weapons. They aren't for fighting at distances beyond 50 yards". Absolutely complete and total nonsense. 

Below, Cory is engaging a piece of steel (with a slug) at 130 yards. This is not an easy shot, but everyone in the class was able to get at least a hit or two on this steel. One one person had an optic, so the rest of us were using iron sights.


We spent quite a bit of time talking about and working on slug change-overs, or what some call Select-A-Slug drills. These are performed when you have a round of buck shot in the chamber of your shotgun, and you need to use a slug for a precision or distance shot. This is not as easy as it might sound. The techniques and weapon manipulations required to perform this action vary widely based up the make of your shotgun, and whether you are running a pump action or semi-auto gun. This is a critical skill that must be mastered for the user of the personal defense shotgun. I don't have any specific pictures of these drills, but we did quite a bit of them. It was an eye opener for everyone in the class, and everyone realized the value of knowing how to perform this skill.

We worked on the standing position to kneeling position transitions. As you can see in the picture below, some shooters prefer to use a one knee down position, others prefer both knees down. This is a personal choice - find out what works best for you.


Later in the day, Josh switched to his Saiga semi-auto shotgun built on the AK platform. Wow - it's unreal how fast this gun can shoot. It was very impressive. In the pic below, Josh has a 20 round drum magazine in the gun. On the ground you can see a 10 round box magazine. Both performed great. The one limitation of this platform is that you cannot perform a slug change-over. The only way to get a slug into the chamber is to switch to a slug magazine and then run the charging handle to chamber the slug.


We spent a little bit of time on shotgun-to-handgun transitions. In a home defense situation, you are not going to have a handgun to transition to - you are likely going to be in your underwear or slightly more clothing. Not full tactical gear. The pic below is of JW's Smith & Wesson M&P 22lr pistol, with a suppressor. Wow is this an awesome little pistol - one that I will be adding to my arsenal soon. JW was able to hit the 130 yard steel with this pistol. Multiple times. Very, very impressive performance.

One of the fun parts of putting on classes is the variety of weapons that show up. This class was no different.

This was a very fun class attended by a great group of guys. I really like teaching this class and I wish there was more interest in it. Being able to effectively run many different weapon systems is a very good thing in a self defense situation, and should be everyone goal. It's great if you're highly skilled at running an AR, but that might not be the weapon in your hand, or the weapon you have access to, when the fight starts. 

I meant to get a group photo to post, but I forgot. Sorry guys.

Our next upcoming class is Concealed Carry Handgun on Saturday, April 5th. This class is filling up fast. I think there are 5 slots remaining.

I welcome any comments and observations.


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