Frank P. fires a cracker round, which pops 50 yards downrange.


I’ve had the good fortune to train with some of the great instructors, most of whom come from Gunsite lineage—Chuck Taylor, Clint Smith, Bill Jeans, Pat Rogers, Bill Murphy, and Louis Awerbuck. Bill Murphy ran the 260 Shotgun class at Gunsite, and Louis taught “the gauge” through his company, Yavapai Firearms Academy. I took Louis’ shotgun class three times (I’m a little slow) and will take it again. It’s now taught by Steve McDaniel of Alaska Tactical.

Some of these guys liked the shotgun, while others preferred carbines or rifles. For my first year as an Alaska State Trooper, the shotgun was the only long gun issued, so I decided to get good with it. I started taking classes and grew to love the effectiveness and versatility of the pump shotgun. As Bill Murphy put it, “It’s the thinking man’s weapon.”

The Prepper Special: low profile, simple, versatile, effective.


Properly trained with and properly outfitted, a shotgun will do almost anything a person needs to do with a gun—it’s the multi-tool of the gun world. You can shoot a pheasant with birdshot and a deer with a slug in just a few seconds.

I did a lot of backcountry travel in Alaska, and a Remington 870 was with me most of the time, for the following reasons. I killed a lot of problem critters with a shotgun—moose, bear, whatever needed to be put down went down for good after a Brenneke slug hit it. I shot lots of grouse and ptarmigan, harassed a few bears out of camp, and came to have a lot of faith in “the gauge.”

I once had to use a shotgun in its defensive role, and it was very effective. Pump shotguns are better than any auto in this role, since a pump will cycle anything you feed it, while many autos are finicky.

A disclaimer: no police trainer I know suggests carrying lethal and less-lethal munitions on a service shotgun. There’s simply too much chance of the wrong load at the wrong time in a high-stress situation. For this article, combat is not the primary focus. It’s long-term survival.

The reason for the shotgun’s versatility is the range of munitions available—slugs, buckshot, birdshot, flares, bean bags, rubber buckshot or slugs, fleshettes, tear gas, cracker rounds, breaching rounds, and more.


Frank removes a slug from the left-side carrier…



I write this as anti-gun rhetoric heats up: ban “weapons of war” from the streets of America. The shotgun depicted here has no evil features. No detachable magazine, bayonet lug, flash hider, or pistol grip—and it isn’t black! It has a gray finish, rifle sights, one-round mag extension, leather sling, and that brown substance at the rear and on the forearm is called “wood.” This is your turkey or deer gun, not an “assault weapon.” At some point in the future, the gun’s appearance may be more important than the gun’s capabilities: look at the laws recently passed in Kalifornia.

OK, you live in New Jersey or Kalifornia or some other Marxist paradise. You’re not a gun guy, don’t see a need for or can’t buy a black rifle or a handgun, but want something to protect self and family WTSHTF.


…loads it into the magazine…


Let’s say you live outside a city, where you see the occasional wild critter, or have a plan to leave the city and go to your uncle’s house in the Poconos. You know it’ll be a long walk, there may be brigands on the way, and you may have to scrounge for food. Buckshot can deal with the bad guys, and #7 1/2 birdshot take care of the raccoon for the pot.

I live in a fairly isolated area. This year my cherry trees went crazy, which drew a lot of birds—I get the cherries, not the birds. A shell-cracker (an M80 firecracker that shoots out about 50 yards before it explodes) over the trees scared off the birds. A stray dog showed up a while back, and a rubber slug in the butt sent him out of the county. In the above scenarios, a trained guy can respond accordingly with the munitions carried on the gun.


…and cycles the action, ready for a distance shot.



This gun started as a used Remington 870 Wingmaster, $250 at the local gun shop. I sent the gun to Larry Lyles of Covert Tactical Resources. I know Larry from Scattergun Technologies and Nighthawk Custom, before he went out on his own. Larry tunes fighting shotguns with new springs, extractors, etc and hand fits and polishes each part as it goes into the gun. He can do anything needed on a shotgun, and the action of this gun is incredibly smooth.

Larry had a flood and had to close down for a month, so he shipped my Remington to VangComp Systems to be finished. Hans Vang is a legend in the fighting shotgun world. He mounted sights and a one-round mag extension, and back-bored the barrel for tighter patterns. He finished the entire gun in a matte gray Cerakote™ finish.

Loads are carried on the gun two ways: a SideSaddle-type carrier made by VangComp on the left side of the receiver and an Eagle Industries stock carrier. Vang’s carrier has nylon loops sewn to a Velcro back, which allows pre-loaded carriers to be changed quickly, depending on the situation.


Eagle Industries stock pouch holds five rounds of special-purpose munitions on right side of stock.


If I were hunting birds, I’d have four #6 shotshells, primer down, and two slugs, primer up, in the left-side carrier. On the right of the buttstock, in the Eagle Industries stock carrier, I’d have my special-purpose loads—a bean bag, shell cracker, rubber slug, rubber buckshot, a flare or breaching round, all depending on my situation.

If food gathering were less important than defense, the loads would be almost the same, but the birdshot would be replaced with 00 buckshot.

This gun purposely does not have a light or anything else that says “tactical.” In states that require shotguns for deer hunting, this is a perfect setup; the same for states with large turkey populations. This will pass muster as just a hunting gun if contacted by some authority bent on limiting “assault weapons.”

Those of you old enough will recall Joe Biden brandishing a Streetsweeper shotgun and saying it had no sporting purpose and should, therefore, be banned. The Streetsweeper and the USAS-12, an AR-design shotgun, were reclassified as NFA weapons and had to be registered, just like suppressors. This gun should never suffer the same fate.

After buying and modifying the gun, the next critical step is training. The best shotgun classes I know are from Alaska Tactical and Gunsite.


Always visually confirm type of specialty munitions selected before loading them into the gun.



Almost any problem a survivor could face can be addressed with a proper shotgun. Lost? Fire a flare into the air when a search plane passes. Need access through a locked door? A breaching round can remove the lock. Does someone need convincing but not killing? Hit him with a bean-bag round. Got a deer 100 yards away? Load a slug and shoot. Finally, if someone needs to be shot, a round or two of buckshot would solve that problem.

In a post-disaster scenario, I’d set up this gun for my most-likely need. If I wanted to hunt, I’d attach the carrier loaded with birdshot and two slugs, and load three shot rounds into the magazine. If I were afraid of armed opponents, I’d slap on the buckshot/slug carrier and load the magazine with buckshot. Either carrier always has two slugs, which turns the shotgun into a .458 Win Mag within 100-plus yards.

The Eagle buttstock carrier, with rounds on the right side of the gun, always stays the same, with special-purpose munitions available if needed.

One more caveat: look at the round before you load it. To be used in this thinking-man’s weapon role, you need to be certain that the round loaded is the round needed. It would be a disaster on many levels if the less-lethal round you thought you were loading turned out to be a lethal round, so train hard and use your head.


Left to right: Brenneke slug, 00 buckshot, #6 birdshot, bean bag, rubber slug, rubber buckshot, shell cracker, tear gas, and breaching round. Just some of the munitions available for the 12-gauge pump shotgun.



A Prepper Special set up like this costs $600 to $700. Training costs from $400 to $1,200, depending on where you go. Do not watch a couple of videos on the Infernalnet and think you’re good to go. You need quality training under a really good teacher to get the most out of the gun.

I have three combat shotguns, all outfitted with Mesa Tactical, SureFire, VangComp, and other accessories. All are black and look exactly like what they are—fighting weapons. One is in the bedroom, one in the basement, and one in the shop. Any authority looking for “bad” guns would see them in these weapons but would probably not notice the Prepper Special. After all, it’s just a turkey gun.

Jeff Hall is an Army veteran, retired Alaska State Trooper lieutenant, and NRA staff instructor. He also teaches for several state POST agencies. He is a martial arts grandmaster and founder of Hojutsu-Ryu, the martial art of shooting. He can be reached at [email protected].



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