At ITTS, we run a number of shotgun classes that address varying levels of skill. I’ve gotten a good idea of current shotgun trends from the students, and have some advice to offer regarding them.
Police departments seem to be getting away from the shotgun in favor of either the patrol rifle or a variant of the H&K MP5. The rationale given is that the shotgun seems to be too intimidating for some officers. LAPD reduced the loads used by line officers from the 12 pellet 00 at 1600 fps to a 9 pellet at 1200 fps (some refer to this as a “powder puff” load).
Some agencies cite the complexity of a pump-actuated shotgun as too difficult for officers to really get a handle on, while others cite the semi-auto shotgun as too complex as well. Neither of these is really true, but agencies being what they are, this is how they view such subjects.
The shotgun is, has been, and will continue to be fairly effective in most cases for stopping threats. It can launch either multiple projectiles simultaneously or a single projectile that can defeat quite a variety of intermediate obstacles if necessary. In other words, it can serve a dual purpose.
Some detractors cite the number of rounds that can be carried in the gun. Fair enough, yet most gunfights—conducted properly—do not require an inordinate expenditure of rounds. For distances of 50 yards and under, the shotgun, utilizing either the slug or 00 rounds, can be used to great effect. Since the vast majority of police encounters occur within these distances, the shotgun would seem to be a logical choice, however the current trend is to shy away from its deployment.
Unless you are operating at room temperature IQ, you can learn to effectively and rapidly work the shotgun, be it pump or semi-auto.
At our last Level 1 Shotgun class, over half the students had little or no experience with the shotgun when they started. Within three hours, they were effectively working the controls, loading and unloading, reloading, firing multiple rounds with center hits, and working the pump shotgun with very decent speed. By the end of the first day, they were consistently hitting with slugs at 75 yards and with 00 at speed from 15 yards and ripping through the “rolling thunder” drill on steel. In just one day, all of them had a pretty good handle on the shotgun—and these were students coming from all walks of life.
By the end of the second day, they were very, very good and really, really fast, made few mistakes and instantly corrected those they did make. Yes, Virginia, the shotgun can be learned fairly quickly.
Concerning shotgun set up: a dedicated weaponlight such as the SureFire is invaluable. A SideSaddle, butt cuff and magazine extension are musts, as is a sling. Sights should be of the ghost ring set up, solid square configuration as in the pistol, or the Aimpoint Micro Dot mounted on a Picatinny rail. (Glued sights do not last long, nor do sights mounted with tension bands.)
Most shotgun stocks are way too long and should be cut down such that if the butt of the shotgun were placed in the inner arm of the elbow joint, the trigger finger can easily rest on the trigger.
Pistol stocks for the shotgun are not necessary, but if this is your persuasion, so be it. A Mossberg’s safety is superbly located on the tang at the back of the receiver, but with an aftermarket pistol stock affixed to the Mossberg, you have to release the firing hand altogether to access it. The Remington 870 has a cross-bolt safety to the rear of the trigger guard and, if they could ever mount it on the tang, as with the Mossberg, that would be great.
Some newer stocks have recoil-dampening buffers, springs, hydraulics, etc. If you prefer them, that’s fine, but we have had some issues with them. (Solid stocks seem to stay solid for some reason.)
The shotgun is effective and controllable even with full house loads. It is a readily learnable platform that can be employed by the homeowner just as proficiently as by a police officer.
My advice to departments: don’t discount its use.