Saturday, October 24, 2015

Defensive Shotgun, FAS 10/17/2015

(EDIT: Because of my accidental posting of the first, partial draft of this yesterday, it shows up as a post from yesterday, which screws up the continuity of the blog, so I've changed the "Posted At" time.)

Last Saturday I took a Defensive Shotgun class from The Firearms Academy of Seattle, Inc.

I have mentioned a couple of times that I want to take such a class, but my local range does not offer it. So when I saw that FAS had a class scheduled, I checked my schedule and signed up.

Despite the name, the Firearms Academy of Seattle is in the thriving metropolis of Onalaska.
About 2 hours from Seattle, and one and a half from Portland, depending on traffic conditions...

Why? Well, it's a lot easier to build a range complex in the woods than in Seattle; the name wasn't changed because, well, the business was established, and who would go to the Firearms Academy of Onalaska?

Class ran from 10AM to 6 PM. Personally, I would have been happier with an earlier start and finish, since I had to get up way to early to go to work the next day, but I am aware that the universe does not answer to my every whim; after all, if it did I wouldn't have to get up way to early to go to work at all...

Instructors were Bill and Brian. There were 7 other students besides myself. I had my Mossberg 500; there were one each Benneli 1301 Tactical, Beretta M4, and Mossberg 930. The rest were Remington 870 s. One of the 870s was in 20 gauge, the rest of the shotguns were 12 gauge.

Ammunition requirement for the class was published as 100 shells birdshot (lead), 20 shells "non-magnum" buckshot, and 15 rounds slugs. I came home with, I think, 5 birdshot. (For birdshot I went to the local large retailer and bought a 100 pack of Winchester Range loads; 7 1/2s IIRC.) I had extra buckshot, and have no plans to replenish my supplies of slugs, but I'll get to that later...

We started out in the classroom, where the usual paperwork was filled out, facilities and course syllabus were reviewed, as well as the Four Rules of Gun Safety, including approved methods of moving about the FAS ranges with a shotgun.

We discussed the proper sight picture with the various types of sights found on shotguns, bead front/no rear, rifle, and ghost ring. Red Dot and other optics were mentioned but no student was using those, so we didn't go over them.

We also discussed the "shotgun engagement zones":
  • Zone A is out to seven meters
  • Zone B is from seven to 25+/- meters
  • Zone C is from 25 meters on out; with quality slugs, a shotgun can engage out to 100 meters. 
Then, we had the discussion that every basic defensive shotgun class in the country has, "The Myths."

I.e, "There are probably more myths about the shotgun than any other firearm."  Actually, I think there are probably not "more" myths about shotguns than there are about, say the M1911 .45 ACP pistol, but it's an attention getter, and the two most common myths have taken hold so deeply that exorcising them completely would probably be a lifetime job.

You know them.

All you have to do is rack the action and the bad guy will run away.
Maybe. If it's an inexperienced teenager on his first "not doin' nuhtin'", who hasn't even begun to turn his life around yet.

On the other hand, in a quote attributed to Massad Ayoob:
Maybe you have just notified your assailant that you are so far behind the curve that you are just figuring out that you need a loaded firearm.
You don't even need to aim, just point it in the general direction and the bad guy will fall dead.
While "aiming" a shotgun is a different process while wingshooting, it turns out that you can indeed, miss while shooting a shotgun.

Shotgun Myth Three is that "Shotguns have no penetration", and therefore are safe as houses for use in , um, houses...  We'll come to this one later.

Finally, a fourth common shotgun myth is what I call
Seven with one blow!
i.e, you can take out the entire zombie drug dealer terrorist biker gang with one shot. This one, too, will be addressed.

We watched a Mossberg video about tactical Shotgun Techniques; this thing dated from the early '80s and featured interviews and discussion by Jeff Cooper (pbuh).

Even before the class really got going, it was obvious that the technique had evolved over the last thirty+ years. (Which really is no surprise, even Col. Cooper's Modern Pistol technique has evolved.) The stance, for example, was "bladed at 45 degrees" back then, but now the "H&K Stance", which has the shooter more squared up to the target, and more responsive to changes in the situation, has been adapted from sub-machine gun work to other fighting long guns, including the shotgun.

Too, back in the 80s the ready position looked more like a standard "port arms", whereas now one starts with the butt of the shotgun tucked into the "pocket" of the shoulder; the elbow is no longer out, but rather tucked into the side to facilitate forming a good pocket.

Before heading to the range for the first course of fire, we went over the first totally new thing I learned that day, AKA the proper way to unload your shotgun.

Here I'd been just working the action until the magazine was empty.

What you do is (assuming your shotgun is right-handed, i.e., the ejection port is on the right side of the receiver):
  1. Safety on, muzzle in safe direction.
  2. Work the slide to the rear to un-chamber the shell, but not so vigorously as to eject it. 
  3. Place right hand over ejection port.
  4. With left hand, rotate shotgun clockwise. 
    • Shell that was in chamber will fall into your hand. 
    • So will the shell that was on the elevator, waiting to be chambered.
  5. Rotate shotgun counter-clockwise, so that loading port is facing up.
  6. Slowly move slide forward until next shell in magazine engages shell stop. 
    • Do not move slide forward enough to drop elevator.
    • Try it, eventually it will be obvious.
  7. Press in with finger on shell stop to release shell. 
  8. Repeat until magazine is empty.
We then moved to the range, a ten yard range with steel silhouette targets.  The first thing we did was practice unloading, where I discovered...

...well, actually, before getting to that point I discovered that on my way down I had been playing a game of  "chicken" with the law, because I had unloaded my shotgun but I had left some shells in the sidesaddle. To a normal human with normal English language skills no rounds in the chamber or magazine = "unloaded", but a few gendarmes and persecutors in the state have been known to interpret "unloaded during transport" to mean "no ammunition touching any part of the gun."
Sidesaddle empty.
Tamara has a couple of good pics of "loaded" ones here and here.
Photo copyright 2015 D.W. Drang and The Cluemeter.

Anyway, moving on to practicing unloading, I discovered that working the action gently enough not to eject the chambered shell is fairly easy, but moving the slide  forward just enough that depressing the shell stop would release the next shell took some practice. If I watched carefully, I could see when the shell rim snapped into the shell stop, and stop moving the slide. Go too far forward, and the shell elevator drops down and it's too late...

After  practicing purging our shotguns, we began practicing engaging the steel targets with birdshot.
Steel silhouettes at 10 yards, after two or three relays.
Click to embiggen, you'll notice that some of the patterns are off to one side or another.
Photo copyright 2015 D.W. Drang and The Cluemeter.

The drills we were shooting called for various numbers of shells to be loaded in to the shotgun and then increasing numbers of shots to be taken, i.e., "Load three, shoot one, then shoot two." And, no, no one was shooting two or more targets with each shot.

After blasting through a box or two of birdshot, returned to the classroom for a "working" (or learning) lunch; we watched the rest of that Mossberg Gunsite video, and then we watched a video that Firearms Academy of Seattle director Marty Hayes made when he was still teaching at a range facility in the Seattle area, regarding the penetration of projectiles launched from a shotgun. The "target" he used for this was a wooden box with three layers of .75" sheetrock, and multiple (eight, I believe) layers of .75" plywood. This does a decent job of simulating the construction of most houses standing today.

#8 “Dove”
Some penetration all three layers
#7 ½ Target
Full penetration 2 layers, some of 3rd
Full penetration all three layers
#4 Birdshot
Full penetration all three layers
Damage to 1st layer face, no penetration
#4 Buckshot
Full penetration all three layers
Penetration of 1st layer
#1 Buckshot
Full penetration all three layers
Penetration 1st and 2nd layers
0 Buckshot
Full penetration all three layers
Penetration 1st and 2nd layers
00 Buckshot
Full penetration all three layers
Penetration of 1st-3rd layers
Slug, 1 ounce
Full penetration both layers
Penetration of 7 layers of plywood.

Marty stated the brand and details of the loads being used, but I don't believe it really matters. Nor does the fact that he was one piece of sheetrock shy at the end and only had two for the slug test change the results.

The take-away here, of course, is that if you are shooting bad guys inside the house with your shotgun, you still need to be aware of what might be behind your target, on the other side of the wall, even if using Number 9 shot.

On the other hand, if you actually want to stop your assailant, something with a little more "oomph"  than "dust" may be called for.

After lunch we returned to the 10 yard range for another relay or two, then we moved to the 50 yard range where we patterned our shotguns with buckshot at four, seven, ten, fifteen, and twenty yards. 

Winchester Low Recoil 00 Buckshot from 4, 7, 10, 15, and 20 yards. Large holes are the wads.
Murphy insists that I MUST have this photo sideways. I have tried several different ways to rotate it. No go.
Photo copyright 2015 D.W. Drang and The Cluemeter

After patterning our buckshot, we moved to 25 and 50 yards to shot slugs.

Now I remember why my father hated the annual shotgun qualifications so much. 

Ouch. Part of dad's problem was the previously-mentioned "old school" techniques, and part of it was the fact that the department issued unmodified shotguns, with full Length of Pull, which is usually 14 inches, far too long for anyone who is not being actively recruited by the NBA. 

Plus, slugs kick like mules.

This is also where I discovered that the  ambidextrous safety on the Mossberg shotguns can lead to the discovery of bad habits that other shotguns let you continue:
Yes, it's on "fire". I did it on purpose, wasn't sure of the light and the red dot helps visibility.
Shotgun is unloaded, slide to rear, and the camera rotated the photo again.
Photo copyright 2015 D.W. Drang and The Cluemeter.
Anyway, the problem is, you move your thumb up there to take the gun off safe, and then it's easy to leave your thumb up there, resulting in you sticking your own finger in your eye...glasses.

By this time we had been at it for five or six hours and I was beginning to feel every one of my 20 years of daily PT runs, road marches, off-road/cross-country marches with 100 pound rucks, rapelling, and decidedly un-ergonomic HMMWV and helicopter seats. I was unable to assume the preferred "marksman's kneeling" position for the slug shooting, which was the kneeling position I used to use on the rifle team...30 or 40 years ago. 

My hands were also beginning to complain a lot, which led to my next discovery of A Good Idea Which Didn't Work Out...

We moved back to the 10 yard range and practiced shooting from behind cover, using the posts supporting the roof over the firing line as simulated hard cover.

Then we practiced doing it using our support hand. And I made my discovery:
Magpul sling adapter
You can see how my hand rests right up against it.
Which really, really hurts when shooting...
Between this and the way the Surefire DSF fore-end light is constructed, my left forefinger was swollen and red for the next three days or so. I note that, in Tamara's posts I linked to earlier, she has one of these things. So it obviously works for some people. I wish them luck with it...

We finished up the day with a "Rolling Thunder" drill, in which the class is divided into two relays of 4 each, and each member of the relay loads with five shells. He then fires at each of five different targets. When he is finished, the next man up tames his shots while the first reloads, and so on, the process repeating once. The relay with the most hits and the fastest time wins. This doesn't apply directly to a home defense use of shotguns, of course, but it does stress-test the gun handling skills that one has been learning all day.

All in all this was a highly valuable class, in which I learned a lot. I highly recommend it to anyone, especially those of us who live within a day's drive, for who can combine it with one or more other classes. (At least one of my classmates was staying over for a carbine class the next day.)

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