Up to this point in our Defensive Shotgun Primer series, we've spoken purely to hardware. This covers ammunition selection, different styles of sights, accessories, and more. Now it's time to cover the software side of the house. The most tricked out shotgun is virtually useless if you don't know how to use it, so we'll need some training. Additionally, you'll want some resources to further your knowledge between classes. Lets take a look at defensive shotgun training and resources.
The talent pool for instructors is small but strong. As shotguns fell out of favor over the past few decades, those with expert knowledge of the tool began to dwindle. While this reduces the raw number of qualified schools and instructors preaching the gospel of the gauge, we still have a solid list of recommendations.
Tom Givens of Rangemaster, Rob and Matt Haught of Symtac, Ashton Ray of 360 Performance Shooting, Justified Defensive Concepts, Hardwired Tactical, First Person Safety, Greg Ellifritz of Active Response Training, and Sentinel Concepts are all good places to start. Gunsite Academy, and Thunder Ranch also offer shotgun courses at their fixed-site schools. The Thunderstick Summit brings several great gauge instructors together for an all-in-one celebration of the scattergun.
Competition as a Skill Building Resource
Many will scoff at shooting sports as a way to build relevant skill, but those people are wrong. Many of the great gunfighters regularly competed, from the likes of Colonel Charles Askins, up to today with Mike Pannone, to name just a few. It's true that not every aspect of competition is a 1:1 translation, but the mechanics of shooting, moving, reloading, and more still apply. When classes are costly, and actual defensive encounters are something to avoid, there's not much better bang for your buck than gun games.
While not something I particularly enjoyed, my brief exposure to 3 Gun heavily influenced how I handle a shotgun. From working slug changeovers, to the speedy "violin" reloading technique, multi-gun competition will teach you how to run your shotgun efficiently. Most shooting is done with birdshot, though the occasional slug will force you to learn some holds and mitigate a little recoil. The gear selection may not be optimal for defensive purposes, but there is some crossover that is fast and secure, such as the Safariland 085 shell holders.
More recently, I briefly dabbled in Cowboy Action Shooting (CAS), which also sees a fair bit of shotgun shooting. For those running pump action or semiauto shotguns, there won't be much for you here. While the Winchester 1897 pump gun is legal, shooters are only allowed to load two rounds at once, per standard CAS rules, forcing unrealistic reloads. In the Wild Bunch variations of CAS, up to six rounds may be loaded in your pump guns, adding relevancy to the match. Those of you choosing a double barrel shotgun for personal protection, you'll be right at home shooting Cowboy Action, giving you fantastic practice with reloads, though all ammunition is restricted to birdshot.
Various forms of wing shooting can also be beneficial; from bird hunting, to trap and skeet, and more. You won't be reloading on the clock, or making explosive movements, but there's still benefit to be had. Often times these shooters are some of the best at mounting the gun, and quickly zeroing in on fast moving targets. Breaking up the monotony of defensive shooting drills can also be a nice break, while still building skills. I've tried my hand at trap and skeet over the years, and seeing a clay disintegrate before your eyes is a better shot of serotonin than any shotgun qualification can hope to give.
Further Shotgun Resources
Even with ammunition prices coming down, getting out to the range is still a costly endeavor. As we grow our physical skills, we should be growing our knowledge base as well. Luckily there are some solid resources available for us to do just that. One of my favorite resources is Chris Baker of Lucky Gunner. Lucky Gunner offers a lot of content that is easily accessible, to include some fantastic information on the defensive shotgun. Other contributors on the subject include Melody Lauer, Darryl Bolke, and Kyle Eggimann.
I've mentioned That Shotgun Blog here before, and I'm bringing them up again. With in depth equipment reviews, training after actions, and more, That Shotgun Blog is a stellar scattergun resource. Following them on Facebook will bring you a lot of additional content that doesn't make the blog, such as deals on ammo, class dates, and more.
There isn't much in the defensive world that Greg Ellifritz hasn't written about. While shotguns aren't the focus of Active Response Training, they still get a fair bit of love. Like everything else you'll read there, Greg has put a lot of thought and hard work into understanding the subject at hand. Once you've finished reading everything he has to offer, you can sign up for a class on the site as well!
Our first book is The Farnam Method of Defensive Shotgun and Rifle Shooting by John Farnam. If the title isn't enough of a hint, only half of this book is dedicated to the shotgun. Full disclosure, I don't agree with all of its content, and find some aspects to be a bit dated. Despite a few reservations, I think the value remains, even if you never crack open the second half.
Next up is The Defensive Shotgun: Techniques & Tactics, by Louis Awerbuck. Published in 1989, it's a little dated regarding some techniques and equipment. However, there are some fantastic photos of left handed reloads, patterning, and more. While not as detailed or well written as Farnam's book, this piece covers valuable additional ground. Coming in at only 77 pages, this is a quick read, and a decent addition to the library.
Finally we have Combative Shotgun: The Most Effective Close Quarter Small Arm Currently In Existence! by Mike Boyle. This is the most recent book on this list, being published in 2019. Initially I wasn't impressed by the book, finding the basics better covered by others on this list. However, Mike does an excellent job covering mindset and some very basic tactics, which are found in latter chapters. Relatively short, Combative Shotgun comes in just over 100 pages, making it an easy read.
Of course there are other shotgun books, but we won't list them all here. Each of these cover certain aspects better than others, leaving no clear leader of the pack. I suggest grabbing the lot, then picking out the best portions for a complete learning experience.
More Shotgun Primers and Resources
Check out the other articles in our defensive shotgun primer series below!