The Fighting Shotgun is one of the most common yet most misunderstood weapons available to the public. I asked J.D. McGuire, who makes his living building fighting shotguns for folks, to share with us some of the things he has found over the years.
The Tactical Shotgun for Home Defense
“Keep it Basic”
By J.D. McGuire, Owner of AI&P Tactical
Web site: www.aiptactical.com
This short write up is going to be very basic and many of the knowledgeable gun guys and gals are going to be bored to death reading this, however, there is a current trend in the gun world of people wanting a Tactical Type shotgun for home defense use. This is for them as many are also new to firearms.
You may have seen the term “HD” when reading about shotguns. That simply stands for “Home Defense” and any firearm can be used for this. However, there is one that is best for most people and that is the shotgun. These are also referred to as “Tactical Shotguns”
The Tactical shotgun is nothing more then a shotgun with some features that makes it easier to use in certain situations. These weapons are very much like the shotguns that have been used for sports shooting for many years, but with a few design differences. They are what many of you would know as Police or Riot Type shotguns. They have shorter barrels, a larger round capacity then a sporting weapon and other features not common on the type of shotgun you would hunt with or use on the skeet range. They are called Tactical Shotguns simply because they are designed to be used in a Tactical type scenario by Police, Military or Security Officers. In a worse case scenario, they are designed to be used by you or me to defend our loved ones or ourselves.
Design of the Tactical shotgun should start with the action of the weapon. Most common and reliable is the Pump action. With this weapon, you manually pull the forend of the weapon to the rear after each shot and the action ejects the spent shell and loads another shell into the chamber so you can fire again. The semi-auto loading shotguns perform this action for you each time you pull the trigger. The weapon operates by using gases from the shell being fired to force a piston to the rear initiating the same action that you performed manually on the pump action and an action spring forces the bolt back forward loading a new round into the chamber so you can fire again. Some models of semi-auto shotguns operate with other actions by using the force of the fired shell to initiate the action instead of using gases.
With that out of the way, remember this. I do not recommend any semi-auto shotgun for Home Defense, Duty or in any situation where your life is on the line. These weapons are not reliable enough for me to trust. There are too many issues that can cause a semi-auto to miss feed, jam or to malfunction in other ways. They are fun to shot, great to hunt with but a pump shotgun should be your choice for Home Defense. It comes down to the operational design of the weapon and I will not get into all that, however, if you are reading this and trusting what I am saying then trust this part most of all.
The most common pump shotguns used for home defense are 12ga shotguns. I believe the smaller 20ga to be a more affective HD shotgun but the buying public does share this opinion so there are more 12 ga shotguns on the market in the tactical design. If this is a weapon for a senior, a person small in stature or a person very new to firearms then I recommend you look that the 20 ga Tactical Models. A great example of this weapon is on my web site www.aiptactical.com . Put your cursor on the links for the 20ga Tactical. The weapon that you are seeing there is a Remington 870 20 ga. Tactical with the SpecOps recoil reducing stock a synthetic stock that is shorter then a standard stock. It cost about the same as the 12 ga models. You do not need the exact one on my web site as that weapon has custom upgrades up with Police parts and is parkerized. If you have the budget for it then fine but the same stock model from Remington will fit your need.
The most common barrel length on a Tactical Shotgun is 18” or in the case of the Remington models, an 18.5” barrel. Barrel length is important as you will be moving through your home with this weapon and the short barrels are more “Doorway” and “Hallway” friendly. They are also faster to swing to a target close to you. The legal length for any shotgun barrel is 18”. Shorter then that requires a special stamp from the BTAF, a $200 Federal license fee and a lot of paper work.
Choke is the restriction at the end of a shotgun barrel that tightens the shot just prior to it leaving the barrel. This is done to give you tighter patterns of shot at longer ranges. The most common choke on these weapons is called Cylinder Bore or Cly Bore for short. This is pretty much no choke. Next is Improved Cylinder Bore or I/C and is a little more restriction. Next is Modified or Mod. Which is a little more restriction then I/C. I recommend the Cyl Bore or I/C choke for most HD weapons. Choke really does not matter at the close distances you are going to using this weapon in an emergency. If you have out buildings or property around your home and may to go outside, the I/C gives you a few more feet of assurance that your pattern will be affective on a threat. I have the modified barrel on both my HD’s since I have out building on my property but I/C would serve as well.
Sights. Here is where may people go wrong when selecting an HD shotgun. The best sight for you HD shotgun is a simple bead sight. It is the fastest sight to use and the most effective at close ranges. There are high visibility and tritium bead sights that enhance the effectiveness of this type of sight and these are fine with me. The trend is to go for “Tacti-cool” or as I call it “Tacti-fool” sights like Ghost ring sights or Optical sights. These sights can get you killed in a close quarters fight. Do not even think about them on a dedicated HD shotgun. In the type of situation you are going to use this weapon there is no time to find a threat in a small peep sight like the rear ghost ring sight. Optics are also a problem as they have to be turned on, they have batteries that can go dead and there is simply no need for them on a close quarters weapon.
The type of stock you decide on is very important. Length of pull ( LOP) of the stock is the distance from the trigger to the end of the stock recoil pad that is up against your shoulder. Standard LOP is 14” and works well for people over 5”10” tall. However, here again, shorter is better so I recommend the reduced LOP stock which is 13” LOP. If you are short I even recommend what is called the “Youth Stock” which has a LOP of 12”.
There are also adjustable stocks that adjust with a quick pull of a lever and look like the stocks you see on many AR type rifles. These are a good choice for the home where different people of different heights may be required to learn to use the weapon.
There are two very effective tactical stocks on the market that not only adjust, but they reduce the recoil of the shotgun. The Knoxx SpecOps stock uses a cam spring in the pistol grip and a spring in the stock tube to take up to 80% of the felt recoil. It is very effective and allows anyone to be able to handle the 12ga shotgun. The other is the Mesa Tactical stock. It also adjust but it uses an Endine buffer in the stock tube to take up to 70% of the felt recoil. The buffer works like a shock absorber on your car. The SpecOps sell for around $120-$140 and the Mesa stocks start at $315 so your wallet can often decide the type you decide on. Another recoil reducing option, and less expensive is to upgrade the recoil pad to one that helps reduce felt recoil. The best I know of is the Remington R3 pad made by Limbsaver or any of the Limbsaver pads. There are other great recoil pads on the market also. Upgrading the recoil pad on your shotgun is the best upgrade and shooter can do and your shoulder will thank you.
The capacity of the HD shotgun should be 6+1. This means six rounds in the magazine tube and one in chamber. I recommend this simply because most HD shotguns come with this capacity when they have the 18 or 18.5” barrel. If they have a 20” barrel they will have a three shot extension on them and can hold 7+1. I also recommend that if the weapon is going to be stored loaded that you do not have a round in the chamber. Keep only four to five rounds in the magazine tube so you do not compact the magazine spring over time.
Most of these weapon will come with sling attachments and you may want a sling should you take a shotgun training course. Most of these courses require one, however, take that sling off when you get home. An HD shotgun does not need a sling and that thing can get you killed. It can hang up on other guns in your gun safe or hang up on something in the closet. It will hang up on door knobs, furniture and things that I have not even thought of yet. NO SLING on an HD…..
Weapon lights. This is one accessory that I recommend. You need to see what you are dealing with in these situations and a quality weapons light can save your life and it can stop you from making a mistake and using that weapon on an innocent person. The best on the market is the Surefire dedicated forend lights. These lights are built into a forend that will replace the forend on your shotgun. Surefire is one the best companies in this industry and they warranty these light for a life time. They have the best customer service of all the vendors I deal with.
Other options are to use light brackets and a small weapons light or even some of the LED flashlights. You can see some quality brackets at www.cdmgear and these will hold lights like the Surefire G2L or G3L, other Surefire models or many of the other brands on the market. The Stream Light Poly-Tech is another quality light that will not brake the bank.
A shell holder is not needed on a basic HD but it is a plus if you have property or out-buildings to check. This accessory allows you to have additional shells on the side of the weapon. I have several different type of ammo in my shell holder as I have out-buildings and have to leave to house to check them if I think something is going on. One of the buildings is my custom gun shop and with a 20 minute responce time being average by the police where I live I may have to deal with something in or around that shop. Everyone's situation is different and it is better to have the extra ammo and not need it than to need it and not have it. If you live in a residential area, condo or you are certain this weapon would only be needed indoors, pass on the shell holder as it is very unlikely you are going to have a situation inside your home that requires more rounds then you have in the weapon.
This is very important. Take a shotgun training course from a reputable trainer. No some EX Delta Ninja Special Ops Commando trying to turn students into some kind of Special Operators, but a reputable trainer at a reputable training facility. You will not only learn to use the shotgun but will learn about the laws of you state pertaining to using deadly force in self defense. After the training course get out and shoot your weapon as often as you can. Learning the weapon and becoming proficient with it is what is going to save your life.
It is important that you avoid the Tacti-fool mess that so many people put on these weapons. Keep it basic and there is less to go wrong with it when the time comes to protect your life and the life of you family. My contact information is on the top of each page of my web site, www.aiptactical.com and you can call with any questions any time. I always have time to talk shotguns.
Also, be warned. If you call and are asking for a HD shotgun and then inquire about something like my “Police Elite” model, well, we are going to have a serious debate about what you need and what you want. If you have that kind of money, and want one then fine. Just so you understand the difference. There is a big difference in what you want and what you need. I recommend on my web site that someone on a budget go buy the basic Remington HD Shotgun model 25077. That weapon will serve you well and would fit the needs of 90% of the people that call me and can be found anywhere for around $330. Some one asked me why I would send my customers away like that and I replied “because it is the truth.”
If you get little else from this write up, please get this. Anyone trying to sell you Ghost Ring sights, Optic sights, pictinney rail forends, laser or strobe sights, heat shields or bayonet lugs on an HD shotgun or to put on your HD shotgun is just trying to get as much money from you as they can. On my web site on the "build your weapon" page is a link to a video of a man named “Clint Smith” the founder of Thunder Ranch. In this video he talks about the shotgun for home and self defense use and this man knows what he is talking about. He also tells you to keep it basic. If you will not believe me then please believe him.
So let us review.
1. The HD shotgun should be a pump action shotgun
2. The HD shotgun should be kept basic, no frills and tacti-fool mess.
3. Barrel length should be 18 to 18.5 inches with a bead sight
4. Stock length should fit the shooter but short is better
5 Weapon capacity should be 6+1 or 7+1
6. Weapons lights are optional
7. A shell holder is optional
8. No sling on a an HD shotgun
9 No tacti-fool mess on this weapon
10. You don’t need a high dollar shotgun as long as it is well built from any of the leading manufacturers.
11. Take a shotgun training course from a reputable trainer.
So there is the basic HD shotgun. It is that simple and understanding that gives you the right starting point.