Sunday, September 6, 2020

A Cheap Shotgun for Home Defense?

Do you really need an expensive shotgun for home defense? My friend Steve and I did an experiment with a number of older shotguns and discovered that with the proper ammunition, even older shotguns performed very well and would be suitable for home defense.

The proper ammunition in my opinion is the Federal 8-pellet 00 Buckshot loads using the  FLITECONTROL® wad, the Speer Lawman using the same wad, or the Hornady 00 Buckshot load with the Versatite™ wad. All three seem to perform well in most shotguns and throw an acceptably tight pattern within 20 yards—the absolute outer limit for most urban home defense scenarios.

Recoil wise, the Federal and the Speer 8-pellet 00 Buckshot load's velocity is 1145 foot per second (fps) while the Hornady 00 Buckshot load leaves the barrel at 1600 fps so the felt recoil for the Hornady load will be greater.

Multiple projectile loads require particular attention to what is behind your target. YOU are responsible for every pellet you fire and every pellet can maim or kill. This is where target distance and the pattern of a particular load in your shotgun come into play. 

For example, the Fiocchi 9-pellet 00 buckshot load from my Beretta 1301 shotgun at 15 yards generally puts all nine pellets within a 10 inch circle. I say generally because occasionally this load throws one wild pellet off the target at that distance. This is also true with the Federal 9 pellet loads as well as the Winchester and Remington 9 pellet loads. Interestingly the Speer Lawman 8 pellet load does that as well. However, the Federal 8-pellet 00 Buckshot load consistently puts all 8 pellets through a hole 2 inches in diameter at 15 yards in my gun.

9th Pellet Flyer

The patterns below fired at 15 yards show our results with several older, and in some cases much cheaper shotguns. The center "A" circle is 9-inches in diameter.



Both barrels of the old double shown below were acceptable with the Federal 8 pellet load.

Even the cheap single shot fired a great pattern with the Federal FLITECONTROL®

You get the idea. Should you modify your shotgun?  That depends entirely on your goal.  If it is a family heirloom or has some value in its existing configuration then I would not modify it.  

Longer barrels certainly are not as handy for moving around a furnished room or other obstacles. If it makes sense to modify your shotgun, then consider cutting the barrel to a legal 18-1/2 - 20 inches. Previous owners cut down the barrels of the Remington Model 11 and the Marlin 1989 Pump shown above. 

A competent gunsmith can do this with little effort if you would like a shorter barrel. The picture below is of a Mossberg 500 Youth Model that originally came with a 24" barrel.  A local gunsmith cut the barrel to 18-1/2 inches, reset the bead, and refinished it.  


If you have a common shotgun such as the Mossberg 500 or Remington 870 and wish to spend a little more money, you can add some useful aftermarket accessories.  I purchased the police surplus 870 shown below for less than $200.00--of course this was before the 2020 gun buying frenzy.  

I added a Magpul stock to make the shotgun a little more comfortable to shoot and an Aridus Industries quick detach shell carrier for on-gun reloads.  Although acceptable before, this surplus 870 is now a very good home defense shotgun.

With the proper ammunition, granddad's old shotgun is completely suitable for home defense. However, you should go to the range and pattern your particular gun with the ammunition you would like to use.  Patterning your load lets you know exactly where the gun shoots and at what range the pattern is too large for home defense purposes.

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Sunday, August 16, 2020

Shooting the US Department of Energy (DOE) Protective Force Shotgun Qualification

This is the US Department of Energy (DOE) Protective Force Shotgun Qualification. The Department of Energy Protective Force Teams are the guys and gals that guard nuclear weapons and nuclear facilities—they are serious. The course of fire is straight forward and requires ten rounds of buckshot. The DOE qualification is fired on the DOE standard target with all pellets on the target counted as one point. The shooter must score 90% to pass at the SPO-III or Special Response Force/Tactical Response Force level.

The Stages:

7 yard line - 4 Rounds:

     -- Shotgun Loaded with 3 rounds

     -- Charge, and fire 2 rounds. Load 1 round in the magazine tube, and fire 2 rounds

Time: 12 Seconds

15 yard line – 4 Rounds:

     -- Shotgun Loaded with 2 rounds

     -- Charge, and fire 2 rounds from a standing position.

     -- While kneeling, load 1 round through the ejection port and close the action, load 1 round in the magazine tube, and fire 2 rounds

Time: 15 seconds

25 yard line - 2 shots:

     -- Shotgun loaded w/ 2 rounds

     -- From standing, Charge and fire one round, kneel and fire one round

Time: 6 Seconds

I fired the qualification using the DOE standard target. I covered the target with a t-shirt to reduce the damage the shotgun wads cause (even so, the large gaping holes are from the impact of shotgun wads).


I used the Speer Law Enforcement 8 pellet buckshot that has the Federal Flitecontrol wad. My Beretta 1301 is a 25-yard plus gun with the Speer and Federal 8 pellet buckshot loads with a typical pattern of six inches at 25 yards. The pictures below show a Federal 8 pellet buckshot round that I fired at an old (2003) Level II body armor panel. The pellets were clearly still in the Flitecontrol wad at seven yards and all the pellets fused into one mass. The Flitecontrol wad was embedded in the same hole as well. The round did not penetrate the Level II panel. 

Federal 8 Pellet Flitecontrol--All Pellets Fused into One Mass


In my Beretta 1301 the Speer 8 pellet buckshot load does occasionally throw one-pellet “flyers” outside the pattern as shown in the picture below from a previous qualification. I am not certain why this happens but it does. My 1301 does not particularly like the Hornady 12 Gauge 00 Buckshot Critical Defense with the Versatite load either and will have much larger patterns with occasional flyers at a given distance.

Previous Qualification Speer 8 Pellet Buckshot "Flyer"
 

The Speer rounds I fired in this qualification performed as advertised without flyers and the DOE target contained all 80 pellets which is 100% or a perfect score. The video below shows the entire course of fire.

 

It is a good idea to demonstrate and document your competence for record with any firearm you might use for self-defense. Since I use a shotgun as a home defense weapon, I periodically fire qualifications with my shotguns.

What course of fire should you use? There are several approaches you can take in choosing which course of fire to use to demonstrate competency. For the shotgun, I recommend the Department of Energy Shotgun Qualification course discussed here or your state qualification course. The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) for example has a Shotgun Instructor Qualification that police firearms instructors must pass to receive TCOLE firearms instructor certification in Texas.

The only FBI Qualification I was able to locate was from 2000; however, given the general status of the shotgun in contemporary police doctrine it is likely still the standard. The FBI qualification is weighted toward slugs and is the only course that has 50 yard targets.

Georgia State Shotgun Qualification requires the use of cover and incorporates head shots. It also requires the transition to your handgun when the shotgun runs dry.

The Massachusetts Municipal Police Training Committee or MPTC Shotgun Qualification incorporates shotgun operation fundamentals and marksmanship including loading, firing from different positions, reloading, cover, movement, pivoting left and right, etc. It is a very comprehensive course of fire that I will shoot in the near future. Lee Weems in a post stated that the Georgia Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors uses this qualification in their Shotgun Instructor course as well.

Regardless of the course of fire you chose, fill out a qualification sheet and have a witness sign it. Demonstrating competence with your firearm can short-circuit the potential prosecutor’s tactic of arguing that you discharging of the firearm was an accident or negligent act rather than intentional self-defense. Remember that the claim of self-defense is for an intentional act, not for an accident or negligence.

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Georgia Shotgun Qualification (GASQ)

SQT A-1
SQT A-1
I. FIREARM: Standard Service 12 Gauge shotgun semi-automatic or pump action shotgun

II. AMMUNITION: 4 rounds 12 gauge slugs; 6 rounds 12 gauge 8 or 9 pellet "00" buckshot; 2 rounds handgun

III. TARGET: (two targets per shooter)

IV. CLOTHING: Issued duty gear, eye and ear protection.

V. SIGHTS: It is highly recommended that agencies and instructors have the officers pattern their shotguns on an SQT A1 target from distances of 3, 7, 10, 15, 20 and 25 yards in order to identify where the pellets begin leaving the target scoring zone identifying the shotgun ammunition's maximum spread.

VI. GENERAL: All reloads are the shooter's responsibility. If the shooter encounters a malfunction from 25 yards or less, they may transition to the sidearm and complete that stage. Rounds may be made up at the stage where problems or malfunctions occur, but only within the allotted time limits for that stage.

VII. SCORING: Slugs and handgun rounds will be scored 2 points each for “A” zone hits and 1 point each for hits outside the “A” zone but still within the scoring area. Total possible points for four slugs and two handgun rounds will be 12 points. "00" buckshot will be scored as 1 point for each hit within the scoring area of the (2) targets. Total possible points for the 8 pellet buckshot is 48 points. Total possible points for the 9 pellet buckshot is 54 points.

Maximum Raw Score: 60 (8 pellet buckshot)

66 (9 pellet buckshot)

Minimum Qualifying Score: 48 = 80% (8 pellet buckshot)

53 = 80% (9 pellet buckshot)

VIII. SAFETY: During the course of fire while reloading or clearing a malfunction, the shooter will maintain muzzle and trigger finger discipline, weapon pointed down range and finger off of the trigger and outside the trigger guard. While moving the safety will be engaged, finger off of the trigger and outside the trigger guard and muzzle pointed down range. 

While loading the shotgun, the shooter must visually and physically inspect each round of ammunition before loading the round into the weapon. Special care must be taken to differentiate between slugs and buckshot ammunition. 

Road Ready / Gun Box Condition: The action is forward on an empty chamber, the magazine is loaded, and the safety is on. 

Low Ready / Cover Positions: The Low Ready position is defined as shotgun stock in shoulder, weapon pointed down range, safety on and finger off of the trigger and outside the trigger guard. The shotgun will be pointed just below the target so as to clearly observe the suspect’s hands. 

The Covering Offset position is defined as pointing the weapon in a safe direction left or right of the target. This is advantageous when utilizing the prone position. 

Covering the target: The target does not become a threat until it is either presented (moving or turning targets) or sound/verbal indicator command is heard.

VII. COURSE:

Stage One: 25 yard line, 2 strings of fire, use of cover, 2 slug rounds. Instructor: Once all students are on the 25 yard line have the shooters load the shotgun to gun box / road ready condition with two slugs in the magazine tube and handguns will be loaded and holstered with a full magazine.

String 1- Right side of cover: 4 seconds one iteration Standing outside of cover at a low ready position, on command the shooter will move behind cover, chamber a round and begin searching for the targets using the angular search technique around the right side of cover. From a low ready when the targets are presented, the shooter will fire 1 round on the right target in 4 seconds.

String 2- Left side of cover: 4 seconds one iteration Standing outside of cover at a low ready position, on command the shooter will move behind cover, and begin searching for the targets using the angular search technique around the left side of cover. From a low ready when the targets are presented, the shooter will fire 1 round on the left target in 4 seconds.

Stage Two: 15 yard line, 2 strings of fire, use of cover, 4 buckshot rounds and 2 slug rounds. Instructor: Once all students are on the 15 yard line, have the shooter load the shotgun to gun box / road ready condition with 4 rounds of buckshot in the magazine tube.

String 1- Either side of cover: 8 seconds one iteration Standing outside of cover at a low ready position, on command the shooter will move behind cover, chamber a round and begin searching for the targets using the angular search technique and fire 2 rounds on each target in 8 seconds. Instructor: Have students out of battery load the shotgun behind cover with 1 slug into the chamber and in battery load 1 slug into the magazine tube.

String 2- Either side of cover: 6 seconds one iteration On command from a low ready position, the shooter will lean out from behind cover and fire 1 head shot on each target in 6 seconds.

Stage Four: 7 yard line, 1 string of fire, transition to handgun, 2 buckshot rounds and two handgun rounds.

Instructor: Once all students are on the 7 yard line have the shooter out of battery load 1 buckshot round into the chamber and in battery load 1 buckshot round in the magazine tube.

String 1- 6 seconds one iteration

On command from a low ready position, the shooter will give verbal commands and fire 1 round on each target, Transition to their handgun, and fire 1 round on each target in 6 seconds

Guidelines for Scoring the Georgia Shotgun Qualification Course (GASQ)

Slugs and handgun rounds will be scored as two (2) points each for “A” zone (center mass/central area) hits and 1 point each for hits outside the “A” zone, but still within the scoring area of the two (2) silhouettes. Total possible (maximum) points for four slugs and two handgun rounds will be 12 points. "00" buckshot will be scored as 1 point for each pellet hit within the scoring area of the (2) targets, without regard to whether the hits are in the “A” zone (center mass/central area) or the remainder of the silhouettes’ scoring area. Total possible points for the 8 pellet buckshot load is 48 points. Total possible points for the 9 pellet buckshot load is 54 points. 

Maximum Raw Score: 60 (8 pellet buckshot); 66 (9 pellet buckshot)

Minimum Qualifying Score: 48 = 80% (8 pellet buckshot); 53 = 80% (9 pellet buckshot)

In all scoring scenarios, should the perforation ring of a slug, a handgun bullet or buckshot pellet break the scoring line of any scoring area, the shooter shall be credited with the scoring value of the higher of the adjacent scoring areas and graded accordingly. Accurate scoring of the target, due to the target damage incurred as a result of short range shotgun fire, can appear to be a daunting task. Below are some tips for managing this task successfully and accurately.

Begin by assuming that all rounds have penetrated the silhouette area of the target. Because pellet rounds from the buckshot are scored with equal value regardless of where they impact the silhouette, the ‘A’ zone of the target does not carry any more weight than the rest of the target. Next, search for pellets that have impacted outside of the silhouette. Count the total number of pellets in the green area (outside of the silhouette) and subtract this number from the total possible pellet count. The difference here will be total pellet count that has impacted within the silhouette.

Buckshot only: It is acceptable to shoot the entire course utilizing buckshot, however the instructor may have to adjust the distance for the student to ensure that the ammunition used DOES NOT exceed the pattern spread at the qualification distance. 

In simple terms, if the student’s ammunition and weapon system exceeds the scoring area on the SQT A1, start the qualification course stage 1 at the 15 yard line. For the head shot portion on stage 2, incorporate it on stage 4. Leave all other stages the same.

Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Shotgun Qualification Course