Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Rangemaster Shotgun Instructor Course--Part 2: More Highlights and Observations

Common Shotgun Shells
As I mentioned in part 1 of this article, I recently attended Tom Given’s Rangemaster shotgun instructor course—a very good class that I highly recommend. The class is a three-day course designed to train instructors how to teach techniques for handling and shooting the defensive shotgun under stress.

Some additional highlights and observations:

-- Always check your ammunition. Examine the primers, ensure that the shells are not damaged or corroded, properly crimped, and that the shell mouth has not expanded. Shotgun shells that have been in a tubular magazine for an extended length of time occasionally swell which may result in an inability to chamber the shell.

    Ensure you are using ammunition of the correct gauge. This is particularly true if you own shotguns in several gauges which increase the potential to mix shells. Although many ammunition companies use different colored shells for different gauges, this is not always the case.

    Tom mentioned the chance of mistakenly placing 20 gauge ammunition in a 12 gauge shotgun. The 20 gauge may slide down the barrel far enough that the shooter can load a 12 gauge shell in the chamber behind the 20 gauge shell and fire it with the obvious potential for catastrophic results.

    Ironically, one of the students in the class had a gun that suddenly would not chamber a round. Examination showed that the barrel was obstructed with another shotgun shell. Considerable pounding with a cleaning rod produced a 16 gauge shell that entered and became stuck in the barrel. The student sheepishly admitted that he owned a 16 gauge shotgun. Both shells were the exact same red color and only a close examination would have identified the 16 gauge shell.

-- Are lights really necessary on a shotgun for home defense use? Not really. Tom discussed the benefits of simply leaving a light on in your home that illuminates any areas where an intruder might enter. As you think about it, under these circumstances you will likely see the intruder before or when he sees you. If the house is dark and you come into the area with a light, the intruder will immediately know your location; however, you may not know his.

As an experiment, I completed the Rangemaster shotgun qualification during a recent low light practice session. I did not use a mounted light and instead held the light in my support hand alongside the shotgun’s forend. I scored 100% and completed all the strings of fire within the prescribed time limits with no problem. The paired holes are where the Federal Flitecontrol® wads struck the target. 

Update: I have now mounted and use a light on my shotgun. Experiments in low light shotgun matches have shown that the gun-mounted light works very well. 

-- "The 20-gauge is much easier to shoot than the 12-gauge, produces significantly less recoil, and is lighter and more maneuverable."* Like many others, I have always accepted the comment that a 20 gauge is better for small-statured people in a home defense role due to less recoil. However, as Tom discussed, a 20 gauge may not be better than a 12 gauge for home defense (and indeed other defensive applications). Although this may not have been the case at one time, modern low-recoil 12 gauge buckshot loads have less recoil than many modern 20 gauge equivalents.

Update: A student in one of my one-day shotgun classes arrived with a Benelli M1 20 gauge. He was not a small person (6'1", 180 pounds); however, he tapped out before the class was finished.  He told me the shotgun was beating him to pieces.  He ultimately repeated the class with a 12 gauge Beretta 1301. 

It is a matter of physics. A 20 gauge, 20-pellet standard load of #3 buckshot weighs 468 grains. At 1200 feet per second (FPS) it will have a muzzle energy of 1497 foot pounds. A 12 gauge, 8-pellet 00 buckshot load weighs 430.4 grains. At 1145 FPS it will have a muzzle energy of 1253 foot pounds. All things being equal, the 12 gauge load would have less felt recoil than the 20 gauge load. All things  typically are not equal however. The 20 gauge shotgun will probably be lighter than a comparable 12 gauge shotgun so if recoil is a concern, the 12 gauge will likely produce noticeably less felt recoil.

I have always been impressed with the shotgun’s effectiveness and power and the Rangemaster shotgun instructor course reinforced my belief in the shotgun as a defensive tool. When employed correctly and within its proper range envelope the shotgun is very effective; however, trying to use it beyond its capabilities is an exercise in frustration. It is not a rifle and trying to make it one will result in disappointment. Remember, you are responsible for every pellet you fire.

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Monday, November 4, 2019

Rangemaster Shotgun Instructor Course: Highlights and Observations

I recently attended Tom Given’s Rangemaster shotgun instructor course—a very good class that I highly recommend. The class is a three-day course designed to train instructors how to teach techniques for handling and shooting the defensive shotgun under stress.

Some of the highlights and observations included:

    -- Absolutes: Muzzle discipline and trigger finger discipline. For administrative movement, Tom had the students move with the action locked open, muzzle vertical, and fingers of one hand inside the open ejection port.

    -- Shotguns are not drop safe. No shotgun is drop safe if dropped on the muzzle. While some may be drop safe for impacts on the butt of the stock you certainly cannot count on this. Using the shotgun to deliver a butt stroke may cause the weapon to fire as recently occurred when carjacker Reece Ramsey-Johnson fatally shot himself while delivering a butt stroke to a car window.

    -- Federal 8-pellet 00 Buckshot loads using the FLITECONTROL® wad throw an extremely tight pattern. My fellow students and I fired a variety of buckshot loads during the course and only the Hornady 00 Buckshot load with the Versatite™ wad was comparable.

    -- Multiple projectile loads require particular attention to what is behind your target. YOU are responsible for every pellet you fire. This is where target distance and the pattern of a particular load in your shotgun come into play. Fiocchi 9-pellet 00 buckshot loads from my Beretta 1201 shotgun at a distance of 12 yards generally put 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. The Federal 8-pellet 00 Buckshot load puts all 8 pellets through a hole 2 inches in diameter at the same distance.

     -- High visibility, brightly colored followers make it easier to see that there are no rounds in the magazine. My personal Beretta 1301 shotgun which only fired a grand total of 2 rounds during the entire class did not have a high-vis follower. Tom graciously loaned me his personal 1301 for the class and his did have a high-vis follower and it was clearly much easier to see that there were no rounds in the magazine. (I tested my Beretta after the class and it continued to have issues.  I sent the gun back to Beretta who said that they found nothing wrong with the gun. However once they returned it, it has functioned flawlessly since.)

    -- You should have spare ammunition on the shotgun in either a side carrier on the receiver or some type of butt cuff. I personally prefer the side carrier. I find removing the shells from a butt cuff requires more dexterity and is slower than loading from a side carrier.

    -- The length of pull as measured from the trigger to the center of the shotgun butt should be between 10-12 inches. Most shotgun manufacturer’s standard length of pull for a sporting gun is between 13 and 14-1/2 inches—much too long. I started the class (my 1301 did dry fire very well) with a 13-inch pull and that was too long. I am 6’2” tall and found the 12-inch pull to be perfect. A shorter person would likely find a 10-11 inch pull to work well.

    -- This goes without saying: Always wear eye protection. I was surprised by the number of 00 Buckshot pellets that apparently bounced backwards off something on/in the dirt berm. We found numerous pellets in the 2-10 yard area on the firing line and found one pellet approximately 22 yards from the berm. Some of them showed obvious signs of having impacted something (e.g. a pebble) others were perfectly round. No student reported being struck so the bouncing pellet’s energy level was likely very low.

I will provide more highlights and observations in part 2 of this article.

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