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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  1. Couple of things I would add.

    Pattern your defensive load to your shotgun to see how it acts. The Flitecontrol seems to be pretty consistent but as we saw in the class, not everyone will carry it for their defensive load. I finally got my case in... after the class. The same load may pattern differently between two different shotguns. Tom mentioned someone having a bad barrel in a class that tended to pattern to one side instead of being centered. Without patterning his shotgun, he may very well have never known that.

    Second thing. If you have different caliber shotguns, make sure to have good discipline on keeping the ammo separate. A 20 gauge shell will feed into a 12 gauge shotgun and can have catastrophic consequences if chambered and fired ahead of a 12 gauge shell. I believe one person in the class either came across one in their load out or possible chambered one inadvertently but caught it before anything bad could happen.

  2. Jose is spot on. Different shotguns have the potential to pattern differently with a given load. However, I have tried the Flitecontrol in several shotguns and it was consistent for me. Your results may vary.