Monday, November 27, 2023

The Range Master Nov 23 Drill of the Month

I went to the range this weekend and shot the Range Master Drill of the Month for November 2023.  Tom Givens and Range Master include their drill of the month in the Range Master monthly newsletter.  

Per the newsletter:

Target:  Use the IALEFI-Q, IDPA Cardboard, or RFTS-Q target

Scoring:  10 points for any hit inside the 8 inch circle in the chest, or inside the head ring. 5 points for any hit inside the silhouette but outside the 8”circle or the head ring.

Drill: Begin with the weapon holstered and concealed, loaded with only two rounds. On signal, draw, fire 2 rounds to the chest, reload the pistol and fire 2 more rounds to the chest, then one to the head circle. Record the time for the string.

Fire the drill at 5 yards and then again at 10 yards.

Ten rounds total. 100 points possible. Add the two times for a total time.

Hit Factor: Total points divided by total time = score. (Hit factor scoring)

Par score = 6. The goal is a score of 6 or higher.

This drill covers a concealed presentation from the holster, fast accurate shooting, an empty gun reload, and a transition to a smaller target. It also requires a timing shift when changing from 5 yards to 10 yards. This integrates a number of important skills in one fairly quick, low round count exercise.

I started my practice session with the Nov 23 DOTM shot cold with my P320 full size from concealment per the instructions. My five yard run was 4.69 seconds and my ten yard run was 6.87 seconds. I shot it clean with a total time of 11.54 seconds giving me a hit factor of 8.66.

I then ran the drill seven more times for practice and averaged my hit factor for those seven runs. My best run was 8.72 seconds with 90 points producing a hit factor of 10.32. The worst run of the seven was 11.34 clean with a hit factor of 8.81. My average for the seven “warmed up” runs was 10.22 seconds with a 9.56 hit factor.

My reload average for all runs was 2.37 seconds -- not very fast. I don't practice reloading as much as I should.

Good drill; I enjoyed it. The Range Master Monthly Newsletter has a lot of good information and is available at:

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Friday, November 24, 2023

Vang Comp Thunderstick Summit 2023 - After Class Report

I recently attended the October 2023 Vang Comp Thunderstick Summit. The Thunderstick Summit is a 3-day training event which features instruction from some of the top defensive shotgun trainers in the United States.

The summit trainer line-up included Darryl Bolke, Greg Ellifritz, Steve Fisher, Mark Fricke, Erick Gelhaus, Rob Haught, and Matt Haught. I personally attended classes from all of the trainers except Steve Fisher. Nothing against Steve’s classes, time and availability became a consideration. For those of you familiar with the Range Master Tactical Conference, the summit was a similar round-robin format with students rotating between different ranges for classes.

The summit opened with classes geared toward novice shotgunners with a buckshot patterning exercise. Since I know how my shotgun patterns, it was a good warm up. My group then went to a different range to confirm how our shotguns performed with slugs—more warm up.

From my perspective, the highlights of my summit experience were classes from Mark Fricke and the father and son Haught duo. I was not familiar with Mark and found his support side/injured shooter and less lethal classes to be very informative. 

Rob and Matt Haught Demonstration

I received (fifth-hand+) instruction on the Haught push/pull technique many years ago when I worked with DEA in Lima, Peru and I was looking forward to receiving instruction directly from Rob Haught. I was not disappointed. The Haught’s classes were well structured and I learned a great deal about the push/pull and retention push/pull methods.

I am pretty well versed in the home defense use of the shotgun, so the other live fire classes I attended provided the opportunity to tune my execution of the push/pull technique. Effective deployment of the defensive shotgun requires a gun set up for that purpose and complete mastery of a specific set of basic techniques. While there are few “advanced” techniques when it comes to deploying the shotgun, tactical considerations do come into play. This is where the Ellifritz close quarters retention overview class and the Haught retention push/pull classes were useful.

Some of the classes stressed techniques more geared toward law enforcement deployment such as setting the shotgun up to enable an immediate switch to a slug and therefore were perhaps less useful to the private citizen. Using a slug inside your home is probably not a good idea given to the slug's penetration ability.  The need to exit your home to engage a violent criminal is certainly a possibility (an armed attack against a family member in the driveway for example); however, such a scenario is more likely to be solved with a handgun given the urgency of the response and the time needed to retrieve a shotgun.

I was somewhat surprised at the number of attendees who did not know how their shotgun functioned. During the slug exercise, the shooter next to me was having trouble chambering a round in his very well tricked out Beretta 1301. I reached over and hit his shell release. He then asked me what the button I pressed actually did? I told him that it released a shell from the magazine onto the lifter and he said he didn’t know the Beretta did that.

Vang Comp plans to sponsor the Thunderstick Summit as an annual event. If you are planning to go to next year here are a couple of tips for a satisfying summit:

    -- Know how your shotgun functions. As I mentioned above, many people struggled because they did not know how to load, unload, use the safety, and in general how their shotgun functioned. You will enjoy your time at the summit more if you are not trying to learn your gun’s basic functions on the fly.

    -- If you are using your shotgun at the summit (Vang does provide rental guns), make sure the ammunition you bring actually functions in your gun. Some guns (notably Mossberg semiautomatic shotguns), are particularly finicky with some birdshot loads. I noticed several shooters struggling with ammunition that did not function reliably in their shotguns. On the positive side, they did receive a lot of practice clearing failures to eject, failures to load, etc.

    -- Ensure you have a sling for your shotgun. While I do not recommend a sling for a home defense shotgun, from a practical perspective the shotgun gets heavy when you carry it around all day. In classes, there is some time spent standing and holding the gun during demonstrations, relay rotation, etc. A sling makes life much easier in this regard.

Adam Roth replacing a Quick-Detach Carrier
    -- An ammunition sidesaddle or butt cuff on the gun helps with the classes containing loading exercises. In a home defense scenario you are probably going to deal with the incident using only the ammunition on or in the gun so learning how to load with ammo on the gun is important. The picture on the right shows Adam Roth owner of Aridus Industries (a Thunderstick Summit 23 sponsor) replacing an empty Quick-Detach Carrier with a loaded one.*  

    -- You should also have the ability to carry additional ammunition to the firing line on your person. I found the 5.11 Flex Shotgun Ammo Pouch to be very handy in that regard. Others used elaborate chest rigs, bandoleers, belts, and other accouterments. Unless you practice with the elaborate rigs and have them staged and ready to go, you are unlikely to be able to use them in a home defense response.

Next year’s Vang Comp Thunderstick Summit is planned for October 11 – 13, 2024 at the Firearms Academy of Seattle, WA. If you are into shotguns I would certainly recommend it. Vang has not announced the enrollment dates as of this writing. See the Vang Comp System’s website for more information (

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* Some pictures courtesy of Kickeez (

Friday, November 17, 2023

Check Your Shotgun Ammunition

When you are using a shotgun, always double check your ammunition and ensure you are using ammunition of the correct gauge. This is particularly true if you own shotguns in several gauges which increases the potential to mix shells. Although many ammunition companies use different colored shells for different gauges, this is not always the case. Several people have told me that they have found stray shells of different gauges in new factory ammunition boxes. Something that is clearly plausible/possible; however, I do not have any direct knowledge of this.

In a shotgun instructor class I completed, the instructor (Tom Givens of Range Master) mentioned the chance of mistakenly placing 20 gauge ammunition in a 12 gauge shotgun. The 20 gauge may slide down the barrel far enough so that the shooter can unwittingly load a 12 gauge shell in the chamber behind the 20 gauge shell and fire it with the obvious potential for catastrophic results.

A friend of mine and I were checking Federal FliteControl patterns in a variety of older shotguns. Remembering Tom’s comment, we decided to drop a 20 gauge shell down a 12 gauge barrel to see how far it would enter the barrel. We then placed a dummy round in the gun and closed the action; putting the gun in a firing condition. In the picture sequence below you can see how this can happen.


Ironically in the shotgun instructor course, 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 had entered and become 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.

If you are setting up your shotgun for home defense, a couple of additional inspections are appropriate. 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.

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