I thought that I might post a bit about equipment that I used and saw used at the Practical Shotgun Match over the weekend so that folks who are thinking of joining me at the next match or those who have been toying with the idea of participating in 3-Gun matches donâ€™t have to go through the embarrassment I went through with having inferior equipment. I also want to discuss a little about tactics afterwards.
First up, the not-so-good stuff:
This is the basic set up you will need for a Practical Shotgun course of fire.
(My Cruiser-Stock 870, two 55rnd bandoliers and three 12 shell belt pounches)
Unfortunately, other that the ammo and the gun itself, that kit is utterly inadequate for anything other than showing off to your buddies.
The bandoliers, while holding a great deal of ammo and looking cool, hang loose on your body and flop around a great deal. They get caught on stuff and if you lean over to pick anything up, you get hit in the back of the head. Also, once you start unloading shells from it, gravity takes hold and the bandolier rotates on you, ending with the loaded shells at your hip level and usually behind you. Likewise, the pouches are a bit of a pain to load fully and if you donâ€™t have the snaps broken in, a pain to open so as to access the shells.
Jerry the Geek was using a cartridge belt like this one, and while it seemed to work OK for him, since it isnâ€™t connected to anything, I can easily see it riding up until the point where you grab a shell and it finally releases the shell around pectoral level.
While not in the above pic, we each also used stock shell cuffs like this one.
Again, inadequate. After firing a few rounds, the cuff tends to slide forward towards the receiver and then rotates when you go to pull a shell out. Jerryâ€™s seemed to work better with the wood stock on my 870 than mine did on the 1187 with the plastic stock.
The only way I have seen to remedy this problem is what I do on my truck shotgun, which is to cut a small slit in the cuff itself and position it over a sling swivel stud. This will hold it for a bit longer but will still not stop the problem unless you actually have a sling attached in the swivel. But since slings arenâ€™t allowed on the firing line as you might slip up and break the range safety rules by slinging the weapon over your shoulder, thereby DQing yourself (when not in use, all guns must be either unloaded on the safety table or cased). I do not see putting a spare Quik-Detachable swivel with no sling attached as a violation, however.
Speaking of slings, there are a number of them out there that will hold anywhere from two to twenty four rounds. While I did not see any of them in action on Sunday, I would just like to point out that they can add the weight of an entire box of shells to the weight of your weapon and more than likely to the forward end of the gun, in front of your non-trigger or weak hand. The gun itself is heavy enough as it is after a day of humping it around and it is better to keep the weight of your ammo secured to your body.
Now weâ€™ll move on to the stuff I saw that worked:
If you do feel the need to make your weapon hold ammo, you will want to keep said ammo behind the centerline so as to minimize what your weak hand has to support when you shoulder the weapon to fire it.
The SideSaddle shell holder does this very well, strapping the shells to the non-ejection port side of the receiver. Another item is this stock shell cuff. Someone there was thinking. If you look close, you can see the Velcro strap that holds the cuff on the back of the stock, not letting it slide forward.
Another item I saw that worked well were forearm bands that hold ten to twelve shells. They not only hold ammo, they also protect your forearm from barrel burns (the shotguns barrels get very hot very quickly). Jerry the Geek also showed me how the use of shooting gloves will protect your hands from these burns.
But the truly slick item of the day was this
This is a sixteen shell holding MOLLE attachment. With this vest
you could hold three or four of these for a total of 48 to 64 rounds secured to your person.
Very Cool! It will be mine!
Now Iâ€™m going to switch to tactics I used and saw at the match.
First up, I havenâ€™t shot a tactical match involving shotguns for close to ten years, hence my inadequate equipment and my shoddy finish. But very little else other than the equipment has changed.
I used to compete with a Remington 870 pretty much like the one in the first pic, but recently started toying with the 1187 in the hopes of knocking my times down with an autoloading weapon.
Sadly, that was not to be. Just enter the name Darth Vader into the seach bar and you can read about me being an idiot and working on my guns a week and a half prior to the match.
My preferred shotgun reloading technique is to keep my firing/strong hand in the firing position (finger out of the trigger, of course) and reload with the gun right side up and with my weak hand.
The object to this is to always be ready for incoming bad guys. If you get in the habit of taking your hand away from the firing position to reload it means extra time while you regain your positive shooting position and fire, adding to your reaction time and giving the bad guy a chance at you.
One of the more fun things we used to do in our old time practical scattergun matches is to wait until someone turns their gun over in their weak hand and starts reloading with their strong hand and then weâ€™d release the pop-up/moving target. I scares the shit out of people, especially if theyâ€™re in a house clearing exercise and the popper/mover is barely three feet away from them and they have to recover their composure as well as their shooting position and then fire.
Unfortunately, reloading an 1187 is not exactly like reloading an 870. While the location is the same, you have to make sure to hit the half inch long follower release button on the 1187 before the round will enter the magazine area, which is why I was so adamant about installing the EasyLoader before the match, whereupon I screwed up my trigger group and disabled Vader.
I needed a whole lot more practice than I had to get that reload down, but even then I can guarantee you that loading an 870 would have been faster. By the sixth stage of the match, I got so tired of missing that button during reloads with my weak hand that I switched to tilting the gun with my weak hand and loading with my strong hand. While foreign, it was still faster for me to do it that way.
The reason I bring the whole subject of reloading up is that on Sunday I saw a very nice guy in my squad named Trevor use a technique that was very, very, very fast, but also so impractical it was comical.
At his chosen reload point he would turn the gun upside down and then put the rear four or five inches of the stock on top of his shoulder. He would then grab five or six shells at once from one of these holders in his strong hand and load the shotgun.
Remember that I said that this was very fast. I mean it was very fast. He could load faster than a round a second in that manner. Very good for competition, but very bad from a tactical reload standpoint.
Even if you are in a squad and behind cover, your are putting your cohorts and yourself at risk by taking the gun that far out of battery to reload. If you get incoming bad guys, you are stuck with a fistfull of shells in your strong hand and your gun non-accessible.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying anything bad about Trevor; he was a hell of a guy and a damn good competitor. But I will forgo a future win if that reload is what it takes for me to get it.