Shotguns for the 21st Century cop
From training cycles to weapon configurations and ammo load selection, a variety of factors have adversely affected widespread proficiency with the police shotgun
Many law enforcement officers view training with the shotgun with the same degree of enthusiasm as a root canal or IRS audit. Somewhere along the line they have been programmed that training with the shotgun is an unpleasant, even painful experience that should be avoided at all cost. Consequently, these same officers lack the skill and confidence in this very decisive weapon system and overlook it, even when it may be the better tool for the task at hand.
Quite frankly, it doesn’t have to be this way, and I have met with a fair measure of success in getting officers — both large and small — up to speed with the shotgun.
By taking a systematic approach to shotgun training that places equal emphasis on operational skills and practical marksmanship, user proficiency and confidence are greatly enhanced.
Knowing the Basics
Secondly, the proficient operator needs to know how to get into action. With the handgun, we often have our trainees practice drawing from the holster or working from the ready position. But let’s consider where the shotgun might be when the officer makes a decision to use it. More than likely, the shotgun is secured in a rack in the passenger compartment of the vehicle, or perhaps locked in the trunk. When was the last time you began a live fire exercise with the shotgun stowed in the vehicle?
Very often, officers may have the shotgun in hand, but there is no immediate need to fire. Does our training regimen include working from the various ready positions while searching or managing threats incidental to arrest?
Get a reliable index on the target and make sure the finger stays in contact with the trigger throughout the firing cycle. Follow through consists of taking an additional sight picture on the threat in the event you have to fire again. If a pump action shotgun is utilized, “stroke the beast” to chamber another round, breathe and continue to scan for other threats. When time allows, feed additional rounds into the magazine tube to replace those fired.
Even the best of weapons go down at inopportune times. There may also be times when the shotgun is no longer the best tool for the job, due to a diminished threat, unsafe background or confined space. Transitioning to the handgun or less lethal weapon should be part of every training program.
To cut right to the chase, shotguns must fit the end user. In my agency, we solved this problem by retro-fitting reduced length of pull buttstocks on the shotguns issued to small stature officers and the end result has been dramatic. Collapsible M-4 style stocks that can be adjusted over a wide range are yet another option. If slings are utilized, additional training also needs to be provided — from getting into it, establishing your read and firing positions, and firing rounds.
In recent years, shotgun ammunition optimized for law enforcement applications has appeared on the scene with performance qualities far superior to traditional hunting grade buckshot and rifled slugs. Many of these offerings are far easier on the shoulder and break down some of the barriers in training. Even if you prefer the full power buck and slug loads for duty use, consider the reduced recoil offerings for training.
Back to Training
As for the training itself, I strongly feel that the best results will be had in more frequent, moderate doses than a lengthy single session. Operational skills such as loading, unloading and downloading, could even be accomplished at roll call using inert, dummy rounds (no live ammunition in the room).
In live-fire drills, I prefer dynamic exercises where the officer may have to move, utilize cover and discriminate between shoot and no-shoot targets. Very effective training can be realized with only a few rounds being fired as officers are challenged with problems they might likely face on the street. I daresay, many officers find these drills to be “fun”, which by no means downgrades the value of the training, yet reinforces critical, life saving skills.
With just a little attention to the details, officers of all sizes and aptitudes can become proficient with ultimate police power tool.
Shotguns aren’t going away anytime soon, in fact, they are better than ever. In the future, the shotgun’s role will continue to change and ultimately, it may evolve into a tool reserved for the tactical specialist. But at the present time, it is the only shoulder weapon available to many patrol officers. In view of that, we shouldn’t neglect training with this versatile weapon system.
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