I took the combat shotgun to Front Sight (TW: website still crap) for their intro two-day defensive shotgun class.  It was very much in the mold of their intro two-day handgun class.  Drills on the basics – slinging and unslinging a shotgun (three ways), loading and unloading (learned a neat trick for unloading the magazine – you can press down on the shell catch/release thingy that holds shells in the tube to release them without rack-rack-racking), clearing malfunctions, etc.

And of course, shooting.  The ammo shortage was very much in evidence.  Front Sight is a big buyer of ammo, and I assume they are well connected.  They had barely enough 12 gauge ammo for the class, even at a reduced shot count of around 150 rounds for two days.  Their best guess is that the shortage will start to ease in maybe 6 months, but will persist at some level for a couple of years.

The class members were an interesting lot.  23 of us (around 10 stayed for the four day class).  Six women, all of them older (and mostly rocking 12 gauges – respect!).  Only a handful under the age of, say, 40.  A wide mix of weapons – there was a competition shotgun, some bird guns, bead sight and all, and some tricked out for defense.  Mostly 12 gauge, but a few 20 gauges as well.

The instructor was a Marine, which was immediately obvious as soon as I laid eyes on him.  There’s just a way Marines carry themselves.  I loved his range commands – he had that Parris Island cadence (which I can’t reproduce in print).  He ran a shotgun in the Middle East – he was pretty vague on when and where.  Its his preferred weapon, although since he has three kids at home he doesn’t keep it ready for home defense – too many pellets, hard to know where every kid is.

My shotgun (a Beretta 1301, now known as “The Last Argument of Dean”) had a couple of issues.  Its brand new, but the problems traced back to something I did, not to lack of break-in.  My build is pretty similar to this, although I have a different sight mount and sidesaddle shell holder, and have a Trijicon RMR sight on it.  The replacement bolt handle (not a fan of the plastic one that came on the gun) didn’t quite fit right and caused a couple of jams on heavy ammo (buckshot and slugs).  All fixed and running slick as a whistle now, but I got to visit their armorer, who was entertaining.

Everyone who came in while I was there got the same world-weary look, and the same “This is running really dry.  Do you ever oil it?”  He said shotguns (and ARs, a couple of which came in while I was there) are “wet platforms” that should be heavily and frequently oiled (apparently Eugene Stoner said an AR should throw a fine mist in the air the first couple of times its fired after a proper oiling).  He also recommended oiling shotguns and ARs twice a day when shooting on the dry, dusty Front Sight ranges.  There were uncomplimentary things said about quality control on guns and ammo while the industry is running flat out, and very uncomplimentary things said about Chinese-made parts.  And, of course, it turns out he was born in my hospital in Tucson.

So, the shooting.  Mostly birdshot, as we drilled loading, unloading, mounting the weapon, etc.  The instructor was pretty laissez-faire on trigger technique (“it’s a shotgun, not a sniper rifle”).  We patterned with 00 buckshot and zeroed with slugs.  Except for the patterning and zeroing, we used steel targets, and accuracy was not much of a concern.  Patterning with 00 buckshot was done so we would have an idea what the spread was for “Rule 4” purposes – knowing what’s in your line fire, which is a little different with a shotgun, since its line of fire is a cone, not a, well, line.  The Last Argument patterned pretty wide – at 15 yards, it was around 16 inches, which is about as wide as you want to go to stick every pellet in your target.  I will be interested to compare with my Flight Control ammo, which should pattern tighter.

No simulator rooms for the two-day class (I think they do that with the four-day class), but we did a cover-and-concealment drill that was fun – 00 buckshot at 20 yards, port loading every shot (meaning, individually loading each shell into the ejection port) , from standing, kneeling, and prone.  “Ringing” a steel target with buckshot is its own reward.  Protip:  your instinct is to snug right up against cover, but you don’t want to stick your barrel out past your cover unless you are willing to fight somebody for it.  The red-dot sight I have on The Last Argument really proved itself during this drill – so fast on target, every time.

I was not as exhausted at the end of the second day as I was with the handgun class – I could have tackled the full four-day shotgun class, where I was not up for two more days of handgun training.  I chalk it up to familiarity with the range and its doctrine.

I’m planning to go back for the four-day class this fall.

Cocktail Update:

Really, a mocktail update.  I’m cutting back on my intake, mainly by foregoing my nightcap on school nights.  It was getting rather . . . large (I actually measured a few of my pours, and, yikes, that’s a lot of straight booze), and it was having the usual effects on my sleep (not good) and my weight (also not good, for a fat old man).  So, I’m subbing in a couple of things:

Campari and Soda:  I like bitter (hah!), but a little too much Campari is way too much.  I’ve settled on 1/3 oz of Campari or so and 12 ozs of club soda from the soda siphon.

Hoptea:  This is a carbonated tea and hop concoction.  Because I have this before bed, I’ve gone with their caffeine-free versions.  The taste is mild, and they do a good job of pairing some of your more citrusy hops with tea.  It doesn’t come off as a faux-beer, in spite of the hops.  Refreshing, and like the Campari and soda, it scratches the itch.