Reasonable Self-Defense: Home Defense Shotgun Clinic

Home defense scenario

My friend Steve and I recently taught the shotgun an introduction to using shotguns for home defense. The students were a group of shooters. Most of them are regular participants in our short-range match in reasonable self-defense, and some have attended previous gun courses. All they were satisfied with the pistols; however, they had little or no experience with defensive shotgun skills.

We discussed the basic skills necessary to effectively use shotguns as defensive weapons in the home. After demonstrating various techniques of assembling, shooting, charging and removing weapons, the student immersed himself in learning these skills. We finished the class with a home defense scenario based on the design of my house and what I would have to do to defend it against the armed home invaders.


Steve and I brought various defensive shotguns for this class, including the Berretta 1301, various Mossberg pump shotguns, the Remington 870 police version, the Mossberg 930 SPX, and two 20-caliber RIA-VR82s. All shotguns except my Beretta, my 870
policeand VR82 had stocks with a standard thrust length of 13-1 / 2 to 14-1 / 2 inches or longer. *

The students had no difficulty with recoil gauge 12; however, they all had problems with how different shotguns did not suit their body types. The standard stroke length was simply too long. The Magpul stocks on my 1301 and 870 have a 12-inch stroke length, and most of them were able to mount my 1301 shotgun without much difficulty. Even with a 12-inch stroke, the Remington 870 still posed a problem for most students as to how easy it was to work with a slide. The VR-82 we had in turn have adjustable AR-style stocks, and AR stocks have solved the draw length problem for most students.

The shotguns that Steve and I own are set up for big men (Steve has 5’11 “and I have 6’2”), so a face weld was also a problem. The height of the crest on our weapons prevented some students from placing their faces in a comfortable face weld, while still being able to see the sights. **

A competent rifleman may cut off the stock or shooters may install products for the aftermarket, such as the Magpul SGA stock, to solve range length problems. Other products on the aftermarket, such as padded butt cuffs, can help achieve the right face weld. For example, Magpul offers sets of cheek attachments that allow the user to configure their firearm to the ideal ridge height to suit a variety of iron sights, optical configurations, or shooter’s preferences.

This introductory lesson was a success. All participants did well and showed that they were very impressed by the defensive shotgun. All students also commented on the problems they had with excessive thrust on most caliber 12 weapons. Rock Island Armory VR82 caliber 20 may be an acceptable solution for smaller people. We are still experimenting with VR82 and have not reached a solid conclusion about their suitability and reliability. Next to follow.

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* LOP on a shotgun or rifle is the distance from the trigger to the rear center of the stock or recoil pad. This is one of the primary measurements for adapting a weapon to a shooter.

** The ridge is the upper part of the stock, where the shooter puts his face on when shooting. The height of the ridge determines how low or high the eyepiece of the shooter is in relation to the sights.

David Berry

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