Some of you will know the feeling. You have been gone from your old hometown, your parent's house, or an old car you used to drive. You return, ten, maybe twenty years later and there is a definite familiarity to it. The shotgun, specifically the Remington 870, is that way for me. It is the main long gun I carried into battle working night watch, and later the Gang Unit. I got into many shootings with issued 870s, and when I heft one it has that familiarity I mentioned.
We have said that situation will determine you tactics and those will select the weapon for you best suited for the task. That selection must be an emotionless and analytical one based on reason and not feelings. For many years, the weapon that I kept by the bed was a rifle. I lived in a crowded house filled with old people and children, and often other staff members staying with during training courses. The concerns over surgical accuracy and the avoidance of over-penetration were forefront of the mind.
But today it is 2017. Not only has my life changed at home, but so has America.
At home it is only my wife (code name: Dragon Lady) and I. The Junior Staff are off pursuing their education and the old people have moved on to their new assignments. I don't have the same concerns about surgical accuracy, and over-penetration can be mitigated with new munitions technology of the day. At home the gunfight is quite simple. Anyone not my wife or me, is an adversary. That is the extent of the target identification I need. My staff and my family are well trained and nobody is going to come home drunk in the middle of the night. If someone gets in, they have broken in, and will be dealt with harshly. This really is that simple.
Tactics At Home: This can be summed up in one sentence. Locate, identify, eliminate unauthorized home invaders. Period. Not much else needs to be said, I live in Arizona. In such events, if there is time, I will grab the 870 first, even though I usually have one of our Suarez Glocks close at hand.
Tactics Away From Home: Unless there are compelling reasons to stay, my plan is to leave trouble behind.
Compelling reason number one may be that a family member is not accounted for - I certainly don't plan to run away, leaving them to face the thug mob. And that extends to innocents beyond the family. If I see an innocent being attacked and it is clear to any man with a brain in his head what is happening, I will have to intervene rather than flee.
Compelling reason number two may be that I am at my office. I am not going to run away from a thug or thug mob that decides to visit me at work. They have made a very poor choice and they will pay for it forthwith.
Compelling reason number three may also include that escape is not tactically wise or possible at moment due to various other complicated reasons unforeseen at the time of this article. Never say never.
Anywhere, if the threat is presented suddenly you will not have time to go get anything...even that sexy Daniel Defense M4 in the Pelican Case in your trunk. You will have to handle it with the pistol on your person. But there may be events where the threat is not sudden - like a sucker punch. Events where you have some time to realize what is happening, some early warning - a matter of situational awareness that usually leads to avoiding the matter in the first place. But when such an event cannot be avoided, or you elect to not avoid it for the reasons stated (and you have the time to up-arm from the handgun), I will again, select the 870 first.
Here are three reasons why -
1). I want the most terminal effects for every single round fired. Yes, if I have to shoot a man that is trying to kill me I want him to die. And I want that to happen soonest, so they don't get a chance to shoot me. 12 ga has a far greater terminal effect on human adversaries than any 5.56 or 9mm. I have seen guys shot with rifles and with shotguns. Regardless of whether they eventually survive or succumb, those shot with buckshot at gunfight distances tend to lay down and stop fighting. Guys that disagree are usually defending the fact that they missed.
The shotgun is a powerful weapon and truly calls for those with a degree of upper body strength to use it. That frail people, children, or diminutive police officers cannot wield it properly is not my problem.
2). I want a moderately spreading pattern, not a tight one and not a single projectile, so that I can hit under extremely dynamic circumstances where I would not otherwise be able to employ traditional marksmanship principles. If I hit an attacker with half a pattern, as he runs to cover, in a dark environment, and I destroy his arm in the process, I call that a win. That same shot taken with a rifle may very well have been a miss.
And yes, I am accepting that the rest of the pattern will not hit that bad guy. Those that disagree with shooting without a full and perfect front sight focus have spent too much time on the range and not enough "down" range. Real bad guys (as opposed to targets on the qualification course) don't just stand there. They will do everything they can to hit you while avoiding being hit. The shotgun pattern gives you a workable shortcut to an otherwise missed shot, a shot fired too late, or a shot not fired out of fear of missing.
3). I want to be able to shoot buckshot into a crowd of attacking rioters seeking overturn my vehicle and thereby create multiple hits. There is a reason why those who hunt birds use shot rather than slugs. I also want to be able to fire a round into the concrete or asphalt and be able to skip those pellets into the attacking mob. But I want to avoid collateral damage if possible. I'd rather not have that 5.56 round that misses travel a mile off into the distance somewhere. (And you will miss kids...no matter what score you got in class). The 12 gauge allows that, the 5.56 does not.
I know the shotgun has been relegated to the back of the line in popular gun culture and that rifles are so much sexier and popular. I don't expect to ever fill shotgun classes either. Few people are interested in the Battle Axe these days. But my job is to comment on what I think, what I am training, and of course, why. My job is not to sell rifles for Colt or Daniel Defense.
So, if you come to my office, or home, or take a look at the weapon tucked between the center console and driver's seat of my truck, and see an 870 there rather than a 5.56 rifle, now you know why.