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But here’s where you might run into a challenge — compared to training with a handgun or a carbine, there just aren’t as many resources available for working with the shotgun in a home defense context. If you start digging around for information using the shotgun for self-defense, you’ll likely see the influence of training centered around law enforcement needs and 3-gun competition. In the video below, I outline four simple drills that focus on the fundamental skills for running a home defense shotgun.
There are a lot of ways to over complicate the defensive shotgun, but if your goal is to train for the purpose of home protection, I think it’s best to keep things pretty straightforward.
The other big thing to work on is mounting the gun — bringing it on target from a ready position.
The big advantage of the shotgun is its ability to end a fight very quickly, but that’s dependent on the user’s ability to operate the shotgun properly and get quick and accurate hits. With those goals in mind, I’m going to suggest four defensive shotgun drills that I have gathered and adapted from a few different sources.
This lets me practice mounting the gun, and also forces me to have good follow-through since I have to make that second shot. And you can add as many shots to this drill as you want — you can mount and fire three or four rounds, or go through a full magazine. For this third drill, I need to start with a round in the chamber, at least one round in the magazine tube, and ammo on the shell carrier. There are a bunch of different techniques for reloading the shotgun and that’s not something I’m covering today. So when I’m running the drill, I’m going to fire the first round, and then I’m going to try to fire the second round and get that click. With a semi-auto, I run this drill a little differently because when the gun is empty, the trigger goes dead and the bolt locks open, so I can skip right to the reloading step. Of course, just like the others, you can change up the round count — you can start with more ammo in the gun and you can vary the number of rounds you reload. Realistically, it is extremely unlikely that you would ever have to fire enough rounds to run your shotgun dry in an actual home defense encounter. If you’ve got any shotgun drills you like to use, or any variations on the ones I’ve suggested, be sure to let us know about them in the comments. But just to put it in perspective, if a prosecutor really has an agenda, they could just as easily make a big deal out of a shotgun with black synthetic furniture, a sidesaddle, or pistol grip as they could an SBS.
My take: I only use unmodified commonly-used factory firearms and commonly-used factory ammunition.
Frankly, I think people in the shooting culture tend to get way too caught up in maintaining the *perception* of innocence and don’t think nearly enough about actually trying to avoid violent confrontation to begin with. Treating Jury Duty as something that only stupid people do is why the Jury system is screwed up.

That should probably go without saying, but the myth is still alive and well that the shotgun is some kind of magic wand that sprays death whenever you point it in the general direction of a bad guy. But as anyone who has trained at all with a defensive shotgun knows, you can miss, even at close range. It’s harder to find training classes, drills, and books, so even if you want to put in the work to improve your shotgun skills, figuring out where to start is not always straightforward. There is plenty we can learn from both of those contexts, but there is also a lot of information that’s not really relevant for the average person for home defense. There are basically two aspects of the defensive shotgun that I like to spend most of my time at the range focusing on.
In my experience, this is one of the most difficult parts of learning to run the shotgun well: quickly loading and reloading the shotgun, and if it’s a pump, running the slide. I think if you practice these and get pretty comfortable with them, then you’ll be well on your way to becoming competent with the shotgun for the purpose of home defense.
If I go out much farther than that, the targets get torn up too quickly and I can’t tell what I’m hitting.
It’s going to look just like the first drill except I’m going to mount and fire two shots instead of just one. I’m working on my ability to control recoil and also manipulate the slide without short-stroking it.
It’s a good idea to change it up so you don’t program yourself to always fire the same number of shots. I’m going to mount, fire one round, and then reload one round into the tube from my shell carrier, and then fire a second round. But whatever technique you choose, adding time pressure and trying to do it as fast as you can is going to expose some weaknesses. I’m going to start with one round in the chamber, an empty magazine tube, and ammo on my shell carrier. With a pump action shotgun, the reality is I’m not going to be able to count my shots, so I’m not going to know I’m empty until I try to fire and I get a click instead of a bang. Then I’ll open the action and load a round directly into the receiver, and load a second round into the magazine tube, and then I’ll fire those two shots. But trying out this drill gives you a lot of opportunity to get really familiar with running your shotgun and you’re going to discover every type of operator error possible, and you’ll learn how to fix them on the fly.
You can get really proficient with a lot of these manipulations just by practicing at home with dummy shells like these, so don’t underestimate the value of dry practice. I would also add that the likelihood of this kind of malicious prosecution is highly dependent on where you live — castle doctrine laws and general public sentiment vary according to locale. I could make a case for exotic stuff to a knowledgeable gun enthusiast, but I want to be able to tell a jury I used what the cops use. Using an NFA regulated firearm carries some potential legal risks, and that’s not a fact I would encourage anyone to ignore.

Every time I was called for jury duty I tried to get empaneled, but I was rejected because I was a LEO. I bought some once that were such soft plastic that they jammed the pump action as the metal dug into them.
Not only that, but it takes some effort to learn how to manipulate a shotgun smoothly and confidently, especially if it’s a pump action. We need to weed some of that stuff out if we want to get to the material that’s going to actually help us use a shotgun to defend against a home invasion.
We want to make sure we get a lot of repetitions with the basic manipulations so we don’t have to put any conscious thought into making the gun function.
And that can happen very quickly, so we need to work on getting that gun up on target and making sure that first hit is an accurate one. At five yards, if I can keep most of my pellets inside the center ring, then I should be able to do the same thing with buckshot at longer ranges.
You’re going to find out where you’re most likely to fumble and make mistakes so that hopefully you can avoid them in the future. I’m going to mount, fire one round, then load two rounds into the empty shotgun, and then fire those two. I would not have wanted to own an SBS for home defense in some places I’ve lived in the past, but I am fairly comfortable with it here in East TN where DGUs are generally perceived more favorably by the public.
However, I personally think it’s a defensible decision, and just one of many legal factors to consider. But if you ask 100 random people, 90 of them will tell you they will do everything they can to get out of it. Just like any self-defense tool, the ideal goal is to able to run the shotgun well without having to put any conscious thought into it, and to get to that point, we have to practice. I also don’t bother with competition style reload techniques because, like most people, I don’t keep a belt with shell caddies next to my bed at night.
Either way, the main focus of this drill is to make sure I can get into a firing stance really quickly and get sights on target. The only people who seem to get picked for juries are the ones with no responsibilities, no knowledge of how the world or the law works, and lots of free time. If I’m working with a pump action, I’m also going to be paying attention to manipulating the slide. That kind of thing is far more important for avoiding legal trouble than the size of your gun barrel.

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