The tactical application of the practical shotgun

This guest post is by  Thomas T. Tinker  and entry in our non-fiction writing contest .

Getting real time training in how to put one of your ‘hardware’ preps to proper use.

let me begin by warning you that I am a master… at run on and fractured sentences. I excel at the over use of the ( . ) period. My style is ‘stream of thought’ and you may have to take a few mental breaths to get through this piece.

My beginnings in the gun culture started near birth. Eh… Ok.. Actually I was around 4. Dad would grab the olde brown canvas bag and the gun case out of the closet and off we’d drive into canyon country.. East of Lancaster, California. My old man loved to just get out of town.. away from Lockheed Aircraft.. Away from all the concrete of Burbank and the ‘Valley’. To say he loved to shoot would not be correct. He loved the silence in the hills and canyons. He loved iron skillet bacon and ‘Navy coffee’ ala a Billy pot on a camp fire. Shooting was something extra for him. As a young adult of the WWII generation…. He took his firearms very seriously. My Dad taught me his respect for them before I could even get my thumb around the stock of the rifle. It was a Rem. 22 pump with the tootsie roll for end.

At 16 and a half, I joined the Navy Reserve (I begged without shame and my Momma signed the waiver). On a Destroyer Escort.. In a heavy sea… doing flank speed… Cutting ASW fantail screen for the USS Chicago… with a head cold… humping 3 inch shells to an open tub anti-aircraft gun… for practice… with no foul weather gear… after corn beef hash and eggs for breakfast… with no ear plugs. I decided that the deep sea Navy was a poor choice. At 18 and change… two days before I went active duty as a squid, I had this revelation… or a stroke… and enlisted in the regular Marine Corps. My undergraduate studies in the gun culture began. I graduated as a rifleman / sharpshooter and did graduate work with the 1st. squad, 3rd. fire team, 3rd. platoon, Hotel Co., 2nd. Battalion / 9th. Marines of the 3rd. Fleet Marine Force. I was in the bushes before my 19th. birthday. When I got out of Naval Hospitals some time the next year, I was sent to NCO school ala Quantico & Fleet training schools… then dropped into an MP unit as Training NCO, Marine Barracks Oahu. Nice duty! I got keys to the arms lockers, the unit’s ammo bunker, the range gates and my own truck. That year I got to know the shotgun, ever an MP staple. I got to take training where and whenever I could find it.. I found plenty of places and had all the time I wanted to schedule for it.

The shotgun became my friend! There are so many other fine firearms that fill a certain ‘bill’ and use.. however none have shown me more use in the ‘social settings’ as the shotgun. Ok…. I hear the chorus and din of opinion.. “.. Butt waabout the……….. and the ………” I own more than a few of them all. This is an article in a ‘Preppers’ blog.. about what is accepted as a prepper staple.. the Shotgun. My slant is toward that part of the gun culture and that ‘tool’ specifically.

I’m one for taking serious training with ‘any… thing’ as deadly and destructive as firearms. In the Marines, I acquired some very empirical evidence as to the terminal effects of small arms fire on the body. I both sent and received all calibers of incoming small arms fire.. the incoming form some very well trained ‘off shore’ talent. Ergo…. I have found that the proper application and utility of this tool .. the shotgun .. is grossly under estimated if not just overlooked. Please let us skip the rhetoric and hyperbole about the ‘scattergun’.. street sweeper … ‘..I kin clear a houch full o hajis wit one of em! crappolla.. Ech.

I am going to use the name of a place that I use to train. This is an endorsement of that ‘place’.. not a sales pitch. I don’t have any chips in the management or profits of that ‘place’. I do have a great respect for ‘their’ approach and methods. I refer you to: Tactical Defense Institute, TDI, is located in the hills outside West Union, Ohio. Tactical Shotgun is offered only once a year. Go to the site and surf around the schedule and sat. photo. It is a two day course of fire that takes in a week end. Mr. Benner, the owner, has rules as to who can train there .. simple, if you sign up and you pass the background check and sign the legal wavers .. you are in. You are ‘in’ with whom.. ever else has signed on for that week end .. be they Feds, Stateys, local POs, Civilians or Military. I have taken this training for 10 of the last 12 years. Most by far are ‘Civies’ like myself. A few have needed a passport to make it there. I have trained there with FBI, Columbus Ohio POs, an 82 year old Pediatric Dentist, Swatys, wannabes, Tokyo Police, plane olde folks like meself, boys and girls. The instructor staff at TDI is there to train ‘you’, at your speed, at your skill level, to your… best abilities. You are there to keep up with yourself. Oddly… the civilians tend to outperform the ‘Po pos’ over all… but that is another discussion for comments. This is not a ‘fungunweekend’. It is fun.. in a self-abusive sorta way! You will leave late Sunday afternoon with a skill set you didn’t know you had the nerve to learn. You will be a different person. Reality has that affect.. effect on us all. Your situational awareness will border on paranoia.

Ok … Day one, 8 ish a.m. sign in, waivers, fees and lite shopping at the ‘pro’ shop for slings, tac-lites, some nice tactical edged items, “Bobo kits” and quick clot. At 9 a.m. things get started on the range after a short… short intro speech by Mr. Benner. You will be ‘trained’ with whatever shotgun .. you.. bring. I would recommend against over & unders, double tubers and single shooters. But… if that’s what ya brought…. You’re in with it! But know that Mr. Benner will loan you one if ya need one. Basic range rules are covered. TDI runs a ‘HOT’ range. i.e., if you have or are holding a weapon, it is considered ‘hot’ unless it is roped or open and cleared by 3 other people. Now it’s on to patterning your SG with your choice of defensive loads you… brought along. Suggestions are made. You decide! You will do a drill with your ‘load’. Up close, then a few paces back until you are at 50 feet. A number of ‘students’ rethink ballistics at that point. Everyone steps up to the line for skill drills on proper presentation, clearance drills, trigger control, cycling the weapon .. short stroking.. on and on. It is a nice long 2 day get acquainted session with your gun.

About the time you are sick of cardboard and black dots, you move to the ‘Steel’ range. Nothing gets your BP and heart rate to spike like hearing the ring of your… shot off a steel silhouette. You will do single perp. (target) drills, all you care to fire. Skill drills on using your slings, tactical reloading. You will move on to 2 perp drills along with more skill drills. 3 perp drills with more skill drills. Oh my yeah…. You will be busy. You can step up and run all the live fire your body can tolerate. Here I gotta warn ya. Taking a few recoil hits from your favorite shotgun doesn’t do much harm. WARNING! You will be there till around 10:30 p.m. on day one. Think of it as somebody giving you a moderate punch in the shoulder… several hundred times. It takes a toll on the soft tissue. Wear a pad or tape one on your butt plate. You will notice everything from hotel towels tucked in shirts, kitchen sponges duct taped on butt plates, taped fingers from jamming shell up a ramp.. and oh so many new ways of holding extra shells.

Day one, the drills will drift from static 1,2,3 perp drills to movement drills. Up and back. Left to right. Right to left. Box drills. Triangles and angles this way and that. All of these will be learned while ‘servicing’ the needs of your weapon .. on the move. Move engage, load, fire, move, loadmovefirefiremoveloadmovefirefiremoveload. You may step up and do it as often as your body can handle it or drill time allows. The instructors understand this…. It is why you are there. You will have a ‘lunch and dinner’ break. Don’t plan on eating out for lunch Saturday. The nearest place to get anything is a carry out half way back to town. Dinner will be two hours or so and plenty of time to make it back to West Union. At dusk you will begin weapons and tac light training drills. Same as above… with a tac light in your ‘stroke’ hand unless you got the $$ to have a weapons mounted light. A lot of folks develope new plans.. lists for equipment and such about this time. Hell… a lot of folks are wondering how much they can sell the club they are running.. for something.. less socially acceptable… but alil more user friendly. A growing number of reality checked students figure out just how useful a 20ga. Pump gun is .. and how effective it actually is. Think back on how it feels after getting punched a couple of hundred times by a 12ga. The end of day one is late… Get to your room and swim in the Icy-hot or Ben-gay. Don’t even think about a few beers or cocktails….. Oh pooyee.. Adams is a dry county anyhow. Show up Sunday morning with a weapon, ammo and any…. alcohol on your breath and you are in for a very short run. Did I mention most of the instructor staff are LEOs? So off to bed… you will have little problem getting to sleep.

Thus ends Part one of this 3100+ word tome… sorry MD.

Part two of: “… the practical shotgun..” by Thomas T. Tinker

Sunday morning, try to miss the Amish buggies on the roads. It is the Sabbath after all in Southern Ohio. Eat a good breakfast! Your stress level will be rather enhanced. You will do another meet and greet, more skill set info will be covered. But! This morning you will ‘time in’. Each student will be timed on a single perp drill twice, then a 3 perp drill twice. REMEMBER YOUR TIME! You will revisit this drill at the end of the day. Mayhaps you know this tidbit… the average ‘gun fight’ envolves you and 3 perps. It lasts an average of 2.6 seconds and an average of 6 rounds are fired by all of you. Refer to these stats when you rime out on Sunday afternoon. You will notice that some folks.. mayhaps you.. have taken a lot of crap .. off.. their weapons. Simple is a good thing. Everything you have screwed, strapped or hung on your weapon is one more thing to operate or forget to under stress. Lots to be said about a no frills pump gun. Sunday is all about a repeat of the drills of the day before plus so much more. You will be pushed.. to higher limits of your .. skills. You will be very pleased by the fact that you have now….. got em. Let us not get cocky hummmm. You will start movement drills around obstacles… yepper more movement. You will master strong side weak side conversions. You will master the art of the “Drop Out”. The drop out is the end move of a good pie slicing. Learned right.. done right.. it cannot be defeated. What do ‘they’ say…. Ah… “Cheat all ya want in a gun fight”.

For those that can prove they have more than basic handgun skills, You may strap up and take part in weapons conversion drills with your carry pistol/revolver. Yepper…. As a fire and movement drill. GadZooks they will teach you how to do a head shot with your piece… the shot gun one. The first half of the day is rather full. I find that fewer are as eager to step up and do drill repeats. By now I have a bruise on my shoulder that has the colors of a nice fruit salad. Before lunch everyone is walked through the live fire house and given a nice talking to about just how stressful and deadly serious the exercises is. You will have figured that out by then.. sort of. Walking into the place on your own is not a natural act. You will find that you have learned quite a lot. You will be given tips on ‘vocalization’ and command voice. I hope you have the altered state of reality.. that this reality demands. You will tend to forget minor movements and lose some simple motor skills on this one. You may not remember hearing much of anything.. or how many rounds you went through.. or that you short stroked your piece.. or… or… Butt relax… live fire house doesn’t come till after lunch. TIP… Hydrate hydrate hydrate. After lunch TDI ramps up the training level.. again. In a nut shell, You will be broken up into fire teams of 4 or 5. You will be cycled through your last set of drills that will test your… that’s ‘YOUR’ skill sets. You will be cycled through the live fire house (remember what I said about learning to do a head shot with your piece? Think Hostage?). You will then be allowed to ‘follow’ the next poor soul through. Watch carefully! Listen to the instructor critiques. Don’t chat up your team on what .. you .. saw…. A cold turkey engagement is a good learning tool. Booboos while under stress are such good training.

You will cycle on to the ‘slug’ range. If you thought your bones were sore… think again. You may fire any number of slugs you care to. You will begin at 21 feet and move your way back to 60 yards.. possibly 100 yards if Lt. Bowie has the time and you show the talent. Careful aimed rounds, in threes. This is a holy shit moment for some folks. A holy shit…. I nailed it.. moment. Yeah…. You do have new skills. You will then cycle up to the ‘upper range’ and the “WALL”. The wall is a long section of…. Go figure.. Wall. Each 4 feet has 4 different geometric shapes cut into it at different elevations in no order. Pick a shape and fire through your choice alllll the way down the wall. There is ramp section, a platform section and a stair section (see web photo). By the time you fire and maneuver to the end you will have only a 2 foot wall section for cover… with four different holes in it. At the end of the wall, you will bulk load your weapon and drop out around the end, then fire and move, fire load and move from mail box to tractor tire, to tree, to stump to barrel to fireplug…. Hydrate and rest. Watch the other poor souls…. You will learn as much from watching as doing….

You will then move to the ‘Jungle Trail’. This is an exercise in observation… Master Sargent Motil will also let you shoot what you spot. Then again he will also let you know yer dead should you ‘walk by’ anything…. The man is a master of camouflage and his perps are just that. No full figure perps… only heads and upper halves… The good Sargent will show you how to ‘paint’ the landscape and pick out the perps. Ask questions…… all the time…. Everywhere… of any instructor.. about anything .. any .. thing! That You don’t get. They will show you how to put your talents to work for you. Did I mention DEET? You will require a gonzo bug repellent/killer. Do not lay yourself down in the grass… The Jungle trail is just that…. A freaking overgrown wet tangled JUNGLE! Hydrate.. hydrate.. hydrate.

And now we come to the end of things. No matter the level of your skills going in… you will see and feel the difference coming out. You will finish on the steel range ‘Timing Out’. Most students end the weekend able to engage a single perp in about one (1) second, from a low ready… and Yepper…. Most students .. YOU… will end the week end able to do the ‘3 perp’ drill at about 1 and one half seconds. Many of you will do far better in the 7/10ths. to 1.3 second range. Hear me now and believe me later when you ‘DOIT. What are the stats on the average gun fight? This training is outstanding in that it fine tunes YOU.. to YOUR skill level. Take em home with you and ‘tweek’ em to fit you like a cheap suit. The cost is about that of a Rem. 870. Take a look at the web site. Click on courses and you will see a slide show on the shotgun course. If this sort of training suits you and your budget…. It will serve you well the rest of your life. It will serve your friends, group or family as well. Don’t let some of the photos and verbiage put you off. This place is designed for the ‘civilian’ student. Should you be signed up with any LEOs or Federalies…. No worries! Ask any of the staff.. they’ll tell ya the same thing… “..LEOs don’t train unless somebody else pays for it…” Those LEOs that have the right thinking to pay for themselves and join you will normally have to.. keep up.. with you… All of TDI’s training is more than do-able.

You can do this. If you are serious about the application of deadly force, you should think about this sort of training. Take a look at the web site. Training is available in every aspect of defense.. and offense. It is one of the best and most affordable in the United States. And OMG.. I say this without even getting a discount. As a matter of fact I catch more flak from the staff than most… sometimes I feels like a goat, sometimes I am, cause I keep coming back. And you’re damn right… there are other facilities in this country. This one is simply one of the two best. The other one is in Southern Oregon. That would be ‘Thunder Ranch’. Whatever side of the Mississippi you live on you are two days drive form either one. The difference in cost between the ‘Ranch’ and TDI will cover plane tickets to Cinncinate or Columbus and the rental car to West Union, Ohio. Look up the respective fee schedules and do the math.

Ok… gotta go and get the Honda to the mechanic and hit Costco and Todd’s Gun shop. Rice is down to $14.ish a 50 lb sack and 308 ballistic tip Zombie rounds are on sale till this Saturday and there is an IDPA match this Sunday morning. I look forward to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, insights or death threats. I’ll ‘see’ you in the comments section.. Adieu!

Thomas T. Tinker .. former grunt both wiser and worn.

This contest will end on December 16 2012 – prizes include:

Well what are you waiting for – email your entries today. But please read the rules first… Yes


About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. Thanks for the tips/story. I still need more training. My trigger finger and feet don’t seem to work at the same time. At least it’s a skill I can learn. We have a modern pistol shooting group that meets once a month for range time about 30 miles North of here. I think this year the DW and I are finally going to get it together and get a little more serious about our partice.

  2. Shooting a couple of rounds of trap or clays (50 shots give or take) can leave a nasty bruise. I’m thinking a weekend like you’ve described would be more like shoulder hamburger, although it does indeed sound like fun.

    • Thomas T. Tinker says:

      in that case OP… bring some duct tape and a towel or a couple of sponges .. day one!

  3. Thank you for the insight on this will definitly have to look into either one.

  4. I practice with a 20 gauge,,,same principle as practicing with a 38 sp vs 357 mag.

    • Plant Lady says:

      No, you need to practice with a 10 gauge…then the 12 gauge will be a piece of cake rather than a painful shock at the worst possible time! (hehe)

      • yep,, you try that and let me know how it works out for you after a 100 round day,,, 😉

        • I fired 5 rounds from a 10 gauge once . . . only once 😀 .

        • Plant Lady says:

          Seriously, tho’…you don’t train for a marathon by running 8 miles regularly. If you do, you find yourself woefully unprepared for that 26 mile run. However, if you train by running 36 miles, a marthon would seem easy. The same seems to hold for most endeavors.

          • Thomas T. Tinker says:

            Recoil measured in lbs: 20 ga. = 21 lbs. 12 ga. = 24 lbs. A 20 is fine for practice and when you check the ballistics on #4 buck and KO slugs……. one is hard pressed to discount the 20 for all around use. Many of us tend to want to compensate with equipment… in lue of skill sets. No offence intended here …. a tool is a tool and if it happens to be low on the favorites list it does not mean it is not the tool best for you.

            • Tactical G-Ma says:

              How right you are! I can still do much that I did when I was younger and stronger, but with different tools and methodology.

            • No offence taken, from you or from Plant Lady. I disagree with her example though,,, she is comparing endurance training to my muscle memory training,,,,I do believe that one should run the gun they (plan) on using to make sure they can handle it, but for everyday practice to improve skill there is no need to punish yourself. Of course the two shotguns need to be the same model, Same method Bird hunters use after a heavy season,,, they shot a 22 rifle to get rid of the flinch that has built up ,,helps them get ready to use their deer rifle.

  5. Tactical G-Ma says:

    Thanks for such an interesting article. If only I was a few years younger. Sounds like a challenging adventure. If there are any friendlies in with the zombies when I start shootin, they’re on their own!

  6. SurvivorDan says:

    Nice stuff TTT. Well written and very informative.
    Love my 870! Trained as a combat grunt. Often carried a shotgun for the DOD in Central America. Great ‘persuader’ and very effective in close quarters.
    Until we all got rifles, I usually grabbed my shotgun answering certain types of calls with the local Sheriff’s department. Very reassuring weapon.
    You do remind me that as I have retired I need to shoot some drills or take some tactical classes with the 870. I have grown complacent with over-confidence and forgot that it has been two years since I worked out with it.
    Thanks for the article.

    P.S. My youngest went rogue on me. I took him to an Army recruiter and he talked to another nearby recruiter and joined the Corps!
    It’s all good! Semper Fi!

  7. I have a saying when someone asks “Why do you “need” more than one “gun”???!!! Usually their either a anti-gun person or a noob.

    I respond that “Guns are like golf clubs. Theirs is no one gun that can “Do it all” weapon. But the shotgun with all its limitations comes close to a “all around” as it gets. If I could only have one gun ……

    It’s said in police and security circles that if you’re going into a known gunfight and you don’t take the shotgun you’re issued, you’re life expectancy will be shorter for not securing any and all advantages in a gunfight, for 50/50 are lousy odds.

    Yes a shotgun has a definite place on the rack.

    BTW, if recoil is a problem get a good recoil pad, use MAX DRAM EQUIV(lent) ammo, it’s fancy talk for non magnum ammo, and the 200 FPS less velocity with pellets or buck won’t matter to the person your up against. I find Federal 00 Premium copper plated buck to shoot extremely tight patterns out of my IMP CYL choked Remington 870 Police Magnum. And it’s not to bad for the price.

    • Rifleman 336. When people ask me why I have more then one gun. I normally reply, because I am an american citizen and can do so if i so please.

      • Tactical G-Ma says:

        It’s like I ask DH why he has 3000 knives.

        His answer: “Cause I can!”

  8. MountainSurvivor says:

    Great articles, appreciate the references and good streams of thought, Mr. Tinker.

  9. SurvivorDan says:

    For the uninitiated, simply ask for low recoil buckshot.
    Great for seniors (like me!) and the slight of build (like me!) who wish to deploy a 12 gauge.

    • ASK for low recoil buckshot….., that can get you anything. And not all are created equal.

      Many are just relabeled Max Dram Equiv loads, The only thing “Tactical” about the was the label and the money that one shelled out.

      Some “Low Recoil” loads reduce the powder charge, some take off one pellet (making for 8 pieces of shot , not 9 of the traditional loads) and some both.

      When I discovered the Federal Premium 00 Buck (then at the time sold at Wally World for 6.50 a box), I shot it next to several others and just to find out their patterning and felt recoil. I quickly found out the copper plated shot made for a huge difference, and that wad design also has something to do with it. Before that I thought it was just a marketing gimmick to get some more money out of ones wallet. After seeing the results on the B-27 silhouette, I ate all my words.

      The non-plated stuff made a ring that you could jump through at 25 yards!!! The plated shot covered the torso very well with little to no “flyers” that could go and hit a bystander. This from a shotgun that has a very slight choke that’s not recommended for any game save short range slug. The recoil of the Max Dram felt the same as the low recoil and tac loads. The reduction of one piece of 00 in some loads did better than the ones that had the traditional 9 pieces, and with 8 pieces on the target and not around it, I wouldn’t miss any sleep over it one less piece of shot.

      Another recommended one is Hornady’s TAP (Tactical Application Police) 2 3/4″ 00 buck it to patterns very well.

      Don’t take my word for it, by various makes of Max Dram, Low Recoil and Tactical 00 buck loads and pattern them yourself, you’ll get to see what works and doesn’t work for yourself.

      I just happen to find one that patterned well and didn’t break the bank because they put the T-word on the cardboard box it came in.

      • SurvivorDan says:

        Didn’t realize there were so many variations of low recoil buckshot, Rifleman. I’ve always used the same ones my department issued.
        But as a civilian, I have several different brands and now I will have to compare their characteristics and efficacy. Thanks for your expert input.

  10. Thomas T. Tinker says:

    I suppose it will always cause some ‘discomfort’ as No One I’ve seen down there has been able to maintain a tight cheek weld while doing fire and manuver for two days. I am lucky to have found a 870 PM. I had a big dot epoxied to the front bead. As for myself…. Turkey loads and Berny’s KO slugs with nothing strapped, screwed or bolted to it… KISS kiss kiss.

    • Mine was bought as a Remington rebuilt police trade in for $600 vs. $1000+ of the new from the factory. It was equipped with ghost ring sights and Davis Speedfeed +4 stock. It holds two rounds on either side of the buttstock, and it doesn’t get in the way or unbalance the gun making it feel clumsy.

      The only problem I’ve had with in was one failure to eject (extractor was “dry” and the problem was solved with a simple drop of oil. And I had the newly reinstalled brass bead front sight come off. I got another sent by Remington for free and this time used some blue locktite, problem solved!!

      It’s a keeper.

  11. j.r. guerra in s. tx. says:

    Training with bird shot works for building muscle memory, but buck shot and slugs really do recoil quite a bit more, and firing at least one magazine needs to be done. Really gets your attention with full power 12 loads.

    If you want to try the pistol grip stockless models, I’d start with 20 gauge model 1st. And definitely wear gloves, these will get your attention. If you have any problems with arm / hand injury, I would wait until you are healed.

    • SurvivorDan says:

      While on a fun shoot-day in the desert, I demonstrated the ease of controlling a 12 gauge w/pistol grip in dynamic tactical scenarios while firing bird shot and reduced recoil buckshot. And I am a slightly grizzled little (150 lb) old guy. I did pass on the challenge to fire some slugs without the fold out stock deployed. Oh no! Fool me once….

      And the 20 ga. would be better for the beginner as j.r. suggests.

  12. tarheeltwice says:

    Great article, also check out GUNSITE for excellent similar training in Arizona and offsite in TN. These guys are top dog and follow the Weaver/Cooper method.

  13. WoW! I will never be going to the places you discuss, but your descriptive narrative certainly gives me a LOT of pointers. This is an invaluable, well written article for me, and I don’t even have a gun yet. You’ve given me much to work with when I do. I’ll be saving this….and the comments, which are informative too. Thank you Tinker.

    • Thomas T. Tinker says:

      You Are welcome MtWoman. Surf around YouTube or look up thunder ranchs video on tac shotgun……

  14. Checked out the TDI Web site the course photos looked as challenging and practical as you discribed. Although i was suprized at how inexpensive the courses seemed. i thought they would be two or three times that amount. Think i’ll try to go down for a class or two next year Thanks for a great tip !

    • Thomas T. Tinker says:

      Stepabove: TDI is indeed an outstanding ‘deal’. I would advise you to make your plans and make your ‘reservations’ at TDI ASAP as the schedule there fills very quickly.

  15. Also don’t forget Frontsite down in Nevada. Great tac SG course.

Before commenting, please read my Comments Policy - thanks!