Saturday, April 4, 2009

Defensive shotgun skills.. Moving to cover, and transitioning right to left


Once again, a nice afternoon found my sons and I at the range. This day... defensive shotgun drills were on the menu.

Practice may not always make for a perfect response, but it's certain that lack of
practice almost guarantees poor performance in stressful situations. If that situation is one involving defensive shooting skills, poor performance could be very bad indeed. Some movements come naturally, and others do not. The more complicated and more unnatural the movement, the more it needs to be studied and practiced.

In my case, transitioning from right handed shooting to left handed shooting often causes problems to appear. Add in the factor of movement, and things go downhill very quickly. Doing both with a pump action shotgun made for some interesting discoveries!

Shooting a weapon that requires different actions from each hand can be a ballet in itself. Most folks can master a pump action shotgun with only a little practice. Take the same firearm and reverse the actions; forcing the strong hand to work the action and the weak hand to control firing. This seems to cause confusion and a momentary loss of concentration. The motions that come naturally to a shotgun shooter when
working strong hand may become almost laughable when switched to the weak hand. Forgetting to work the slide is the main culprit, while aiming can also become difficult.

Here in this video, I move from behind an improvised range barricade into shooting while moving. Taking cover behind another barricade, I reload while keeping as much attention downrange as possible. Once reloaded, I transition to weak hand and fire while moving back to the original cover position.

A lesson learned during this particular drill; if the shotgun has any malfunction at all, don't stop during the move to clear it! Move even faster to cover, and clear the malfunction there as rapidly as possible. Stopping in the open to clear a malfunction or misfeed could be.... unhealthy.

This day I was shooting up some 12 gauge loads with #7 shot, terrible ammunition that I had made while teaching myself to reload shotgun shells. It made for multiple malfunctions, once even ripping the base off a shell on extraction. My son helpfully suggested I save the ammunition for malfunction drills... my response: "What do you think we are doing now?"

While the reload seems slow, it really only takes about 10 seconds to fully load five rounds. Top level shooters on the AMU team take about a second per shell to reload, so a little slower is no shame. The first round is dropped in the loading port and the slide brought forward to battery. The weapon is now back in business if need be. The rest are loaded as quickly as possible without fumbling, while still keeping attention downrange towards the threat/target. Once fully loaded, the shotgun is moved to the left side, and shooting on the move commences again. In each case, before moving the first shot is taken from cover of the barricade.

Since the transition from strong to weak hand is a difficult one for me, it gets extra attention during practice. Repetition is the key, with many, many shells expended getting the movements to become habit.

In the following video, I maintain position behind the makeshift barricade (upturned shooting benches) and transition from side to side with every shot.

A lesson quickly learned here; I cannot kneel properly and shoot side to side like that. It proved too awkward. I had to practically sit on my heels, with both legs and feet under me as I moved. Rocking back and forth like that was the only way to bring
the shotgun quickly to bear in both directions without changing the entire body position each time. I had to sacrifice some body stability to stay flexible enough to make the transition right to left, and back again.

In addition, I learned my natural tendency was to toss the shotgun from one hand to another, losing control of it for just a fraction of a second. While this might have been slightly faster, it 's an unacceptable trait and must be practiced away. Always maintain control of the weapon.

My boys and I burned up enough shells today that we emptied what had been a full 5.56 ammo can. Along the way we learned some new skills, and practiced some learned previously. Each run through on a drill found us picking up a new pointer, discovering some small twist that made it smoother, and getting one step closer to actually having a clue what we are doing.


AKA Angrywhiteman said...

Good information, thanks. I have a pump action .22 rimfire that I am using to teach myself left hand handling. I'm very right handed and my first few clumsy attempts were laughable. Practice is absolutely essential, I often practice mounting and sight acquisition with an empty piece to familiarize myself the necessary body motions.

Carteach0 said...

We had folks watching us practice these drills for a while. They got bored and left.... I guess we spent too much time going through the motions with an empty gun, and discussing what we were doing.

Conservative Scalawag said...

Sadly, none of the public or private ranges will allow shooters to do this. Something about safety and annoying the other shooters,or something to that effect. Anyhow. I do practice this sort of drills in the house with snap caps and inert rounds (old shotgun shells painted orange for safety) to keep skill sets up as much as possible.

However,like you demonstrate,nothing is like the real thing. Good demo.

Huey148 said...

Great post on a very overlooked subject.

Off hand firing is a skill that is usually overlooked by most shooters. I guess nobody ever takes into consideration that their "good" arm or side may be taken out in the opening salvo of a confrontation and their "weak" side may have to save their can. I was forced to learn to shoot with my left hand during my last mobilization for OIF when I found out my dominant eye had switched after 20 years of service for some reason. God's funny that way. Anyway, it doesn't take as long to transition as long as you have good strong fundamentals otherwise. Start slow and steady and once muscle memory sets in you should be able to get up to speed rather quickly.

Carteach0 said...

I was introduced to wrong hand shooting many years ago. A buddy and I had the use of a large indoor range for an entire night, and we used it. We set up scenarios... fired low light, no light, wrong hand, empty gun, malf drills, even exploding targets. It was a fun night... but the the biggest lesson was just how bad I was at handling a weapon from the off side. I've been practicing it ever since. I'm still bad at it, but I can function at least.