The time that John and I have been putting into the study of the shotgun continued for me last week. Less than two months after taking “Shotgun Skills” with Tim Chandler and Ashton Ray (taught under the FPF Training banner), I once again got to learn under the expert tutelage of Tim in his Home Defense Shotgun class. This is actually his version of an “Introduction to the Shotgun” course; leave it to me to take these classes in reverse order!
Like “Shotgun Skills”, this course was held at the super-secret FPF Training range in Culpeper, Virginia. Unlike the unseasonably warm temperatures experienced during the Shotgun Skills course in September, this one-day course took place during unseasonably cold temperatures. Go figure. Cost of the course was $200, though, in the interest of full disclosure, Tim offered the course to me at no charge. As noted in the AAR I wrote for Shotgun Skills, Tim and I were acquainted quite some time ago; knowing the variety of courses I have taken over the years, he wanted to solicit feedback from me about what worked and what did not in this class. However, also as noted in my prior AAR, I was planning to take this course at some point anyway (I was assuming I would be paying), and I have already signed up (and paid for) another course to be taught by Tim and Ashton in 2020. So I regard this AAR as completely unbiased.
John Murphy, founder of FPF Training, would assist Tim with running the line. In addition to Murphy, Tim also had the help of Matt, a friend of Tim’s and someone who has taken all of Tim’s shotgun coursework, as well as Sid, a retired police officer whose frequent commentary lent an invaluable perspective for the students in the class. Including me, there were 13 students in the class. I was pleased to see at least two students from the Shotgun Skills course I took in September were back for more.
Gear I brought for this class was identical to the Shotgun Skills course. I brought both of my Mossberg 590A1 shotguns. The older one has an 18.5 inch barrel, a two-shot magazine extension from S&J Hardware, a high visibility magazine follower, a short length-of-pull Hogue stock, and Velcro side-saddle. This would serve only as a backup, and saw no action during this class. My primary shotgun for this course would again be my factory short-barreled 590A1. Since the last class I added the S&J Hardware high visibility follower. It also has the same Velcro side-saddle and Hogue stock as its larger cousin, and both models are equipped with factory ghost ring sights.
After convoying to the range from the rendezvous point, the class began at 0840 in the FPF Classroom (a note here for those who have never attended a class at the FPF Training site: it includes porta-potties and a glorified shed/classroom complete with space heater and electricity for lighting as well as computer/projector/PowerPoint. Considering the location, the amenities are not bad at all). After the signing of waivers and Tim’s introduction of his helpers, Tim got underway for the first part of our day.
The best way for me to describe this class was that it consisted of two parts: “home defense” and “shotgun”, with the former part informing the latter. Tim stressed that there is more to home defense than just having a firearm, that much can take place beforehand (exterior lighting, good locks, reinforced hinges/plates, alarm systems, video monitoring, etc.). This class was mostly about what happens after all of those efforts that we have made have been defeated.
Defining the threat, Tim emphasized that we can expect multiple intruders who either enter armed or arm themselves with some on-scene item immediately upon entry. Such intruders are also likely to have extensive prior criminal experience. Though not necessarily with Delta Force or SWAT efficiency, such groups of criminals typically spread out upon entry in order to immediately dominate the space and the occupants within.
Not unlike other instructors with whom I know Tim has had prior training experience (John Murphy and Tom Givens come immediately to mind), Tim utilized a lot of video of real home invasions to illustrate key points, ensuring that the gravity of such situations was not lost upon the class members. Not surprisingly, Tim spent some time covering what—in my opinion—is one of the two most famous home invasion cases in U.S. history: the Petit murders (the other being the Clutter family murders, famously depicted in the book and movie “In Cold Blood”). After detailing all that took place to the Petit family, it was easy for me—later, on the range—to imagine the target I was shooting was one of the two perpetrators of that heinous attack.
The next element of the classroom portion of the class covered lawful use of force. This is, in my experience, an area that most instructors do not spend nearly enough time covering. Tim reviewed the five key elements of lawful use of force including Ability, Opportunity, Intent, Immediate Jeopardy, and Preclusion, providing an abundance of possible “what-if?” scenarios along the way.
With the threat defined and when we can engage a threat covered, the question of stopping the threat was now raised. In short, we were now moving into the “shotgun” portion of the course. With a threat or threats inside the home, the time for negotiating or hoping for police intervention is gone, and the threat(s) must be stopped as soon as possible. And what better tool to use than the most powerful close-range firearm available to most civilians? Tim covered human targeting and ammunition selection, with the fallacies of loading with rubber buckshot or birdshot covered at length.
Before heading out to the range and while still enjoying the warmth of the classroom, Tim led us through an extensive safety brief. Naturally, the four firearms handling rules were covered, as was the mantra I heard during the last class I took with Tim: always handle firearms with attention and intention. The safety brief was followed by a medical brief with roles clearly delineated, evacuation vehicle set up, and medical gear duly noted.
Once outside, in orderly fashion we were instructed exactly how to retrieve out shotguns from our vehicles, uncase them, and rack them. Tim had me ensure that the dummy shotgun shells in his hand were, in fact, dummy shells, and then he went over how to set up a shotgun (pump or semi-auto) for “cruiser ready”. Because this was a home defense class, the most likely “condition” of our shotguns in an actual event would not be from a slung or ready position, but more likely in “cruiser ready” condition in a safe, closet, rack, etc. Indeed, throughout the day, many of the drills we would shoot would have us starting with an empty chamber. Kudos to Tim for recognizing this subtle but important detail.
The next segment consisted of grip and stance and the already-familiar-to-me push-pull technique of recoil mitigation. Although I had just had this block of instruction two months before, I picked up on some subtleties that had eluded me during the prior iteration, so I was happy to hear it all again. I should note here that with more experience with push-pull now under my belt, I did even better with it this time and finished the class with no bruising of any kind in my shoulder area. With this block of instruction covered, we finally got to shoot our first live rounds of class. Shooting all day in two relays allowed plenty of one-to-one attention from Tim as well as from Sid, Matt, and Murphy. Tim tweaked my stance a bit when, despite my use of push-pull, I was still getting pushed around a tad. Tim noted my lack of mass as an issue, so had me lift my back (right) heel ever so slightly. It worked!
After shooting for a bit (birdshot on steel plates 10 yards away), we went over different loading/reloading techniques. Tim’s main points are to maintain positive control of the shell by surrounding it in a “cage of flesh” (fingers) and to maintain as much contact with the shotgun as possible. Tim teaches two basic reloads: voluntary and involuntary (emergency). Again, the points of instruction here were well-thought out, as the different types of shotguns present in the class as well as how they were set up could greatly influence what the “best” techniques would be. For example, loading into the chamber “over the top” might be contraindicated on a shotgun equipped with a receiver-mounted optic. Going under the receiver and thence into the chamber might be a better technique for someone with a shotgun set up in that manner. We finished the morning (we were now actually well into the noon hour) with that great test of reloading skills and speed: rolling thunder! We did this up to three rounds each, and performed it twice.
As with the Shotgun Skills class I took in September, lunch would again be a “working lunch”: we ate while Tim worked! The topic for discussion during lunch was police response/police-citizen contacts. Again, I feel like this is a topic typically given token—if any—attention by many instructors, but would be critical for us in a home defense situation. Given the recent high-profile cases of police shooting citizens IN THEIR OWN HOMES, this seemed like a sensible topic to cover. Here, the importance of looking visually neutral and sterile when the police arrive and what to say when calling 911 were covered in some detail. Again, video of actual police shootings of innocent civilians in their own homes was utilized to drive home the key points. This was all value-added.
The lunch discussion was quite involved and took roughly 60 minutes, more than Tim had expected, but clearly the students were “telling” him what they wanted. When getting back outside, we moved into the patterning portion of the class. Tim began by shooting at the head of a paper target from 5 yards with the cheapest 00 buckshot in his ammo case (he was using a Beretta 1301T at this point). The results were impressive, as the reader can see:
Tim then moved back to 15 yards, and with the same buckshot, the pattern barely held on a silhouette target. Tim then changed ammunition Federal 8 Pellet Flite Control 00 Buckshot, and from 15 yards the pattern was a bit tighter than the cheap 00 buckshot at 5 yards! Flite Control is a thing!
Tim then had us perform the same patterning test, shooting one shell at the face of the target from 5 yards and then three to the torso from 15 yards. The results from my Mossberg SBS were as you see here:
Walking from target to target, Tim looked at mine and immediately asked if my shotgun had been to Hans Vang. When I replied in the negative, Tim just remarked to the class that the work I did on my target was pretty close to being perfect, with a solid head shot and all pellets from 15 yards distributed over the aortic arch of the target.
We then moved back to 25 yards and again fired 3 shells at the torso of the target, just to see how we might do. Here I lost one load a bit high and right (all on me. I sensed it as soon as I fired it), but my patterns were still around 8 inches in diameter.
Next, we moved on to the qualification portion of the class, where we would be tested in a law enforcement style course of fire. The qualification had us shooting from between 5 and 15 yards, sometimes shooting multiple rounds, sometimes performing a reload, all under what I would describe as reasonable time pressure (similar to what we had done earlier in the day). Those of us who made all of the time restrictions and had at least 90% of our pellets on the target “passed” the qualification. I had no real issue making the times and I believe 100% of my pellets landed on target. I used cheap Rio 00 buckshot for the closer shots (5-7 yards) and the Federal Flite Control for the 10 and 15 yard shots.
That unofficially took us to the end of the course with the time around 1600 hours. Tim then asked us if we would like to stay and work on some “shooting around cover” drills, which we did. Tim first demonstrated everything he wanted us to do when it came to pieing around a corner and getting good hits downrange. Then, in two relays and utilized target stands as cover and steel 10 yards downrange as our targets, we practiced dry and live getting hits downrange while exposing as little of ourselves as possible. Again, value added! We wrapped up the class around 1700.
I fired 82 rounds of birdshot, 12 rounds of Federal Flite Control 00 buckshot, and only 11 rounds of cheap Rio 00 buckshot, for a total of 105 shells fired. No slugs were fired in this class as they are generally contraindicated for home defense purposes against two-legged predators.
One thing “missing” from the class was any sort of lengthy discussion of sight options (bead, rifle sights, ghost rings, red dots). It is possible that some students received instruction on how to use their particular sights during one-on-one instruction. As I was hitting my targets well, perhaps it was deemed unnecessary in my case.
This was truly an excellent class. Tim provided us with well thought-out points of instruction that followed a logical sequence. We got to hear about—and see, with video evidence—real-life home invasions which served to inform us as well as set our minds straight about the threat that is out there. The shotgun instruction was first-rate as well, and, as noted above, even elements of the instruction that I had been exposed to during the prior class came with “a-ha” moments this time around.
As a teacher myself, I appreciate quality instruction. Although Tim likes to say that he was “voluntold” to do some shotgun classes, the fact is that he is a gifted instructor who knows how to deliver his messages, demonstrates EVERY drill, and provides extra value with the “working lunch” as well as having a guy like Sid there ready to answer questions that might be outside Tim’s own working experience.
I noted earlier that I did not pay for this course. However, I did pay for the prior course I took with Tim, and I feel so strongly about what he is doing that, as I mentioned earlier, I have already signed up (and paid in full) for a two-day shotgun course with Tim (co-taught with Ashton Ray again), their “Shotgun 360” course, to be held in the summer of 2020. The fact is, I was planning to pay for and take this Home Defense Shotgun course at some point anyway (most likely Spring of 2020), but Tim beat me to it.
On a final note, while I think many people of many different experience levels could benefit from taking this class, I feel like it would be ideal for the person who either bought or was gifted a shotgun for home defense, but basically just loaded it and put it aside in a closet or the like. This course should really spur the thinking juices of those people so that they will have better chances of success should such a scenario play out in their lives.
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