AAR2: 360 Performance Shooting (Ashton Ray & Tim Chandler), “Shotgun 360”, New Castle, PA, 08/01/20-08/02/20

If you haven’t already read Robert’s comprehensive AAR of Shotgun 360, please do go read it first. As usual when I write an AAR2, this is just going to be my thoughts and highlights rather than a complete rundown of the entire class. I have to apologize for the delay in publishing this… Hurricane Isaias left me without power for the better part of a week and I’ve been spending much of my free time cleaning up the mess that it made of my property. Coupled with an increased workload at my real job, I haven’t had much time to devote to blogging.

“An elegant weapon for a more civilized age.” Obi Wan was describing a light saber, but I think the quote is apropos of my favorite gun as well. To those that understand the intricacies of wielding a shotgun, it is indeed an elegant weapon that will likely remain available to the citizenry no matter the political winds of change.

With the above in mind, a couple of years ago, I dedicated myself to getting better with the shotgun and have since taken or observed classes with Tom Givens, Rob and Matt Haught, and Darryl Bolke. In fact, Shotgun 360 co-instructor Tim Chandler has previously referred to classes from both Rob Haught and Tom Givens as being mandatory stops for someone who “truly wants to be a master of the defensive shotgun.” This is still good advice, but these days there’s another stop on the “shotgun hajj!” I would rank the annual Shotgun 360 right up there with the classes mentioned above.

Before class even began, Robert had expressed some surprise that I would drive so far to attend Shotgun 360 after I had recently taken Rob Haught’s class. There is some merit to that thought, but what I was looking for was reinforcement of the lessons from Rob’s class (both Ashton and Tim are proponents of Rob’s push/pull system of recoil mitigation) as well as further skill development. I got that and more. Both Ashton and Tim are phenomenal coaches, and the class did not disappoint. I had met and trained with both before at the Rangemaster Tactical Conference and crossed paths with Tim in previous training, so I had no qualms about signing up for the class.

Robert talked about the structure of the class in depth, but I do want to touch on a few specific points. The muzzle awareness exercise done at the beginning with a toy gun was definitely time well spent, and the only other time I’ve had opportunity to practice like that was with pistols in vehicle specific classes. Make no mistake, gun fighting in the real world is a thinking man’s game.

The morning review of their shotgun skills coursework was welcome, but I would characterize it as more than just a review. Indeed, Ashton and Tim offered dissertation level explanations of what they teach. For example, the specifics of how to grip shells when loading the gun would become very important as the coursework proceeded. Regarding push/pull, I still have some minor timing issues to iron out, but I was pleased to note that I didn’t have any shoulder discomfort or any visible shoulder bruising after two days of running the gauge. Ashton and Tim were quick to identify the minor mistakes I was making and coached me on ways to improve.

I’m pretty sure that this class marked the first time I’ve ever fired my shotgun from the support side. I felt a little awkward doing so, but was able to get my hits using push/pull nonetheless. The fact that I’ve had so much recent training in switching shoulders with a carbine probably helped in this regard.

Tim and Ashton bring some very unique perspective to the discussion of running the shotgun one handed or when injured. Ed Mireles is a name that all our readers should be aware of, and Tim has interviewed him about his experiences using a shotgun when gravely injured. This led us to Ashton and Tim’s unique approach to wounded shooter techniques with the shotgun. This is just one of those things where you’ll have to attend the class to see for yourself.

Ashton and Tim (and their assistant instructor Chris) also approach teaching movement a bit differently than some other instructors. Mainly this was in a more individualized approach, which is a common theme to this class review. Chris told me that I looked like an experienced fighter with how well I maintained my center of gravity, which I’m not sure I see, but I’ll take it and run with it!

On day two, we spent some time patterning our guns and discussing ammunition selection, including the specifics of “select slug” with various shotguns. This is one of those times when a pump shotgun is infinitely simpler. Having done a fair amount of pattern testing with my own gun (documented here on the blog), these exercises didn’t yield too many surprises. I am, however, still left wanting a barrel that plays well with Federal FliteControl. Rather than simply patterning our guns with our ammo, the drills were a deep dive into what our specific capabilities were with our guns and ammunition selections. (I’m working on an upcoming article about this, but the moral of the story is that you must pattern your gun to know what you can do with it!)

The discussion of transitions was thought provoking and cogent. I’m not necessarily sure how relevant it is to my life (if I’m grabbing a shotgun or long gun, it’s probably out of the safe with little notice), but it definitely calls conventional wisdom into question. On a somewhat different tangent, I also appreciated the nuance of a failure drill with a shotgun. If a single round of buckshot center mass doesn’t do the trick, you need to change what you’re aiming at!

At the end of two days, what this class really does well is instill confidence. The drills are structured so that you really do learn the limits of what you can expect to do with your shotgun. To reiterate from above, the shotgun is a very capable and versatile weapon in practiced hands. For me, within the confines of my home, I am absolutely comfortable (and I’d like to believe competent) relying on a shotgun for defensive purposes. Buckshot at conversational distances is typically quite effective, and I would far prefer to discharge a shotgun indoors instead of a carbine to preserve my hearing. There are no height over bore concerns at close range, and a tightly clustered pattern of buckshot allows for relatively surgical application. The likelihood of my needing more than the four rounds I keep in the gun is so statistically small as to be irrelevant, and if I do need more, that’s why Wilderness Tactical makes an awesome shell belt!

Over the course of two days, I shot 228 rounds of birdshot, 28 rounds of buckshot, and 19 slugs. I used Federal Top Gun Sporting birdshot, the old Speer Lawman buckshot that I detailed in an earlier post, and Winchester Ranger rifled slugs and enjoyed solid ammunition performance all around. I was especially pleased with the slugs’ POA/POI performance. I would note a recurring theme in that advertised round counts were way off from what we actually shot. I’m okay with that given the difficulty of sourcing ammo currently, but as I’ve noted in previous class reviews, if I’d flown and had to leave the extra ammo behind, I would have been pissed.

My target after a couple of head shots with slugs…

For the class, I brought my usual Remington 870P SBS and had no problems whatsoever. I am relatively happy with my shotgun setup, but both Tim and Ashton noted that the Streamlight TL-Racker that I had mounted had “terrible ergos.” After two days of running it, I had bigger problems than its ergonomics. I counted no less than a half dozen white light negligent discharges with all the manipulations I did over the weekend. As there is no lock out switch, this causes me some concern. For now, I have put the simple MagPul forend back on the gun pending a more elegant weapon light solution. I may very well wind up with a Surefire X300 on a piece of rail on the forend. While I am convinced of the utility of a side saddle, I did find myself inadvertently pulling the Vang Comp card away from its Velcro mounting during some one-handed reloads. Nothing is perfect and everything is a compromise! I did have a two-point sling mounted for class, but we never used the slings. Indeed, I remain committed to my choice of a single-point sling on my SBS. A niche application to be sure, but one that is ideal. This is pretty much the only time that I like a single-point sling, and I’d like to think that I’m in good company.

Although the weather on day one left a lot to be desired, the Castle Pistol Club range was perfectly adequate with a covered concrete pad and grass that prevented shooting in the mud. A portable toilet would have been nice to have, but there were plenty of trees available.

If it ain’t raining, we ain’t training…

I have nothing but good things to say about our classmates and the instructor cadre. As Robert noted in his AAR, our class had at least a couple of guys that had shot or shot at people for real in attendance. The perspectives and experiences that they shared with the class were invaluable. Ashton and Tim bring a lot to the table, and are truly invested in their students’ success.

No two Shotgun 360 courses will likely be the same from year to year and this is not a bad thing. I’m confident in saying that the class will probably be tailored to what you bring in terms of knowledge, skills, and equipment. This allows for an enhanced learning environment and speaks to Ashton’s and Tim’s abilities as instructors and coaches. If you really want to learn how to run a shotgun, Shotgun 360 should be on your short list of classes and is worth traveling for.

As always, thanks for reading. We welcome comments, questions, and civil discourse. Please follow our work here on the blog either by email or on social media.

FTC Disclosure: There may be Amazon Affiliate links above, but I have no affiliation with 360 Performance Shooting or the Castle Pistol Club, except as a full price paying participant in class.

4 thoughts on “AAR2: 360 Performance Shooting (Ashton Ray & Tim Chandler), “Shotgun 360”, New Castle, PA, 08/01/20-08/02/20

  1. Between the two AAR on tbis event I am more convinced I need to add Ashton & Tim to my “to do” list. Maybe when I take it in a year or two the weather will be more cooperative.

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