When Thunder Ranch was located in Texas, I attended Defensive Handgun I, Defensive Handgun II, and Urban Rifle classes there over the years. I was hoping to be able to attend a Defensive Shotgun class, but they moved to Oregon before I could schedule the class. I was surely disappointed.

Some might ask, "Why take a shotgun class?" Good question. I am certified by the NRA as a Shotgun Instructor, and have been hunting birds with a shotgun for all my life. What could there be to learn?

I can tell you from experience that I also thought I knew a lot about pistols and rifles, until I attended those classes at TR. I found out that there was a ton of stuff that I didn't know. I figured that same was probably true about shotguns. I was right.

I was very happy to see that Clint and Heidi were coming back to Texas to put on some training in early 2008. I signed up for the Defensive Shotgun course and counted days. The course was held at Texas CQB, in Grandview Texas, just south of Fort Worth. It was a three day course, Monday through Wednesday.

Let's look at the shotguns.


I decided to borrow a Remington 1100 TAC-4 shotgun from my buddy brianksain.

I would also bring a couple of my shotguns, a Mossberg Maverick and a Remington 1100 Special Field. All are 12 gauge.

Why three shotguns? I wanted to try a high capacity semi-auto, and a pump, to learn how each system worked best. The Special Field was my back-up.

We were told to bring 400 rounds of birdshot, 150 rounds of #4 or 00 Buckshot, and 25 slugs.

Here is the pile of ammo,


That's a lot of shells to shoot up in three days. I'm glad I have a PAST Recoil Shield.

Clint doesn't recommend birdshot for defense, but it is a good and cheap load for practice.

I had a lot of low-brass birdshot left over from dove hunting and decided to use that.

I also knew that I ought to test it before I brought it to a class.

I went to the range and tried some Winchester Heavy Game loads in the Remington TAC-4 to be sure that they worked, as this shotgun is set-up for heavy loads.

I was surprised to find that the Winchester low-brass loads would not cycle the action.

I then tried some Remington SureShot Heavy Dove loads, and they worked just fine.


It is interesting that both loads were the same load, i.e., 12 gauge, 2 3/4 inch, 3 1/4 dram eq, 1 1/8 oz, #8 shot.

But the Winchester load would not cycle the action, where the Remington load would. However, the Winchester load worked fine in the pump and the Special Field.

The moral of that story is: Always test your equipment and ammunition before going to a training course.

We arrived at the CQB headquarters on Monday morning, bright and early. The facilities at CQB turned out to be very nice. They were excellent ranges and the whole place was very clean and well-organized.

We started out in the classroom with a 3 1/2 hour lecture by Clint Smith. He covered all aspects of fighting with a shotgun and, as usual, his opinions were well thought out and well explained.

He recognizes that the shotgun is an extremely effective defensive weapon in well-trained hands within its limitations.

These limitations are:
1. It is most effective with the proper ammunition.

2. It is most effective from zero to 30 yards. As Clint reminded us several times, "At close range, it will remove meat and bone."

3. It can be effective out to 75-100 yards with slugs.

4. It has limited ammunition capacity. This increases the need for "manipulation", and is, in Clint's opinion, its major problem.

After the lecture, we met on the range for the rest of the 3-day course.

As we left the classroom, Clint said, in his usual tactful way, "If any of you have recoil shields and leave them in the trunk, you are stupid."

I ain't stupid, and I wore mine.

Most of our shooting was at steel silhouettes, but we also shot some paper for patterning and for hostage drills.

Here's the steel.


We shot from 3 yards (on paper only, so we wouldn't have pellets bouncing back) all the way out to 75 yards (with slugs).

Most of the fighting was from 7 to 20 yards.

Lots and lots of shooting and moving and manipulation (reloading).


Clint believes that you shouldn't stand still in a fight, so we were constantly on the move while we were shooting.


Move, shoot, reload.

Move, shoot, reload.


Heidi caught me with an empty in the air, just to show Tman he isn't the only one that can do it.


Clint stressed that the biggest disadvantage of a shotgun is limited ammo capacity and the need for manipulation (reloading).

So, we practiced reloading over and over and over and over and over... you get the idea.

We were encouraged to load from the side saddle of the gun and replenish it from our pockets.

As Clint says, "You will fight with what is in and on the gun."


Here Clint explains how to clear a problem from the gun while staying in the fight.

We practiced every failure imaginable, smokestacks, doublefeeds, short strokes, etc, over and over.

One of the best drills was called the Battlefield Pick-Up drill.

We set up a malfunction in our gun and laid it down.

Then we moved over to behind our neighbor's gun and on the signal we ran up and picked up the (strange) gun and had to figure out how to clear the malfunction and fire 2 shots on steel.

The biggest problem I had was one left-handed guy's gun that had the safety in backwards.

I almost never figured out how to get it to fire.


Plenty of time on the ground and firing around barricades.

I got dirty. It was fun.


One of the most fun drills was Rolling Thunder (BTW, that's where Thunder Ranch got its name).

On the Rolling Thunder Drill, 6 guys address 5 steel targets.

Shooter #1 fires at target #1. Then shooter #2 shoots target #1. Then shooter 3, 4, 5, and 6. Six hollers, "Out!!"

Then shooter #1 shoots targets 1 and 2. Then shooter #2 does the same, all the way down the line.

Upon hearing #6 yell "Out!", shooter #1 shoots 1, 2, and 3, and so on.

The problem is that you have to reload the shotgun before it is your turn to shoot again. And towards the end, you are shooting 5 or 6 shells at a time.

It is a fun, and loud, drill.

Here I am shooting it with Buckshot (that's Buckshot in the side saddle.)


And Heidi caught me making a lot of smoke in the same drill.


And here I am with sweet Heidi, a great gun handler and a fine Christian lady.

Clint is a lucky man, just like me.


With all that shooting and loading, here's my left thumb by noon on the second day.

And I still had a day and a half to go.


Loading shotguns is an art that needs to be practiced.

To load a pump, open the action and just throw the round into the chamber.


Then just slam the action shut and it is loaded.


To load the magazine on a pump, just throw the round up into the loading port.


Then push it into the magazine like you are trying to shove it out the front of the gun.

Do this 300 times and your thumb will look like mine.


Loading a semi auto is the same for loading the opened chamber.

But to load the magazine, you must use the shell to push the release on the floor plate, and then push it into the magazine.


The semi-auto I shot has an after market safety, a Vang, that is a large ball and easier to feel.

We were taught to push it with the middle of our trigger finger like this.


Believe it or not, Clint said he has actually seen a few people reach through the trigger guard to push it back "On."


It is easy to see why this is a very bad idea.

Instead, reach under the trigger guard and reset it with your thumb or middle finger, like this.


Here's Clint watching me burn up some birdshot.

He recommends birdshot for practice, as it is cheaper and the main thing you need to practice is manipulation, not accuracy.


Fire, smoke, noise, recoil, and blood.

How you gonna beat it?


And here I am getting my diploma, with the bloody band-aid on my face, from getting hit by an empty shell.

No real damage.


It was a great school and I learned a lot about shotguns for defense.

I highly recommend that any of you that are interested in using a shotgun for home or personal defense, get some quality training.

It could save your life.