Sunday, January 24, 2010

AAR: Louis Awerbuck Yavapai Firearms Academy 2 day shotgun

This is a review for the Shotgun stage 2 class at Reed's Indoor Range in Santa Clara.  Note: This is actually the first level shotgun class.  The curriculum at classes at Reed's are slightly different from YFA classes at other ranges.  See for more.

The ammo requirement on the paper handout I got when I registered said 200 buck, 50 slugs, but in the actual class, buck was only required for the initial patterning stage(maybe 10 rounds at most), then the rest of the class, birdshot was acceptable.  I wish I had known that so I could have brought the much cheaper birdshot.  Slings are mandatory for the class.

 The first half of the first day was in the classroom where he discussed types of shotguns, accessories, ammo, and the importance of patterning shot for each combination of (barrel, choke, ammo, distance).  It's important to know both the group size and shape, since you're responsible for every pellet that goes downrange, and if you miss the target a stray pellet may hit some grandma 100 yards away.   On the other hand, for some situations like a riot, you may prefer a wider pattern, but either way you should know ahead of time what the gun and ammo will do.   He said he prefers to just use slugs exclusively to avoid worrying about the pattern at different ranges and to avoid needing to mix different kinds of ammo if a longer range shot is needed.

There was a lot of diversity in the class in terms of experience levels, and at least 4 different models of guns, with many different sling systems.  Four out of 12 were left handed.
A bunch of 870s, 3 Mossbergs, and 2 Benelli Super 90s, and 1 Benelli Nova.

He went over how to sling up, and how to load and unload and manipulate the safety, which took a while with all the different systems.  When loading, he said for most people, it's preferable to just load through the magazine and not through the ejection port.  For most people, it's too complicated to use two different ports for loading.   Ejection port loading is okay if you know you're empty and you're loading administratively, but while fighting, your bolt should always be forward since you always cycle the bolt after firing.  It's easier to just load from the mag tube, and if the chamber happens to be empty, to just quickly rack the slide and fire.

We patterned with buck at a few different ranges and observed the patterns growing.  Patterns varied greatly depending on gun and ammo used.   Federal buck with flite control wads had a very tight pattern.

We did the rolling thunder drill, where each person fires once, then twice, and so on, up to 5 shots per person.  Later we did a different version with  the order of firing and the number of shots fired at each step all scrambled up, so communication was important to indicate to the next person when it was their turn.

We did some shooting on negative targets, with a hole cut out of the chest of the target.  You'd only hit the paper if you missed.  After shooting 1-3 rounds we would reload immediately.

We did shooting at multiple target drills.   With a pump-action, it's important to shoot, then as you run the bolt you are already transitioning to the next target, so you're ready to shoot by the time the muzzle gets to the next target.  When you finish hitting your last target, swing the muzzle back to cover the first target, because he's the most likely that you need to deal with soon.

We zeroed with slugs.  He demonstrated shooting from prone or sitting and we had to choose one.
For precision shots, manipulate the trigger more like handgun/rifle, with squeeze and follow through.   In order to follow through properly, don't run the bolt right away on a pump.

Snap shots with slugs.

Slug select drill: mag tube must be downloaded by one.  Put slug in the mag tube and rack the slide to put it in the chamber.  This may eject a live round from the chamber, which is acceptable.

We did some drills where we had to mix slugs and buck in the mag tube and it quickly became confusing, which is the point; don't do it.
There were a few more drills I think but this is all that I remember.

I thought it was a good class and I learned a lot.  He mentioned that in a 2-day class, there isn't enough time to go over everything he'd want to, so he'd rather just cover certain things in depth than to try to cover everything briefly.   The class did not involve any shooting while moving, shooting a moving target, transitioning to handgun, or low light shooting.

Some other notes:
All defensive shotguns need, in order of importance:
 - a well fitted stock (stock fitting for fighting is not necessarily the same as fitting for trap/skeet)
 - a sling
 - a white light (SureFire forends are the best)

Proper length of pull is a function of neck and forearm length, not so much overall height.

For most people 12.5 - 13 inch is a good fit.  Generally the standard stock as it comes from the manufacturer is too long. With the stock on your bicep in the crook of your arm, the second knuckle from the fingertip should be on the trigger comfortably.
With a well fitted stock you can:
- reach the forend and rack the bolt comfortably
- mount the gun comfortably by raising it up to your face and not deviating your neck at all from its natural position.
- lean forward aggressively to control recoil
- stand more square with both hips facing the target.   If you have a more sideways stance with hips facing to the right, then you can't easily swivel to shoot a new target to the left.  A sideways stance would also be more uncomfortable when moving around.
An overly long stock may interfere with these things.

Mossberg safety position is good, can keep trigger finger straight as on rifle/pistol, and keep the same firing grip through all manipulations.
A crossbolt safety requires you to keep your trigger finger crooked on the safety which happens to be near the trigger.
But he prefers the 870 anyways, because it's a very reliable, sturdy design that hasn't changed since the 50s or 60s.

Bead vs ghost ring:
He said he generally will leave whatever came on the gun, and has a few of both.   He mentioned a soldier who could get a cloverleaf group at 50 yards with slugs and a bead sight, so it is possible to be accurate with a bead, although of course rifle / ghost ring sights are generally better at distance.  If you add sights to your barrel, you should always have the gunsmith use silver solder.  Don't trust any claims of super space shuttle epoxy, with any glue, that sight will be flying off at some point.

Vang comp:
choke / backboring is useful, porting is not so useful.   If tight pattern is desired, that can be accomplished more cheaply by picking the right ammo.

When using a traditional stock (non full pistol grip), always shoot with your thumb of your firing hand on top of the receiver, not wrapped around the receiver.  This is to avoid hitting yourself in the face with your thumb.

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