After running this Remington 870 Wingmaster through a block of Tom Givens’ Defensive Shotgun course, I made a few simple changes to the gun, to allow me to run it better.  Tom mentioned these modifications in the course, and I did them over the past week.  Total investment?  $310.00 and that’s in US dollars.  A workable, high quality solution doesn’t need to cost $2100.

THING ONE:  I ditched the OEM magazine cap with the integrated sling loop, and the OEM magazine tube spring and cheap plastic follower.  I replaced the cap, spring and follower with a unit from Wilson Combat/Scattergun Technologies.  This magazine, “extension,” allows one more round to fit into the magazine, for a total of five rounds.  I leave it loaded with four rounds, to allow the spring to have a bit more, “oomph,” instead of leaving it fully loaded.  I keep it, “cruiser ready,” with a loaded magazine tube, hammer down (action unlocked), and the safety off.  If I need it, I can pick it up, rack a round in and fire.  WHY NOT A LONGER EXTENSION TUBE, YOU ASK?  I’m not convinced that the longer tube is the way to go…they are basically unprotected, and hang out underneath the gun where they are susceptible to dents and dings.  Dent one deep enough, and you can prevent the follower from traversing the tube, unimpeded, as it should.  I’d hate to turn my repeating shotgun into a manually operated (albeit a fast one) single shot weapon.  The basic bead works well for me.  I do have other guns that have ghost ring, rifle sights, or express sights, but the longest shot in our home is 15 yards.  The bead accomplishes that shot at that range, with a minimum of fidgeting, or alignment.  If you have a good cheek weld, the bead is right on what will get clobbered when the trigger is pressed.  So while advanced sights have their place, until I amass enough wealth to purchase Wayne Manor, the basic bead will work fine.


THING TWO:  Five round nylon/elastic shell strip, attached with heavy duty Velcro to the right side of the stock.  This configuration gives me 9 rounds in/on the gun, which should be MORE than enough ammo to statistically handle ANY civilian-context threat.  This wood stock came from the factory, with a 14″ length of pull.  Awhile back, I had Taylor Mock at the Texas Brigade Armory shorten the stock, and refit the recoil pad, to give a total length of pull of 12″.  Don’t freak out tall folks…you can still use this length stock, easily.  So can your smaller family members.  


THING THREE:  Federal Flite Control, “Personal Defense,” OO Buckshot.  I bought a bunch of this ammunition.  It is my new, “go-to,” round.  It runs in whatever guns I’ve tried it in, and turns in patterns that I previously thought were only possible with a Vang Comp type modification.  Pretty great.  The flight control wad makes keeping 9 out of 9 pellets on the bad guy at 25 yards easy.  Each of those 9 projectiles MUST be accounted for in a defensive shooting, and keeping them closer to each other, and on the target, makes that easier.  You might win the battle, but lose the war, if you effectively down the bad guy, but have an errant pellet hit a family member or a neighbor.  

THING FOUR:  WHAT, NO LIGHT?  In short, no.  While I DO have a Surefire forend in my gear box for an 870, I don’t have it mounted on this home defense shotgun.  Your experience and opinion may vary, but here’s mine.  Surefire forends were designed for law enforcement use.  Law enforcement officers find themselves in situations where they need to search for a bad guy inside a structure, or outdoors in low light.  I keep my carry handgun, and flashlight available to address situations like a, “bump,” in the night.  My family loves in a multi floor, loft type of dwelling, with 180 degrees of floor to ceiling windows.  Even with the blinds down, there is still enough ambient light to be able to see well.  A flashlight would absolutely confirm the identity of the noise/intruder.  With my flashlight, I can illuminate said disturbance, then decide if a firearm solution is necessary.  WITH THE SHOTGUN, I cannot illuminate the target and decide if a firearm solution is required…BECAUSE WITH THE INTEGRATED LIGHT, THAT’S ALREADY BEING DONE!  With the flashlight/pistol combo, I still have the option to electively point the gun at the possible bad guy.  With the shotgun/light system, I do not.

ALSO, my shotgun fits into my home defense system like this:  the shotgun is placed in the safe room, where all the occupants of our home will retreat to, in the event of an emergency.  If we are behind the door, shotgun at the ready, anyone that forcibly kicks down the door isn’t there to offer us foot massages…in that case, there would be enough light to see that the behemoth that just kicked the door down isn’t Aunt Edna looking for the last of the Girl Scout Thin Mints!  Their intent/ability/opportunity to cause grave bodily injury or death to me and my family will be obvious.  THE POLICE can brandish/point guns at people that they do not know, or who occupy areas where calls for service have been made to.  That’s part of their job…if you’re a good guy in a building where a bad guy is known to be, and the police are searching for him, you WILL get guns pointed at you.  Civilians, cannot do that.  Sure, you could make the argument that The Castle Doctrine will protect you if someone is an unauthorized party in your own home, but how often are the circumstances, “THAT,” apparent?  The chance of a negative outcome, SEEM to be much greater when guns are pointed at questionable/unidentifued threats.  So for me, adequate ambient lighting is a good thing, and having a search light separate from the weapon is, too.

CONCLUSION:  There is a strange cognitive error that occurs in the civilian defense industry lately.  Regular folks look at military and law enforcement equipment and techniques, and then adopt them, prima facie, without considering that the mission of the police, the military and the civilian is EACH a completely unique proposition.  There is little overlap between the three missions.

One area of pure overlap is in ammunition selection.  I’ve heard Tom Givens, Massad Ayoob and other instructors say that using the same caliber, brand/weight ammunition as the local police force can be a wise move.  Here, the purpose of the civilian and the LE antipersonnel ammunition is the same…accurately fire projectiles that will quickly stop a bad guy from causing any further harm, with as few rounds as possible.  If you’re being attacked at a gas station by a man demanding your cash and keys with a switchblade held inches from your face, and you shoot him, and he drops the knife and runs away, you’ve accomplished your mission.  IF YOU WERE THE POLICE, and the same scenario occurred (hey, nobody said crooks were smart) that would just be the start of your mission, as now the bad guy has to be apprehended.  But, as Joe civilian, your part is done.  Thus, the ammunition commonality analogy makes sense.  The choice of carry pistol could also carry over from LE circles, if one is willing to carry a full-size/G19 or G23 size gun.

The analogy falls apart when the conclusion of, “The local Police carry M4’s loaded with Hornady TAP ammo for active killer threats in the trunk of their squad cars, therefore I, the friendly neighborhood dentist SHOULD ALSO keep an M4 in my trunk, to better prepare for active killer threats!”  While a Police patrolman might very well interdict a bad guy trying to hack up patrons of a second-run movie theatre with his M4, the more likely scenario for the civilian user is that the M4 would be stolen from my unattended vehicle, and then end up in the bad guy’s hands.  Since the majority of the guns that are taken FROM badguys ARE in fact stolen, it makes good sense for us, the citizen sentinels to keep them out of their hands, as well as we can.  So, while the missions are different, the context of equipment utilization can overlap, but it doesn’t, automatically.
Be wary, be wise, be safe.

Photo Credit to Tiffany Johnson, of RANGEMASTER

6 thoughts on “Ch-ch-ch-changes!  (To the 12 gauge);Turn and Face the Strange

  1. I originally started with a shotgun as a home defense tool mostly because that’s what people like Masaad Ayoob recommended. Being somewhat short of stature I found the 12 gauge with buckshot to be difficult to handle effectively and painful to shoot. There is no way my wife would ever shoot it more than once if loaded with buckshot. An AR on the other hand was far easier (for me and her) to learn the manual of arms and the recoil is light enough that she actually enjoys practicing with it. The house is an open floor plan in the suburbs and I feel more comfortable knowing where each individual shot will go rather than take a risk with even the tight groups from ammo such as flight control. The construction of the house means light, fast bullets are less likely to overpenetrate than slow, “heavy” pellets although the angle of fire from our “safe spot” should send any strays into the woods.
    Since I hunt with a lever gun, a Marlin in .38/.357 with a fiber optic front sight would actually be my first choice; light, quick, and something I am very comfortable with. My wife, however, is not familiar with them so we stick with the AR, I think this is the right choice for us and our situation. I like that you don’t try and fit every self-defense solution into your own personal idea of what’s best. Thanks, and keep up the great work.

    BTW, you did get me to rethink my choices with regards to shotguns. I’ve still come to the same conclusion but re-examining our choices is a very good thing.

  2. I live on the upper floors of a high rise condominium. If the power goes out, we have backup generators. If the city’s power goes out, where I’m at, the end of the world has occurred and the flashlight won’t matter in the grand scheme of things. The 590’s magazine tube is a bit thicker than the typical 870 tube, and a bit more resilient to damage. During my time using 870’s for work, I never saw an extended magazine that lasted/stayed reliable. They would invariably get whacked on a door. Fall over from wherever they were propped up. Everyone has their reasoning for what they do. Most people don’t really look at the big picture though. Thanks for reading!

  3. Good article. I just made a few mods to my own shotgun (happens to be a 590a1), and will probably be writing about those mods soon.

    My shotgun scenario/use is similar to yours, but such is the world of “no one right answer” that I went in the opposite direction in a few areas. I do favor the short LOP stock, as a tall person can always scrunch up behind a short stock, but a long stock is hopelessly awkward for a smaller person. I also think a bead sight is fine for your application. Mine has GRS but really only because it came with them.

    In my case, however, I went with extended tube out even with the muzzle. For an HD gun in use from a safe room, how much banging around will it really be subjected to? I also don’t quite get your rationale for not using the surefire forend that you already own. Just because it’s mounted doesn’t mean you must use it. But if you need it it’s there. And where is the ambient light through all of those windows coming from? If from streetlights, neighbors houses, your own outside lights, etc, what do you do when the power goes out?

    I agree that an ammo source on the gun is invaluable, and I just switched from a rigid sidesaddle to the Velcro cards.

    Anyway, great article. Will look forward to reading more.


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