Stupid simple, stupid cheap. For less than 2 bills you can get a versatile, useful, defensive grade shotgun. She won’t win any beauty titles, but you can run the heck out of it, and it’ll keep on truckin. I put this bungee breaching sling on it, I bought years ago that is light weight, and is rigid enough it stays out of the path of the pump, so there are no hang ups. Lastly, I put a two shot side saddle on it. I don’t want to make it prohibitively heavy, I like keeping the wrist of the receiver narrow for manipulation and carry, and if I can’t handle a problem with seven rounds, then please tell funny stories about me at my funeral. One last bit…the Hogue youth stock has an 11.75” length of pull. Don’t say it’s too short…I’m 6’4” tall and it works great for me, with as little as a t-shirt on, all of the way up to layers of clothes under a parka. If you bang into your nose or your teeth, keep your thumb on the other side of the receiver.
I recently returned to teaching for Tactical Response in Camden TN. My dear friend, James Yeager, the founder and MFCEO of Tactical Response passed away in September of 2022, and a huge absence was left by him, not just in the company but in the training community. I have felt a huge hole in my being since he died, and along with all of my life’s other issues, it just seemed like it was the right time to return to teaching at Tactical Response. James can’t be replaced, but I feel that since I was one of his closest compatriots and he was my mentor, it would be fitting to his legacy and his family to return to teach for his company and continue to blaze a trail through educating others. In the spirit of true martial artists, when your Master dies, you continue his lineage of teaching. I don’t know how genuine of a martial artist I actually am, but I’m on the path. And I deem this to be a worthwhile effort.
As an instructor, you are expected to be able to demonstrate, on demand, anything you ask of your students. Seems simple enough. I like to demonstrate for students, not to show off, but to illustrate what we are looking for, and also what you want to see your students do. With that, I only expect to fire about 1/10 of what a student does in a class. Maybe even less than that. So I like to have a dedicated training gun, that mimics the features and feel of my duty guns. With my pistols, I use an identical mechanically (but marked with a FDE back strap) 9mm M&P pistol and with my rifle, I use two identical copies. Same with this shotgun. It is functionally identical to my duty shotgun, the only difference being the Pardner has a, “hump,” a la the Browning Auto-5. Otherwise, it’s an 870. I’ve heard rumors that these are actually made in China by Norinco, and imported to America by H&R 1871. Either way, for $175 NEW, this gun can be yours. Interestingly, the price has stayed pretty low. I bought this model back in 2007, and it has about 10K through it at this point. I’ve cleaned it exactly twice. I have changed the magazine spring twice as well. Not because it was having issues, just prophylactically.
And there you have it. Little different this time…more pics and less yakking. You could do a lot worse for a training gun for under two bills. And if you’re wondering, would I take THIS GUN over a Remington 870 EXPRESS, the answer is YES. The internals in this gun are made of metal. They may be made from melted down leaf springs, or Soviet T-72’s, but they are metal. The extended magazine holds five rounds and is very well balanced. The magazine extension/barrel retention nut stays snug after hundreds of rounds of full power rounds. It’s not glamorous, the finish is modest but does repel rust and corrosion even in Tennessee’s impressive humidity, and it just plain works. I’ve lent it out to students several times, and people always offer to buy it from me because they fall in love with it. I’m telling you…try a 11.75” LOP stock and tell me it doesn’t make an 870 feel like an M-1 carbine! It really does!
So if you’re in the market for a low budget 12 gauge, or something to stow in your boat or RV, or you’re a training junkie or an instructor who needs something that won’t break the bank but will serve you with minimal issues, look into the H&R 1871 Pardner in 12 gauge. Especially if you are an 870 person and want to have an understudy, you could do much worse than the Pardner!
I’ve known Chuck Haggard for years. First as an online buddy on the old GOTX and TPI forums of the early 00’s. Then in person through the Paulepalooza Memorial training events that began in 2012. Chuck is a unique guy in the training industry…he’s literally done it all. He’s one of the few guys around that can chew up a problem from the perspective of a military serviceman, a police officer or an armed civilian. I’ve trained with Chuck in the past and we’ve both audited each other’s classes. Chuck was recently in Nashville teaching for two days, and I had a break in my schedule, which allowed me to attend.
Chuck calls the class I attended, “Pocket Rockets,” but it’s really just a catchy name. What’s a pocket gun for one person, might be a full-size gun to a smaller human. The chief difference between a full size or compact sized pistol and a pocket rocket could be defined as the size the pistol relative to the size of the user. I’ve known people who have pocket carried Glock 19’s and done it well, and I’ve seen people who couldn’t pocket carry a J frame in normal clothes, because that would be too big for them, and it would defeat the purpose of carrying a concealed gun that is obviously NOT concealed.
The point of the class is to be able to achieve precision hits on target, with speed but more importantly, adapt the user’s normal manual of arms to smaller sized guns. I used a SIG P365, as did many others. Several people used Glock 43, 43X and 48’s. One man had a Beretta 21 in .22LR and a few others had weirdos like the Shadow Systems guns, which I know almost nothing about. As anyone who goes from using a full size pistol to a smaller pistol knows, malfunction clearance can prove challenging. The TAP portion of the TAP-RACK-BANG (or TAP-RACK-REASSESS) is difficult to pull off with a small gun because if you’ve got a solid grip, and the gun only has room for one or two of your fingers at the bottom of it, you end up smacking your own hand. Conversely, ejecting a mag with the gun in your grip can also be delayed because your hand prevent the mag from falling free. Chuck has come up with a few solid operation algorithms that overcome that hang up, without drastically changing the way that you might have already programmed yourself to do them. I won’t give away Chuck’s secret sauce, and you’ll still have to take the class to learn them, but they work! Chuck is a master instructor so he understands that there isn’t a one shot solution for every person, and he teaches several different manipulations and one of them is bound to work for you, even if you lack significant hand strength, or coordination. Chuck has tricks! He’ll get you through it!
The course took place at the GLOCK STORE in Nashville on their 270 degree shooting range. The range has movable backstops that allow 270 degrees of fire. The range was lit but had very subdued lighting. And it was variable from the middle of the range to the edges of it. It was the first time in maybe forever that I was glad I had tritium sights on my gun, as it was difficult to see the sights on my Smith M15 when we shot the evening section with our revolvers! I had to dip/duck the front sight to pick up the edge. At 3 yards it wasn’t a big deal, but out at 10 and 15 and further, that obviously makes a difference. Even though I had painted the front blade with orange model paint, there wasn’t enough contrast to see. If you’ve shot Smith OEM adjustable sights (not the recent iterations) you know there isn’t a lot of space around that front blade…there is even less in low light!
We concluded the Pocket Rocket class with a qualification course with Chuck demonstrating each phase of the course. The range for each phase started at 3 yards and progressed to 25 yards. Getting solid hits, at 25 yards, with a 3” barrel gun, in poor light, with a time crunch, was challenging but also rewarding!
I think people often take classes like Chuck’s thinking that their performance with a smaller gun will be comparable to their capabilities with a full size (full size gun FOR THEM). But the truth is, little guns are harder to shoot. You have less sight radius, smaller guts inside the guns and thus operational idiosyncrasies, and truncated barrels that sacrifice ballistic performance in already marginally effective pistol ballistics. Small guns are lighter, there’s more recoil and less barrel so more unburnt powder and muzzle blast. So it’s a wake up call for many students! I’ve been using a J frame Smith of some kind for my entire adult life, so I wasn’t unaware of the hazards of downsizing to a smaller gun. But under pressure, when you really need it, you can’t expect the skills of the full size gun to translate to the smaller one…it’s a different animal entirely.
I was both shocked and amused by the number of students who had used guns that they actually carried but hadn’t tested. Meaning, they had a Glock 43X, that they added an optic, sights, a magwell and extended mag release to, but hadn’t tested it to see if they all worked together. One person’s gun wouldn’t fire more than one round without a malfunction because theit mags weren’t compatible with the magwell, and or the release. Luckily they figured that out in the class instead of in a parking lot somewhere! Testing your equipment, under the eye of a master instructor like Chuck, is important especially if you don’t necessarily know what you need to be looking out for. Very few machines in existence IMPROVE their performance with added complexity. The design requires miniaturization already, and stacking more parts on it for a negligible increase in performance can be a dubious foray into absurdity. Unless you can shoot to the mechanical accuracy of the gun, most people would benefit from the minimalist approach. I’m still undecided on the SHIELD magazines for the Glock 43X and 48. I know people that have success with them, but I’ve also seen a number of them fail. I chose to go with, “eleven for sure,” in my 43X, but you’re welcome to use what you like. I enjoy having the availability of a nearly 50 state legal pistol in stock configuration, but that’s my view.
At the end of the training day for POCKET ROCKETS, we had a ballistic gel lab where Chuck shot a number of rounds into a block of CLEAR GEL ballistic gelatin out of short barrels to see if the performance, penetration wise, was still within the bounds of effectiveness. As you no doubt recall, the FBI specifies 12-18” of penetration after passing through 4 layers of denim. Chuck fired a number of rounds, including my carry round, the SuperVel 115 grain solid copper projectile. The round went about 16” with great expansion and 100% weight retention. The SuperVel 115 grain is a round that shoots well in both my full size M&P as well as my P365 and Shield/Shield Plus. It’s widely available by mail-order on SuperVel’s website, and was one of the few defensive loadings that didn’t dry up during the pandemic. Chuck told us that many of the mono-metal projectiles like the SuperVel and DPX type rounds perform well in gelatin and have similarly good performance in actual shootings as well. I’ve heard similar intel from Professor John Farnam, another trusted source. I shot two mags (I rotate carry ammo on daylight savings time…change the clock, change the carry ammo), and it was THE most accurate ammo I shot all day. I used TULA 9mm steel case and aside from the impressive flash and fire tornado it launched at the target, it was boringly reliable and shot to the sights.
Wrapping up the long day, Chuck ended with a three hour session for wheelguns. I brought two…my Smith M15 2” and a Smith 66 2.5”. I shot a variety of 158 grain lead and LSWC as well as 130 grain flat nose FMJ. They all shot to a different yet acceptable POI. Chuck demonstrated and we used a method of punching out the empties from the cylinder using a hammer fist method. Just like it sounds, you hammerfist the ejector rod vigorously, and it launches the empties with gusto and considerable inertia, even in guns with short ejector rods (like the Model 15). I used the Zeta-6 rubber speed loaders and was satisfied with their performance (more on those down the road). Like I mentioned earlier, I had trouble seeing the sights, due to the subdued lighting on the range. But that’s probably more of a ME problem than it was the fault of the gun. I get spoiled seeing the high visibility dots on XS, Warren or Sevigny sights with lots of light around that front, which just isn’t a feature on the older Smiths. And even without a grip adapter, my accuracy and performance didn’t suffer. It’s only six rounds…I’d rather have better concealability and more of a hook shaped grip than have really comfortable grips, even when shooting stout .38’s. It’s not a .454 where grip shape and beating up the middle finger really comes into play. But I’ve got big hands too…
If you haven’t trained with Chuck, you should! He’s one of the few trainers on the road these days who really has many pieces of the pie to offer you. He’s seen it all…and done it all. If you fancy yourself a gunman, you’d be wise to seek him out and learn from him. His website is https://agiletactical.com/ . Tell him the Doctor sent you!
What a buzz kill…it was 1993, I had just turned 18, had a job working as a full-service gas station attendant and as a police explorer cadet, and I had JUST enough money to scrape together to be able to start buying guns. And then all of the desirable semiautomatic long guns that any young person would be enamored with, were gone. Literally made unobtainable by some weak legislation in hopes it would curb violent crime (SPOILER ALERT…it didn’t). So what to do? I did what I could with manual action long guns (an 870 and a lever action/bolt action combo). But I was bummed.
A few years later, I got a job working full time at an armored truck company. I carried a pair of revolvers (one in my duty holster and another on my ankle). And when I was off-duty/street clothes I would sometimes carry 3 guns, working side gigs where I could mostly in the field of valuable/cash transport. It wasn’t optimal. It wasn’t ideal. But I pivoted to adapt to the market, the world and what I could afford at the time (a used K or L frame was in the $275 range, a J or N frame was closer to $400 at the LGS). And the x-factor here (that many overlook) is I used what I could afford AND still train with. I could get all of the .357 Magnum and .38 Special I could shoot, as long as I turned in the empties (on a 1:1 trade). Many of my coworkers gave me their ammo, and a few of them did that in return for me riding shotgun for them. Because why practice yourself when someone else can do the hard work for you???
I think that in the next couple years, due to the weirdness of the world, people’s relative apathy to said weirdness and government legislation, we will have an entire new batch of, “Crime Bill Kids,” who will also have limited defensive options. They’ll have to get what they can from the secondary market, feed it with ammunition they can reliably (and affordably) source, and still have the resources necessary to practice or train. The elders of the community can be self-righteous jerks and say, “Well you should’ve been stacking it up!” or, “I prepared for this? Why haven’t YOU?” But that’s not a solution…and the older I get the bigger my Dad her gets and the more I value people that are part of the solution, not accessories to the problem.
So no surprise from me, but the, “most useful,” gun for strange times can be wheelgun. Here’s a few reasons why: 1. Dry-practice with a trigger pull that EXACTLY replicates live fire. “First round hits,” are all the rage currently, but they’ve always been amongst those that know best. How do you get that skill? Dry practice helps TREMENDOUSLY. 2. Ammunition versatility…a .357 Magnum revolver can also fire .38 Special and some can even fire 9mm with a conversion cylinder. Also, you can fire whatever you can source. Light/fast ammunition that may not cycle the action on a semiautomatic pistol reliably, will work fine in a revolver. I’ve noticed a ton of weird, foreign, lightweight/high velocity Ammo in the store when everything else is gone. 3. Ammunition durability. All ammo is relatively fragile. Continually reloading the same cartridge into a self loader can and will decrease the ignition capability of that specific cartridge, or set the bullet back and create pressure issues. So not a big deal to build a zip-lock bag of, “discard,” carry ammo to shoot at the next qualification, or practice session, but in the middle of an ammo shortage, that one round is a valuable commodity. THAT could be the round you need to save your life. With a revolver, the trauma to the individual cartridges is minor or a complete non-issue. And since the state of readiness of a revolver can be ascertained by looking in the cylinder, there’s no need to remove the cartridges from the individual chambers or, “press check,” like many folks do with semi autos. You can open the cylinder, see the primers and close the cylinder. You’re ready. 4. Revolvers are adaptable. You can find OR MAKE (3D printing nerds…looking at you here) revolver grips that will fit any hand or esthetic. Finger grooves are optional, and in many cases, can be removed with patient, cautious abrasive application. And places like VZ grips can make stocks for revolvers that make the BIGGEST revolvers around feel and actually be, volumetrically smaller without compromising comfort or function. 5. Sights. You can DIY many revolver sight options. Some of the greatest revolver pistoleros did this, and with a little hobby paint from Michael’s Treasure House, you can too. Even blacking out the rear notch on a fixed sight stainless revolver can make your sight picture cleaner.
DIY is probably one of the revolver’s greatest adaptability strengths. The guts of the gun largely inhabit the middle of the revolver…the sights and the grips lay at either end. And you can manipulate the ends without affecting the function of the middle. Something to consider.
Concealability, adaptability and availability are just a few of the revolver’s strengths. Is it weird that someone would chose technology from the 19th century to defend themselves in the 21st century? No, but also yes! It isn’t going to be easy, but I don’t think the choice of weapon is the weakest link, nor the most significant in what the cognoscenti like Massad Ayoob, outlined in his, “Survival Priorities,” so many years ago. Utilization requires thought, but any cop who grew up and worked in the, “bridge generation,” between the nationwide switch from revolvers to semiautomatic pistols will tell you, they’d still hit the streets with a revolver and feel fine about it. But all the same, they’d also tell you to bring a spare or two. 😉