Sometimes the job of a firearms instructor extends outside the scope of teaching marksmanship and tactics in the classroom. In the era of increasing social unrest, many students have an interest in expanding their survival skills further than a one-time encounter in which they may have to use a firearm for defensive purposes.

With the threat of lawlessness and anarchy in some parts of the country becoming a reality, a long gun has become a more attractive tool to provide a higher element of security and utility than a handgun. That is because, for most people, a long gun is easier to handle safely, manipulate and shoot. In addition, most long guns are more powerful than most handguns.

Long guns generally fit in one of these two categories: rifles or shotguns. These categories, however, are quickly separated by what the user’s objective or purpose is. Rifles tend to follow a narrower path of specificity due to their action types and the ammunition that is available for chambering them. There is no argument that there is some latitude available, but not as much as other options would offer. Shotguns, while mechanically similar to rifles, have a much wider range of ammunition availability. This is an advantage when a gun owner seeks a broad range of capabilities.

A Gun to Do It All

Firearms instructors are regarded as the people with the answers. Therefore, they should be prepared with answers (and classes) when approached by a prospective new gun owner wanting to prepare against anarchy. This may or may not encompass the subject of carrying concealed, which often comes as a secondary concern behind that of a rifle or a shotgun with which to address the more general nature of security against an unknown adversary.

Questions often come from an individual who wants a gun to help him or her “survive.” This could mean personal defense, protecting his or her property, harvesting food from nature or other areas where a firearm would be useful. Often, because the need is portrayed as being a broad-based proposition, the conversation evolves to a “single-tool-to-do-everything” scenario, which will invariably be a compromise.

But even compromises can be narrowed down to the most suitable tool for the present need, with flexibility built in to provide latitude for expanded capabilities in the future as conditions evolve. If economy is added to the equation, which is almost always a concern for a first-timer, a pump-action shotgun quickly becomes an excellent (if not the best) recommendation for the new gun shopper interested in one tool for many jobs. A 12-gauge pump shotgun with a shorter (perhaps 18-inch) barrel and a youth-sized buttstock is a good starting point for someone seeking a gun with maximum versatility.

Simplicity Is the Ultimate in Sophistication

The fact that the action has to be manually manipulated for each shot requires the shooter to become better familiarized with the gun, which translates to safe handling and proficiency and lands the pump out ahead of a semi-auto for a first-time buyer.

In addition to the standard safety practices of muzzle management, trigger-finger discipline and the manipulation of the manual safety (which all modern shotguns have), a shooter must learn when the safety should be in the “on” position and when it is appropriate to move it to the “off” position. The primary guideline to follow is if the decision to pull the trigger is made and the muzzle is on the target, the safety should be moved to the “off” position. Otherwise, the safety should be in the “on” position until these two criteria are met.

Loading and unloading the pump shotgun should be practiced with inert dummy rounds for safety purposes. These rounds can later be used when interspersed with live ammunition on the range to practice immediate-action drills, which replicate methods of getting the gun back into operation when it unexpectedly fails to fire.

The primary guideline to follow is if the decision to pull the trigger is made and the muzzle is on the target, the safety should be moved to the “off” position.

In practicing loading and unloading as well as immediate-action exercises, the student will learn the location of and how to use the action release to enable cycling the bolt by operating the forend when the gun has not been fired. It is a simple but absolutely necessary process, especially when the user is clearing and rendering the shotgun safe.

Loading the shotgun through the magazine-loading port is an easy process that can be performed by simply pushing each shell into the magazine tube until no more can be accepted. A desirable option for the shotgun is an extended magazine tube that can ease loading and increase ammunition capacity. Becoming familiar with the shell stop in a pump-action shotgun and how it operates allows a user to unload the magazine without opening the action. (This parallels unloading a semi-automatic pistol in which the source of ammunition is removed prior to clearing the chamber.) Once all other ammunition is removed, the chamber can be cleared and inspected in the most expedient and safe manner.

Add-Ons and Loads

There are many options for add-on equipment aside from the previously mentioned magazine extension for the shotgun. Sights (iron, electronic and optical) can easily be added to a pump-action shotgun, as can lights and lasers to meet the individual needs of an individual user.

There are other options and accessories that can enhance the capability of the 12-gauge pump-action shotgun, such as additional barrels, interchangeable chokes, additional ammunition carriers, adjustable stocks and slings — the list goes on. The creation of classes specific to sight options and how to best employ them in normal and reduced-light conditions is an area that is often overlooked but should be considered essential by instructors and students alike.

Sights (iron, electronic and optical) can easily be added to a pump-action shotgun, as can lights and lasers to meet the individual needs of an individual user.

What makes the shotgun the most versatile firearm available to the responsible citizen, however, are the ammunition options. For instance, shotgun slugs of the right type can take down the largest land animal in existence when placed in the right spot. At the opposite end of the spectrum are low-recoil and low-noise target loads, which are excellent for target practice and taking small game for the pot.

Added to these examples are specialty loads that are non-toxic and environmentally friendly, some that produce limited penetration on solid objects, others that are used for signaling, and an almost limitless variety of uses and applications that can be initiated down the bore of a shotgun.

The Good Ol’ 12

When a customer wants to learn how to use something simple and effective as a hedge against the threat of anarchy, the plain-Jane 12-gauge pump-action shotgun with the right ammunition will be the answer. For a firearms instructor to overlook the opportunity to train students about this type of firearm would be shortsighted at best. Every opportunity to introduce responsible citizens to the safe and proper use of firearms should be pursued, regardless of the type of firearm or caliber.

Related:

Which Tactical Shotgun Is Best for You?
What to Expect When Shooting a Shotgun for the First Time