“Every shotgun is a snowflake.” –Erik Lund
Having previously taken a rifle class from Erik Lund, I welcomed the opportunity to take his Performance Shotgun course. Erik was assisted in this class by Tod Lit.
Of note, I have been firmly camped on the Remington 870 side of the Remington versus Mossberg question for several decades, but I won a Mossberg 590A1 in a drawing, and rather than learning my way around it in privacy, I thought it a much better course of action to trot it out in front of a group of people so that they could witness the process…
I did carry along a trusty 870P just in case I needed my security blanket.
The 590A1 in question has been upgraded to a Magpul forend, a Dave’s Metal Works aluminum follower and a Big Dot sight. From previous experience, I have found that the Bog Dot sight works really well for buckshot, but slugs at 50 yards start to become a challenge as the sight covers up so much of the target.
This class was not a basic or introductory class in that we didn’t spend time on basic loading and unloading drills or rudimentary discussions on shotgun ammo. Erik did take a few moments to dispel a couple of shotgun myths. One of these was the oft repeated notion that the sound of a pump shotgun action being worked was enough to win an encounter. Another was the myth that a pump shotgun was more reliable than a semi-auto shotgun. While this may be mechanically true, it is not true of shooter induced malfunctions.
As for technique, Erik is a proponent of consistency across platforms. As such, his stances for pistol, carbine, and shotgun are all similar. He stresses being balanced and having your hips oriented towards the target.
After the introductions and safety briefings, we jumped right into the shooting.
We began with a patterning drill. Erik described shotguns as “every shotgun is a snowflake” stressing that even across the same lines of ammo and firearms that they will perform differently in each shotgun. This was proved correct during the patterning drill. As for buckshot, the clear winner for tightest pattern was the Federal Flight Control 00 buckshot.
From there, we did a few basic manipulation drills making sure that everyone was up to speed with the operation of their particular shotgun, and then we moved to reloading drills; a lot of reloading drills. Both strong and support hand drills were taught. After we worked through all of theses different drills, Erik told us to pick the one we preferred and to use it for the remainder of the class. We worked predominantly from a sidesaddle. Most of my previous shotgun work has been done using a belt mounted ammo carrier. While I prefer loading from a belt mounted carrier, I do believe that working from a sidesaddle makes more sense as the ammo goes wherever the gun goes. It is a much simpler equation to simply grab the shotgun and go than it does to take the extra steps of affixing belt carriers.
Personal note: I strongly suggest using a sidesaddle that attaches by means other than the action pins. These are often installed incorrectly, usually due to over or under tightening of the pins, causing malfunctions. I’ve also heard of the additional stress on the pins leading to their breaking. I once had an issue to where the action wouldn’t lock, but everything looked fine.
As to reloading techniques, we predominantly focused on those that would be used by the typical armed citizen or peace officer, but we did get to play around with a few of the competition oriented techniques, and Erik and Todd worked individually with any of the three gunners who wanted to work specifically on those techniques.
After the extensive reloading work, we shot slugs at 25 and 50 yards and practiced slug integration (slug exchange, select slug, etc) techniques as well as handgun transitions. A note on the Big Dot sight is that using the top curving edge of the sight at distance makes getting hits at distance a more reliable prospect.
We wrapped up with a few fun-and-gun drills.
As for the 590A1, all in all it performed well. I experienced no mechanical malfunctions. The difference in the location of controls did get me a couple of times. The guy shooting next to me commented on one such occasion, “It looked like you got into your truck but somebody had moved the seat.” As the day went on, it did begin to become less awkward. It never quite got to the point where it pointed as naturally for me as does an 870.
A couple of things that I prefer about the 590 are the lack of a loading gate and the fact that the ejector can be replaced with a screwdriver rather than returning the firearm to the factory. I will also grudgingly admit that location of the safety switch has some advantages. If an identically equipped 870 and 590A1 were next to each other on a rack, and I had to grab one and go, I’d probably grab the 870, but after this class, I would feel comfortable picking up the 590A1.