The semi-automatic rifle, particularly the AR series, has been the go-to long gun for street officers for the last several years—and for good reason. It provides officers with a wide range of advantages over shotguns or submachine guns, including extended range, ease of manipulation and the ability to defeat body armor. Although my own issued AR is typically my first choice when I need a long gun, the 12 gauge shotgun is still a valuable tool for officers on the street—and one which I’m not yet willing to give up. But to maximize its usefulness and ease of operation, my issued shotgun has been carefully accessorized.
Our department started with a basic Remington 870 Police 12 gauge shotguns with rifle sights. Though I prefer ghost ring sights, they were not an option allowed by the factory unless we paid significantly extra for a stock we didn’t like. The rifle sights we settled for provide an acceptable level of enhanced accuracy compared to a traditional bead sight.
We also ordered each shotgun with a 14-inch barrel, making them Class III restricted weapons, meaning they aren’t available for purchase by individuals, including officers, in most states and only available to agencies. This further reduced an already limited ammo capacity compared to 18- or 20-inch barreled guns with extended magazine tubes. Although this decision sacrificed ammo capacity, it gained us weight reduction and a shorter overall length, which provides ease of movement in and out of the patrol car and in close quarters. We also added a Scattergun Technologies +1 magazine extension with a left-side sling loop and high-visibility follower, increasing the total capacity of the magazine tube to five rounds.
Following are some additional accessories to consider.
Sling & White Light
A sling and white light are the most important accessories that should be added to any police long gun regardless of whether it’s a shotgun, rifle, subgun or less-lethal platform. We chose the Viking Tactics VTAC two-point sling, which combines the basic functionality of a carry strap with the enhanced usefulness of a three-point tactical sling. For a white light, the Surefire replacement forend lights have continued to be the first choice for shotguns by many agencies, including my own.
We chose a Blackhawk SpecOps NRS M4-style stock to replace the plain polymer factory stock. This stock was chosen over recoil-reducing models due in part to the shooter’s ability to acquire a more confident and solid cheek weld. Its quickly adjustable design allows officers to readily adjust the length of pull for differences in body type or clothing.
The wide pistol grip of the Blackhawk stock makes locating and manipulating the safety of an 870 more challenging. In response, we added a Vang Comp Systems Big Speed Safety. This enlarged safety switch greatly enhances a shooter’s ability to locate and disengage the safety regardless of stock design. I recommend that every 870 be equipped with one.
Chief Jeff Chudwin often reminds us that “fights are come-as-you-are events.” Due to the low capacity of a shotgun, the ability to carry extra ammunition is important. Ideally, I prefer a receiver-mounted style such as the Scattergun Technologies Sidesaddle six-round shell holder in addition to a butt-stock mounted carrier holding an additional five or six rounds. Unfortunately, my agency’s current in-car racks will not accept those accessories. We’ve identified new long gun storage systems as part of reorganizing the equipment mounted in the patrol cars, so hopefully this issue will be resolved soon. This brings up an important consideration: Make sure you assess potential impacts on the mounting of the weapon as you accessorize your weapon. Safety and ready access should always be your top priorities.
Our 870s are carried with an empty chamber and loaded with five rounds of Federal 2¾", 9 pellet OO buckshot with FLITE Control Wad in the extended magazine tube. The development of these “tactical buckshot” rounds has greatly enhanced the accuracy, punch and dependability of buckshot. Many previous buckshot variations often resulted in one or more “fliers” or stray pellets and significant spread between the pellets. Federal tactical buckshot maintains a much tighter pattern and, more importantly, consistent performance. Federal Tru-Ball low-recoil rifled slugs are currently carried in the driver’s door pocket of the patrol cars until conversion to the new in-car storage racks is completed and ammo carriers can be added to the shotguns.
You Need Both
Properly outfitted, the shotgun is still my first choice over the AR in some situations. It’s shorter than my issued AR-15, which makes it more maneuverable in tight quarters. It’s also easier and more effective than rifles and pistols in targeting fast-moving animals such as hostile dogs. Buckshot enables properly trained officers to perform emergency door breaching during active-shooter situations, while slug ammunition extends the effective range of the shotgun. Though slower than rifle bullets, slugs retain much greater weight and penetrate more consistently against hard targets such as automobiles. Slugs are also more effective than rifles when officers are required to shoot large animals, such as cattle or deer.
Equipping each car with both a shotgun and a rifle enables officers to choose the most appropriate weapons system on a case-by-case basis. In rural areas with few on-duty officers, such as that served by my department, it also provides a spare long gun in the event that back-up is an off-duty officer passing by or called out from home.
The shotgun isn’t necessarily better overall than a rifle. It’s just a different system for different needs. Rifles and shotguns complement one another and each patrol car should be equipped with both. Like any piece of equipment, officers must train regularly with a properly equipped shotgun to be proficient.
Note: All of the accessories listed in this article were obtained from Brownell’s: www.brownells.com.