Randy Cain's Shotgun Class

One of the best things about Randy's classes is his encyclopedic knowledge firearms equipment. Randy's philosophy is that the most important aspect of a defensive weapon is that it is reliable, and the goal of shooting is to hit the target. As a result his gear selection tends toward the tried and true, with availability of replacement parts weighing strongly in his selection. Hence, his choice of shotgun is the Remington 870 as much for its ubiquity and availability of parts as for its inherent reliability.

Moreover, you will get a chance to see other people with various options and how they work, giving you ideas for your own gear, both what works and what doesn't. And of course Randy will try to help you steer clear of transfer devices—gear whose main purpose is to transfer your money to the vendor.

This fall, I took Randy Cain's Shotgun class. In preparation for the class, I have already posted a couple articles on the shotgun in general and what to look for in a Remington 870. Now that I have taken the Shotgun class, I will be posting an article on recommended modifications to the Remington 870. But this article is dedicated to the class itself.

Videos from the class are available for friends and family. E-mail me.

Day 1

Shotgun I is the second class that I have attended with Randy, and it followed the same pattern as Tactical Handgun 101. The first thing is a discussion on safety. You will learn Jeff Cooper's safety rules for firearm safety word for word. Following safety is a general orientation to the shotgun as a whole and the Remington 870 in particular (everyone in our class had an 870) including how to load and how to unload the shotgun.

Then we were out on the firing line with buckshot to pattern the guns. Patterning consists of shooting buckshot at paper at varying distances to see what the pattern (or shot distribution looks like). You will need (at least) six rounds of two different types of buckshot (12 total) There are three reasons for this exercise:

  1. It helps you determine the best ammunition for your shotgun. Every barrel shoots every load differently.
  2. It helps you to understand your shotgun's capabilities with buckshot at various distances.
  3. It demonstrates the folly of the Hollywood school of shotguns. At 7 seven yards (across the room distance), the pattern on my shotgun was only 4 inches across—so much for the "just point and you can't miss" myth.

We exchanged our buckshot for birdshot and went to the steel plates and practiced various drills such as firing on the move, searching, and Rolling Thunder. Rolling thunder is a team exercise designed to put you under a bit of stress while manipulating the shotgun as quickly as possible just to keep it loaded. We would repeat Rolling Thunder with different variations several times over the next few days. This was followed by a competition to see who could knock down three steel plates the quickest.

Day 2

The next day, Randy showed us various slinging techniques and how to shoot from them. We then had a demonstration of how quickly one can shoot from African Carry. After some more birdshot drills, we exchanged shot for slugs and began the process of zeroing our shotguns, while Randy instructed us on prone shooting, the seven points of contact, and natural point of aim. The idea is that the prone shooting should be totally relaxed, and the sights should only move up and down as you breathe—easier said than done.

thumb_870_exp_combo_ban1.jpegRandy's preferred zero with the shotgun is at 25 and 75 yards. The parabolic trajectory of a slug makes the zero the same at 25 and 75 yards, allowing for a very versatile zero. Our day was scorching hot (the following weekend was cool and crisp), so we had frequent breaks where class members picked Randy's brain for gear selection. Here we learned that the clamps that most extension tube manufacturers use affect the zero of the shotgun, and you must re-zero after every time you remove the barrel for cleaning. So Randy doesn't use the clamp and has his gunsmith drill and tap the metal between the barrel and retention ring to mount his slings (see picture).

Then we learned various shooting positions, sitting, squatting, and reinforced kneel. We shot several exercises in various positions followed by yet another Rolling Thunder and called it a day. Depending on the time of year and level of the class, Randy sometimes has a night shoot, but our class did not.

Day 3

After recapping the basics and what we had learned the previous two days, we shot several birdshot drills, refined our zeroes, and proceeded to shoot several several slug drills and competitions (some of which you can see on my videos page). We also performed select slug drills and a drill where Randy gives you a sequence of slugs and birdshot to shoot, and then you must load the shotgun correctly and hit the appropriate targets (hint: don't shoot slugs at the steel targets).

And then all too soon we were saying good-byes and driving back home.

Last thoughts

Randy's courses are incredibly fun and educational. They can also be incredibly frustrating if you show up with the wrong gear. In the case of the shotgun, you'll get the most out of the course if you have a Remington 870 with Rifle sights with a recoil pad. (A maxi pad under your shirt also helps.) A sling is mandatory. You should cut the stock down to a comfortable length of pull (this will help your shoulder immensely). Get a fanny pack or military style drop bag to hold your shotgun shells, but make sure you can close it with a zipper or pull string, because some of the drills have you getting up and down, going prone, and spilling your shells everywhere. Also bring a mat or blanket of some kind. If you forget to, you can use your car's floor mat in a pinch. Other than that, wait until you complete the course before spending any additional money on your shotgun.

And finally come with an open mind. As Randy says, you're paying him good money, so you might as well try it his way first. You can always go back to what you were doing if it doesn't work out for you. Take good notes, and start saving up for your next class.