The true measure of your ability to prepare yourself for life’s challenges, is your willingness to test your perception. In essence, you need to seek out opportunities to put your ego aside as often as possible. To this end I greatly looked forward to attending Mark Human’s shotgun course earlier in May.
I always enjoy being a student in a class. And having trained with Mark before, I have always gained knowledge from these opportunities. I also have a fair amount of experience with a shotgun, having worked riot duties for a considerable portion of my policing career. I know the value of the firearm type, and I know the value of keeping one’s training as current as possible.
Just as the tree of liberty needs to be refreshed with the blood of patriots and tyrants, so too does the tree of knowledge need to be refreshed with the tears of broken and battered egos.
What is the intent of the course?
Mark pitches this course as a part of his “Rusty Gunman” training series. The course intent is to provide refresher training to people whose practice with a firearm type has slipped slightly. And for those who want to revisit fundamentals of working with a particular weapon. From my point of view, the revisit of fundamentals is always a high value opportunity.
The truism throughout the training world is that the vast majority of advanced courses are primarily revision of fundamentals done at a higher pace, and with a lower margin for error.
Ultimately the core focus remains with the fundamentals of the specific skill set you are looking at expanding.
Allow me to walk you through the course briefly.
Venue and equipment
False Bay Sports Shooting Club served as the venue. Most shooters in Cape Town will have some idea of this facility. It is certainly one of the most picturesque ranges in Africa, with extensive facilities and a magnificent view. And it is certainly one of the most pleasant places to train at.
I decided to use my Mossberg 500. Mainly because it is my favorite shotgun, but also because it is the one I set-up for defensive purposes. It is mostly standard, except for an ATI M4-style pistol grip stock and side saddle.
Mark started the course with a comprehensive briefing regarding the safety component to the training. He backed that up by ensuring that all the course attendees maintained those expectations. As is true to any manipulations course, working in front of the muzzles of various weapons ensures that one is very concerned with ensuring the firearms are unloaded.
Retention drills, reloading drills, and trigger control
Mark then walked through the fundamentals of good body positioning. Both as a method of recoil management, as well as a springboard into retention drills. These drills were logical, and allowed those who mainly used their shotguns in a sporting capacity to understand that the dynamic use of a shotgun does not always translate well to the square range environment.
The retention drills were cool, and allowed me to throw fellow Paratus admin Gideon Joubert around the dust a bit. Its always good to cement these friendships with a little bit of rough-and-tumble. Bear in mind that I am a “combatives” guy at heart, so this is always an activity set I enjoy.
To conclude the dry work, Mark incorporated trigger management and reloading drills with dummy shells. Even here opportunities to test equipment was found. Gideon of course discovered that his “tight ejection port” was responsible for sore fingers to him, and much mirth to his fellow course goers. All in a good spirit though. Loading of course being the main activity of any significant shotgun use was the main focus, and we loaded until our fingers hurt.
What I really enjoyed about Mark’s teaching method, was that he continuously reinforced his presentation with examples and summaries of what we had covered. Furthermore, I also liked his dexterity drill. And I found it a great take-away to work into my weekly shotgun manipulation training sessions.
Live fire drills
The theory and dry drills were intensive and built-up nicely. So it was only after lunch that we got down to the shooting component.
During this the facilities at False Bay came in handy. I had forgotten the bulk of my ammunition in my safe at home, and had to quickly resupply from the shop. Additionally, I also had to pay a quick visit to the gun smith on site to borrow some tools. It was great to not have to leave the facility to get all of this done.
The shooting component consisted of running through all of the loading drills we had worked on, and working in the components of patterning. I noticed lightbulbs clicking on in many of my fellow course goers when they actually saw the differences in pattern and shot types over varying distances.
The final drill was huge fun. It required movement, reloading, target selection and ammunition selection. A veritable culmination of all of the drills we had worked through.
Adding value to your skill set
I walked away from the course with a strengthening of my opinion that the 12-gauge pump-action shotgun is the go-to shoulder-fired weapon for self-defence in one’s home. Having carried shotguns operationally in various locations and types of conflict, I have never felt under-gunned with it.
I loved the way Mark presented this course. And loved even more the fact that he never once said “rack the slide and they will run”. A statement I find asinine, and as stupid as calling a shotgun after the tool of some mythical Norse God.
To all who share the opinion that shotguns are excellent weapons – go and sign up for one of Mark’s courses. And relish the opportunity to fall in love with your shotgun again.
Written by Bryan Mennie
Bryan is a professional risk and crisis manager. He has taught kidnap avoidance and hostage survival to various international organizations, and has managed protective and security operations in over twenty countries in Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.