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Lessons Learned from Running my M4 in a Tactical Shotgun Class


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My Background

The M4 is my first shotgun, and I have never taken a formal training class with it. My M4 haD less than 200 rounds through it before this class. 

My Equipment

The Shotgun

M4 with a steel 7 round tube, C-stock in the middle position, and the following mods:

  • Surefire Dual Fuel Light on an IWC QD Mount
  • GG&G Bolt Release
  • TTI Shell Lifter
  • Aimpoint T2 on ADM Low Mount
  • FFT Trigger Set and A&S Housing
  • IWC QD Rear Mount
  • VTAC 2 Point Sling

Tactical Gear

SOE 12 GA Micro Rig 

The Class

This was a “Basic Tactical Shotgun” run by a well-regarded local outfit that I’ve trained with before. It’s the first of a three class progression. This class focused heavily on a handful of items:

  • Understanding how the shotgun patterns and functions at different distances and with different loads. We ran a variety of 00 Buck, #4 Buck, and slug loads at 7, 15, 25, and 50 yards. We then ran the slugs all the way out to 100. This was done from standing, supported kneeling, and even prone position. 
  •  Learning how to do combat and speed reloads. This was a major emphasis of the training and one that was eye-opening for me. Dynamically loading while engaging multiple reactive targets was fun.
  • Doing “slug select” drills to dynamically change out the round that you have.
  • Concluded with a “shoot house” engaging paper targets 

The temperature hovered in the low to mid 90s for most of the training, requiring us to build in plenty of water and cooling breaks. 


Lessons Learned

  1. Know what ammo your gun likes: I can say with confidence that I’m never using Fiocchi #4 Buck again. Had multiple, repeated failures to eject/extract that led to a lot of (unexpected, but valuable) experience in failure clearance drills. This was not an issue with either my Federal Tactical slugs or PMC 00 Buck. 
  2. Malfunction drills require a lot more thinking than an AR or a handgun: It’s not as easy as “tap, rack, bang” with an M4. For example, FTEs because of an extended crimp are not as simple as cycling the bolt and smacking the receiver. Getting a live round back into the chamber once you clear also requires practiced discipline with the manual of arms. 
  3. You feel every ounce of weight you drop off of this platform: The M4 is a heavy beast, especially when you’re using it for several hours during a 90 degree day. Dropping the Mesa side saddle helped, but I’m looking forward to replacing my steel tube with a titanium one. I may even SBS this thing and drop down to 14” barrel.
  4. This is an impressively accurate gun: With a 2 MOA red dot and Truball slugs, I was making consistent spine box hits at 75 yards, and was hitting “minute of man” at 100. I was not truthfully not expecting that out of this gun. 
  5. For my fellow lefties, you have to work on modifying manual of arms: While the safety can be swapped and things like combat reloads might be easier because of visibility into the bolt, other drills are not. For example, grabbing a round off of a chest rig to do a slug select can be tricky. You have to rotate the gun, tuck it into your armpit, use your left hand to current round and hold it open long enough to drop in the new slug. 


Anyway, it was a very eye opening experience for me. I’m still sore (birdshot didnt come in in time, so ran the entire course with buck and slugs) and a touch dehydrated, but well worth the time and energy. 

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On 6/28/2020 at 8:34 PM, No. 6 said:

I'll second SD's post.  Good write up.  Thanks for the insights.  Would you care to share who the instructor(s)/training company were?

Texas Pistol and Rifle Academy in the Dallas-Fort Worth Area. Tactical shotgun courses unfortunately dont seem to be very common anymore...

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Great range report! 

Has anyone taken a shotgun course at Front Site?  I've completed their 4-day defensive handgun class and it was good training.

I've posted the attached before and hopefully it is helpful for those seeking weight reduction as this thread mentions.  The "Reduction/Addition" columns reflect what I have changed out since I first added all the accessories to the gun.  Such as, getting rid of the Mesa side saddle for a Vang Comp and replacing the Nordic 7 round mag tube with a CC tube.  Weights of other components like handguards really helped me decide to stay with the OEM foregrips; besides I like the way they grip.

M4 Accessory Weights (4).xlsx

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  • 3 weeks later...

I plan to try out my new M4 for the first time at the end of July.  It's my first shotgun, and I'm going through a course in on Sept 12.  I've got a selection of bird shot to try.  Fortunately, I've got enough of the higher load bird shot for the class.  If the gun cycles the lighter varieties I found, then I may try to stock up on them for the class.

This forum has been great.  And I'm glad to see this discussion in particular.

I very concerned about recoil.  My old body doesn't handle new tricks like it used to.  So I thought about letting the heavy gun get even heavier.  But I'll reconsider that.  Whatever nimbleness I can have for the long training day may be more important, as you all have said.  Maybe I should ditch the metal side saddle for the long day and not worry about picking out fancy forearms yet.  I've already got an elastic saddle on the stock.

I'm pretty sure I should go ahead and install the extended mag tube.  Do you all think I should wait until after the long day in Sept to do that?  I'm sure plenty of the other guns will have less than 7-round mags, and I'm sure we'll be doing forced reloads sometimes anyway.

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  • 2 months later...

@Birdog19 Great spreadsheet.   I see you have both the pistol grip stock and the conventional, you know how the C-stock compares?    This seems to be a great tool that could continue to be built on as new/popular parts are noted.  

The C-stock would be one example but also things like the OEM Muzzle Brake, 1 shot extenders........ 

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17 hours ago, RAIII said:

@Birdog19 Great spreadsheet.   I see you have both the pistol grip stock and the conventional, you know how the C-stock compares?   


Thanks.  I do not have the C-Stock weight as I live in Commifornia where a functional C-Stock would be prohibitive.  There's a good chance someone reading this post could provide that data.  Sorry!

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Good pro-con write up.

I will say that regarding weight, a few ounces off the gun equals a pound on the shoulder. At least that was the old saying. Simply put, the lighter the gun, the more recoil you will have against your shoulder. I'm not sure you'll shave enough off to notice on an already light recoiling shotgun, but you certainly do with bigger bores.

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