Saturday, June 13, 2009

Shotguns at Dark Thirty

Home defense scenarios are usually going to happen at the most unfavorable time. It will probably be dark and either late at night or early in the morning when lighting is not the best and you are probably only half awake. It was for this reason I decided to do a little “dark thirty” practice with my Mossberg 500A shotgun.

Since wandering around the house at night with a loaded 12 gauge shotgun and a flashlight is not one of the safest things you can do (Mrs. RW takes a dim view of these sorts of things), I decided to do a little practice outside at dusk out at the farm. I decided to use some #71/2 heavy dove shot that was inexpensive enough so that I wouldn’t have to take out a loan to buy more shells (can the price of ammo get any higher?). This also gave me a chance to further check out my hiviz bead sight and see how effective it was at low light levels.

Using some discarded roof sheathing that was an irregularly shaped piece that stood about 6 foot high propped against a wooden saw horse as a target, I found out that the hiviz bead sight worked extremely well in the low light conditions. My brother-in-law also shot numerous rounds and liked the way the hiviz sight worked. The target was set up at about forty feet and this distance was chosen as a test for effectiveness at what would be considered a really extreme distance for defensive purposes and to include a safety factor since we were shooting in the dark. Twenty feet would probably be a normal distance for a home scenario. I also chose an irregular shape to simulate conditions such as someone hiding behind an object that would change the appearance of their silhouette. There was some ambient light from the outside security light that was a couple of hundred feet away but I considered this comparable to an urban scenario where street lights are fairly common and occur at regular intervals. At forty feet, the patterns were holding pretty tight but not anywhere sufficient to stop or even disable an intruder with such a light load. I plan to do some pattern testing in the daylight in order to get a more accurate picture of just how my shotgun patterns with different loads.

I also need to do some POA (point of aim) and POI (point of impact) testing for some different loads. In doing this type of shooting activity, the main purpose is to check to and see if your gun shoots where you aim/look/point your shotgun and is basically done to see how well your shotgun “fits” in your particular case.

I also practiced doing some tactical reloading and had a difficult time with this part. It seems I had reversed my butt cuff when taking pictures of my shotgun for my website to show the normal right handed shooting setup and hadn’t changed it back. This complicates matters when you shoot left handed. Being left eye dominant and right handed is a whole different set of problems that I won’t go into here. Always check to make sure the configuration of your gear matches your shooter and you should be OK. A left handed shooter with a rifle or pistol that’s been configured for a right handed shooter will cause problems you don’t need. My brother-in-law didn’t have a problem as he shoots right handed. On a side note, the “tang” safety on my Mossberg 500A worked great and was not a problem as it is functional for both left and right handed shooters.

I was only able to shoot a single box of shells as it got real dark, real quick. In the country without the ambient light from different sources that are present in the city, it gets really dark! Plus several of the dogs were in the area and I didn’t want to take a chance and accidentally shoot one of them. Even with the somewhat reflective surface on the old piece of roof sheathing, it was not that simple a task to see the outline of the irregular target. I plan to work on a light setup of some form for my shotgun because when it’s dark you just can’t be sure of your target without some form of additional light.

My lessons learned here are pretty simple. First, make sure you’ve got the proper setup. A gear configuration that is uncomfortable for the shooter will affect all aspects of your shooting. Second, you will need extra light to positively identify your target at night. When it gets dark, it gets DARK! Third, shoot something cheap until the price of ammo and shells goes down (hopefully?). Fourth, be extremely aware of your surroundings and the whereabouts of EVERYONE and EVERYTHING when practicing in low light conditions or when it’s dark and your visibility is extremely limited.
Always take the time to learn your capabilities and limits, as well as those of your firearm and make safety a primary concern at all times.
You can read the follow up article here: Shotguns at Dark Thirty - Improvised Shotgun Light

Staying above the water line!



Anonymous said...

Sounds like you learned a couple good lessons RW. You can get gun lights for cheap (or just duct tape a flash light)

Kentucky Preppers Network

HermitJim said...

Thanks for the tips, always, some good info here!

riverwalker said...

To: matthiasj

Better learn before it becomes a necessity. Shooting a shotgun at night or in low light conditions is an entirely different experience than shooting during daylight hours. hopefully, I'll never be in a situation where it will be necessary. Thanks.


riverwalker said...

To: HermitJim

I work at night in a lot of different scenarios. I also have lights that are some of the best available, as far as illumination and range are concerned, and it's still difficult to see adequately and requires extra diligence. Thanks.


Ken said...

...great post RW,got the hiviz on my 870s'...good point on POA and POI..lots of changes load to load,maker to maker...

as always,practice,practice,practice

riverwalker said...

To: Ken

Practice is always important, just wish I had more time (and shells!) to do it! Thanks.


Brigid said...

I shoot more in the winter than in the summer. Summer I have land, and fence and dog and grass and vegetables to tend and spare time is at a premium.

But when I shoot in the winter, in low light, in cold, in rain (the range is covered but it IS outdoors) there are few folks there.

The home invader isn't going to come in my place at 3 in the afternoon with a light breeze and the birds chirping. It's going to be in the early hours, I'll be slowed by sleep, not cold, but slowed none the less. Practicing in less than ideal conditions makes me more prepared I think. It's worth getting up at o dark hundred and bundling up to go.

Bitmap said...

You can get a tritium insert bead or front sight for your shotgun. It will help a lot. I like having a handheld light and a weapon mounted light for fun after dark.

As additional practice after training I go after rabbits and varmints at night. Stalking around the area by moonlight and using a weapon with a mounted light or handheld light to take out critters is educational and entertaining and it helps protect your garden.

western mass. man said...

I too am right handed being left eye dominate. My aim is ok. Enough to do the job, but I won't be entering any competitions in the near future. LOL

Anonymous said...

Just get a big dog!
Dean in az said...

Practice is key, should a real life situation arise you'll certainly be glad of it.

It may even be worthwhile to do dry runs with an unloaded shotgun in every nook and cranny of your home. Practice with a weapon in these relatively confined spaces will bring to light areas of technique that need modification for best performance, as well as the important consideration of where your loads may be going ie toward an occupied bedroom.

riverwalker said...

To: Brigid

Excellent points. I shiver when I think about dark and COLD. It gets really cold in the winter when the sun goes down, if the sun comes out at all.


riverwalker said...

To: Bitmap

The little bunnies aren't safe around your place, that much is certain. Good idea to practice on the varmints in the garden.


riverwalker said...

It looks like we are both in the same boat. I can get the job done but will never make it as a competive shooter.Thanks.


riverwalker said...

To: Dean in AZ

Good advice! Have TWO really big barks a lot! The other one has a tendency to BITE first and Bark later. Thanks.


riverwalker said...


Have done the dry runs for practice but wanted to be familiar with the muzzle flash and sound in the dark. Thanks. And as always, practice and more practice!


theotherryan said...

Interesting stuff, Shot rifles and pistols at night but never a shotgun. If I need the shotgun it will almost surely be at night though.

It would probably be worth taking 5 rds of buckshot and patterning it just to make sure it does what you think it will.

I've thought about a light but am not so sure. For a single person in the defense IMO it might just cause more problems then it would solve. Will probably put one on a short rifle though. If things are so screwed I am clearing rooms at night as a civilian I will do it with a rifle.

riverwalker said...

To: theotherryan

Most shotgun patterning is done at 40 yards ( the standard distance) and is not really applicable in a home defense scenario and is usually applied to bird and waterfowl hunting techniques. I am planning to do some point of aim (POA) and point of impact (POI) tests at a distance of 20 feet that I think would be more suited to actual conditions for home defense. Thanks.


BTW, a shotgun seems to make a lot more noise at night than in the daylight.

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