Unlike pistols and rifles, shotguns seem to exist in their own little world. With pistols and rifles, there’s a fair amount of crossover in how they work. Trigger control, sight picture, reloading, internal mechanics (to some extent) and even the ammunition are not tremendously dissimilar.
Shotguns, on the other hand, are so different that in my less charitable moments, I find myself wondering if they should even be considered real guns. There’s no crossover whatsoever. You aim them differently, use the trigger differently, reloading requires a fair amount of dexterity in order to do it quickly*, and the ammunition comes in a bewildering array of configurations, all of it denoted with nomenclature that looks like it was dreamed up by some guy with a monocle and mutton chops. (Drams?! Gauge?! Ought?! SRSLY, WTF dood?!)
Further complicating this are the demands that modern 3 Gun matches place on shotguns. Shotgun-oriented 3 Gun stages can include all sorts of targets, including clays (aerial, rabbits, and static), steel plates for shot, steel gongs for slugs, and paper targets for slugs. On top of this, sadistic match directors can and will intermix all of those targets together, forcing the competitor to come up with a strategy to engage those targets in the most efficient order, and woe unto you if you screw up and drill a steel target that’s only rated for birdshot with a shotgun slug! (At RM3G, doing that is a $25 “donation” to the Junior program, and a 30 second penalty. At other matches, it means you’ve just bought yourself a steel target with a nice concave dent in it.)
Not that I’m griping. After all, the name of the game is 3 Gun, and the expectation is that you will have your skills and abilities tested on all three commonly available firearms platforms. But shotguns have special considerations, especially when it comes to firing different kinds of ammunition through them.
Which brings me to my biggest gripe about shotguns.
With birdshot, my fiber optic front rail is pretty well spot on, so long as I have a consistent hold and cheek weld, it’s perfectly adequate for moving and static targets.
But with slugs…
The fiber optic does fine to about fifty yards. Beyond that, it could best be described as barely adequate. My shotgun has a tendency to throw slugs low and left, which means that I have to compensate for it. For gongs at 80 yards, I’m holding on the upper right edge of the target. This is sub-optimal for a couple of obvious reasons:
- If my cheek weld is not consistent, it will result in a miss.
- Having such a drastically different point of aim means that I have to stop and think about how I’m going to engage the target, rather than just lining up the sights and pressing the trigger.
- If the target is a nonstandard size, I have to take a best guess approach to how I’m going to hold on it, press the trigger and hope for the best.
This is less than ideal, especially since the bigger 3 Gun matches are putting slug gongs out to further distances, with 70-80 yards becoming common, and 100 yards not unheard of. My understanding is that at Blue Ridge this year, they had half-size slug gongs at 100 yards.
So, I’m thinking some sort of flip-up or retractable rear sight is going to get added to my shotgun in the near future. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, though. I’m leaning towards something like the sights you see on a Ruger 10/22 or Marlin. Roughly adjustable for windage/elevation, and can be flipped down out of the way when not needed. So long as I could zero it to be dead on at 100 yards, that would be the ticket.
I guess it’s time to put a call in with the gunsmith.
*Yes, I know about the Saiga, Molot, and XRail. However, I shoot Tactical Scope/Limited Scope, and any of those guns/accessories would put me squarely in Open Class where all the kids with the scoped/compensated pistols, dual-optic rifles, and mag-fed shotguns play.