While the shotgun is currently seeing a renaissance of sorts with armed citizens and home defenders, it has been falling out of favor with many law enforcement agencies. There are good and not so good reasons for that.

Recoil is a factor with the shotgun, especially as our police officers, deputy sheriffs, and troopers have started spanning a broader section of the community. Not everyone is 5’10” and 200lbs. Recoil management can be addressed through body mechanics, with proper training on how to do it, and it can be helped by addressing the length of the stock.

Pattern size is a concern as well. The higher the quality of the defensive ammunition you can use, the greater the likelihood of a better pattern. This started with Federal Ammunitoon’s H-132 9 pellet reduced recoil load in the early 90s and has continued to 8 pellet loads using improved shot cups and wads, like Federal’s Flite Control and Hornady’s Versa-Tite.


The pattern from a Federal 00Buck Flite-Control shell at 14-15 yards – on a B/C zone silhouette from Defense Targets


Barrel modifications:

As the last two years have shown us, it is not always possible to get the ammunition we want. With the shotgun and the inherent difference in performance from one ammunition brand to another, barrel work is another way to address the concern. Early efforts at this included jug choking, followed by lengthening the forcing cone. By the early 90s, a California gunsmith – Hans Vang – had developed a system that combined back boring with a lengthened forcing cone and a series of ports on the barrel at about 1 and 11 o’clock. Those three modifications became the Vang Comp System.

I have several Vang barrels that I’ve bought over eighteen years, and I’m waiting on another for my Beretta 1301. All of them have significantly decreased the pattern size, especially at distances that previously would have required the use of a slug.

Given these considerations, how would I set up a pump-action shotgun for duty or defensive use?

Weapon Lights:

Going back to the 90s, if you wanted a light on your shotgun, the best option was to buy a dedicated forearm light from SureFire. It replaced the stock forearm and came in 3-volt and 6-volt versions. Over time they advanced from a single tape switch to a combination of rocker and tape switches.

Years later, Streamlight came out with their TL-Racker light-equipped forend.

Enter Magpul. They developed their MOE M-Lok forend that replaces the factory one. With the addition of a Picatinny rail section at several mounting locations, you can attach any light you choose.




The Magpul MOE forearm let me mount a Surefire P2X Fury by using a VTac light mount on a piece of Picatinny rail.


Regardless of what role you are using the shotgun for, you need a white light on it. One with sufficient output (both lumens and candela) for the space you are using it within to make life and death Don’t Shoot / Shoot decisions. I have a Surefire P2X Fury with a click-on tailcap in a Viking Tactics light mount for this shotgun. This set-up lets me move the light from the 6 o’clock position to either 2 or 10 o’clock.

Replacement stock:

My first defensive shotgun had the original Remington wood stock on it. It was somewhere around 14 & ½” inches long with the recoil pad. While that stock length was good for shooting birds, it would turn many shooters too far to one side. On my second trip to Gunsite for the defensive shotgun with Bill Jeans, I had it shortened to a total length of about 12 & 5/8” long. Never mind your body armor or heavier clothes; that length just works for me.


Magpul’s SGA stock for the Mossberg shotguns.


The shorter stock will make it easier for nearly everyone to mount it in the shoulder pocket.

There are several benefits to the Magpul SGA stock. The first is that it comes with several removable spacers, allowing you to shorten or lengthen the stock (12 & ½” to 14 & ½”). Next up is the recoil pad. And finally, sling attachment points at 3 and 9 o’clock. Using this stock lets me get it as short as I want it to be.


Most of my shotguns have “tactical” slings, attached at 3 o’clock upfront and 9 o’clock on the rear. That set-up came from the light being at 6 o’clock. The Magpul forend lets me move the sling down to 6 o’clock at both the front and back of the shotgun. Here, I added a sling swivel at the bottom of the grip portion of the stock.

In looking at this from more than just a law enforcement patrol role, I wanted a sling that would let me employ a lower profile carry method – such as muzzle down on my support side. I went with a sling from The Wilderness, specifically their XHD elastic two-point sling. This sling is not a bungee cord; instead, it is a familiar-looking sling with a limited amount of stretch in it.




The Wilderness’ XDH two-point sling and shoulder. They make very solid gear that I’ve used for over 25 years.


Today, I don’t have a way to carry extra ammunition on this shotgun. I am waiting for Vang Comp’s DSAC – Detachable Side Ammunition Carrier – to put on the gun. This system uses a Velcro-covered metal plate attached to the receiver. Their shell holders are made of scuba webbing and elastic, they attach to the plate by Velcro.


Vang Comp Systems’ attached a section of Picatinny rail to the barrel for mounting a red dot sight.


When my barrel was worked on at Vang’s shop, I had them attach a section of Picatinny rail atop the barrel for a red dot sight. A Holosun AEMS will go there when I return from my current road trip. I’m looking forward to seeing how this optic works out on a shotgun.

In order of importance, the modifications are white light, shorter stock, sling, extra ammunition, and optics.


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