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Best Tactical Shotgun Options And Buyer’s Guide (2022)

Here are the best tactical shotgun options for home and personal defense, plus the definitive guide on the weapons system.

Updated 5/31/2022

The tactical shotgun still has a place in self-defense, even though its popularity has been supplanted by the meteoric rise of the AR-15. Really, the shotgun exists outside of the basic self-defense arena, which is dominated by the handgun. Because of its legendary reputation and brute power, the shotgun is more of an offensive weapon. It has been used in warfare since the invention of the powder which powers it, and the military is not usually in a defensive mission.

A tactical shotgun need not be fancy.

The shotgun is also the most versatile weapon out there. While it’s not always the best for every purpose, it can serve nearly every purpose requiring a firearm. For home and property defense, at close to moderate range, it is hard to beat the right type of shotgun. Also, a tactical shotgun may be legally obtained more easily than a handgun (as in Canada or Australia). But before we look at the best in class of this type of gun, let’s get into what actually makes a tactical shotgun.

Already know all this stuff? You can JUMP AHEAD to our picks for the best tactical shotguns.

What Is A Tactical Shotgun?

Table of Contents

Pump-Action Vs Semi-Auto Shotguns
Tactical Weaponlights
Ammunition Selection
Shell Length
Less-Lethal Rounds?
Tactical Shotgun Myths
Best Tactical Shotgun Options

A tactical shotgun can take several forms (there is no hard and fast definition), and also serve as a multi-role tool, especially if one lives on a farm or ranch, where it can serve animal control duties as well. Traditionally a standard hunting shotgun is used for this purpose, such as a Remington 870 Wingmaster, loaded with hunting loads, since the concept of a tactical shotgun is relatively new. While a weapon like this can suffice, there are some better shotgun configurations to work with.


Yes, size does matter, but sometimes the biggest isn’t the best for everyone. A shotgun can be too heavy, kick too much, or penetrate too much. Some people can handle it and some can’t. Also, abilities change over time, for better or worse. That said, let’s talk size.

Like a law enforcement or military shotgun, the tactical shotgun should have a short barrel, 18.5 inches is the shortest civilian-legal length (outside of shotgun-style firearms, such as the Mossberg 590 Shockwave). Making it more agile, the shorter barrel keeps the gun maneuverable in close confines—such as a house.


The gauge of choice for the tactical shotgun is almost universally the 12 gauge, but other gauges can work as well. The 20 is not a 12, but being on the receiving end of a load of 20 gauge buckshot or slug will certainly ruin your day. There is the added side benefit of being much more user-friendly than a 12 gauge for smaller-framed members of your family. A 20 gauge tactical shotgun is a great idea from the standpoint of maneuverability since, in home defense situations, you may use your shotgun to check the interior of your home.

Tactical shotguns can be customized to your needs and applications.


Reloading in the middle of a gunfight is something no one relishes. Most standard Remington 870s or Mossberg 500s have a magazine capacity of four to six rounds (three and six in box magazine fed versions), which really should be enough. If you want a larger magazine capacity, that’s fine, but realize that the extra weight forward of an extended magazine tube slows down your swing and makes the weapon decidedly muzzle-heavy, as well as just heavy in general.

Pump-Action Vs Semi-Auto Shotguns

While there are some outliers, tactical shotguns come in two styles—pump-action and semi-automatic. Personally, I prefer semi-automatic shotguns—especially for hunting—given their quickness and ease of use, however, each action has its pros and cons.

The great advantage of pump-action shotguns is their versatility and affordability. No matter what you load into a pump—be it high wall, low wall, etc.—it will run it. This is a great advantage when you take the tactical shotgun out of a strictly defensive role. And they’re cheap to get into, often running $500 or less. Heck, the legendary Mossberg 500 can be had around $300 to $400. This means nearly any shooter can arm themselves well.

As for cons, pump-actions open the door to human error—in particular short-stroking in which the pump isn’t completely actuated and fails to cycle. Not good. Furthermore, they are slower shot to shot than a semi-auto.

We’ve established the semi-auto in most shooters’ hands is the faster option, however, there’s another advantage. Gas-operated shotguns also generate less recoil, which makes them less punishing in practice and improves their shot-to-shot accuracy.

The tradeoff, semi-autos are the more expensive option. Not across the board, there are solid affordable semis out there, but most options run $500 and north. Pick one up with an Italian accent, such as a Berretta, well you’re talking a definite champagne tab.

Additionally, semi-auto shotguns are sometimes picky about loads. Too light and it won’t cycle, which leaves you with a pretty intricate single-shot. Some of this has been cured in recent years with innovations such as Remington’s Versa Max and Savage’s Dual Regulating Inline Valve, but it’s a facet you’ll need to pay attention to when you go out shopping.

Tactical Weaponlights

There are several ways of attaching a tactical light which don’t necessarily require the use of a Picatinny rail, commonly found on the AR-15 system, which more and more tactical shotgun manufacturers are starting to add. There is the option of using a light-bearing forend such as the one offered by Surefire. These forend units, which are model-specific for pump or semi-auto, replace the original forend on the weapon and hold the tactical light and operation switches. The switches allow for thumb operation by both right- and left-handed users. There are models available in LED or incandescent bulb systems, with the LED versions far outnumbering incandescent versions. The LED is going to stand up to shotgun recoil much better than any incandescent bulb, and the lumen power is now right up there with the formerly dominant xenon incandescent systems.

Surefire’s Dedicated Shotgun Forend provides 600 lumens of illumination.

In addition to dedicated forend mounts, there are universal mounting systems available that can be affixed to the magazine tube to hold your light system of choice. These, however, usually require the use of a light that has an external wire leading to a pressure switch adhered to the forend by Velcro. This wire can catch on things. This may not be the best system available, but it is less expensive than the Surefire system and, since we are talking defense here and not dynamic entry on a SWAT team, the external wire mounting might not be an issue.


A single bead works okay for ranges of 15 to 20 yards when using buckshot on a full-size silhouette target. But for accurate fire, you are missing out on the precision capability of the weapon when you use a bead-sighted shotgun.

Shotguns can be very accurate with slugs and shots if you equip them properly and train with them. Remington’s rifle sights mounted on their shotgun are excellent, but ghost ring rear sights and red-dot optics can bring the system to another level.

A tritium front sight, such as this XS Dot, can enhance a tactical shotgun’s low-light capabilities, but has limitations.

Ammunition Selection

Load selection for your tactical shotgun will depend on where you reside, or rather, what type of structure you reside in. Interior construction and location may even determine if a shotgun is a viable home and self-defense option. If you live in an apartment with paper-thin walls, or even a house or trailer with this type of construction, the shotgun may be totally out of the question due to over-penetration risk.



These are the shot on the upper part of the chart. Essentially, there are dozens to hundreds of these loaded into a shell, meant to increase your chances at hitting an airborne target on the move. Yes, they’ll put a two-legged threat down, however, they are not the optimal choice. The shot loses velocity quickly, can have poor penetration qualities and in most circumstances isn’t advisable for personal defense.


These are the shot on the lower part of the above chart. The pellets range in size from .24 inch to .36 inch and as their name implies were originally used to harvest deer. They still fill this role, but are generally the go-to option for tactical applications. Typically, 00—also known as “double aught”—is the most common, with a shell pitching nine pellets approximately the size of a 9mm or .38 Special bullet. The one concern tied to buckshot, particularly at the “aught” end of things is over-penetration—something to keep in mind if you envision the tactical shotgun as a home-defense tool.


Again, the slug finds its genesis in hunting season and presently is the most used load for those who hunt medium to large game with a shotgun. The advantage of slugs, they extend the effective range of a shotgun and have absolutely devastating terminal ballistics. Weighting 1 ounce, slugs also do a job on drywall and other permeable barriers, a facet worthing considering.

Read Also: Styles Of Shotgun Slugs

Shell Length

Next comes shell length. The most commonly-used shell lengths, regardless of gauge, are 2-1/2 (.410 gauge only) to 2-3/4 (20 and 12 gauges) inches. These shells, depending on powder charge and shot type, are adequate for most any shotgun duties that the particular bore is capable of handling, from clay targets to deer, or larger close-range game when slugs are used. Magnums can be overkill both on the giving and the receiving end in most defensive encounters.

There is a 2-3/4-inch magnum load (same velocity, slightly heavier payload) but it is not commonly encountered. Beyond that is the 3-inch magnum round. A round is generally considered a “magnum” charge for the given gauge when it provides longer range, more power, a heavier payload, and/or, you guessed it, more recoil. For example, the standard 2-1/2-inch 12 gauge shell loaded with 00 Buckshot holds nine pellets. In the 3-inch magnum load, it packs 12 pellets and begins to become unpleasant to shoot.


Speaking of recoil, here is a chart comparing recoil energy for various 20 and 12 gauge loads and how they compare. For load selection, this may help some of you who are a little overzealous with the “biggest is the best” mindset. Yep, you can handle the big loads for a few shots, but not for long-term practice, and you must practice with the rounds, or their direct equivalent, that you plan on keeping in your weapon.


This is kind of a “beating” chart — it shows what kind of beating you will take based on gun weight and load. To understand foot-pounds, the measure of free recoil energy, we will use this definition: one foot-pound is a unit of work equal to the work done by a force of one pound acting through a distance of one foot in the direction of the force. In other words, one foot-pound is the amount of energy required to move a one-pound object (not including calculations of friction) a distance of one foot. 12.5 foot-pounds of energy is the amount of energy required to move a 12.5 pound object one foot and so on.

12.5 has always been given as the standard amount of free recoil energy for the 12 gauge, but, as you can see, when you change gauge, payload and shell length, you boost the amount of foot-pound recoil energy. The other factor involved in felt recoil in this list is the weight of the gun. What is not included in these calculations is action type, which is important, since a gas-operated semi-automatic shotgun (such as the Benelli M4 Tactical Shotgun) has reduced recoil over that of a pump or double in most cases.

Benelli M4 tactical shotgun outfitted with ATI furniture.

Okay then, how much of a thumping do you want to take on the butt end of your defensive weapon system? How much can you take, while still being proficient and not developing a horrible flinch? How effective will your shots be? A 3 or 3-1/2 inch magnum in a six-pound shotgun for home defense in suburbia or Midwest rural areas? No. While traversing or living in grizzly country in Alaska? Sure, no problem, but in my house or on my property — no way. I want my shot to hit the first time, every time. I don’t want stray pellets or slugs endangering others. I don’t want a flinch developing. And maybe most importantly, I want to have fun shooting my guns.

Less-Lethal Rounds?

Even if you buy some of the new rubber pellet or bean bag “less-lethal” 12 gauge rounds, similar to law enforcement less-lethal rounds that are available to civilians, you can still kill or maim someone at close range, especially if you hit them in the head or throat. We now use the term “less-lethal” to describe intermediate weapons in law enforcement rather than “non-lethal” for precisely this reason. People can die due to any type of force being applied to them, so nothing is considered non-lethal in terms of force application.

If you can’t stomach the use of deadly force to preserve your own life, then maybe you can be prepared to use it in order to save your family. But if you feel you couldn’t take a life to save even your own family then you shouldn’t be using a lethal force weapon for defense to begin with. Instead, consider using a civilian C3 Taser or pepper spray.

Now that we have what makes up the tactical shotgun, let’s dispel some of the myths that revolve around the weapons system.

Tactical Shotgun Myths

Myth #1: The tactical shotgun is an “alley cleaner.” Fire one shot at a group of people and they all go down. Well, at least in the movies. Shot pellets in most choke configurations spread at a rate of one inch for every yard traveled. Seven yards is the standard assumed distance in interpersonal firearms combat. A seven-inch hole at that range means that you can miss your target or its vitals if you don’t aim. Remember that seven inches is an average for all shotgun barrels and ammo types. Depending on our choke and load, many combinations will shoot even tighter than that.

Myth #2: The tactical shotgun is easy to use and fire. In an old police training film from the late 1960s, the instructor, with his best John Wayne/Clint Eastwood attitude, says, “The shotgun doesn’t need to be aimed. With the shotgun, you can whirl, fire and blow the guy away.” This statement sounds cool, but now brings a laugh from police cadets when they see the tape. The fact is, you can’t go out and buy one of these wonder weapons, load it, and leave it in a corner or close at hand ready to go without practicing with it. The tactical shotgun requires work to master, and it is not for the recoil sensitive, at least in its 12 gauge configuration. You cannot fear or dread this weapon. You have to embrace it and make it an extension of yourself — zen-like but true. If you are using a shotgun for self-defense, you must be able to hit the target you are facing without endangering others.

Myth #3: The tactical shotgun is an infallible “stopping weapon,” guaranteed to take down the largest attacker with ease. Many people think that if you hit the bad guy with a shotgun round, it’s gonna kill him instantly and blow him six feet backwards to boot. Well, no. Remember, your shot pattern may be no more than an inch wide when it hits the intended threatening target and can easily miss the vitals, which would fail to stop a determined opponent. Shotguns can fail to stop the aggressor — it’s happened. This also means that a shotgun hit is not always fatal. Many people survive. Sure, it’s way better than a handgun in a fight, and usually a better choice, it just isn’t guaranteed. Nothing is.

In Summery, What You Want In A Tactical Shotgun:

  • 18-inch barrel
  • Chambered 12-gauge or 20-gauge
  • Mininum of 4+1 round capacity
  • Sights or optic
  • Ability to change out chokes
  • repitable manufacture and a quality build that doesn’t require aftermarket upgrads

Now that we have a handle on the platform, what makes it up and what it can and can’t do, let’s check out the best tactical shotguns currently available.

Best Tactical Shotgun Options

Mossberg 590A1 Tactical

Mossberg 590

Given the foggy future of the Remington 870, the 500 Series is the undisputed king of the pump-action hill. Not that many shooters didn’t already have it there previously. The smoothbore is battle-tested, having filled enumerable military and law-enforcement roles, and is as dependable as a well-trained dog. Not always the case, nowadays all of Mossberg’s tactical models are 590—special-purpose models of the original 500. Of the off-the-shelf sections, the 590A1 comes with everything you could want, from ghost-ring rear sight to 6+1 capacity. Its heavy-walled barrel takes a lot of abuse, giving you the peace of mind the 590 won’t flop under testing conditions. Additionally, there are 11 variations of the shotgun with some excellent features some might find better fit their needs. Best of all, nearly anybody can afford to get into one of the best tactical shotguns ever conceived. MSRP: Starting at $683

Stoeger M3000 Freedom Series Defense

Stoeger M3000

Turkish shotguns, in many cases, have a deservedly shaky reputation. The decided exception being Stoeger, which under the ownership of Benelli has become synonymous with affordable quality. When it comes to semi-auto tactical shotguns that description fits the M3000 Freedom Series to a tee. Inertia driven (there is an explanation here about the mechanism), the gun is light and agile, plus clean running. We’ll confess, it’ll thump a bit more with heavy loads compared to a gas gun, but you’ll find inertia’s run faster. Not a bad tradeoff. You won’t want for firepower either, with the gun coming with an 7+1 capacity standard. Ghost ring rear sight, blade front sight, adjustable length of pull, optional Weaver scope base—the M3000 has a lot of positives. There’s a nit to pick, however, the gun has a fixed cylinder choke. No big shakes if the aim is a strictly defensive gun, but hems its versatility if your aim is more at a survival tool. MSRP: $669

Kalashnikov USA KS-12


The Kalashnikov is a proven platform for shotguns. They have been appreciated and used by law enforcement, military, civilian sports shooters and hunters since they were first introduced in the early 1990s. While they were still being imported, the Russian-made Molot Vepr-12 was the established king of 12-gauge tactical AKs but was sanctioned from import in 2017. If you can still find a Vepr for a decent price, that’s the real one to hunt for on the secondhand market. As far as newly produced and available AK shotguns go, the current best choice is KUSA’s KS-12. Offering better build quality and higher average customer satisfaction than the Chinese or Turkish versions, the KS-12 is an American-made Saiga-12 clone that comes in the gun’s ideal configuration straight from the box. Whether your 12-gauge needs are for home-defense, SHTF or 3-gun competition, the KS-12 has all of the AK’s best features to offer in a shotgun platform. It reliably cycles with a variety of loads and is fed by detachable 10-round box magazines. It comes ready to mount optics and muzzle brakes, and the KS-12TSFS variant also includes a folding stock, making this a true tactical option. MSRP: $856.80

Beretta 1301 Tactical


While it doesn’t get the credit of other Italian tactical shotguns, the 1301 is an unassailable system. It should be, Beretta has been turning out shotgun since before America was a country. This is apparent in the little things the company includes on the 12-gauge, from an adjustable length of pull to a rounded loading port (no mutilating your thumb on reloads). The scattergun is versatile too, able to digest light load, heavy loads and everything in between. This is thanks to Beretta’s BLINK gas operating system that’s designed to digest almost every off-the-shelf load. To boot, it’s fast—the company claims the fastest, but I don’t have split times to plead their case. The ergonomics of the gun are traditional but very comfortable and intuitive. And the controls are well proportioned, making manipulating the gun easy. Personally, I would have liked better than 5+1 capacity, but with all its other assets that’s far from a deal-breaker. MSRP: $1,429

Benelli M4

Benelli M4

If you’re after a truly battle-hardened option, this is it. With users from U.S. Marine Corps to the SAS, and other pros, the M4 certainly has the resume of “best tactical shotgun”. But what makes it so special? More than anything, it’s ARGO (Auto Regulating Gas Operated) system. Basically, the gun was specially designed for the Marines, who had trepidations about adopting a semi-auto. Thus, Benelli whipped up the ARGO, which improves reliability by taking gasses further up the barrel than normal. Essentially, it’s cleaner gas, that reduces fouling. It can digest thousands of rounds between cleanings. And it’ll keep fighting through swamp mud or an arctic freeze. Pretty nice assets. Furthermore, it’s simpler and lighter than most gas systems. But is it worth its top-shelf price? Depends. If your answer is, I need something to survive the end of the world, then yes. But if it’s, I need to defend hearth and home, it might be overkill. MSRP: Starting at $2,099

Remington 870


An oldie, but a goodie. When it comes to pump-action shotguns, there are few more classic, trusted and reliable options than the legendary 870. Its twin action-bar design set the standard for unfailing cycling and the gun itself is all but bulletproof. And affordable. Basic 870 models, such as the Express, are still found in the $350 range. While Remington had turned out several tactical models in the past, most are gone from their present catalog since the company’s sale in the fall of 2020. The only exceptions are the Home Defense and Marine Magnum models. The Marine comes off as a bit more attractive package as a tactical option, given its sling attachments and tough nickel plating on metal parts. Conversely, it’s a fairly plain-Jane option, with no optics mount, bead front sight and plain synthetic stock. Still, it will get the job done. MSRP: $859.99

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Gun Digest Book of Tactical Shotguns. Elwood Shelton and Adam Borisenko contributed to this post.

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Hardware Talk: Dillon Wrench Rack Set

Hardware Talk: Dillon Wrench Rack Set
The Dillon wrench kit comes complete: All you have to do is assemble it onto your press. They are press-specific, so make sure you get the correct one.

Do you ever say to yourself you’ve had enough? More specifically, have you had enough with the litter of tools on your loading bench?

I have.

I’m regularly swapping toolheads to change calibers on my presses as I test this or that, trying something new or swapping calibers. I tried to keep the Allen wrenches for those adjustments in a plastic box, but they always ended up on the bench.

And then, where on the bench were they? Mumble … mumble … mutter.

I finally had enough, so when I saw the wrench rack from Dillon, I knew my 550 and 750 were each going to get a set. The rack is simple: It’s a heavy-gauge stamping that you bolt to the top back of your strong mount, behind your press. You don’t use a strong mount? We’re going to have to talk about that in the next issue.

Dillon has it all covered. You bolt the plate by means of the rear bolts on your press/strong mount setup. The kit comes with the Allen wrench sizes you need to work on your press, plus a die ring wrench as well. They all slide right into their reserved spots. And, just to make it even easier, Dillon includes a strip of label, with the sizes already printed on it, and they’re spaced to line up with the spot for each of them.

The Dillon wrench kit bolts into your strong mount, on the back of your Dillon press. Once there, it’s in easy reach to put each one back when done.

Hot tip: Install the label before you bolt on the plate to save yourself the stretching and reaching to get the label in place after you’ve bolted things together.

Wait, there’s more. The wrenches come with the angle to the short leg of each one pre-dipped in vinyl, so you have a good grip and can see the wrench clearly when you go to pluck it out of the rack. As an extra bonus, the working end is a ball-end wrench tip, so you can spin the wrench even when you approach the screw you’re tightening from an angle.

Of course, gear doesn’t come cheap. The kit runs $46 from Dillon.

“Ouch,” you say?

You can buy the wrenches for a buck each. Yes, you can. But then you’ll still have them scattered on your loading bench or in a box you have to find. Once you lose one or use it someplace else and leave it there, you’ll buy another. And another. You’ll end up with three, four or five sets of them scattered to the winds.

With the Dillon kit, you have a place for them. And the Dillon blue vinyl coating lets you know “This is a loading room wrench; I have to get it back there.”

I’m not saying you need to go full-on Marie Kondo on your loading room, bench and components storage, but keeping the tools that get things properly adjusted is a smart thing to do. And when you can make a change by simply grabbing the handy wrench and put it back right where it was, your loading process will be less distracted, more focused and more productive.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the April 2024 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

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Practice Or Panic: Team Tactic Basics For Couples And Families

Practice Or Panic: Team Tactic Basics For Couples And Families

If you and your loved ones expect to keep cool in an emergency, you need to practice team tactics.

When most think of team tactics, they envision highly trained Delta Force operatives—or a SWAT team—breaching a door and conducting a dynamic entry. That’s a good example of team tactics in action … but few of us will ever participate in an activity like that.

However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t develop your team tactics. Well, unless you’re a hermit who has no friends and has moved to the mountains to live alone and write a manifesto. Most normal humans have other humans they often hang with, whether they’re their good friend, a spouse or children.

I’ve had some team tactics training. As a soldier, and back in my badge-wearing days, it was part of the curriculum. I’ve also attended a team tactics course at Gunsite Academy that focused on civilian teams, like a husband and a wife. Recently, I also did some work helping Benghazi survivor and master firearms instructor David “Boon” Benton, who was portrayed in the movie 13 Hours, train our local SWAT team.

You’ll learn tactical theory at a team tactics class, but most learning occurs during after action reviews following tactical simulations.

Regardless of the group or situation, there are two things that team operations—whether they involve a six- or two-man team—have in common: A tactically proficient and successful team must have a plan, and they must have good communication.

Determine Your Team

If you’re a loner, you’re your own team (and hopefully someday you’ll find another human who finds you moderately tolerable). For the rest of us who are at least semi-normal, we’ll have a good friend and/or a significant other with whom we’re commonly around. This is your team, and it might also include children.

A good civilian team tactics course will address common situations like you might experience around vehicles and in parking lots.

Each team member should also have a job. These jobs could be as simple as following your mother, calling 911 or holding on to the hands of your siblings. A job for a team member could be as simple as being armed and making sure an emergency first aid kit is present and accessible, and all team members should be responsible for not forgetting to have their cell phone with them.

This doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, it’s best when kept simple and generic, and don’t put excessive responsibility on the backs of untrained or juvenile team members. However, every team member should know what the job of the other team members are. At a minimum, this tells them who to look to for guidance, and if capable, others know what each team member is responsible for and then they can assume that role if necessary.

A team tactics course isn’t a shooting course. It’s primarily a course to teach you and your partner how to work—stay alive—together.

In fact, establishing a team chain of command is important. If you’re identified as the team leader, but your wife and kids are out without you, generally your wife would assume that role. This means one of the kids—if capable and of a responsible age—can assume the duties of your wife. This goes a long way toward answering the question, “Dad’s not here. What now?”

Have A Plan

It’s impossible to develop a comprehensive plan for every situation that might develop. However, you can institute operating guidelines for common tasks that might occur. These are established tactical responses, predetermined to deal with things that have a high probability of happening.

Dealing with doors is a perfect example.

During one team tactics course, my partner and I were presented with various reality-based scenarios we had to react to. This was during force-on-force exercises where all the participants were armed with handguns that fired Simunitions. During the prior day while under the guidance of an instructor, my partner and I were given an opportunity to establish some operating guidelines: make a plan.

Don’t go to team tactics course planning to learn how to shoot or to run your gun. You need to know that before you get there.

One of our plans was how we’d deal with opening closed doors that led into the unknown. Just before the Simunition training began, I told my partner we should deal with every door just as we had decided during the previous day. This worked well and eliminated unnecessary communication and possible confusion. When we approached a closed door that we had to go through, each of us knew—without a word—what we were supposed to do.

This same concept can apply to a lot of situations.

Let’s say you want to establish a plan to tactically exit a location by vehicle. In this instance, you could identify the person who will drive, where each team member shall sit and how to access the vehicle depending on the direction of approach and even the direction of the potential threat. Sure, when the time comes to implement the plan there may be extenuating circumstances—the pre-identified driver might be injured—but you can plan for that as well: If team member A is injured, then team member C will drive.

What do you do if your partner gets hurt? You should have a plan for that.

If you have children, it’s very important to include them in these plans. It’s also important to dry run the plan to make sure everyone is on the same page. If you have an infant, who is going to carry him or her? It could be your wife or an older sibling. If you’re planning a response to a home invasion or burglar, the kids need to know what to do when the alarm sounds.

You should also always have at least one contingency; if you cannot do plan A, execute plan B. Similarly, you should also have a rendezvous point established outside the home, and you should also do the same for commonly trafficked locations such as malls or shopping centers.

Instructors at a team tactics course not only evaluate your tactics, but they also critique and help you learn to communicate with your partner.


More than anything else, communication is the most important aspect of team tactics.

Let’s say, for example, you and your wife are engaged in a gunfight and you either need to reload, have a stoppage or maybe you dropped your gun. Your wife needs to know about this while it’s happening; she needs to know why you aren’t shooting or why you’re hiding behind the car. And she needs to be made aware of this without having to watch you or look to see what you’re doing.

How will you and your partner handle a corner like this? You need to know beforehand, and that’s part of planning.

Screaming, “I’m reloading!” or “I’ve lost my gun!” takes too many words and might not be a good idea. Establish simple and direct communications for potential issues ahead of time. You could simply yell out, “Working!” and your wife would know you’re temporarily unavailable. To let her know the problem has been solved, your communication could be as simple as “Up!”

You and your partner should know how to solve simple tactical problems with minimal communication.

Talking while shooting or while responding to a lethal encounter doesn’t come naturally. It’s something that needs to be practiced. Also, if you’re in a face-to-face encounter with a potential threat, having an action word that’ll key your partner in on an action you’re about to take is a good idea—kind of the opposite of a “safe” word, if you know what I mean. But in some situations, your communication can and should be non-verbal.

You should have hand signals that help convey actions or actives like to cover or watch, to move or maybe even run. Similarly, you should be able to convey the direction you want to move or the location of a potential threat. Think these communications through, keep them as simple as possible and limit them to the obvious. This isn’t a time to establish a new and comprehensive sign language; you simply want to be able to convey highly probable observations or instructions without words, as clearly and quickly as possible.

Team tactics should be developed with your partner and include the weapon systems you’ll be using.

Go To School

The best way (of course) to learn team tactics is to take a class from a reputable school. But keep in mind that most team tactics courses aren’t shooting courses: Don’t expect to attend a team tactics class to learn how to shoot. In fact, many schools offering team tactics training have a training prerequisite so that they know you can shoot and handle a firearm safely before they’ll let you in the class. Yeah, you’ll do some shooting in a team tactics class, but you won’t learn to shoot in a team tactics class.

Gun-handling skills should be learned before attending a team tactics course.

This might seem overly stringent, but it makes perfect sense. It takes about five, 8-hour days of training to go from a non-shooter to someone who is safe and reasonably competent with a defensive handgun. A basic team tactics course should be, at a minimum, 2 to 3 days long … and ideally 5 days. To learn to shoot and to learn team tactics could consume 2 weeks, and most of us can’t take 2 weeks off from life to do that. It’s just like with any other firearms discipline—you learn to shoot and then you learn the tactics.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the April 2024 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

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New Guns And Gear March 2024

New Guns And Gear March 2024

Looking for a new iron or piece of kit to enhance the one you already own? Check out these 7 new bits of guns and gear to grow your firearms wish list.

The New Guns And Gear:

WOOX Titano

Heirloom looks with state-of-the-art performance, the WOOX Titano stands out in competition stocks. Tailored for Benchrest and F-Class shooters, the stock boasts a stunning American walnut stock and an aircraft-grade aluminum chassis. With a 3-inch fore and wide barrel channel supporting up to 1.20-inch diameter barrels, it accommodates large fire tubes common to comp rifles. Furthermore, WOOX’s Suspense weight system allows you to precisely balance the system with six 2.5-ounce weights. The buttstock is fully adjustable for both the length of pull and cheek rise. Other notables include a smooth-bottom bag rider butt and Integrated thumb rests to enhance grip comfort.
MSRP: $999

Taylor’s & Company 1875 Outlaw Revolver

Taylors 1875
A collaboration with Uberti, Taylor’s & Company offers up a faithful reproduction of a classic Remington single-action, but with a modern twist—it’s chambered for 9mm. While no Old West outlaws pitch Parabellum, the modernization effort makes it easier on contemporary cowboys’ pocketbooks. Available in 7.5- and 5.5-inch barrel lengths, the 1875 Outlaw features smooth walnut grips, a forged blued steel frame, a rear frame notch and a fixed front blade sight. Also, the webbed ejector rod helps the wheelgun cut an unmistakable profile. It’s enough to make Frank James envious.
MSRP: $698

StopBox Chamber Lock

chamber lock
New or old, it’s wise to stop the unauthorized use of a firearm. That’s where the Chamber Lock comes into play. At once, it keeps a firearm safe, yet at hand. Construct-ed from Type II hard-anodized 6061-T6 aluminum, it features a patented mechanical hand gesture code lock, ensuring intuitive use even in low-light or high-stress situations. The lock offers six configurable combinations, expandable to 16 with the Actuator Accessory Pack, although preset combinations are recommended for optimal security. Compatible with most AR-15s and shotguns.
MSRP: $150

MTM Case-Gard Bull Rifle Rest

MTM rifle rest
Dialing in a rifle is the key to a solid shooting platform. MTM Case-Gard provides just this with its affordable Bull Rifle Rest. With an adjustable length between 18.3 and 26 inches, it accommodates nearly any long-gun you shoulder. Additionally, the lightweight rest features slip-free rubber feet and a wide stance, for a wobble-free shooting base. And front elevation adjustments are easily made on the rest, thanks to a screw system allowing you to get a rifle or shotgun situated just right.
MSRP: $43

Mission First Tactical Leather Hybrid Holsters

MFT holster
What a looker! Too bad it’s meant to be kept under wraps. This Kydex and leather gem offers exact tolerances, secure retention and easy re-holstering. Plus, the hanger requires no break-in time compared to its traditional leather cousins. Versatile for AIWB, IWB or OWB use, it accommodates right- and left-hand positioning. Additionally, the American-made hybrids are red-dot compatible and have an audible “CLICK” when you re-holster.
MSRP: $70

Ruger Diamond Anniversary Limited Edition SR1911 Pistol

Ruger Diamond 1911
In celebration of its 75th year, Sturm, Ruger & Company presents its limited-edition 75th Anniversary Ruger SR1911. This iconic pistol features a finely detailed, laser-engraved slide and custom grip panels with intricate scrollwork. Ruger’s CNC-controlled machining ensures precision, while the classic 1911 fire control and positive barrel lockup enhance accuracy. You’ll have to act fast on these beauties, only 750 units are being produced in 2024, and each pistol bears the special R75 serial number prefix and ships in a marked case with two stainless-steel magazines.
MSRP: $1,800

Federal Premium Hydra-Shok Deep .32 Auto

Federal 32 Auto
In the day and age of deep carry, good ol’ .32 ACP is making a bit of a comeback. Federal Premium is supporting its renaissance with the introduction of Hydra-Shok Deep in the pocket caliber. Rigorous testing and stringent manufacturing processes ensure superb accuracy and consistent ballistic performance of this ammo. Furthermore, the notched copper jacket of the Hydra-Shok bullet ensures consistent controlled expansion and adequate stopping power trigger pull in and out.
MSRP: $35, box of 20

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the March 2024 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

Get More Guns And Gear:


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