Largely ignored in the rush to get to patrol rifles, the modern police shotgun is needed more for versatility than its power, its power being a liability absent some precision. One of the first ways to get to precision is to add sights. A simple bead or a round barrel without an aiming point isn’t going to get a solid hit on the threat. As we move to the oft-seen rifle-sighted hunting barrel, there is a barrel-mounted rear sight and a blade front sight; from the rear it appears that you put the bead (gold dot on the top of the front sight) into the “U” or “V” of the rear sight. The traditional slug gun is, like the military or police gun, short barrel with cylinder bore (no choke).

nighthawk21.gifMy first agency had a pair of Remington Model 870 shotguns in cases with rifles, rifle ammo and slugs. This was our precursor to any kind of special weapons. One of the rifles had optics; both shotguns had the Remington rifle sight barrels. The Chief at the time told me I could take one of the 870s out and use up the old ammo so it could be replaced.

I was thankful and took my own time and vehicle to comply with his wishes! I found the shotgun with slugs to be exhilarating. In those days, slugs were of the express variety – they hit hard on both ends. The Remington rifle sights were just fine and shot to point of aim for me. The guns in our cars had only buckshot in the magazine, no slugs, and a bead on the barrel for sighting.

Jeff Cooper analyzed the efficacy of the shotgun in a police/defense role. He found that with sights, the shotgun was far more accurate than he’d expected. With that information in place, the American Pistol Institute put a program in place for the shotgun.

Modern Shotgun
Cooper opined that the ideal shotgun sight would feature a rear sight with a large, thin-rimmed aperture. When looking through this ring at the front sight, it seemed to disappear, hence the given name “ghost ring.” A large aperture was key, as the primary role of the shotgun is still extremely short ranges; overwhelmingly, shotgun engagements are measured in feet and inches as opposed to yards. Speed to the hit was primary.

Once we’ve passed the primary concern, it can be handy to hit out as far as you can see. He found that slugs would stay on a pie tin out to 50 yards easily, but often you could keep on reaching and place slugs on target at 100 to 150 yards.

Slugs are like lawn darts, national-class firearms instructor-trainer Mark Fricke once said to a group of instructor-trainees. The weight is out front. It’s not like the spin-stabilized rifle bullet unless you
have a rifled shotgun barrel and sabot slugs. The trajectory is similar to a rainbow. Another issue is that, with buckshot we know we’re launching several projectiles at one pull of the trigger. With the slug it’s just one, right?
I’ve spent lots of time on law enforcement firing ranges. When cops shoot slugs for training or qualification, I find I have to examine the target to see which holes are from the solid lead projectile and which come from the accompanying wads.

Some slug loads have multiple wads behind the missile. Others have a single wad and still others have a wad/wads attached to the slug by a screw. Which one do you have?

As Jim Crews pointed out in his instructor manual, Some of the Answer, Urban Shotgun, you have to know the difference before you go operational. If you launch a wad along with the slug and they separate, the wad can cause serious injury at close ranges.

Gun Details
The law enforcement/defensive shotgun has lots to recommend it, but the user has to be as smart as the gun. One of the smartest guns out there is the newest rendition of the combat shotgun, this by renowned custom handgun maker Nighthawk Custom. Their Nighthawk Tactical Pump Shotgun can be had in a variety of configurations and colors. The subject of this article is a Remington Model 870.

The 18-inch barrel and black furniture mark it for duty, as does the sighting arrangement. The furniture is the excellent Hogue Overmold, both fore-end and butt-stock. The stock has a soft rubber butt pad, welcome relief when shooting “rhino roller” ammunition. The magazine has an extension, allowing six rounds in the tube before chambering a round.

The safety is the “Big Dome” by Vang Comp Systems, a righteous builder of combat shotguns in their own right. I’m a huge fan of the Big Dome safety. The Remington has the crossbolt safety that locks the trigger. The Dome protrudes on the right. A right-handed user has simply to have their trigger finger in register on the frame. To shoot, drag your finger back as you mount the shotgun. The Dome is hit by the pad between the maximal and medial joints and pressed off. It’s very fast.

The action was slick and fast. The only hang-up was the fore-end catching on the front of the receiver. That is easily corrected. The trigger was likewise very clean. It wasn’t super light; who’d want a light trigger in a 12 gauge shotgun? It was crisp. The sights are adjustable, a ghost ring in back with a wing-protected post up front. There is tritium up front only. I like to have a glow-in-the-dark dot right above the muzzle with nothing aft to confuse the sight picture in adverse lighting conditions. If I were still on the road, having a pair of dots centered outboard at 3 and 9 o’clock on the ring might be nice.

A four-round spare ammo carrier nicely backs up the six-round magazine on the left side of the 870’s receiver. Described as a carrier that is made from “a one piece hard anodized Aluminum Billet,” which it is, it is also known as the SureShell carrier by Mesa Tactical. The four-round carrier means less weight on the shotgun but it gives the user a chance to get a few more rounds loaded up without filling the magazine. If it takes nine rounds to get the job done, I hope you have a handgun or two backing the shotgun up.

Nine rounds? I learned to get into the habit of loading the combat shotgun one round down if there was a spare ammo carrier on the gun. That way, I could put a specialty load in the magazine and chamber it up first. Without a spare ammo carrier, I would, and have, loaded the magazine to capacity. When I was on the road in the most rural part of our county, my Remington Police Magnum had six Remington Reduced Recoil slugs in the magazine. It was my carbine.

Armorer Mike Rafferty installed slings and ammo carriers on every operational shotgun in the outfit. Our sample had its major metal parts (barrel, receiver, magazine and front sight wings) finished in Nighthawk’s proprietary ceramic-base Perma Kote coating in Desert Tan. Along with the black accents (elevator, rear sight, trigger group and SureShell carrier) it makes for a striking treatment. I took the Nighthawk Tactical to the police range for a work out.

Range Time
Police instructor Chuck Haggard dug into my supply of Federal Tactical Buck. It’s the more recent manufacture 8-pellet 00B with the Flite Control Wad. The patterns were extremely tight. He commented that the Federal load “shoots like a skeet load,” meaning that shot-to-shot split times are short.

At 15 yards, he fired a pattern into the head of a silhouette target. The pattern was about fist-sized, going into about five inches extreme spread. At 25 yards, he kept them inside the chest of the target in a pattern around 8.5 inches.

Haggard tried a 9-pellet load in the Federal Tactical Buck with Flite Control wad from 50 yards. We hadn’t zeroed the gun at all, let alone for Haggard, and the pattern went high and right. Seven of the nine pellets launched struck paper, a pair striking the silhouette (high chest and head). Had we moved that pattern to the center of the target, seven pellets would have gone into the bottle-shaped scoring area into about a 10-inch spread. That’s phenomenal for a 50-yard shot with buckshot out of an 18-inch open-bore shotgun.

Haggard noted that the trigger was “nice for a shotgun.” Most shotgun triggers are left unimproved, but this gun was nice. He also commented that the receiver-mount SureShell spare ammo carrier by Mesa Tactical is a lot better than the units Chuck had used before. He would have preferred a six-round spare shell holder to the four-round unit on the gun. “I’m a big fan of the Hogue Overmold (furniture),” he said, “especially the soft buttpad.” He liked the Desert Tan finish as well.

Final Notes
The Nighthawk tactical pump shotgun is a worthy successor to their handgun line. It’s well done all the way around. Personally, I’d have preferred a shorter stock. The standard 14-inch length-of-pull stock is okay for bird hunting or for long-armed types who aren’t wearing armor. The Hogue Overmold in a 12-inch length-of-pull is available from Nighthawk at no extra charge.

If you want the superb Vang Comp System (lengthened forcing cone, back-boring and ports that reduce recoil, cut muzzle flash and tighten patterns), Nighthawk will hook you up. Collapsible stocks, MIL-STD-1913 rail systems, SureFire WeaponLight fore-end and a neat hunting package are also available.

Nighthawk has made the move into the combat shotgun in a big way. Their attention to detail is obvious. They make a great gun better. Just wait to see what they have coming next…

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