In my opinion, the vast majority of an officer’s tactical needs can be met with a shotgun, especially in urban environments. Most threats a police officer encounters fall inside 50 yards—across the room or yard is the norm. Many officers and agencies are moving back to the shotgun because it is simple, robust and versatile and generally costs less money to maintain. Today’s tactical buckshot patterns so tightly now that 25-yard engagements are viable. Lower-velocity slugs deliver pretty astounding accuracy. Lower recoil and improved stock designs accommodate most any officer’s needs.

While a shotgun’s recoil is manageable, it remains a factor. Having an improper stance or form can be problematic or painful. Failing to train properly sets officers up for failure. Solid training makes a huge difference. In fact, I’ve transformed officers from shotgun haters to converts with proper training in as little as a day. A recent trip to Firearms Training Associates (FTA) in California, and two days with Bill Murphy, provided an excellent example of just such training.

Expert Training

Reflexive reloading under duress is an essential fighting skill.
Reflexive reloading under duress is an essential fighting skill.

Currently a reserve officer with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office, Bill Murphy has spent most of his life working the streets of the Los Angeles area, with over 30 years as an officer. He was a SWAT officer and academy instructor as well as a longtime range master at Gunsite Academy. Bill took over the SureFire Institute several years ago and has been running it ever since. The SureFire Institute is focused on military training, and its affiliate, Firearms Training Associates (FTA), trains everyone else, including members of the law enforcement community as well as civilians. Bill Murphy may be the most experienced combat shotgun trainer in the industry today, so I jumped at the chance to take one of his classes when the opportunity presented itself.

I knew I would need a shotgun for the class, so I decided to have Vang Comp take my old, hammered 14-inch-barreled Remington 870 Police Magnum and transform it into a thing of beauty. The reworked gun features a 14-inch, ported barrel with a Vang Comp front sight with a tritium insert. It is equipped with Mesa Tactical’s Urbino pistol-grip stock and a SureFire DSF-870 forend with a light. Vang Comp also installed its extended safety, magazine tube extensions and a stainless steel follower.

The first day of FTA’s training included a “Basic Shotgun” course, which is designed for the newest shotgun shooter with a rudimentary knowledge of the system. The course covers basic operation, including loading, unloading, patterning, various ammunition differences and proper sling operation. Starting with loading, unloading and proper sling use, the staff spent the morning preparing students to safely operate the shotgun prior to patterning and slug shooting.

The rest of the day was spent properly loading and running our shotguns before we finished with the obligatory “rolling thunder” drill. This fun drill teaches you to always keep your shotgun loaded. At the end of the day, every student could safely operate their shotguns and use them effectively for self-defense.


The next day, I took part in FTA’s “Advanced Shotgun” course, which gets you moving, shooting moving targets and working in a more dynamic environment. Slug shooting now extended to 100 yards. The Vang Comp 870 really shined here. It was rather easy to make hits at 100 yards. Firing from kneeling, prone and some other positions, dead-center hits at this range were almost easy.

We also learned to transition to our pistols. Here the trainers used a remote-controlled target on wheels that moved back and forth. It also challenged the shooter, requiring a transition to his or her pistol. Plastic pumpkins were used as targets, providing a noticeable “indicator” when hit. It was great training and great fun.

Next, in the outdoor shoothouse, students engaged reactive steel targets. With our shotguns loaded with beanbag rounds, we moved to the indoor simulator for room clearing. This kind of practice showed how difficult room clearing can be, and it allowed me to use the DSF-870 forend light.

Finally, we shot clay pigeons with our tactical shotguns. This really got us focused on how to engage moving targets. After a few minutes, it was surprising to see how often you could get hits with your pump shotgun. Bill also let us use his dedicated over/under to shoot some fast movers; it was very instructional and really fun. It may be the best training you can do for shooting moving targets, without regard to the long gun you are using.

Stamp Of Approval


The Basic Shotgun course is a great introductory-level class for those like officers first learning the shotgun. Running a pump gun is different than a semi-auto, so even old hands can get back on track. Bill Murphy is truly professional, with more “been there, done that” experience than most trainers, especially with a shotgun. He is entertaining, knowledgeable, and the range was safe at all times. His staff was excellent, and they did a great job with a broad spectrum of shooters.

FTA’s facilities are great, allowing for very solid training in one spot. The indoor simulator allows for excellent training, with a wide variety of rooms that can be cleared in the dark. All of the training was suitable for duty use, and would provide a solid base for tactical training. If you are hitting the street with a shotgun, make sure you give FTA a look. You will not be disappointed.

For more information, visit or call 877-554-4867.

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