How to Load a Pump Shotgun

How to Load a Pump Shotgun

mos1Today’s article is so simple it is complex – many of you reading this will probably think “DUH, I know how to load my shotgun”, for the rest of you, I ask a little patience with such a common sense topic and I will try to impart a little of the reasoning behind the actions we take when performing such a common task.

I remember my very first introduction to “tactical” shotgun, it was at the correction academy, and I remember trying to look smug and superior when the range instructor told the class he was going to show us how to load a pump shotgun – I may have even whispered to my classmate “DUH, I know how to load my shotgun”. However, I was quickly won over as the instructor both smoothly loaded the shotgun while maintaining eye contact with me and the rest of the knuckleheads in the class and explaining how proper technique allows you to keep the shotgun fully loaded at all times by reloading as you fire.

I know that my words don’t do this justice so I invite you to watch the video below, but I will explain why I am doing what I am doing.

First off, when starting with a totally empty shotgun with the breech opened by bringing the slide to the rear it is an easy maneuver to drop a round in from the ejection port. That way when you bring the slide forward the shotgun is now loaded and ready to fire. At the time I remember my instructor speaking something along the lines of, “okay convicts, I really don’t need the overtime and I would rather not do the paperwork, so go on back to your unit so I don’t have to kill you” and with a twinkle in his eye mentioning that while he was talking (and keeping our attention on his words) he was able to keep his shotgun pointing in the direction of the targets and thumb in the rest of the rounds….

You may have noticed that I kept the gun held down range with my dominant hand in shooting position, and I brought the first round UNDER the receiver to drop in the ejection port. There are two reasons for this – If I came in over the receiver and fumbled the reload the round would fall to the ground. That would make me look like Barney to whomever I was trying to control, as well as loosing that round and leaving me with an obviously unloaded firearm. By coming underneath the gun, if I fumble, the round is still in my fingertips. Secondly, as soon as I drop the round in the receiver, all I have to do is slide my hand down the gun to the slide to rack it in one smooth motion. Remember smooth is fast. Coming over the top LOOKS cooler, but you have to then bring your hand under the gun and flip you wrist – all that takes time.

Now that you have obviously loaded one round, you can then fill the rest of the magazine by using your non-dominant hand to grab single rounds start them into the magazine tube and fully seat them with your thumb.

Once the gun is loaded, it is very simple to top off the magazine after each shot by thumbing in more rounds. It’s also easy to switch rounds types i.e. from buckshot to slug because whatever you thumb in the magazine last is what will be inserted into the chamber the next time you rack the slide. So lets say your loaded up with shot as you keep your gun inside the home for short distance protection and you worry about over penetration. You fire a couple rounds to no effect, maybe your attacker is behind cover or the bird shot is not effective on a bear – who knows, but you decide to upgrade to a slug – thumb in the slug, fire and eject (or just eject) the birdshot in the chamber rack the gun and bam you have a slug in the pipe.

I imagine there are a couple armchairs and maybe some actual commandos screaming at the computer that this is silly and you should never confront a bad guy with an unloaded gun and (condition butterscotch aside) I would have to agree. What happens if you keep your shotgun unloaded in your bedroom because in your risk assessment you feel like the danger of having a loaded gun outweighs the danger of a perp in the dark, but you still want a firearm for protection?

I want to give a little scenario as a thinking exercise so you can see that you just might need to load a shotgun in a hurry while having to deal with someone with ill intent:

Your asleep when you hear your preteen daughter scream there is a man in her room – are you going to take the time to fully load your shotgun before you go to her aid, taking time to clear corners and tactically maneuver through the house, or are you going to grab the shotgun, grab some rounds and run to her aid? (remember, a shotgun makes a pretty good club even unloaded). Of course you probably would not use the nice words my instructor taught us to use with inmate riots, but I am sure if some crack head is caught in your kid’s room at 2am you probably would have a LOT of words come to mind as you thumb in a load of 1 ounce slugs…

The thought is not many want to buck a shotgun, and no one wants to be first when you obviously have a loaded chamber, thereby giving you time to fully prepare as they decide wither they think they can take you without getting shot. Obviously this only works if your actions and demeanor express your confidence and iron will – Be an Andy and not a Barney. It also goes without saying it’s much better to start off prepared with a loaded firearm…




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- Tips for selecting the right gun for you
- An exploration of shooting techniques
- Guidance on developing an "armed" mindset
- A realistic look at what happens in a gunfight
- Crucial advice for dealing with law enforcement
- Suggestions for dealing with anti-gun sentiment

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