One of the most common proverbs around shot gunning is that “in a gun fight, you will only have the ammunition in or on the gun.” Shotgun shells are a bit bulky, heavy, and unwieldy. In a home defense situation, you are not going to have time to grab a bunch of accessories like shot shell caddies or bandoliers – you’ll be lucky if you end up wearing any clothes.

My first upgrade to my Benelli Super Nova is to add capacity to the number of rounds I can store “in the gun”.  There are a number of magazine tube extensions out there for any shotgun, and they range in price and quality anywhere from $30 for an el cheapo Tac-Star to $90 for the extension I’m reviewing here.  When you consider it is basically a section of pipe with a nut attached it seems quite the rip-off, but I wanted to get the best equipment available, and a few hours of researching my options and opinions in various forums, suggested this was the best option available.  (For a nice round up of some other extension tubes check out this review on a Remington 870 blog).

I ordered the magazine extension directly from Nordic Components on their website and asked in the comments if they could have it to me by Friday so I could install it before a match.  The order shipped the next day and I had it in time.  For comparison, I also ordered a side-saddle shell carrier the same day and two weeks later it still hasn’t showed up.  I called the reseller and they have told me I can expect it sometime in the next month (maybe).

As I had already learned online, all extension tubes ship with the same ridiculously long spring so there’s some trimming required to make everything fit. Here’s an image of the +2 shot extension tube with the spring so long it doesn’t fit in the picture. Also there’s two stickers if you like that sort of thing.

When you remove the barrel you can see that the stock spring only extends slightly further than the end of the barrel.  I tried to keep this in mind with the new spring, but the coils are a bit tighter on it and so it really became a matter of trial and error.  You will need some needle nose pliers to remove the factory spring retainer, and you will absolutely need wire snips if you plan to get the full capacity in the tube. I’d also advise wearing your shooting glasses when you do this as the spring will be under a lot of pressure when you try to screw the extension tube on.

Here you can see the factory spring (on top) compared to the amount that I had to trim off the new spring. You will need to have some 2-3/4” shells or snap caps around to confirm if you can fit the advertised capacity.  On my second try, I was still 1 round short of my advertised capacity so I took a few more lengths off until I could just fit all rounds.  This makes for a little more effort loading shells, but should resolve any potential feed issues.

The fit & finish of the extension tube is great.  The nut that screws it in easily matches the Benelli aesthetic and the anodizing looks like it came straight from the factory.  The +2 tube length is just shy of the barrel length which I am fine with, a +3 sticks out a little too far for my tastes and can be an issue if you ever shoot a 3-gun stage that requires you stow the gun in a barrel or otherwise put too much pressure on an extension tube.

There is not much to report as far as it’s function. It works exactly as advertised increasing my round capacity to 7+1. I’ve only had a chance to use the shotgun in two IDPA side matches but both times it’s worked great and I’m glad to have the extra capacity.  Plus it just makes the gun look complete, I feel like it was looking a bit bare in the stock configuration. Here’s a picture of my IDPA + Side Match setup:

  • Beretta 92G Elite II with Dawson Precision Fiber front sight/Novak rear, Hogue grip, MecGar Optimum magazines with Beretta Rubber base-plates shooting 124gr Federal American Eagle.
  • Benelli SuperNova Tactical shooting Winchester Reduced Noise/Reduced Recoil #8 Target Load and Remington Managed Recoil “Slugger” 12ga slugs.
  • Peltor TacSport Electronic hearing
  • ESS CrossBow Silencer eye protection.

Defensive Pistol Match

Posted: March 6, 2011 in IDPA, Shotguns

Along with IDPA, the Northern Colorado Rod & Gun Club also hosts a Defensive Pistol match each month. This is very similar to IDPA, but with a few less restraints.  For one thing, the stages are not designed to be revolver neutral and there are no limits to how much ammo you can place in your magazines.  For those that have the 33rd glock magazines, this is your chance to use this for fun and profit. I particularly enjoyed the increased amount of steel and no-shoot targets in this format.  For me, it’s another chance to practice IDPA type shooting and get some more trigger time in.  There’s absolutely no reason you can’t adhere to every IDPA rule while doing this such as drawing from concealment, and loading no more than 10 rounds in a magazine.

I said previously that I’m going to focus more on accuracy in the near-term here. I’ve not put in the range time on this yet, but my performance today shows again the need.  I had a handful of points down on some shooting that wasn’t too difficult.  Most importantly were some misses on steel that should have been easy hits – I got a bit sloppy on my trigger control and the steel reminded me to start paying attention again.

We had another shotgun side match which was again a blast, I’m really liking the new shotgun and now need to work on my reloading skills.  We had a reload heavy stage and I spent most of the time fishing for shells in my pockets, so I’ll be getting some shell caddies in the near future, and still anxiously await a shell carrier side-saddle that’s apparently on back order until the end of time.

This week’s best defense focused on situational awareness.  The importance of being able to identify and avoid a potentially dangerous situation cannot be overstated. One thing I found interesting about Rob’s firearms training is that there is no one perfect home defense gun for all situations.  While many have recently come to prefer a carbine for home defense due to high ammo capacity and reduced risk of over-penetration, its size can be a limitation in tight quarters. The same goes for shotguns, which are otherwise ideal for those who live in out in the woods where protection from animals may be a concern.  For me, living in the tight confines of a condominium, a pistol is the best fit for my particular space.  It is also the firearm I am most proficient with, so the choice here is a no-brainer.

Michael Bane’s tip regarding keeping hearing protection in your safe room is worth considering.  I would suggest balancing the cost and feasibility of electronic hearing pro against the low-tech approach of a few SureFire ear pro or the cost of a tax stamp and suppressor. This becomes even more important in the smaller confines of a safe room.

Lastly, it would sure be nice if the opening scenario were not always repeated twice nearly back to back.  Between the opening sequence and the preview for the next episode, this just makes a 30-minute show even more pressed for time, and prevents more detailed discussion of great topics like: items to keep in your safe room.

Shooting the IDPA classifier

Posted: February 20, 2011 in IDPA, Shotguns

The classifier was a humbling experience.  Not only was the match more difficult than I first gave it credit for, but I also could tell I was not shooting to the top of my abilities.  That said, I believe I have been fairly classified and feel that I’ll be appropriately competitive with my new classification.  This just means I have a lot improvement ahead of me to reach the next competitive ‘level’.

Despite my prior research, I managed to forget all of the tips when the buzzer went off, and blew through my first stage with way too many points down.  I recovered a bit in the second and third stage, but not enough to pull up my scores.  I ended up as a ‘Sharp Shooter’ with a raw time of 105.68 seconds, but a whopping 71 points down, and one penalty for a total of 143.68. I’m over 20 seconds from expert class, and that’s not something I can make up even on a good day the way I’ve been shooting lately.

My biggest mistake was probably on my weak hand shots from 7 yards, I was not paying enough attention to the course of fire and was thinking it was two shots on each target, rather than a single shot.  The RSO helped correct me, but I still drew the penalty, lost some time figuring out what I was doing wrong, and blew my next few shots.

Looking back, I have decided that I need to work on my accuracy as the number one way to improve my score. I had nearly as many points down in the first stage (27) as I did in the third stage (30) where I tended to dip my shots low on the target and had two misses. It is fun to work on speed but without accuracy it is just pointless.  I’m going to spend the next month of my shooting practice concentrating on tightening my groupings, shooting at longer distances, and learning to love a double-action draw shot.

Side-Match Shotgun Fun

Despite some concerns over the classifier, I had an absolute blast shooting the shotgun side-match (video at the end of the YouTube above). I recently purchased a Benelli SuperNova Tactical specifically for shooting the side-matches, and it absolutely exceeded my expectations.  Not only was the gun great fun to shoot, but the course of fire was pretty clever.  When shooting steel with birdshot, the closer shots can be more difficult than the further shots because of the way the shots patterns and spreads with distance.  This is a bit contrary to pistol shooting and the reloads add a little more complication to the course.  Everyone else seemed to be enjoying it just as much, and a number of us ran through the course a second time without score just for grins. Shooting events like this remind me why I love shooting.

IDPA Classifier Preparations

Posted: February 16, 2011 in IDPA

This weekend I am shooting the IDPA classifier for the first time.  I consider myself a decent shooter and usually come in among the top few at my local matches of 30 to 40 shooters. I will probably be much more competitive if I end up ranked as an expert, but who doesn’t want to end up in the ‘master class?’

Now I realize that the point of the classifier is to see how you rank, not what performance you can reach with specific training.  That said, I intend to put at least a little thought and training in to make sure that I shoot at my potential, rather than suffering from a meltdown (like not loading a magazine all the way before a string of fire, not that I have ever done that before).

Classifier Cheat-Sheet
To start my preparation that first thing I did was revisit the ‘Quest for Master Class’ that Caleb Giddins had done for downrange.tv  The videos and descriptions there are helpful in picturing the classifier and understanding the course of fire. I was particularly interested in how he scored substantially better when placing a higher precedent on speed than accuracy. I tend to shoot my matches with few points down, and know that I could improve overall if I went a little quicker, and didn’t take extra shots on standard Vickers targets.

I also googled classifier tips and found a great post here along with a forum posting here. A shooting buddy had done something similar, and the result is the spreadsheet linked here that has a recap of the strings of fire along with tips that go along with them.  We will use this for a quick practice shoot tonight and have it as a reference during the day of the classifier.

Download the spreadsheet here

Classifier Dry-Fire Video
Recently I found some PowerPoint files of various classifiers for dry fire practice on the Brian Enos forums.  I have found that by making the slides advance automatically and converting from powerpoints into windows media files that I can play these on my flat screen off a USB drive.  This seems like a much better solution for dry fire practice than taping targets to the wall. I’ve made files for both the full IDPA classifier as well as draw practice with 1.5 second par times. You can view the videos on youtube or download from the links below.  Note: if your TV won’t play files off of USB  you can use AppleTV or other internet TV to get the videos from youtube onto the TV.


Download the WMV in 720p below:
IDPA Classifier

Draw Practice

Credits for the original files goes to jnikoley on Brian Enos forums.

On this week’s episode of The Best Defense we began with an apartment living scenario. In a fresh change of pace, the stars of the scenario were neither Rob Pincus nor Michael Janich. I am not sure that the Gatekeeper door stop/alarm product is very feasible in an apartment; I just think the nuisance of using it regularly would cause people not to use it. This does look like a great solution though for those in a hotel setting.

Janich had some tips on home defense like noting where your solid backstops are, any choke points you might have, or how you can use mirrors to help view other rooms. There was some good information, but as is usually my biggest gripe, they glossed right over a lot of considerations.  I have been happy to see some topics revisited this season like hardening interior and exterior doors, but I would like to see more focus on a theme and really cover a topic in-depth.  Home defense preparations are a huge topic and deserving of much more airtime.

Here’s one thought on HD that I do not think can be said enough.  If you wear glasses or contacts regularly, make sure you ALWAYS have a pair at your bedside.  Should you ever be involved in a ‘critical dynamic incident’, you will not only need to have them to survive, but imagine what a lawyer could do to you in a courtroom if it was shown that you fired while essentially blind.

Rob talked about the importance of training with a sub-caliber pocket pistol.  I couldn’t agree more with the need for training on these pistols.  I’m thinking about picking up a Ruger LC9 soon and intend on shooting it regularly in practice and in side-matches. Rob’s scenario brings up a few interesting points.

1)      If you are going to carry a pocket pistol, be sure to keep at least one spare magazine with you.  6 or 7 shots can happen very quickly.

2)      Have some alternate means of defending yourself.  A knife or flashlight can be a great option. I think that having something that is less lethal is really smart.

3)      As Michael Bane noted in his tip, have something to carry your ammo in.  Pockets of are not meant to carry magazines. You don’t want to pull your hand out of your pocket empty, or grab your phone instead of the magazine.

For more about The Best Defense, check out downrange.tv

Lessons from Today’s IDPA Match

Posted: February 12, 2011 in IDPA

Today I shot at the Front Range IDPA monthly meet. I had a great time despite the day starting off pretty cold. My first few courses of fire went well, but as I pushed to get faster, I started losing track of some fundamentals and sent a few more down range than necessary. There were two courses of fire in particular where I could have improved greatly.

Calling Shots
One was a mixed range shots on standard cardboard targets. I wasn’t properly calling my shots and where I couldn’t see hits, I took a few extra shots for good measure.  Looking back at the tape now I can see these easily cost me more time than had I stopped after my first two shots, even if I was a point down or two.

Need for Speed
For some reason, Steel feels like it should be easy. The plates are a good size and a hit anywhere should do. So how come i spent so much time chasing down the shots today, especially on the Texas Stars? My best theory is that I was moving too fast hoping to get lucky on the shot rather than slowing down and focusing on my trigger pull.  I feel that your mind can only concentrate on one specific fundamental when shooting in a competition.  Sometimes that manta you repeat inside your head is simple “front sight, front sight, front sight.” Today it should have been “reset, reset, reset”. When I’m thinking about good trigger discipline and the feel of resetting each shot, the steel just seem to drop from their own volition.  Now I just have to remember this on the next go out.