Over at shootingillustrated.com, Jeff Johnston gives readers an introductory lesson in home defense shotguns. The article is stocked with sound advice from a variety of gun gurus: racking your shottie won’t scare off bad guys, pattern your gun, don’t mix your ammo, practice moving through your house and more. And then there’s this: “practice feeding the gun while on the move.” Wait. What?

The need to reload a five-round shotgun during a home invasion is one of those low probability, high cost events. The chances of it happening are somewhere between slim to none, but if it does happen and you need more ammo, you really need more ammo. The same is true for any defensive firearm, or course. But how seriously do you take the “issue” of combat reloads? Do you carry extra ammo? Do you practice reloading your gun — on the move?

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86 Responses to Question of the Day: Reloading Under Fire? Seriously?

  1. I have not practiced reloading while moving with a shotgun.

    Unless someone has issued a contract on my life, I figure five shots from a shotgun will provide the necessary incentive for a crew of home invaders to leave.

    • I get you, but the “contracts on my life” thing happens to me all the time, so I practice feeding my shotgun on the move. I can now reload my KSG one handed while at a dead sprint.

      • I was with my team and we were being hunted. We had been sent on a rescue mission only to find out an old friend used us for a raiding force. As I said, we were being hunted. After our heavy weapons sergeant was hit, we formed a firing line. We all had to maintain a maximum rate of fire. After one of our teammates emptied the minigun, we all unloaded 5.56, 9mm, 12 gauge, and 40mm grenades. It was not enough. Eventually, I had to kill our enemy with a log trap.

        That day I regretted not buying the pulsed plasma rifle in a 40watt range.

    • i have, its a saiga 12 detaachable box mag fed super boomstick! no pesky pumping, less recoil, more onboard ammo…. i could do this all night!

  2. I’m not sure I’ll ever need it in a home invasion, but a youth spent small game hunting with a plugged pump gun has made reloading a shotgun while moving second nature. That hard-charging kid didn’t want to risk a rabbit or grouse breaking cover while he had the gun out of action. I’m essentially unable to move a shotgun to low ready without reflexively topping off the magazine.

  3. Low capacity and difficulty in reloading is among several reasons that I prefer and AR over a shotgun for home defense.

    Sure, needing more than a tube magazine of shells is unlikely, but not impossible.

    No one ever said after a gunfight that they wished that they had less ammo.

        • An SBR may be rigle. It might even be an AR patterned rifle but it not tbe same think as the kind of rifle the Rabbi is talking about. An SBR is a machine pistol chambered in a rifle cartridge.

    • Rabbi,

      I am with you on the AR/AK versus shotgun question.

      The ONLY two reasons that I have a shotgun readily available for home defense:
      (1) I am only out $190 if someone steals it.
      (2) Small children cannot operate it.

      Elaborating on that second point: I keep the tube magazine full and the chamber empty. If a child who is able to operate it manages to find it, they are old enough to know to leave it alone. Younger children who do not know enough to leave it alone are unable to operate it.

        • I second this. If you’re wrong about small children not being able to operate it, the consequences will at minimum be the most panic-inducing moment of your life.

        • Please go back and read YOUR statement. And then tell me what the problem is with keeping a loaded firearm at the ready. You are not seriously suggesting that all firearms must be unloaded and secured at ALL times(and disassembled in multiple safes also. Naturally), are you… Shannon?

        • Loading it loaded and readily available is fine when you don’t expect a child to get ahold of it. But, relying on the inability of a child to operate the pump is a high risk decision. Maybe nothing will go wrong, which would be great, but unless the child is unable to get to the weapon there is little they can’t find a way to do.

        • Justin,

          I get what you are saying and I assume that you have honorable intentions.

          Additional explanation:
          (1) I do not have small children.
          (2) I do not expect to have small children in my home.
          (3) A small child cannot lift/point a 7 pound shotgun.
          (4) A small child cannot cycle the action.
          (5) The shotgun is in a location that is extremely difficult to find.

          When you combine all those factors, I do not see anything that is unsafe or irresponsible.

          For reference I keep that shotgun with a full magazine so that it is ready at a moment’s notice. Yes, it will require pumping a round into the chamber which adds an extra 0.5 seconds. Yes, whoever operates that shotgun could short-stroke it. I figure those two minuscule drawbacks are a worthwhile additional safety measure for the extremely unlikely event that small children somehow get into my home without my family members knowing about it.

          In that context, I believe I have gone well above and beyond being responsible.

    • “No one ever said after a gunfight that they wished that they had less ammo.”

      That may be true. It’s just as true that on one ever said after a gunfight that they wished they were shooting a less powerful round.

      A shotgun for home defense is not the best option for everyone. Otis McDonald managed to convince the Supreme Court that he needed a handgun for that job.

      When considering the most likely home invasion scenarios, and considering that I shoot shotguns a lot, I think my Mossy 930 Tactical will work for me.

      As for reloading, I have five extra shells on a stock sleeve but that’s only because they’ll be more useful there than in a box in a closet.

        • My HDG is a Mossberg 500 20″ 7+1. The chamber is kept empty, “cruiser ready.”
          While I don’t have a MSR, I do have an AK-47. And I practice with both.
          I have my own theory about home invasions: The vast majority of them are targeted. By that, I mean the perps know exactly what they want, usually money, drugs or jewelry (or combination thereof). Guns don’t figure in the target because most people with more than a couple of guns have safes, and don’t advertise that fact as much as drugheads advertise their drug/cash stash.
          I prefer the shotgun, because most burglaries that turn into robberies are at night (statistics), and I’m better with the shotgun than with the AK in low light. (Yes, I’m saying use what YOU are better with, not what others tell you to use.)
          I also know that the blast from that shotgun causes more shock and awe than the AK or AR will, hot or miss.

          Note, I’m not saying everyone should use a shotgun at all. Obviously, if you are going to trust your life to a gun, you had better practice with it. A lot. In different situations. Including in low light.
          I will also drop this here; military training (not to be confused with “tactical” training by some “operator”) is a great advantage. The ability to carry out a mission while under stress is invaluable.

  4. I don’t practice reloading on the move, but I do practice reloading while stressed. I practice with both my AR and my pistol. Get some mags, load them up with dummy rounds, and get your heart rate up (a lap or two around the block suffices for me). Do some reloading drills. Done. I can imagine Run and Gun events would be good training for a scenario like this, kinda.

    An mutual acquaintance of mine (a friend of a friend) claims he sometimes trains by inducing minor oxygen deprivation by jogging on his property with a painter’s mask on, then practices reloading drills. Whether there’s any solid basis for doing so over just an elevated heart rate, I wouldn’t know. I don’t intend to start doing laps around my block with a mask on… it would look a little too suspicious, I think.

  5. I could see a lull in the fight when you would have the chance to reload. I could also see expending four or five shots, suspecting that you took care of the problem, but wanting to top up before moving from cover or retreating to a locked room. So hella ya, practice reloads!

  6. Reloading after 5 rounds… finally a sport where Canadians can excel!

    You could always buy a mag tube extension for your HD shotgun.

    I suppose the other solution is to have a second shotgun. Those Dominion Arms Grizzlies don’t take up too much space.

    • I just now looked that up. Those do look cool. Looks like they come in barrel lengths as short as 12.5 and even 8.5 inches. I never knew that such things were in Canada what they call “unrestricted.”

      Here, that’s a short barrel shotgun and it’s a whole thing getting the approval paperwork in place. Up there, apparently you can just buy one and toss it in the trunk. It blows my mind that a place like Canada has no problem with short barrel shotguns, or that a country like France has no problem with suppressors. Just buy ’em off the shelf. Meanwhile, Americans have to jump through hoops to get these products.

      • A lot of the reason we’re allowed to have SBS up here has to do with the laws around handguns. It’s hard to get authorization to carry a handgun in the wilderness, so the next best thing is a compact shotgun, or one of those Mare’s leg lever-actions but with a full-length stock. This may change (sooner rather than later, unfortunately), but even the Liberals had to admit we have dangerous critters about, and when you’re far enough into the wilds you need something reasonably easy to pack and deploy in an emergency.

        If our handgun laws made more sense, we’d just carry pistols similar to the ones Americans would carry in the woods. Having said all that, I hope your SBS regulations are soon changed. Just remember to pack plenty of earpro!

  7. I make a stark separation between a realistic scenario and tactical martial arts.

    In the real world, if I can’t handle a home invasion with the contents of a 17 round Glock 34 magazine of a 30 round AR magazine, I’ve screwed up something awful. With proper gear maintenance, your home defense handgun or rifle should not fail. (Or at least has a far lower order of probability of failure than you having to use it in the first place.) Because of that, I don’t keep a spare magazine by my home defense AR or carry a spare magazine for my Glock.

    In tactical martial arts, however, a proper reload technique is one of the most important components to completing a stage in reasonable time. One of the reasons why I rarely shoot 3gun is that I consider “tactical” shotgun reloads to be the most gamey stupidity in the sport. Nobody reloads a shotgun under fire. If you’re out, you go back to your rifle or draw your sidearm, you don’t huddle behind cover hand loading shells into your M1014. Thus, it’s not something I practice. In fact, I only even OWN two shotguns (a Mossberg 500 and 930) so it’s not a trick I have a high priority for.

    The idea of reloading a tube fed shotgun while under fire as a civilian is pants on head retarded. Anybody who uses a shotgun for home defense needs to live with the fact what they have in the tube is almost certainly the entirety of the ammunition they are going to have on hand. Practice accordingly, don’t pretend you’re going to be able to hunker down in a position and fish shot shells out of the pockets of your pajamas while a home invader is doing his best to kill you.

    • Side saddle…. shotgun is good because you get 9 bullets with one press of the trigger. 5 rounds = 45 bullets…. here in the land of 10-round magazines, one 00-buck round is almost one mag worth of projectiles. Side saddle = no fishing through pockets…. and i would rather reload/fumble my shotgun behind cover. Time is my friend. The longer i can delay them, the more dangerous their situation becomes. Time = police. Cover + distance = time.

      • Let’s not pretend that we have magical shotguns that fire target seeking pellets. Each shell is effectively one bullet. A very effective bullet under the right circumstances, but still only one.

        • That might be somewhat true if you are comparing a shotgun to an AR-15. But if you are comparing a five round shotgun to an 18 round capacity handgun, one shot of 12 gauge 00 buck is worth multiple 9 mm rounds to the same attacker. And it’s easier to hit with the shotgun.

    • Personally I have shotguns all over the house because my wife has a strange attraction to the devices and there isn’t room in my safe for all of them so Shot-Locks it is.

      I 100% agree on the reloading of a shotgun. Could it be done? Yes. Could it be forced upon you? Yes. However the likelihood of either actually happening is virtually nil unless it’s a single shot or double barrel.

      My general rule due to the layout of my house is that I’m not coming looking for you. You can come to me, step into that bedroom doorway and take some suppressed .45 to the chest, thank you very much and have a good first day in Hell. Failing that both shotguns in the bedroom are loaded with #4 buck. If, on the off chance I do have to leave the room for some reason I have other guns all over the place and will be carrying the shotgun on a sling with the pistol as primary. Since I’ll likely be in my boxers I’m not carrying a spare mag and while the shotguns have side-saddles it’s faster to just pick up another one from elsewhere in the house.

      So, if I’m forced out for some reason it’s whatever is left of the 12 in the pistol and the eight in the shotguns and, barring some circumstance where reloading actually makes sense, it’s New York Reloads from then on out. However, if it comes to that I’ve already gotten to the point of not being able to deal with the situations with with eight rounds of #4 and 12 rounds of .45. The crack-ninjas have arrived (or local SWAT) and I’m probably fucked anyway. Also, since I’ve been flushed from my preferred spot where no one can get behind me without roping off the roof and through a window the house is probably on fire to boot.

    • I don’t think you’ll ever regret practicing two gun mojo either, but you have about the same chance of regretting not practicing it as a civilian.

        • Agreed, but I think your practice time will be far better spent on things that you are likely to need. A solid draw and presentation is far more important than tactical gun-fu.

        • Agreed on that point as well. I think it bears saying that you and I have more or less the same HD setup (Glock/AR complement). That is where the majority of my practice time is spent, but I do have a few shotties as well. One for turkey and the other is an inherited 1100. I wouldn’t mind spending a little more time with them though; you never know if it could pay off.

        • That is false, if you spend all your time practicing something that is a waste of time, you will regret it when you realize you should have dedicated that time elsewhere.

  8. I practice reloading a shotgun all the time on the move…but for 3gun, not home invasions. I love me some shotgun, but I prefer a suppressed 300BLK SBR AR-15 for home defense.

    • Yep – 30 rounds beats any shotgun load/ reloading combination I can think of. My Mossberg 500 has the advantage of eight rounds, but I will grab my Shorty 300 first.
      But In any case, I will have my XD M back up on me, so now we are at 50 rounds before reloading.

  9. I practice loading all my guns on the move, from various ammo sources like pockets, saddles and holders. I even practice the cool-guy single shell load and shoot.

    Now I don’t do any of this because I think I’m going to have a Wick-esque firefight in my home or anywhere else. I do it because I love to do it. I have a shitload of fun doing it. It’s a lot like practicing wheelies and jumps. Virtually useless in my real life but it’s a goddamn blast to do. I don’t spend several grand a year on courses and ammo because I want to wear a jersey on the world stage or play operator Joe. It’s just fun to shoot. SO MUCH FUN!

    In reality I’ll be in my bedroom with the wife and dog, behind the bed itself with the barrel aimed at the door and 911 on the phone. Not running the halls pumping out empties or clearing rooms.

  10. My home defense gun is a suppressed 9mm SBR or suppressed 300BLK SBR, depending on my mood. I’ve got 30 rounds in the mag and 30 more in a second mag next to the gun.
    But since there are only two of us in the house, and we sleep in the same room, my home defense strategy is to lock the bedroom door, and hide behind the bed with loaded guns at the ready, and spare mags handy, while my wife calls 911.
    Thieves can have my TV or car. I’m not risking my life for them.

    • +1 You got it. It’s just “stuff”. I always love the “Tactical Operator” replies on here, these guys must sleep in full kit with their AR’s at port arms on top of the bed. I’m using “shock and Awe” In the buff with a Governor.

      • +1

        Judge Public Defender at nightstand. Probably won’t have to get out of bed but if I do, the 8 round Mossie is leaning in the proper position. If that doesn’t work, I’ll bet I ain’t the only one going underground.

  11. It all comes down to possible vs probable.

    I have searched for years and asked repeatedly for someone to point to a CCTV or other video or police report where a person did a tactical reload or reload with retention and then used or needed to use the rounds in the partial magazine. In NON military situations this has yet to happen. I can’t find any proof of it, person who said they did it or even said they did it in a police report of the incident or evidence they did in an investigation. This includes police. That doesn’t mean never practice it it just means you are an idiot if you do before you have the basics nailed down and even then spend much time on it. For gun games, sure for real, not so much

  12. I prefer handguns over long guns because you can hide one behind your back when you answer the door. However being a revolver guy I understand how much faster it is to just grab another revolver than it is to reload the one in your hand. So I have 6 rounds to retreat to my gun room where the mayhem really begins if said bad guy is dumb enough to follow.

  13. Whether you have a 30 round magazine or a 5 round tube, I believe that you should top off at every opportunity… just in case. I believe it’s just as true in combat as in a home invasion… which is combat. It’s your life or theirs. You may have frightened them off, or maybe not. You may have dropped some of them, but you also may have one or more who are not totally incapacitated, or someone who wasn’t hit at all… and now they are mad as hell. I’d rather be reloaded just in case because, no matter how well you train, you will still have to deal with adrenalin and stress. You can plan to make every shot count, but you just may waste a shot or two. What’s the saying? Keep shooting until the opposition is nullified…

    In combat if there was a lull in the firing, we’d swap out magazines so we had a full one ready for when the fighting began again. If you had time, you gathered up any partials and filled them up by combining partials or cracking open a fresh case of ammo.

    I disagree that racking a 12 doesn’t scare anyone. I’ve seen drunks get suddenly “sober” and become cooperative. I’ve seen demonstrators suddenly decide they need to be somewhere else. Of course, these are the ones who went to voice their opinions, not the ones who wanted to get something started.

    • Show me a situation where the bad guys chose not to leave anyone behind. The only time criminals reengage is when you are between them and the door after things go south on them

  14. 8 round self defense 12 Gauge and you can drop singles into the ejection port once you run dry. Then the .40 come out of the holster if need be.

  15. Being able to reload your shotgun quickly can only be a good thing. If you have the time and will to practice it, then do it. A few years ago I practiced it regularly for a couple weeks before dove season, and a bag-limit later had a couple of experienced shooters seriously asking me if I took the plug out of the gun. All I was doing was load-one/shoot-one once I ran the gun dry. Now I look forward to dove season every year JUST for the opportunity to get more birds off the reload.

  16. Practice reloading? Most shotgunners have no idea how small a shotgun pattern is a close range. Practice reloading? Most MSR owners don’t even know what sight offset is or how to allow for it. Practice reloading? Yeah, good idea!

  17. Topping off a pump shotgun is extremely easy. Anyone can do it, on the move or otherwise.

    So just don’t run your wall-leaner dry.

    • Especially if you have ever shot birds. Duck, dove pheasant whatever. First time you run dry you will learn to top off regularly. It becomes habit. And my 8 round wall leaner has 5 rounds on the buttock. I feel pretty cozy, at least where I hang my hat.

  18. I don’t disagree with tactical reloads. But I have a Maverick88 20″ and it holds 7+1 or 8+1 if I use up to 5 minishot shells from Herters. And I got a high capacity shottie on purpose. The tactical stuff is something I need but I sure don’t feel under gunned with a high capacity pistol too…

    • Same Shotgun I got next to my bed. 7+1, all slug. All backed up by my EDC Glock 20 10mm with hollowpoints, and my home desk gun, a Judge with .410. This all backed up by my bathroom gun, a Ruger LC9 with 10rnd clip in it. And if it really really comes down to it, I got an FN FS2000 in my closet, and a WSAR 10/63, and Mosin I keep in my truck.

  19. This is why 30rds in an AR or 15-33 rds in a 9mm Glock is more advantageous. I’ve completely done away with shotguns, despite my deep love for the platform.

  20. My Mossberg 930 JM Pro Tactical Class holds ten (10). I have a side saddle holding eight (8). I have a light on it and a sling.
    I do mix ammo. The chambered round is #4 shot as well as the next two (2) in the mag tube. The other seven (7) in the mag are PDX Defender slug plus 3 00 Buck pellets per cartridge. I have a light modified choke which will keep everything on target. I can load on the move if I have to. I hope I don’t. BUTICANIFIDO.

  21. This is why Crye Precision needs to get the damn Six12 out to people. Quarter 3 of 2016 my ass. Drop the 6 shot wheel, slap in another one. Or mount the thing under your AR. Pew pew pew, BANG BANG BANG!!!!! Also, the integrally suppressed version would be immensely useful for home defense.

  22. When I read the title of this article, I thought some douche in Congress was introducing a bill to restrict the practice of hand loading. Like, on a press. Not that it would last a hot minute at this point, but, ya know. False alarm.

  23. I understand that even seemingly simple tasks become difficult while under stress, but you can’t develop entrenched neural pathways for every action. At some point don’t you just, I don’t know, learn to chill out. Yeah, easier said then done especially when bullets are flying. But I am saying it and it is possible. Rather than depend on doing everything in condition black, train your mind and body to stay closer to condition red.

    If I were going to reload a shotgun while the feces already hit fan blades then I would NOT do it while moving. I would do IT then move, or move and then do it . . . and then breathe and then chew my gum. A lifetime peppered w/ butterfingers has taught me that slow is indeed smooth – and anything other than smooth is usually fubar 🙂

  24. when I trained shotgun for the MDOC if you weren’t firing you were reloading. no one was allowed to run out of ammo during the course of fire.the only time you were empty was when commanded to unload.

    • I know that, you know that, the experts don’t know that. The first six shells in my shotgun are for initial contact, I have nylon bag, w/sling, sitting by the bedroom door with 25 2 3/4″ 00, I have a belt hanging on door with 15 00 shells and 10 2 3/4″ segmented slugs in the loops. I’m not going far without having one or the other to load from if needed. If one can not load a shotgun on the move, best get something else. (And before some other “expert” pops up, no, you do not need to turn a shotgun upside down to load it.)

  25. Lhstr, well I guess everyone has empty shotguns at home. I am 76 yrs. young, and I taught my children (1 boy and 2 girls) the respect for this hardware, we all went shooting/hunting and fishing together. They learned the safety requirements. There friends were never allowed in the house, period. I carry my guns loaded all the time and they know it. I do not allow playtime, nor drinktime with them. My friends know how I carry and my guns are accessable througout my house. My shotgun is loaded. period. remove safety pull trigger and it goes BANG, period. Oh and on my dresser near where we sleep is my Glock ready to go, 17 roundsnall JHP’s. I guess everyone will think I have problems, no. Don’t own a gun if you do not know how dangerous it is, period. Duh, after all it is my protection and I would use it to defend my wife, myself and my property if need be. Be safe out there, and don’t carry bad thoughts.
    p.s. I also go to defensive classes for the past 30-40 years and its monthly.

    • I would, but my primary HD weapon is a Fat Man launcher so I don’t think a reload will be necessary.

      My insurance company will hate me if I have a home invasion!

  26. Always top it off when prudent to do so. Practice shooting when interrupted, though.

    Plus loading your average mass-produced pump quickly reveals all sorts of pesky ergonomics problems, and you better file that sharp edge away sooner.

  27. I sure do practice all kinds of shotgun reloading. With side saddle, dump pocket, bandolier, heck just a few extra rounds in my off hand.

  28. For some totally unknown reason, when I’m reading these posts, sometimes I think of a really bad movie where the ‘teenage’ chick told a church congregation, “F**K, I don’t care if you all watch”……….

  29. mossberg 500 special purpose 20guage with stock band holding six more, half of them slugs. why? cause its a 20 and I might be shooting 4 legged critters too.
    As for reloads on the move? tried it and I suck at it; so yes now I practice it. now I suck less.
    …and seriously doesn’t anyone worry about zombies anymore? have you been to walmart lately…there’s a reason enough right there.

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