Convincing folks that a shotgun needs to be aimed as carefully as a rifle isn’t always easy. An hour of range work is better than a week of conversation. Range work clearly shows the advantages of shotgun optics if the shooter pushes themself to excel.
The shotgun is a formidable defensive firearm in its own right. It is certainly one needing little I could say to add to its reputation.
The shotgun is underutilized by most shooters because the shotgun isn’t understood as well as it should be. No matter how close to the bone my finances have been, I have always owned at least one quality shotgun. Having had my life in my hand more than once, I prefer to operate on at least an even playing field.
Whatever the catalyst for the struggle, a 50-50 chance of survival is all we may ask for. When it comes to taking advantage of every resource, we should consider shotgun optics.
The bead sight is all we may need for home defense. However, it is a minimal sighting system. Look over the barrel and pick up that front post. A fiber optic front post in the modern fashion makes the system better. Self-luminous tritium sights from XS systems are even better yet.
In dim light, the bead is useless. For accuracy past a few yards, they are not very useful — even in bright light. A defense shooter isn’t trying to catch a bird or hare in a cloud of shot but wishes to center the load in the threat. We need better sights for this. This is particularly true for slug use.
Many shotguns feature rifle-type sights. The Ithaca Deerslayer and some Remington police models feature this type of sights. They are OK but limit the speed of a shotgun.
The shotgun is largely aimed by feel not a slow aim using rifle sights. An improvement is the XS Express type. As mounted on my Remington Versa Max Tactical, these sights have a good mix of speed and accuracy potential. Then there are Ghost Ring sights. These aperture-type sights that are very fast and accurate — even at long range. For all-around defense, use of the Ghost Ring is a good choice. But what about optics for a shotgun?
While some of the other sight systems are suitable for defense for those who practice — especially the XS type sights — a red dot sight is the fastest sight to use quickly. When you are shooting for speed, accuracy, and under stress, the red dot works well.
You do not have to line up the sights with the target. Simply look through the sight as you place the bright dot on the target. This is a brilliantly fast system.
A quality red dot offers excellent accuracy potential. Battery life has advanced tremendously from just a few years ago. There is no argument that the red dot design is a useful defense option if you understand the how to use it. Keep both eyes open, so you’ll never lose your peripheral vision. Practice with the red dot, don’t overthink it, and you will get a hit.
It goes without saying that for this to work, you need to choose a shotgun that is red dot capable. Most modern pump and semi-automatic shotguns are drilled and tapped to allow mounting a picatinny rail. This will allow the platform to accept optics. Some models are equipped from the factory with rails.
For some pump shotguns, including the Remington Adaptive Tactical, the Wraptor forend is an option. This forend not only accepts a combat light, but it is also red dot compatible. SureFire also offers a combat light-equipped forend.
The beginner may wish to choose an inexpensive red dot to get the hang of this style of optic. Bushnell offers affordable optics. TruGlo offers inexpensive to mid-priced red dot sights that I have enjoyed good results with.
The Vortex red dots, both the Venom and StrikeFire, are good choices. SIG optics, designed to accept .308 rifle recoil, work well on shotguns. In this case, it is possible to mount the same red dot you use on the rifle as the shotgun for personal defense. This compatibility may be ideal for many for defense use.
When awakened in the night and rushing to repel boarders, a bead front sight just doesn’t make the grade for the demanding shooter. A red dot sight makes for fast, effective shooting. Remember to dial the red dot down in brightness, so the dot doesn’t wash out the target. With practice, the red dot is one of the most effective shotgun optics for close to moderate range.
Many of use prefer slugs to buckshot, especially if the range is more than a few yards. The red dot continues to shine in delivering rock solid accuracy to 50 yards or so. Combat accuracy is also good.
Once you have made the decision to mount a red dot sight on the shotgun, you must invest in a sight that will stand up to 12-gauge recoil. However, you also need to consider all of the ways you may use it.
Many jurisdictions limit certain seasons and areas to shotgun only. For the fellow who hunts deer and boar with a shotgun loaded with slugs, will the platform be dedicated to hunting or serve double duty for home defense? While some use buckshot for short range, the shotgun slug is universally recognized as being deadly effective. Even a standard soft lead slug fired in a smoothbore shotgun is accurate enough to take deer-sized game to 50 yards.
I have experimented with shotgun-type rifle scopes. I chose an example that did not limit short-range accuracy potential and fighting ability, but which offered real accuracy at extended range. I mounted the TruGlo Tru•Brite 1x4x24 shotgun scope on the Toros 12-gauge automatic shotgun.
Specifically designed to handle shotgun recoil, this scope has several advantages. At the lowest magnification, the Tru•Brite 30 scope offers fast target acquisition. It isn’t as fast as a red dot, but it is useful for fast shooting at short range. Crank the magnification up and you will have a scope well suited to slug hunting with a shotgun.
I’ve owned an Ithaca Deerslayer for many years. While it is a classic and a great gun the Ithaca’s iron sights simply are not in the same class as the modern shotgun scope. There is no easy way to mount a scope on older shotguns. A modern shotgun with a well-designed optic is a good option, not only for personal defense, but for hunting as well. Shotgun scopes are not a common item. CheaperThanDirt carries the TruGlo, a couple of options from Konus, and a few others.
The key to mastering an optic is always practice. Choosing the proper red dot or shotgun scope is important. Do your research, practice, and train hard.