U.S.A. –-(AmmoLand.com)- Darryl Bolke of Hardwired Tactical is one of THE names in the shotgun training game. When I saw that Hardwired Tactical was offering a shotgun course within driving distance of my home, I immediately signed up. Despite being confident in my shotgun skills, I’d yet to take a high-profile shotgun course, and it was time to change that. A few months later, I headed to Oklahoma to learn the ways of the boomstick.
Location & Weather
Located in Jones, Oklahoma, the weather was solid for early December in the Midwest. Overcast with scattered sunlight, with very little wind. Temperatures hung out in the 40’s and 50’s making an unzipped jacket and jeans plenty comfortable all day.
During class, I used my Mossberg Maverick 88 pump-action shotgun. Featuring a plain bead front sight, cylinder bore 18.5-inch barrel, I probably had the cheapest gun on the range. I’ve updated it with a Magpul SGA stock, Streamlight TL-Racker forend, and a TacStar side-saddle. The gun was supported with a Trunk Monkey Designs Woodhouse sling, the signature model for The Suited Shootist. Additional ammunition was kept in a Blue Force Gear admin pouch, and a Safariland 085 shotshell holder. Nothing glamorous, but a solid representation of what a budget gun is capable of.
Students used a variety of equipment. The most common guns were Remington 870’s and Beretta 1301’s, and a few Mossberg 500’s. Benelli had diverse representation with single examples of an M1 Super 90, M2, and M4 on the firing line. A single Winchester Defender made it to the line to represent as well. Some students had completely stock guns, while others had lights, optics, slings, upgraded irons, and the kitchen sink.
The class consisted of 17 students, one instructor, and one assistant. About half of the students were law enforcement from the surrounding areas, with the remainder being civilians from local and afar. We had two female shooters in the class, one being law enforcement, and the other a successful 3 Gun competitor. Most students were only somewhat familiar with shotguns, which made for an awesome day of learning. Around five of us were Rangemaster instructors, with everyone aside from myself holding a Master rating.
Our training day starts inside the Jones police department. Waivers need to be signed and coffees need to be drank. Darryl focuses heavily on safety, leaving students with no uncertainty as to what is or is not acceptable. We cover a wide variety of subjects during the lecture portion of the class. Darryl speaks to patterning our guns and what rounds are most effective against certain targets, common law enforcement responses to civilian shootings, situations where you may pick a rifle over a shotgun and vice versa, and more.
“Buy a shotgun.’ That’s what Joe Biden tells us to do. It’s the gun they want us to have, so why not make it as useable as possible since it’ll be the last one they try to take away”
Next, we discuss the shortcomings of the shotgun. Some of these include limited ammunition capacity, limited range, high levels of recoil, and the potential of selecting inappropriate ammunition for our current situation. Many of these problems can be mitigated or managed, but can still pose a significant challenge.
Finally, we cover how to appropriately configure a defensive shotgun. Darryl’s main focus here is balancing control while maintaining the ability to rapidly mount the gun and acquire a consistent sight picture. A variety of white-light mounting solutions, spare ammunition storage, and ergonomic refinements are covered at length here.
Once the lecture has finished, everyone drives about a mile down the road to the local range. While Darryl’s Assistant Instructor, David, finishes setting up the range, Darryl fields questions from students and has us get out a few rounds for patterning. Shooting starts simple. We begin with up drills to practice mounting the gun and getting a consistent sight picture. Next, Darryl has us work a variety of ready positions to include high and low ready, an “indoor ready” position, and short stocking.
Thanks to the ammunition shortage, we only fire five rounds of buckshot all day. This is done one round at a time to pattern at 5, 7, 10, 15, and 25 yards with our preferred buckshot. As we increase distance students begin to learn that not all loads (or guns) are created equal. Two shooters on the line have fist-sized groups at 25 yards with 00 buckshot, one using Federal Flite Control in a tricked-out Beretta 1301, the other using bulk box ammunition in a bare-bones Remington 870. Others are not so lucky, being limited to 10 to 15 yards with their given loads. Once we’ve patterned our guns, we break for lunch.
Afternoon Range Time
After lunch we return to the 25-yard line, firing two slugs to check our zero at distance. Once again, some people are shocked by the performance of their guns; some being pleasantly surprised and others not so much. As we move further downrange Darryl speaks to a variety of loading techniques based upon our methods of ammunition carriage, taking some notes from the 3 Gun community. With our guns fully loaded, we learn about recoil mitigation techniques with both pump-action and semiauto shotguns, which makes a world of difference for those previously unfamiliar. Now that we know how to mitigate recoil, Darryl has students practice short stocking the gun in live fire. Again, most students are unfamiliar with this technique, and it’s an eye-opener regarding close quarters shotgun employment.
We’re training. Nobody’s gonna die if you don’t press the trigger. Someone might die if you do. It’s okay to miss a rep and get yourself situated.
Next, we work on some moving and shooting drills, incorporating lateral, forward, and backward movements. This is done to teach more secure methods of moving and controlling recoil while also preventing missteps that could lead to a fall. As the pace quickens, ammo management also becomes a problem, as shotguns always seem to empty faster than they reload. To keep things from getting too far off the rails, Darryl reminds everyone that we’re training and that being safe is more important than getting rounds off at every command.
We wrap up the day with two relays of Rolling Thunder. This is a group drill, firing sequentially, from 1 to 5 rounds. Ideally, this should sound like one continuous flow of fire if everyone can keep their gun loaded and stay on beat. We’ll just say that with our classes’ performance, we won’t be making the first chair any time soon. After shooting wraps up, Darryl provides everyone training certificates, we take a class picture, then head our separate ways.
This was my fifth time training with Darryl Bolke, and it was as good as ever. He does an excellent job of conveying serious information without becoming uncomfortably morbid. Never one for dogma, it’s great to see him taking cues from both his law enforcement background, as well as the competitive shooting world, blending the best of what each has to offer.
Despite the relatively low round count, every rep counts, and a massive amount of information is provided to the students. Darryl and other students were able to square away people who showed up with subpar equipment, ensuring learning was never hampered. I highly recommend training with Darryl Bolke if you get the chance.
About Dan Reedy
Dan is an Air Force veteran, avid shooter, and dog dad. With a passion for teaching, he holds instructor certifications from Rangemaster, Agile Training & Consulting, and the NRA. He has trained with Darryl Bolke, Mike Pannone, Craig Douglas, among several other instructors, amassing over 400 hours of professional instruction thus far. In his spare time you’ll find him teaching handgun, shotgun, and less lethal classes.