SYMTAC Consulting Shotgun Skills AAR

8-9 October, 2022
Hosted by Green Ops
Shadow Hawk Defense Range, Hedgesville, WV
Photos by the author and Green Ops instructors

­Rob Haught using a toy shotgun (with real racking and firing sounds!)  to demonstrate

Rob Haught
Matt Haught
Bob Mefford
Gary Powers

Class Description (from
Our flagship class, Shotgun Skills has been in continuous evolution for decades. Based around the Push-Pull method of recoil control that Rob began teaching in the 1980s, it has become the Gold Standard for shotgun training. We’ve trained thousands of Federal, State, and Local LE students and civilian shooters over the last 30 years. We strive to keep the content current in regards to advances in technique, equipment and ammunition. One thing that has remained firmly in place is our commitment to producing students who can safely, competently, and confidently operate their shotguns.  At the end of the two-day program, a student will possess a comprehensive skill set that allows them to utilize the shotgun in a variety of circumstances.

General topics include recoil management, ammunition selection, shotgun modifications and accessories, slug transitions, patterning and much more

Training Day 1 (TD1):
TD1 began around 8:00 while helping the hosts from Green Ops set up steel targets and staging equipment.  Fortunately we were all able to park close by and no one had to hump gear very far.  Rob was so kind as to bring a stack of notebooks and pens for students to use.  Around 9:00, Rob gathered everyone in and began a short lecture portion.  He introduced his cadre and went over his background in law enforcement and as an instructor.  During the lecture, Rob introduced everyone to the push-pull technique which is the cornerstone of his class, and how he began teaching it to federal, state, and local agencies, as well as private citizens.  Later in the class, Rob demonstrated that push-pull was effective enough to rapidly shoot the shotgun while standing on one foot without upsetting his balance.  We all learned, or were reminded, how much of a game changer the technique was.  Various types of shotguns were briefly reviewed, along with various possible enhancements to those shotguns.  Of particular note were upgrades from Vang Comp systems such as their Big Dome Safety and barrel treatments.  The instructors had several loaner guns that students could use (and some did!), including an upcoming limited SYMTAC Consulting 870 built by Vang Comp.

After the lecture portion, we lined up in two relays and began shooting.  In order to isolate our ability to properly employ the push-pull technique, Rob had us execute a string of single shots with help from his cadre, who were spread out behind the relay.  I started shooting with my 18” Winchester Model 12, which proved remarkably smooth and fast considering I much more used to a semiauto shotgun.  I did learn that keeping my support arm extended like I preferred worked against me in controlling the recoil.  I moved my hand back to the rear of the forend, and things got better quickly.  Throughout the class, Rob had us isolate skills which would be built upon later. 

Strange things happen sometimes.  Rob helps a student extract a shell that had been loaded backwards

After lunch, I switched to my Beretta 1301, and again had to remind myself to move my support arm further back than I had been done before.  Later on during TD1, we worked on reloads, turns, and movement.  Towards the end of the day, Annette Evans of On Her Own arrived and provided a lot of insight and help to everyone throughout the rest of the class. TD1 wrapped up with a drill that put nearly all we had learned so far together.  The relays started with just a couple rounds in the gun, and were instructed to begin walking towards the targets.  Each time Rob instructed us to fire, we would reverse directions while working to keep the guns topped off.  By the time the drill finished, many of us were doing emergency single shell reloads just to keep up.  Before leaving for the day, Rob briefly went over the day’s training.  Later, we met at a local restaurant and had a great evening out. 

Training Day 2 (TD2):

Author holding a 90 year old Winchester used early in the class because he foolishly didn’t have a sling

Sunday morning, we began with a review of TD1 and a brief warm up of singles and doubles.  The next big lesson came when Rob discussed and demonstrated a technique of shooting the shotgun in compressed spaces and very close ranges.  I won’t go into details on the technique because without proper training and practice, it would be very easy to do wrong, which could result in injury.  However, it was very effective and fast when done correctly.  We then gathered on the firing line to practice the technique, with turns and walking added in later.  Before breaking for lunch, Rob demonstrated proper patterning with buckshot and discussed how no shotgun barrel shoots the same as another.  We opted not to pattern our guns at the class, as few of us brought multiple types of buckshot to use.  When patterning, Rob also discussed the normal spread of buckshot at about 1” per yard of distance.  He also brought up distance zones to be aware of when selecting ammunition. 

After lunch, Rob challenged us to a drill that would test our abilities to quickly engage multiple targets at multiple ranges and our ability to quickly reload the gun.  To test our push-pull technique, slugs were used for the drill.  Patterned after the FAST Drill, we began from a ready stance with the shotgun muzzle down with four slugs loaded and a fifth slug carried on our support gear.  At the buzzer, we shot the 8” down zero circle of an IDPA target at three yards with one slug using the compressed shooting position we learned earlier.  Then we transitioned to a target ten yards away and shot the down zero circle three times.  We then performed an emergency reload and shot the head zone of the target.  Any miss was scored as a one-second penalty.  If the student shot it in under five seconds with a semiauto gun or six seconds with a pump gun, they won a coin.  Luke, a Green Ops instructor, became only the third student to win a coin since they began the drill with a blazing fast run with his pump action 870.  I had a good run going, but chose to game the drill and seated my reload a bit too high in my shotshell card.  Somewhere during the drill, the reload fell out of the loop and hit the deck.  Had I not chosen to do that, I would have had a good chance at a coin.  I did recover the dropped shell, though, and shot the drill clean.  Lessons were learned. 

After congratulations went out to the newest coin winner, Rob went over slug select drills and the importance of always carrying a slug in the same place.  Rob also went over some maintenance concerns with shotguns to include concerns over magazine spring life.  We then briefly went over techniques to transition to pistols with either slung or hand carried shotguns.  Next, Rob had us perform variations of box drills, working our ability to shoot while moving forward, backward, and laterally.  He also had us work pistol transitions while moving.  The instructor cadre was instrumental to ensure that we were all moving safely as not everyone was moving at the same speed.  Towards the end of the day, Rob went over basic drills we could use to best retain what we had learned using only 25 shells. 

Even with a hull in the air, the muzzle stayed flat when using proper push-pull

To close out the day, the cadre set up a competition that consisted of three steel targets for each shooter.  Guns were set up with two shells loaded and an emergency reload was required to complete the stage.  Two students would shoot at a time and whoever won two out of three rounds advanced to the next stage.  I was able to win my first round 2-0.  The next round, I was able to take advantage of a missed reload to go up 1-0.  However, my opponent, an accomplished competition shooter and instructor, was able to win the next two rounds and knocked me out.  The top two shooters were awarded with Vang Comp Big Dome safeties. 

Head to head competition lead to some very close matches

At the end of the day, we gathered around to briefly review what we had learned and certificates were passed out.  If I had any suggestion going forward, I’d like to have seen each student given a chance to introduce themselves and provide some lessons learned at the end of both days.  That said, no one was ever dissuaded from speaking up and everyone’s questions and comments were very welcome by the entire cadre.  I sincerely hope that Rob, Matt, and the rest of the crew come back to the area soon with their Advanced Shotgun class, which I’ll make every effort to attend.  My biggest takeaway was just how quickly I could run the shotgun after class, and how much easier the gun was on my body.  I had been used to getting light bruising on my shoulder from even 5.56 carbines, but after over 400 rounds of 12 gauge shells, there wasn’t even a hint of bruising.  However, I did get a decent sunburn on my face.  Even on a brisk October weekend in West Virginia, it’s still wise to put on the sun screen. 

Beretta 1301 shotgun with Aridus Industries upgrades, Holosun 503R red dot, Modite OKW light
Winchester Model 12 pump action shotgun with 18” barrel and bead sight
Nighthawk Sandhawk 9mm handgun

Federal Top Gun 7.5 birdshot
Federal LE 8-pellet Flite Control buckshot
Federal LE 1oz slugs
Fiocchi 9-pellet buckshot
Speer Lawman 9mm 147gr FMJ

Support Gear:
Esstac hook and look shotshell carriers
Gunner Solutions EZ8 Shotshell Carrier
Mystery Ranch Forager hip pack carrying additional shells
Maxpedition Roll Up Dump Pouch
Mean Gene Leather Burro pistol magazine pouches
SKD Tactical Presscheck Assault Gloves
Otto Noizebarrier electronic earplugs

SYMTAC Consulting:
Green Ops:
On Her Own:
Shadow Hawk Defense:
Vang Comp Systems:


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