Chances are, if you’re ever going to be involved in a home defense situation with a shotgun, you’ll be in your birthday-suit. So unless you’ve got ammunition Velcro’d to your ass, all the extra ammunition you’ll have will be on the gun.
In light of my recent participation in Rangemaster’s Defensive Shotgun course, I had an opportunity to try out some different modes of carrying shotgun ammo. I had a few thoughts, and here they are. This isn’t gospel, just my opinion, which is well subject to change.
Since a shotgun doesn’t hold much ammo, you really need a supporting mechanism for carrying more ammo. Two of the most popular choices are side-saddles and butt cuffs.
TacStar makes a SideSaddle product for many shotguns, in 4 and 6 shell configurations. These put shells directly on the side of your receiver. Butt cuffs are sleeves or similar contraptions that fit over the buttstock and hold shells there, and there are many many vendors and configurations of these out there.
Tom Givens was saying he’s not a fan of the SideSaddle for a few reasons (but in the end, Tom doesn’t care what you use). I don’t recall them all off the top of my head, but a couple are that it throws off the balance of the gun (it does made it “side heavy”), and it can come loose and rattle. Certainly it could get in the way of things… certain models can’t work with particular forends, and a host of other possible issues.
I actually like the SideSaddle. We always talk about economy of motion, so why traverse all the distance to the buttstock and back to the loading ports, when a SideSaddle is right there on the receiver and it’s minimal movement to get a new shell and put it into the gun? As well, the saddle is in my field of vision, so I can see what I’m doing instead of having to feel around or take my eyes off the threat. Plus, if you orient the shells in different ways (up or down), it’s easier to remove them from the SideSaddle than trying to do the same from the butt cuff (especially shell brass up). I also find it cleaner/easier to remove the shell from the SideSaddle, whereas the elastic and movement of the butt cuff can make it difficult to withdraw a shell. Granted, a good solution here is to just screw the cuff down to the stock so it doesn’t move.
But really, the biggest win for me is the speed of reloading and how the ammo being right there, positioned in a well-defined way, really helps the loading process. If the point of the class I took was all about those manipulations, then pick the ammo solution that’s going to best lend to that. For me, it’s a side-saddle.
That said, I also have a butt cuff on my shotgun. Why? Slugs. The magazine is full of buckshot, the SideSaddle has buckshot too. But just in case a slug is needed it’d be good to have one. So, I put them in the butt cuff. It allows me to have them, but it’s unlikely I’ll need one. It’s more likely for me to need buckshot and to keep that fed into the gun. As well, when you’re working fast and under pressure, you might not remember that “these are buckshot, these are slugs” if you have them mixed on your carrier. Some solve that by putting the buckshot all facing one way and the slugs all facing another. I can’t do that since I prefer 2 brass up in the saddle for the quick ejection port reload, and then 4 down in the saddle for the slower loading port. But it’s well-defined to me to have buck in the saddle and slugs in the cuff; highly unlikely I’ll confuse the two when under pressure.
Granted, there are many other ways to carry more ammo — like a magazine extension. 🙂 But these are two of the most popular. I’m happy to use both and so far seem to have a strategy that works for me. Find what works for you.