Interview With Pat Harrington of Shotgun Blasters

Posted: February 19, 2014 in General
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I had an opportunity after returning from the SHOT show to talk with Pat Harrington about Shotgun Blasters and the incredible growth his business has experienced over the last year.  Here is the complete interview and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did conducting the conversation.

TGR:  It’s been a long time since that first Market Hall gun show where I saw you with a single table and about half a dozen wicked-looking shotguns.  Now, it’s half a dozen tables (or more) and a Shotgun Blasters crew behind the tables.  What are some of the factors that you contribute to this rapid growth?

I have been blessed – I mean really blessed. We are about two years ahead of where I thought I would be at this time.  I seem to have a knack for creating and building what people like. I think people like “Different & Unique”.  My whole life I have been cutting my own path and now that I am able to fulfill my passion full time, it seems to be paying off.  Everything we do at the shows sets us apart, from the table cloths, the bright signs, the neon uniform shirts, the way the guns are displayed to what may be the coolest and most memorable logo out there.  My customers are not just buying a gun off of a box (although there is a market for that); they are buying something completely different, one of a kind in many cases.  Something custom made JUST for them. People really like that part.  Custom made for them – nobody else has one like it! I went from just carrying around my one prototype to all the gun shows to now having as many as 7 tables.  I wish I had a hidden camera behind my tables at the shows.  It is so great to see the same reaction on a person’s face when they first see my work.  Huge smile, lots of pointing and mouthing the word “WOW”.  Even if they don’t buy – just seeing their reactions and appreciation for my work, is payment for me.

It’s more than just being different though, I think, because of what we do and the extra time we get to spend with our customers that we end up developing long term relationships with them.  It takes that level of customer service to a higher level.  They don’t just buy a gun and we never see them again.  Instead, we work together through the project and by the time we are done we are not just “buyer & seller”, but friends!  SO MUCH of my business has come from these friends referring others to me.  It is such a rewarding feeling. From Florida to New York to California and everywhere in between, all by referrals!

Our attitude at the shows makes a difference as well.  We treat all customers with respect and courtesy.  We are not just sitting behind the tables waiting for them to say something to us.  We are up front, standing, acknowledging and interacting with every person that passes by.  We give lots of free advice and small talk as well.  It puts our customers at ease so instead of us “trying to make a hard sale” it makes them want to buy.

TGR:  About how many people that inquire about your products at gun shows are first-time buyers vs. someone buying a second shotgun or their first custom build?

First time buyers of a shotgun are probably in the 40% range.  Around 60% already own one.  They just didn’t know they wanted it customized until they saw my tables. ☺

TGR:  Shotguns have long been considered an ideal home-defense weapon.  What are some of the features of Shotgun Blasters’ builds that are well-suited for home-defense application?

I tell people first and foremost to add a forward vertical grip.  There are so many reasons for this.  Better gun control.  Reduced recoil.  Less muzzle rise.  If it’s a pump then you can cycle faster.  Quicker target acquisition and many more.

The next thing is the right stock.  So many people want something they saw in a movie or that just looks cool.  Once we start letting them feel the different products and talk through the application of each, it allows them to make a better choice for their own needs, body size and hand strength.

Tactical lights are another big one.  There are definitely different schools of thought on this and I do not try and force my personal opinion on them.  For me, I want at least one 600 lumen light on mine.  If the bad guy is coming over to your house, statistics show it will most likely be at night.  So, his eyes have had plenty of time to adjust to the dark conditions.  Suppose I have just been awakened by breaking glass and I go to grab my shotgun.  It takes some time for me to wipe the fog and cobwebs out of my eyes.  I WANT that light.  I may not choose to keep it on so I have fingertip instant on controls on my lights.  Then they can be used to light him up when needed and because he has been creeping around in the dark, he will be blinded by those 600 lumens. Now I have the advantage over the threat.  I often add a second light set in strobe mode.  A strobe creates confusion and disorientation for the person on the receiving end.  Again, I am in control.  What happens next is up to him.

TGR:  A lot of people own AR rifles or they are seriously considering purchase of this platform.  There is a perception that owning a shotgun and a rifle means learning a completely different platform and controls.  How would you address these concerns?

I have a lot of customers who want their muscle memory to be easy and repeatable for every platform.  So, if they are an AR user, we go with the AR-style shotguns we build.  The MKA 1919 and the BR99 are exactly the same in their location of all the controls, parts and even the feel.

If they are used to SKS or AK platforms, then we steer them to the Saiga.  The Saiga is built on the original AK platform so these customers can retain that same comfort and feel without changing what their hands and mind already know.

TGR:  For those considering both a rifle and shotgun (and not to shoot 3-gun competitions), what are the best use cases for each platform in a defensive environment?

A rifle such as an AR would most likely be for defense against multiple threats and ranges of 100 yards or more.  Say defending your property against invaders.  However the shotgun can also be a formidable defense if choosing the right ammo.  We sell rounds like the Remington AcuTip that can reach out with great accuracy to 150 yards in a smooth bore and 200 yards in a rifled bore.  A shotgun is far superior in close encounters, especially inside the house.  Multiple projectiles greatly increase the chance of striking the threat in a panic situation.  Plus, if things ever go bad and the SHTF, then I would want both.  There will be plenty of both shotgun and .223/5.56 ammo lying around.

TGR:  The 12 ga seems to be, by far, the most popular offering in terms of variety of shotguns and ammo.  With the growing number of women becoming interested in self- and home-defense, how would you address the issue of recoil for these users?

We do sell a lot to women.  Most come wanting a 20ga or .410 due to fear of being able to handle a 12ga.  However there are so many ways to control the felt recoil and still manage the gun while keeping the knockdown power of a 12ga.  We spend time educating the customer and by the time we are finished, 99% will go with the 12ga.  Statistically a 12ga shotgun encounter is over in 2 shots or less.  So, my comments to the women who are concerned is “so what if your wrist or shoulder may be a little sore afterwards? Look at what it did to the bad guy!”

TGR:  So, if 12 ga is the way to go, what are some of the best ammo choices for home defense?

It depends on a person’s home.  Is it an apartment, townhome, or house?  Do they have family or kids in the next room?  Shotgun rounds can over-penetrate the target.  For those people concerned with over-penetration, I might recommend The Piranha round which is packed with carpet nails. It will shred the target without going through the walls.  At my house, my bedside weapon is loaded with The Pit Bull.  This round is packed with a .56 caliber 1.3oz slug on top followed by six 00 buckshot.  It is known as the “one shot stop”, and for good reason.

TGR:  If you extend your defensive perimeter to include property defense, especially for those living outside urban areas, what is the maximum effective range of a typical shotgun (say 18″ barrel) for various types of ammo?

That depends on a lot on the ammo, but I would say 40-75 yards average loads.  More with a slug which can be lethal out to around 130 yards for the average slug.

TGR:  A lot of people are not familiar with the incredible variety of shotgun ammo available on the market.  What are some of the more exotic ammo choices you have seen?

Dragon’s Breath, which is very popular, shoots magnesium fragments that set ablaze everything they touch with the area about the size of a football field.  Not recommended for indoor use. ☺

Flechette rounds which are packed with 20 steel darts.  They were developed in Vietnam for taking snipers out of trees.

Macho Goucho or “Bolo” rounds have two .56 caliber slugs connected by a 6” steel cable.  They will cut stuff in half.  I sell that one a lot to hog hunters and even one bear hunter.

The triple Decker is very popular as well.  It is 9 pellets of 00 buck but they are stacked and divided in such a way that they do not spread out like normal buckshot.  This load sends all 9 pellets into the same wound area. Law enforcement likes this round also as it reduces the chance of collateral damage.

There are so many now.  We carry around 20-30 different varieties for specific needs and desired results.

TGR:  If you had unlimited budget right now and were stocking up for the Zombie Apocalypse, what shotguns and ammo would you stockpile?

Well I am stocking up ☺  One or another we gotta be ready.  Saiga semi-auto, MKA 1919 and the Keltec KSG.  Ammo would be Military Grade 9 pellet 00 buck, Pit Bull, Aguila Mini Shells and Dragon’s Breath.

TGR:  What do you think about the multi-tube feeding mechanisms offered by manufacturers such as UTS, KSG, and SRM?  How does this aid in home/property defense and what offerings does Shotgun Blasters have from these manufacturers?

Love the Keltec KSG and the UTAS 15.  We carry and modify both.  Both are great guns.  The UTAS now has a two round tube extension which takes it to 17round capacity.  I think I prefer the KSG as it will cycle the Mini Shells better and thus increasing capacity to 25 rounds in the chambers.  That’s a lot of hurt headed towards the bad guy and 24 of his friends. ☺

TGR:  How do you advise people trying to decide between semi-auto and pump actions?

Comfort.  Really that is it.  What are they most comfortable with based on their expected use of the gun?  Which feels better in their hands?  Do they not want to think about having to “pump” in a high stress or panic scenario?  How much capacity do they need?  We ask a lot of questions and give advice based strictly on their needs.  One size does not fit all.  That is why custom made shotguns from us make great sense for the buyer.  Everything is made to fit their comfort and needs.

TGR:  Describe a typical purchase from Shotgun Blasters?  Do people order a stock model from off the table, or are those just starting points for a completely custom build to the customer’s specs? Inquiring minds want to know.

The models on the tables are just to get the ideas flowing and illustrate some of the options.  We try and present an ever widening variety to show not just our capabilities but to get the customer thinking about what they want and need.  Quite often, the customer never even knew such possibilities existed.  So, I would say 99% are made to order.  Occasionally, I will put out a few stock guns, but what fun is that? ☺

TGR:  And, finally, the most important question of all.  When something goes bump in the night in Pat Harrington’s house, what does he grab from under the bed or the nearest gun cabinet?

Custom Saiga 12 in a bullpup is next to the pillow loaded with Pit Bull and Keltec KSG is downstairs with 25 rounds of mini shells. Bye bye, bad guy ☺

TGR:  Thanks for your time, Pat.  If you liked this interview, please visit the Shotgun Blasters web site or you can contact Pat about a custom build at patharrington [at] shotgunblasters [dot] com .

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