The shotgun has been the go-to “big stick” for everyone from stagecoach operators and farmers with attractive daughters to soldiers and patrol officers. The modern-day 12-gauge shotgun is arguably the single most versatile weapon you can own. Just by changing the ammunition type you can hunt any animal in North America from fowl to bear. Plus, interchangeable barrels and choke tubes expand its versatility to an even greater extent.
In the realm of personal pro-tection your standard 00 buckshot load carries a payload of nine .33-caliber lead pellets traveling at 1,300 fps. To put it another way, that is 484 grains of lead hitting a target with over 1,800 foot-pounds of fight-stopping force, assuming all of the pellets hit the target.
For most people who choose to use a shotgun, especially when it comes to law enforcement, military or self-defense purposes, pump-action models have been the way to go for over a century. Pump-action shotguns were issued to troops in World War I and are still being issued today. Nearly every police car you see has a pump-action shotgun locked in place and readily accessible to an officer needing a bit more firepower. There is also the legendary, if mythical, sound of a pump-action shotgun being cycled, which might just freeze an attacker in his tracks.
Indeed, pump-action shotguns have a lot to offer, with the biggest benefit being rock-solid reliability—as long as you do your part. That means aggressively working the pump so it can keep reliably ejecting spent cases and feeding live rounds.
Of course, there is another way to go. Many modern shooters are used to semi-automatics, so a manually operated firearm might seem antiquated and slow. Fortunately, there are also plenty of very effective and reliable semi-automatic shotguns now being produced that offer as much versatility and reliability as pump-action guns provide. Generally speaking, a semi-automatic shotgun will cost more, but if you are on a budget, American Tactical has a great smoothbore option for you.
American Tactical imports some high-quality yet very economically priced pump-action and semi-automatic self-defense shotguns from Turkey. Made by Ottoman Guns, these models come with many standard features; they are ready to be used right out of the box.
I recently got my hands on the 12-gauge, semi-automatic TAC SX2 shotgun. And while American Tactical is no longer offering this particular model, it should be available on secondary markets. But let’s take a closer look at the TAC SX2 I tested.
This shotgun is designed to accommodate 2¾- and 3-inch shells, and the 18.5-inch, blued steel barrel and has a smooth cylinder bore. A standard front sight post is included and appears to be permanently affixed. The receiver is made of aluminum with a matte black hardcoat anodized finish, which is expertly applied and matches the finish on the barrel. The overall finish is very smooth, and there is no extraneous engraving of any kind. In fact, all of the markings are etched on, even the manufacturer markings on the barrel.
On top of the CNC-machined aluminum receiver are serrations to eliminate glare. There is no rear sight; machined cuts on top of the receiver should accept a dovetail or claw mount for an optic. Having the receiver drilled and tapped for adding a ghost ring sight is another option. The charging handle protrudes from the right side of the receiver, and it’s large and easy to use even with gloved hands. The bolt release is located on the right side of the receiver, toward the front and just below the ejection port. The bolt, charging handle and shell lifter are all matte black.
Behind the polymer triggerguard is a crossbolt safety. At the front of the triggerguard, on the left side of the receiver, is the magazine lock lever. The magazine lock engages automatically when the trigger is depressed. After the last round is fired, the bolt locks to the rear. With rounds in the magazine, a round in the chamber can be cleared by retracting the bolt handle. This ejects the round in the chamber. It also allows the bolt to close while leaving the live rounds in the magazine. You can then simply manually reload a round in the chamber.
To completely unload the shotgun, retract the slide to eject a round and then depress the magazine lock lever, thereby releasing a fresh round from the magazine into the action. The chamber can then be manually ejected by cycling the action. This will need to be done for each round in the magazine until it is emptied.
The magazine tube is made of steel and holds five 2¾-inch shotshells. With one in the chamber, a homeowner or tactical operator will have six rounds. If you plan on using 3-inch shells, the magazine will only hold four rounds. The forend is made from black polymer and extends the entire length of the magazine tube, providing plenty of space for a comfortable hold. It is checkered on the sides.
The stock has a 14-inch length of pull and is made from a matching black polymer with aggressive checkering on the pistol grip. The stock also features a recoil-absorbing buttpad, and a hole for mounting a sling swivel is included near the toe. However, there is no provision for a sling swivel or other sling-attachment at the front of the shotgun or on the forearm. You’ll have to add your own device up front.
On the range, the American Tactical TAC SX2 performed well. The gun comes disassembled, but it is a quick procedure to put everything together. However, make sure to clean off the excess oil while leaving a light coat for lubrication. I initially experienced a few malfunctions where the shells became stuck in the magazine tube. It was almost as if the fit was too tight and the shells were slow in being pushed from the tube into the receiver. It was only an issue when manually loading the magazine tube, and the issue was resolved after a bit of a break-in and some minor cleaning.
Handling this shotgun was extremely easy. It points naturally, and with an overall length of only 39 inches and an unloaded weight of 6.5 pounds, it was a pleasure to carry. Shooting birdshot was very easy and comfortable, but buckshot, given the gun’s light weight, was a bit more stout. On the other hand, slugs were somewhat uncomfortable, but not unmanageable, to shoot. All of the ammunition functioned reliably without a single malfunction, and the gun fired as quickly as I could pull the trigger.
The trigger itself was very crisp and light at about 5.5 pounds. Shotguns are not generally admired for their triggers, but this one was notably easy to use, which helped me get some nice tight groups when shooting with slugs.
Slugs & Buckshot
I fired three different types of slugs at 50 yards and found that the TAC SX2 shotgun was hitting only a couple of inches below the point of aim at that distance. My groups ranged from 6 to 7 inches wide—well within acceptable lethal limits for slugs at that distance without a rifled barrel. As I mentioned, you will probably not want to shoot a lot of slugs through this gun anyway.
I also tested three different types of buckshot loads for patterning at 15 yards using only the front sight. Standard Remington loads gave me a 10-inch spread; switching to Federal’s FliteControl buckshot cut that down by more than half. The average spread at 15 yards using Hornady’s Critical Defense Versatite buckshot was less than 4 inches. If engaging targets with buckshot at longer distances is a priority, I highly recommend using one of these two loads.
Turkish shotguns have a well-deserved reputation for quality, reliability and value; this shotgun from American Tactical is no exception, especially because it originally retailed for less than $500. That is great for a pump-action gun, and here you’re getting a semi-auto and so many other features in one durable package.
If you prefer American Tactical’s Turkish-made, pump-action shotgun, it has many of the same features and retails for even less, leaving plenty of dough left over for ammunition to practice on the range. And again, while American Tactical no longer offers this particular semi-automatic shotgun, it should be available on secondary markets.
American Tactical TAC SX2 Specs
|Gauge: 12; 3-inch chamber|
|Barrel: 18.5 inches|
|OA Length: 39 inches|
|Weight: 6.5 pounds (empty)|
|Sights: Front post|
|Finish: Matte black|
|Capacity:5+1 (2¾-inch shells)|
American Tactical TAC SX2 Performance
|Federal 9-Pellet FliteControl 00||4.75|
|Hornady 8-Pellet Versatite||3.60|
|Remington 8-Pellet Express 00||10.00|
|Federal LE TruBall||6.00|
|Hornady FTX Lite Slug||7.50|
*Pattern in inches at 15 yards. Accuracy in inches at 50 yards.
For more on American Tactical, visit americantactical.us.
This article was originally published in our “Gun Annual.” To order a copy, visit outdoorgroupstore.com.