Top Shotguns 2014 SPECIAL WEAPONS FOR MILITARY & POLICE lead
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While rifles and carbines are seemingly the new normal in tactical long arm circles, the shotgun still has a great deal going for it. With its undeniable close-range power and fight-stopping performance, today’s tactical shotgun is a great partner to have with you when the chips are down.

While capacity may be low compared to a rifle, the sheer adaptability of the shotgun is an undeniable advantage. With the ability to (in many cases) fire a variety of munitions ranging from buckshot to slugs to specialty loads (including bean bags and tear gas), the modern scattergun is ready for just about any mission.

Following is a round up of some of today’s most exciting and interesting tactical shotgun offerings. From modern semi-automatic variants to battle-proven slide action models to Kalashnikov-based versions to upgrade kits, there is something out there on the market for just about anyone. If you need to bring the impressive power of the shotgun to the fight, this is where you need to look.

Read on to learn more about which of these top shotguns may be right for you.

BERETTA 1301 TACTICAL 12 GA.

By Robert Jordan

The 1301 Tactical has a short 18-inch barrel, a fixed choke and ghost ring sights. I looked closely and found a few improvements from the old TX4. The 1301 Tactical has aggressive stippling in the stock and forend to help with handling under stress, when your hands are sweaty, bloody or the gun gets wet. The oversized safety is also larger on the new 1301. The ghost-ring iron sights sit slightly lower on the 1301 than the TX4, which makes it much easier to get a good cheekweld. Best of all, a large, tactical charging handle and a large, paddle bolt release come standard, right from the factory. On my old TX4, I had to buy these as aftermarket parts. Getting them standard saves about $100.

The 1301 Tactical has a fixed choke that is bored out to 0.73 inches (or “cylinder”). This is very important on any tactical shotgun. If you put any choke more restrictive than cylinder, you risk splitting the barrel when slugs are shot out of it. Also, tactical shooters are not in the habit of changing or checking their chokes. I have seen more than one barrel ruined when a choke got loose and eventually fell out without the shooter ever knowing. The accuracy dropped off and the internal choke threads were ruined before the shooter realized what had happened.

At the heart of the gun is the Blink operating system. First introduced on Beretta’s A400 Xtreme, Beretta says it is 36-percent faster than any other shotgun operating system. It has a rotating bolt, similar to an AR rifle and many Benelli shotguns. I already knew the Blink system was utterly reliable from running it on personally owned shotguns, but I had never checked its speed. I couldn’t wait to put it up against the shot timer. But first, I wanted to check its performance capabilities.

As someone who has carried and tested a lot of different tactical shotguns, I know what I like and I know what works. The number one feature should always be reliability. The Beretta 1301 Tactical proved that it was 100-percent reliable with every shell I threw at it. On top of that, it handled like a dream. If you are looking for a new tactical shotgun, pick up the new Beretta 1301 Tactical and compare it to everyone else. I have and, if given the choice, this is what I would be carrying today.

For more information, visit berettausa.com or call 800-929-2901.

Specifications

  • Gauge: 12; 3-inch chamber
  • Barrel: 18.5 inches
  • OA Length: 38 inches
  • Weight: 6.3 pounds (empty)
  • Stock: Synthetic
  • Sights: Fixed front post, ghost ring rear
  • Action: Semi-auto
  • Finish: Matte black
  • Capacity: 5+1 (2¾-inch shells)
  • MSRP: $1,059

ATI BENELLI M4 RAVEN SYSTEM

By David Bahde

ATI’s Benelli M4 Raven Stock, Forend, Magazine Tube and Mag Follower Package performs several functions. First, it meets all 922r requirements, making it possible for any owner to legally alter their shotgun. Doing so in one inclusive package makes things incredibly simple. The stock, pistol grip, forend, magazine tube and follower replace the requisite of having five imported parts with U.S.-built products, keeping you legal, but that is just the start.

The six-position stock adjusts similarly to AR-style units. It extends over a well-built buffer tube using an adjustable tensioning mechanism. The stock is attached to the receiver using a precision CNC-machined mount that includes a pivoting sling loop that can be attached to either side. This sling loop sits flat when not needed. You can use it for a single-point sling or, coupled with a forward mount, the two-point sling of your choice. Recoil is controlled using a Scorpion recoil grip. Made of sure-grip rubber, it is comfortable and will enhance your control. The same material is used in the Razorback recoil pad. This buttpad remains flexible at extreme temperatures, has a non-slip surface and enhances the reliability of the M4’s operating system. The Raven stock’s configuration closely matches the original stock, making it usable with the factory iron sights.

An adjustable cheekpiece also comes with the package. Elongated, it’ll fit most users. It’s also easy to adjust with a large dial and stays in place. While the outside of the cheekrest is polymer, its internal components are Type III anodized 6061-T6 aluminum for strength. The matching polymer, over-molded forend provides for a truly solid grip under recoil. Non-slip, it is very comfortable to the touch, with a bit a palm swell for even better ergonomics.

Lastly, the package includes a six-round magazine tube extension with a precision-machined aluminum follower. My test shotgun utilized the deluxe kit, including a heat shield, a magazine cap and a magazine tube tri-rail. This rail fits over the extension tube, providing rail space for lights and other accessories. All together, the Raven system provides a nicely finished package to an already fantastic shotgun.

ATI has a winner here if you are a Benelli M4 fan. The 922r compliance nets you what this shotgun should have had while staying legal. The standard kit has an MSRP of $374.99, which is absolutely reasonable. Move up to the deluxe kit adding the heat shield and railed magazine tube shroud and you have all you need at only $550. Considering the first professionally altered M1 stock cost me almost as much this, it’s a downright steal. In the long run, the Raven package makes the Benelli M4 more user-friendly, comfortable to shoot and tactically sound. Nothing is perfect, but this is about as close as it gets for the Benelli M4 tactical shotgun user.

For more information, visit atigunstocks.com or call 800-925-2522.

THE MILITARY’S REMINGTON 870

By Leroy Thompson

Although the Remington 870 shotgun has been around since 1951, initially it did not engender much military interest. During the Korean War and up to the Vietnam War, U.S. troops continued to use the World War II-era Winchester Model 12 and Model 97 Trench and Riot Guns as well as the Stevens Model 520-30 and 620A Trench and Riot Guns. As the U.S. commitment in Vietnam grew, however, there was a need for new shotguns. Even then, the U.S. acquired primarily Ithaca Model 37 and Stevens Model 77E Riot Guns. Having proved itself in U.S. law enforcement use, the Remington 870 would seem to have been a prime candidate for military use, though price may have influenced the choice of shotguns purchased.

In any case, Remington 870s were purchased in the thousands—around 38,500—in the early 1960s to supply the South Vietnamese armed forces. A few may have made it into the hands of U.S. troops acting as advisors, but not many. The first major U.S. military order for 870s was from the Marine Corps. The Marines had been using World War II Trench and Riot Guns, especially Winchester Model 12s. When they decided to acquire a new shotgun, they turned to Remington with some specific requirements. This shotgun was developed in 1969 and had the following characteristics: a 21-inch barrel, a bayonet lug for the M7 bayonet used on the M16, rifle sights, an extended magazine tube that held seven rounds, sling swivels and a Parkerized finish. This shotgun was standardized as the “Model 870 Mark 1” in the spring of 1969, with Remington receiving a contract for 3,200 of them in May 1969. The choice of the M7 bayonet was noteworthy, as traditionally U.S. military shotguns had used the M1917 bayonet from World War I. However, the M7 was readily available and was shorter and less unwieldy than the M1917 bayonet.

The most recent Remington 870 in use with the U.S. armed forces is the 870 Modular Combat System (MCS) adopted by the U.S. Air Force. Designed to allow the shotgun to be configured to the needs of an individual unit or user, the MCS has a basic 870 slide action, but the forearm is contoured and ribbed and has a ridge to prevent the hand going forward to slip in front of the muzzle.

The shotgun has never been a primary weapon in the U.S. armed forces, but in jungle campaigns, counterinsurgency operations and security of installations, it has proven its worth again and again. Operations during the War on Terror have again proven the usefulness of the shotgun. The USAF has addressed the need for a versatile shotgun with adoption of the Remington 870 MCS and by some other U.S. military users that have purchased limited numbers of the 870 MCS as well. The Marines used the Model 870 Mark 1 for decades and were highly satisfied with it. It is really no surprise that the Remington 870 has proven itself capable of military service. It has stood up to a half-century of patrolling in squad cars across the United States.

For more information, visit remington.com or call 800-243-9700.

FN SLP MKI 12 GA.

By Robert A. Sadowski

Eight shots in one second. That’s the rate of fire the FN SLP (Self-Loading Police) MKI shotgun is capable of. Do the math. If each round carries a payload of nine 00 buckshot pellets, there can be 72 projectiles downrange, and those projectiles have about the same energy as a round from a 9mm pistol. FN did the math and packs over 100 years of shotgun know-how into the SLP MKI. It is a hefty brute that handles and maneuvers easily and can make pudding out of whatever is in its way.

The FN SLP MKI debuted back in 2009, and since then a version of it has been used in the hands of winning shooters in 3-Gun competitions. This variant is purpose-built for law enforcement use. It is a gas-operated semi-automatic shotgun that uses what FN calls an Active Valve system. The gas-management mechanism automatically adjusts to use the exact amount of gas needed to reliably operate the action. Two interchangeable gas pistons are included that allow the operator to fine-tune the SLP MKI for a wide range of ammunition. And, as you know paring up the right ammunition with the right shotgun and, in some cases, such as the SLP’s, choke tubes can also influence ammunition selection. Just like ammo for a carbine and rifle, is extremely important to test shotgun ammunition performance.

The MKI is built and functions similar to the Browning Gold and Winchester Super X2 shotguns. When a shell is fired, gas is siphoned off by two ports in the barrel. The gas pushes the gas piston rearward, which in turn pushes the gas sleeve and the operating rod rearward. The rod pushes the bolt slider and bolt toward the rear, the empty shell is tossed out of the ejection port, and a fresh shell moves from the magazine on top of the carrier. The recoil spring then pushes forward on the bolt slide link, chambering the fresh shell. The system operates smoother and cleaner than many other semi-automatic gas systems.

Through all of the testing, it was evident that FN has built a shotgun for tough law enforcement duty use. I did a few tactical reloads and slug changeovers (removing the 00 buckshot shell in the chamber and replacing it with a slug) and found the SLP MKI had nice balance and was simple to operate. As you would expect, the muzzle was slightly heavier, but that in no way impeded acquiring a target quickly. This SLP MKI shotgun is a weapon that can help put the odds in your favor.

For more information, visit fnhusa.com or call 703-288-3500.

Specifications

  • Gauge: 12; 3-inch chamber
  • Barrel: 22 inches
  • OA Length: 43 inches
  • Weight: 8.2 pounds (empty)
  • Stock: Synthetic
  • Sights: Ramp front, adjustable rear
  • Action: Semi-auto
  • Finish: Matte black
  • Capacity: 8+1
  • MSRP: $599

MOLOT VEPR 12 GA.

By David Bahde

There are basically three types of shotguns available for tactical use: pump, standard semi-auto and box-magazine-fed semi-auto. Pump-action shotguns are simple and reliable. Operated by a true expert, they can be incredibly fast. Contrary to popular belief, they can malfunction, but it’s rare. For those willing to put in the time to master these guns, they are excellent. Standard semi-auto shotguns use typical platforms with tube magazines. These shotguns are gas operated, recoil operated or a combination of both. Standard semi-autos can be incredibly reliable, and because there’s no need to master the pump action, they are pretty much point and shoot. Average operators can run these guns very well, very fast and with superb accuracy. They remain the standard for semi-automatic entry shotguns, and are standard-issue for the Marine Corps.

The last category is one that is growing in popularity each year. These guns utilize a standard box magazine similar to a rifle. Most are based on the AK-47 action, but there are a few others that resemble AR-type rifles. Most are gas operated and will reliably operate the same ammunition as any other semi-auto shotgun. Especially in the AK platform, base models generally require a good deal of work to be practical in a combat or tactical environment. Years ago, this work was expensive and required a gunsmith. As these guns have grown in popularity, it has become easier to make them more practical for operational use without the need for thousands in upgrades or months of waiting for a gunsmith. One of the newest additions to this list is the VEPR 12 from MOLOT.

The VEPR 12 was brought to my attention while attending a media event. Another writer who was also a huge AK fan explained how much better suited it was out of the box for tactical operations. Built on an RPK receiver, the MOLOT VEPR 12 is stronger—stiffer than the standard AK receiver—and perfect for the 12 gauge.

All in all, this was a great project, and the enhanced VEPR 12 has become my go-to shotgun for self-protection. Newer imports come with a better stock to help you save some time and money. If you need a solid shotgun for tactical use, this may be just the ticket.

For more information, visit molot-usa.com.

Specifications:

  • Gauge: 12; 3-inch chamber
  • Barrel: 20 inches
  • OA Length: 38 inches
  • Weight: 5.2 pounds (empty)
  • Stock: Bonesteel skeletonized, folding
  • Sights: Fixed front, adjustable rear
  • Action: Piston-operated semi-auto
  • Finish: Matte black
  • Capacity: 5+1 (2¾-inch shells)
  • MSRP: $1,499 (as tested)

ACCURATE ORDNANCE 870 12 GA.

By Rob Garrett

For many years, there were some real steals to be had on police trade-in 870s. Several years ago, I picked up another 870 from a Texas wholesaler. It was a slightly used gun that had an 18-inch barrel, an extended magazine, a synthetic stock and forend, and factory slug sights. This gun was particularly interesting because slug sights are most often found on 20-inch-barreled guns. I ran a few boxes through it and put it in the back of the safe. It was in very good shape and really didn’t need any work until I went to see Mark Kuczka and the Accurate Ordnance folks.

Never one to half-step anything, Kuczka offered to do a complete makeover. The result was absolutely stunning, especially since we’re talking about a homely 870. The shop stripped the gun and ensured that all the parts were serviceable and not worn. The gunsmiths then checked the action bars for proper straightness and alignment, and then deburred and polished the bars. The bolt, slide assembly and locking block were also deburred and polished. While not absolutely essential, the crew gave the 870 a trigger job, which consisted of placing the trigger in a fixture and precisely grinding the surfaces of the sear. This eliminated any creep and gave the trigger a 3-pound break and crisp reset. A Vang Comp large-head safety was also installed.

Accurate Ordnance has the in-house capability to do mil-spec Parkerizing as well as Cerakote. Cerakote is a two-part epoxy, heat-cured coating that provides exceptional durability and corrosion resistance. To ensure proper application, all surfaces are media blasted to the bare metal prior to being coated. Accurate Ordnance coated my 870 with a FDE Cerakote and then coated the stock and forend in a dark brown. The result was an extremely attractive shotgun that is ready for the harshest duty.

If you have an old warhorse 870 that needs a little TLC, then give Kuczka and the great guys at Accurate Ordnance a call. The results will make you fall in love all over again with a shotgun that may well outlive us all.

For more information, visit accurateordnance.com or call 678-219-0096.

Specifications

  • Gauge: 12; 3-inch chamber
  • Barrel: 18 inches
  • OA Length: 38.5 inches
  • Weight: 7 pounds (empty)
  • Stock: Polymer
  • Sights: Ramp front, adjustable rear
  • ACtion: Pump
  • Finish: FDE Cerakote and dark brown
  • Capacity: 6+1
  • MSRP: N/A

 

UTAS UTS 15 12 GA.

By Jorge Amselle

The pump-action shotgun goes back 130 years and has worked exceptionally well. The one reason that more modern designs and semi-autos have not supplanted its popularity is because it can handle any shotgun ammunition in the correct length and gauge with impeccable reliability. It remains one of the most versatile and effective firearms there are, and as long as you do your part it will not let you down.

That said, there is no reason we can’t allow a bit of modernity to sneak in, or perhaps a lot, and produce a shotgun that retains the impeccable reliability of a pump action but in a far more tactical and useful package. That is exactly the idea behind the new UTS 15 bullpup shotgun (which stands for Urban Tactical Shotgun 15 rounds) from UTAS.

As stated, this is a bullpup design, which places the action inside the stock at the very rear of the gun. As a result, the overall length is much shorter without having to sacrifice barrel length or effectiveness. The overall length with the short choke tube installed measured 29.5 inches, while the barrel length measured 20.5 inches.

This 12-gauge, pump-action shotgun also boasts dual magazine tubes that ride side-by-side above the barrel ,with each holding seven rounds of 2¾-inch shells or six rounds of 3-inch magnum shells. With a round in the chamber, this provides the shooter with a total capacity of up to 15 rounds with no reloading and firing as fast as you can pump the action.

In delivering the UTS 15, UTAS has done American shooters a great service. This is a super-fast-shooting, lightweight and reliable tactical shotgun with a plethora of special and well-thought-out features. The extras included make it readily adaptable for home defense or sport use, all in a very compact and easily transportable package.

For more information, visit utas-usa.com or call 847-768-1011.

Specifications

  • Gauge: 12; 3-inch chamber
  • Barrel: 20.5 inches
  • OA Length: 29.5 inches
  • Weight: 6.9 pounds (empty)
  • Sights: None
  • Stock: Polymer
  • Action: Pump
  • Finish: Matte black
  • Capacity: 7+7+1 (2¾-inch shells)
  • MSRP: $1,249

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