Inside The Bold New World Of Tactical Shotguns

Despite the shotgun’s rich tradition and the reliable simplicity of the basic 12-gauge pump, shotguns have not been left unchanged by the 21st century and the tactical revolution.
Inside The Bold New World Of Tactical Shotguns

Shotguns are the old reliable in the firearms market. No matter the exact circumstances, a shotgun, usually 12 gauge and pump-action, is a viable part of almost any gun owner’s arsenal. Even as the number of guns marketed for home protection multiplies and the range of specialized defense ammunition grows, a trusty 12 gauge loaded with buckshot is almost always regarded as the definitive home defense weapon. Often, proponents like to point out that simply racking a shell will be enough to convince intruders to have a change of heart. Also common in the hands of hunters and competitors, the shotgun remains prominent in a firearms market that seems obsessed with ARs and all things “tactical.”

Despite the shotgun’s rich tradition and the reliable simplicity of the basic 12-gauge pump, shotguns have not been left unchanged by the 21st century and the tactical revolution. The initial tactical-ization of the shotgun appeared in the form of pistol grips, accessory rails and black polymer furniture. As functional design and utilitarian aesthetics grow in popularity, shotguns are morphing along with rifles and handguns into platforms ready for the adaptability that AR owners have found to be so useful.

Bullpup Big Bore

One of the first new-look shotguns through the breach was the Kel-Tec KSG, which debuted at the 2011 SHOT Show. It was the talk of the floor then, and its eventual release to the public became a major event, even in the over-excitable shooting world. Delays and long waiting lists only drove demand higher.

The KSG is a futuristic-looking pump-action 12 gauge, taking advantage of a bullpup design to deliver a heavy hitter in a short, maneuverable package. It has an 18.5 inch barrel and an overall length of only 26 inches. It’s 7 inches high and weighs in at 8.5 pounds fully loaded. Its ambidextrous ergonomics and bullpup design make it a great gun for professional and home defense use where compactness counts.

The KSG has two seven-round magazine tubes side by side under the barrel, delivering an astounding 14+1 capacity when loaded with 2.75 inch shells. The shooter uses a manual lever to select which tube will feed into the chamber, which allows the use of two different loads as the need arises. The tubes are slotted for visual identification of the ammo and rounds remaining. Whichever tube is selected can be reloaded like a standard pump-action, one round at a time. The tube selector lever can be centered, which doesn’t load a shell when the action is racked. The KSG accepts 3-inch shells (12+1 capacity) and ejects spent shells downwards.

The bullpup configuration helps cut down on the felt recoil. Since the punch is originating closer to the shoulder than in a traditional shotgun and the muzzle isn’t as far forward, heavy loads don’t hit as hard and follow up shots are more accurate.

The KSG has standard tactical rails top and bottom. A typical configuration has a vertical grip forward, not only for quick and sure handling, but also for easy racking. Sights, whether basic open sights or advanced optics, can be quickly and easily bolted on top.

Another shotgun that looks like it comes from a science fiction movie where heroes battle hordes of murderous machines or mindless zombies is the UTS-15 from the Turkish firearms company UTAS Makine. Built under license in a new facility in Des Moines, Iowa, by UTAS-USA, the UTS-15 is a pump-action bullpup design that incorporates a lot of polymer — over 85 percent of the gun including the molded receiver.

Twin magazine tubes are situated above the 18.5 inch barrel, and a switch allows for alternate feeding or loading from one tube or the other. It can hold seven rounds in each tube, for a total of 14+1. By feeding from both tubes, a manual change to the other tube isn’t required when one is emptied. It loads from the top. A slot along the top allows a visual of the remaining shells, and the frame is numbered along the top of the tubes for easy counting. The barrel has Beretta-style threading for a variety of choke tubes or an optional 7.5 inch barrel extension.

A full-length tactical rail runs along the top for easy mounting of optics and other accessories. As the side-by-side magazine tubes are above the barrel on the UTS-15 instead of below, the pump is narrow enough to be easily cycled by hand without a vertical grip. The barrel retaining tube is designed to accommodate an optional green laser/flashlight unit with a remote switch.

In addition to standard black, the UTS-15 is available in three additional color schemes: Desert, Hunting, and Marine. The desert model incorporates a specially formulated desert sand base coat, while the Hunting model uses the striking Next G-1 Vista camouflage pattern from Next Camo. Next G-1 Vista uses photo realistic elements in a balanced blend of natural green and brown including oak leaves and pine branches. It’s all on a background of grey tree limbs and branches for effectiveness in both spring and fall.

The UTS-15 Marine was designed to meet the specifications of OBS24 Security Services, a leading security firm which, among other things, provides security for commercial shipping in the pirate-infested waters off the coast of Somalia. A blue, black, and gray non-glare digital camo pattern combined with corrosion-resistant metal components and satin nickel plating make the UTS-15 able to hold up in salt water conditions with minimal maintenance.

Going Rotary

The autoloading SRM Arms Model 1216 shotgun uses a four-tube sixteen round detachable magazine assembly for high capacity 12 gauge shooting. When one four-round tube is emptied, the magazine is simply rotated a quarter turn to line up the next tube for more shells. If even more rounds are needed, a new magazine can be snapped in place quickly.

The overall length of the SRM Model 1216 is 32 inches. It has a standard-style pistol grip and a polymer shoulder stock with ambidextrous controls. It has tactical rails for the mounting of sights, lights, and other accessories, while roller delayed action reduces felt recoil and the straight stock cuts down on muzzle rise.

The 1216 cycles fast and reliably, with a video on the SRM web site demonstrating 16 rounds fired in only six seconds. Another video shows three complete magazines being emptied in thirty seconds, including the magazine changes. Clearly, the capacity of the SRM 16, the smooth autoloading performance, and the fast magazine changes make it ideal for high-volume shooting.

In addition to the Model 1216 for civilians, shorter law enforcement NFA models are also available. These models have 12 and 8 round capacities due to shorter magazines under shorter barrels. Operation is identical to the 1216. Also, a California-compliant model is available. It uses a magazine lock that requires a tool for mag removal. Interestingly, the four, four-round tubes count as four separate magazines under California firearm regulations, meaning that the standard 16-round capacity is not affected.

New this year is the Gen 2 series from SRM. Upgrades include a billet receiver, fluted chamber and upgraded tactical spine. Also hammer forged barrels with a high temp nitride finish and reinforced Zytel magazine bodies increase the durability and reliability of the Gen 2 guns.

New Takes

Unveiled at the 2014 SHOT Show, Rhino Arms’ new 12-gauge shotgun is based on an AR-10 platform. It uses a standard Rhino lower receiver, making a quick change from shotgun to .308 rifle possible by popping two pins and putting a rifle upper on just like any AR platform. Controls and operation are identical to standard ARs, and the forward handguard features KeyMod slotting for attachment of accessories. The handguard is available in both aluminum and carbon fiber, and the upper receiver has a Picatinny tactical rail for optics. It uses a proprietary 10-round detachable magazine (5-round available) covered in a “Rhino Skin” stainless steel texture coating for easy grip and solid durability.

Since Rhino lowers are DPMS pattern, the Rhino upper receivers, including the new shotgun upper, will work on DPMS pattern lowers from other manufacturers. Currently, Rhino is not selling separate uppers.

Another exciting new shotugn making its debut at the SHOT Show this year was the Crye Precision Six12 modular bullpup. The Six12 is unusual for a number of reasons, the first of which is that Crye Precision is new to the firearms manufacturing market.

An established maker of combat apparel, armor vests, ballistic helmets and other tactical gear, Crye Precision is entering the firearms manufacturing sector with a much talked-about scatter gun. Secondly, the Six12 is a modular design, capable of being mounted on an AR-15 style platform for use as a door breacher and also available to civilians with a stock and rails unit as a standalone gun.

Finally, the Six12 is not only a bullpup, but it is a bullpup revolver. A six-round revolving cylinder, operated by a double-action trigger, holds up to 3-inch shells and can be detached and replaced with a pre-loaded cylinder for quick reloads. Shorter barrel lengths for law enforcement use will be available. The Six12 will be available in late 2014, and expect hype to build on this bad boy as the year progresses.


In the rifle market, the tactical revolution has settled into an evolution as manufacturers figure out what shooters want and various new concepts have been proven or rejected. In the shotgun market, however, the revolution is just beginning.

Think back to the wild days following the sunset of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban and the way so many new things were hitting the market all at once. New accessories based on military technology, military style gear adapted for hunting, and breakthrough advances in design like the Magpul Masada? That’s where the tactical shotgun market is right now. Hang on for the ride.


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