Many of these scatterguns are ultra-compact and don’t require a tax stamp, but we have a bunch of SBSs and AOWs that do too!By Joseph Albanese, Tom McHale, and T. Logan MeteshUpdated: March 30, 2020
People seem to have a growing appetite for short shotguns. Ever year, more and models come onto the market, pushing the boundaries on what “short” is. There are a few different approaches to keeping length down. Some look to side-step federal regulations, some use engineering, and others require a lot of red tape. Here’s a look at the best shorty shotguns around.
NON-NFA SHORTY “FIREARMS”
We’re not talking about shotguns in the purest, legal sense here. We’re talking about firearms. That’s because firearms that ignite shot shells that aren’t designed to be shouldered aren’t considered “shotguns” by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). That’s why these firearms can have barrels shorter than 18 inches and not fall into the restricted NFA category. With that said, if we slip up now and then and use the word shotgun, it’s only intended to be descriptive of the ammo it consumes.
When Mossberg launched the original Shockwave and Remington came out with the 870 TAC-14 line, people clearly liked these portable smoothbores. Short, compact, light, and handy, they still pack a veritable punch. Let’s look at some of these downsized blasters in the ever-growing category.
Henry Axe in .410 – Lever Action
The Henry Axe looks like something you would find behind the bar in an Old West saloon. With an overall length of just over 26 inches, the Axe can be stashed behind a bar and darn near anywhere else so it’ll always be handy.ADVERTISEMENT
The lever-action Axe superficially resembles a cutdown “Mare’s Leg” rifle, but it’s chambered for .410 shotshells. The Axe is a blast to shoot, thanks to the low recoil of the .410 shells and the silky-smooth lever. It holds five shells in the tube magazine, and can be easily loaded on the fly with the side gate.
Despite the smooth bore barrel only stretching the tape to 16 inches, it is threaded for Invector-style chokes to give you full control over your shot pattern. MSRP: $970 — Joseph Albanese
Mossberg Shockwave – Pump Action
The Mossberg 590 Shockwave and the Remington 870 TAC-14 hit the scene just weeks apart, and they created quite a splash. Both companies realized that there was a bit of a loophole in the way the National Firearms Act restricts shotgun barrel length, specifically with how it defines a shotgun. Basically, for something to be considered a “shotgun,” and therefore restricted by the act’s rules, it has to have been manufactured with a shoulder stock. It was intended to make it illegal to create sawed-off shotguns.ADVERTISEMENT
However, if a firearms comes from a manufacturer with a shoulder stock never having been installed, it is considered a “firearm” and not subject to the NFA rules on barrel length. Thus, the original Shockwave and TAC-14 were introduced with barrel lengths around the 14-inch mark. Of course, some states still restricted their sale, despite the ATF saying they could be transferred like any long gun, but most have allowed it—even New Jersey.
The original Shockwave was built on Mossberg’s 590 12 gauge shotgun receiver, which is a beefed-up version of the classic Model 500. It has a 14.375-inch barrel and a capacity of 5+1 rounds. It features the same Raptor grip, from Shockwave Technologies, as the TAC-14, which helped make these shorty shotguns viable to many people who abhorred pistol-grip-only shotguns of the past for how clumsy they are to shoot, and how they leave your hand stinging after a couple of rounds. The shape of the Raptor grip doesn’t direct the recoil right into the shooter’s palm, but allows for solid control and retention.
Since its introduction, folks have attached all the aftermarket 500 and 590 products they could, with a number being produces specifically for the Shockwave—and a number of versions have been introduced by Mossberg, some of which are below. The original Shockwave is now also available in 20 gauge and .410 bore. MSRP: $469. —DMADVERTISEMENT
Mossberg 590 Shock ‘n Saw – Pump Action
The Mossberg 500 Tactical Chainsaw was another innovative introduction that made waves at SHOT a couple of years ago. Featuring a pistol grip and distinctive operating grip above the barrel, this firearm was well-suited for specialized duty like breaching doors. Rather than hold the shotgun from underneath, the user “hangs it” from the support hand.
New this year, that same operating grip has been ported to the Shockwave platform to create the 590 Shock ‘n Saw. Given its short 14.375-inch barrel, there’s also a strap to help keep the support hand in place when operating the pump action. Like the other Shockwave models, capacity is 5+1. This one also uses a cylinder bore but adds a breaching texture on the muzzle. Jam it into a wood door frame and it’s less likely to slip. MSRP: $560 —TM
Mossberg 590 Shockwave SPX – Pump Action
If a Mossberg Shockwave can get even more tactical, then the SPX variant is it. Like the Shock ‘n Saw, it features a breaching muzzle. Like the Nightstick, it features a corncob fore-end, only one made from polymer and a canvas strap. The SPX adds a heat shield in a nod to the original trench gun, a top rail for red dot optics, and a sidesaddle shell carrier. It’ll also handle 5+1 capacity of three-inch 12-gauge shells. —TMADVERTISEMENT
Mossberg 590 Nightstick – Pump Action
Remember the Winchester 1897 “Trench Gun” used in WWI and WWII? I wonder if users might have preferred a shorty version of that classic…
The new Mossberg 590 Nightstick is a variant of the popular 590 Shockwave that carries wood furniture consistent with its classic law enforcement tool name.
The Raptor (bird’s head) rounded grip is wood as is the corncob fore-end. The fore-end also carries a leather strap loop instead of a nylon one, which keeps your hand in place during vigorous operation and out of the way of the short muzzle. With a 14.3-inch barrel, you don’t want fingers to slip forward. The strap serves another purpose. It helps the user control muzzle flip when firing powerful 12-gauge loads from such a compact firearm.
This 12-gauge sports a 5+1 shell capacity (with 2.75″ shells), a thick-walled cylinder bore barrel, and 26.37-inch overall length. It’s handy not to mention easy on the eyes. And despite its old school looks, the Nightstick will also work with the Lasersaddle laser sight from Crimson Trace, which is invaluable on a gun that is best fired from the hip. MSRP: $539 —DM
Mossberg 590M Shockwave – Pump Action
Mossberg decided the best way to improve the 590 Shockwave was to add a detachable box magazine. The addition of the box mag makes reloads lightning fast, while still retaining the compact size that made the Shockwave so popular.
All of the standard features of the regular 590 Shockwave are present, including twin action bars, dual extractors, and a heavy-walled barrel, but the “M” model accepts 5-, 10-, 15-, and 20-round magazines made by Mossberg, seriously upping the capacity of the shorty.
The anodized aluminum receiver only takes 2.75-inch shells, but you probably don’t want to deal with the recoil of anything larger anyway. The receiver is drilled and tapped should you decide you need an optic or other accessory. The traditional Mossberg corncob forend is present, and features a nylon strap to keep your hand in place when shucking the action.
The now-familiar Raptor grip takes up the rear, making the short shotty easy to handle as well as manipulate the ambidextrous top-tang safety. MSRP: $721 — JA
Remington Model 870 TAC-14 – Pump Action
As I mentioned above, the Remington Model 870 TAC-14 came out around the same time as the Mossberg Shockwave and is built on the gunmaker’s eminently reliable 870 pump-action shotgun platform. It sports a 14-inch barrel and has a capacity of 6 rounds. Unlike the Shockwave, which features Mossberg’s typical corncob pump handle, the TAC-14 features a Magpul M-Lok forend, making it easier to customize with home defense accessories like a gun light or laser sight.
The TAC-14 is available in 12 or 20 gauge and in a few configurations, which are listed below, and also with hardwood furniture, much like the Nightstick above. MSRP: $443 —DM
Remington TAC-14 DM – Pump Action
Remington calls the TAC-14 DM “The shortest allowable distance between powerless and prepared.”
With all of the firepower of a 12-gauge pump outfitted with quick-reloading detachable box magazines (proprietary design holding 6 rounds) in a super compact package they might just be right.
The TAC-14 uses the familiar, time-proven 870 receiver with the addition of the magazine well, so there should be a short learning curve for anyone that’s used one of Remington’s pumps.
A Raptor pistol grip provides tames recoil and positions your trigger finger. The Magpul M-Lock forend adds ergonomic shucking ability, and lets you easily add lights or lasers. MSRP: $559 —JA
Remington 870 TAC-14 Arm Brace – Pump Action
The AR-pistol clan has taken to braces like moths to a flame. The non-stocks provide additional points of contact, which makes shooting easier and more accurate.
Big Green thought a brace would work well on a non-NFA scattergun, and the result is the Remington 870 Tac-14 Arm Brace. Despite being outfitted with a Mesa Tactical brace, the 870 Tac-14 Arm Brace is only 33.5 inches long, thanks to the 14-inch barrel.
A single bead on the fixed-choke cylinder bore barrel provides sighting, and a Magpul M-Lock forend provides an easy way to add a variety of accessories. And you know it will work when you need it to, thanks to the decades of performance delivered by other 870 models. MSRP: $729 — JA
Remington V3 TAC-13 – Semi-Auto
Remington offers semi-auto convenience in a small package with their V3 TAC-13. The VersaPort gas ports bleed energy from the system to cycle the action, ejecting a spent shell and adding a new one—just like in the Big Green’s full-sized offerings. That diversion of energy also helps to tame recoil. With a 26.5-inch overall length and weight of just 5.94 pounds, that’s a big deal.
The V3 TAC-13 accommodates both 2 ¾ and 3-inch shells and holds 5+1. Just like a traditional shotgun, this one includes a sighting rail that extends along the length of the 13-inch barrel and a sighing bead on top of the muzzle. As with the other short shell-shooting firearms, the V3 TAC-13 includes a fore-end strap to help control recoil and muzzle flip. MSRP: $915 —DM
Charles Daly Defense Honcho Tactical – Semi-Auto
Charles Daly Defense is giving the folks at Mossberg a run for their money in terms of investment in a family of shorty shotties. Several models are new for 2019, one of which is a semi-automatic version of their Honcho Tactical.
This entry in the list features a bird’s head grip with a twist. You’ll note three finger grooves for improved purchase on the limited stock space. Up front is a textured polymer hand guard. Like many other traditional semi-automatics, the magazine tube end cap features a sling swivel should you want to rig up a carry method.
Under the fore-end is a short rail segment, perfect for a tactical light or laser. We suppose you could mount a bayonet up there too if expect to use this firearm to ward off Zombie hordes.
The 12-gauge Honcho Tactical Semi-Automatic handles 3-inch shells and packs a 5+1 capacity. The 14-inch barrel is topped with a traditional sighting rail and bead front sight.
The Honcho is also available as a pump gun in 12 and 20 gauge and .410 bore. A detachable-box-magazine-fed version of the Honcho Tactical with a spring-assisted pump action will also soon be available.
All Charles Daly Defense models are distributed exclusively by Chiappa Firearms. MSRP: Honcho Tactical Semi – $499; Honcho Tactical Pump .410 – $369; Honcho Tactical Pump – $309; Honcho Tactical Mag Fed – $339 —TM
Charles Daly Honcho Tactical Triple – Break Action
The creativity with simplicity award goes to… Charles Daly Defense. The Honcho Tactical Triple as the name implies is a double-barrel plus one. Yes, this model welds three smooth cylinder bore barrels together is a triangular shape – two side by side with one stacked on top in the center. It’s a pyramid of shotshell delivery.
The barrels are longer than pump and semi-automatic alternatives and here’s why. The break-action means no lengthy receiver is required. Pump and semi-automatic designs require horizontal space to move shells back and forth into the chamber. With this model, the shells are already in the chamber, so there’s no overall length penalty with the Tactical Triple’s 18.5-inch barrels.
The whole package measures just 27 inches – one-quarter of an inch shorter than the company’s Honcho Tactical Magazine-Fed Pump Action and exactly the same length as the Honcho Tactical Semi-Automatic.
As you’ve guessed, capacity is… three. When you want more shots, break the barrel open and drop in new shells. If you want less beast to tame than the 12-gauge model offers, you can also order this one in .410 bore. MSRP: $1,299 —DM
Black Aces Tactical Pro Series S – Semi-Auto
Black Aces Tactical gets the nod for value on a semi-automatic shorty shotty. With an MSRP of just $449, it is the least expensive semi of the new crop. This model is made from the ground up by BAT and includes the grip made by Shockwave Technologies, the same used on the Mossberg Shockwave, which gives that model its name.
The Black Aces Semi packs one less shell than the 12 gauge Shockwave, with a 4+1 capacity, but gives you a slightly shorter overall length at just 26.5 inches, and that’s with a 14-inch barrel like other non-NFA models.
The receiver is 6061 T6 Aluminum but the bolt, charging handle, and bolt release button are nickel-plated. MSRP: $449 —TM
Black Aces Tactical Pro Series S Mini – Semi-Auto
Thanks to a brace, the semiauto Pro Series S Mini only has a 10-inch barrel but still meets the 26-inch overall length requirement to avoid needing a Tax Stamp.
The 12-gauge receiver takes three-inch shells, and is drilled and tapped for a Mossberg rail so you can add an optic. The SB Tactical SBA3 arm brace adjusts to six positions to get a perfect fit and keeps you shooting straight.
Despite the brace and walnut forend, the Pro Series S Mini only weighs 5.8 pounds. MSRP: $599 — Joseph Albanese
Like a few of the other guns on this list, the N4S from Charles Daly actually IS a shotgun, but it’s design makes it just as short as the other guns on this list, without crossing into NFA territory.
This 12 gauge bullpup, magazine-fed semi-auto and has a 20-inch barrel with an overall length of just 29.25 inches. It also includes flip-up sights, a five-round magazine, and a 3-inch chamber. With an aluminum receiver, the whole package weighs in at 9.3 lbs. The N4S also features a Beretta/Benelli Mobil Choke and comes with a modified choke installed. MSRP: $649.00 —DM
Charles Daly Defense Honcho – Pump Action
In the traditional shotgun world, box magazine-fed models are making big inroads for tactical and defensive use. Tube magazines offer “ok” capacity given that shotgun shells are huge, but reloads are time consuming and sensitive to finger fumbling. Taking a hint from the pistol and AR worlds, box magazines for shotguns offer instant and reliable reloads.
The new Honcho Tactical Pump feeds its 12-gauge shells from a five-round box magazine. Like the other Charles Daly offerings, it handles three-inch shells and you can carry one in the chamber for a total capacity of six. It includes a 14-inch barrel and synthetic bird’s head grip and stock. The folks at the Chiappa booth say that this firearm may be delayed a bit because of ATF approvals being hung up by the ongoing federal government shutdown. MSRP: $339 —JA
Standard Mfg. Co. SKO Mini – Semi-Auto
And now for something completely different…
The Standard Manufacturing SKO Mini is a semi-automatic with a non-traditional (at least in the shotgun world) operating design. As a “firearm” and not a shotgun or pistol, the SKO Mini offers a compact package with two vertical grips – fore and aft. The grip itself is AR compatible, so many aftermarket grips will fit if you have a preferred model. Up front is a rail-mounted vertical grip, so you can use it as is or remove it for a more traditional fore-end. You’ll also note that the controls are “AR-like” in nature.
The 27-inch overall length is right in line with all the other models we’ve discussed even though the barrel is a tad longer than most at 14 ¾ inches. The SKO Mini is also a bit heavier at 7.14 pounds, but hey, that’s what the forward vertical grip is for.
The SKO Mini uses a detachable box magazine and the included mag holds two rounds, but you can order five- and 10-round magazines if you prefer. There’s one more big difference – the barrel is threaded with the Tru-Choke pattern, so you can adjust shot pattern to preference or even use a door breacher if that’s your intended use. MSRP: $699 —TM
Reproduction Winchester 1887 Lever Action Shorty Shotguns
If you’ve seen Terminator, then you’re familiar with the Winchester 1887 shotgun. In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, it’s the shotgun that Arnold Schwarzenegger fires as he’s riding the motorcycle, spinning it via the lever action.
Winchester ceased production of the John Moses Browning-designed Model 1887 in 1901, but not before the lever-action shotgun became a favorite of both the lawless and lawmen in the Old West. The 1887 represented a serious bump in firepower, as shotguns had mostly been double barrel affairs that only held two rounds. In 1901, it was retooled to handle the higher pressures of the newly introduced smokeless powders, but largely looked the same. The Model 1887/1901 was ultimately discontinued in 1920, but remains relevant in pop culture to this day.
Original 1887s are a rarity today, but you can get your hands on a reproduction that is every bit as fun to shoot as the original. Chiappa makes a couple versions of the 1887 in shortened form, with pistol grips and 18.5-inch barrels making them legal to own without a Tax Stamp. Both are chambered for 2.75-inch 12-gauge shells, and feature the original solid lever but adds an innovative internal safety.
The Chiappa 1887 Mare’s Leg wears a gorgeous color case hardened finish and oiled walnut furniture that is sure to turn heads at the range.
The T-Model looks like it came right out of Arnold’s hand and jumped off the silver screen, with futuristic rubber-coated walnut stocks. Taylor’s & Company has a version of the Chaippa that’s somewhere between the two, with black metal and walnut furniture. Chiappa Color Case Hardened MSRP: $1,356; Chiappa T-Model MSRP: $1,370; Taylor’s & Company 1887 Bootleg MSRP: $1,335 — Joseph Albanese
Bullpups are legally defined as shotguns, but their configuration lets them stay right at the 26-inch minimum length. The receiver is shoved rearward behind the trigger, permitting the legally required 18.5-inch barrel and a shoulder stock to stay in a compact package. Because of their layout, their triggers tend to be a bit sloppy, but this doesn’t matter nearly as much in a shot gun as it does in a rifle.
Escort BTS Bullpup Shotgun – Semi-Auto
Escort and Hatsan took a totally new approach when they built the BTS Bullpup. The new inline gas piston design is mounted around the barrel, minimizing bulk and permitting use of the bullpup layout.
The polymer lower receiver also doubles as the forend grip, with soft rubber inlays for improved handling. The one-piece carry handle sight can be replaced with included flip-up sights for a lower profile or when using mounted optics.
Available in both 12 gauge and .410, the BTS ships with 5-round detachable box magazines. MSRP: $589 — JA
Black Aces Tactical Pro Bullpup – Semi-Auto
Black Aces is probably best known for their non-NFA short scatterguns but they recently entered the bullpup market with the introduction of the Tactical Pro.
Unlike many others, the Tactical Pro can be had in both right- or left-hand configurations, which is especially important in a bullpup layout where spent shells can hit you in the face when they are ejected. An ambidextrous charging handle, safety, and magazine release make this a true righty or lefty gun.
The receiver features a full-length rail, so you can add the sights or optics of your choosing. A short section of rail can be found on the sides and bottom of the forend, allowing you to secure lights, lasers, and the included vertical foregrip.
The Tactical Pro uses 1919 magazines and drums, but ships with a two- and five-round mag, as well as three choke tubes. MSRP: $679 —JA
Kel-Tec KSG – Pump Action
The original high capacity bullpup shotgun is the Kel-Tec KSG. What makes it unique is the dual, side-by-side magazine tube design. Load seven shells in each tube (2.75”) plus one in the chamber and you have a total 15-shot overall capacity. With 3” shells, the capacity is reduced to 13 rounds.
What makes the KSG particularly interesting is the ability to select between magazine tubes. If you want to load slugs in one and buck shot in the other, a simple lever throw allows you to switch the ammo type of the next round to feed on demand.
Those shells can be standard 2.75” or 3”, or some of each. Even though it’s just 26.1” long, it contains a legal 18.5”. A long rail over the barrel allows attachment of iron sights and/or an optic.
The KSG also features downward ejection, so it’s fully ambidextrous. MSRP: $990 —Tom McHale
Kel-Tec KS7 – Pump Action
The original Kel-Tec KSG turned the world of defensive shotguns on its ear. Love it or hate it, the KSG was a concept that broke new ground.
As outlined above, with its barrel and dual magazine tube, it holds a dozen 2.75” 12-gauge shells and allows the user to stock different loads and switch ammo types with a simple lever flip. On the other hand, the KSG is a bit of a beast – it’s short but wide and heavy, especially when fully loaded.
The KS7 keeps the compact form factor and short overall length. Its bullpup design keeps the overall length to just 26.1 inches. The KS7 makes a departure from the dual tube concept to a more traditional arrangement of one magazine tube and one barrel for a total capacity of 7+1 with 2.75” and 6+1 with 3” shells.
The tradeoff for the reduced capacity is lighter weight, width reduction, and improved handling. The super light weight of 5.9 lbs. (unloaded) is the first thing you notice about the KS7 when you pick it up. The second is its excellent ergonomics, which help reduce felt recoil in such a small shotgun. With downward ejecting shells, it’s good to go for righties or lefties, a rarity for bullpups.
You’ll also notice that the KS7 sports a large removable carry handle that serves double duty as a sight rail, complete with a fiber optic tube sight. It also provides a couple M-LOK slots on each side for a gun light or a laser sight or both. There are two more M-LOK slots on the forend as well. FOR OUR POST ON CUSTOMIZING THE KS7, GO HERE MSRP: $495 —DM
IWI Tavor TS12 – Semi-Auto
Kel-Tec broke the bullpup capacity barrier by sticking two magazines side by side. IWI ups the ante by using three with the Tavor ATS12. With two tubes side by side and one stacked on top, the TS12 is fed by a rotating pyramid of three magazine tubes.
Each one will hold four 3-inch shells or five 2 ¾-inch shells, so total capacity is 16. That’s almost a bull box of 12-gauge ammo. The operation of this semi-automatic is interesting. When you rotate the magazine assembly, a shell feeds from the currently selected magazine, so there are no manual actions required besides magazine selection.
While ejection is to the side, you can swap the ejection port to either side so the TS12 is equally friendly to righties and lefties. A near full-length rail on top allows addition of iron and/or optical sights. Four sling attachment points help you transport the weight of a full-loaded TS12. This shotgun also uses the Beretta / Benelli choke system for pattern customization. MSRP: $1,399 —Tom McHale
Tristar Compact – Semi-Auto
The Tristar Compact is a bullpup fed by five-round box magazines, so each load offers 5+1 capacity but with fast reloads. The Tristar compact features an integrated carry handle equipped with flip-up sights. A rail segment under the fore-end is useful for a forward grip but is probably too far below the bore for laser use. This barrel is threaded for the Beretta/Benelli Mobil Extended Cylinder Choke Tube system so you can customize patterns based on your choice of load. It’ll handle 3-inch shells. MSRP: $700 —Tom McHale
Standard Manufacturing DP-12 – Pump Action
Standard Manufacturing broke the mold when they built the DP-12. This unusual shotgun has two barrels, one right next to the other, which are fed using a pump action mechanism. Below each is a magazine tube that holds seven rounds on each side. When you cycle the pump using the forward vertical grip, two rounds are loaded from the magazine tubes into their respective barrels.
At this point, we have the same operation as a traditional double-barrel shotgun, meaning that each press of the trigger fires a shot. Press twice and a shell fires from each of the two barrels. That gives the user two shots before a pump action is required to reload the chambers. Go that? It’s a wide shotgun but the vertical grip mitigates any handling challenges up front. It sports a full rail up top and the Beretta / Benelli choke system. MSRP: $1,395 —TM
Charles Daly N4S- Semi-Auto
This 12 gauge bullpup, magazine-fed semi-auto and has a 20-inch barrel with an overall length of just 29.25 inches. It also includes flip-up sights, a five-round magazine, and a 3-inch chamber. With an aluminum receiver, the whole package weighs in at 9.3 lbs. The N4S also features a Beretta/Benelli Mobil Choke and comes with a modified choke installed. MSRP: $649 —DM
So far, we’ve looked at a number of short “shotguns” that are just long enough to skip the Tax Stamp process. But if those aren’t short enough for you, contact the ATF and pony up $200 for the right to purchase one of the sub-compact models listed below. Like most laws created by the ATF, the definitions of what’s what when it comes to shotguns with severely abbreviated barrels is about as clear as mud.
Some are defined as AOWs, or Any Other Weapon, and lumped in a category with pen guns and the like. Others are legally classified as Short Barreled Shotguns, or SBS, though there’s some overlap between the two. Be prepared to spend some time dealing with the ATF if you want to purchase any of the guns listed below.
Fostech Origin 12 Short Barrel Shotgun – Semi-Auto
The Fostech Origin 12 manages to meld some of the best features of the AR and AK platforms—into a shotgun. Though the notoriously unreliable AK-based Saiga shotgun serves as the basis for the Origin 12, designer Judd Foster of Fostech tweaked the platform until it ran reliably. The reason it works so well is the giant gas tube that allows for near infinite adjustments, letting the Fostech succeed where most Saigas have failed.
Despite taking cues from AKs and ARs, the controls take a minute to get used to. A non-reciprocating bolt handle allows the shooter to rack a shell, but won’t damage your hands if you put them in the wrong spot. The safety and magazine release are ambidextrous.
The receiver features a large ejection port, covered with an AR-style dust cover. A low bore axis helps with muzzle flip, and lets shooters recover quickly even with the extremely short 9.75-inch barrel. When the buttstock is folded in, the Origin 12 SBS takes up about the same space as a personal defense weapon, or PDW, like the MP5.
Another issue with the Saiga is the magazines, which Foster also addressed. The Fostech feeds from purpose-built box magazines that don’t require you to rock them in like the AK-derived mags of the Saiga do, keeping them feeding well by not deforming the nose of the first round. There are also 20- and 30-round drums, which perform better than pretty much every other drum on the market. That comes at a cost though, with prices starting ta $475 and going up from there. The stick mags are much more reasonably priced, running from $45 to $55.
If you don’t want to deal with the ATF, you can also get an Origin 12 with an 18.5-inch barrel. MSRP: $2,900 — Joseph Albanese
Remington 870 Breacher (AOW) – Pump Action
Though dynamic entry teams have mostly rely on M4-length or shorter rifles and sidearms, the need for shotgun hasn’t disappeared. Many departments still use scatterguns to force open doors, and if it isn’t going to be used as a defensive weapon once inside the smaller it is the better.
Remington introduced the 870 in the 1950s, and it’s seen plenty of iterations since then. Perhaps one of the most interesting is the Breacher. As the name implies, this pistol-grip shotgun was designed for ballistic breaching, and as such it only has a 10-inch barrel.
That cuts the magazine capacity down to three rounds, but hopefully that’s all that’s needed to defeat the door. Even though it’s only 20.25 inches long, the Breacher is chambered for 3-inch magnum loads. MSRP: $995 — JA
Mossberg 500 Compact Cruiser (AOW) – Pump Action
The 500 Compact Cruiser features an unbelievably short 7.5-inch barrel. Because the barrel is so short, there’s no room below it for a traditional pump forend. Instead, a folding vertical grip provides a place for your other hand and a way to shuck the next shell in.
You won’t be doing too much pumping however, as the super short magazine tube only holds two rounds. Otherwise, the 500 Compact Cruiser has all the other Mossberg features you’re familiar with: ambidextrous safety, dual extractors, positive steel-to-steel lockup, and anti-jam elevator. MSRP: $610 — JA
Benelli M2 Tactical Entry – Semi-Auto
Benelli’s line of semis use inertia instead of exhaust gas to cycle the action, making them impressively reliable even if cleaning doesn’t occur as often as it should. The Inertia Drive system found in the M2 has been around since the 1980s, and has gained a large following in both the sporting and tactical realms because it functions flawlessly in every condition. This system is beyond simple, with only three major parts—bolt body, rotating bolt head and inertia spring—making it nearly foolproof.
For many military and police forces across the globe, the M2 is the shotgun of choice. While you can get the M2 with barrels up to 28 inches, law enforcement officers prefer the shorter models. The M2 Tactical line features purpose-built semis sporting pistol grips and barrels from 14 to 18.5 inches in length. The Entry model comes with a 14-inch barrel, a five plus one capacity, and your choice of ghost ring or rifle sights.
The M2 has garnered accolades beyond the tactical arena, and into the hands of 3-Gun competitors the world over. Tuners such a Taran Tactical have given the gun enlarged controls and opened loading ports to make them even faster in competition. MSRP: $1,349 — Joseph Albanese
Remington 870 Modular Combat Shotgun – Pump Action
If the 870 Breacher is a one-trick pony, the 870 Modular Combat Shotgun is the jack-of-all-trades. The Modular Combat Shotgun (MCS) is an all-in-one system, designed to give the operator a wide variety of configurations using a single 870 receiver.
The kit comes complete with multiple barrels, magazine tube extensions and stock options that can be installed by the operator on the ground without tools. Included barrels are 10-, 14-, and 18-inches to provide the right length for any defensive situation.
The outfit even comes with a sidesaddle shell holder, sling, cleaning kit and full suite of choke tubes. The whole system packs neatly away in a ballistic nylon storage bag. MSRP: $2,500 — Joseph Albanese
Benelli Nova Tactical Entry – Pump Action
When Benelli introduced the Nova in 1990s, it was something of a novelty. At the time synthetic stocks were more or less only available as aftermarket options, so its steel-reinforced polymer one-piece receiver and buttstock really stood out on gun store shelves. The pump action had another standout feature: a magazine disconnect button in the forend that allows you to empty the chamber without drawing another shell up from the magazine tube. This allows the operator to empty the chamber without drawing a shell up from the magazine, allowing an officer to return it to the trunk without cycling every shell out.
Like the M2, you can get the Nova with barrels up to 28 inches. But those interested in using the pump for home defense or law enforcement would be most interested in the shorter models in the Tactical line, sporting barrels from 14 to 18.5 inches in length. The Entry model comes with a 3.5-inch chamber, 14-inch barrel, a four plus one capacity, and ghost ring sights. MSRP: $549 — Joseph Albanese
MUST HAVE SHORTY SHOTGUN ACCESSORIES
Shotgun or not, you still have to aim it. While shorty “pistol” shotguns are handy and portable, they’re not exactly easy to aim at eye level, at least while providing a stable and solid firing platform. That’s where the Crimson Trace LaserSaddle shines.
Support the shotgun wherever you like, waist, center torso, shoulder area, up free-floated at eye level, and you’ll have a positive aiming solution. At a pre-release event I tested this out on clay targets at 25 yards and… it works like a champ. Getting on target and getting consistent hits was easy, even from a waist-high hold. Mossberg now offers the Shockwave from the factory with a Laser Saddle installed. MSRP: $169 (red laser) and $219 (green laser) —DM
While one might assume you have to match shorty shotties with shorty ammo that’s not necessarily the case. However, there’s a good reason to do so. Decreased recoil and increased capacity.
Federal Premium’s new Shorty Shotshells are 12-gauge loads, but measure just 1 ¾ inches long. They’re produced in three varieties: a 15/16th ounce #8 shot, 15-pellet #4 buck shot, and one-ounce rifled slug loads.
The #8 shot carries a muzzle velocity of 1175 feet per second while the buck shot and slugs cruise at 1,200 feet per second. If you choose to use these in short smoothbore firearms, you’ll likely get less velocity.
Since guns chambers and feeding mechanisms vary, be sure to test these in your chosen firearm first to make sure they feed reliably. While they’ll always work in a break action, they may or may not feed with all semi and pump guns.
MSRP: #8 Shot (10): $5.95, #4 Buck Shot (10): $11.95, Slugs (10): $11.95 —DM
If you already have a Mossberg Shockwave but want to take it to the next level, Black Aces Tactical has you covered. Their Quad Rail and Side Shell Holder kit comes complete with everything you need to give your Shockwave a mean look, along with enough rail space to mount lasers, lights, and sights.
The side shell holder carries an additional five shells, so you can have back up when needed. A spike affixes to the magazine tube to give a bayonet-like look to the shorty.
The whole thing is built from 60601 T6 aluminum for light weight and durability. MSRP: $214 — Joseph Albanese
Some folks can find the non-NFA scatterguns a bit unruly to fire, thanks to their short nature. A brace can help with that, taming recoil by providing additional points of contact, while still maintaining the gun’s non-NFA status—because a brace is not a stock, according to the ATF.