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Smaller is Better; Remington’s new 20-Gauge TAC-14 shotgun

Following the success of Remington’s poke-the-BATEFE-bear 14-inch firearm, the company added new versions of the TAC-14 to it’s lineup. The most noteworthy is this week’s release of the smaller, 20-gauge TAC-14.

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Remington 870 TAC-14 Marine Magnum 12-Gauge

Remington’ says the most popular request from the public was actually for a corrosion resistant model; we assume to protect yachts and bikini-topped jeep owners from pirates and overly aggressive squeegee men? In any case, Remington released the Marine Magnum version of the 870 TAC-14 last month with an $841 price tag. While spendy for an 870, all of its internal components are electroless nickel-plated; in fact, every part of the gun that isn’t synthetic is e-nickeled, inside and out. The plating is a thick, durable finish that can resist abuse, while also lending a slightly smoother feel to the 870’s action.

The second biggest request, and one we shared, was for a 20-gauge TAC-14. As interesting as the 12-gauge TAC-14 is, the 20-gauge is a lot more practical. Taming the recoil of a 12-gauge without the benefit of a stock is doable, if supremely unpleasant for shooters of average stature and strength. But you don’t have to be a burlyman to recognize the benefit of a more easily controlled stubby shotgun. And that’s exactly what the 20-gauge TAC-14 is.

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Remington 870 TAC-14 20-Gauge with Magpul vertical grip and Surefire M300 Scout Light in a KDG offset mount. See our notes on using the KDG mount with the polymer handguard in the article.

We got our hands on the first batch of 20-gauge TAC-14s to come off the line a few weeks before their release. Having put a dozen boxes of shells through the 12-gauge, we much prefer it over the 12-gauge for all the reasons you’d expect.

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Mesa Tactical’s Lucy grip adapter.

The 20-gauge TAC-14 conversion is possible thanks to Mesa Tactical’s Lucy adapter, shown above, a step down adapter allowing the 12-gauge-sized shockwave grip to mate soundly on the 20-gauge’s slightly smaller receiver. On the forward end, Remington fabbed up a simple sleeve that ups the diameter of the magazine tube, allowing Magpul’s MOE M-LOK Forend to fit on the smaller action, shown below.

Remington's mag tube adapter

Remington’s mag tube adapter.

20-GAUGE SETUP

The biggest benefit of the 20-gauge is the reduced recoil. While it’s more forgiving than its big brother, a shotgun is a shotgun, and the stockless 20-gauge TAC-14 is still a handful. We put time in, shooting it both from the hip and pushed out in front of the face, sighting down the barrel. While running it high carries less of a risk to your face than holding the 12-gauge the same way, we still felt there was a chance we’d end up eating the birds head grip if we let up on the gun for just a second.

To mitigate the risk of loosing our grip, we took advantage of the Mapgul MOE forend guard on the TAC-14 and tried both an M-LOK hand stop and a vertical grip. In an effort to completely prevent the shotgun from kicking back into our mug, we installed the hand stop backward, with the taller, more positive surface curling around base of the index finger. That was a mistake. After a couple boxes of buckshot, the handstop left that index finger bruised.

So, we ditched the hand stop kit and installed Magpul’s MVG vertical grip. What a difference it made. The little grip instantly tamed the beast and greatly reduced the chances the Raptor grip would come into contact with our pearly whites. According to a BATFE Firearms Technology Branch determination letter dated July 18, 2011, adding a forward grip to a firearm doesn’t turn it into an AOW, “provided its overall length is as least 26 inches and it is not actually concealed on the person.”

PERFORMANCE

The alternate position is shooting the TAC-14 from the hip. Given this gun is really best employed at bad-breath distance, we found point shooting a B19-sized target 3 to 5 yards away delivered consistent vital zone hits with a little practice. Remington’s 20-gauge #3 buckshot patterned about 4 to 5 inches at that range. Stepping into a shoothouse with the 20-gauge on our hip was a lot less work and a lot more fun than we expected. It took some concentration to make good hits, as the natural point of aim is a little low from the hip, but once we internalized that ergonomic offset, hits were accurate, fast, and easy.
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The tightly focused beam of a Surefire M300 up front might as well be a laser sight when used in reduced lighting, and we’ll call that a bonus aiming aid. It took some doing to get it rigged up as shown, though. We found the light positioned just to the right of the vertical grip was naturally activated with the support hand thumb. But the standard Magpul offset light mounts were incompatible with the forend in this configuration. The mount hits the flared bottom of the forend, distorting the polymer forend as it’s cranked tight. Instead, KDG’s Kinect MLOK Universal Offset Mount cleared the grip perfectly. It doesn’t tuck the light in as tightly to a rail as Magpul’s, but that turned out to be a blessing in this case.

A major caveat here: KDG’s quick release mount is made to work with M-LOK mount points made from aluminum. The added wall thickness of Magpul’s polymer MOE handguard means the quick released attachment tangs don’t open up as much as they do on thinner metal handguards. The solution is to carefully thin out the area on the backside of the grip a bit, a very little bit, at the edges of the chosen M-LOK slot. It’s not an ideal solution, and it’s likely one that both Magpul and KDG would caution against, but it works for us. We might end up going back to the polymer Magpul offset light mount and grinding the lower edge and the light to create the needed clearance, or just mount the light elsewhere and use a tape switch. But, we like the simplicity of this setup.
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We ran Remington’s Clay & Field loads, buckshot, and a few boxes of slugs (all 2 3/4-inch shells) through the 20-gauge over a few shooting sessions without missing a beat. We even lit off a few rounds after dusk to see how much of a candle the 14-inch barrel is, and it didn’t disappoint. While not outright blinding, the flash is memorable.

As meh as we are about the 12-gauge Remington and Mossberg stubbies, this 20-gauge version speaks to us in much more pleasant tones than it’s brutish siblings. It’s not quite as versatile, and it’s still begging to be Form-1ed into an SBS, but in its factory form, it’s more fun to shoot and a lot more practical when it comes to outfitting the non-body builder set with a defensive weapon.
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  • Make: Remington
  • Model: 870 TAC-14
  • Caliber: 20-gauge
  • OAL: 26.3 inches
  • Weight (unloaded): 5.1 pounds
  • Barrel Length: 14 inches
  • Capacity: 4+1
  • MSRP: $433

 

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