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Box-Mag Shotgun Buyer’s Guide

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Photos By Kenda Lenseigne

All Semi-Auto Mag-Fed Shotguns Suck … But Some Suck Less

Box magazine-fed shotguns suck. There, we said it. Having used them off and on for the past decade in three-gun competition, we can confidently say that, even in their most highly tuned and massaged state, they don’t achieve anywhere near the reliability of say, a Benelli M2. Which is not to say they don’t have their place. If you enjoy practicing stoppage drills and wincing every time you drop $150 worth of tuned, big-stick mag in the dirt, then they’re just what the doctor ordered.

If you happen to own one that’s moderately reliable, then the advantage gained from being able to jam 15 rounds into the gun in a couple of seconds might — just — be worth the tradeoff in a long field stage. And if you’re one of those people who claim, “My XYZ blastomatic has never missed a beat,” well, you just don’t shoot that much, do you?

As you can probably tell, we’ve got a love/hate relationship with these things ever since buying our first Saiga 12 in 2005, and we’ve been searching ever since for a shotgun that feeds reliably from cheap high-caps and doesn’t beat itself to death in a few thousand rounds. This is a tall order, as from an engineering perspective, there are a lot of hurdles to overcome. A shotshell’s rim, designed to work in break-action guns, complicates matters when stuffed into a box magazine — the blunt, tubular shape of your typical 12-gauge ammo looks nothing like the profile of a sleek, tapered rifle round. To add insult to injury, it’s forward weighted with next to nothing to balance out that ounce of lead up front. As icing on the cake, there’s not much in the way of gas pressure or volume in order to work a semi-auto action, so we’re already way behind the eight-ball.

Do any of the candidates in the following pages have what it takes to overcome these challenges? Read on and find out.


Looking like an AR-10 with a prescription for HGH, this Chinese-made shotgun accepts AR fire control components and have a manual of arms immediately familiar to 99 percent of our readership.

It uses a short-stroke gas piston operating system with a gas port located about 5 inches from the breech face, and the op rod’s tail impacts a toweringly tall extension on its bolt carrier group. The carrier itself is an odd amalgamation of AR-ish design features, but uses a bolt with a separate head in front of the multi-lug locking piece. This floating head houses a comparatively small extractor located across from two projections that control the round as it’s fed from the box magazine.

Bolt unlocking is achieved via the usual helical cam path, but the engineers at the Chongong Jianshe Industry Group gave this baby a significantly longer delay before the bolt turns, presumably due to the gas port’s location initiating the unlocking sequence earlier than on a comparable centerfire rifle. As shotshell primers are noticeably softer than their 7.62 counterparts, its firing pin is spring loaded to avoid the entertainment potential of a slam fire, and the lower part of the BCG is contoured to slide over the top round in a magazine.

The reason for that tall carrier extension is evident when you strip the gas system — in order to make use of the low pressures generated by all ammo types, the floating piston measures 0.86 inches in diameter and, to accommodate it, the gas cylinder is proportionately enormous.

The M12AR proved to be surprisingly reliable, gobbling up all manner of Wally World bulk pack ammo, once the gas plug was turned to the largest setting. Recoil was soft, with a noticeable hitch in its giddy-up as the carrier reached the point at which it began to unlock. It’s not distracting, but you’ll recognize it if you switch from one autoloader to another. The downside is a lack of mags with anything greater than a 5-round capacity, which puts it out of contention for serious consideration.

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