CONCEALMENT 8 Pistol Shotgun Showdown Dave Merrill Join the Conversation We Pit the Remington TAC-14 Against the Mossberg Shockwave Tracking the [perhaps misguided] obsession with short shotguns isn’t an exact science. Certainly Doc Holiday using one to great effect against Tom McLaury in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral didn’t hurt. There’s probably at least one sawed-off shotgun in every Western movie, and they make regular appearances in crime dramas and action flicks alike. Today we look at two new short 12-gauge guns that put a new twist on an old idea. A Tale of Four Scatterguns The American system of laws is a bit convoluted. While we’re far from Brunei or Burundi, there’s still a lot on the books that doesn’t make sense. And the firearms at the core of this article are a decent example. Shotgun Legally speaking, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ definition of a shotgun stipulates that it’s intended and capable of firing from the shoulder. The federally unrestricted shotgun can legally wear a buttstock or pistol grip, provided the barrel is at least 18 inches long and the overall length (OAL) is at least 26 inches. Short-Barreled Shotguns A short-barreled shotgun is a definition applied to a shotgun with a barrel less than 18 inches, OAL less than 26 inches, and the intention and capability of firing from the shoulder. An SBS, like a regular shotgun, can rock whatever stock/grip configuration you want. You’ll have to pay the King’s Ransom of $200 to build or purchase one in the United States, though. AOW Originally intended as a National Firearms Act catchall, certain types of shotguns fall into this category. An any other weapon (AOW) can’t have a buttstock, nor can it ever have had one. With the AOW, as with silencers, you aren’t required to notify the BATFE prior to interstate transportation — just make sure it’s legal in your destination state. The transfer tax of an AOW is also only $5, but if you manufacture one yourself, using BATFE Form 1, it’ll still cost $200. “Firearm” Here’s what we’re looking at in this article. Follow closely, because it’ll get a little weird. Like an AOW, the firearm category is a little strange. As with an unregulated non-NFA item, the firearm has an OAL of more than 26 inches, but it isn’t intended to, nor can it be, configured to fire from the shoulder. And, barrel length restrictions don’t apply. We can’t pretend any of this makes sense, nor that virtually the same gun could fall into several categories depending on its original configuration and who configured it — but we have to work with the laws on the books. Admittedly, the first time we saw this recently popular and strange, non-NFA category of firearm, we were a tad skeptical. At the time, a handful of small companies were producing them, and it looked like a curious niche — perhaps they were simply flying under the BATFE radar. After all, this is an agency that regularly makes massive enforcement policy and regulatory changes through reinterpretation at the request for clarification or permission from a bewildered public. But now major manufacturers, both Remington and Mossberg, are producing these “firearms,” so it’s time we all took notice. While both of these firearms are unregulated on a federal level, it’s not always a safe assumption that they’ll be legal on a local or state level. As usual, your mileage may vary. Do some homework and check with your local law enforcement agency before you acquire anything that resides on the fringes of firearm law. Though legally the Remington TAC-14 and Mossberg Shockwave are defined as “firearms,” for the purposes of clarity we’ll call them shotguns. Or scattergats. Or stubbies. Putting the word “firearm” in quotes gets tired quickly, and it’s a damned bit distracting. Shooting Using very short shotguns, especially stubbies like the AOW breacher shown earlier in this piece, introduces some hazards. The rule of thumb is to avoid firing them too quickly. Remember, the muzzle is just beyond the forward grip; if your hand slips off the end as you’re pulling the trigger, you may have a hard time clapping later on. The Shockwave has a strap to prevent such an occurrence, but that doesn’t mean it should be your only prophylactic measure. With no stock to make use of, your options are limited regarding aimed fire with both shotguns. The bird’s head grip makes firing from the hip comfortable; if you like to turn dollars into noise, there’s no better way. But all is not lost. With the shotgun raised in front of your face, as if there were an invisible butt stock, you can fully ex- tend and lock out your support arm to stifle some of the shock and recoil. It’s not great, but it’s better than nothing. Comparing the two fore-ends, while the Shockwave’s strap serves as a safety measure, the Magpul handguard on the TAC-14 is much more comfortable under fire. The bird’s head on both blasters is sufficient for hip firing or lock busting, but some extra grip when actually aiming would be beneficial. We’d opt for some stippling. You can also sport a sling. Using a sling to increase stability and recoil management isn’t a new idea. Since there isn’t a stock to tuck into your shoulder, you instead push forward on the weapon to create tension with the sling. This was popularized by the SAS, particularly using an MP5/MP5K without a stock or with the stock folded or collapsed. This technique can be used on any gun, though it doesn’t work quite as well as it does with the diminutive MP5k due to the increased weight and recoil of the shotguns. Overall it’s a poor replacement for a stock, but beats simply extending your support arm. The recoil and lack of buttstock make shot recovery and effective follow-ups slower than a properly configured scattergun. Reduced recoil loads mitigate this somewhat, as will Aguila Minishells or a smaller gauge (see the 20-gauge Remington in the sidebar). Both the Mossberg and the Remington shot high at 10 yards, the 870 less so. We suspect the slightly taller sight of the TAC-14 resulted in patterns closer to the point of aim. Not every shotgun, even within the same brand and model, will pattern the same. Shotgun X may pattern better than shotgun Y with Z shells. Your best bet after purchasing a new shotgun is to take several boxes of similar loads from different manufacturers to the range. Once you find the load(s) that pattern the best (“best” being a relative term, especially with 14-inch barreled smoothbore shotguns), tear off the label and put it in the case with the firearm lest you forget. ANOTHER OBNOXIOUS DEBATE There’s a lot more in common between these two shotguns than there are differences. Both have OALs just barely over 26 inches, 14-inch cylinder bore barrels, bird’s head grips, rudimentary bead sights, similar pricing and, dare we say, cheap construction. Far from a Lamborghini versus Pagani discussion, 870 versus 590 is more akin to Bud Light versus Miller Lite. If you already have a brand preference, we doubt anyone will convince you otherwise. While the Remington 870 is generally regarded to be a nicer shotgun than the Mossberg in terms of smoothness of action and finish, an old-school classic Police Magnum the TAC-14 ain’t. Our example looks rough out of the box. The Mossberg Shockwave holds one more shell, comes equipped with sling studs, and has an ambidextrous safety. Despite the rough appearance, the Remington has a steel billet receiver as opposed to the aluminum receiver of the Mossberg, and the high-viz follower is a nice touch. Realistically, you’re unlikely to shoot either one enough to wear out the receivers. The action of the TAC-14 was smoother than that of the 590, as well. After our very first range session with the Mossberg, the trigger housing pin became loose and fell out when we rotated the receiver. We duct-taped it as a hasty fix, later breaking it down to reset the pin retaining spring. That seems to have remedied the issue. The Mossberg Shockwave looks better on paper; the Remington TAC- 14 is better on the range. ALL HAT, NO HORSE In the great Venn diagram of firearms, the intersection between cool and practical isn’t as large as most desire. Despite what awesome ’80s action movies taught you, firing from the hip is nowhere near as effective as actually using your sights. You have to aim — and therein lies the problem with these shotguns. There’s no provision for shouldering them, and extending the shotgun in front of you to obtain a sight picture results in a shooting experience that can only be described as impractical even with the tips outlined in this article. If you believe a Taurus Judge loaded with birdshot is the ideal CCW, then you’ll no doubt also believe this is the ideal home-defense weapon. The reality is a pawnshop- special Hi-Point carbine loaded with quality defensive ammunition would be more useful for home defense than one of these. That sentence physically hurt to write. But it would be more accurate, faster on target, and have less recoil with quicker follow-up. Pardon us while we go take a shower. With bleach. The Best of Scatterguns, Shotguns, and How to Use Them. Looking for a Tactical Shotgun? Here's our list. 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