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Big Question: What About Short Barreled Shotguns?


If they made it legal, people wouldn’t want to do it anymore. We hear this rationale about all sorts of restricted items in this country, year in and year out. The list of restricted items or substances that we hear this argument made for spans a wide array of genres. It is clear this rationale does not stand up for one item, short barrel-short stock shotguns.

The origin of short-barreled shotguns is widely debated. The most fabled origin is that these shotguns were used to defend stagecoaches in the mid-1800’s. They were made famous by the western movies of old that always adorned the man riding “shotgun”. The reason these men used the short barrel is for its mobility. The ease of which a short barreled shotgun is maneuvered in close quarters and tight environments is the primary reason they remain popular to this date. There’s a reason why Law Enforcement and Military personnel use stock-less, short barreled shotguns for clearing houses and confined situations.

Other than maneuverability, it is no secret that a smaller gun is easier to conceal than a large gun. That’s why we carry 9mm’s and .40 cals and not a 7mm whitetail rifle. The ease of concealment is a blessing and a curse for the short barrel shotgun. Being easily concealable makes these shotguns well suited for personal defense. You can hide one in a bedroom, fit in a vehicle or other location you would want easy access to your shotgun. BUT, this is also the reason why way back in the 1930’s Congress decided to include short-barreled shotguns in the list of specified firearms that required a $200 taxed stamp. The National Firearm Act which enforces these taxes has not amended its ruling over its shotgun classifications since its signing date. The original, and still standing, regulations in regards to shotguns require manufacturers and consumers to pay a tax on and register a shotgun that has a barrel less than 18″ long or a minimum length under 26″. The NFA is what restricts your average American from lopping six inches off their barrel and shaving down their buttstock to a nub. If legal, many Americans would gladly exchange some accuracy for the smaller stature of a shortened shotgun for home defense. The time, cost and effort are enough of a deterrent to keep most Americans from getting approved to own a shotgun that falls below the shotgun standards put forth by the NFA.

Aside from the difficult process of owning a shotgun that doesn’t reach the NFA standards, there are some drawbacks. Accuracy is the biggest downside. Lack of accuracy comes from two sources. The first obvious reason is the lack of a buttstock. Stocks give you a shouldering point and line your eyes up with the sights on your firearm. Without a stock, shooters are left with the point and pray/ hip fire options. If you plan on shooting any sort of distance a stock is advised. The second source of reduced accuracy is the length of the barrel. Now, the old myth that the shorter the barrel the faster your shot travels is just that, a myth. Same cartridge, same speed. What does happen with a shorter barrel is a less consistent, wider pattern. With less length of barrel for a shot to travel, your load is not given adequate help to uniform. This paired with a smooth bore, choke-less barrels leave you with a sporadic, wide pattern. That said, the primary use for this style firearms is close range home defense where patterning is not as crucial because the shot, in most cases, does not travel far enough to separate .

Luckily, for those who wish to own a short barreled shotgun with no buttstock, there’s a solution. Recently, two major firearms manufacturers have released new “firearms” that are what you’ve been missing. Mossberg and Remington have both released similar firearms that have become instantaneously popular. The Mossberg 590 Shockwave is a 26.37” long 12 gauge firearm that comes with a Raptor (birds head) pistol grip, 14” cylinder bore barrel, and weighs in at 5.25 lbs. The coolest thing about the shockwave is it’s 5 + 1 capacity. Since the shockwave is a standard 590 model it is still compatible with 590 designed upgrades. A tad shorter is the Shockwave’s cousin the Remington Model-870 TAC-14. The TAC-14 combines the trusted reliability of the Model-870 with compact Raptor grip, 26.3” overall length and a 14” barrel. The TAC-14 also comes with a Magpul M-Lok forend which allows for a few attachments. The TAC-14 does, however, come standard with 4+1 capacity and like the Shockwave is compatible most870 accessories

We put firearms in quotations and referred to the above models as such because, technically, these new innovations are not considered shotguns. According to Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives they are firearms. Even though they are designed to fire shotgun shells they are not classified as shotguns. The main reason they are not classified as a shotgun is their stockless design. Because these new designs were never intended to have a buttstock and their overall lengths are over 26” they escaped the normal restraints that similarly modified shotguns are held under. This allows residents of most states to buy these firearms without paying an excise tax or obtaining further registrations for their firearm.

The short time these firearms have been in the market has proved the “make it legal, no one will want it” mantra wrong. Since the release of the Shockwave and TAC-14, an extreme buzz has stirred. If you are considering purchasing either model research your local firearms laws first. Restrictions on firearms vary from state to state and it is always smart to double check before trying to make a purchase. You can brush up on Federal and State laws here.

Judging by the short time it took these old concept new age firearms to gain popularity you can expect to see more and more of them soon. Depending on State Laws on the legality of a short barrel, nub-stock firearms this new style could etch out a niche in the firearm industry. One thing is for certain, they are a lot of fun to shoot and if you get the opportunity you should most definitely get some trigger time with one.