A dramatic drop in price among affordable shotguns makes them even more attractive. Be a smart shopper and choose the shotgun that suits your needs and performs best. The market today is much more of a buyer’s market than a year ago.
During the pandemic, shortages of firearms and ammunition created a seller’s market. Folks were worried about their safety and grabbed whatever they could. Quality brand-name traditional pump-action shotguns were few and far between. Our Gun Tests field staff saw tactical versions of the Remington 870 edging one thousand dollars, and the price of the Mossberg 590 doubled. So it was with some appreciation when we saw Turkish makers step in with literally thousands of affordable pump-action shotguns that were half the price of domestic brands, often at $500 and below.
The Turkish guns developed a reputation for reliability. Some are well fitted and finished, others not so much. The situation is difficult to nail down because the many Turkish brands rival the old Basque makers in the day of Ruby pistols. Reliable information indicates there are more than 20 separate manufacturing plants making shotguns in Turkey. Some of these guns are re-branded by major importers and importers, such as European American Armory and Legacy Sports. They may specify the furniture and barrel length in different offerings. It is interesting that one of the shotguns tested here, the Rock Island Armory Meriva, is a Turkish gun. A previous chrome-plated Rock Island Armory shotgun tested was manufactured in Armscor’s home country, the Philippines.
Generally, these shotguns are made to sell and to sell as cheaply as possible. So, corners are cut in fit and polish. We will explore some of these drawbacks and also advantages. One thing for certain: It isn’t that difficult to make a completely reliable pump-action shotgun. The action may be rough and the trigger heavy, but the firearm functions. We found three reliable shotguns selling for a pittance, and prices seem to be dropping further. We have seen certain models for $99, well below their original cost to the dealer. Yep, a certain class of firearms is being sold off for less than the dealers paid. The three in this test, the EAA Churchill Akkar 612, the Citadel PAX, and the Rock Island Armory Meriva, all feature personal-defense barrel lengths, open Cylinder chokes, no choke tubes, and 3-inch chambers. Here’s more on how each firearm fared in head-to-head shooting tests.
Gun Tests Grade: A (BEST BUY)
The Model 612 is a standard pump-action shotgun with an aluminum receiver, steel barrel, plastic stock and fore end, and plastic trigger housing. In this configuration, it is similar to many other modern shotguns. The action is smooth enough to operate quickly, even if it is not glassy smooth. There is no rear sight, only a groove in the receiver. In common with the other two shotguns tested, there is no provision for mounting a red-dot sight or slug scope. The front sight is a post type.
|Chamber Size||3.0 in.|
|Overall Length||38.5 in.|
|Weight Loaded||7.5 lbs.|
|Barrel Length||18.5 in.|
|Stock Length of Pull||13.8 in.|
|Fore end||Railed synthetic|
|Trigger Pull Weight||6.0 lbs.|
The barrel is 18.5 inches long with choke unspecified. Defensive shotguns are usually choked Cylinder bore, sometimes called the open choke. The EAA-imported shotgun patterned more like a Modified choke shotgun. The receiver is marked Churchill, a brand name EAA has used for decades. The plastic trigger guard features a cross-bolt safety in the rear of the housing. The bolt release is larger than some and operates in a positive manner. The plastic furniture pieces are a long fore end and a pistol-grip-type stock rear. We later found several on sale online and in stock at about $235 just before publication.
The furniture is the significant difference from the other shotguns. The fore end is longer than most. This accommodates all grip styles and offers plenty of leverage while fully covering the twin action bars. One of the raters generally grasps pump shotguns at the very rear of the fore end nearest the receiver. He may not have as much leverage as when a taller man with longer arms grasps the fore end near the front, but he always manages to operate the shotgun smoothly. With the Akkar stock, his grip is secure. All of the shotguns have similar fore ends. The stock, however, is a pistol grip and straight stock. The straight stock features a sling swivel; the front swivel is on the end of the magazine cap. The stock of the Akkar is just slightly shorter than the stock of the Citadel, the other pistol-grip shotgun. The recoil pad is adequate. The bolt, like the barrel, is a dull matte-gray finish. The trigger action is a smooth 6.0 pounds, the lightest of the test. The shell carrier is a solid type.
We fired the shotguns with four types of shells. The first was a light target load from Winchester using 7½ shot and then a heavier field load from Winchester using No. 5 shot. We also used Winchester No. 1 buckshot and a new brand, Jet, in 00 buckshot. In firing these loads, the Akkar shotgun was reasonably smooth in operation. The slide action was smooth at the beginning and tighter in the middle, easing up toward the end of travel. Bringing the fore end and the bolt forward was not difficult. The magazine holds five shells, and our team said it wasn’t difficult to load the shells in the tubular magazine.
Patterning was done with Winchester buckshot. We noted that the Akkar threw the tightest pattern by far, with 4-by-5-inch patterns at 7 yards. The other two shotguns hovered around 10 inches. Chokes may be individual and one shotgun to the next may fire a tighter pattern. Just the same, the Akkar held the tighter pattern, centered over the front sight. We fired 25 of each Winchester field loads, both No. 7½ and No. 5 shot, in the shotguns running a combat course at 7 and 10 yards. We also fired five each of the buckshot shells. This gave us a good idea of the handling of each shotgun.
Disassembly is an important part of shotgun maintenance. The procedure is simple enough. Triple-check the shotgun to be certain it isn’t loaded, looking in both the magazine and the chamber. Using the bolt release, move the bolt back midway in the receiver window. Unscrew the magazine cap. Shake the barrel a bit and draw it out. That is how it is supposed to go.
With the Akkar 612, the barrel was tight in the receiver. This is a new gun, and it required a bit of effort to free the barrel. The barrel extension is about the average length for a pump-action shotgun. Once the barrel was free, maintenance was simple. With the Citadel PAX, disassembly was more difficult, the barrel fit even stiffer, but after a few tries, we were able to pull the barrel free. The Rock Island shotgun was by far the most difficult to break down. In common with the Citadel, the barrel of the Rock Island features a very long barrel extension. We exerted so much effort in pulling the barrel free from the Rock Island’s receiver that we managed to pull the fore end, operating rods, and bolt free as well. The long barrel extension of the Citadel PAX and Rock Island Meriva make disassembly more difficult to do.
Our Team Said: We liked the stock of the Akkar shotgun. It is thin enough for fast handling but thick enough for recoil control. Feeding was not a problem, and reliability was never an issue. The shotgun isn’t as smooth as a Remington 870, but it costs much less. We cannot find anything on the shotgun to fault. The disassembly also points to the EAA as being the Best Buy because it was not difficult to field strip compared to the other two.
Value Guide: Self-Defense Shotgun Rankings
|Black Aces Tactical Pro Series S Max 12 Gauge, $420||Mar. 2021||A||Best Buy. The lightest shotgun tested. Despite this, recoil was not objectionable.|
|Toros Copolla T4 12 Gauge, $895||Mar. 2021||A||Our Pick. Compared to a Benelli M4 recently tested, the T4 comes out ahead.|
|Panzer Arms BP-12 BP12BSSB 12 Gauge, $650||Mar. 2021||C||A robust design. Overall, this is a shotgun we liked less the more we fired it.|
|Benelli M4 H20 Tactical 11794 12 Gauge, $2000||Feb. 2021||A||Our Pick. The Benelli provided excellent results. It is pricey but very good.|
|Remington V3 Tactical 83441 12 Gauge, $850||Feb. 2021||A||Best Buy. We liked the extended controls, fast handling, and reliability. XS sights are a plus.|
|Beretta 1201FP 12 Gauge, $500||Feb. 2021||B||The 1201FP is fast on target and controllable. Semi-auto inertia action makes for less recoil.|
|Rock Island Armory VR80 12 Gauge, $600||Feb. 2021||B||The VR80 may be great for 3-Gun shooters because it will handle the same as the AR-15.|
|Winchester 1200 Speed Pump 12 Gauge, $225||Oct. 2020||A||Best Buy. The Speed Pump is smooth, reliable, and provided good results.|
|Remington 870 12 Gauge, $275||Oct. 2020||A||A classic home defender well worth its price on the used market.|
|Winchester SXP Marine Defender 12 Gauge, $255||Oct. 2020||B||Has many good points, including the chrome finish on major components. Accepts a red-dot sight.|
|TPS M6 M6-100 22 LR/410 Bore, $487||Jan. 2020||A||The M6 follows in the footsteps of the previous M6 design and does it better.|
|Rossi Matched Pair 410/22 22 LR/410 Bore, $182||Jan. 2020||A||This Matched Pair 410/22 is lightweight and simple to operate.|
|Savage Model 42 Takedown 22440 22 LR/410 Bore, $425||Jan. 2020||B+||The Model 42 follows Savage’s tradition of combo guns, and this gun has some fine attributes.|
|Mossberg Retrograde Persuader 50429 12 Ga., $384||Sep. 2019||A||The Mossberg 500 Retrograde is a beautifully finished shotgun. There are no shortcomings.|
|Iver Johnson PAS Copperhead 12 Gauge, $401||Sep. 2019||A||Has good features that were overshadowed by the snakescale-like finish.|
|Rock Island Armory M30 M5 51330 12 Gauge, $202||Sep. 2019||A-||Best Buy. The M5 is a smooth-handling shotgun. Heaviest shotgun tested, but also the lightest kicker.|
|Mossberg 590 Shockwave Model 50657 20 Gauge, $455||Mar. 2019||A||The Shockwave in 20 gauge substantially reduces felt recoil. We liked the strapped fore end.|
|Mossberg 590 Shockwave Model 50649 .410 Bore, $455||Mar. 2019||A||Loaded with one of the specialty 410 defense loads, this would make a good home-defense choice.|
|Remington Model 870 TAC-14 81145 20 Gauge, $464||Mar. 2019||A-||If you are a Remington 870 fan, you will not have an issue adapting to the TAC-14.|
|Remington 870 Youth Model 25561 20 Gauge, $330||Feb. 2019||A-||Our Pick in a match up of youth models suitable for home defense. Ideal weight and a smooth action.|
|Mossberg Maverick 88 Youth Model 32202 20 Gauge, $198||Feb. 2019||B+||True youth model with a 12-inch LOP. Only 5.25 pounds. Fast-handling piece for the whole family.|
|H&R Pardner Youth Model NP1-2S1 20 Gauge, $165||Feb. 2019||B||Best Buy. Aiming rib was as good as the others, and the Pardner was easy enough to fire. Drilled & tapped.|
|Mossberg 590 Speedfeed 50665 12 Ga., $480||Oct. 2018||A||The 590 gave us confidence and was the only shotgun tested without any type of malfunction.|
|Remington 870 Express Tactical 81209 12 Ga., $729||Oct. 2018||A-||Good shotgun, but are all the 870 Tactical Magpul’s features necessary for home defense? Maybe not.|
|Remington 870 DM Hardwood 81351 12 Gauge, $324||Oct. 2018||A-||The least-expensive shotgun tested, yet it may be the best suited for home-defense use.|
|JTS M12AK Semi-Auto 12 Gauge, $450||Oct. 2018||A-||Generally successful, but it does not handle as quickly as the conventional pump-action shotguns.|
|Mossberg 590M Mag-Fed Pump 50205 12 Ga., $530||Oct. 2018||D||The shotgun did not function as well as the Remington DM or the tube-feds. We would not buy this shotgun.|
|Mossberg 590 Shockwave 50659 12 Gauge, $455||Oct. 2017||A||Built to last. We’d opt for the OPSol Texas Mini-Clip and pack it with Aguila Mini Shells.|
|Remington 870P Standard 12 Gauge, $225||Sep. 2017||A||Best Buy. Patterns were good. Experimentation may find a load that does even better.|
|IAC (Norinco) Wild Bunch 12 Gauge, $300||Sep. 2017||B||Tactically, the design leaves some other shotguns in the dirt. It is fast to load and empty.|
|Mossberg 505 Youth Pump Action 57110 20 Gauge, $300||Sep. 2017||A||The Mossberg 505 Youth is an overlooked gem. The fit wasn’t bad for most raters.|
|Benelli Nova Tactical Pump 20051 12 Gauge, $372||Dec. 2016||A||Best Buy. Lockup is tight. Sights are among the best combat-style units. 10-year warranty.|
|Tristar TEC-12 No. 25120 Pump/Auto 12 Gauge, $557||Dec. 2016||A||Modern styling and handles just like the expensive Benelli M3.|
|Mossberg 930 Tactical 85320 12 Gauge, $514||Dec. 2016||A-||The 930 was the lightest kicker and had the highest magazine capacity.|
|IAC Imports Hawk Model 982 Defense 12 Gauge, $233||Oct. 2016||A||Among the least-expensive 12-gauge pumps we have tested. Never malfunctioned.|
|Remington M870 Express Syn. Tactical 12 Ga., $346||Oct. 2016||A||We liked the magazine capacity, and we will take the muzzle brake. Simple bead front sight.|
|Remington M870 Modified Police 12 Ga., M4 Stock, $420||Oct. 2016||B||The Adaptive Tactical M4 stock provides a shotgun that handles in a similar fashion to a Colt M4 rifle.|
|Beretta Model 1301 Tactical No. J131T18 12 Gauge, $1075||May. 2016||A||The Beretta performed without a hiccup while producing good patterns and loading fast.|
|Mossberg Model 930 SPX 85360 12 Gauge, $836||May. 2016||B||Lighter hit to the pocket book. Good handling and flawless functioning.|
|Benelli Model M4 Tactical No. 1170712 Gauge, $2000||May. 2016||B-||We could not get past its higher price and failure to cycle low-velocity loads during our field tests.|
|Century Arms Catamount Fury SG1874-N 12 Gauge, ~$400||Mar. 2016||D||The Fury SG1874-N looked like the Izhmash Saiga, but was plagued by malfunctions.|
|Century Arms Catamount Fury II SG1875-N 12 Gauge, ~$575||Mar. 2016||D-||Beset by malfunctions, the Fury II SG1875-N shotgun was worse than its stablemate.|
|Chiappa Triple Threat No. 930-032 12 Gauge, $1599||Oct. 2015||B-||Three barrels. Too unwieldy for anything other than close-quarters self-defense.|
|Standard Mfg. DP-12 DP01130 Pump-Action 12 Gauge, $1700||Oct. 2015||C||The unique double pump was too unwieldy and too pricey for us.|