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: C
The Citadel PAX is similar but by no means identical to the Akkar 612. The matte-blue finish is the same. The aluminum receiver is anodized. The bolt is dark; however, the extractor is polished bright. The barrel is 20 inches long compared to the 18.5-inch barrel of the Akkar shogun. The fore end is much the same in handling but differs in detail. The stock is a pistol-grip type with a carrier for five shells built into the stock, which seems like a good feature. Another good feature is a front fiber-optic sight. The safety is a trapezoid shape rather than a round button. The bolt-release lever isn’t difficult to operate, we thought.
|Chamber Size||3.0 in.|
|Overall Length||40.0 in.|
|Weight Loaded||7.6 lbs.|
|Barrel Length||20.0 in.|
|Stock Length of Pull||14.25 in.|
|Fore end||Railed synthetic|
|Trigger Pull Weight||10.5 lbs.|
|Warranty||Lifetime with registration|
Overall, the PAX is shorter than the Akkar shotgun. The magazine is slightly shorter than the Akkar’s and holds only four shells. This is a demerit in comparison to the other two shotguns. The trigger action is the heaviest of the test at 10.5 pounds. The shell carrier has a thin cut out in the center.
The PAX isn’t as smooth as the other two shotguns. In fact, one of our younger raters actually lost his grip on the fore end because the action was difficult to rack. He was pulling the fore end forward after firing and his hand slipped off the front of the fore end. The shotgun did not get smoother during the test.
We were puzzled by the Citadel’s roughness, so we dug a little deeper and spotted wear marks on the receiver caused by the fore end rubbing the housing. No wonder the action seemed tight. The fore end was tight enough with no wobble, so it was simply too thick inside. To solve this, we decided to carefully file off part of the fore end. This took some effort. Next, we addressed all the burrs on the action bars. There were a couple of raised spots and burrs on the draw bars. The trunnion inside the receiver is much more difficult to address. After these gunsmithing efforts, the Citadel was considerably smoother. Smooth operation is certainly a possibility for those who have a rough Turkish pump-action shotgun, but you must be willing to work on the shotgun. Do not simply work the action a few hundred times. When there is a rough spot or burr, this makes the action worse.
The pattern thrown with buckshot was considerably larger than with the Akkar 612, but no larger than the Rock Island shotgun’s pattern.
We did not like the stock. While only slightly longer than the Akkar and Rock Island shotguns, it was rated the least comfortable stock tested. The pistol grip isn’t bad, but with thick gloves, it may be a bit large for some hands. Reliability was good; there were no failures to feed, chamber, fire, or eject.
Our Team Said: The stock was not our favorite, and the action was stiff. Also, the shotgun holds fewer shells than the other two. The 1.5-inch-longer barrel did nothing for patterning. While the PAX is affordable, that doesn’t cut the PAX any slack when the other shotguns are inexpensive as well. While we like the fiber-optic front sight, this isn’t enough to override the other, glaring faults.
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.|