Rock Island Armory VR80

The VR80 may be someone’s favorite shotgun, but we didn’t like how it handled compared to the others. The VR80 may be great for 3-Gun shooters because it will handle the same as the AR-15 rifle, but for most of us, the faster-handling shotguns are better choices for personal defense.

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GUN TESTS GRADE: B-

$600

The Rock Island/Armscor VR80 is the newest version of the gas-operated magazine-fed self-loading shotgun offered by Rock Island Armory (RIA). The VR80 is manufactured in Turkey and branded by RIA. The shotgun resembles the AR-15 rifle. It isn’t an AR-15 and doesn’t use gas impingement or gas-operating-rod type actions as the AR does, but the handling and ergonomics are similar to the Armalite Rifle concepts. Consider it slightly larger than the AR-10 for reference.

Action TypeSemi-auto, gas operated
Chamber Size3.0 in.
Overall Length40.0 in.
Capacity5+1; 9- and 19-round magazines available
Weight8.25 lbs.
Weight Loaded9.35 lbs.
Barrel Length20.0 in.
Receiver FinishAnodized black aluminum
Choke TubesFull, Modified, Cylinder supplied
StockSynthetic
Stock Length of Pull14.25 in.
Stock ForendPlastic
Rear SightAdjustable aperture
Front SightAdjustable post
Trigger Pull Weight7.0 lbs.
SafetyAmbi lever
WarrantyLimited lifetime
Telephone(775) 537-1444
WebsiteArmscor.com
Made InTurkey

The VR80 has a number of desirable features, including an M-LOK type handguard, AR-15 type aperture sights, plenty of real estate for mounting scopes, a red dot, or other gear, and a detachable five-round magazine. There are multiple points for hanging a sling, a very versatile system. We like the handguard a great deal, but the stock design not so much. The stock is a monolithic thumbhole type in the sense of AR- and AK-type thumbhole designs. This isn’t the best design for fast handling, in our view. It didn’t bother us when actually firing, but when moving and handling the piece, our shooters said it isn’t the best. The shotgun’s safety, magazine release, and bolt-cocking handle are easily operated, perhaps the easiest of any of the shotguns tested. The shotgun is supplied with two five-shell magazines and three choke tubes, as well as two optional muzzle extensions. There are 9- and 19-shell magazines available for the shotgun as well, which we did not test. The 20-inch barrel features a Beretta-compatible choke system. The barrel extension is changeable as well. There are features that would be desirable on the AR-15 included in this design. The safety is ambidextrous and positive in operation. The left-hand safety (the lever for lefties) however, doesn’t feature a full safety lever and is a bit difficult to manipulate compared to the other lever. There is no AR operating handle; rather, there’s a standard bolt handle. In some ways the shotgun handles like an AR, which is the intent, in other ways it is a shotgun in an AR shell. The magazine release is large but positive in operation and not likely to inadvertently dump the magazine. The bolt release is similarly elongated.

The VR80 sights are good rifle sights. Maybe not so great as shotgun sights.

The magazines are well designed and not difficult to load with most shells. For some reason the Winchester shells hung up on loading the magazine, as did the Remingtons occasionally, and the others never. That is, they hung up when loading. The shell case rim did not want to jump over the brass head of the shell beneath. With some shells, they were fine. The magazines do not drop free when empty, at least not in the majority of our testing. Sometimes they do, sometimes not, when unloaded.

We learned more about the stock when firing. The stock isn’t the most comfortable we have used, it could be a tad shorter, but there is no adjustment. It is usable, but not ideal. We think that adding one of the many affordable adjustable AR-15 stocks would be a big upgrade, and the VR80 accepts them fine. The sights are not as well suited to fast combat-style shooting as the simpler bead of the Beretta and the open ghost ring of the Benelli. The VR80’s sights are good for aiming slugs.

The RIA VR80 suffered a
handful of light primer strikes early in the test, but they disappeared later.

When evaluating the VR80, we tried our best to put aside any preconceived notions of an AR-type shotgun because most of the raters had never fired one. We used the same shells as we fired in the other shotguns. The VR80 proved reliable, without any failures to feed, chamber, fire, or eject with all the shells, save one type. The Remington Ultimate Defense #4 loading was too light and wouldn’t run consistently. The other shotguns functioned properly with it.

Operation is simple enough, and the safety, bolt release and magazine catch are positive in operation. Speed loads are rather quick considering the magazines sometimes have to be picked out of the magazine well. The safety is easier to manipulate than the other shotguns, and the bolt release is at least as fast to use. Recoil was heavier than the Benelli or the Remington, but not as strong as the Beretta. The VR80 traversed between targets fast enough perhaps, but not as quickly as the other shotguns. It just handled like a rifle, not a shotgun. Accuracy with slugs was fine, averaging 2.0 to 2.15 inches, very consistent.

The VR80 is more AR-like than not, but it operates like an AK as well. The raters worked with the stock okay, but they did not like the odd design.

Our Team Said: It is difficult to rate the VR80 down a grade since it doesn’t handle like a shotgun, and that is the gun’s intent, but it doesn’t eat up the targets at moderate range or swing quickly like the others shotguns will. Even the hard-kicking Beretta, which holds one more shell, performed better on the combat range, rapidly moving from one target to the other. The VR80 wasn’t reliable with reduced-recoil buckshot, and some brass designs hang up when loading. We also suffered three light primer strikes and failures to fire during the first 15 cartridges, but none after that. We can see the advantage of commonality of handling in 3-Gun matches with the AR if the rifle and shotgun were fitted with similar stocks.

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