Folks who want the most effective firearm for use in a home-defense situation may not like handguns for their relative lack of stopping power, and they may pass on rifles because of concerns about overpenetration through various building materials or capacity limitations mandated by where they live. What about the shotgun? Few instruments delivery energy at close range like a 12-bore cartridge, and a 20 gauge is no slouch either. Also, shotguns are capable of firing projectiles containing birdshot up through 36-caliber buckshot and slugs suitable even for bears. An experienced shotgunner can even change out the loads on the fly, as the situation demands. Yep, shotguns have limitations, too. Recoil can be substantial. And, compared to a pistol, a shotgun can be more difficult to work with in tight places, and they run out of ammo in a hurry. A wise admonition regarding the use of a scattergun is that if “you ain’t shooting it, you need to be feeding it.”
We found three samples of 12-gauge pump shotguns that we felt minimize the smoothbores’ shortcomings while maximizing their utility in home defense. The first is a Mossberg 590 No. 50674, $568. The second is Tokarev’s TX3 12HD, $250, imported by SDS Imports of Knoxville, Tennessee. We had the chance to look at this one at the 2022 SHOT Show. Check out our video of that on the Gun Tests YouTube page. Last is a more experienced Remington 870 Tactical. The Remington Firearms Company that made this shotgun about 10 years ago is no more. The firearms portion of the company sold at auction, and a new entity has the rights to produce it under the Remington name. This new corporation is back up and producing select versions of the Remington 870, but we could not find the style that we wanted, so we used one out of our collection. We found 870 Tactical shotguns like ours selling for about $500 on GunBroker.com, so they are widely available. Of course, we have made a couple of modifications we’ll document so you can assess which modifications would make a difference to you.
All testing was done at American Shooting Centers in Houston. We used Remington 3-inch 00 buckshot shells, Winchester 2.75-inch No. 4 buckshot shells, and a variety of 7½ birdshot shells, including Winchester AA loads. We tested for function with all loads and patterned the buckshot at 3 and 7 yards to check for choke efficiency.
A few of our general impressions include the following: The shotguns hit what we pointed them at and went bang when we told them to, making all three viable options based on the most important factor, reliability. Dispersion of the shot patterns was as expected, averaging 2 to 3 inches at 3 yards and 5 to 6 inches at 7 yards for the No. 4 buckshot loads. Also, we noted that 2.75-inch 00 buckshot loads have 12 pellets, and in our test, they shoot much tighter patterns than their magnum brothers and the 15-pellet load. Of course, energy was greater for the magnum loads — too much for us. Our times in shooting drills were slower and the magnum patterns were larger. We’ll stick with the standard buckshot loads. We also found that on the shotguns themselves, we liked a shorter length of pull (LOP), or at least the option to shorten the length of pull. Accordingly, we thought the Mossberg’s LOP, at over 14 inches, was one of the factors that slowed us down a bit when shooting the timed drills. Of course, we have other criticisms of and compliments for each gun below.
Gun Tests Grade: B+ (BEST BUY)
At the 2022 S.H.O.T. Show, we spied a short-barreled home-defense shotgun that reminded us of a Remington 870. Upon further inspection, we learned we were looking at a new offering from Tokarev. To the military-history buff, the mention of that name conjures up visions of semi-auto rifles and pistols designed for the Russian Army in WW II. This Tokarev long gun was a bit more modern and was manufactured slightly farther to the south — Turkey to be specific. The heat shield and the real walnut in the fore end and buttstock caught our attention at S.H.O.T., and the 14-foot-long bayonet (not quite that long, but it seemed like it) on the shotgun demanded that we try it. The brief test run we did then told us we had to include the Tokarev TX3 in this test group.
|Overall Length||38.25 in.|
|Barrel Length||18.5 in. long, matte-black steel 3 removable chokes|
|Overall Height||8.25 in.|
|Weight Unloaded||6.75 lbs.|
|Weight Loaded (#4 Buck, 6 rounds)||7.38 lbs.|
|Sight Radius||22.6 in.|
|Action||Matte-black aluminum alloy|
|Stock Drop at Comb||0.6 in.|
|Stock Drop at Heel||1.6 in.|
|Stock Buttplate||Soft rubber|
|Stock Length of Pull||13.5 in.|
|Trigger Pull Weight||5.7 lbs.|
|Safety||Crossbolt behind trigger|
Our shotgun reminded us a lot of the Remington 870, after we modified it. The Tok’s barrel is 18.5 inches long and feeds from a five-round tubular magazine. Tokarev offers a one-round extension to the mag tube that just happens to include a bayonet lug. Adding the extension would leave the Tokarev with the same 6+1 capacity of the Remington and a barrel virtually the same length as the mag tube. The business end of the barrel sports a nice, high front sight with a fiber-optic insert. The Tokarev comes with screw-in choke tubes. A Cylinder-bore choke was installed when we received it, and the box included a wrench, along with additional Improved Cylinder and Full tubes. The TX3 even comes with a heat shield on top of the barrel. We understand this won’t be a game-changer for everyday usage, but it sure came in handy when we were doing multiple-shot strings. The Tokarev proved more comfortable to handle than the Mossberg or the Remington when the barrels were hot.
The controls are vintage Remington, with the cross-bolt safety located right behind the trigger guard and the bolt release protruding from the left side in front of the trigger guard. We would have been just as happy if the Tokarev had emulated the slightly different Mossberg pattern. The walnut buttstock and fore end also reminded us of a Remington 870, though it would be the Police model. Both showed a bit of nice wood grain and had smooth finishes, but they were sufficiently tacky to hold onto as we cycled the pump. Length of pull was 13.5 inches, which felt good and worked well for us. The fore end utilizes dual action bars, as do both our 870 and the Mossberg 590. Action activation was smooth, though we could feel the handle twist a bit as we worked it enthusiastically. Unlike the Mossberg or the Remington, the fore end on the Tokarev is easy to remove, and instructions are provided in the manual.
The rear sight is a hybrid unit the likes of which our Houston testers hadn’t seen before. The receiver is topped with a dovetail. The rear sight is part Picatinny rail and part adjustable rear sight, all in one unit that slides onto the dovetail. Everything is secured to the receiver via a screw at the rear of the sight mount. The rear sight is adjustable for windage and elevation. The Pic rail in front of the sight leaves enough “rail estate” to accommodate a red dot, if so desired.
The bolt uses a single extractor a la the Remington 870, but we had no issues of any kind with it. Being made of steel, the bolt locks into the steel barrel with plenty of security. This allows the receiver to be made of an alloy instead of the heavier steel. The Mossberg uses the same system, but the Remington uses steel in their receiver. We liked carrying the lighter shotguns and didn’t mind the lighter weight when we were shooting standard loads. When we got to the 3-inch Magnum 15-pellet buckshot loads, we really appreciated that extra pound of weight in the Remington.
Like the Mossberg, the Tokarev ate everything we fed it. The final count was five different kinds of birdshot and four different types of buckshot. The sights were easy to use, and the controls were easy to operate. The Tok came in second place in the speed runs, barely losing out to the Remington.
Our Team Said: Did you notice that the Tok’s retail price should only be around $250? Light and quick to swing, with the familiar controls of the Remington 870, the Tokarev TX3 also functioned perfectly. We would like to do a torture test on the Tokarev to check the durability of the product, though we have no reason to doubt the outcome. We just don’t have the shooting history on the Tok that we do on the other two platforms.
Range Data: Drill 1Process: Fire one shot from low ready at a 10-inch plate. Distance: 8 yards.
|Shotgun||Average Time (seconds)|
Range Data: Drill 2Process: Fire one shot at each of two 10-inch plates at 8 yards. Plates were 6 feet apart.
|Shotgun||Time to First Shot (seconds)||Split Time (seconds)||Total Time (seconds)|
Shot-Pattern Sizes: Shotshell 1
|Shotshell||2.75 inch, 3 Yards||No. 4 Buckshot, 7 Yards|
|Mossberg||1.52 in.||5.91 in.|
|Remington||2.92 in.||4.41 in.|
|Tokarev||2.05 in.||4.21 in.|
Shot-Pattern Sizes: Shotshell 2
|Shotshell||3 inch Magnum, 3 Yards||No. 00 Buckshot, 7 Yards|
|Mossberg||2.12 in.||4.59 in.|
|Remington||2.35 in.||5.56 in.|
|Tokarev||2.18 in.||4.93 in.|
Value Guide: Self-Defense Shotgun Rankings
|EAA AKKAR Churchill 612 111375 12 Gauge, $320||May. 2022||A||Best Buy. Has a comfortable pistol grip stock. The Akkar Model 612 has the smoothest operation.|
|RIA Meriva Chrome MR25-P101-MC 12 Gauge, $230||May. 2022||B||Reliable. The chrome finish and the ability to mount a combat light are good features. Rough pump action.|
|Legacy Sports Citadel PAX FRPAX1220 12 Gauge, $229||May. 2022||C||A heavy trigger action, difficult disassembly, and -1 round capacity put the PAX at the bottom.|
|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 it on the used market, at this price.|
|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 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.|