What’s a 12 gauge firearm?
When I say the words 12 gauge, you probably think shotgun. That makes since, because 12 gauge has long been a round dedicated to shotguns. Proclaiming that 12 gauge is only a round for shotguns is not an accurate statement. In the last few years we’ve seen something called 12 gauge firearms rise into popularity. This includes both Remington and Mossberg turning their flagship shotguns into firearms.
What do you mean Firearm?
I keep saying firearm as if it is its own classification of gun. In a way it is, but it’s basically a catch all term for guns that falls outside of the normal classifications. The new Mossberg 590 Shockwave and Remington Tac 14 both fall into this firearms category. These are technically 12 gauge, pump action firearms with 14 inch barrels.
Traditionally a shotgun has to have a barrel longer than 18 inches, or it is a short barreled shotgun, or AOW. In either case they fall under the NFA and are title 2 weapons. Civilian ownership of a title 2 weapon requires registration, a tax stamp, a bit of paperwork, and a long wait to be approved. Firearms like the Shockwave and Tac 14 require nothing more than a traditional 4473 and a background check since they are not Title 2 weapons.
But why isn’t it a shotgun?
A shotgun as defined in the National Firearms Act as a shoulder fired weapon. If a gun that just so happens to be patterned after a traditional shotgun like the 870 or 590 and has never had a stock it is not a shotgun. These firearms were never designed, or redesigned to be fired from the shoulder.
Some shotguns are classified as AOWs. AOW shotguns aren’t really shotguns either, but 12 gauge firearms. The best example is the Serbu Super Shorty series of 12 gauges. They fall into the AOW class because they are under 26 inches in overall length.
With one of the 590 Shockwave and Tac 14 barrel length is not actually a concern. The concern is overall length. These firearms must maintain an overall length of 26 inches. That’s why both the Mossberg 590 Shockwave and Remington Tac 14 feature the unique Shockwave Raptor grip. This grip extends their overall length to 26 inches when fitted with a 14 inch barrel. Theoretically if you have a long grip of some kind on this firearm and the barrel could be even shorter.
A Few Important things to Remember
A critical component to keeping this firearm a firearm and not a shotgun is to never attach a stock to it. There are two reasons why you shouldn’t attach a stock to your firearm. First if you attach a stock while the weapon has a 14 inch barrel it becomes an unregistered SBS. This is a Federal felony, and carries heavy fines and a lengthy prison sentence.
Now you may be thinking, “Oh I’ll just attach a longer barrel and then a stock.” Well, you wouldn’t be breaking any laws, but you would be changing the status of your firearm. As soon as a stock is attached it goes from being a firearm into a shotgun. It has been redesigned as a shotgun and it cannot be converted back into a firearm.
One conversion you could do if you really wanted was to attach an 18 inch barrel and normal, 90 degree pistol grip. This will not change the status of the firearm in anyway. However, leaving the short 14 inch barrel in place with a standard 90 degree pistol grip will shorten the overall length and it will fall into NFA territory.
Some states classify shotguns differently from the Federal government and these guns may not be legal in your state. So always double check state and local laws prior to purchasing or building one of these 12 gauge firearms.
So are these firearms practical in any way? I can only speak from experience when it comes to the Mossberg 590 Shockwave. After handling one at Shot Show’s Range Day I knew I had to have one, and grabbed one the same day my local gun store got one in. Remington’s Tac 14 was just announced and as far as I know is not available for sale just yet. However, I imagine they handle pretty similar.
A gun with a stock is always easier to fire than one without. With a stock a 12 gauge is easier to handle, more comfortable to shoot, and easier to fire rapidly. The Shockwave is a very lightweight and maneuverable package, more maneuverable than a standard shotgun. In a home defense situation it has some of the advantages of a pistol by being so maneuverable, but retains the power of a 12 gauge.
Those who have fired a pistol grip only shotgun knows they can have some fearsome recoil. It can be quite painful with buckshot. What’s really impressive with the Raptor grip is how it displaces recoil. There is no wrist pain from shooting one of these firearm equipped with a Raptor grip. It was quite the surprise that shooting buckshot was comfortable and easy to do. These are more practical than your traditional pistol grip only shotgun.
Sometimes practicality doesn’t matter. Sometimes you just want a fun gun, and these 12 gauge firearms are a literal blast. They don’t necessarily need to serve a purpose. My personal 590 Shockwave is just a fun gun. The fact it’s a Mossberg 590 platform means I can also customize it to my heart’s content. The Remington Tac 14 and 590 Shockwave are an interesting development in the firearms industry and are proving to be quite popular. If you want one, I wouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger and snatch one up.