With all of the attention on the patrol rifle lately, you might think the 12-gauge shotgun—the standard bearer of law enforcement’s heavy weapons for years—has been all but replaced by the patrol rifle. That is far from the truth. The 12-gauge has been a mainstay of law enforcement for more than 50 years for a reason.
In its pump-action format, the overwhelming choice for law enforcement agencies, the weapon offers an extremely reliable platform that can and does survive for numerous years, often decades, in one of the harshest environments on the planet—a squad car. In some cases, however, the weapon survives as an issued arm in spite of itself.
Numerous pundits continue to extol the “versatility” of the shotgun, claiming that it can be used for slugs, buckshot and a variety of specialty rounds. But the vast majority of officers simply do not have access to, or the training to manage, multiple types of rounds while on patrol. Most officers hit the street with the tube loaded with either 4 Buck or 00 Buck, and they have, for the most part, found that it does a good job in effectively terminating close-range hostilities.
However, the shotgun has fallen behind in many areas, causing the mass law enforcement switch to the patrol rifle. These areas include range, precision, recoil and, to a great degree, ergonomics. All of these deficiencies impact the ability of the end user to manipulate the weapon under stress—particularly when engaging multiple suspects. This makes the rifle a much better weapon for most officers.
While range and precision can be dealt with to some degree by the “other” rounds that, again, are not often available to line officers, the issue of ergonomics and recoil have only recently begun to be addressed. Until recently, the pump-action shotgun had been essentially unchanged since it first premiered as a “combat” arm in the 1897 Winchester shotgun, which was made famous as the “trench” gun of World War I.
While the weapon platform continued to be subtly refined over the next five decades, it essentially stagnated again with the introduction of the Remington 870—the weapon that has ridden more miles in law enforcement patrol than any weapon in history. As good as the Model 870, the Mossberg 500 series and the various other contemporary slide-action shotguns are, from an ergonomic standpoint, unchanged versions of the Model 1897 Winchester.
Within the past several years, however, many manufacturers have begun to address the overall deficiencies of the shotgun and have begun producing a variety of accessories which improve the ability of the end user to operate the weapon. One of the best of these is Mesa Tactical
. This Costa Mesa, CA-based firm manufactures a well-built and well-thought-out line of shotgun accessories.
Mesa Tactical’s extensive line-up of accessories contains adapter kits for mounting telescoping stocks, ammunition carriers, Picatinny rail systems and a variety of other items, all of which allow for customization.
One of the most recognizable products from Mesa Tactical is its telescoping stock and adapter kit, which allow them to be attached to a variety of common shotgun models. These kits also serve as the mounting platform for Mesa’s hydraulic recoil buffer system, which is claimed to reduce felt recoil by up to 70%.
Mesa Tactical actually offers three separate stock adapter styles. They are denoted as the High Tube, Low Tube and the LEO. Each of these stock adapters will accept a standard AR-15-style collapsible stock, as well as Mesa’s own Endrine hydraulic recoil buffer system, differing only in terms of where the stock is placed in relation to the bore line.
The High Tube adapter positions the stock directly in line with the bore and, as a result, controls muzzle rise to a significant degree. This instead generates a push directly to the rear rather than any large degree of muzzle rise, as is common with other stocks. This adapter kit includes a Picatinny rail to mount an optical sight on the shotgun, which is a must as the stock is positioned high enough that the iron sights are not accessible.
Both the Low Tube and LEO stock adapters position the stock in a more conventional format, with the iron sights remaining viable. The most significant difference in the Low Tube and the LEO adapters is one of price, with the LEO being the less expensive of the two. It is aimed directly at the working cop who is spending his own money to enhance his duty weapon. While the LEO is manufactured only for the Remington 870, both stocks feature mounting points for Picatinny rails, slings and other accessories.
During testing, the LEO model and other accessories were deployed on a 12.5-inch barreled Remington 870. The adapter and stock mounted quickly and securely with minimum effort. Tested with the standard stock and the recoil-reducing buffer in place, the entire unit simply exuded quality. It turns a cumbersome weapon into one that is easily brought to the shoulder and maneuvered during the various activities that routinely confront officers. When the recoil-reducing stock was affixed, many of the testers noted that felt recoil was substantially reduced, allowing them to engage multiple targets in a quicker time frame than any other conventional pump-action shotgun.
As red-dot optics have proven themselves to be more than useful on a combat arm, many have sought an effective way to mount such a device on a duty shotgun. While Mesa has several options to achieve this goal, the Saddle Rail allows for one unit which features a Picatinny rail for optics and a built-in Sureshell ammunition carrier. Affixed to the weapon by simply driving out two pins, the Saddle Rail quickly found favor with officers. They liked the ruggedness of this accessory and found that it offered exactly what they needed in one unit with no complications.
The 12.5-inch barreled Remington 870 was equipped with the LEO stock adapter with stock and the Saddle Rail, which allowed for the mounting of the excellent Aimpoint Comp M2. SureFire’s newest forend, the Model 618LF, was also tested with the weapon. This unit replaces the original Remington version and features an LED light that produces 80 lumens of light for several hours. For weapons equipped with an extended magazine tube, Mesa Tactical produces an excellent Picatinny rail that allows for mounting a variety of other tactical lights. This unit is affixed to the weapon using the extended magazine tube and the barrel shotgun via a clamp-style mounting bracket.
With the Aimpoint on the weapon, the low-mounted stock could benefit from additional height to help an officer achieve an adequate cheek weld. As such, an Accu-Riser CR-M4H was added to the stock to help bring the officer’s head more in line with the optic; it increased the height of the stock by several inches. Produced by Leatherman, this exceedingly comfortable polymer cheek pad quickly attached to the stock and assisted in “locking” the weapon and officer together. This allowed for very quick multiple target engagements. Because not all personnel desire the same size or type of assistance to achieve an adequate sight picture, Leatherman produces a wide variety of different sizes and styles of pads that will be able to fit any need.
All who tested the shotgun—both with and without the Endrine hydraulic recoil reducer—thought that the combination of the pistol grip, the placement of the stock in relation to the bore, and the adjustability of the collapsible stock and the cheek pad had significantly reduced felt recoil. These features allow users to “run” the gun more effectively than the non-modified version of the same weapon. Hit potential was improved remarkably with the addition of the red-dot optic and allowed for hits at a much longer range than with iron sights alone.
Officers have long realized that the 12-gauge shotgun is a decisive fight stopper within its given range and capabilities, but they have also long believed that improvements were required for it to continue to remain a viable option. Taken together, the products of Mesa Tactical have turned a hard-recoiling, unwieldy beast of a weapon that was often left behind in the patrol car into a state-of-the-art law enforcement tool. A shotgun outfitted with these products will see use in more and more situations and will improve officer safety to a significant degree. Scott Oldham is a supervisory sergeant with the Bloomington, IN Police Department where he is assigned to the Operations Division as patrol supervisor and is one of the team leaders for the department’s Tactical Unit. He and his partner, Sergeant Mick Williams, provide contract instruction on a wide range of subjects, including tactical and patrol-based skills. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.