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THE GREAT STOCK SHOOTOUT


November 8, 2014
By Dave Brown

A modern well-equipped police agency unwraps brand new patrol rifles and racks them beside those dusty old shotguns. What happens? Hopefully… nothing. While some agencies are dumping shotguns for patrol carbines, others keep them in inventory and continuing issuing them.

The patrol carbine is the perfect choice for intermediate and long-range threats. It combines accuracy, safety and speed for the modern urban or rural environment, but not every officer is trained or current on the carbine. The police shotgun still has an unmatched versatility in close-range engagement and ammunition selection.

In an ideal world, every Canadian police officer would have quick access to both a carbine and shotgun. This is not always possible, especially with the newer vehicle gun racks that cannot always accommodate a full-stock shotgun and collapsible-stock carbine.

There is another issue with police shotgun. Zombies!

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It’s not that anyone ever seriously contemplates needing a shotgun to shoot zombies. (They ARE just movies and television shows, after all.) It is the perception that the standard wood stock is somehow “inferior” to the modern plastic look of the carbine. Actually, if it weren’t for the interest in zombie protection in the US, there wouldn’t be the huge range of accessories now available to modernize the look of shotguns.

During a tour of a major agency’s police college, a firearms instructor jokingly told that today’s recruit is looking for modern zombie-killer weapons so shotguns needed to be “Gucci-ed up” a bit. (Fitting in to a patrol car rack that could accommodate either a carbine or a shotgun was the real reason, of course, but a more modern look wasn’t to be entirely discounted.)

The question is whether a modern look translates to better performance. We rounded up the best OEM and aftermarket shotgun stocks, installed them on a variety of police shotguns and tested them back-to-back in typical exercises. There are many aftermarket stocks available but we would trust these with people’s lives. All stocks were installed on pump-action 14-inch and 18.5-inch barreled Remington 870 Police or Marine Magnum models.

{Standard wood}

The wood stock has been around for centuries and continues to provide great service and long life. While wood is more subject to slight warping with variations in moisture and humidity, that is not an issue with shotgun stocks.

{Hogue}

The Hogue OverMolded shotgun stock is polymer, with permanently molded rubber inserts in the pistol-grip area. A matching forend is available with a rubber overmold the length of the pump. This stock was always my number one choice for a sturdy and weather-proof shotgun and the overmolded forend is used on all of my training shotguns. It provides a very good grip, even in pouring rain.

The Hogue stock is available in two pull-lengths, to accommodate both youth and adults. Many shooters prefer the shorter trigger-pull length of the youth version when wearing body armor and shooting from a more squared stance. (Personally, I have never had a problem shooting while wearing body armor and don’t use a squared stance. I don’t believe in trying to turn a shotgun into a carbine by changing the stance, which has always been most effective for fast follow-up shots with heavier recoiling shotguns.)

{SpeedFeed}

SpeedFeed stocks (Safariland Group) come in several variations. This is the stock commonly available from the factory on the Remington 870 Police – my favourite and consistently among the fastest.

{Mesa Tactical Urbino}

The Mesa Tactical Urbino is a fixed-length pistol grip shotgun stock made from injection-molded glass-filled nylon. First modeled after the Benelli M4 tactical stock, it is now available for a number of Remington, Mossberg and Benelli shotguns.

The Urbino is designed to be one to two inches shorter than OEM stocks to better accommodate body armor and the more modern, squared stance that many instructors now teach. I find it just a little too short and, as I said above, one can’t turn a shotgun into a carbine just by changing the stance and stock. If you need a rifle, use a rifle.

On the other hand, combine the Urbino fixed-length stock with a 14-inch barrel and you have a compact 33-inch shotgun that will fit in patrol racks and is much easier to manipulate in and out of vehicles. The fixed-length Urbino-equipped shotgun is not much longer than one with a fully collapsed telescoping AR stock adapter.

{Mesa Tactical LEO}

Police college firearms instructors tested this telescoping stock adapter to modernize their 14-inch barreled Remington 870 Police shotguns. I’ve never been a big fan of adjustable stocks on shotguns, mostly because I still have nightmares about shooting those awful old folding stocks which, more than any other single factor, caused officers to fear the shotgun.

This is not my dad’s folding stock. It is a robust adapter that works with any AR-style stock and a mil-spec dimensioned buffer tube. You can buy it as just the adapter and install your favorite AR stock, or you can buy it as a package, complete with buffer tube and M4 SOPMOD 4-position adjustable stock (picture).

I was prepared to hate this stock. I like ‘point-at-the-bad-guy-and-pull-the-trigger’ simplicity; I don’t want to exit a patrol vehicle and play with a stock adjustment but I began to appreciate this stock and its versatility. I can see it as ideal for those trained primarily on carbines, where adjusting the stock to the conditions will be second nature. It’s better to have a shotgun that fits in a modern rack than no shotgun at all.

CHART 1 – Stock Pull Length (inches) Overall Length (inches)

{The exercises}

I wanted to keep the shooting simple and yet a little challenging. The first exercise was a simple five-round drill, using bowling pins at seven yards. Starting with four shells in the shotgun and one in the pocket, the shooter shoots four pins off a table, speedloads the fifth shell from a pocket and knocks the last pin over. The exercise begins with a round chambered, safety ON and muzzle in the high ready position. Timing is done electronically and the times noted in the chart are the average of five runs, from start beep to the sound of the fifth shot.

Lest you think this is easy, bowling pins are fun but TOUGH to shoot. You must hit them dead center to send them flying and the pattern at seven yards is tight enough that the bead or sight must be centered exactly. There is no such thing as knocking off two pins with one shot.

The second exercise was a simple four-round drill requiring the shooter to knock down four pins as fast as they can aim and pump, starting with four rounds in the shotgun, a round chambered, safety ON and muzzle in the low ready position.

CHART 2 Stock – Five- round Speedload Exercise

{Results}

The results were a little surprising. A more modern look did not translate into faster times. The standard wood or plastic stock was still among the fastest to shoot and the easiest to speedload. The slowest stock was the AR-adapter LEO, not surprising when you consider I added a sticky Limbsaver butt pad and needed to tuck my head down for a more careful sight picture. (The LEO stock adapter is too high for use on bead sights but works well for ghost ring or rifle sights.)

While the SpeedFeed stock was the most comfortable and consistent in the test, the Urbino was fastest overall. It tended to slam into the cheek a little more than a longer-length stock but I stopped noticing after a few shots. It just seemed to point handier and aim faster and it’s the perfect height for bead sights. Mesa Tactical did an excellent job with the Urbino and the Benelli M4 it was designed from is probably the world’s best combat or tactical shotgun.

The LEO adapter really came into its own in the second exercise, mostly because the low ready start places the butt pad already into your shoulder. This exercise is probably a little less realistic than the first but it shows the ultimate speed these shotguns are capable of when everything works right. Again, the SpeedFeed was the most comfortable and consistent to shoot but the Urbino surprised with some very fast times.

{Conclusions}

Traditional stocks still work well. A shotgun is not a carbine and you shouldn’t try turning it into one by altering the stock or changing your stance. A shotgun is a unique weapon and should be appreciated for its advantages.

On the other hand, some of the newer pistol-grip stock choices may not necessarily be faster or easier to shoot but may fit into patrol racks better than standard stocks. Collapsible stocks can also accommodate a wider variety of officers and styles of soft or hard body armor.

Aside from the stock on a shotgun when I need it the most, I still prefer a traditional stock’s speed and ease of manipulation. The SpeedFeed is still my favorite but I was very impressed with the Mesa Tactical LEO adapter. It’s a good solid design that works well on ghost ring or rifle sighted shotguns.

My own personal shotgun (a 14-inch barrel Remington 870 Police), which I take to workshops up in bear country, has an Urbino stock. It carries a huge impact in a compact and accurate package.

As for the upcoming zombie invasion, the reality is that none of these stocks will do much good. As ever-polite Canadians, few of us are likely to survive the first wave. We would politely hold the door open, apologize for bumping into them and chase after holding their severed limbs, saying, “Hey! You dropped something!”

On the other hand, we are apparently incredibly well equipped should bowling pins suddenly rise up and decide to start eating us.