MOLLE II ACU pouch holds 16 rounds conveniently and offers good value.
I bought my first U.S. military shotgun more than 40 years ago. An M97 Trench Gun, it was the most iconic of the U.S. fighting shotguns—and still is, for that matter.
Ever since then, I have retained my interest in GI shotguns and their accouterments. Along with World War I and World War II shotguns, I’ve accumulated the bayonets, slings, shells, and shell pouches to go with them. Some of the latter are quite scarce now and pricey.
I have also retained an interest in current U.S. martial shotguns, ammunition, and ammunition pouches. As a result, when I got a call a few weeks ago from a friend who is one of the foremost experts on U.S. martial shotguns telling me that a lot of the War on Terror shotgun pouches are available as surplus or overruns, I was interested.
Pouch from Specialty Defense Systems is interesting in that it holds two M4 magazines and two shotgun shells, but for most readers it will not offer much utility.
The types of shotgun pouches used from WWI through Vietnam can be counted on one hand, though there are variations among the basic types. But over the last couple of decades, myriad shotgun shell pouches have been purchased by the armed forces. The ability to make special purchases at battalion level, or even lower in some units, has helped this proliferation.
As a result, I thought readers might be interested in some of the pouches I’ve found lately. Some are available on eBay, but others may only be obtained from specialist disposers of surplus U.S. military equipment.
One of the most interesting is the one about which my friend initially called. Unlike most recent pouches, which are designed for attachment using MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment), this one has a shoulder strap for over-the-shoulder carry. It also has a belt loop to keep it against your side. Given that it only holds 12 shotgun shells, it is fairly good-sized, but is also designed to hold two spare Beretta M9 magazines.
Current incarnation of traditional U.S. Military 12-round pouch still offers a good, compact carrying system for shotgun shells.
Twelve is traditionally the magic number for U.S. military shotgun shell pouches, though some hold more. What I find interesting about this one is that it would make a great grab-and-go pouch for someone like me, who keeps a shotgun and self-loading pistol as house guns. A friend got this one for me from a surplus disposer, so I don’t really know for whom it was intended—MPs, maybe?
Another one is from Specialty Defense Systems and combines a double M4 pouch with loops for two shotgun shells in Woodland Camo. I have concluded that the two shotgun loops would logically be for breaching rounds, as many breachers carry an M4 and a pistol-grip shotgun. Presumably, the shotgun would already be loaded with breaching rounds, with these two as spares. This one was on eBay, and I bought it because I thought it was interesting.
Eagle Industries FSBE pouch holds 24 rounds. It is comparatively expensive, but Eagle Industries has a solid reputation for producing high-quality military gear.
Another I found appealing is of the same type as WWII, Vietnam and later belt pouches that hold 12 rounds. This is a really handy pouch with two reloads for most combat shotguns. Its fasteners allow quick access but keep the shells secure. The original WWII and later pouches had a small drain hole in the bottom, but this one has a distinctive large brass drain hole.
Produced by Alphasoft Wearables, it has the NSN number and other info stamped inside, as do the older pouches. It also has “US” stamped on it. This one is available on eBay.
One of the best deals for anyone wanting a shotgun ammo pouch with GI cred is the MOLLE II ACU Digital Shotshell Panel Pouch. It holds 16 shells in two rows of eight and is very flat against the web gear when closed, but may be opened quickly with a pull-tab. The pouch has the NSN number and with its digital camo is quite “tactical looking” and also truly tactical for fast access. I found them being sold as a pair on eBay for $12. That gives me 32 shells with the two pouches.
Nineteen-round pouch seems somewhat complicated compared to the others, but it does offer a way to separate buckshot and breaching rounds.
The most expensive of the pouches I bought is the Eagle Industries FSBE (Full Spectrum Battle Equipment) 24-Round Shotgun Ammo Pouch, MOLLE, Coyote Brown, USMC. The pouch’s tag has all the military data. It folds to be compact on the belt or vest, though since shells will be quadruple stacked when the pouch is fully folded, it does stick out a bit. Still, it is a nicely designed pouch. The best price I found was $49.95, once again on eBay.
Unless you specifically want this one because it was USMC issue, I recommend a pair of the MOLLE II ACU pouches I discussed above instead, at a lower price and a flatter package.
I tried one other pouch that holds 19 shotgun shells in a rather complicated system of multiple flaps. It is an OD MOLLE II pouch that holds 13 rounds in a pouch that allows tabs to be pulled to let the two rows hang out for faster access. When folded, there are two outer flaps, each of which holds three shells each for a total of 19 shells. It seems complicated to me, but I would assume the unit or units that ordered it felt it suited their mission. I could see using the six outer shell loops for breaching rounds and the interior ones for buckshot or slugs.
Over-the-shoulder pouch holds 12 shotgun shells and two M9 magazines, making it a nice grab-and-go pouch.
Other current shotshell carriers are out there, but the ones discussed here give some idea of what’s available. As I write this, they are listed on eBay, but I don’t know how long they will remain. By the time you read this, there may well be some other designs that have seen military usage. Recently, one of my contacts told me about a shotgun pouch being used by the Air Force Security Forces. I am trying to track down one of those to try.
I wrote this column mostly to give readers an idea of the diversity of equipment currently available to U.S. military personnel. U.S. troops are creative, and Marines who used shotguns a lot grabbed up unissued WWI grenade pouches and crammed them full of shotgun shells.
Troops still find creative ways to fill equipment needs, but today they have quite a few shotgun pouches from which to choose.