As technology improved and barrels could be made shorter and lighter, it was possible to build doublebarrel guns without adding too much extra weight.
Today, double-barrel shotguns (both over-and-under and side-by-side) are still popular with sportsmen, but does the classic over-and-under gun have a tactical use?
At the 2011 SHOT Show, I was rushing out of the convention center to catch a plane home and paused at the Mossberg law enforcement booth to cast an eye over their array of tactical shotguns.
I noticed an over-and-under 12 gauge—part of Mossberg’s “Maverick” line—all dressed up in matte black and synthetic stocks. A second glance revealed a Picatinny rail atop the receiver and another short rail beneath the lower barrel, close to the muzzle.
A police shotgun without a magazine? Naw … I started to walk away, but stopped abruptly. A breaching shotgun, maybe? OK, what about a dedicated less-lethal shotgun? Sure, why not? No problems with cycling the action—you could run any load from blanks to the heaviest magnum in it. At that point, I approached one of the Mossberg staff to request a sample.
MAVERIC K HS-12
When the Maverick HS-12 arrived at my local FFL, Kinsco Public Safety Equipment, I took the opportunity to brainstorm its potential with one of Kinsco’s owners, Greg Schumann, a former county sheriff’s deputy.
“It has some diverse uses,” Greg told me. “A SWAT breaching officer can now have a short, light shotgun as a backup to his pistol. Once he’s blown a door and the rest of the team has entered the building, if it’s necessary to blow a second door quickly, he’s got breaching rounds in the shotgun ready to go. Keep in mind, he may need up to four rounds for a door—three hinges and a lock.”
The Mossberg HS-12 comes with 18½-inch barrels, so it’s legal for any law-abiding person to own. I asked Bob Ford of Rocky Mountain Arms for his opinion of the HS-12. Bob has been customizing shotguns for years, including creation of legal short-barrel shotguns (SBS) for law enforcement, military, and private citizens (in accordance with BATFE regulations). I took the three components of the shotgun out of the box: barrel assembly, forend and receiver/ stock. It took just a moment to hook the barrels and receiver together and click the forend into place.
Bob was impressed with the overall fit and finish of the shotgun, noting the Picatinny rails and red fiber-optic front sight. But what really caught his attention were the two chambers. Bob directed me to hold the barrel up to the light and look down the bore from the chamber end.
Bob noted, “The slight shoulder at the end of the chambers has been removed. It isn’t back bored, which slightly increases the internal diameter of the barrel, but it will reduce some of the recoil.”
The HS-12 is available with or without removable chokes. The version I tested came with both barrels choked as cylinder bore, and retails for $501. The version with removable chokes comes with an improved cylinder and modified choke and retails for $516. Fit and finish are excellent for a budget shotgun. I didn’t even notice some of the joins between surfaces until lubricant seeped out of them. The tolerances are tight.
This is one of the shortest, lightest shotguns I have handled. It’s comfortable for people who lack upper body strength because, unlike conventional pump-action and semi-auto shotguns with tubular magazines, the balance of a double-barrel shotgun does not change much when it’s loaded because weight is not added along the length of the barrel. At the range, I did not notice any additional perceived recoil over shooting a pump action.
The HS-12 is highly versatile for the shooter who only wants one shotgun, but is limited by its two rounds. A backup pistol is never a bad idea for any long gun.
The Tuff QuickStrip allows up to six rounds to be carried in a rubbery strip. With a little practice, the shotgun can be reloaded very quickly.
The QuickStrip comes in yellow and black, so it’s possible to color code which load each holds. If the situation warrants it, one strip could hold slugs and the other buckshot or extra breaching rounds for a SWAT officer, taking advantage of the shotgun’s versatility in the ammo selection.
DILIGENTIA, VIS, CELERITAS
Accuracy, power, and speed are the criteria that Jeff Cooper determined for a fighting firearm. Does the HS-12 meet those criteria?
The 12-gauge slug and buckshot certainly meet the power requirement.
A quick double tap on the single trigger should satisfy the speed requirement when necessary.
As for accuracy, a trip to the range demonstrated that head shots on a B27 silhouette target from a standing position at 25 yards, and body shots from a prone position at 50 yards are relatively simple. I shot 12-gauge 2¾-inch, oneounce slugs from Fiocchi and Federal TruBall low-recoil buckshot.
One advantage of the model with removable chokes and double barrels is that the barrel with the modified choke (which is slightly tighter than the improved cylinder) could be used for tight buckshot patterns while the more open cylinder choke could be used for slugs and special munitions. The required shot pattern may be achieved by trying different loads from a variety of manufacturers and with different chokes until a tight, even pattern is produced.
Shotgun barrels are as unique as fingerprints. Even two seemingly identical barrels manufactured one after the other on the same machinery will often pattern differently with identical loads. One barrel may shoot a tight, even pattern with brand A, while the next barrel will shoot wide and uneven with brand A but tight and even with brand B. Keeping that in mind, we patterned both barrels with buckshot at five and 15 yards with 12-gauge 2¾ nine pellet 00 Buck from Federal and Fiocchi. All pellets stayed in the targets, although the shot patterns varied among both barrels and both brands.
I also tested Fiocchi less-than-lethal 15-pellet rubber buckshot at five and 15 yards. At 15 yards, 13 pellets stayed in the lower part of the silhouette body.
As mentioned earlier, some light specialty loads do not provide enough power and mass to cycle a semi-auto shotgun. To prove this, I shot blank rounds and rubber buckshot in a Mossberg 9200. The light loads did not cycle the action, whereas in the over-and-under HS-12, they worked just fine, as expected.
The HS-12 is also quick to pick up moving targets such as clay birds. I shot some of Federal’s new pink-hull Top Gun target loads (1 1/8-ounce #8 shot). Part of the revenue from sales goes to support the fight against breast cancer. The load worked well, although with the cylinder bore with both barrels, I had to get on the bird at close range while the pattern was still tight.
THE BIG QUESTION
Why utilize a double-barrel shotgun instead of a pump-action or semi-auto with four or more rounds in the magazine plus one in the chamber?
- Is an innocuous general-use shotgun that can be carried almost anywhere without raising eyebrows.
- Will feed and fire any 12-gauge round up to three inches regardless of length or level of power, whereas some specialty shotgun ammo or shells shorter than 2 ¾ may not reliably cycle in a semi-auto shotgun.
- Single trigger facilitates fast double tap.
- Barrel selector switch permits quick choice between two cartridges (slug or buckshot; rubber buckshot or bean bag). It is a very bad idea to mix lethal and less-lethal rounds within the same weapon.
- Overall length is less than a comparable pump or semi-auto because the receiver is much shorter on the doublebarrel shotgun. This allows for an 18½ inch barrel, legal anywhere a shotgun is legal, in a shorter package.
- Ease of operation, especially compared to some semi-auto designs.
- Has some merits as a home-defense gun, particularly for people who don’t practice enough to remember to rack a pump action between rounds fired, or don’t know how to run a semi-auto. But for safety, I would keep the over/under unloaded, with ammo to hand. It could make a big difference when the sound of breaking glass downstairs at 3am prompts a homeowner to lock the bedroom door, call the cops, and hunker down behind the bed with two rounds loaded and the shotgun trained on the door.
- Only two rounds before having to reload.
- Limited options for attaching a sling.
- For readers who live in enlightened parts of the country where carrying a shotgun in the gun rack of a pickup truck is considered normal, remember that in some states, Colorado for example, it’s only legal to transport a long arm in that fashion if the chamber is empty. In Colorado, packing heat with both barrels loaded can get you arrested. It also means that asking a carjacker to hold on a minute while you drop a couple of rounds into Ol’ Bessie is not a viable option. Score a point for the pump-action with rounds in the magazine and an empty chamber.
- I’d like to see a mount added to the HS-12 to attach a single-point sling.
Logic dictates that the pump-action is still king, but I’m going to hate returning this Maverick to the factory. The Mossberg HS-12 is a simple, fun gun to shoot and has potential for a variety of shooters and scenarios.