I’M a great believer in the combat shotgun for CQC and intimidation. As a result, I try to test anything new that comes along in fighting scatterguns. The problem is generally that most “new” shotguns aren’t really new. They aren’t all that different from the Winchester Model 97 Trench Guns used against the Germans in World War I.
When the Benelli M1 came along 30 years ago, that was something new, and later Benelli developments, especially the M3, have included innovations. Russian Saiga shotguns have offered another self-loader with the advantage of a detachable box magazine. Usually, however, the real tactical versions of the Saiga have not been imported. As far as slide-action shotguns go, the Remington 870 and Mossberg 500 aren’t new, but remain good to go.
I’ve been testing a shotgun that is definitely innovative and, based on over 150 rounds fired, very reliable. I’m referring to the SRM 1216 self-loading shotgun.
Before discussing the SRM 1216, let me digress for a moment to examine cartridge capacity in combat shotguns. To allow it be handled fast, often in close quarters, the fighting shotgun will have a short barrel—18 inches for non-NFA is the norm and 14 inches for NFA versions.
In addition to the short barrel, it is desirable to have as many available rounds as possible. There are two standard options for increasing shotgun magazine capacity: 1) extend the magazine tube or 2) have a detachable box magazine. The longer the tube, the longer the barrel, so handiness is lost. The longer the box magazine, the harder it is to maneuver with the shotgun, and it is nearly impossible to go prone or use low cover.
That’s the conundrum facing the shotgun designer.
However, the SRM 1216’s design combines a self-loading shotgun that, subjectively, fires as fast as a Benelli with a 16-round magazine that does not protrude past the 18-inch barrel. In fact, the SRM 1216 is only 34 inches in overall length. It does not use a protruding box magazine either. Instead, a four-tubed rotating magazine, which functions as the shotgun’s forearm, carries 16 rounds of 2¾- or 3-inch shotgun shells.
Note: this is not a gimmick! It really works—and works well. A fully loaded magazine is inserted and locked into place. The bolt is pulled back and released to chamber the first round. After that, the remaining rounds in the first tube are chambered by the semi-auto action with the bolt locking open as the tube is empty. The user then presses a release lever and rotates the magazine to the next chamber, at which point the bolt goes forward feeding a new round, and the firing process begins again. When all four tubes are empty, the magazine may be quickly and easily removed by pressing a good-sized release button at the front of the magazine retention point and pulling the magazine free. A new magazine may be inserted and the process begins again.
Before I took the SRM 1216 to the range, I practiced hitting the lever and rotating the magazine a couple dozen times. It’s actually a very comfortable operation and certainly no more complicated than operating the slide action of an 870 after each round.
The SRM 1216 stays compact due to what I would term its semi-bullpup design. It’s not really a bullpup, as the magazine is ahead of the trigger guard. The stock is quite comfortable—always a good thing when sending lots of rounds of 12-gauge downrange fast. Its roller delayed action is fast and helps counter recoil.
But I will make two comments about recoil. I noticed that the fourth round in each tube seemed to recoil more than the others. This may have been from the bolt locking back. I also found that I should not position the sight too far back to avoid getting smacked in the face.
Speaking of sights, the SRM 1216 has a Picatinny rail, which allows mounting an array of optical sights. The one I tested had a detachable M4-type carry handle rear sight and front post. It should work well with a red dot. Another feature the SRM 1216 shares with the M4 is the push-pin break-open action, which allows easy maintenance. As is usual when I’m testing a weapon that does not use corrosive ammunition, I have not yet cleaned the SRM 1216, to see if it can keep functioning when dirty.
Two ergonomic issues I should note are that the safety lever operates in the opposite direction of most weapons with a safety lever. Instead of hitting the rear of the lever—located on the right side of the receiver—with the thumb or forefinger to rotate it from “safe” to “fire,” you hit the front of the lever with the forefinger to move it. Now that I’m used to this arrangement, I find it faster than the usual system. Also note that the bolt release is quite small and requires some effort to operate. It is much faster to just pull back and release the bolt.
The SRM 1216 is designed so that controls may be switched, thus making it ambidextrous. Ergonomics are quite good. The magazine release is easily operated with either forefinger by just sliding the hand slightly forward on the magazine/forearm. Likewise, the thumb can readily operate the lever to unlock the magazine and rotate it. The magazine may be rotated either to the right or left. I don’t see any tactical advantage to one way or the other, but I did find that I can manipulate it slightly faster by rotating the magazine to the left.
Another real plus for those involved in tactical use of the shotgun is that the SRM 1216 can readily be configured as an SBS (Short-Barreled Shotgun). The SRM 1212 has a 13-inch barrel, holds 12 rounds, and is 27.5 inches overall. Even more compact is the SRM 1208, which has a 10-inch barrel, holds eight rounds, and is only 24.5 inches overall. These latter two require NFA SBS registration. unloaded. Even with the magazine fully loaded, it balances and handles well. The magazine/forearm design is such that you can go prone easily or rest the shotgun on a barricade.
The shotgun’s comfortable pistol grip allows it to be handled easily or carried in one hand for short periods if the other hand is occupied.
I’ve taken the SRM 1216 out three times and put at least two magazines of 16 rounds each through it. At one session I fired the two magazines and reloaded one a second time, so fired 48 rounds. In another, I fired the two magazines, then partially reloaded with various loads for another 20 rounds or so. I’ve used mostly Federal Tactical #4 & 00 buck, and slugs and Winchester low-recoil 00 buck. However, I have also fired various other loads, usually what I had around, which included some 2¾-inch Magnum #1, 00, & 000 buckshot. I shot one box of three-inch 00 buckshot as well.
Of all that shooting, I did have a couple of failures to fully feed: one with the #4 buck tactical load and one with a low-recoil slug. In both cases, a pull back on the bolt handle let both rounds feed. These also occurred after more than 100 rounds had been fired without cleaning the shotgun.
The SRM 1216 was, as advertised, very fast handling. I fired a couple of complete magazines moving among plates at 15 to 35 yards. With slugs, accuracy was pretty good, usually about four inches at 25 yards for three shots off hand.
Buckshot patterns were not as tight as with some of my shotguns, especially choked for combat use, but I didn’t expect them to be. At 15 yards, the patterns were all staying centered on a humanoid target. I fired three rounds of Winchester low-recoil 00 buck at a police training target at 50 yards and scored seven hits. It wouldn’t have been a pleasant experience for a real opponent.
As I attempt to do whenever testing shotguns, I fired a couple of rounds of Federal #4 tactical buckshot from 15 yards at one of the zombie targets zombies. His rotting torso was chewed up pretty well.
The SRM 1216 is a truly innovative fighting shotgun design. Its combination of fast operation and high magazine capacity would make it a great ambush breaker for a special ops unit or security team. For home defense, law enforcement or other close-combat use, the fact that an SRM 1216 carries 16 rounds ready for action makes it extremely appealing.
This shotgun is already getting some serious looks from special military and police units. I would say it deserves a serious look from anyone who appreciates the value of a good fighting shotgun.