Although displaced to a large degree by carbines, the venerable pump shotgun still has a place for use by private citizens and law enforcement.
The shotgun can be one of the best defensive weapons available, with a wide range of ammunition from birdshot to slugs and virtually everything in between. The fact that it’s an old design doesn’t mean it’s outdated—far from it.
One of the biggest knocks against the shotgun, especially with folks of smaller stature, is recoil. It has been my experience that recoil can be mitigated by a stock with a length of pull (LOP) that fits the shooter properly. Most people can shoot a firearm with a stock that is too long, but not one that is too short.
Most shotguns come from the factory with an LOP that is too long for many shooters. This causes a smaller person to have to reach farther to the trigger and forend, and places their body in an awkward position to control recoil. Good training in the proper technique of shooting a shotgun can also mitigate recoil.
Some time back, I attended a writers’ event hosted by ATI Gunstocks using Stoeger P350 shotguns, and I ended up buying one. Here are my thoughts on the gun and stock now that I’ve had time to practice with them.
The P350 Defense pump shotgun is designed for use in tight quarters. It is a rugged, no-frills 12-gauge shotgun with a matte black finish with synthetic stock and forend.
The 18¾-inch cylinder bore barrel has a phosphate (Parkerized) finish. Instead of a bead at the muzzle, the Stoeger P350 has an elevated post front sight. The P350 accepts 2¾- or 3-inch Magnum shells. Capacity with 2¾-inch shells is five plus one. A sling swivel stud is located on the end of the magazine cap.
The lockup on the P350 is somewhat unique in that it utilizes a rotating bolt with two locking lugs that provide superior bolt-to-barrel lockup. The bolt has a single extractor.
Like the Remington 870 (and others), the safety is a button located at the rear of the trigger guard. It is on “safe” when pushed to the right. The safety can be easily pushed to the right with the index finger while maintaining a firing grip by a right-handed shooter, but it requires shifting the grip to push the safety back to “safe.” This is not a huge drawback, as it is more important to be able to easily remove the safety if the gun is needed to fire quickly, and there is plenty of time to reapply it after the dance is over.
But for a left-handed shooter, a change in grip is necessary to move the button. This is why I prefer the tang-mounted safety found on Mossberg shotguns, which are ambidextrous.
The slide release is a serrated lever located on the left side at the front of the trigger guard.
The elevator (lifter) is slotted to help reduce a malfunction, but it is actually useless in this regard, as the forend completely covers the loading port when at the rearward position, where many malfunctions occur.
The forend has no provision to attach a light.
As tested, the Stoeger P350 came with an ATI M4-type Talon T2 sixposition adjustable shotgun stock with Scorpion Recoil System and height-adjustable cheekpiece.
A sling stud is located at the toe of the stock. If used with the stud on the magazine cap, this arrangement would be fine for casual field or range carry but not suitable for tactical use. Thankfully a sling attachment at the rear of the receiver enables a good two- or single-point sling to be used.
The first things I noticed when preparing to fire the first round through the P350 were that it pointed high and I could not get my cheek low
enough to look down the barrel.
This is typical with most shotguns that use an M4-type stock, because the straight stock has no drop as found on most shotguns.
Proceeding with the evaluation, the Stoeger P350’s rotating bolt would occasionally bind and the action had to be worked forward and back before the forend could be brought all the way to the rear to chamber the next shell.
A complete disassembly of the bolt and removing small burrs with a fine stone later eliminated the problem, but a consumer should not have to do this.
I wanted to see how this gun patterned different buckshot loads I have on hand for self-defense as well as training: Federal eight-pellet low recoil, Federal nine-pellet LE loads with FLITECONTROL® wads, Sellier & Bellot 12-pellet loads, and the Hornady American Gunner one-ounce reducedrecoil slug.
I decided to start at ten yards and proceed back in fiveyard increments until the buckshot patterns would not stay on an IDPA target, and see how the slugs grouped as far back as 75 yards.
The buckshot performance was about what I expected, with the Federal LE load beating all comers and keeping all pellets in a dense 11-inch pattern at 25 yards. I probably could have pushed this a bit farther without having pellets stray off the target.
The Hornady slugs grouped right at six inches from 75 yards—not bad for what is basically a bead-sighted shotgun.
Overall the Stoeger P350 performed well, but not great. The shooter can do the following to make the P350 a better defensive shotgun.
To enable the M4-type stock to be used, one could drill and tap the receiver to accept a red dot sight. The increased height would come up on target for a more natural point of aim. The adjustable cheekpiece would remain more of a conversation piece than a useful item unless a telescopic sight in a high mount were used, but this is not likely on a self-defense shotgun.
Alternatively, a factory stock could replace the ATI stock. I’m considering cutting a couple of inches off the forend so I can make full use of the slotted elevator.
The final downside is that there is no provision to attach a light, which I find essential on a home-defense or law enforcement shotgun. As shipped, the Stoeger P350 has to be used with a handheld technique (less than optimal) or a universal- type mount with a cord and pressure pad.
Or you could save yourself all that extra time and effort by purchasing a defensive shotgun that’s good to go out of the box.