Gun Digest

The Box Magazine-Fed Shotgun Quandary

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The box magazine-fed shotgun is nothing new and has always stirred heated debate. Here are a few points to know before you decide for or against them.

What you need to know about box magazine fed shotguns?

A detachable box magazine on a shotgun is a lot like Sasquatch, Moth Man and the Easter Bunny. Some of us believe in them; many of us don’t. Much like the Glock vs. the 1911 debate and other inane gun arguments, this topic can make things lively in the barbershop and the lunchroom, and it keeps gun writers from starving to death.

The concept of a box magazine fed shotgun is not new, and has actually been around for quite a while. Still, for many all this remains too unconventional and should not be talked about in polite company, like the time your Uncle Ed got drunk and fell into the Christmas tree.

The box magazine fed shotgun comes from a different side of the universe compared to a rifle. Rifle cartridges are metallic, slender and usually pointed, ideal for sliding out of the confines of a magazine and into the chamber of a rifle. Shotgun shells are the opposite in that they are blunt, heavy and made of plastic, which can become dented and deformed — not exactly perfect for making the gun function well.

Here are some of the arguments on tube versus the detachable magazines fed shotgun that you might hear around gun club benches, gun store counters, Internet forums and other institutions of higher learning.

• A box magazine fed shotgun is not practical. Shotgun shells are large and take up a lot of room, so a magazine that will hold a sufficient amount of ammo has to be big and bulky. This makes the shotgun unwieldy and hard to balance, and the magazine might catch on something during a fracas.

• A shotgun with a tube magazine is OK for hunting, but in tactical situations, reloading is too slow and difficult under stress, and you might be limited on magazine capacity.

• For tactical situations, a shotgun with a tube magazine works well, as the shooter can perform the “shoot one, load one” discipline (tactical reloading) and keep the magazine topped off.

• Tube-fed shotguns carry the majority of the weight forward. This helps with felt recoil and makes the gun easier to control while firing.

• The box magazine fed shotgun bear the weight of the ammo roughly in the middle of the gun. This stabilizes the weapon and makes it easier to point and get on target.

Even before the recent unveiling of the box magazine fed pump shotgun, such as the Remington 870 DM and Mossberg Mag-Fed 590, there was a small selection of this style to choose from, albeit all semi-autos. Utilizing the AK-47's long-stroke piston operation, guns such as the Molot Vepr 12 and Saiga 12 have become popular tactical shotgun options in some corners of the shooting world.

As their fans are more than familiar, the guns are fast and powerful, offering overwhelming firepower and fast reloads. Additionally, they transition loads as quickly as you can change magazines. Ideal, however, the system still draws its share of detractors. Though, their disapproval, in many cases, could be classified as unwarranted.

Critics of these guns like to point to problems with failures to feed causing malfunctions. If a gas-operated semi-auto shotgun is having trouble, the problem is often the ammo, not the gun. Inexpensive, low-brass shotgun shells might not have enough power to make the shotgun cycle properly. So, before you dismiss the new shotgun you just acquired as a “cheap Russian-made piece of junk,” you should take a look at the cheap shells you might have just picked up at Wally World.

Obviously, this is not an issue with magazine fed pump shotguns, perhaps opening their versatility. The 870 DM and 590 will happily chew through light field loads at the trap range and ask for seconds. Then, with nary a burp, gnaw on 3-inch buckshot loads. A bit more tactical-practical.

Pro or con, the magazine fed shotgun is here to stay, namely because it's already been around for a spell. 

This article originally appeared in the February 2018 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine. Article expanded.

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