Gun Digest

The S&W M&P 12: Big Firepower In A Small Package

Capable of fitting 15 12-gauge shells in a package barely over two feet long, the new S&W M&P 12 bullpup is a niche weapon that serves its role well.


S&W M&P 12 Features:

Shotguns are one of the most versatile and useful categories of firearms. What we think of as a modern, smokeless-powder 12-gauge has been getting put to devastating effect against both animals and humans since at least 1897 without ever seeing a serious dip in popularity. They are typically simple, cheap and very effective. Over one hundred years after John Browning’s first practical pump-action was being used to defend stagecoaches, 12-gauge pump-action shotguns are still serving in tactical defensive roles today. Smith & Wesson recently released their radical new M&P 12 bullpup to the market, but how does it compare to other contemporary tactical shotguns?

Where The M&P 12 Shines

Bullpups, whether they be rifles or shotguns, are a contentious topic. Some believe that they offer the best of both worlds—the compact length of a CQB weapon but the ballistic advantage of a full-size barrel. Others dismiss bullpups as gimmicks that don’t offer enough benefit to make up for their awkward ergonomics or poor triggers. For those who have already decided they want a high-capacity bullpup shotgun, however, the M&P 12 is one of only a few available options. IWI and UTAS have similar offerings on the market, but they are both significantly bulkier than the M&P 12. The closest existing firearm to the M&P 12 is obviously the Kel-Tec KSG, but Smith & Wesson brings more to their new gun than name recognition and a higher price tag.

The KSG and M&P 12 share the same capacities between their dual-tube feed systems, but the KSG is about two inches shorter while the M&P 12 is over a pound heavier. The extra weight comes from the M&P’s more solid, metal construction which features a steel receiver that should result in less recoil and greater durability.

Compared to more traditional shotgun designs, bullpup shotguns can have features that would otherwise be mutually exclusive. In a traditional, tube-fed shotgun, magazine size is directly correlated to their overall length. This means that a pump-action that’s been sawed down to the size of an M&P 12 would only have a capacity of four or five shells, or it would need to be ridiculously long to even begin to rival the M&P 12’s capacity. Conversely, magazine-fed shotguns can have a similarly short overall length but suffer in bulk due to the size of high-capacity shotgun mags. Drum magazines are notoriously bulky, awkward and less reliable than most other designs, making the M&P 12’s 14+1 capacity an attractive solution. This design is essentially the only way to have your cake and eat it too when it comes to owning a compact yet high-capacity shotgun.

Another advantage of the M&P 12 dual-tube feed system is the ability to carry multiple kinds of ammunition. A selector button allows for the magazine tube in use to be quickly and easily switched between, enabling the user to carry and choose between two ammunition types. If you’re a law enforcement officer this could mean carrying lethal and less-lethal loads, or dragon’s breath rounds and flechettes if you’re imitating your favorite video game.

Tube-switch button being activated by shooter on M&P 12.

Is The M&P 12 Right For You?

The M&P 12 is a niche weapon. It sacrifices a lot over other tactical shotgun choices to excel in just two areas: compactness and capacity. Any traditional shotgun that takes up as little space as the M&P 12 is going to have a very low capacity, and anything that rivals the M&P’s capacity will invariably be either longer or bulkier. But for those that need a small, reliable shotgun with a high capacity and a lot of firepower, the M&P 12 is likely the current best option on the market. While slightly longer and heavier than the KSG, it is reportedly more reliable, durable, modular and ergonomic. It can easily mount an optic, foregrip and weapon light for clearing tight, indoor spaces, or can be left stock to be easily stowed inside of a vehicle. If you were ever forced to use it, it would likely offer sufficient capacity to survive the encounter, but if you were forced to reload, the tedium of that task would probably spell your demise.

The M&P 12 probably wouldn't excel on a 3-gun course or in a duck blind, but it does what it was designed to do very well—clearing hallways and being stowed in tight spaces as an emergency defensive tool with some major firepower.

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