Box magazine shotguns are nothing new and have always stirred heated debate.

What’s the skinny on box magazine shotguns?

  • The concept of a box magazine shotgun is not new.
  • In fact, it has actually been around for quite a while.
  • There is a laundry list of arguments for and against the design.
  • On either side, there are typically other factors that lead to the praise or criticism.

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.

box magazine shotgun -quan-first

The concept of a box magazine 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.

A box magazine for a 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.

Box magazine - shotgun Mossberg-590MHere are some of the arguments on detachable magazines versus tube-fed guns that you might hear around gun club benches, gun store counters, Internet forums and other institutions of higher learning.

• A box magazine is not practical on a shotgun. 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.

• Box-fed shotguns 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 Remington 870 DM, there was a small selection of box-fed shotguns to choose from, albeit all are semi-autos. 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.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the February 2018 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

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