Weapons: Combat Shotguns Shrink

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February 16, 2018: Israeli firm IWI recently introduced a compact shotgun based on their innovative military bullpup type rifles. The Tavor TS12 is a 3.6 kg (8 pounds, empty) 12 gage semi-automatic shotgun that can carry up to 15 rounds in three tubular magazines. Since you can have one round in the chamber max capacity is 16 rounds. The 714 mm (28.34 inch) long shotgun is definitely compact and has a 466mm (18.5 inch) barrel and a movable Picatinny rail for accessories. IWI is marketing the TS12 in the U.S. as a “home defense” weapon and for hunting. It will sell for $1,400 and most civilians needing a shotgun for protection have access to much less expensive shotgun models. The TS12 has obvious appeal to police who often use non-lethal “beanbag” rounds for riot control or dealing with violent and deranged people who are difficult to subdue. The military also has “combat shotguns” for special situations. Israel has been training a lot of its troops for urban warfare and operations in Hamas “combat tunnels” so there is a small market there as well. But the big market is always the United States and if American troops use something unique in combat many other nations will adopt such weapons for their own use.

The TS12 has an impressive pedigree. The Tavor line of combat rifles was introduced into the Israeli military as the TAR-21 in 2004. These were based on years of feedback from troops and went on to be successful in combat. The Tavor assault rifles was sold to a number of foreign customers. The Tavor (or TAR-21) was designed to replace the 5.56mm Galils and M-16s, and the 9mm Uzi submachinegun in Israel security forces. The TAR-21 is a bullpup design, which places the ammo magazine behind the pistol grip and trigger, and makes for a shorter and lighter weapon.

The Tavor comes in several sizes. The most common ones are regular (72 cm/28.3 inches long, 3.67 kg/8.1 pounds), and commando (64 cm/25.2 inches, 2.95 kg/6.5 pounds). The Tavor has a Picatinny rail on top, for mounting all manner of sights (as it becoming popular, mainly because it makes the weapon so much more effective.) The Tavor succeeded by being more rugged, compact and comfortable to use. It eventually proved more reliable than the competition when foreign customers went looking for a new rifle.

Then there are combat shotguns, which have been around for as long as there have been shotguns. There haven’t been many efforts to develop and market a new combat shotgun since 2009 because of the 2008 defeat of al Qaeda in Iraq. But that changed in the last few years. In 2015 Russian and American manufacturers offered a similar new automatic shotgun. The American one is the Fostech ORIGIN-12. This is a 4.2 kg (9.2 pound) 12 gauge shotgun that has a suppressor (called a silencer but isn’t, it just reduces sound and flash). It can carry up to 30 rounds (in a drum magazine). The standard five round box magazine adds about 340 gr (half a pound) while the 30 round drum magazine adds 1.5 kg (3.3 pounds) for a max weight of 5.7 kg (12.5 pounds). You can also add accessories like a battle sight and a flashlight which would increase weight to nearly 7 kg (15 pounds) but both of these are generally superfluous in most combat situations. The ORIGIN-12 can fire on full automatic, emptying a 30 round magazine in eight seconds. Full automatic for a combat shotgun was never a popular feature with the troops but it might help sell the ORIGIN-12 to collectors. This weapon goes for about $2,600 each. This makes a lighter, cheaper and more compact TS12 an attractive alternative.

It wasn’t just the end of urban warfare in Iraq that slowed innovations. Another reason was that the major buyer of new combat shotguns had, after nearly a decade of trial and error found a shotgun accessory design that was adequate for their needs. The U.S. Army had decided the M26 12 Gauge Modular Accessory Shotgun Systems (MASS) was what it needed and bought over 10,000 of them. The M26 weighs about one kilogram (2 pounds, 11 ounces) and has a five round magazine. The M26 is a 42cm (16.5 inch) long, 12 gauge shotgun and can be operated right or left handed. It fires solid shot for blasting open closed doors, or lower velocity, non-lethal (most of the time) rubber slugs for dealing with hostile crowds. A stand-alone version weighs 1.9 kg (4 pounds, 3 ounces) and is 61cm (24 inches) long (with the attached stock collapsed).

The first versions of MASS weighed 4.1 kg (nine pounds) and carried only three rounds. The design evolved, over a decade, into the production model M26. Troops tested prototypes in combat for two years. There were complaints about the cocking mechanism, which used a bolt instead of a pump action (which many troops expressed a preference for.) The final design improved the cocking mechanism, and the reliability of the magazines.

Before MASS, troops used a conventional (Mossberg) 12 gauge shotgun for getting locked doors open in a hurry. The M26 proved very reliable during testing, with over 20,000 rounds being fired. Large quantities of the M26 reached the troops in 2009.

The effort to find the best military shotgun design began after 2001. First in Afghanistan and then in Iraq. Initially troops successfully used 12 gauge shotguns as an "organic ballistic door breaching tool" to blow down doors on raids. Troops from the 75th Ranger Regiment and the 10th Mountain Division were the first to use this method. This technique has long been used by police in the United States. There are a number of special "door breaching shotguns" available, for about $300 and up. Most have no stock, just a pistol grip and barrel length varying from 255-560mm (10 to 22 inches) and shell capacity likewise varying from three to nine rounds. The lightest versions, with three round magazine, weigh only 2.5 kg (5.5 pounds). One or two shots will usually knock down most doors, particularly when special shot (for knocking down doors) is used.

By 2009 some Chinese troops were seen with the new Type 97-1 combat shotgun. On further investigation it was revealed that the Type 97-1 was mainly used by the police or troops operating in police type operations (like raids against Islamic terrorists). Type 97-1 is a 3.1 kg (6.8 pound), 94cm (37 inch) long, fixed stock 12 gauge shotgun with a five round tube magazine. There is a more military type version of the Type 97-1 version with a bullpup magazine layout and a collapsible stock. This model, however, is more often seen in use by the police than by troops. The army later adopted the QBS 09 which was more suited to military needs in many small and large ways (like an autoloader).

 


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