Prepper Guns: Firearms, Ammo, Tools, and Techniques You Will Need to Survive the Coming Collapse (2016)

SHOTGUNS

The Other Shotguns

The mutts and misfits of tactical shotguns.

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Ted Hatfield with a UTS-15 shotgun.

Most of our shotguns are conformists. That is to say they pretty much look alike and it’s easy to tell they are of a single species, with a few notable exceptions. The full-auto AA-12 comes to mind. Terry Crews ran one in TheExpendables and it has to be the loudest shotgun on Earth. But forget it; the government doesn’t trust you to have one.

Here is a look at some of the other shotguns, those that don’t fit the traditional pump-action or semiauto mold.

Pistol-Grip Shotgun

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Brendan Burns shooting a pistol-grip shotgun.

This gun looks cool. Who can forget Sarah Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day pumping her pistol-grip shotgun one handed? Pretty badass, right? (Actually that Remington 870 had a folding stock, which was folded up to run as a pistol grip.)

But the trouble with a pistol-grip shotgun is it’s almost impossible to hit anything with it. It’s true that with a lot of practice you can develop some skill, but you will never as good as with a gun fired off the shoulder.

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Pistol-grip shotguns look cool in the movies, but are a poor choice for self-defense.

I bought a pistol-grip shotgun in the '80s and have shot hundreds and hundreds of rounds through it so I do speak with some experience. It’s fun to shoot, but as a fighting gun it’s not a strong option. It’s okay for close range, but that’s about it. It’s not the gun I would pick to bring to any fight. As far as foraging with it? I have used it a bunch to shoot clay targets and would never consider it a serious wing-shooting shotgun. Mine mostly gets used to shoot snakes in my yard. It’s overkill, but a fun way to take them out. I know that cops and elite military units use them to blow out door locks, which might be the only tactical situation when they are useful.

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A pistol-grip shotgun looks cool in the movies, but it is a poor choice when fighting for your life.

The truth is a pistol-grip shotgun serves okay for defensive encounters across small rooms and to look cool for Hollywood. For serious work where your life is on the line, get a shotgun with a stock.

Bullpup Shotguns

The bullpup design has the action behind the trigger, which makes for a shorter gun. There are lots of advantages to a shorter overall length: easier to carry, easier to enter and exit a vehicle, easier to manage in a confined space. The designs covered here hold a lot of ammo, at least when compared to other tube-fed shotguns.

Most of all, though, they look cool as hell. Hollywood loves this one too. The SUB is in Jurassic World as well as several other movies and television shows. Keanu Reeves puts the Kel-Tec KSG to serious use in the movie John Wick. That gun shows up in a lot of other movies and television shows as well and is a director’s favorite. It’s right up there with the pistol grip in “cool” factor, but one big difference between the bullpup and the pistol-grip shotguns is the bullpup is actually an effective fighting shotgun.

UTS-15

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I feel some kinship to this pump-action shotgun. I first saw it at the IDEX arms show in Abu Dhabi, UAE in February of 2011. I was wandering around when I unexpectedly ran into my friend, Ted Hatfield. Ted was there introducing the gun and had a few prototypes with him. I had no idea he was there or that he was working on a new shotgun. The last time we talked he was making hunting shotguns in Turkey for import to the United States under several names like Smith & Wesson and Kimber.

That fall, NRA asked me to travel to Turkey to visit the factory and see what this gun was all about. We had a lot of fun during that trip, traveling around Turkey. (Ted is the kind of guy who knows the secret, back-alley doors to knock on to find a drink in a strict, Muslim-controlled Turkish city. He also knows the codes to use so they will let you through the door to get the drink. One night, we wound up in some guy’s dark kitchen with a bunch of lapsed Muslims and drinking Raki. It was an underground bar right out of an adventure movie and I can also tell you that Raki is powerful stuff!)

There were a few growing pains with the shotgun, mostly due to our government and the Obama administration’s anti-gun policies. They made Ted jump through a lot of hoops before he could import the gun and I think he finally gave up and started making it here in America. Ted is as tenacious as a bulldog and despite our government’s efforts to stop him, he is now selling a serious defensive shotgun, one preppers would do well to take a look at owning. The fifteen-round magazine addresses one of the major deficiencies in a fighting shotgun—magazine capacity.

This rather unique, bullpup-style shotgun uses a two-tube magazine system. Each tube holds seven shells, plus one in the chamber for a total of fifteen shots. The magazine tubes can be used together, or separately. That means you can feed from both, with the gun automatically alternating side to side for a total of fifteen shots, or you can pick which tube to use. For example, you could have buckshot in one and slugs in the other and selectively decide which to use, depending on the situation. Changing magazines is as simple as moving the lever on top of the gun, which takes a fraction of a second. Or you can run all fifteen shots in a row with the gun alternating tubes with each shot until they are empty.

The bullpup design ensures that the gun is short and easy to maneuver in close quarters. It has a pistol grip (not to be confused with the pistol-grip-only shotguns covered above. This shotgun has a pistol grip in addition to a buttstock, similar to an AR-15 or AK-47 rifle). This allows holding the gun in one hand, ready to fire, while the other hand is free to open doors, turn on light switches, or throw a punch. The pistol grip also gives more control and a tighter hold on the gun if a bad guy tries to grab it from you.

The 18.5-inch smoothbore barrel is threaded for screw-in chokes with Beretta-style threads. Included with my gun was a cylinder bore, ported tactical “breeching” choke.

The gun’s comb is straight and in line with the top rail, which means that the shooter’s eye is positioned well above the line of the barrel. The UTS-15 is designed to be used with sights. Any sighting system that is designed for an AR-style rifle should work fine, as the rail and the offset are similar.

The gun has optional adjustable rear and front sights that mount on the top rail. The UTS-15 also has an optional, integral light and laser system to illuminate the target or help aim in poor light. This mounts below the barrel and the laser is nonadjustable.

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The UTS-15 shotgun in action.

The gun’s construction makes use of fiber reinforced, injection-molded polymer to keep its weight down. It is only 28.3 inches long with a flush mount choke and it weighs 6.9 pounds. It is chambered for 2.5-, 2.75-, and 3-inch ammo.

The length of pull is just a foot, the idea being that it can be used while wearing body armor. The buttpad is held in with just a couple of easy-to-remove pins and the plans are to offer more options for a longer length of pull.

The rear “stock” is on a hinge so that it can be opened to access the simple feeding mechanism to clean, service, or to clear a jam.

This gun is a lot of fun to shoot and with its radical looks it is sure to gather a crowd anytime you break it out at the shooting range.

Then, of course, there is the “cool factor,” which I think this shotgun wins over any other, hands down. It looks like what it is, a badass shotgun! No matter if it’s hunting, target shooting, protecting your family, or fighting the zombie apocalypse, the UTS-15 does it with style.

Kel-Tec KSG

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Kel-Tec KSG shotgun.

The KSG (Kel-Tec Shotgun) is similar to their RFB rifle and is this Florida-based gunmaker’s first shotgun.

It’s a pump-action, bullpup shotgun with dual-magazine tubes that hold six rounds each. It weighs 6.9 pounds and is 26.1 inches long with an 18.5-inch cylinder bore barrel, so it’s all government approved for civilians to be trusted to own. It’s a compact and lightweight shotgun, which makes it a good choice for preppers on the go.

The gun feeds from either the left or right tube. The feed side is manually selected by a lever located behind the trigger guard. This allows the use of different loads in each tube.

There is a Picatinny rail on top as this gun is designed for use with optics. Also, the grip has a rail for mounting a light or laser, although it would be right in the way of your hand. Forward and rear sling loops are included and a simple sling comes with the gun.

So far I have been pleasantly surprised with this gun. While it’s still relatively new, it has run everything I put in it with no issues or problems. That includes everything from light birdshot target loads, through full-power slugs and buckshot.

It’s probably the most compact, high-capacity tactical shotgun you can buy.

SRM Model 1216

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SRM Model 1216.

This is a semiauto version of the bullpup. Some argue it’s not a true bullpup because the ejection port is above the trigger, not behind it, but that’s splitting hairs. It’s a short, compact, semiauto shotgun that holds sixteen shots in a removable magazine with four tubes of four shells each. You can have pre-loaded spare magazines, which can be swapped out quickly. The only downside is that after firing four shots you must manually index the magazine to the next tube.

On the other hand, in a tactical application you can select the tube loaded with the ammo you need, slugs, buckshot, or even less lethal. Once the magazine is empty, pressing the release switch to drop the magazine allows it to be replaced with a full one in a few seconds.

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Eric Reynolds shooting the SRM Model 1216 shotgun.

The manual safety, charging handle, and ejection port can all be removed and relocated to either the left or right sides of the receiver to accommodate lefties. This gun is designed to run with sights and there are three Picatinny rails to allow mounting sights, lights, and lasers.

The action is a delayed blowback design. Mine is a little fussy about ammo and likes stout loads. Target loads or low recoil ammo will not always operate the action. But this is a very early gun and I am told that the current Gen II models have eliminated that issue and will run with just about any ammo.

The gun is 32 ½ inches long with a “government approved” 18-inch barrel and weighs 7.25 pounds. It is short, compact, easy to carry, and with a lot of firepower. They even make a full-auto version, but we citizens are not allowed by the government to buy one. The government can have them, but not us peons.

Box Magazine-Fed Shotguns

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Shooting the Century Arms Catamount Fury shotgun.

In the world of fighting shotguns, this concept makes the most sense. You have a magazine-fed shotgun that can be re-fueled quickly by swapping magazines, just as with a battle rifle. The only trouble is that most of these guns can be a bit tricky about reliability. If they ever achieve the reliability of a pump or even a Benelli semiauto, they will rule the tactical world. But in my experience they are not there yet. They can run pretty well, but usually only with select ammo. That can present a problem for a prepper who may have to use the ammo available, rather than the ammo the gun demands. That said, when they run, these are badass fighting shotguns.

Perhaps the best known of these is the Saiga shotgun, manufactured by the arms division of Izhmash, in Russia. Think of it as an AK-shotgun.

In fact, I believe that I am the first American to shoot this gun. I visited the factory in Izhevsk, Russia in the late '90s and shot an early version of the Saiga shotgun. In typical Russian fashion it was loaded with very hot, magnum rounds and the recoil was unpleasant. I didn’t think the gun would amount to much at the time, but that was before the boom in tactical guns in the United States and before most of us ever heard about 3-gun competition.

Most of my experience with the gun after that has been in 3-gun shooting, and it’s a very rare Saiga that is reliable in that sport. That’s the one thing that has kept it from dominating open class.

Of course most of the guns are heavily modified, so I don’t know if it’s the basic design, the modifications, or a combination of the two that is the source of the problems. It no longer matters, as Obama specifically targeted this gun with his pen and his phone and he stopped it from being imported. Executive Order 13662 issued on July 16, 2014, blocks the importation of all Izhmash products, including Saiga shotguns and rifles.

There is activity to manufacture the guns in the United States, but a phone call to the factory was met with a lot of suspicion and no information forthcoming about when or if the guns will be available. In fact, they were very uncooperative. I guess you can take the factory out of Russia, but you can’t take Russia out of the factory.

There are other magazine-fed shotguns and the concept makes sense from a tactical standpoint, but so far the execution has not panned out. If these were the best fighting shotguns, they would dominate 3-gun and I am seeing a move back to tube-fed shotguns in Open Class. Of course, there are a lot of reasons that magazine-fed shotguns have not completely taken over 3-gun Open Class or defensive shotguns in general, but the main issue, at least with the Saiga, is reliability and quality. I know from talking with those who worked on the Saiga shotguns that tolerances were all over the map.

Another problem is that shotgun shells were never meant to feed from a box magazine. The rimmed shell creates problems. But never rule out anything when it comes to the ingenuity of the human mind. I fully expect to see magazine-fed shotguns reach a point of total acceptance and reliability one day.

Here are a couple of guns that I have been messing with. They are the same basic “AR” design, with a few changes here and there. The big thing is that, unlike the Saiga, they are currently available for sale in the United States.

I must admit I started out a skeptic, as the Saiga experience soured me on the design. While these shotguns do not run as well as I would like, they do run much better than I expected. Like any semiauto, they are a little bit fussy about ammo, but if you feed them what they like the guns run surprisingly well. It might simply be asking too much for any semiauto shotgun to run any and all ammo. Still, these came closer than I expected they would. They run full-power, defensive-type slugs and buckshot well, but balk a bit with light target loads. I will note, too, that the Catamount Fury is not broken in and that is important. The more I shot it, the better it ran.

I do need to qualify that by telling you I do not have huge amounts of trigger time with either of these guns—maybe one hundred rounds each. So my experience may not be indicative of their performance capabilities.

If a prepper is looking for a tactical shotgun to run any and all ammo available, then a pump is the only sensible option. Shotgun ammo varies a great deal in power levels and anytime you have a gun dependent on the ammo to operate the action you will have trouble making one size gun fit all ammo.

If you are looking for high performance and the highest sustained volume of fire from a shotgun, then using one of these magazine-fed shotguns makes sense. Just make sure they play nice with your ammo.

Any prepper looking for a magazine-fed shotgun might do well to check these guns out.

The Century Arms Catamount Fury

The Catamount Fury is a Chinese-made tactical shotgun, based more or less on the AK design. It is imported and sold by Century International Arms.

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Eric Reynolds with the Century Arms Catamount Fury 12 gauge, magazine-fed shotgun.

It’s a gas operated, piston-driven, semiauto 12-gauge that has an adjustable gas system so that the shooter can adjust for a wider range of ammo options. It handles 2 ¾-inch and 3-inch shells. It comes threaded for choke tubes and is supplied with cylinder, full, and modified tubes.

The gun comes with two five-round mags and one ten-round mag, while extra magazines are available. The magazines are rocked in as with an AK-47 rifle. That is, tilt the front in first and then rock the bottom back to click into place.

The gun has a 20.125-inch barrel, is 42.5 inches long, and weighs 8.7 pounds. My sample has a hunting-style stock, but the Fury II has a more tactical-looking, skeletonized stock with a pistol grip. It has crude open sights and a rail on top to mount sights or an optic. With the barrel well below the line of sight due to the gas system on top, these guns are best suited with sights or an optic anyway.

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Eric Reynolds with the Century Arms Catamount Fury 12-gauge, magazine-fed shotgun. Note the Mepro M21 self-powered sight. This type of shotgun benefits greatly with the addition of an optical sighting system. This sight does not need batteries and is a good choice for preppers.

This is a very affordable gun and MSRP in 2015 is just under $600.

VEPR-12

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The Vepr-12 is an AK-style tactical shotgun made by Molot-Oruzhie Ltd in Russia. It’s a mystery to me why this Russian gun is still available when the Saiga is not, but it is.

This gun has a magazine well and the magazines are pushed in straight, more like an AR design than the AK style that must be rocked into place. This will work out better if you are an AR shooter and are used to this motion to switch magazines.

The gun has a rail on top and is equipped with adjustable sights. The rear sight is adjustable for long-range shooting, which is a bit odd on a shotgun. Clearly these are rifle sights installed on the shotgun, but it might be interesting to mess with slugs and the sight at long range to see how far you can hit with them. Like any of the AK-style shotguns, the best option will be with an optic like a red dot mounted on the rail. I have seen some of the top shooters in the world, including some Russian shooters, do amazing things with these guns and a red dot.

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Wolf Buckshot, also from Russia, proved to be a good match for this shotgun.

The barrel is threaded for choke tubes. The gun comes with one five-round magazine, but additional magazines holding eight, ten, or twelve rounds are available.

This is a more expensive gun than the Catamount Fury, costing about a grand in 2015. Its advocates tell me it’s worth it and I have little reason to doubt them. The shooting I have done with the gun has proven to me that if you run ammo that gets along with this gun it will run great.

Not a 12?

There is no question that the 12 gauge is the king of the tactical shotguns. It dominates the class almost completely, but with the prepper concept of trying to predict all scenarios, it might make sense to have shotguns chambered for other gauges.

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Savage Stevens Model 320 Security shotgun in 20 gauge.

The 20 gauge is the next most popular. There are a reasonable amount of different buckshot and slug loads on the market. It’s a very popular hunting round and I see 20-gauge guns show up in 3-gun and tactical shotgun matches now and then, so the ammo is out there and may show up on the market in lean times. It makes sense to have at least one shotgun chambered for 20 gauge, just in case.

One that I have been using and like is the Savage Stevens Model 320 Security. This is an inexpensive tactical shotgun that thinks it is high dollar. It comes with a pistol grip, adjustable ghost ring rear sight, and a protected fiber-optic front sight. The 18.5-inch barrel is cylinder-bore and the magazine holds five rounds.

For a prepper who wants to try to cover all the bases and have a tactical 20-gauge gun on hand, this one works great and it won’t break the bank.