The 26″ overall length ‘firearm’ has been the hot topic recently. Mossberg released their 590 Shockwave, and Remington countered with their 870 Tac-14. These weapons sport 14″ barrels and fire 12 gauge cartridges. Their Extra-NFA legality stems from their purposely designed unique configuration. Shotguns are defined as being shoulder fired, so they cannot be defined as shotguns since they were not intended to be fired from the shoulder. Since the NFA’s catch all “Any Other Weapon” does not apply to firearms over 26″ in length: This NFA designation does not apply as well.
This puts these firearms in a unique and valuable position. Mossberg fans are quick to point out the Shockwave beat the Tac-14 to market. This being said the forerunner of these weapons is none other than the legendary Witness Protection 870. This firearm was used by the US Marshals Service, and while the Marshals’ used 870s that were designated as Short Barreled Shotguns or Any Other Weapons, the package was quite similar if marginally shorter in overall length.
A Legitimate Tool
The 870 is my preferred 12 gauge system and as of this writing my experience lies only with Remington’s Tac-14 870. The tactical community has true to form put forth some criticism of the firearm. The main contention is that the gun is at best a novelty, additional supporting arguments tend to point out that the lack of stock is a substantial drawback. Others argue the firearm cannot be aimed with the sight and must be hip fired.
Pistol grip 12 gauge firearms are somewhat mysterious even in the firearms community. Prior to obtaining the Tac-14 my own experience was somewhat limited. My first experience with a pistol grip only 12 gauge was an 870 breacher AOW. Firing the weapon at mid chest height with express buckshot was an interesting experience. Firstly My technique was poor and I was not holding the forend appropriately. Upon firing my support hand ended up about 10 to 11 o’clock near the muzzle. My second shot was better but I felt the firearm would be poor for all but near contact distances in a defensive scenario.
My experience with the Tac-14 is night and day from the AOW breacher. Based on my experience this firearm is a legitimate defensive tool:
First Impressions of the Tac-14
Overall my experience with the Tac-14 deviated from my previous experiences greatly. Initially I was concerned about the recoil when firing the firearm from eye height. I had seen videos of the weapon fired in such a manner, however I still fired my initial shots from the hip. After a few shots I raised the weapon to eye level and applied the push/pull technique. This involves driving the forend forward with the support hand, the firing hand pulling as if you were “stretching” the firearm. I felt the results were quite promising. The recoil is substantial but not overwhelming if appropriate technique is employed. My hands and wrists did not hurt after firing, and after some minor trepidation sighting with the bead was easily accomplished.
Selecting appropriate ammunition will be key for any end user. While my initial outing with the weapon was brief I felt the reduced recoil nine pellet 00 buckshot to be the most promising loads.
The Tac-14 in employment is not going to be as “short” as a 14″ 870 stocked Short Barreled Shotgun, you can shoulder the SBS and you have to keep the Tac-14 away from your face. That being said, the tactical applications of the Tac-14 clearly present. When the US Marshals selected the WP870 in it’s very similar profile: they selected it for a reason, and it was not just because short barreled 12 gauge firearms are cool.
Tac-14 handling characteristics are excellent. The Tac-14 is compact enough that it easily maneuvers in and out of vehicles and around corners. A 12 gauge buckshot load from a 14″ barrel still packs one hell of a punch. At close range it takes good advantage of buckshot pattering.
It’s not without some extreme limitations. Although it’s ergos make for quick handling and target acquisition, this is pretty much a 20-25 yard gun tops. There is no way to get the absolutely consistent sight picture that a cheek weld gets you. You can absolutely shoot slugs out of this but hitting a target at range is another story. This is also not the gun for someone who is going to buy it and expect it to perform for them with little or no practice. You need to Practice with this gun, and technique is key if you want to be accurate and fast.
I took my Tac-14 out with some friends who wanted to bust some clay pigeons. Since I no longer own a bird gun, I decided to take my Tac-14 and see how it does. I fully intended to borrow a buddies sporting gun for any serious attempt at hitting pigeons, but since I was preparing for this review I decided to test the Tac-14 on this task. One of the guys who came along stated “My buddy has the Shockwave, we tried it on clays… could not hit anything.”
Turns out you can shoot clays pretty well with the Tac-14(I’m certain the same can be done with the Shockwave) as long as you don’t let them get too far away. Did I mention that this is an extremely fast handling 12 gauge? I hit about 60% of the clays with the Tac-14, not too bad considering clays are not my thing, and not what this firearm was designed to engage. After firing about 50 rounds of birdshot through the gun, I tried some full power buckshot. This was more difficult after firing the 50 previous cartridges. While operating and shooting the firearm was certainly doable, some muscle fatigue was present. Recoil control suffered. Hand strength is key to firing this weapon, you have to hold on TIGHT! If you intend to select this firearm for defense I’d recommend practicing regularly. I’d reiterate that reduced recoil ammunition is the clear choice for this firearm.
As with most firearms the most important feature of any pump action 12 gauge firearm in the 26″ range is going to be the shooter. This gun is not the easiest gun to shoot. Consider this though, 9mm pistols are not easy to shoot well. Most people have to give that system some significant practice to become proficient. A lot of people mention that a hit with .22 long rifle is more effective than a miss from a .44 magnum, this is a modicum of truth. That being said it does not make any .22 an ideal defensive firearm. Those who are unwilling to practice would be ill served by such a system. The person willing to practice sufficiently with this firearm will end up with an extremely effective close quarters defensive weapon.
More on Tactical Shotguns
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