Transforming Tired Iron
The economy is stagnant, and this translates into smaller budgets for law enforcement and less fun money for civilian shooters. However, all is not lost for those who need new ordnance but don’t have a lot of cash. With a modest investment and a little creativity, contemporary shooters can build some remarkably effective weapons. Unexpected places like the local pawnshop or evidence locker can produce the raw material to build state-of-the-art tactical firepower.
If not grossly abused, shotguns—unlike precision rifles or tactical carbines— really do seem to last forever. Their effectiveness is not dependent upon exquisite tolerances and round count. A quality 12-bore shotgun will launch slugs and buckshot just about ad infinitum.
NEW MISSIONS FOR OLD SOLDIERS
The venerable 12 bore has been around forever. At a time when the word “Glock” might have been uttered only when trying to suppress a sneeze, Doc Holliday was using a 12 gauge in Tombstone, Arizona. It could be reasonably assumed that contemporary shooters might have outgrown a firearm whose legacy spans nearly two centuries. But sometimes the old ways are the best ways: the 12 gauge still has a very pertinent place in modern law-enforcement and self-defense arsenals.
The 12 gauge is so named to describe the diameter of its bore. According to an obsolete English measurement system, 12 pure lead balls of exactly this diameter add up to one pound. Same goes for 10-, 16-, 20-, and 28-gauge dimensions. In the case of the 12 gauge, that equates to about a .72 caliber or roughly three quarters of an inch.
It turns out that this is about the largest bore scattergun that can be comfortably managed by a typical shooter. Considering that some high-tech contemporary loadings do a fine job at minimizing recoil, the right gun/stock/ ammo combination can yield an effective and cost-conscious armament solution for the 21st century.
One consideration for law enforcement agencies on a tight budget is confiscated shotguns. Particularly down here in the Deep South where I live, everybody has a shotgun, and that generally equates to a robust collection in the department evidence room. Using Bubba’s confiscated dove or turkey gun as a foundation can provide a robust and effective tactical patrol gun without a large investment.
The same can be said for Bubba himself, as long as he remains on the right side of the law. I have a cut-down tactical pump shotgun in my personal collection that began as a reject beater from a local pawnshop. After refinishing the beast and replacing the worn-out furniture with some of the high-tech materials I’m going to discuss in this article, it’s now ready to put meat on the table as well as defend myself and my family from any miscreant stupid enough to poke around my farm with evil intent.
EXERCISING YOUR STOCK OPTIONS
Mounting a folding stock on a 12 gauge is like putting a sunroof on a tractor. The theory is both understandable and desirable, but the execution is frequently less than satisfying. While decreasing the overall size of a tactical weapon so as to facilitate its management within the confines of a vehicle or building is an admirable goal, the tradeoff typically comes at the expense of accuracy or comfort during recoil.
If fed stout fodder, a cut-down 12 bore pegs my fun meter fairly quickly. Having at least tasted a dozen or more stock options on my personal stable of shotguns, I have not been overwhelmed by any of them. The new offering from Advanced Technology International (ATI), however, combines effective recoil reduction with excellent ergonomics and a modest price.
Advanced Technology International is based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and all of its products are made in the USA. The company produces a bewildering array of stocks, rail systems and sundry accessories for a multitude of firearms platforms. I’ll focus on a smattering of their shotgun offerings.
ATI upgrades its product line regularly but always retains what it calls its ETC advantage. ETC stands for Easy To Customize and assures that ATI’s products are always compatible regardless of when they were manufactured. If only computer companies were similarly constrained….
The latest additions to the ATI shotgun lineup are the Scorpion recoil absorption system combined with the Triton universal shotgun mount.
The Scorpion system is comprised of a new buttpad and pistol grip incorporating a soft, recoil-absorbing proprietary polymer material that is genuinely effective at ameliorating the heavy recoil from 12-gauge platforms.
The Triton mount allows individuals to install a universal base to their shotgun and then swap out stock and grip options using nothing more than an Allen wrench or torx driver.
The Talon tactical stock system incorporates the above-mentioned technology and allows the stock-to-receiver angle to be adjusted using a spacer to accommodate the shooter’s physique and equipment.
All ATI products are built from either milspec 6061 T6 aluminum or Dupont Extreme Military Grade Polymer. I ground a smidgen of the polymer down with a grinder to see what was on the inside. It was a fiber-reinforced material that appeared fairly indestructible.
CUSTOMIZE LIKE CRAZY
ATI shotgun products are a tinker’s delight. It’s like Garanimals for gun guys. I picked up a fairly broad cross-section for testing and whiled away a delightful evening mixing and matching stock and forend options on a variety of platforms. Rail positions, sling attachments, and stock configurations can be customized into a nearly infinite number of combination. Those with decision-making problems should likely look elsewhere. As for myself, I had a great time tuning my personal guns just the way I like them.
The original factory top folding stock for the Remington 870 shotgun is about the coolest-looking rig in the gun world. When strapped onto a short-barreled slide-action Remington, it yields a hognosed appearance that just screams sinister. In this case, however, beauty is only skin deep.
The original Remington stocks are all marked “For Law Enforcement Use Only” and are difficult to find and expensive on the civilian gun market. The bare steel buttplate will leave dents in your anatomy if firing Magnum slugs or buckshot loads. Additionally, the sheetmetal locking mechanism will amputate your fingertips if deployed in a hurry. For those who want a comparable look without shopping the Gunbroker classifieds for six months for a scarce original, ATI produces a reasonable facsimile at a decent price.
The ATI top folder has been available for years. Like all ATI stocks, it sports a universal mount that adapts the stock to Remington, Mossberg and Winchester scatterguns. The structural components of the stock are made of a durable Dupont composite rather than stamped steel. The pistol grip has a finger swell not found on the original Remington, and the latching mechanism is a bit more forgiving on the fingers. The ATI offering is available at a fraction of the cost of an original Remington and is markedly more practical.
TECHNOLOGY MARCHES ON
The new kid on the block in the ATI catalog is the Triton universal mounting system. This patented mount bolts onto the near end of the shotgun’s receiver and facilitates the quick exchange of stocks and pistol grips among ATI’s various options.
With this versatile mounting system, a single shotgun can be configured with a pistol grip or sliding stock in less time than it takes to describe. As with previous offerings, this system is fully compatible with Remington, Mossberg and Winchester shotguns.
Both the standalone pistol grip as well as the grip on the sliding stock incorporate soft rubber inserts that effectively lessen the recoil of heavy 12-bore shotguns. The collapsible stock incorporated into the Talon system is classic M4 with a twist. The stock incorporates six separate detent positions to accommodate any imaginable physique or body armor combination.
This collapsible stock design has been in use in one form or another since the original Vietnam-era XM-177E2 and is a stable and tried platform. The stock itself incorporates a generous rubber recoil pad from the Scorpion system specifically designed to tame the recoil of high brass loads.
A common complaint associated with the CAR-15/M4 stock design is that it does not readily lend itself to a reliable cheek weld. Without a repeatable cheek weld, consistently accurate shooting becomes uncomfortable at best and impossible at worst.
To address this shortcoming, the new ATI Talon stock can incorporate a fully ambidextrous cheekpiece that can be bolted to the stock to facilitate a consistent head and cheek position. It can be readily mounted or left off as desired based on the host weapon’s sighting solution and the user’s personal preference.
TURNING AMMO INTO NOISE
Theory is fine and marketing is always suspect. The problem of any new gun product is always exposed on the range. With that in mind, I retired to the range with a handful of shotguns, half a dozen stock combinations, and a metric buttload of ammo.
As expected, the original Remington top folder looked cool but ate me alive. Three to five Magnum slug or buckshot loads were typically enough to make the range outing start feeling too much like work. Add to this the very real possibility that the stock locking mechanism can cut the end of your finger off if you’re not paying attention, and the Remington “L.E. Only” offering was relegated to the world of spiffy neckties, dress uniforms, and attractive heiresses—they might be easy on the eyes, but you wouldn’t want to go to war with them.
Solid stocks are typically comfortable but bulky. Of the several I tried, all were robust and strong but did not lend themselves to compact storage or maneuvering in tight spaces. As the point of the exercise was to find something that was both compact and effective, they served as controls in my little experiment.
The ATI top folder captured much of the cool factor associated with the original Remington without threatening my fingertips as badly and was very reasonably priced. But while manageable, it was not nearly as comfortable as its newest little brother. As with the Remington original, the lack of a rubber buttpad batters the shooter a bit. I realize that our forefathers managed 12-gauge shotguns for generations, and I don’t want to sound like a skinny little fourth-grade girl. But it is a simple fact that shooter comfort and recoil management equate to improved shot placement and better follow-up as well as more enjoyable training.
The ATI Talon stock incorporating the Scorpion recoil reduction material felt more comfortable in recoil than the solid stocks, thanks to its integral cheekpiece and high-tech recoil pad, yet it still collapsed to a compact package. In this configuration, the venerable 12 bore was a joy to shoot and, with a short barrel, readily moved through tight spaces. All in all, it represents an effective solution.
THE BOTTOM LINE
There are literally dozens of collapsible stock options available to law enforcement and private citizens. Whether the mission entails maneuvering the weapon into and out of a squad car in a hurry or reliably protecting the family when something goes bump in the night, folding or collapsible stocks represent a sound alternative to the traditional fixed variety.
While available options run the gamut from simple adaptations of existing designs to spring-loaded contrivances that cost as much as the host weapon, the new Talon system from ATI incorporates excellent ergonomics with reliable function at a reasonable price.
For the individual or department on a tight budget, a beater shotgun combined with a high-tech stock solution and a smidgen of TLC can yield some new state-of-the-art firepower.