The humble boomstick has become quite a niche in a world where rifles and machine guns rule the battlefield. Yet, the combat shotgun is a close-quarter’s weapon that can deliver a ton of lead per trigger pull. For example, it shined in the Iraq war, especially in dense city streets and urban environments. While its effective range might be challenged, the shotgun reigns supreme when things get up close and personal.
The shotgun can also be a versatile tool outside of its strength in close quarters. It’s an excellent breaching tool capable of destroying locks or taking down hinges. Shooters load non-lethal munitions in less kinetic environments to disperse rioters. Heck, they even pop up on flight lines to scare off birds. Today, we will look at seven of the most popular, effective, versatile, and downright bizarre boomsticks serving around the world.
1) The Benelli M4
The Benelli M4 is the proven king of combat shotguns. This gas-operated, semi-auto shotgun was evaluated by the Marine Corps in 1999 and joined the ranks shortly after. The fast-firing design makes follow-up shots quick and effective, making it a terrifyingly effective close-quarter’s weapon.
The Benelli M4 comes from Italy and not surprisingly serves with the Italian Armed forces. Britain, Israel, Austria, and South Korea, among others, also use it. The Benelli M4 provides a modern design that can accommodate optics and other accessories making it a modular combat shotgun.
Related: The M1014: Inside the USMC’s combat shotgun
2) The Mossberg 500 Series
The American-made Mossberg 500 series has long served armed forces around the world. The 590A1 currently serves with the United States military; various other incarnations of the 500 serve with the Argentinian, Portuguese, and Danish armed forces. The 500 series comes in dozens of configurations, with the 590A1 being the premier combat shotgun variant.
This robust pump-action combat shotgun design does a fantastic job in all environments.
Pump-action designs require manual manipulation between shots, making it almost impossible to fail. Unlike semi-auto designs, pump actions function fine with lower-powered loads, especially those used for less lethal and breaching purposes. With commercial drones on the rise, these guns can cycle net-based ammunition designed to take them down.
Related: The Ukrainian military shoots down Iranian drone supplied to Russia
3) The Benelli M3
One of the more interesting combat shotguns is the Benelli M3. Like the M4, it’s a premium-grade gun, but it uses Benelli’s inertia system rather than the gas operation of the M4. The M3 is both a pump-action and a semi-auto combat shotgun.
The user can switch configurations depending on the round fired.
For combat purposes, the gun would be run in semi-auto. The gun could be converted to pump-action for breaching, less lethal, and beyond. This makes the M3 one of the most versatile combat shotguns. The elite Canadian JTF2, the Defence Forces of Ireland, Japan, and New Zealand all recognized that versatility.
4) Remington 870
The other king of pump-action combat shotguns is the Remington 870. The ole 870 has seen service with the United States, specifically Marines, SEALs, and other sailors.
America has now largely replaced the 870, but it still serves with Belgium, Canada, Finland, and Sweden. This particular pump action is well known for its well-engineered design and overall smoothness.
With over 11 million produced since 1950, the Remington 870 pioneered a number of design features that would become largely replicated, among them double action bars that prevent binding and enhance the robustness of the gun. The 870 MCS series still sees plenty of action with American special operations units as far as combat shotguns go.
Related: The FN FNC: The rifle of Ukraine’s Foreign Legion
5) The Saiga 12
Most western shotguns use a tubular-magazine design. The Russians had plenty of tube-fed guns out east but adopted something more akin to their service rifle. The Russian Saiga 12 is an AK scaled up to utilize the 12-gauge round.
The semi-auto design and box-fed AK-like magazines make it an easy transition to the Saiga 12. The box mags also ensure a faster reload than tube mags and can often hold a fair bit more firepower. Russia isn’t the only one to use the Saiga 12: Ukraine, France, and even some members of the American Coast Guard use the design.
6) Russia’s KS23
One crazy shotgun used by Russia is the rather insane KS23. The 23 stands for 23mm, which is the diameter of the round fired. When we translate this to gauge, it comes to be four gauge. That’s massive. Those crazy Russians made the barrels from rejected anti-aircraft barrels, and the gun can hold four total rounds in an internal tubular magazine.
This combat shotgun was envisioned for use inside prisons dispensing rubber, gas, and flashbang rounds to quell riots.
The 23mm round predictably produces a rather low recoil, so it is entirely controllable. The Russians produced buckshot rounds and heavy barrier-piercing slugs as well. Reportedly the gun found its way into post-Soviet states, including Ukraine.
Related: The craziest shotguns ever designed for the US military
7) China’s QBS-09
One of the most mysterious shotguns on this list comes from China in the form of the QBS-09. The QBS-09 utilizes a 12-gauge round that fires buckshot or nonlethal loads. It’s a semiautomatic design that feeds from a tubular magazine. It’s a gas-operated gun reportedly with a rotating bolt.
The stock collapses and looks painful. However, some reports state the gun has a recoil reducer in the stock. Either way, I’d be interested in getting my hands on one and seeing how it stack-ups to modern weapons like the M4. China exclusively uses this combat shotgun.
The combat shotgun world
While the rifle rules the world, the combat shotgun still has a place in it. It’s a capable and brutally efficient weapon at what it does.
While it’s not a gun for everyone in a squad, it can be proven to be a valuable tool. It’s interesting to see how the world views the old combat shotgun and how that influences which shotguns are used.
Which of these seven combat shotguns is most interesting to you?
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lloyd Ingram (Benny) says
Thanks for your informative article on the best shot guns.
I have a like new Mossberg 500 series i bought it from my brother.
I knew its a pretty good self defense weapon so i got it.I have it in a rifle csae.
I didn,t know it is as popular as it is.
Im ex army,its been many years since ive fired any firearms.
Now since reading your fine article about shotguns,i know im gonna keep the Mossberg 500 i have.
Thank you for the info sir.
Hmmm, lots of Benelli praise, not even a passing mention of the beretta 1301? Definitely in the level… 🤐
David J Sturges says
The 590 Mossberg pump is the finest American made tactical (well priced) shotguns I’ve ever seen. Sturdy, reliable, reasonable priced. Ha! I sound like a company sales rep.
I was US Army MP in Nam/W Germany and the 590 was standard issue for riot control used by mps in the 70’s. Different era.
Alan Scott says
I just bought a Mossberg 590s. It’s capable of using 3 different length 12 g shells. In fact you can mix them without any modifications or adjustments. It has a “birdhead” handle making it very short.
I hope you remember to use the barrel wrench and polish the shells with monkey grease before you put different length shells in the flux capacitor. as long as you remember that almost all shotguns can handle different shells normally 2&3/4 and 3 inch. Love you sweetness.