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When the United States entered World War I they introduced a new weapon to trench warfare. The combat shotgun was devastatingly effective in the confines of the trenches. It became hated and feared by German soldiers who saw it as beyond the pale of civilized warfare; this in a war that brought us the machine gun, aerial bombing, the armored tank and poison gas. Regardless, the Winchester Model 1897 “Trench Gun” became known for its ability to launch a cloud of buckshot down a trench line. After the war the utility of the combat shotgun was realized by police departments and became known as the “alley sweeper” because it was said to be capable of sweeping an alley clean of bad guys much as the Germans had been swept from the trenches. To this day there is a general belief the combat shotgun is capable of clearing a room with a single shot and need not be aimed, merely pointed in the general direction of trouble and cut loose.
We’ll talk about aiming and shotgun pellet patterns shortly, but first let’s look at a new shotgun from Mossberg introduced this year at the SHOT show in January. The Mossberg Shockwave took the show by storm and was likely the most talked about new product introduction. With an overall length of just a bit over 26 inches, a 14 inch cylinder bore barrel and a Raptor grip the Shockwave looks like it should be a short barreled shotgun as defined by the National Firearms Act. If it was, the buyer would have to go through the tiresome, lengthy and expensive process to obtain permission from the federal government – but wait – the Shockwave is simply a “firearm”, not a short barreled shotgun, and can be purchased over the counter. The Shockwave is a 12 gauge Mossberg 590 shotgun with a capacity of six rounds, one in the chamber and five in the magazine tube. It’s chambered for 2 ¾” and 3” shells. After firing it, I think you would have to be out of your mind to fire 3” magnum shells in this little terror. But I digress.
As opposed to a pistol grip, the Shockwave has a Raptor grip that does two things, it makes the shotgun more comfortable to shoot and extends the overall length of the shotgun beyond the legal threshold of 26 inches. While Mossberg has been making pistol grip shotguns forever the ones with the short barrels are defined by the feds as “Any Other Weapon” and require all the registration paperwork but only a $5 tax stamp (if this makes sense you’re probably a federal government bureaucrat). The Shockwave has a tang safety – right where shotgun safeties belong, by the way – and a strap screwed to the forend to keep from getting your hand out in front of the muzzle when vigorously firing and pumping the action.
Shooting the Shockwave is interesting. It’s recommended the gun be fired from the hip, or perhaps from a mid-level chest position with the butt of the Raptor grip secured up near the armpit. In either case it’s a point-shooting proposition and the shotgun cannot really be aimed despite the bead front sight. You can experiment with holding the gun out in front of your face so as to sight down the barrel but you better hang on. The gun could come back and smack you in the nose or it might fly out of your hands. Recoil ranges from “not too bad” with birdshot all the way up to “boy howdy!” with buckshot and slugs. The gun doesn’t hurt you when fired, it simply wants to jump around and this makes it hard to control. Did I say, “hang on”? The gun patterns better than you would expect a 12 gauge with a cylinder bore barrel to pattern. With bird or buck you get a single hole at 3 and 5 yards and the pattern opens up a little at 7 yards. The “rule of thumb” for shotgun patterns is one inch of spread for every yard of distance and the Shockwave bettered that with patterns running about ½” per yard or less in my testing with Hornady Critical Defense and Federal Premium Flitecontrol 00 buckshot.
My friend Jeff Quinn turned me on to a couple of accessories for the Shockwave you can order on Amazon. First is a Voodoo Tactical scabbard that’s made for short-barreled breeching shotguns. It can be slung over a shoulder or fastened to a vest, vehicle or motorcycle, even a tractor, as Jeff suggests. The other accessory is the OpSol mini-clip, a rubber gizmo that wedges into the bottom of the receiver and allows the Mossberg to feed Aguila mini shotgun shells. These shells are about half the size, and contain half the payload of standard shot shells so you get almost twice the capacity in the magazine tube and considerably less recoil. I discovered the 7 ½ bird shot shells made a perfect pattern for snake control at 7 yards, if that might be of interest to you.
The thing about scatterguns is they don’t throw the kind of pattern, especially at close ranges, that will clean out an alley, much less a room, with a shot or two. If you understand pattern spread you’ll understand these guns have to be aimed and therein lies the rub with the Shockwave. Aiming is out of the question and pointing is merely a suggestion as to where the gun is going to hit. That leads us to the role of the Shockwave outside the “way cool” factor and the nibbling around the edges of the forbidden fruit it suggests. As a handy, easy to keep with you gun the Shockwave is hard to beat. In my experience, pointing a short-barreled shotgun out a car window at advancing bad guys quickly persuades them to find other interests elsewhere. Similarly, the Shockwave could prove persuasive in a home defense scenario and, assuming you can figure out how to point it and get hits, could be used to disassemble a bad guy. With the right ammunition this little beasty might be just the thing for disposing of troublesome vipers. As a matter of fact, a friend of mine is plagued with rattlesnakes on her small ranch and I’m thinking the Shockwave and some of those Aguila mini-shells might have to visit her for the summer.
The Shockwave isn’t for everyone. If you hand it to your wife or girlfriend and post the video on the Internet I will hunt you down. Still, the cool factor is there and it just might be the perfect tool in the right hands.
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About the Author:
Ed Head is a regular on Shooting Gallery, Gun Stories and Down Range TV. He has worked for almost 30 years in law enforcement, first in the United States Air Force and then with the United States Border Patrol, retiring as a Field Operations Supervisor. During his Border Patrol career, Ed worked in a variety of patrol, investigative and training capacities. Ed has an extensive background as a firearms instructor, having trained thousands, ranging from beginners to police, military and special operations personnel. Having taught at Gunsite for 20 years, Ed first trained there under the world famous shooting school’s founder, Jeff Cooper, then later ran the school as the operations manager for more than five years. Ed lives in Chino Valley, Arizona, where he continues to teach and write.