An “Incendiary” Shotgun?

A lot of attention has been paid of late to the latest offering by the Florida based manufacturer Kel-Tec. Renowned firearms photographer Oleg Volk has been doing a lot of marketing photography for the company including the photo below that The Truth About Guns (TTAG) labeled as Incendiary.  When Media Matters decided to have a case of PSH over the gun, The Truth About Guns was quick to post a See I told you so(SITYS), but what is really so controversial about this shotgun that shooters and anti-gunners both feel the need to decry its very existence? For that I think a tale of the tape comparison of the KSG, the Remington 870 that used to grace even Police Cruiser before the AR-15 became the long-gun of choice for Law Enforcement and the Mossberg 590A1 used by the U.S. Marines is in order. We will of course start with the KSG.


The KSG is a pump-action 12 gauge bullpup shotgun that features a 14 round capacity (two tubes holding 7 rounds each), bottom ejection and two Picatinny rails for attaching various sights and accessories.

I can’t give any first hand feedback on this shotgun as I have yet to handle one. However on paper it does hold a lot of promise. Early versions would exhibit a ‘malfunction’ where if the action was cycled with the trigger held back the trigger would not then re-set for the next shot necessitating the gun be cycled again. This has since been corrected. There has also been some criticism of the method of selecting magazines. I think that given time an effective manual of arms could be devised negating that issue.

Where the Kel-Tec excels is its overall length. At 26.1” it is as compact as a shoulder fired weapon can be and still remain legal for purchase by all citizens of the United States. With a near $800 MSRP and Kel-Tec’s unfortunate reputation for producing guns that have teething issues, the success of this gun is in question. However if it proves to be as advertised by Mr. Volk and those who have handled it there is a good chance this will do well.

The Remington 870 almost needs no introduction. Arguably it is the most popular shotgun with Sportsmen and Law Enforcement alike. Aftermarket parts are readily available as are gunsmiths to do any measure of customization. The current combat 870 is the 870 Express Tactical. The tale of the tape is 7 round magazine, Ghost Ring Sights, Picatinny Rail and 38.5” in length. Over a foot longer than the Kel-Tec.

The Mossberg 590A1 is what I consider the pinnacle of traditional style combat shotguns.  With a traditional stock its tang mounted safety makes it a truly ambidextrous shotgun in spite of its right-side ejection. Like the 870 it can feature Ghost Ring Sights, Picatinny Rail, around 40” in length and holds 9 rounds in the magazine.

One comment that gave me a chuckle in TTAG’s SITYS was: “…if you can’t solve your home defense problem with five – seven shells of ballistic mayhem, you’re in really deep [feces] and should consider a rifle with 30 rounds or so.” Imagine that; if a five to seven shot shotgun isn’t good enough for you for heaven’s sake don’t think about getting a shotgun that carries 14 rounds, get a rifle that holds 30!

Yet one of the most common additions to a combat shotgun is a SideSaddle ammunition carrier that attaches an extra 6 rounds to the gun. Granted they aren’t in a magazine but your total on board round count for the 870 and 590A1 just jumped to 13 and 15 rounds respectively (This is assuming of course you don’t have a round in the chamber of any of them).

What I think this bias against the KSG really boils down to is appearance. Much like Jim Zumbo’s denigration of the AR-15 I think this bias is from a lack of understanding. After spending some time with the gun he called “terrorist rifles” Mr. Zumbo acknowledged that his perception of a rifle he had little experience with was incorrect.

Do I think the KSG has a place in my gun safe? No, but I decided long ago that a 5.56 carbine like the ones my local LEOs keep in their cruisers was better suited to defending me and mine. I do however think the KSG has a place in the world of defensive firearms should it prove reliable. First would be as a door breacher for entry teams. The short length of the KSG means it would be easier to maneuver inside a building without giving up the advantage of having a shoulder stock. Second would be a fisherman in Alaska. I have often been told that Alaskan’s prefer a 12 gauge shotgun loaded with slugs for dealing with the rare hostile grizzly. With it’s compact size and plastic construction all one would have to do is ensure the metal does not corrode and it could be well suited to being slung across a fisherman’s back out of the way, but ready for immediate use. Finally would be home defense for those who do not have the use of a handgun. According to Mr. Volk and other reports the KSG can be easily held and fired with one hand (working the action would take two though). With its short length its a little more difficult to take away and able to be maneuvered in a home.

So while a KSG isn’t for me, it might be just the right tool for others, my only concern is how reliable and how durable it is. Provided those questions are answered favorably I’d have no problem recommending a KSG to someone who could use one or wanted one.


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