When evaluating shotguns for home defense, one should consider each gun’s tradeoffs. And with shotguns in general, there are many. For example, because a shotgun firing a standard buckshot load is so powerful, those forces also means it has serious recoil; therefore the gun can’t be too light or else it will jar your fillings loose. Tube-fed guns take an eternity for all but Jerry Miculek to load, and therefore shell capacity is a huge issue. To that end, extended tubes allow more shells, but they also make the gun long and cumbersome, especially in the home. Vertical, detachable mags can also become hindrances if they hold more than about 10 rounds.
Yet, despite its shortcomings, the shotgun’s merits—namely, its devastating swath of pellets that allow the shooter a greater margin of error than a rifle—continue to make it the preferred defensive weapon for the home. But, it’s not perfect.
In recent years several companies have set out to revolutionize the tactical shotgun to mitigate some of its weaknesses, and a new one that shines for its innovation is the SRM Arms 1228. Quite frankly, it’s the most radical—and practical—defensive shotgun design I’ve seen.
In essence, it's a semiautomatic that holds 28 rounds of Aguila Ammunition’s 12-gauge 1.75-inch Minishell in a rotating, four-tube, parallel magazine. That’s right, 28 rounds! Its bullpup design affords it a compact 33.75-inch overall length (that’s about 10 inches less than a standard shotgun), while its polymer housing keeps the entire package at 7.2 pounds unloaded. (Add another 2.2 pounds when fully loaded.) For home defense, it represents a sea-change among tactical-shotgun theory.
Now, the first thing you're likely to ask is the effectiveness of those little shells, and here’s my take: The reason buckshot is called buckshot is because it was designed to kill deer at hunting ranges (approximately 20 to 50 yards). Average home-defense range is 3 to 10 yards. While there is no such thing as overkill, there is such a thing as unnecessary recoil.
The Aguila Minishell, using a ⅝-ounce load of No. 4 Buck fired at 1,250 fps produces muzzle energy of roughly 950 foot-pounds. That’s double the energy of a .45 ACP. Its slug load produces around 1,300 foot-pounds of muzzle energy, which is more than a .223 Rem. Yet it delivers this with half the recoil of a normal buckshot load. What this means is that the gun can be maneuverable yet not kill you with kick. Then, when you factor in 28 rounds—that effectively doubles the mag capacity of a handgun and is two shy of an AR—you see the argument for the SRM Arms 1228, and it’s a strong one indeed.
That, of course depends on if the gun works. It does, and here’s how.
The SRM Arms 1228 uses a delayed-blowback action to chamber and eject shells from its little 2 ⅝-inch ejection port. A recoil return spring is enclosed in its molded buttstock. The gun’s metal guts, including the bolt, bolt carrier and fire-control system, are accessed via the 1228’s AR-like disassembly that jack knifes open after removing the rear retaining pin. Most of the gun’s controls, including the charging handle and safety, can be moved to either side of the receiver to accommodate left- and right-handed shooters.
I love the charging handle when located on the left side for right-handed shooters, because it can be manipulated while maintaining control of the gun with the strong hand; I also like the position of the AR-style safety that can be worked with the trigger finger rather than a thumb. However, the spring-loaded bolt release button is permanently located on the right side of the gun and is a little awkward to find and punch forward without practice.
The real story of the SRM Arms 1228, however, is its magazine. It’s essentially a hybrid, drum/tube/detachable magazine in that one polymer module contains four spring-loaded tubes that each hold 7 shells. When one tube runs dry the operator uses the thumb of the support hand to depress the latch then rotate the mag to the next tube. It’s fully ambidextrous and can be rotated either way. When all tubes are exhausted, the entire mag can be fully dumped from the gun by depressing the forward latch with the forefinger before exchanging with a fresh one, if, god forbid, you need more than 28 shotgun blasts. It’s ingenius.
Atop the mag rotation latch is what looks like a gas block, but rather it simply provides a place for a forward rail. Closer to the receiver, the barrel is shrouded with three rails for all the optics and lights you can levy. Finally, its 18.5-inch cylinder-bore barrel is threaded for a silencer and fitted with a thread protector. All told, the SRM Arms 1228’s skeletonized design is simple but effective.
In practical terms, I did experience some jams during my first couple range sessions, I took it apart, oiled the bolt and carrier liberally and, after a 100 rounds or so of a break-in period, experienced only a few additional jams. I trust that the gun will run even more reliably as it breaks in further.
One design element that I do not prefer is the straight-line, hard polymer buttstock that’s so common on pure tactical shotguns these days, mainly because they give it a tactical look. While the Minishell is not a heavy kicker, it’s not without recoil, and the thin, hard plastic can wear on your face. While it’s good looking, I wish the stock had some contour to align my eye down the barrel so an optic wouldn’t be necessary if I chose iron sights. Then I could fit it with a cushy cheekpiece if an optic were chosen.
Regardless, the SRM Arms 1228 is incredibly quick, easy to maneuver and devastating with its firepower. Whether or not the home-defending public abandons their 00 Buck and Remington Arms 870s in favor of 28 rounds of lighter-recoiling loads remains to be seen, but I give SRM much credit for its problem-solving innovation which, at the very least, should cause people to re-evaluate their idea of the perfect tactical shotgun. The suggested retail price on the SRM Arms 1228 shotgun is $2,199.95.