Traditionally, semi-automatic shotguns have been limited to tubular magazines holding from four to six rounds of ammunition. More recently, box and drum magazines holding eight or more rounds have been growing in popularity. Now there is a new self-loading scattergun in town. It is called the M1216 and it is made by SRM Arms, of Boise, ID.
This 12-gauge holds 16 rounds in four magazine tubes in a cylindrical fore-end. Molded of strong, glass-filled polymer, this magazine fore-end is manually rotated to bring each four-round tube in line to feed. The magazine is instantly removable and is inserted under the 18-inch barrel with the help of a funnel on the front of the receiver to guide it into place. Removal is accomplished by depressing an ambidextrous lever at the front of the mounting housing. Ambidextrous levers above and behind this release lever pivot down using the shooter's thumb to unlock and rotate the fore-end.
The M1216 uses a locking system unique among shotguns. It employs a roller, "half-locking" system, much like the Heckler & Koch G3 and its many offspring. The rollers of the SRM M1216 differ mainly in being held in recesses at the rear of the M1216's hardened-steel receiver.
When loading a full (four-tube) magazine into the M1216, if one of the tubes is in line to feed, the shell retainer will automatically trip to release the shells, with the first shell feeding onto the carrier in the receiver. If the bolt is in battery, it will be necessary to retract and release it to chamber the first round. However, if the bolt is locked back in the open position when the magazine is inserted, the first shell fed into the receiver will trip the bolt hold-open lever and the round will be automatically chambered. When the last shell from that tube is fired, the bolt automatically locks back until the next loaded tube is rotated into position, causing the M1216 to load immediately after rotation. In this system, shells in all four magazine tubes can be fired in fast succession with minimal practice.
An ambidextrous thumb safety on either side of the M1216's pistol grip is marked in Heckler & Koch fashion and is pulled back for safe and rotated forward for fire, making this easy to remember—back means shells stay back and forward means shells can go forward.
The M1216's reciprocating charging handle comes mounted on the left side, but can be changed to the right side. The ejection-port cover is then changed to the right side, leaving the port open on the left. Because this steel port cover contains the fixed ejector, the shells will then automatically eject from the left side. However, changing these parts should be done by a trained armorer.
On top and on both sides of the M1216 are steel accessory rails on which the owner's choice of open sights and/or optics, as well as lights and lasers, can be mounted. Since sights and optics are personal choices, the M1216 comes without them. Many makes of flip-up iron sights can be mounted on the top rail, such as the polymer options from A.R.M.S. and Magpul. SRM also offers optional steel flip-up sights. Ambidextrous sling mounts are also included. Shorter 12-round and eight-round versions of the M1216 are offered for military and law enforcement.
Because of its extra weight, a fully loaded fore-end is more easily inserted into the SRM M1216 than when it is empty. I found it preferable to hold the front of the fore-end for better control. Just push it into place, and the gun automatically feeds. With a small amount of practice, this became almost second nature.
The SRM M1216 will fire either 2 3⁄4- or 3-inch 12-gauge shells, but my test sample would not cycle low-brass shells, and with less-lethal rounds it became a fast repeater using the cocking handle. With all high-brass 12-gauge shells, however, the M1216 functioned flawlessly. Recoil was typical of a 12-gauge shotgun of this size and weight, but the gun's straight-line design helped to keep the muzzle down. The M1216 comes with a flat, smooth buttplate and a length of pull that may be too short for some, but heavy clothing or body armor will remedy that problem. A good non-slip rubber buttpad might make operating it even more effective.
Patterning with many varieties of shot out to 25 yards was excellent and virtually identical to that of the 12-gauge Remington 11-87P I used for comparison. With an Aimpoint CompM4 red-dot optic mounted, hits with slugs were easily made off the shoulder from 100 yards on full-size silhouette targets. Because there is no gas system in the M1216, the gun remained very clean, and disassembly for maintenance proved utterly simple.
The SRM M1216 amounts to a major advance in self-loading shotgun technology with the ability to carry more ammunition in the gun, where it's needed. As such, it has great application for military and law enforcement agencies, as well as for home defense.