The dual-action shotgun is, of course, nothing new. It’s appeared on Franchi’s SPAS-12 and more notably the famed Benelli M3, a design the TEC 12 essentially replicates thanks to an expired patent. However, a shotgun has never featured this technology while retailing for just $689—less than half the price of the harder-to-find M3’s current suggested retail.
TriStar gun. In this mode, a pair of visible locking lugs are seated in the barrel ring, which locks the forearm into place. As with the M3, high-brass and other sufficiently heavy shells are recommended to ensure proper operation (a key weakness of most inertia actions). After putting five, 10-round boxes of Hornady Critical Defense and Federal Personal Defense buckshot through the gun without incident, I was satisfied.
I then decided to try a few low-brass, 1-ounce target loads, though the gun is not rated for them. While I wouldn’t have been surprised by a few feeding failures, the TEC 12 cycled a 40-shell cocktail of Winchester AA, Remington Premier STS and Federal Top Gun without failure. So, while the owner’s manual says to avoid light shells in semi-auto mode, with proper function testing of your preferred loads, I believe the TEC 12 can be relied upon to shoot them.
Heavy loads are not recommended while in the TEC 12’s pump mode, due to the recoil they can generate in a 7.4-pound scattergun with a potentially face-clawing Picatinny rail. However, I ran a few through the shotgun and—though they certainly produced some bite—by applying a little forward pressure to the TEC 12’s fixed pistol grip, I found them quite manageable. The gun also has a good recoil pad, particularly for a shotgun in its price category. In pump mode (and less surprisingly in semi-auto mode), after the last round is fired, the rotary-style bolt locks open and the release button is required to close the action.
What tactical advantages may be found in such a system? Some assert it facilitates malfunction clearances. Certainly if the gun has a hiccup or becomes fouled in semi-auto mode, through practice, the user can quickly convert it to pump mode and get back in the fight. However, perhaps a more important attribute lies in the gun’s versatility of ammo selection. In semi-automatic mode it will shoot magnum buckshot or slugs, while as a pump-action it can utilize such semi-auto-shotgun jammers as light birdshot, reduced-recoil buckshot and even specialized, less-lethal “beanbag” rounds. Few shotguns have such versatility when it comes to ammunition.
An adjustable ghost-ring sight paired with a winged, fiber-optic front bead is an additional nice touch. Adjustment was not required with the gun I received for testing. It hit point-of-aim at 15 yards out of the box with most birdshot and buckshot rounds, and patterns were consistent and even—average birdshot breadth was 7 inches, while buckshot was 3 to 4 inches.
Given that the TriStar TEC 12 is, more or less, a Turkish-manufactured version of the old Benelli M3, the question I sought to answer is how closely it compares in terms of function. Is it merely a cosmetic lookalike, or is it a valid, low-cost alternative? Based on my evaluation, I believe shooters who have dreamed of owning an M3 will be more than happy with the TEC 12—while saving more than half the cash by going with the Turkish gun over the Italian.