Converting hunting shotguns into tactical shotguns might be easier than you think
Odds are you've got a shotgun sitting in a closet somewhere. Is it of the hunting or tactical variety? American Rifleman's B. Gil Horman asks why can't it be both?
Shotgun: Hunting to Tactical
Is converting a sporting shotgun into a tactical shotgun a cost effective home-defense option?
Gun owners may run into the situation of needing a firearm to fill a particular shooting requirement at a time when money for a new gun isn't readily available. Recently I found myself in need of a tactical 12 gauge with an 18.5-inch cylinder bore barrel. This wasn't the first time a tactical pump would have come in handy, and it wasn't going to be the last. It was time to make the investment, but I wasn't ready to throw down more cash than I had to. So I turned to an idea that had crossed my mind before, namely, to see what it would cost to convert a sporting shotgun I already had into a tactical model using aftermarket accessories.
The base gun for the project would be a Mossberg 835 Ulti-Mag Waterfowl model I picked up several years ago. For those who are unfamiliar with this gun, it's a serious piece of artillery. Designed to mimic the patterning properties of a 10-gauge shotgun, this version of the 835 is fitted with a 28-inch ribbed dual-bead barrel with a vented expansion chamber and oversized choke. This gun chambers 2 ¾-, 3- or 3 ½-inch 12-gauge shot shells. It's the 3 ½-inch shells that provide payloads comparable to the potent 10-gauge. The magazine tube, designed to hold four 3 ½-inch shells, will hold up to five 2 ¾-inch shells for a total of six rounds.
So for exactly what did I need this kind of firepower? The 835 was discounted as part of a seasonal sale at a local big-box store. It was priced for less than some of the 3-inch chambered plain-Jane 12 gauges I had under consideration as an all-purpose field gun. With the extra features and chamber cut for three shell lengths instead of two, the Mossberg 835 followed me home. Since then it has proved to be a reliable sporting shotgun. It certainly qualifies as over built for the light skeet loads that have made up most of its regular diet. With my shooting preferences leaning more toward handguns, this shotgun is broken in, but is far from worn out.
The conversion of the 835 for tactical applications was stymied before now because I was unable to locate a shorter barrel for this model. A search of the Mossberg catalog and website did not turn up factory-made, drop-in 18.5-inch cylinder bore barrels for the 835, although they are commonly available for Model 500 shotguns. Cutting the 28-inch barrel down to 18.5 inches was impractical, expensive and wasteful. I finally called the Mossberg service center and asked. To my surprise, I learned there was a plain (un-ribbed) blued 18.5-inch cylinder-bore barrel for the 835. Not only was it priced about the same as the Model 500 barrels, but it was designed to handle 3 ½-inch shells. When the barrel arrived it was easily swapped out with no gunsmithing required.
The next components installed were replacements for the wooden shoulder stock and forearm. Several tactical aftermarket shotgun stock options are available for the Mossberg, but not all of them are affordable. After doing a bit of homework, the Phoenix Technology Kicklite upgrade was selected.
Read the rest of Gil's journey from a hunting to a tactical shotgun.