Are Revolving Shotguns Illegal?

The 90s were a wild time. Companies named their guns like they were in a video game. Well, one specific company did, Cobray. Cobray would be a great Twitter troll. In the 1980s and 1990s, they were a thorn in the side of gun controllers. At one point, they named their revolving shotguns Street Sweepers. The Street Sweeper is not a very good firearm by any metric, but it’s legacy is what we are talking about today. 

The Street Sweeper revolving shotguns were quite controversial in their day. They were cheap and poorly made clones of the South African Armsel Striker shotguns. If you mention them in the right places, you’ll hear all about how Clinton banned revolving shotguns and the Street Sweeper. 

That’s not technically true. At the behest of Handgun Control Inc., Clinton instructed the Secretary of Treasury to declare three specific shotguns as destructive devices. This placed them under the purview of the NFA. Federal Code allows the Secretary of Treasury to label weapons above .50 caliber as destructive devices by decree. Those three shotguns were the Armsel Striker, the Street Sweeper, and the USAS-12. 

(It bears mentioning they also wanted the Mossberg 500 declared a Destructive Device.) 

This action has led many to believe outright that revolving shotguns are always destructive devices. As if they are declared NFA weapons like machine guns, suppressors, or anything with too short of a barrel and a stock. 

The Truth About Revolving Shotguns 

In reality, the only two revolving shotguns ever declared to be destructive devices were the Street Sweeper and Armsel Striker. Admittedly they were the two only real revolving shotguns at the time. Cobray also produced the Ladies Home Companion. This was a .45-70/.410 handgun that was essentially a Street Sweeper scaled down to a much smaller caliber. 

Since then, revolving shotguns haven’t really taken off. Taurus and Rossi produced the Circuit Judge, which was a .45 Colt/.410 revolving rifle. It had a rifled barrel, so it was technically a rifle. Which likely helps reinforce the myth that revolving shotguns are banned. 

If ther shotguns were banned, you would think that any magazine-fed semi-auto shotgun would be banned. The USAS-12 was a magazine-fed, semi-auto shotgun, much like the Saiga-12, the MK1919, and various other designs you can purchase without dealing with the NFA. 

Why Aren’t There More  

If they aren’t banned, why don’t we see more revolving shotguns? Well, what’s the market for them? If you’ve ever handled a Street Sweeper or even a Striker, you can tell it’s not a very ergonomic gun. Twelve gauge shells are huge, and they have huge cylinders which require a winding mechanism or a long and very heavy double-action trigger pull. They are slow to reload and needlessly bulky. 

It’s a pretty good sign when no military or police force ever adopts a certain type of weapon that it’s a fairly bad design. It would likely be expensive to make a nice revolving shotgun, and the demand is basically nonexistent. Nerds like me will want one, but not for Benelli or Beretta money. 

I’m sure the actions of the 1990s had an effect on importers and manufacturers in the 1990s. In 2022 it isn’t likely to be the target of gun control scorn. 

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and teaches concealed carry classes.