The Problem With Mag Fed Shotguns

Most shotguns use a very simple magazine system. It’s a fixed, tubular magazine that sits beneath the barrel. It’s the choice of police, military, and most shotgun shooters. Alongside the standard tube-fed design, we’ve seen the rise of mag-fed shotguns. Heck, just a couple of years ago, both Remington and Mossberg released mag fed shotguns to take advantage of the new style. 

The classic and likely most widely accepted of these shotguns has been AK series guns that started with the Saiga and have exploded into an entire genre of shotguns. I don’t hate mag fed shotguns, but they do have some problems that don’t seem to get addressed often. After scrolling past my 10th bullpup, mag fed shotgun on a Defensive Shotgun page. I decided its time to talk about the problems with these guns. 

The Obvious Advantages

Shotguns that use box magazines have some distinctive advantages. The first being they can be quick to reload. At least quicker to reload than a tube fed when going from empty to fully loaded. These guns do make carrying spare ammo easier, and while you can’t do a slug select drill, you can drop a buckshot mag for a slug mag pretty quickly. 

You also aren’t limited to the length of your barrel for ammunition capacity. Some can get pretty nuts in terms of size. The VR series 19-round magazines, for example, are pretty nuts. Drums exist and make toting a box of shotgun shells pretty easy. There are some very clear advantages, but there are problems too. 

The Downsides To Mag Fed Shotguns 

The first downside that’s universal to these mag fed shotguns is shotgun shells. They are primarily made of plastic. Sure, some brass and even paper shells exist, but plastic shells are the dominant option. When left loaded in a magazine, the pressure put upon them by the spring, follower, and other shells begins to deform that plastic. This makes it, so the shells eventually won’t feed and will create plenty of jams and problems for you to deal with. 

That’s the biggest problem. The second is that the magazines tend to be bulky and get a little unruly. Good luck finding a good mag pouch for your weapon. The large size and weight make them a bit tougher to accessorize with. Most shotgun gear is built around tube-fed designs. 

Mag fed shotguns also have an odd quality curve. Most are complete crap, but there are some diamonds in the rough. The reason the majority are crap is the fact most are cheap Turkish designs. The guns and magazines are just poorly made and will either be unreliable from the start or just break to pieces along the way. 

Guns from Iron Horse and Genesis-12 are absolutely outstanding, as are the Fostech Origin and Dissident Arms guns. Mossberg’s 590M series are good guns and represent one of the better, more affordable options on the market. For every one of these solid guns, there are piles of mass-imported Turkish crap. 

Going Mag Fed 

I have a few mag fed shotguns in my arsenal, and I enjoy them. They can be handy, but they are a tough sell for a home defense shotgun. The chance of shells deforming and failing is too much risk for me. I can see the benefits, but until shotgun ammo changes, you have to really weigh the downsides. 

Travis Pike
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.