Modernize Your 12 Gauge Shotgun

This week's review is going to look at how a standard 12 Gauge can be modified with sights, lights, stocks, slings and ammo to make it an efficient and versatile weapon for today's combat situations.

Noted speaker/instructor LtCol Dave Grossman (retired Army Ranger) has said that it makes no sense to bring a shotgun onto today's battlefield. His voiced outlook that 200-year-old technology can't compete in the contemporary combat situation makes sense. However, I believe that with proper modification, the basic shotgun can be a suitable combat weapon. This week's review is going to look at how a standard 12 Gauge can be modified with sights, lights, stocks, slings and ammo to make it an efficient and versatile weapon for today's combat situations. Let's take a look at some of those options and modifications in just that order.


Rifle sights have been available on shotguns for a long time and theoretically increase the level of accuracy of the weapon. It often didn't make sense, because an officer's or soldier's command structure limited the ammunition that could be deployed to buckshot. Additionally, the slug barrel of most shotguns don't provide any stability to slugs in flight, so accuracy was further limited. Taking that into consideration, what was the point of putting rifle sights or other devices onto the shotguns? Well, welcome to the 21st century.

Companies like EOTech--now owned by L3--make sights specifically for the deployment of munitions. Many munitions primarily designed for 37mm/40mm weapons are also being produced in a 12 Gauge configuration. As a result, you may need a reflex sight--electro-optical sight or holoscope, such as an EOTech--for your shotgun. The other option is that you're firing ammo that provides a single projectile (more about ammo below) and a stabilized flight path for more accurate shot placement. Then rifle sights are very handy.

If you're "stuck" with fixed iron sights, night sights in various configurations are available. Tritium sights are available from several manufacturers. Those that are quickest to pick up in your line of sight and get aligned on the target are best when it comes to conflict/combat situations. XS Sights makes their 24/7 Big Dot sights for shotguns and, in my experience, they've proven quick to find during stress shooting situations.

Another sight option is laser aiming devices. LaserMax makes a combined light/laser module that easily mounts on the weapon (shown right). It makes the shotgun slightly front-end heavy for my preference, but I've talked to several officers who really like it. If I'm going to mount a laser unit on my shotgun, I'd prefer to have the light integrated in the fore end (see below) and the laser unit mounted on the right side by way of a Picatinny rail adaptor. These are commonly available and there are a plethora of laser units you can slide onto the rails using a remote pressure switch for momentary activation as needed.


I am a firm believer in having multiple lights for operational conditions. I have two on my gunbelt and one mounted on my shotgun. Every rifle (AR-type) that I have had has also had a fore end mounted light of some sort. Given that the FBI reports approximately 80% of all law enforcement shootings occur in conditions of reduced light, doesn't it only make sense to take the one tool with you--every time, all the time--that increases your chances of prevailing in a conflict situation?

SureFire makes some of the best weapon-mounted light-integrated systems available. Shown to the right, the SureFire 918FA fore end provides a tactical light that is easily activated by the shooter's support hand. With a hard on/off switch and touch pressure pad available, the 918FA provides versatility and ease of light management without having to modify or change your grip on the weapon.

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