Military Shotguns are devastating close-range weapons that are brutally efficient in close-quarters combat (CQC). Most bad guys can’t take a blast of 00 buckshot and shake it off. A load of buckshot at close range can be devastating to the threat. Not only that but in warfare, the shotgun’s spread of buckshot can help hit moving targets and be incredibly handy at night when visibility is limited. For home defense or police use, these tactics might not be sound, but in war, the rules are fairly different.

As such, the military has an arsenal of shotguns it can choose from. Shotguns are niche weapons that don’t see daily use. However, when necessary, they are tough to replace. Here are the five military shotguns currently in the United States’s arsenal.

1 | Remington 870 MCS

The Remington 870 first saw use in Vietnam, where it became a favorite of point men on patrols, Navy SEALs, and others. It stuck around with all four military branches and then became the Remington 870 MCS. As far as military shotguns go, the Remington 870 MCS is by far the most modular. MCS stands for Modular Combat Shotgun.

MCS variation

The MCS brings the users a complete system within one receiver. The MCS comes with three barrels, including a 10-, 14-, and 18-inch option. The gun has an M4-style stock and a pistol grip-only configuration. It can become a fighting, non-lethal, or breaching shotgun in just a few minutes.

Additionally, a magazine extension allowed for more capacity depending on how the gun will be used. This fascinating system allows the weapon to be as modular as the mission requires.

2 | Mossberg 590A1

The Mossberg 590A1 is the most common and varied military shotgun. Various models exist with different-length barrels and sighting systems. Sometimes, we have a bayonet, and other times, we don’t. The 590A1 is a pump-action, 12-gauge shotgun purposely made for combative use.

soldiers firing a pump-action shotgun

The 590A1 features a thick, heavy-walled barrel, a metal trigger, safety, and, most often, a bayonet lug. Barrel lengths vary between 14 and 18.5 inches, and various models may feature fixed stocks, collapsing stocks, or pistol-grip-only guns.

The Mossberg 590A1 is a simple but brutally effective shotgun.

It’s known for its robust and reliable design. The weapon is commonly used for combat and breaching. It is the most common choice for deploying less-lethal munitions. The 590A1 represents the brutal simplicity of military shotguns.

3 | Benelli M1014

The Benelli M1014 is a joint-service shotgun that was adopted in 1999 after proving itself to the United States Marine Corps. It provides a semi-automatic option for 12-gauge firepower. The semi-auto, gas-operated design makes follow-up shots rapid and easy to control.

Benelli M1014

The gas operation reduces felt recoil and makes the weapon extremely easy to control. The Benelli M1014 got a trial by fire in Fallujah with the Marines who invaded that god-awful city. There is dispersed buckshot by the half dozen and proved that even the desert couldn’t shut it down.

The Benelli M1014 proved itself over and over as the finest fighting shotgun ever created. It serves in the armory of military shotguns in the United States and with numerous foreign military forces, including the SAS.

4 | M26 MASS

The M26 Modular Accessory Shotgun System, or the MASS, is a box-fed, straight-pull shotgun designed to streamline breaching. This shotgun was designed to be mounted beneath the barrel of an M4 to provide an on-hand breaching solution for our deployed warfighters. The M26 MASS could also be used as a stand-alone shotgun with a separate stock system.


Unlike other military shotguns, the M26 MASS doesn’t excel in combat. I mean, it’s still a shotgun, but the design is all about breaching. The rifle it’s mounted to is the fighting weapon, and the under-barrel M26 MASS is supposed to break down the doors.

The M26 MASS is more of a tool than a weapon, but in a pinch, buckshot is buckshot. It’s also a rather odd configuration with its box-fed, straight-pull action.

5 | Saiga 12

The Saiga 12 is a Russian-made shotgun based on the famed AK platform. Now I hear you, and this is a list of American military shotguns, not Russian ones. Well, yeah, the American military uses this shotgun — kind of. The Coast Guard’s Deployable Operations Group is a small, elite group of Coasties who carry the Saiga 12.

soldiers fires SAIGA 12 shotgun

The Saiga 12 is a 12-gauge, semi-automatic shotgun that uses a long-stroke gas piston. It’s a box-fed gun with a wide variety of magazines available for it. I imagine a shotgun is quite handy for maritime interdiction, and the Saiga 12 offers a rapid-firing, quick-reloading option. When bad guys are shooting at your boat, the spread a shotgun offers makes hitting that rapidly moving target quite fast.

When the gun runs dry, you can rock another mag in place and keep it up. The Saiga 12 is an unusual choice for the American military, but it’s in the armory, so it makes the list of military shotguns.

Military Shotguns – Now and Then

The military shotgun has never been a front-line, general-issue weapon and never will be. However, when our nation needs a shotgun, it really needs a shotgun. From the trenches to the Iraqi urban sprawls, buckshot has answered the call when a bad guy deserves some devastating lead.

What’s your favorite military shotgun? Let us know in the comments below!