When it comes to tactical and home defense shotguns there are lots of debates regarding the most effective operating system. They come down to pump-action and semi-automatic. Both offers advantages over the other, and both sides make good points. Semi-Auto shotguns fire rapidly, has reduced recoil, and are generally easier to use. Pump action shotguns are more reliable via manual operation, they are simpler overall, and function with any load regardless of how light the load is. So which one is better? How about a little of both? The TriStar Tec 12 shotgun offers shooters both a pump and semi automatic option.

TriStar Tec 12 Shotgun | Pump or Auto? How about both?

Not the First

Now hybrid semi auto/pump-action shotguns are not new. They’ve been around for some time. One of the most recognizable being the SPAS 12 shotgun. One of the more successful and more robust is the Benelli M3. I’m a big fan of shotguns and a big fan of these convertible guns. The Benelli being a gun on my bucket list since Tom Sizemore used it in the movie Heat.

TriStar Tec 12 Shotgun | Pump or Auto? How about both?

The Most Affordable

The TriStar Tec 12 is by far the most affordable of the convertible shotguns. SPAS 12s are now considered collector’s items and run for a grand and up, and the Benelli M3 is a Benelli to the price is also over a grand. The TEC 12 has an MSRP of $690.00, but are easily found for around $550.00 to $450.00. This places them at basically a third of the price of a Benelli M3. Now, you get what you pay for right? A third of the price means a third of the performance right? Well, maybe not.

TriStar Tec 12 Shotgun | Pump or Auto? How about both?

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Why a Hybrid

I really like the hybrid shotgun for two reasons. Firs, there is really no reason not to. I mean there is really no downside to a hybrid shotgun that I’ve run into. Second, it makes the gun so much more versatile. I like a semi-auto for home defense and tactical applications. I like being able to put lead downrange as fast as possible if I need to. However, I also like the option to run whatever shotgun ammo I have, including reduced recoil, and non lethal. Neither of those will run effectively in a semi-auto, but are perfect in a pump. One of the shotgun’s strengths is its versatility in ammo selection. A hybrid gives you the best of both worlds.

TriStar Tec 12 Shotgun | Pump or Auto? How about both?

TriStar Tec 12 Specs

Before we dive into the performance review we are going to look at the Specs of the TriStar Tec 12 and discuss a few things.

  • Gauge – 12
  • Capacity – 5 + 1
  • Chamber – 3 inches
  • Weight – 7lbs 4 ounces
  • Barrel Length – 20 inches

The TriStar Tec 12 is set up like a tactical shotguns. It features a fixed stock with a pistol grip. The grip itself is made from a soft, but durable rubber. It’s quite comfortable in the hand and offers a nice amount of gripping surface. The TriStar Tec 12’s stock offers a pretty long length of pull, but I have long arms so it isn’t an issue for me, but may be for smaller shooters.

The sights are brilliant. The front sight is a high viz red fiber optic, and the rear sight is a Ghost ring mounted on a removable rail. You do have options for an optic with the included rail. The TriStar Tec 12 comes with multiple options to mount a sling in an ambidextrous manner.

TriStar Tec 12 Shotgun | Pump or Auto? How about both?

The TriStar Tec 12 uses an inertia based system with a rotary bolt in semi automatic mode. This is identical to the Benelli M3. Inertia guns are reliable, and for some time were really exclusive to Benelli. Inertia guns are basically recoil operated, but in a really fascinating way. Lucky Gunner explains it quite well here, http://www.luckygunner.com/lounge/gas-vs-inertia-shotguns/

TriStar Tec 12 Shotgun | Pump or Auto? How about both?
Solid Rear Sight

The gun feels nice and light. It shoulders naturally, and the stock’s comb makes using the sights, and AR height red dots nice and easy to use. The pump is easy to reach, and the control are very simple. The charging handle is small, but not too small. The safety is a simple cross bolt design that’s easy to engage in either direction.

TriStar Tec 12 Shotgun | Pump or Auto? How about both?
High Viz Front Sight

On the Range

Ah man I had a blast with this thing, both literally and metaphorically. I love shotguns and this is the first inertia gun I’ve had a lot of time behind. Running the gun in both modes is comfortable and easy.

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TriStar Tec 12 Shotgun | Pump or Auto? How about both?

In semi auto mode the gun chambers, cycles, and ejects like a champ. I put everything from some standard 00 buckshot to that chea Academy birdshot through the gun. It cycled it all, every round, from day one without issue. There was zero failures, and no ‘break’ in period needed.

TriStar Tec 12 Shotgun | Pump or Auto? How about both?
Running the Pump

It just ate round after round, after round. I’m sitting on 200 rounds of cheap Wally World shotgun food and a 100 rounds of cheap Academy birdshot without hiccup on semi auto. I just hit fifty rounds of buckshot without issue in semi auto. The recoil is minimal, so little that I can easily fire the weapon one-handed.

TriStar Tec 12 Shotgun | Pump or Auto? How about both?

This gun cycles fast, very, very, fast. It’s makes it a lot of fun, and a great way to work your way through shotgun shells. Recoil is of course pretty low in semi-auto mode, and quite comfortable. I was surprised how mild muzzle rise was and how smooth the operation felt. The gun does have an extended cylinder choke tube that helps tame recoil. You can also utilize Benelli/Beretta Mobile choke tubes with the gun.

TriStar Tec 12 Shotgun | Pump or Auto? How about both?
Chokes are easily removable

Swapping over to pump-action is as simple as turning a collar and unlocking the pump. It could be done midway through a string of fire quickly if you needed to swap ammo types for any reason.

TriStar Tec 12 Shotgun | Pump or Auto? How about both?
Unlocked in Pump Mode

The pump-action is a lot different from any pump-action I’ve ever handled. I could be described it as assisted pump-action. The naturally wants to glide backwards as the gun recoils. The heavier the load the more the gun wants to pump itself, however it’s never so much I couldn’t control it. The pump also wants to naturally go forward after it fires. Again, nothing you can’t control and it actually makes pumping the gun much quicker. The pump is incredibly smooth to ride.

TriStar Tec 12 Shotgun | Pump or Auto? How about both?
Locked in Semi Auto mode

The biggest downside is in pump-action on the last round the bolt is locked to the rear, meaning the pump cannot push it forward and you have to hit the bolt release. This makes speed reloads while pumping a bit slower.

TriStar Tec 12 Shotgun | Pump or Auto? How about both?

The trigger isn’t bad, it’s better than my Mossberg 930 SPX. It’s a little stiff, but short and smooth. Triggers on shotguns aren’t a major concern, but it bears mentioning.

TriStar Tec 12 Shotgun | Pump or Auto? How about both?

It’s best to think of this shotgun as a semi-auto combat shotgun that allows you to run light loads via the pump. Its primary mode of operation is semi auto with a pump-action backup.  

TriStar Tec 12 Shotgun | Pump or Auto? How about both?
I love the Included Sights

Downsides

Biggest downside is definitely 922 R. 922 R is some dumb laws that enforce some ridiculous rules. Because of these rules you are limited to five rounds, and it’s not easy to extended the magazine tube, and legally you’ll need some American made parts to do so. To extended the mag tube you’ll have to find which tube will fit, and permanently modify the gun by trimming the tube. Some shooters online say you have to use Benelli tubes, and others say you can use Mossberg 500 tubes. Not really the gun’s fault, but it bears mentioning.

TriStar Tec 12 Shotgun | Pump or Auto? How about both?
Swapping Modes in the Middle of Firing

Scattergat

Overall it’s any use to shoot shotgun, and it operates like a champ. It eats everything I’ve put through it without question. It’s dual operation makes it fascinating, and handy. The TriStar Tec 12 would make a great shotgun for home defense, and it’s a great gun for turning money into noise. Check out the tec 12 and TriStar’s impressive shotgun line up here,  TriStar Arms.