That’s Stubbs. He’s a wild Texas Spiny Lizard who lives in my backyard, and he was drawn to the Iron Horse Firearms Sentry 12 the first time he saw it, just like I was. The sleek layout, light weight, and modern, efficient design of the Sentry 12 immediately clicked for me when I held one, so I wasted no time in securing a review loaner and hitting the range.
With some help from the team at Silencer Shop, our video production quality has gone way up! Check it out by hitting play on the Sentry 12 range review video embedded above or click HERE to watch it on Rumble. Unfortunately Silencer Shop couldn’t do anything about my face (I told them I look my best blurry!), but the camera work, editing, and audio are legit.
What first drew me to the Iron Horse Sentry 12 shotgun was its efficient design. A one-piece aluminum extrusion becomes the handguard with barrel nut threads, the receiver, the raceway on which the pump action grip and rails ride, the shoulder stock attachment point, and the full-length optics rail.
With everything removed from it, the aluminum chassis is incredibly lightweight. It’s such a clean design I just couldn’t help but geek out over it, at least a little.
The chassis is the serialized component (model and serial info is engraved on the bottom rear below the QD sling sockets…far left in the photo above).
Intuitively I knew that having the bore of the barrel, the action, and the stock aligned in a perfectly straight line was likely to produce a nice-shooting 12 gauge. Even if it weighs just six pounds.
Another point in the Sentry 12’s favor was its extremely quick and easy takedown. A single pin — removable by hand without the use of a tool — at the rear of the polymer lower receiver allows it to pivot down and out of the upper. The bolt with attached action rods and grip then slide right out.
An exposed, knurled barrel nut with wrench flats is now the only thing holding the Sentry 12’s barrel in place. Give it a few turns counter-clockwise and the barrel slides right out the front of the chassis.
It does not get simpler than this. Whether it’s to swap barrels or just for cleaning, few long guns (or any gun) field strip as easily as this bad boy.
Heck, even the shoulder stock, held in place by an HK-style pin, is easily removed from the chassis. Iron Horse plans to offer other rear accessories for the Sentry 12 chassis, including a brace for use with a short barrel.
Perhaps the most important component of a magazine-fed shotgun, though, is the magazine itself. That first time I saw and handled a Sentry 12 I pulled the magazine, examined it, and was about as impressed as I could be without actually proving its function on the range.
For instance, pushing with one finger on any part of the follower — even the extreme front of it — results in perfectly smooth follower function. Up and down the magazine without binding or tilting. The guide slots for the rim of the shells, the metal feed lips, the feel of the polymer, the fit of the magazine inside of the lower…all appeared dead-on flawlessly executed.
There’s even an appropriate amount of “extra” space in the magazine after loading it to capacity, which means inserting a fully-loaded mag with the bolt forward it not only possible, but simple. This is not the case with all or even most mag-fed shotguns.
Additionally, the Sentry 12’s magazines insert and remove in a straight line out of the magazine well, AR-style. They don’t have to be rocked in and out AK-style, which is the norm for magazine-fed shotguns.
It’s a 12-gauge box magazine done right, top-to-bottom.
Each Iron Horse Firearms Sentry 12 comes with two, five-round magazines. An eight-round mag and a 10-round mag are in the works.
Dropping said magazine is easily accomplished with an AR-15-style push-button magazine release precisely where it lives on an AR-15. For most of us that makes mag changes extremely intuitive and simple.
Unlike most AR-15s, however, the magazine release is mirrored on the left side of the Sentry 12.
Continuing the theme, the thumb safety is in the identical location and functions identically to that of an AR.
It, too, is mirrored on the right side of the shotgun.
Also ambidextrous is the action release lever, located below the magazine release button at the front of the trigger guard. This unlocks the bolt so the action can be opened after being locked forward into battery. As with most pump-action shotguns, the action is locked in battery unless the gun is fired, which then allows you to rack the action, or the action release is manually depressed.
In keeping with the AR-15 theme, you may have noticed the location of the trigger pins and thought to yourself, “hmm, is there an AR-15 trigger inside this bad boy?” That was one of my first questions after picking up the Sentry 12, and the answer is “no.” But close!
It’s an AR-15 trigger except for the hammer. Some 12 gauge primers need a little more oomph to ignite, plus the location of the firing pin in the Sentry 12 is a bit higher above the trigger than it is on an AR, so the Sentry’s hammer is longer.
While nothing fancy, the Sentry 12’s trigger feels better than a mil-spec or parts-kit AR trigger. It’s without a doubt smoother and crisper. Better, too, than the vast majority of pump-action shotguns’ triggers.
If you want to upgrade even further, however, Iron Horse offers the Sentry 12 Elite, which includes a polished trigger (among other things like polished action bars and other internals, stippled pump grip, and more).
A full-length top M1913 Picatinny rail makes mounting sights, optics, lights, and more extremely easy.
That said, I’d probably swap those near-vertical slots on the “handguard” to horizontal M-LOK slots and I’d put M-LOK slots on the bottom of the pump grip as well. As it stands, the top rail is the only location for mounting accessories to the Sentry 12. Well, other than the QD sling cups on each side at the rear of the chassis and the sling strap slot on the stock.
Out on the range, the Sentry 12 performed flawlessly and was a fast and smooth shooter. The pump action is slick and confident — no binding, no roughness, and no wobble, with solid travel stops at front and rear.
While recoil is stout, as you’d have to expect from a 6-pound 12 gauge shotgun, it’s extremely controllable and more comfortable than I had anticipated. I do think it’s that straight line from bore to shoulder that assists in keeping the gun flat and ensuring that recoil is straight back. The Sentry 12 is easy on the cheekbone, for instance, while many similar guns will bruise up your face due to the upwards rotation of the recoil. I put a ton of birdshot plus 25 rounds of 00 buckshot through the Sentry 12, on two occasions, and felt no worse for the wear.
Magazine swaps were super fast and happened intuitively considering the AR-clone controls. Same, too, with the safety. In fact, other than running that pump and the solid kick of 12 gauge ammo, driving the Sentry 12 is a lot like driving an AR. The straight-line format, the weight, the balance…it’s all very familiar.
Perhaps the one thing I’d change — well, the one other thing in addition to the M-LOK stuff mentioned above — would be redoing the lower receiver so it accepts AR-15 grips. In no way is this a complaint about the pistol grip that’s integral to the one-piece, polymer lower — it’s pretty darn good — but giving the overall AR-like feel to the Sentry 12 and the three bazillion AR grips on the market, the ability to swap the grip out would be pretty great.
Of course, given the modular design of the Sentry 12 and the fact that the lower is not the serialized part, future variants of the lower receiver, stock, barrel, etc. are all on the table (both from Iron Horse and the aftermarket) and would be extremely easy to swap out.
I didn’t photograph any patterning targets on my first range outing, as I intended to do that on video during the second range trip. Unfortunately, I forgot both targets and my staple gun so that plan was trashed. Suffice it to say that this 18.5-inch, cylinder bore shotgun patterns just like every other. Cheap buckshot kept all nine or 12 pellets inside of a silhouette out to 15 yards with 100% consistency, and at 25 yards most pellets were inside of the silhouette but usually there was an escapee or two. Birdshot was similar (and, again, the same as you’d expect from every other cylinder bore 12 GA).
Reliability was flawless. The Sentry 12 never failed to confidently feed, fire, and eject everything I put through it. Heck, it never hinted at anything of the sort and it ran as smooth and slick as can be the entire time.
At the end of my testing I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve more or less fallen in love with the Iron Horse Firearms Sentry 12 pump action shotgun. I can’t get over how smart and efficient the design is, and on top of that it’s flawlessly executed. At least if we’re avoiding the tuned-up, tricked-out, highest-end of the tactical pump shotgun market, the Sentry 12 is my favorite pump action shotgun on the market.
Specifications: Iron Horse Firearms Sentry 12 Shotgun
Barrel Length: 18.5 inches
Overall Length: 36 inches
Weight: 6.1 pounds
Caliber: 12 Gauge, 2.75 and 3-inch chamber
Capacity: 5 rounds (two magazines included…larger capacity mags coming soon)
MSRP: $899 ($1,299 for Sentry 12 Elite)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Accuracy * * * *
I mean, it’s exactly the same as every other 18.5-inch, cylinder bore, 12 GA shotgun. But the easy ability to mount an optic earns this bad boy an extra star. Barrels threaded for choke tubes are in Iron Horse’s product roadmap.
Reliability * * * * *
Flawless. Smooth and wobble-free action plus a great magazine design.
Ergonomics * * * * *
With its fully ambidextrous AR-15-format controls, light weight, and straight-line design, the Sentry 12 is a modern and extremely ergonomic shotgun.
Customize This * * * *
I’m dinging the Sentry 12 one star here because some of the items I’m about to mention aren’t yet available, but the door is wide freakin’ open for modification. Beyond the full-length Pic rail, the modular design of the Sentry 12 allows for easy stock swaps, lower receiver swaps, safety selector swaps, bottom half of the trigger swaps, barrel swaps, and more. Plus larger capacity box and even drum magazines. The stage is set.
Overall * * * * *
The Iron Horse Firearms Sentry 12 Shotgun is my favorite pump action shotgun. And it pulls it all off at a fairly reasonable price, to boot.