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Gun Review: Smith & Wesson M&P 12 Shotgun

Smith & Wesson M&P 12 Shotgun

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One of the bigger surprises of 2021 was the release of the Smith & Wesson M&P 12 gauge shotgun. S&W has been out of the shotgun game for a long time, and the company didn’t just toss a basic pump-action scattergun into their product line and call it a day. They released a dual tube bullpup pump-action shotgun that traces its lineage to the O.G. dual tube shotgun, the KelTec KSG.

Smith & Wesson’s timing was perfect since tactical shotguns are having a bit of a revival these days with increased concerns over crime and personal defense. The S&W M&P 12 promises a professional-grade pump-action, dual-tube, bullpup shotgun that can keep up with demanding shooters.

The S&W M&P 12 Gauge In Living Color

The S&W M&P 12 is a complicated shotgun. It’s not complicated to use, but it’s one of those guns for which you’d be wise to peruse the manual before taking out to the range. Let’s start from the front and work our way back. The M&P 12 wears a 19-inch barrel that’s threaded for (Remchoke) chokes. Modified and cylinder bore choke tubes come with the gun.

Smith & Wesson M&P 12 Shotgun
Yep, the gun has interchnageable chokes. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The pump part of the pump-action is M-LOK compatible and heavily textured. S&W wisely includes a heavy-duty forward grip that’s also heavily textured. It’s tough for your hand to slip when working the action with a vertical foregrip that is best described as anchored. It’s not just attached to one M-LOK slot, but seemingly several.

Smith & Wesson M&P 12 Shotgun
The foregrip isn’t moving (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The shotgun’s pump extends rearward a fair bit and houses a set of buttons. These allow you to swap from one magazine tube to the other with a press of the button. It’s quick and easy to switch tubes and can be done on the fly. According to the manual, you shouldn’t switch tubes with the pump to the rear.

Smith & Wesson M&P 12 Shotgun
Press the button to swap tubes (Travis Pike for TTAG)

Above the barrel sits an M-LOK slotted barrel shroud and an optics rail runs across the top. This makes it easy to add lights, lasers, and obviously optics. The shotgun doesn’t come with any kind of iron sights. For red dots, you’ll need an AR height optic because it’s an inline design much like a AR-15.

Smith & Wesson M&P 12 Shotgun
The Shroud features M-LOK sots for adding accessories. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The Pistol Grip

On the lower portion of the gun, there’s an ambidextrous AR-15-like safety with a 90-degree throw. Forward of the trigger sits an ambidextrous pump release that requires the user to press it downwards to unlock. The pistol grip comes from the M&P AR line and four interchangeable palm swells to fit the grip to your hand size.

Smith & Wesson M&P 12 Shotgun
Swapping grip sizes is interestin for a shotgun (Travis Pike for TTAG)

That heavily textured theme follows through to the pistol grip, and it’s almost too aggressive. Almost.

Above the pistol grip sits a pair of load assist levers on either side of the gun. Pressing these levers makes it easy to load shells and makes it possible to admin unload the gun without running the pump.

You don’t need to press the levers to load the gun. They just retract the shell holder and makes it easier, albeit much slower. The gun can hold seven rounds of 2.75-inch shells in each of its dual tubes (14 total) or six 3-inch shells (a total of 12).

Smith & Wesson M&P 12 Shotgun
The M&P12 functions with shells of all kinds, mini-shells included. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

Finally, at the rear of the gun, there’s a small button that can be activated. When pressed, you can pull the stock rearward and open up the loading/ejection port. The intention of this device is to allow the user to open up the shotgun and fish out any stuck cartridges in the event of a malfunction.

As you can see, the Smith & Wesson M&P 12 has a lot going for it.

At The Range

Most of the time, I have to add a snarky ‘No, it doesn’t take mini shells,’ to my shotgun reviews. Here, though, I can’t. The M&P12 happily takes mini shells and will hold twenty of them. Mini shells are fun, but beyond plinking they don’t interest me much. A lot of bullpup shotguns seem to have noticeably more felt recoil than standard shotguns. Especially those semi-automatic bullpup shotguns.

The S&W M&P 12 isn’t too bad in the recoil department. It doesn’t feel a whole helluva lot different than any other pump-action shotgun. The M&P 12 weighs 8.3 pounds unloaded, so it’s no featherweight. Along with that mass, the big foregrip and rear pistol grip really help you engage in a good push/pull technique to mitigate recoil.

Smith & Wesson M&P 12 Shotgun
It’s a beastly type of weapon that’s big, and heavy, but fairly short. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

You’ll feel the bump with each pull of the trigger, but it won’t beat you up. What surprised with was that trigger.

For one, it’s a shotgun. Two, it’s a bullpup (which have never been known for good triggers). As a result, I didn’t expect much. It’s honestly not that bad. The M&P 12 trigger won’t win any awards, but it’s definitely better than expected. It’s got a fair bit of take-up, but it’s light and breaks cleanly. Reset is fairly long.

The shotgun’s pump action moves smoothly and is grit-free. Smith & Wesson did a fantastic job with the pump here. It’s not classic Wingmaster smooth, but it doesn’t feel like there’s a bunch of sand in action.

Loading and Ejecting

Loading the S&W M&P 12 isn’t easy or fast, which is why all of that capacity is such a good thing. Like most bullpups, the M&P 12 doesn’t give you those Instagram-fast reloads. The two loading ports in the rear of the gun are recessed and tough to reach. Speedy tactical reloads, or shoot two, load two, aren’t going to be the norm with this gun.

Smith & Wesson M&P 12 Shotgun
The M&P 12’s small, rear placed chamber doesn’t make reloads fast. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The rounds eject from the bottom of the gun. This makes it well-suited for both lefties and righties. The S&W M&P 12 does a great job of being a fully ambidextrous shotgun. The controls are all essentially ambidextrous. Bullpups are rarely lefty-friendly, but the S&W M&P 12 doesn’t discriminate.

Smith & Wesson M&P 12 Shotgun
The length of pull is quite long for a bullpup. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

At least it doesn’t discriminate between dominant hands. Where it does is in shooter size. The length of pull here is over 14 inches, and that’s long. Why they went that far with it is beyond me. This isn’t a clay shooting gun. A 13 or even 12.5-inch length of pull would have been a much better choice for a tactical shotgun. Heck, I’m a big guy, and it feels a little too long even for my knuckle-dragging arms.

Shucking and Pumping

Getting multiple rounds on target with the S&W M&P 12 isn’t difficult. This gun can dish out a serious beating — on its targets — and doesn’t choke. As far as tactical shotguns go, it does exhibit some real strengths. It’s a little over 27 inches long overall, but doesn’t have the NFA penalty. It holds double the ammo of most shotguns and it’s easy to accessorize.

For home defense, it would be tough to beat. Sure, it can’t be reloaded quickly, but if you run through 14 rounds of buckshot in a home defense situation, you likely need a crew-served weapon.

Specifications: Smith & Wesson M&P 12 Shotgun

Barrel Length: 19 inches
Overall Length: 27.8 inches
Caliber: 12 gauge 3-nch Chamber
Capacity: 14 (2.75 inch) or 12 (3 inch)
Weight : 8.3 pounds
MSRP: $1,185

Ratings (out of five stars):

Reliability * * * * *
Not a single malfunction throughout many different loads. High brass, low brass, mini shells, buckshot, slugs, birdshot, and more. Nothing fancy. When I pumped the gun, I knew it would fire.

Ergonomics * * * ½
The M&P 12’s long length of pull is the primary detraction from this gun. Second to that are the slow reloads. Other than that, the ambidextrous nature of the gun makes it an impressive weapon.

Accuracy * * * * *
It’s a shotgun. At shotgun ranges, it’s plenty accurate. With FliteControl, it patterns into one ragged hole at home defense distances. With cheap buckshot, the patterns open up to about 4 inches at 10 yards. Not bad by any means. Oh, and the trigger doesn’t suck, either.

Overall * * * *
The Smith & Wesson M&P 12 shotgun provides an impressive bullpup shotgun. It’s well made, reliable, lefty-friendly, and holds more than half a box of ammo. It might be the best pump action bullpup currently on the market.


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