Pistol Grip Shotgun Philosophy:
There are many mixed feelings and emotions about pistol grip shotguns. Many argue that they are not effective defensive weapons because they are harder to aim and safely control than shotguns equipped with a shoulder stock. Others argue that a pistol grip shotgun provides the shooter a massive amount of close range firepower in a compact package that easy to transport in a vehicle, boat, or backpack. In my opinion everyone is correct. Yes they can be more challenging to learn to shoot effectively without socking yourself in the nose, but with the lots of practice and appropriate ammunition the pistol grip shotgun can give you significant firepower in you vehicle, boat, or at your campsite or bedside.
On this page I’ll present the pros and cons of pistol grip shotguns, their operational dangers, and techniques for using them safely. Then I’ll review nine different types of rear shotgun pistol grips and provide opinions based on actual operational experience and observations. Many of the rear pistol grip manufacturers offer matching forward pistol grips. The forward pistol grip is not discussed in this article as it lessens the compactness of the shotgun, has a different manual of arms to operate, and exceeds the intended scope of this article. Look for a future article on forward pistol grips and their use.
The Ultimate Defense:
The Worst Idea Ever:
When you shoot a shotgun with a stock you will absorb most of the recoil impulse in your shoulder, with the small remaining component absorbed by your hands and arms. When you shoot a pistol grip shotgun then you absorb all of the recoil with your hands. There are plenty of YouTube videos of people dropping their pistol grip shotgun as they weren’t expecting the gun to try to jump out of their hands. The biggest danger with pistol grip shotguns is when someone tries to aim it by looking down the barrel. If the shotgun is held too close to your face, and if you don’t hold the shotgun firmly and aren’t prepared to absorb all of the recoil with you hands and arms, then the shotgun will punch you in the face when it goes off (as seen in the photo to immediately above, and in the two following videos). The next section will discuss recommended techniques for shooting a pistol grip shotgun.
Pistol Grip Shotgun Shooting Techniques:
It is a good idea to start off practicing shooting your pistol grip shotgun from a low-ready position (as seen in the photo to the right). Get use to shooting whatever full-power loads that you plan on using for self-defense purposes from the low-ready position before you try shooting while aiming down the barrel. Just remember that if you are playing around and training with birdshot that you will later experience a lot more recoil when shooting full-power buckshot. Hold on tight and be careful.
Ammunition In Pistol Grip Shotguns:
Do not use 3″ shells. They are as pleasant to shoot as visiting your mother-in-law. They will shake fillings out of your teeth and beat your hands to a pulp, and their small terminal ballistic benefit does not justify the added abuse that you will have to endure from the disproportionately added recoil. Stick with 2-3/4″ shells. They will be much less abusive. Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself, and please send me a video.
Low-brass shells (pictured left in the photo to the right) will kick a lot less than high-brass shells (pictured right in the photo to the right), however with low-brass shells you will be limited to target and small-game loads that shoot many very small pellets. I am not aware of low-brass buckshot offerings. Low-brass target loads and small game loads will be devastating on target at close range, but they won’t travel very far before they lose enough energy that they won’t penetrate very deep into the target. If you choose a low-brass round offering, be sure to choose the largest projectiles that are available so as enjoy as much kinetic energy from your projectiles as possible. See Savannah Arsenal’s High-Brass vs. Low-Brass.
Full-power high-brass buckshot loads are devastating on target, but also will beat up your hands. If you feel that you absolutely need buck-shot then try out “reduced recoil” offerings available from several manufacturers. They will have as much as a 15% to 25% reduction in muzzle velocity and recoil (example: muzzle velocity of 1200 FPM rather than a full-power load’s muzzle velocity of 1600 FPM). These rounds will allow you to launch buckshot with a significant decrease in recoil, but with only a small decrease in terminal performance within home defense ranges. See Savannah Arsenal’s Reduced Recoil Shotshell.
Remember that with any type of ammunition you can punch yourself in the nose with a pistol grip shotgun. Regardless of what type of ammunition that you decide to use, practice with it often, hold onto it tight, and be very careful.
Mossberg Factory “Cruiser” Pistol Grip:
Spoiler: Bad ergonomics, hurts your hand to shoot, but has worked for decades.
These are Mossberg OEM and ship with all of their pistol grip shotgun offerings. They are hard plastic, not very beefy, hurt when shooting full-power loads, and are not very fun to shoot with during an extended training session. They work fine, but you can spend a little money and do better. Be careful of what you buy. Many aftermarket shotgun pistol grips are just as uncomfortable to shoot.
Advanced Technology Inc (ATI) Universal Shotgun Pistol Grip:
Spoiler: Inexpensive. Not beefy enough grip to mitigate recoil.
These have been discontinued by the manufacturer, however you can still find them online, at retail stores, and at gun shows.
I briefly had one of these mounted on a Mossberg 500. It is very easy to install. It simply bolts on the back of the shotguns receiver. By itself it is made to be used on Mossberg 500/590 shotguns, but it comes with two adapters so that it can be mounted to Remington 870 and Winchester 1300 shotguns. (I am not a big fan of gear and parts that are made to do it all, but don’t do any of it perfect.)
I have large hands, and I found this grip a little too thin and not meaty enough to help with recoil mitigation. It is hard plastic, and so with the smaller size than Mossberg’s stock “Cruiser” grip, it can be pretty painful to shoot with full power buckshot. Keep your stock “Cruiser” grip and save the money to buy ammunition and training (or keep reading until you find the one that rang our bell).
Advanced Technology Inc (ATI) T2 & T3 Scorpion Pistol Grip:
Spoiler: Expensive. Cheaply made. Not ergonomic. Complicated. Don’t waste your money.
I ordered the T3 grip in hopes that it might be a little better at mitigating recoil than the factory Mossberg “Cruiser” grip. The area that your palm covers is a soft rubber, and it looked like mine was already starting to de-laminate from the rest of the plastic grip. The area where the web of your hand wraps around is where your hand absorbs the most recoil and is hard plastic and looks like it would be just as painful as the “Cruiser” that I was trying to replace. Once mounted it felt like it was too bulky, and mounted too low for good balance.
Another downside is that this grip doesn’t just bolt onto the back of your shotgun like most of the other grips shown on this page. If requires disassembly and then specific reassemble depending on which type of shotgun that you are going to mount it on. As simple as it looks, it is just complicated enough that you will have to consult the directions a couple of times.
I didn’t even shoot with this grip installed. I removed it, boxed it back up, and promptly returned it for a refund. Skip this one.
Blackhawk “Knoxx Breacher’s Grip” Recoil Reducing Pistol Grip:
Spoiler: Complete piece of complicated shit. Ugly. Awkward to operate. Expensive. Do not waste your money.
Blackhawk (famous for quality Nylon products for the shooting industry) purchased a “recoil absorbing” stock design from a company called Knoxx. The design was terrible. I temporarily had one installed on a Mossberg 590 pump-action shotgun. When the shotgun was fired, the recoil reducing spring design produced some type of odd recoil impulse that would cause the action to cycle a new round into the chamber. That is cool if you wanted to followup with another rapid shot, but not if you wanted to cease-fire with a spent round in the chamber. Blackhawk now sells a pistol grip version with the same recoil reducing technology. I haven’t been gullible enough to purchase one to try, but by every account that I have read, this is still a shitty design. This is not the grip that you are looking for. Skip this one.
Command Arms Accessories (CAA) Pistol Grip with Scope Mount:
Spoiler: Appears cheesy and bulky.
I don’t have any experience with this grip (your experience and opinions are greatly appreciated at the bottom of the page). I have fondled one at a gun show. My first impression is that, like most of Command Arms Accessories products, that this is a “one product that does everything, but doesn’t do any of it well”. It is modular in the sense that you can use it as a stand-alone pistol grip, or add a shoulder stock. The top has a rail that you can mount some type red-dot optic on, but the shroud wraps over and around the top of the shotgun’s receiver. On Mossberg 500/590 shotguns this shroud covers the tang safety, but there is a sliding switch built into the top of the grip that pushes the shotgun’s safety on and off. It appears bulky and cheesy, and if the grip’s switch starts to wear out then it may not engage the shotgun’s safety switch. Also, the bulky shroud covers enough of the receiver that you won’t be able to mount any type of Side-Saddle style shell holder to the receiver.
If you want a fixed stock, then mount a fixed stock. If you want a pistol grip, then mount a pistol grip. If you want a top rail for optics, then mount a top rail on the top of the receiver. Avoid “do-it-all” products such as this Command Arms Accessories pistol grip. Skip this one.
Hogue Tamer Pistols Grips:
This grip has the same oversize rubber that you have come to expect from Hogue accessories. This grip has rubber all of the way around the rear of the grip where the web of your hand normally absorbs most of the shotgun blast’s recoil.
I don’t have any operational experience with this grip, however after closely examining one I think that they possibly have the most recoil absorbing potential of any of the grips discussed on this page. I am hoping to test this grip with several different types of shotgun ammunition. I will update this post with the results as soon as I am able.
If you have used this grip then your experience and opinions are greatly appreciated. Please post at the bottom of this page.
TacStar Tactical Rear Grip:
Spoiler: Inexpensive. Easy to install. Beefy grip, but too smooth to hold onto when wet.
This grip is very inexpensive. It is oversized just enough so that you can get a good grip on it so as to help with recoil control. It is very easy to install. The biggest drawback is that there is almost no texture to help with weapon retention and control. While I had one of these grips installed on a shotgun for a number of years, I never had the opportunity to shoot it in the rain. I can only imagine that it is hard to hold onto when wet. This grip would be greatly benefited by a quality stippling job or a couple of well placed pieces of skateboard grip tape. For around the same amount of money, check out the next generation of TacStar Tactical Rear Grip discussed next.
TacStar Tactical Rear Grip (Gen-2):
Spoiler: Recommended. A gigantic improvement over Mossberg factory “Cruiser” grips. Worth the $35 price.
I have one of these mounted on a Mossberg 500. This pistol grip is a gigantic improvement over the stock Mossberg “Cruiser” grips. While it looks like soft rubber, it is solid plastic, however the oversize palm makes recoil more manageable, and the textured finger grooves make it easy to hold onto, even in the wettest conditions.
There are specific models made for Remington 870 and for Mossberg 500/590 shotguns, so there aren’t adapters to “make it work” for other guns. You can expect it to fit seamlessly and solidly.
Shockwave Technologies Raptor Grip:
Spoiler: Recommended. Excellent ergonomics, wicked cool look, but add more length to the shotgun than any other grip reviewed on this page.
In a future article I will discuss a way to build and legally possess a shotgun with a barrel less than 18″ in length without registering it with the BATFE as an A.O.W. (Any Other Weapon) and paying the $200 registration tax. Part of the project will require this specific grip (an explanation of why will be provided in the future article).
These grips will make your shotgun look like a prop in a Mad Max movie. They look as though someone has cut back a conventional shotgun stock and rounded off the end. This grip provided excellent ergonomics when fired either from the low-ready position or while aiming down the barrel. They provide more overall length to the shotgun than any of the other grips reviewed on this page.
If you have used this grip then your experience and opinions are greatly appreciated. Please post at the bottom of this page.
- Tactical Shotgun Essentials
- Tactical Shotgun Accessories
- Tactical Shotgun Ammunition
- Mossberg Shotguns
- Remington Shotguns
- Other Tactical Shotguns