FN’s Tactical Police Shotgun Rated Tops for Defense

Photos & Story
by R.K. Campbell
Contributing Editor

It may come as a surprise to some, but for most of the history of firearms, the standard weapon of major armies was a de facto shotgun. The musket featured a smoothbore and was often loaded with two balls or the infamous "buck and ball" mix. The advent of the rifle changed the face of warfare, putting the shotgun in a backseat to the rifle in terms of military deployment.

The shotgun was too good to die, however, and came back strong in both the Philippine Insurrection and World War I. The Winchester 1897 pump shotgun proved very effective in both wars. Today, the shotgun is still important. It may be used to guard prisoners, but it can also be effective in a tight spot, especially in night battles.

The shotgun remains the premier police long gun for many reasons. Among the shotgun's strong points are simplicity, reliability, ruggedness, power, and versatility.

Recently, I tested a shotgun that may be the all-time greatest fighting shotgun as far as design aspects. FN Herstal has introduced a rugged, reliable pump-action shotgun that features commonality of features with the military issue M4 carbine.

It is important to note that the Tactical Police Shotgun (TPS) is designed for police and military but perfectly legal for civilian ownership. This is not a dove or quail gun, and has little sporting utility. I think it may be useful for emergency use around a ranch or zoo, however. But foremost this is a fighting shotgun.

Multi-Position Stock
The TPS features a multi-position stock that mimics the M4 carbine. This stock design is important. First of all, it gives the same feel as the M4 and allows a good cheek weld when firing the TPS with solid projectiles. It is adjustable to male or female sizes, with most females probably using the middle section. If you are weighed down with web gear, the second position may be the better choice. And the stock makes the guns shorter overall and easier to store when fully folded.

The pistol grip is standard AR15 all of the way. For handling heavy loads this is a good choice. I found it quite easy to sling the shotgun or move it out of the way when reloading. I think it is well-suited to police work, especially when there is a premium on training time. The M4 and the TPS share the same basic handling, making transition between the two easier. Beancounters like to cut training time. This shotgun should make everyone happy.

The shotgun has aperture sights which are identical to the M4. This is an important departure from the standard sights found on most police and military shotguns. Even those with sights seldom have really good ones. A combat shotgunner must center his strikes, making a solid hit.

The sporting shotgunner need only land a few pellets on a small target that does not shoot back. These sights are quick on target, the best sights ever fielded on a combat shotgun. Police shotguns get rough use. The front sight is well-protected as is the rear sight. I like them very much.

To use the sights, the rear aperture should be in the widest position for buckshot use, and the smaller sight used for firing slugs. There is a rail on the top of the shotgun that offers a mount for laser sights or other modern inventions. I mounted a C-More or heads-up holographic sight to evaluate the TPS. More about that later. When the batteries go dead-and this unit seems long-lived-the sights are still readily accessible. I like that very much.

The safety of the FN Herstal TPS is a cross-bolt which lies just in front of the trigger guard. It is quick enough in use, and one of the few departures from the AR15 format. The slide/bolt release will be familiar to anyone who has used the various Winchester pump-action shotguns. Learning the position of the release and its rapid manipulation is vital, as most combat shotguns are kept ready chamber empty, but against a cocked spring.

The TPS appearance makes one expect it to take a long, wicked-looking magazine, but it features a full-length 7-round magazine. This is a generous capacity for a fighting shotgun more than capable of handling the majority of critical situations.

The TPS featured a short 18-inch barrel. I normally do not care for ports, but this shotgun has unobtrusive ports. They did not produce ear-splitting noise and seemed to help keep muzzle flip down. It is not an unpleasant gun to fire.

The dedicated rail is quite interesting. I could mount any number of sights on it, including Bushnell's purpose designed 4-power shotgun scope. This rattle-proof little optical giant would make the TPS a sure thing in hostage rescue to 20 yards, with the proper slug.

Shooting Ease
It is difficult to say the stock attributed so much to ease of shooting, the pistol grip another percent, and the ports another, but the sum of all parts is very good in action. The choke is not adjustable, but set at what appears to be a basic modified choke. Buckshot is commonly out of stopping effect at about 25 yards, and the shotgun patterns adequately to that range.

Firing tests are what count for the most. I collected a wide assortment of shotgun ammunition. I am not normally a shotgunner by choice, but keep my hand in with defensive gear. The TPS changed that.

This shotgun is so far ahead of virtually everything else I have worked with, it was an eye opener to fire it. The stock has four positions, but I clicked mine into the outermost position and left it there. I was pleased with the length, comfort and pull, and left it locked in place.

The shotgun has recoil of course, but a pump-action allows the shooter to keep a certain cadence in firing. Lean into the gun and allow recoil to sweep the muzzle up a bit and unlock and work the slide. The secret to quick work with the trombone-action is to take the same time and the same effort to work the slide front and rear. This is the type of action muscles excel at.

The secret to double-action handgunning was to press and release the revolver trigger at the same rate, and much the same applies to using the slide-action shotgun. This gun has dual action bars, which is the hot setup and muchly preferred over the single-action bar.

Great Sights
With this type of action, I was able to keep as many as two shells in the air at once while the gun spoke a third time. The M4-type sights are leagues ahead of any other. I was able to make rapid hits at silhouette targets from 5 to 25 yards. Dispersion of the nine-pellet Winchester tactical shotgun load was as little as 4 inches at 7 yards, with a 10-inch spread at 20 yards-about the longest effective range for a shotgun with buckshot.

I tripped the C-More sight on and really went to work. The big red shells with the black Super X on them were really thumping into my shoulder now, but the red dot stayed on target and aided in making quick hits. The red dot keeps all sighting components on one plane-you need only place the dot on the object you wish to hit. As long as the shooter realizes he is supposed to fire when the dot is on target, and he ignores the iron sights, this is one quick blaster.

I halted the evaluation long enough to rub my shoulder and consider the results. Now, I loaded the TPS with a mix of slugs. Some were the exceptional Fiocchi Max 1-ounce slug, with a mix of various types from the shell box. These are noted for accuracy at extended range. I worked over the short range targets again. With conventional sights or the C-More, the targets were left with gaping holes.

The shotgun is much quicker at short range than any handgun, with just a touch of the front sight or the red dot on the target and the target was nailed.

Moving to 25 yards, I flipped up the smaller rear aperture and fired a number of different types of slugs. Recoil was there, but not as brutal as with most pumps. A number of old-style slugs performed adequately, Fiocchi slugs settled into a nice 2-inch group for three slugs.

At 50 yards, I wished to qualify the shotgun's accuracy potential but did not care to benchrest the beast. The 12-gauge does kick, and while this gun kicks less than most, recoil is a consideration from a braced position. I was able to achieve good cheek weld and fire 3-shot groups off the barricade at 50 yards.

The results were interesting. Despite the lack of rifling, the Fiocchi flew true, as is usually the case. I achieved an average group of 4° inches with one spotless 4-inch group.

As of this writing, the TPS is the top combat shotgun in mass production in the United States, per my testing. There is simply nothing else in its league. Anyone wishing to own a top-quality defensive shotgun should take a hard look at this one. You will not be disappointed.

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