Every time I watch “Shotgun Ed” Exley shucking and ducking in L.A. Confidential, I’m amazed at how far police shotguns have developed. All the way up to the present, many departments have just bought a sporting gun with perhaps a magazine extension or a synthetic stock and called it good. Even when I was on Embassy Duty in the late 1970s, the State Department issued us the light, folding-stock Remington Model 870P—a great gun, but quite light for the kind of daily bashing about suffered by police guns.
FNH now offers a purpose-built, extra-heavy-duty semiauto that is built to stand up to 30 or 40 years of daily abuse. It’s no feathery field gun for upland game. No, the Self Loading Police is tough, heavy and overbuilt by the same factor as a Cummins diesel. The eight-round extended magazine could double as a blunt-force instrument, and the two-piece bolt locks up twice as securely as any other gas gun I’ve seen: The locking recess is machined all the way through the barrel extension, and the extractor is as beefy as a female Bulgarian shotput champion. The Mark I differs from the original in having a Weaver rail and lower sights.
FNH continues John Browning’s tradition of building intuitive designs. The first time I disassembled the gun, it took me about two minutes to break down and less than a minute to put back together. Yes, I assembled it correctly, and no, in the great tradition of American sportsmen, I didn’t read the instructions first.
In order to gather some varied opinions, I loaned the gun to a member of my club who’s an instructor with the LAPD. He had novice and veteran officers run every kind of high and low base load through it with no problems. The gun comes with two pistons, one for reduced recoil when shooting high-based loads. This is nice but not required. The action cycled every 2 3/4- and 3-inch shell I had except Winchester’s excellent feather-emblemed reduced-recoil target loads. The box says clearly that it will not cycle most semiautos, so that was no surprise.
Upon receipt of the gun, I dosed it with a couple squirts of Jig-a-loo in the action. When I got it back from the cops, I squirted it again before doing my own shooting. The gun ran perfectly, so the new lube gets a thumb’s-up.
For lightly built officers and petite home defenders, the lush buttpad and heft of the SLP help reduce recoil, something appreciated by my range buddy Amber Markovich, who isn’t thrilled by heavy recoil.
The test gun came with a rail cantilevered over the receiver. A 10/22-esque folding rear sight is mounted on the front end of this and matches up with the fiber optic front post. Reports from my police friends indicated these subtle iron sights were a bit slow to acquire and recommended an optic. I tried tossing an uber-cool Zeiss Z-point red dot onto it only to find out that the rail wasn’t the standard 1913 but a Weaver. To the rescue was a C-More holographic optic, which presented an excellent sight picture and quick acquisition. FNH offers a host of accessories including slings, lights and three rail mounts for the mag extension.
For my own testing, I used a mix of target rounds and some extra nasty Centurion buck and ball. This wicked load is distributed by DKG/Zanders and is a .650 roundball backed up by six No. 1 buckshot—all rushing downrange at 1,300 fps, with the roundball acting as a spreader. Out of the removable IC choke (the gun also comes with a Cylinder choke), this produced a torso-wide spread at 18 yards. At 10 yards, the roundball went five inches into a hardwood railroad tie. I can’t imagine a more effective round for backing up the castle doctrine.
FNH has been around for more than a century and is firmly established as a superior contractor for the U.S. military, so long-term customer support isn’t a concern. I see the SLP as a brutally tough tool for enforcing the law. I’d recommend it to departments and agencies that want one gun that will last an officer his entire career—and then some.