I really considered myself a nostalgic guy, but having spent the last 15 years in law enforcement, I have seen many changes. I sometimes miss the simplicity of policing like it was early in my career, simplicity in things such as paper reports, good leather gear and shotguns. I have always enjoyed carrying a shotgun on the street, and there is a sense of confidence in deploying one on a call. The versatility in a pump gun to handle just about any situation is one of the things that have allowed it to survive in the law enforcement arena. In the face of constant technological advancement in guns and gear for the police officer and civilian alike, the trusty pump 12-gauge still has a place in one’s arsenal. With the advent of better and more accurate “flight controlled” shotgun ammo, the 12-gauge is more effective than ever.
There’s no denying that the pump 12-gauge can be considered the quintessential long gun in American law enforcement. Even though the patrol rifle is prevalent among agencies these days, the shotgun can still get the job done. Looking at the distances at which most gunfights take place in this country, the shotgun brings to bear an extremely effective fighting tool that can rapidly curtail a deadly force encounter.
In this age of the patrol rifle, many police officers may think that the shotgun is a dinosaur and needs to be retired to the safe. Well, I’m here to tell you that there are some things that just can’t be accomplished with a rifle. The ability of a firearm to digest a variety of specialty munitions—buckshot and slugs, for example—with unparalleled reliability is accomplished only by the venerable 12-gauge pump shotgun. There’s no denying that, like most guns, the pump shotgun has gone through many stages in evolution, even though the original concept remains with us. Many manufacturers have provided quality shotguns over the years, but few companies have been at the forefront of producing high-quality custom shotguns as long as Wilson Combat.
Many only attribute high-end 1911 pistols to the name Bill Wilson, but his company has been producing custom pump and semi-auto shotguns for many years. Having acquired the original Scattergun Technologies, which was known for its custom Remington shotguns during the ’90s, Wilson Combat took an already good idea and made it even better. As with his 1911s, Wilson has sought to produce reliable, high-quality shotguns for duty and home defense use. Keeping with some of the original themes of Scattergun Technologies, Wilson Combat capitalized on Scattergun’s popular shotgun models, not only refining the designs but also adding the ability for the customer to spec out his shotgun if he chose to do so.
When it came time for Wilson to start turning out pump shotguns, it’s easy to see why he chose to stay with the Remington 870 as the primary platform. The 870 has earned its reputation as a bombproof, reliable workhorse of a shotgun. It can easily be said that all pump shotguns are measured against it. From that starting point, customers can choose among several models or have theirs built from scratch. One of the more popular scatterguns offered by Wilson Combat is the Standard Model. This shotgun represents what a good patrol or home defense pump gun needs to be: simplicity with some decisive add-ons. Obviously, first and foremost it must be reliable, and the gunsmiths at Wilson Combat make sure the shotguns that leave their shop are 100 percent reliable. The Standard Model starts life as a fairly basic 870. Standard is an 18-inch cylinder-bore barrel finished in a rugged MIL-SPEC black manganese phosphate (Parkerized). The Standard Model is chambered for 2¾- and 3-inch magnum loads. Unlike the Police Magnum models, it does not include an aluminum triggerguard, but rather a plastic one.
Next come quality sights that are easy to find and aid in shooting a variety of munitions. Wilson’s Trak-Lock ghost-ring rear sight and ramp front with tritium insert make finding a sight picture quick and easy under stress and in low-light conditions. The rear Trak-Lock sight is adjustable for both elevation and windage, is very rugged and can be ordered equipped with tritium inserts. The front sight is a robust, ramp-style post with a tritium insert, which helps draw the eye to it under less than ideal lighting conditions. It has been soldered onto the barrel in place of the traditional “bead on a pedestal” front sight. The ability to have a sighting system other than a traditional bead sight takes the shotgun to another level, especially when running slugs or other specialty munitions. Even though most would consider the ghost-ring-style sight system to be used only for up-close, rapid-sight-acquisition shooting, it is very capable of delivering accurate fire with slugs. One-hundred-yard hits using Wilson’s Trak-Lock sights and slugs are quite possible when in the hands of a capable shooter.
Seeing the sights is only part of the equation. You must be able to identify what it is you are shooting, and this is accomplished very well by a SureFire 618 forearm light. This model replaces the factory handguard with a dedicated housing containing a blistering 120-lumen white light that can be activated with a momentary pressure pad or the constant-on toggle switch. Threat identification is critical, and having a dedicated light enables the shooter to maintain control over the shotgun while easily identifying any threats. A high-performance, dedicated firearm light is absolutely one of the best upgrades to a combat shotgun. The homeowner is just as dependent as a police officer on threat identification, and Wilson’s addition of the SureFire light is another feature that sets this pump gun apart from a factory model.
A simple, but often overlooked addition to the 870 is Wilson’s Jumbo Head safety. The factory part can be a little difficult to find, especially while wearing gloves. The Jumbo Head safety ensures that, be it with gloves or an elevated heart rate with less than nimble fingers, the shooter will have no trouble locating the crossbolt safety when the time comes to fire the shotgun. With the safety’s oversize button, the shooter has a solid tactile sensation with his index fingers as to the location of the safety. Depending on how the shotgun is deployed, either in a “road ready” condition that has the magazine tube loaded and the chamber empty or with the shotgun “hot” upon retrieval, there will be no doubt as to the location of the safety.
As with all the shotguns in the Wilson lineup, the Standard model also comes with a high-visibility magazine tube follower and extra-power magazine spring. The neon-green color really allows the eye to see whether the tube is empty, even with less than ideal lighting. Under the stress of a gunfight, losing your round count is a reality, and being able to see that neon-green follower tells the shooter to do more than just top off the tube. The nylon material also gives the follower a very slick surface, and coupled with the extra-power magazine spring, it enables the shotgun to digest ammo from the magazine tube effortlessly. This simple, yet effective feature can be very advantageous in a gunfight. Along with the high-visibility follower, Wilson includes a two-shot magazine extension tube, giving the Standard model a six-round magazine capacity. For those who still say the old pump gun just can’t compete with high-capacity patrol rifles, I can tell you that those six rounds of 12-gauge buckshot or slugs give you a formidable advantage. Few barriers or situations can withstand a one-ounce slug or eight to nine pellets coming at them in a fight. Add to that a side-saddle shell carrier, giving you access to an additional six rounds, and you can go into most lethal encounters with a powerful edge.
Wilson took into consideration that body armor is the norm for police officers today, and the company offers the Standard model with a synthetic stock with a shortened length of pull. The ability to get a consistent stockweld can be encumbered by the added girth of body armor, so in order to get the shotgun shouldered and into the fight, the 12½-inch Speedfeed stock should fit the bill. The recoil pad aids in soaking up recoil energy, but I found that the shape and contour of the pad at times inhibits quick mounting of the shotgun. To allow for slinging the gun and/or pistol transitions, Wilson’s Multi-Purpose Tactical CQB sling worked well. It employs a traditional three-point design and has a large adjustment range to fit different-size users or over heavy body armor.
One of the issues I see regularly with agencies and shotgun ammo is the fact that they usually only issue one type, maybe two if you’re lucky. Unlike some modern centerfire ammunition, shotshell ammo can be really picky in different models of shotguns. It has been my experience that to obtain the most effective performance out of a shotgun/ammo combination, you should tailor the ammunition to the shotgun for the best pellet accountability. But in most cases—and, understandably, due to the logistics of ordering different types of ammo—most departments will choose brand X and issue it. This leaves the officer with only one option, and he can only hope that his shotgun works well with it.
There is no denying that shotgun ammunition has made tremendous leaps and bounds in the field of accuracy in the last few years. In a perfect world, you would test a variety of different types of ammo and find the one that your particular shotgun patterns the best. If you have to shoot what you are issued, rest assured that your chances of having a good-performing defensive load to run through your 12-gauge will be better than ever today.
The Wilson Combat Standard model arrived at my door with a cylinder-bore choke, the most common found in 18-inch defensive shotguns. I would have preferred to have seen it built with a modified choke, giving the user a few extra yards of controlled patterning, yet still capable of shooting slugs. The choke measured right at .730, which is basically the starting dimension for cylinder-bore chokes. I ran a variety of different buckshot loads through the Standard model from a range of 15 yards out to 35 yards. In testing, the Remington reduced-recoil eight-pellet 00 buckshot was acceptable out to about 20 yards. Beyond that, groups opened up to a size that didn’t allow for consistent accountability. I would have liked to have seen better groups with this ammo since it is very popular as a law enforcement duty load.
The Standard model digested the Federal Tactical nine-pellet a little better, allowing for good groups out to 25 yards. Remington and Federal one-ounce slugs, both reduced recoil and full power, were good performers out to 100 yards, easily staying within the torso of the target. Some may say that a shotgun loaded with buckshot is good to around 20 yards. I have had personal experience with shotguns that could consistently hold eight-pellet buckshot in the torso of the target out to 30 yards. This was accomplished with a modified choke, which would be a good addition to the Standard model. That additional 10 yards could translate to the decisive edge needed in a gunfight.
The name Wilson Combat has been synonymous with exceptionally high-quality parts and firearms for decades. The Standard 12-gauge model is no exception. The features included provide for an outstanding shotgun well suited for both duty and personal defense. Even with the option to add preferential features such as Wilson’s Armor Tuff finish and other stocks, many clients decide to simply keep it the way it’s delivered.
The Wilson Combat Standard model is a top-shelf defensive tool. Wilson’s reliability and quality components mean that you can count on this shotgun to perform when you need it most.