October 04, 2023
Savage introduced the all-new Renegauge shotgun in Guns & Ammo’s July 2020 issue, and it won that year’s Shotgun of the Year honors. It first appeared in field, turkey, and waterfowl variants. At the time, I noted that the gun was something of a gamble for Savage since it represented a foray into a new and higher price point, putting the storied American brand head-to-head with Benelli, Beretta and Browning. The journey was apparently worth the trip. The Renegauge line now has seven models, including the flashy Competition for 3-Gun shooting and today’s subject, the Renegauge Security.
Shotguns have been used for both offense and defense since muzzleloading times. For most of those years, there wasn’t much to separate hunting and defensive guns. Manufacturers provided “riot” shotguns for police work, but these were often economical versions of standard arms such as the Winchester Model 1897 or Remington Model 11. Put an 18-inch cylinder barrel and a plain hardwood stock on the field variant and you were there. Add a heat shield for the “trench gun” military look, which became notably familiar after World War I.
The first defensive shotgun that diverged from the mold was the High Standard Model 10, an early 1960s bullpup that never really caught on “thanks,” the old-timers say, “to very unpleasant recoil and muzzleblast.”
Shotguns that were optimized for personal defense, and priced accordingly, got their start about 30 years ago with a Nashville outfit called Scattergun Technologies. They modified Remington Model 870s and other guns with stocks, sights, and gunsmithing that made them flexible, smooth-shooting and reliable. Scattergun Technologies was eventually sold to Wilson Combat, which uses the name to this day.
Today’s defensive users can choose from options ranging from a Turkish pump gun for $300 or so, to Benelli’s Model 1014 at $2,149. There’s plenty of space for the Renegauge Security, which fits comfortably at $1,499.
The Renegauge line prioritizes soft recoil and shooting comfort, and those are perfectly legitimate features for a defensive gun that will be fired with powerful slug and buckshot loads. Fast follow-up shots will likely be needed in a defensive encounter, and regular practice with any defensive firearm gives the confidence needed to put it to use effectively.
No important feature of any consumer product these days is complete without a cunningly crafted acronym, and for the Renegauge it is “D.R.I.V.,” pronounced “drive.” This denotes the shotgun’s gas-operating system, and is short for “Dual Regulating Inline Valve.” The Renegauge uses a short-stroke piston system. That’s simple enough, but Savage added two regulating valves in line with and on either side of the barrel that exhaust through radial ports 11⁄8 inches from the tips.
On firing, propellant gas passes out two ports in the bore, pressing on the piston, which travels up to three-quarters-of-an-inch rearward, transferring energy to the bolt and carrier assembly. That unit then travels toward the butt, compressing the recoil spring around the magazine tube, and ejecting the empty. As it returns forward, the bolt picks up a shell from the magazine and loads it into the chamber. As the bolt returns to battery, the piston is pressed back into position in the cylinder below the barrel ready for the next shot.
I noted that the piston is the only part of the system that should require routine maintenance. It’s chrome-plated and grooved inside to scrape fouling off the magazine tube.
The interesting part of the DRIV system is the gas-
regulating feature. The dual regulators, one on either side, mean the cylinder assembly is quite massive at 15⁄6-inches wide and 1½-inches deep. The forend has a noticeable bulge at the top-front to accommodate it, too.
The regulating valves may not even move with subsonic ammo, but as more powerful ammo is used, they move forward, allowing excess gas to exit into the synthetic forend. This means no more gas than needed is applied to the piston, reducing shock to the operating system.
In contrast to other autoloaders, the magazine-tube sleeve, operating rods and bolt carrier are welded into one assembly and chrome-plated. The bolt head is a two-lugged rotary design with a large hook extractor on the right. It’s retained in the carrier by the knurled operating handle.
To disassemble the bolt, press back on the bolt head, leaving about a 3⁄16-inch gap between its rear surface and the face of the carrier. The operating handle will pull out easily. When replacing it, note the small tab on its shaft that aligns with a recess in the carrier to locate it properly.
Press right to left on the pin in front of the charging handle to remove the bolt head. To remove the firing pin, pull up on the nail-like pin at the left-top-rear of the carrier. You can then remove the firing pin in either direction. My guess is that most users will need to use this process infrequently unless they are instructors teaching classes on this.
The receiver is Cerakote-finished aluminum. It is contoured in a way that’s more easily discerned than it was in the camouflage models. It’s stepped down from 1.53 inches wide to 1.39 above the triggerguard. That doesn’t sound like much, but the reduced proportions make it easier to access the trigger and safety button at the rear of the triggerguard. There’s large and deep lettering on the left side, making it unmistakably a “Renegauge.”
The angular triggerguard opens up toward the front to accommodate the most heavily gloved finger, perhaps for tactical professionals, and the rectangular bolt release is easy to find while wearing gloves.
The loading port is nicely recessed into the receiver bottom, giving easy access to the magazine tube. This feature is such an obviously good thing that it makes me wonder why it took manufacturers so long to adopt it! If you’ve ever had to speed-load an Auto-5, you know what I mean. The magazine follower is red, which means that it’s readily visible from outside the gun and easy to ensure the tube is empty.
Savage drilled and tapped the top of the receiver to accept a rail. A rail would allow installation of red-dot sights and other optics.
As-is, the Security model has a rear sight profile that should bring mist to the eyes of 1917 Enfield fans. The aperture is click-adjustable for windage and elevation, but we are on our own to figure out what each click means. There are no instructions provided for adjusting the sight, though there is a reference scale for windage adjustments. The rear coordinates perfectly with the front sight, which has a protected green fiber-optic that stands out boldly, even in low light.
The barrel, which is melonite treated rather than chrome-lined, has eight 10-inch flutes that start at 2 inches behind the muzzle. Savage has made no extravagant claims for those, but they reduce weight and, coincidentally, look good.
Like the sporting models, Savage supplies the Security version with three Trulock Chokes: Improved Cylinder (.715 inch), Modified (.705 inch) and Full (.695 inch). Purists might want a true cylinder bore, and will have no trouble finding one since the tubes are in the Beretta Mobilchoke pattern. Aftermarket tubes are widely available. More to the point, a rifled tube for shooting slugs would be a very desirable addition to the Security model, especially given the adjustable sights.
Since more ammo is always good in a defensive situation, the Security model is fitted with a magazine extender that gives it a six-round capacity. This is supported by a hanger that clamps to the barrel. Its bore around the magazine tube is large enough that the latter can be turned out without removing the hanger, which is handy for cleaning. The hanger is slotted for M-Lok accessories, allowing easy installation of a front sling swivel or attaching a forend light. If you want to reduce capacity, the usual magazine plug is provided, and it can be broken off for a selection of capacities.
All Renegauge models have a Benelli-style shell-stop system operated by a lever at the right front of the triggerguard. If you pick it up empty and try to lock the bolt rearward, you will be disappointed. Pull back on the lever to lock the bolt open. It is quite prominent for use with gloved hands. This system is handy for crossing fences or boarding boats in a hunting environment. Its utility in home defense is almost unnecessary, but it’s there if you want it and easy to ignore if you don’t. Savage didn’t have to redesign its receiver.
The forend and buttstock are in a charcoal gray synthetic that contrasts attractively with the matte black of the barrel and receiver. The DRIV operating system requires a long forend to cover the valve assembly, so the forend measures a full 13 inches. Whether you like to use a straight support arm or prefer to choke up, you’ll find a comfortable spot.
Both forend and pistol grip combine grooves and stippling for a solid grasp. Stippling is not particularly attractive on a wood stock, but it looks great on plastic. Here it approximates the feel of skateboard tape for a good grip, even with sweaty hands. The pistol grip is generously sized with a small handstop at the base. The smallest users may find it a bit girthy, but just about anyone else should be able to find a comfortable hold.
I assumed Savage might cost control this model by forgoing the comprehensive buttstock accessories supplied with its sporting guns, but not so. The same three cheekpieces are supplied, with depths at the thickest point of 1½, 2, and 2¼ inches. I found the lowest cheekpiece put my eye in line with the sights. The taller inserts will primarily support electronic-type optics or low-power scopes.
The cheekpieces pop into or out of the buttstock without tools. When I say “pop,” I mean they pop if you have the iron-claw grip of wrestling immortal Fritz Von Erich. That’s good because a cheekpiece coming loose while you’re shooting would be extremely annoying. Give yourself time if you’re planning to switch them.
The Renegauge Security is issued with three identical recoil pads and three spacers. The spacers measured .805 inch, 1.21 and a 1.55 inches at the widest points. Each of these comes with a set of stock screws, which are 1½-, 2- and 2¼-inches long. This collection of parts lets you regulate pull length from 14¼ to 15 inches. The recoil pads are very soft and yielding, but slick on their sides and tops for a smooth gun mount.
Once you’ve selected a cheekpiece and set pull length, you can use the supplied shim kit to regulate drop between 2 and 2½ inches, and cast-on or -off by 3⁄16-inch. This is a complicated process that was described at impressive length in G&A’s previous review, so refer to that for details.
I patterned the Renegauge Security with results shown in the accompanying table, and function-fired it with a variety of slug and buckshot loads. Reliability was, unsurprisingly, flawless. Since no Cylinder tube was provided, I ran what was already installed: Modified. This tube provided groups at 25 yards that would have had all nine pellets of 00 Buck placed into any human target.
It’s worth emphasizing, again, that gun-shop loungers are prone to oversell pattern spread as a benefit of defensive shotguns. The longtime rule of thumb is that the pattern of an Improved Cylinder shotgun expands by roughly 1½ inches per yard. So, at cross-living room ranges, the pattern will be maybe 7 inches across — not 2 feet. There are many good reasons to select a shotgun for defense, but “you can’t miss with it” is not one of them.
Just as the Renegauge Waterfowl proved, the Security was soft-shooting. I tried it with Winchester Blind Side steel loads left over from a previous evaluation. Shooting these high-velocity 3-inch shells from a long-recoil gun with a checkered buttstock is a truly grim experience. (My last testfire left visible bruises.) From the Renegauge, recoil was stiff but by no means painful. If you wonder why shooters of the 1960s were happy to ditch long-recoil autos such as the Remington Model 11-48 for gas guns such as the Remington 1100 or Winchester 1400, conduct a similar test.
Thanks to the shorter 181/2-inch barrel, the Security model is not the load the Waterfowl was, and is really quite responsive. It wouldn’t be out of line to take it to a dove field, though I would think removing the rear sight would make that easier.
The Competition model differs mainly in having a red Cerakote finish and a nine-round magazine that goes with a 24-inch barrel. I suspect you could use the Security at a lot of 3-Gun matches with perfect satisfaction and save nearly $600.
If all you’re looking for is anti-burglar medicine, you probably don’t need the Renegauge Security. If you’re looking for an unusually comfortable shotgun you can personalize for your own dimensions and use for sport or some hunting, it merits a serious look. More importantly, how much is your personal safety worth?
Savage Renegauge Security
- Type: Short-stroke piston operated, semiautomatic
- Gauge: 12
- Capacity: 6+1 rds.
- Weight:7 lbs., 6 oz. (tested)
- Overall length: 40 in.
- Barrel length: 18.5 in.
- Length of pull: 14.25 in. to 15.07 in., adj.
- Drop at heel: 2 in.
- Drop at comb: 1½ in.
- Trigger pull: 4 lbs., 8 oz. (tested)
- Accessories: Rifle-tyle hard case; 3 recoil pads, 3 buttplate spacers, 3 cheekpieces, shim kit; Improved Cylinder (.715-in.), Modified (.705-in.), Full (.695-in.) choke tubes.
- Price: $1,499
- Manufacturer: Savage Arms Co., 800-370-0708, savagearms.com
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