- By Pete Moore
- 1 Comments
- Last updated: 01/07/2019
These days, the once Holy Grail of Practical-type shotguns; the box magazine models are now seemingly two a penny. As a young Practical shooter, myself and my colleagues talked about and lusted after such a system, and reckoned how much easier and fun competition would be? But it was still a long way off. The mainstay then and for a long time to come, would be standard sporting models, typified by the pump-action Mossberg 500 Slugster (24” barrel, 8-shot mag and iron sights) and the Remington 870. And not much later the change to a semi-auto mechanism, with Remington offering their 1100 and 11-87 and Benelli’s recoiloperated guns with the original M1, the selective pump/auto functioning M3 and the M2 Practical. This last was built for purpose, with a recoil-absorbing butt (Comfort Tech stock) which really worked, 26” multi-choke barrel with recoil porting, Hi-Viz iron sights with a ghost ring rear and Picatinny rail on the receiver. Underneath was a 9-shot magazine tube, and you had a great looking gun that was the serious business.
Not everyone likes box mag guns, as they tend to be big and clunky and the advantages of the feed system has to be balanced against a number of factors. You’ll need a good number of spare magazines, dependant on capacity (8 or 10-rounds) between five and seven or even eight for a long, jungle run-type stages. These are not cheap and even at £30 apiece, maybe £50 given the make, that’s an investment of between £150 and £300 and something you don’t want to lose in the undergrowth. Plus, you have to carry them all.
However, the tube magazine guns though slower on the reload, offer the advantage of having a self-contained and more reliable feed system that can be topped-up as you go and all you need to carry is the loose ammo in belts or pouches. Plus, their cleaner layout with no great box hanging off the bottom makes for easier handling and shootability from all positions. So, taking a tricked up Remy11-87 or the Benelli M2 as examples; shows the design is far from redundant!
ArmSan of Turkey make some seriously good semi-auto shotguns. Well-priced, reliable and in modern and shootable designs they’re hard to beat. Going the original route, they have built a Practical/Tactical gun on the standard sporting chassis and spared no expense. Called the RS-A2J (catchy name eh?) it differs slightly from the sporting guns, as it has a near, full-length magazine tube, a more relieved loading port and uprated features and controls. The A2J is based on ArmSan’s RS-A3, which has a side-folding, telescopic butt, in the UK we can’t own shotguns with this feature, as they have to be a minimum of 40” long with a 24” barrel.
The tube is a shade over 24” and the overall length is 44” (butt in its shortest position) so we are legal. If you don’t know, this makes it a Section 1 Firearm and not a shotgun, so has to be owned on a firearms certificate. As an aside; importers Highland Outdoors also sent me the box magazine, RS-S1, which is a Molot Vipr, made under licence in Turkey to get around the Russian arms embargo. I will be testing this in the future in Shooting Sports, Gun Mart and on video.
In Practical and Action-type disciplines, the majority of shooting is done with bird shot, so a basic pin on the rib is all that’s required. However, these days there’s more work done with slug loads (single, bore-sized projectile) which must be shot on approved ranges being classed as Section 1 ammunition. It’s here that guns with proper iron sights and optics rails come into their own using red dots or low power scopes for improved accuracy potential.
It’s plain to see the RS-A2J has many stand out features. Staring at the back there’s an L-shaped, CAR15-type, telescopic butt with a well-shaped recoil pad that nails it into the shoulder and height-adjustable comb/cheek piece section, which is probably of more use with optics. Length of pull (LOP) goes from 13.5 – 15” and will allow most shooters to get their right fit. The pistol grip shows deep finger groves and fills the hand nicely, as well as filling-in the back strap space, to give a decent trigger finger position. Where the grip meets the receiver on the left is a wide sling loop and another under the mag tube. The slim trigger breaks at a firm, but creep-free 5-6 lbs, a tad heavy but shootable. The safety is a small cross bolt type and shows a triangular push button, which in use was very stiff. Given all the other controls have been extended and/or beefed-up, ArmSan could have given it a ’big head’ button to suit.
The plastic trigger guard is large enough to accommodate a gloved finger and well-shaped with an angled front face that facilitates loading. The sides and edges of the loading port have been relived, so there’s more access to slide the shells in, a red follower is used to give a quick indication if the gun is empty. The shell lifter is slotted, which and in the unlikely event of a cartridge jumping back will allow you to push it back in the mag tube and clear the stoppage. What I do like are the two, improved controls, first, the cocking handle gets a longer and round, cotton reel extension, giving a lot more to get hold of. Second, the bolt release button (under the ejection port) is fitted with a rocker plate, so more to push on and you can do it from either end. The polymer forend is long with a hand-filling shape and slightly tapered with cast-in chequering panels.
Sighting arrangements are good with a fully-adjustable ghost ring unit at the rear. This uses a large aperture, which the eye finds easy and instinctive to centre the front blade and target; in front of this is a 3.5” Picatinny rail section, both items are screwed to the top of the receiver. Up front is a low, fixed, A-frame with protective wings, inside is a dayglo red fibre optic bar. The barrel is 24” long and shows a rather fanciful muzzle brake, complete with toothed rim, hardly what’s needed for a bit of Practical Shotgun. I would guess ArmSan offer this as a Police shotgun too, where it would be used for door breaching with the spikes allowing the muzzle to be kept in place.
Fortunately, it screws on and can be removed, as testing showed it made little difference to recoil control. However, ArmSan, sensibly includes a blanking collar and closer inspection shows that the barrel does not offer a multi-choke facility. I can only assume that it would be Cylinder-bored for slug use, which and with its length makes it perhaps a tad short and too open for longer range bird shot use?
As I said, the gun has a full-length mag tube and a rather fancy retention system, a point to note; it comes from the box with a restrictor rod that limits capacity to 2 + 1 only. The good news is you just remove the end cap and pull it out. A short outer tube slides over the magazine and braces against the front of the forend, which in turn keeps the barrel in position. It also shows a barrel support cradle and three Picatinny rail sections at 3, 6 and 9 0’clock. All this is tensioned by a massive finger nut at the end. Though looking undoubtedly cool, the tri-rail is too far forward to allow you to operate lights or lasers when holding the forend.
The mechanism is a self-regulating gas/ piston-type and proved reliable over a range of cartridge types. The chamber is 3” and the calibre 12-bore, capacity-wise, it will hold nine 2.75” shells with a tenth up the pipe, so probably 8 + 1 with 3”. In use, the gun is easy to load, and the extended controls do make a positive difference, but it needs a larger and smoother safety. Recoil is more than acceptable with or without the brake.
However, I’d remove it along with the Picatinny rails up front, they look cool but otherwise don’t bring much to the party.
I have no problem with the 24” Cylinder barrel, as I used to run a 20” slug tube on my 870 and never felt disadvantaged. However, there are those that feel 26” + and multi-choked is better. ArmSan should consider a set of external chokes to both give restrictions and increase length. The gun performed well, was reliable, recoilfriendly, eminently shootable and comes from the box ready to rock & roll. So, perfectly Practical, if you’re looking for a tube-fed PSG gun, the RS-A2J is probably it!