Witness Protection Shotgun

There are a number of shotguns released today designed to avoid classification as a “short barreled shotgun”. For our international readers, under the complicated and confusing US law, a “short barreled shotgun” has to be registered with the ATF, which means a $200 fee, fingerprints, photos, and a six month wait. But a short, “stockless” gun like the Tac-14, Shockwave or V3 Tac-13 is not legally an SBS, and so you can buy it and take it home with you immediately, with no extra fee.1

Now, lots of people will debate the utility of such a weapon. I think the utility might be best understood with a little history, not that every weapon needs to serve a practical purpose. Some guns are fun guns, and that’s awesome. But this weapon has good applications. For one, shotguns with slugs are good bear repellent, and a very compact, stockless shotgun can be strapped to or thrown in a backpack pretty easily.

What many may not know is that the US Marshals had a professional gunsmith make something an awful lot like the Tac-14 back in the 80s. They called it the Witness Protection Shotgun. Being law enforcement, the US Marshals could buy what the NFA would call “Short Barreled Shotguns” with 14″ barrels and stocks no problem. But that’s not what these were.

The Witness Protection Shotgun started life as a Remington 870. It had a 12.5″ barrel, which was as short as they could cut the 870’s barrel given how it attaches to the rest of the gun. It also had a cut, shaped, and refinished “bird’s head” grip of wood, shaped a lot like you’d see on the Tac-14. They also added a sling plate at the front, much like the Wilson Combat vertical sling plate. The idea here was to both attach a sling and provide a handstop to make sure that the support hand didn’t end up in front of the muzzle. Magazine capacity was four 2 3/4″ shells.

You may have figured out the intended role from the name. The idea was to have a tremendously powerful, concealable weapon for use in the witness protection program. With a very short barrel, no stock, and general lack of bulk that comes from a pump shotgun (as compared to say, a Colt Commando), the Witness Protection Shotgun was easy for a marshal to hide under his coat. These were popular with the US Marshals in the 80s, and then fell out of favor.

And with proper technique you won’t hit yourself in the face when shooting one either.


  1. Your mileage may vary. Some restrictions may apply if your state is run by communists. 

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