By John Higgs
The National Firearms Act (1934) restricts an individual’s ability to own full-auto firearms, and rifles and shotguns with short barrels. The law did allow for private ownership, but only after a fee had been paid to the government and the firearm registered. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms enforces this law along with all the other firearms laws and collects a $200 tax each time ownership is transferred.
Under the law, a shotgun with one or more barrels less than 18″ in length and an overall length less than 26″ is considered a short-barreled gun and must be registered and taxed. And that’s how it was for decades … until now.
A Different Direction
The new Mossberg 590 Shockwave prompted some wide grins and sidelong glances between my FFL dealer and me when we first opened the shipping box. That gun is pretty short. The barrel barely extends past magazine. According to the letter written by the BATF, the Shockwave is classified simply as a “firearm” according to the provisions of the Gun Control Act (1968). The key is the fact it has an overall length greater than 26″, thanks to the length of the curved bird’s head grip. Also key is the fact the newly manufactured receiver was never attached to a full stock (and never should be).
But is it legal, and is it legal everywhere? Some states do not recognize it as a firearm in the same way they would allow the Mossberg 590 with a full shoulder stock and an 18.5″ barrel. As noted above, the Shockwave has never had a full-length stock attached to it. This would make it a short-barrel weapon, subject to “Any Other Weapon” (AOW) status, if a stock were attached. So, under no circumstances should the user ever attach a full stock to a Shockwave. To do so, even just for a minute would be a violation of the law. It might even invite an angry visit from the men in black division of the ATF and a nasty court hearing. To read the full letter from ATF, go to: //www.mossberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Shockwave-Letter-from-ATF-3-2-17.pdf
The entire gun is finished in a non-reflective black coat of badass. There are sling swivel studs mounted in the front of the tubular magazine and in the end of the curved bird’s head grip. A nylon strap is attached at each end of the forend to prevent the hand from slipping in front of the muzzle under recoil. That is a good idea! I recommend always using it.
At conversational distances, it’s a devastating bad guy blaster. The Shockwave can really only be fired by bracing the pistol grip against the hip and keeping the barrel parallel to the ground. Using this technique, with a little practice, I was able to make good center-mass hits out to around 10–15 yards on a humanoid style target. I found buckshot rounds are quite manageable. However, one-ounce slugs will cause enough recoil to draw a little blood on the trigger hand. Dillon Precision sells B&P 3-Gun competition (reduced recoil) slugs in 25-round quantities that make the Shockwave great fun to shoot, while still having the capability of putting a deep ¾-inch hole in living tissue. Since I like to take advantage of the versatility of any shotgun, I will use buckshot as my primary load, but I’ll also carry a couple of slugs on my belt. I like the Belt Mounted Double Shotshell Carrier made by Spectergear that fits 2″ Duty & Tactical Belts.
Another option (which also increases the magazine capacity significantly) is to use Aguila Minishells. These 12-gauge shells come in loads of #7½ shot, 00 buckshot and a 7/8-ounce slug. However, a special adapter must be fitted to the tubular magazine to get the short shells to feed properly.
I’m not much of a fan of laser sights on firearms, but I think the Shockwave would benefit from a laser mounted as close to the barrel as possible. That would likely increase the effective range, especially with slugs. NcStar makes a short Picatinny rail that mounts to the top of the receiver and then a small laser can be mounted on the rail.
The Shockwave may have limited applications, but what it can do, it does very well. I can see it as a car gun, a home defense gun (with the appropriate ammunition that won’t penetrate the neighbor’s walls), and maybe even as a defense gun for boat owners. But perhaps most importantly, ownership is one more brick in the wall that protects the Second Amendment. The more people who own one, the harder it might be to reverse the BATF’s ruling.