July 28, 2022
By Jake Edmondson
Everyone but everyone knows a pump-action 12-gauge shotgun is a good home-defense gun. Pump guns are reliable and versatile. Smith & Wesson’s new M&P12 pump-action bullpup is a good example because it has a lot of firepower and a bunch of practical features. Three that come to mind immediately are the ambidextrous, two-position safety; the vertical foregrip; and the optics-ready Picatinny rail on top of the receiver.
The M&P12’s safety is very much like a two-position safety on an AR-style rifle. Again, it’s ambidextrous, and my sample worked smoothly and easily. Note that with the safety engaged, the action will open.
The synthetic vertical foregrip is made by Magpul and marked M&P, and it is textured and form-fitted. By that I mean it’s ergonomic and is contoured with slight palmswells on both sides to fit the shape of a shooter’s hand.
While the gun comes without sights, the Picatinny top rail makes installing a sight darn easy. The rail runs the length of the receiver and almost the entire length of the barrel (except for the last 1 inch at the muzzle). The rail has 27 cross-slots. I installed a brand-new Crimson Trace RAD MAX Pro red-dot sight for this report, and it went on in mere seconds. (See the accompanying sidebar for more about this new sight from CTC).
Probably the most exciting attribute of the M&P12 is its magazine capacity. This bullpup has dual independent magazine tubes that are housed in the forearm under the barrel, and each tube will hold six 3-inch shotshells. That makes a total of 12. If 12 rounds of 12-gauge 00 Buck won’t do the job, I don’t know what will. The gun also functions with 12-gauge mini-shells, and as you can imagine, the magazine tubes will hold a bevy of ’em.
A large magazine tube selector is located about 2.5 inches forward of the back end of the forearm. Because the M&P12 does not automatically switch from one magazine tube to the other, it must be manually switched, and this is easily accomplished by pushing the selector from one side to the other with the support hand. Note, the operator’s manual cautions users to change the magazine tube selector only with the action fully closed. Doing so with the action open can damage and disable the gun.
To load the M&P12, with the safety on, press down on the action lock lever located at the front of the trigger guard and slide the vertical foregrip to open the action and verify the chamber is empty. Then slide the foregrip forward to close the bolt on the empty chamber. Point the muzzle in a safe direction and orient the gun so that the ejection port is visible. Insert a shell in one of the magazine tubes with a quick push until the shell’s rim engages the load/unload assist button that will hold the shotshell in the magazine. Depressing the assist button for the respective magazine tube will ease the loading process. Depress the assist button as you start to insert the shell and then release the button once the shell is fully in the magazine tube. S&W reports that resting the muzzle on a firm, clean surface makes loading easier.
Once the magazine tubes are loaded, use the magazine tube selector to select the magazine tube you want to fire from. Note that the selector sticks out on the side you are firing from. In other words, if you want to fire from the left magazine tube, position the selector to stick out on the left side. Again, only move the magazine tube selector with the action fully closed; otherwise, the shotgun will be damaged and disabled.
A magazine tube can be topped off as shooting proceeds; however, S&W cautions to never feed a round directly into the chamber. Always load a round into the chamber by feeding it from the magazine tube.
If you decide to unload the M&P12, put the safety in the “Safe” position, place a finger against the shotshell in the magazine tube, press the load/unload assist button just long enough to release one shotshell from the magazine tube you want to empty. Repeat to remove all shells one at a time. After the magazine tubes are emptied, press down on the action lock lever and slide the action open to eject a shell from the chamber if one previously had been loaded into the chamber.
The gun’s 4140 chrome-moly vanadium steel barrel is 19 inches long and finished matte black. In fact, the entire M&P12 is matte black. The barrel is threaded for Rem Choke-compatible screw-in choke tubes, and it comes with two of them: Modified and Cylinder. A choke tube wrench is included.
The pistol grip is synthetic, it’s textured, and it incorporates interchangeable backstraps. Four backstraps come with the shotgun in sizes Small, Medium, Medium-Large, and Large.
Here’s how they are swapped. Making certain the gun is unloaded, first, remove the grip tool from the bottom of the grip by rotating it a quarter-turn and pulling it out of the frame. Tip out the backstrap at the bottom of the grip and pull it down and out of the recess. Replace that backstrap with the desired one. Then replace the grip tool in its place in the bottom of the grip and turn it to secure it in place.
The metal trigger is smooth and is 0.69 inch wide (as best as I can measure it). The pull on my sample averaged 8 pounds, according to five measurements with an RCBS trigger pull scale. There was some take-up, but it broke consistently.
The M&P12’s fixed buttstock is black synthetic, and it’s smooth. Shells are ejected out of the bottom of the stock through the ejection port (it’s also the “loading” port). The stock has a reciprocating cover (which is operated during the disassembly procedure and can also be used when clearing a damaged shotshell), with the release button conveniently located adjacent to the ejection port. The stock also has an ambidextrous sling-swivel socket at the top rear that allows a QD sling swivel to be installed on either side for use with a single-point sling. The buttstock also has a stiff rubber recoil pad that’s 0.75 inch thick. Be advised that the recoil pad is not soft or squishy, but it is grooved to help prevent slippage when held firmly against the shoulder. Length of pull is 14.5 inches. Overall length is 27.8 inches. And unloaded weight is 8.3 pounds. The shotgun comes in a foam-lined hard carry case, and a 15-inch cable lock is included.
The M&P12 disassembles into three basic components: the lower receiver, the upper receiver, and the bolt. The procedure is accomplished using the grip tool that is housed in the pistol grip. I’m not going to go into the details of the procedure because it would take a lot longer to describe it in print than it actually takes to complete. I will say that while it is not complicated, it does take a little finessing, especially during reassembly. S&W has a quick 4-minute video on YouTube that demonstrates the way to take it apart and then put it back together, and I encourage interested readers to check it out.
The first thing I did was load up 12 2¾-inch Federal Force X2 shotshells and blast away at a man-sized paper target set out at 12 yards as quickly as I could, just to get a feel for the bullpup. I can honestly say it’s a handful. But I could tolerate the recoil just fine, and I don’t like recoil. And those dozen shots really did a number on the target. It was impressive!
I also fired some Hornady TAP buckshot and some Remington Managed Recoil buckshot loads as well as a few Federal 1-ounce slug loads. All shots were on point, and the slugs basically went into one big, ragged hole.
Taking a cue from fellow Shooting Times writer Steve Gash, who has written about a defensive shotgun training course he attended in the past, I set up some different drills at various ranges, shooting at a variety of targets—some were steel plates of different sizes, some were paper silhouette targets. Starting at 15 yards, I fired first one round, then two, then three more, and then I switched the magazine tube selector and fired the same sequence again. Then I reloaded the M&P12 and moved back to 20 yards and repeated that whole routine. The M&P12 fed, chambered, extracted, and ejected all shotshells and slug loads without a glitch during my evaluation. I would expect nothing less from a shotgun tasked with the primary purpose of defending my home and my family.
Smith & Wesson M&P12 Specifications
- Manufacturer: Smith & Wesson; smith-wesson.com
- Type: Pump-action shotgun
- Gauge: 12; 3-in. chamber; Cylinder and Modified choke tubes
- Cartridge Capacity: 12 rounds
- Barrel: 19 in.
- Overall Length: 27.8 in.
- Weight, Empty: 8.3 lbs.
- Stock: Synthetic; M&P grip with interchangeable palmswells; vertical foregrip
- Length of Pull: 14.5 in.
- Finish: Matte black
- Sights: None, Picatinny top rail
- Safety: Ambidextrous two position
- Trigger: 8-lb. pull (as tested)
- MSRP: $1,165