Finding a used, “well broke-in” example of a gun with a solid reputation for reliability can be like finding a ’69 Camaro that’s been sitting in a barn for the last 20 years. It’s rough, sure. But, boy, does it have potential.
As a project, I had been looking for a good, low cost semi-auto shotgun for a while. I wondered if there was one that would work reliably for people whose arm wouldn’t cycle a pump-action on “auto-pilot.” But, there aren’t many semi-auto shotguns that garner much respect for reliably cycling. I even asked our shop gunsmith what he thought of various auto-loading shotguns’ reliability.
“I don’t think much of any semi-auto shotguns, actually,” was his response. “But if I had to use one, I would go with a Remington 1100 or a Benelli M2 maybe. You have to be sure the 1100’s gas passage is in good shape though.” I had already thought the same, but his second-opinion made me feel better about my thinking. The gas operation of most semi-autos was known to sometimes jam up after lots of use. The Benellis use a recoil operated system, thought to be more reliable by some people.
When I ran across a Remington 1100 that looked as though it had been hunting every day for the last
ten years, before finally being left lying in a mud hole for the last few months, I knew I had something. After a little haggling, the price came down to shockingly low. I could hardly keep from grinning as I handed the man his money. Unfortunately, there’s not a picture of how it looked on that day. The picture below was made after the 1100 had been cleaned up and refinished, back to beautiful.
In fact, some linseed oil on the wood (actually a dangerous process), some WD-40, a few Scotch-brite pads, and a whole lot of elbow grease and fine-grit sandpaper brought this fine pup back to what I think is better than new appearance. We didn’t leave it at that, though. No, this pretty little 12 gauge was picked up with a singular purpose in mind: cheap, reliable, hard-hitting home defense.
After the weeks of cleanup and refinishing, the other easy modifications came incrementally: 18″ cylinder-bore barrel, TacStar magazine tube extension, and a Streamlight TLR-1. All done, this used 1100 is equivalent to a new “tactical defense shotgun” that would run you around $1,200-1,500 off the shelf, but for about 1/3 of that cost. Then consider that I think this one, with the hand rubbed, matte finished wood stock looks way better than the all plastic composite stock “tactical” models. And after checking the gas passages and replacing the o-ring with a simple and cheap parts kit, the result is a reliable semi-auto home defender that’s as pleasant to look at as it is intimidating from the wrong end of it.
Watch for a future article detailing the process of this gun’s restoration, refinish, and customization.
On a Tangent
Intimidating. That’s a tricky area for home defense. With a weapon that’s intimidating to look at, it’s possible you could avert an attacker without ever firing a shot. That’s a good thing. But suppose you do have to fire. Suppose you kill a home intruder with a weapon that’s designed to be good at defending your home? You will almost invariably wind up in court, defending yourself against criminal charges for taking a life. An article from the United States Concealed Carry Association suggested recently that if you’ve used a purpose built machine like this pseudo-tactical shotgun, you’re more likely to do time for it, because the prosecution will attempt to persuade the jury that you wanted to kill someone. “Why else would he have a gun that’s only good for doing that?” they might say. I agree with the USCCA that there is that possibility. However, I also cry bullshit.
Let me be clear as Swarovski here: no one associated with All for Gun has any desire to kill anyone, in any situation or for any reason. We do, however, desire and value the right to defend our families, ourselves, and our homes against potentially deadly attackers, should the need arise. And if it comes down to us or them, it’s going to be them if we can help it. Using a purpose built weapon for defense increases the likelihood of it being them instead of you or a loved one. It increases your chances of survival. Not to be violating our policy of “no politics” here, but consider the argument.
Would you rather be driving a Corvette or a Chevy Malibu if you suddenly had a psycho with road rage start chasing you down the interstate, trying to run you off the road? It sure would be a lot easier to get away if you were in a Corvette, not to mention less likely to wreck yourself at that speed. Why? The Corvette is made specifically to go fast. Suppose you were stopped and arrested for speeding while being chased by the psycho. Would the judge be easier on you for going 120 mph if you were in a Malibu instead of a Corvette? Should he be? Would he be understanding of your situation of trying to escape a road-rage-psycho, and let you off the hook for doing what had to be done for your own protection?
Sure, you can use a sporting purpose shotgun to defend yourself. It’ll shoot. But it has less capacity in case you miss a few times and are still being attacked. It has a longer barrel, which is more likely to snag on things like lamps, and limit your ability to maneuver well in a possibly dark, cramped hallway or bedroom. The light? That not only illuminates the target and adds to the intimidation factor that might keep you from having to fire a shot, but it also serves as a sighting aid for a wide-pattern shotgun. At short distances, anything lit in the central circle made by that light is going to be pulverized should you pull the trigger with 12ga buckshot in the chamber of an 18″ cylinder bore shotgun.
Tactical/defensive weapons are like sports cars. You don’t need all that for everyday use. But, it sure is nice to know it’s there waiting in case you do. I’d rather have a good lawyer and a better chance at staying alive in the moment of need than to compromise my ability to stay alive so that prosecutors can’t scare jury members with pictures of my gun.