Following up on our review of modestly priced home defense shotguns we take a look at one of the newer options available – the “shorty” ( 1 ¾” ) 12 gauge mini-shell. The idea of a shorter, yet still high performing shotgun shell is immediately intriguing. I mean, who wouldn’t want to instantly turn your 5+1 capacity HD shotgun into an 8+1 machine? Well… nobody! Except of course when you find out that almost no one had designed their shotguns with these little dudes in mind so finding a host that can cycle a 12 gauge mini-shell reliably is difficult, or at least it was.
These fine folks designed a clever and extremely inexpensive widget that will turn a number of common shotguns into a 12 gauge mini-shell devouring machine in 10 seconds or less. It was just our luck that one of the shotguns compatible with the Mini-Clip is the Maverick 88 by Mossberg that we featured in our Home Defense Shotguns Under $300 review. I love it when a plan comes together! The other models that work with the Mini-Clip are the: 12ga Mossberg 500, 590, 590A1, as well as the 12ga Mossberg Shockwave.
First we put our hands on some Federal Shorty Shells and waited patiently for the OPSol Mini-Clip to arrive in the mail. We opened the envelope, shook it out and… that’s it? Yup, that’s it.
It’s so simple it’s brilliant. This precisely molded rubber stop manages to keep the short shells from misbehaving as that action cycles and rotating into a position where something bad happens and you’re left with an expensive bat when you really wanted a shotgun. The Mini-Clip keeps things in line.
Installation literally took ten seconds. The next time it would take less, that’s how simple this device is. Extend the slide, push the Mini-Clip into the loading port. Done.
We hustled over to the range, set up some targets and immediately started feeding the 1 ¾” 12 gauge mini-shells into the Maverick’s magazine tube. How many would it take? At eight shells the 88 said “no mas” and we dispensed with topping off with “+1” and set about seeing how reliably the action would feed.
The first thing you notice when pulling the trigger on a 12 Gauge short shell is “Wow. That didn’t hurt”. Not only didn’t it hurt, it was downright civilized. There is a dramatic difference in the felt recoil shooting these Federal shorty #4 Buck as opposed to their standard full size fare. After getting over the tame recoil I started banging through the whole magazine. No jams, no misfeeds. Minimal barrel rise. Just shot after enjoyable shot on the target.
I could do this ALL DAY.
Now, the point of a home defense shotgun is to put a devastating hurt on a threat, before they can do unto you. So if we have more shells in the magazine and more controllable shots what have we given up? Well, as we all know – you don’t get something for nothing.
The Federal Shorty shells we tested contain more or less half the number and weight of pellets contained in their full sized brethren but propel them at a respectable 1200 FPS velocity. You are unquestionably throwing less weight in projectiles but make no mistake, this still delivers a devastating punch. See the target below for shot dispersion at 10 yards.
So are Mini-Shells for you? If you are recoil sensitive but are still looking for 12 Gauge performance? Yes. If you’re looking for higher capacity without extending your magazine? Yes. Are there downsides? Well… Yes.
You have limited options when it comes to shotguns that will reliably cycle them even with the clever OPSol device (although that old coach gun or single shot will always work). They are pricey when compared to standard format 12 Gauge shells and availability at your local gun store may be spotty. That said, this is an innovative option that can perform well and is a whole lot of fun to shoot.
Hi-Viz Fiber Optic for Shotguns
Now everyone knows a shotgun is not a precision weapon but if it is not pointed accurately you will miss the target. Depending on the barrel, choke and shell the pellets will spread out greatly over distance. But close in? Not so much. Which is why it is important to have a quickly acquired visual aid to get you on point quickly. The Hi-Viz Fiber Optic is a great option.
The sub $20 Hi-Viz features a huge light pipe which gives you a bright green dot for your sight picture instead of a minimalist brass bead. Unlike night sights, light pipes are not self-illuminating but this sight is hard to miss in almost any light condition. It just snaps into place and aligns up against your existing bead sight as on our Maverick 88 shown below.
The brightness immediately draws your eye to it, bring it on your target and you’re locked in. It stayed put well enough in our testing although it did rotate a degree or two off axis. Your aim would still be on target but if you’re picky about things like that (and I am) a drop of your favorite non-permanent adhesive would insure it stays put. For this price you can’t miss (@amazon).