LAS VEGAS -- At the largest gun show in the world this week, most of the hottest new product buzz was shotgun-related.
Israeli arms company IWI made perhaps the biggest splash with a 12-gauge semi-automatic bullpup shotgun with a novel feed system: three rotating magazine tubes, giving shooters up to 16 rounds at their disposal.
O.F. Mossberg and Sons and Remington both featured new models with detachable magazines: Mossberg debuted a version of its 590M that can accommodate up to a 20-round magazine; and Remington rolled out six new configurations in its 870 DM line, all with 6-round detachable magazines. With a more tactical look and more rounds at the shooter's fingertips, clearly these are not your grandfather's shotguns.
To be clear, detachable mags for shotguns are not brand-new; smaller companies have been selling the option for several years. But the fact that major players in the industry are jumping on board with radical updates to the conventional shotgun design points to a larger trend in the market.
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Bill Brown, Mossberg's director of sales, told Military.com that the company had been working on a shotgun with a detachable mag for five years. It finally rolled out its 590M configuration after a lengthy trial-and-error process to ensure the magazine would feed the weapon reliably. Advances in polymer development helped the company reach its solution, he said.
Why develop such a gun? Because customers asked for it specifically, he said.
"Six years ago, we put this survey on our website and asked, what do you want to see in a shotgun? And the number one answer was a magazine-fed device," Brown said. "We were amazed. We said, 'Let's make it happen.' "
John Fink, director of firearms product management at Remington, said his company had also been working on its new design for several years. The rollout of the option, he said, has so far been exceptionally successful.
"Even people who are very much traditionalists take a look at it and say, 'Hey, I get it,' " he said.
Fink said the option appeals to those who keep a shotgun for home protection, as well as to competitive shooters looking for speed and convenience.
"New shooters that are coming into the market are migrating not as much toward traditional hunting," he said. "So that's what's driving it."
He noted that consumers have responded positively for some time to options that allow them to get more out of their shotguns. When the company debuted a line of tactical shotguns for the first time in 2004, demand was "phenomenal," he said.
"It was the first time Remington had ever done anything like that, and it's just grown over the last 14 years since then," he said. "We have more combinations and variations today than we've ever had."
At IWI, the development process for its futuristic 12-gauge bullpup was similarly related to demand.
"A pump-action shotgun ... they require a little more work," said Tom Alibrando, national law enforcement sales manager for IWI US. "You try to make it easier for that person under stress in a defensive role to have what they need."
Having up to 16 rounds at a shooter's disposal in the rotating magazine tubes is a convenience for competitive shooting, he said.
"No reloading means your time is better," he said.
The push to innovate may also be due to robust demand for shotguns, favored for personal use because of their stopping power and ease of use.
"In the civilian world, men and women are more comfortable with the shotgun," Alibrando said. "People like it and are used to it."
Not every company is embracing new designs such as the detachable magazine, however.
Jordan Egli, a spokesman for Italian arms maker Benelli, showed off extended-capacity magazines for rifles from Benelli subsidiary Stoeger, allowing the M3000 to hold 11 total rounds, and the P3000 to hold eight total.
Benelli has no plans to roll out a detachable magazine, he said.
"I think no one else is doing it, so it seemed like a great idea," Egli said. "But for practical application, do you want a magazine sticking out of the bottom of your gun? Is it going to help you put that gun up faster ... is it going to help you get out of a goose blind? I don't think so. I think the extended magazine tube is just as effective."