Here are some of the really crazy shotguns that looked just cool as an idea but in reality, never worked out, so they made it past the testing phase. Looking at it, it makes sense, but alone the coolness factor makes you wonder what could have been.

We all love shotguns. They come with a ton of firepower, are super easy to use, and just work. A shotgun fight is a short gun fight. One hit, and it is over. That alone is great enough, but sometimes you just want to make it a little bit greater aka crazier, so let’s take a look at what these crazy but cool ideas brought us.

5. HK CAWS – A Bullpup 12 Gauge

CAWS was a program for a Close Assault Weapon System. It came up in the 1980s, and it should use non commercial 12-gauge ammo. One of the contenders was the HK CAWS, which was basically a magazine fed bullpup.

The box magazine held 10 rounds of 12-gauge shell with a length of 76mm. There was also an option for a 3-inch shotgun shell made from belted brass holding 8 tungsten pellets. These pellets were able to penetrate 1.5mm of steel. For a shotgun, that is indeed impressive. Instead of the pellets, the shells could contain standard buckshot and even flechettes which could create some really nasty wounds.

HK CAWS – A Bullpup 12 Gauge

It uses a recoil operated system with a self-regulated gas assist. The barrel and bolt would move together for a short period during cycling, and then gas could help the recoil. Also, it sported a selective fire capability. However, all of this was neat, but ultimately, it did not make it to adoption.

4. AAI CAWS – The Weirdest of the Weirdest

AAI made a name for itself for example with designing the famous M203, a grenade launcher that could be mounted below the barrel of a rifle. Entering the Close Assault Weapon System program, AAI went for something rather conservative. Using the M16 stock and pistol grip, AAI put in a recoil-operated system with a selective fire option and a magazine holding 12 rounds.

To make the most out of it, AAI had its own load for it. This was a 12-gauge load with e series of flechettes. Those created devastating wound channels and increased the effective range of their gun when compared to traditional shotguns and shotgun shells.

AAI CAWS – The Weirdest of the Weirdest

At short range, the pattern of flechettes were just brutal, and for longer ranges, they were fin stabilized what also kept the pattern tight. Their force was enough to punch through 3mm of low carbon steel. For a shotgun, that is great. The proprietary load was a little bit shorter than standard shells to make the magazines shorter what in turn made them easier to handle. However, when the program died, so did the entry of AAI.

3. The SOW – Devastating Firepower

There was a mag fed Remington 870. That became the basis for the Special Operations Weapon. Take the magazine from it and fit it into the SOW, and you get a full auto shotgun that is meant to deliver a ton of firepower when shot from the hip.

This gun had 2 pistol grips, and a top-loading magazine. To actually use it in full auto meant to have enough capacity. For that, the magazine held 20 rounds. That was enough for a short moment of fire. To keep it shooting longer and keep it at the same time controllable, it came with a reduced rate of fire. In theory, it could fire 200 rounds per minute. This meant, it could be kept on target easily while the rounds went off one at a time.


The idea was to use it to blast away in the jungle. However, as it was, it never made it past the prototype stage. One reason might also be that a gun fired from the hip might look cool but is also very inaccurate.

2. The Remington 7188 – A shotgun in full auto

In the Vietnam War, firefights were done in a number of different environments. However, what most of us envision when thinking of this conflict are short but extremely brutal engagements at equally short ranges. That makes sense as there are parts of this country where there are nothing but jungle. Here, shotguns have a distinct advantage.

At those ranges, a shotgun would hit an opponent with a pattern of projectiles making for a fast end of the fight. When hit, the other one was out immediately. There was no shooting back anymore. If the ranges increased a little and the target was maybe even moving, the increasing size of the pattern would help in hitting it at all.

Looking at that, a shotgun is a great idea. However, maybe, when confronted with the possibility of getting shot at yourself while wielding it, you might want something even more devastating to ensure that the other one has no chance however small to shoot back. So, the idea for the Remington 7188 was born.

Actually, for what it is, the Remington 7188 looks actually kind of boringly normal. It comes with a simple design and even sports wood furniture. You would be hard pressed finding a big difference between it and the shotgun of your dad.

The design is based on the standard Remington 1100 with some modifications. This includes an extended magazine tube as well as a bayonet mount. Also, there was a barrel shroud, and then there was the best feature: Its ability to blast away in full auto.

A select fire mode allows to switch between semi and full auto, and thinking of actually doing it, you might already come close to a problem. Shooting 12 gauge in full auto is something that is just pretty hard to handle. To help with that, the rate of fire was kept low so that you can somewhat control it.

This brings us to the next problem. The magazine held only 8 rounds. In full auto, these were shot away pretty fast. Together with the slow rate of fire, this limited the usefulness. To make matters worth, in the jungle of Vietnam, this gun was just not as reliable as it should have been. So, the result was that this gun was never produced or used in quantity.

1. The AA-12 – The Shotgun of Action Movies

The AA-12 is super cool looking, and more than that, actually looking like it is in production. This makes it very believable in the movies. That goes so far that there are still people trying to get a contract for it. This is no coincidence. From all the shotguns that we are talking about today, this is the one that made it the furthest in development.

That begs the question what exactly makes this gun to believable and useful? That is the fact that this actually would work. It comes with a select fire option and uses a lot of polymer in its design. For our modern times, that is what we are used to see. However, developed from the 1970s on, it became not only modern over time, it would even make the M16 proud.

Coming back to the fact it works, it is worth looking at the system itself. It uses a unique forced gas operated API blowback design. This kept the weapon not only light enough to carry it fully loaded, but also kept the recoil within controllable limits. Shooting from an open bolt, it also kept it from overheating avoiding melting shells or cook offs.

What makes it even more believable is the feeding system. To keep it controllable, the rate of fire is just 300 rounds per minute, but even this means that you need enough rounds to keep it firing. A tube magazine is not enough. Instead, 8 round box magazines where used, but those are not the ones we want to look at. Much better were the drums holding 20 or 32 rounds. They kept this baby firing when needed. A variety of ammo was made for this shotgun. That included frag rounds that effectively would have turned it into a full auto mini grenade launcher.

The AA-12 – The Shotgun of Action Movies

These shotguns, as crazy as they were, were never adopted and never made it past the testing stage. This makes sense when you look at the requirements of military weapons. Here, shotguns are such niche guns. That means, drastic improvements are neither needed nor actually worth the money and efforts sunk into them. In the end, these were fun ideas that never had a chance to begin with.

If there is another really creazy shotgun out there that you feel should make the list let us know in the comments and tell us how cool it really is.

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