Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Holy Shrinking Shotguns Batman! A range review of the Knoxx tactical folding stock


Some time ago I wrote a piece describing the evolution of an old Remington 870 scattergun into the quintessential 'household home defense' gun. It was fairly simple affair, involving nothing more complicated than replacing the barrel and adding a buttstock shell holder. In reality, nothing more is required for a home defense shotgun. More toys, gadgets, and add-on widgets can actually cause more harm than help, as simple is always better.

That said... I have taken a leap and added a feature to my Remington home defense shotgun. A folding stock, and a very special one indeed.

The Knoxx recoil reduction stock is indeed a gadget, but unlike so many... this one actually works. On top of that, it has passed the 'Carteach0 Gorilla of Doom Destruction Testing'. In plainer words, I attempted to break the stock in some very unreasonable ways. By simply pulling it apart with my bear hands (pun intended), and even beating it against a range bench (shotgun won, bench lost).

The Knoxx stock uses fairly massive internal springs to absorb and spread out the recoil pulse of the heavy hitting shotgun. The kick is still there, but instead of a
painful jab it's reduced to a long 'shove'. This technology shines in two areas; Letting recoil sensitive people shoot the thumper without fear, and aiding in shear controllability of the shotgun. It's hard to argue that heavy recoil reduces ones ability to control a weapon, and mitigating the recoil helps the shooter stay on target. This is the point behind every rifle muzzle brake and ported competition pistol.

Replacing the Remington wood with the tough Knoxx polymer and steel buttstock is a five minute job requiring only one special tool, which is included with the stock. That tool is nothing more complicated than a long allen key that makes the job easier. Replacing the forearm is a slightly longer job, and it does require a special tool not supplied by Blackhawk with the Knoxx stock. It's a type of spanner wrench designed for the Remington forearm nut, and can be found for about $25 at most gunsmith tool suppliers.

I'll save the detailed story of swapping over the stock and forearm for another post, and stick to the range report with this account.

Why move to a folding stock (aside from the 'totally cool' factor)? Well.... my thinking is this: I reserve this shotgun for home defense, and in working through the home with it I find it can be awkward, even in it's short barrel form. One almost has to do a 'Gun-Kata' to make it work smoothly and efficiently.

The problem is... even with the shorter barrel, the whole weapon is about as long as the hallways are wide. Doors are another problem entirely, especially entering a room while 'slicing the pie' with a long gun. Shouldering the weapon means sticking it out in front you about three feet, and that's pretty tough to maneuver in tight spaces.

The answer, of course, is a shorter weapon. Making the barrel shorter than 18.5 inches costs $200 in taxes and a bucket load of paperwork to do legally. Do it illegally, and the missing few inches of pipe could literally cost you your life (as has happened before).

So, the stock must grow shorter. There are three basic options when it comes to shortening a shotgun buttstock.
  • Lose it entirely, and go with only a pistol grip. This makes it as short as possible, without paying the federal taxes on a short barreled shotgun. It is a popular choice, but gives up the choice of shouldering the weapon.
  • An adjustable length stock (AKA: M-4 type stock). These too are popular, and work well within their limits. They still leave the weapon fairly long, but are shorter than a full stock version. The fun part is... just squeeze a lever and the stock can grow to full length.
  • A folding buttstock... presenting the best part of having a pistol grip stock, and the option of easily going full length when desired.
I chose the folding stock route, but only after having been introduced to the Knoxx recoil reduction stock by the folks at Blackhawk, and their spokesman Todd Jarret. Having met the stocks designer and seen it in action, I was satisfied enough to plunk down my plasti-cash and buy the tactical folding unit for myself.

I'll admit, it was the range time that caught my interest, but what really sold me on the stock? I tried to tear it apart with all my strength.... and I couldn't budge it. I like that kind of engineering and quality. It's as idiot proof as possible, and I need that in a product.

In shooting with the unit installed, it feels a little different at first. The shotgun's recoil pulse is spread out over time, instead of whacking the shooter like a punch. Return time on target is much faster, and shooting with the pistol-grip-only caused me no pain at all.

The one worry I had with shooting a pistol grip shotgun... accuracy. Yes, a shotgun must be aimed, and not just pointed. This notion is magnified at defensive shooting distances, often measured in feet instead of yards, because the shot column does not spread at short range. Shooting a full stocked shotgun from the shoulder makes the job of aiming the weapon far easier. Shooting from a low position with the pistol grip certainly makes the task of hitting the target harder. The question is... does it make it too difficult? Enough to negate the usefulness of the shorter weapon?

My theory was it would be harder to use accurately, but like most forms of shooting, practice would make it work. There is not a shred of doubt in my mind.... it's far easier to control the weapon and shoot accurately with the stock extended and the weapon shouldered. That said, with the stock folded and shooting from the low position, reasonable defensive accuracy can be attained... with practice.

In the following video, I describe some of the features of the Knoxx folding stock, and then put it through it's paces. Shooting longer distances, it's far more easier to shoot well with the stock extended. Moving to the 'up-close and personal' range of about ten feet, it was possible to lay down impressive and accurate fire, again.... with practice.

Please note the very first time I shot pistol grip only, from low position, at short range. Only three of the five rounds registered solid hits, with the last shot merely digging dirt under the target. It took some serious consideration on my part to leave this embarrassing video un-cut, but it so perfectly illustrates the point. A shotgun needs to be aimed, not pointed, and only practice will make that happen. By the second run I was better, and after five runs I had no problem hitting center mass with every shot while moving at a fair pace.

I should note... I burned through over one hundred rounds of twelve gauge shooting with the pistol grip, and my wrist feels just fine. The recoil reduction feature works.

My final thoughts? I like the Knoxx stock a great deal, and it will remain on my home defense shotgun. The folding option is simple, strong, and intuitively easy to use. For a defensive shotgun, it's a winner.

As for the recoil reduction feature, I like it enough that I expect I'll order a full length version for another of my shotguns that see's time on the trap range. I like the idea of not being mule-kicked one hundred times in a row while shooting trap, and my shoulder agrees.


Ambulance Driver said...

Nice review.

I've just about decided to replace my beloved 870 Express with an 887 for hunting, and convert the old Express to a home defense shotgun.

I'll definitely be giving the Knoxx stock a serious look when that time comes.

Old NFO said...

Excellent review. I may have to rethink the folding stock issue... Thanks!

aczarnowski said...

Thanks for the write up.

As a quick tip, the claw of a framing hammer can be used as a spanner to back off the forearm nut on an 870.

Were you using the standard length of pull (LOP) original stock on your 870? I agree, those are too long for SD work. I replaced mine with a 12" LOP stock set from Hogue. That couple inches makes an amazing amount of difference in tight quarters.

J.R.Shirley said...

"simple is always better"

Well...MIG-15s never shoot down F-15s, but in general, simple is indeed better. I do appreciate an M4-style stock. I will consider getting the Knoxx M4-style version if I want a reduced OAL shotgun for vehicle use.

Anonymous said...

You are exactly the kind of people who give firearm owners a bad rep!! Making a video of yourself going all out, shooting human targets?! Come on!! You know there are public ranges that don't allow humanoid targets because of the image it portrays. Then again, this is YOUR blog, right... and the Internet isn't a public place. Bottom line is, all you did was make yourself look like a crazy old man, and did more harm than good for "the cause". Oh, and the picture of the target with a hole in his chest, that was just the cherry on top of it all :)
But don't mind me, I'm just some anti going off on a rant. Let me leave you with this... I wonder what the jury's gonna think when they see that video (after the prosecutor puts his spin on it)... the day it comes time for you to really defend yourself (in court), after "defending" yourself...

Carteach said...



Rem870 said...

Very good article. I like Knoxx stock too. It is simple and effective. And the best thing that recoil-reducing spring is in the pistol grip, so recoil doesn't hit your wrist.