Review of the Remington Versa Max Tactical Shotgun
Let me say for the record that of all the weapon systems I regularly train and practice with, the shotgun is the platform I’m least practiced and trained using. That said, I very much like shotguns. I grew up shooting clay pigeons with my father and his friends – treasured memories for me. He bought us matching Remington 1100’s – my father had a 12 gauge., and I had a 20 gauge. It wasn’t until 2010 though that I bought a tactical shotgun for myself – a Saiga 12. I performed my own pistol grip conversion on my Saiga 12, and have been greatly enjoying in since. But as much as I enjoy my Saiga 12 at the range, there are some problems in using one for some applications. For instance, while the Saiga 12 is making more strides in acceptance in 3 gun/multi-gun competition, traditional style semi-auto shotguns (like the Benelli M2, Benelli M4, FN SLP, and the venerable Remington 1100) are still the defacto choice among top competitors. Most tactical shotgun training courses I’ve looked into also seem to focus their training techniques on traditional semi-auto or pump shotguns. Again, I love my Saiga 12, but most of the knowledgeable and experienced individuals I’ve talked to about a shotgun for defensive applications frown on the Saiga 12 and tend to advocate simply getting a Remington 870 pump….but will also say that the Benelli M4 is the preferred option for a semi-auto defensive shotguns.
So for a couple of years, I’ve had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to pick up a Benelli M4, take some tactical shotgun training courses with it, keep it as home defense option, and perhaps look into 3 gun competition. The problem is however that the Benelli M4 can run between $1,500.00 and $1,800.00 depending on where you buy it. There’s also the issue of 18 USC 922R compliance if you intend to modify the gun for competition. The compliance issue certainly isn’t a deal-breaker, and neither do I necessarily mind the price of admission, but it is a lot of money for weapon system that isn’t a primary or even secondary system for me….and I already have a great shotgun in the Saiga 12. The year I purchased my Saiga 12, Remington introduced their new Versa Max line of shotguns. The first models introduced were of the hunting variety, but in 2011 Remington released the Versa Max Tactical and in a short 2 years, it’s become a real darling of the 3 gun circuit. With a retail price of $1399.00, it’s certainly not a cheap option – quite comparable to a Benelli M2 in cost. But I ended up purchasing the Remington Versa Max Tactical . So why has it become such a popular choice in such a short time?
The Versa Max Tactical may be priced like a Benelli M2, but it performs more like a Benelli M4. In fact, it’s said that Remington all but copied the Benelli Argo gas piston system found in the Benelli M4 when it developed the Versa Max. So the Versa Max Tactical is on the heavy side at 7.75 lbs, (like the M4) with a 22″ inch barrel length, and 43 15/16″ overall length. In fact, the Versa Max Tactical is so much like the M4 it’s said that there are several components which are interchangeable between the two platforms. Out of the box, the Versa Max Tactical comes with some nice features you won’t find on a Benelli however. The Versa Max Tactical comes with an extended magazine tube which gives it an impressive 8+1 capacity (compared to 5+1 on a stock M2/M4). A wonderful HiViz Comp Sight is mounted on the front of the barrel, with a choice of three different colored fiber optic pipes.
An over-sized bolt release, charging handle, and safety also come standard – depending what division in which you shoot, the shotgun could potentially be ready to go right out of the box for 3 gun competition.
Another reason the Versa Max Tactical is so popular is that it’s said to be the softest shooting auto loading 12 gauge on the market. I can attest to the fact that between the recoil reducing gas piston system and the recoil absorbing recoil pad, this shotgun shoots very softly. It’s a shotgun that you can shoot all day long with no fatigue or bruised shoulder. The Versa Max Tactical also comes with a receiver mounted Picatinny rail, and a barrel clamp which has an additional Picatinny rail for accessory mounting (like a weapon mounted flashlight). These additional features and accessories really do make the Remington Versa Max Tactical and excellent value when compared to both the Benelli M2 and M4. However, if you’re an NRA Certified Instructor like myself and can purchase directly from Remington through the program they have for NRA Certified Instructors, it’s really no contest – I got my Versa Max Tactical 12 gauge for just under $1000.00 shipped to my FFL. Note that Benelli (unlike most major firearms manufactures) does not have a discount program for NRA Certified Instructors – another good reason to support Remington.
I’ve done a full take down, cleaning, and re-assembly of the Remington Versa Max Tactical and it’s not terribly difficult (learning a new system is always a pain however). Perhaps my biggest gripe in this regard is that you have to remove the barrel clamp in order to take down the Versa Max Tactical, which annoyingly adds a couple of minutes on either side of the process, as does unscrewing and removing the extended magazine tube. Once down however, the plastic receiver slides off, the barrel comes out, the bolt is removed (after you pull out the charging handle) and you can tap out the retaining pin holding the trigger group in place.
I received my Versa Max Tactical in mid-April and have been working with it pretty extensively on my own, and bringing it along for my local tactical shooting league to try out during one of our “fun shoots” – all of which I captured on video for this supplemental video review of the Remington Versa Max Tactical 12 gauge shotgun:
You’ll see in the video that the Versa Max Tactical ran very reliably – it was only when we tried to shoot it with frangible buck shot that we experienced any malfunctions. However, when we switched to frangible slugs the semi-automatic action cycled properly.
The Remington Versa Max Tactical 12 ga. shotgun may be the “new kid on the block” but it’s quickly positioned itself as the best value proposition among its many esteemed competitors for both self-defense and 3 gun competition. In the next weeks and months I will continue to update this article with additional information as I continue to work with this shotgun. My next step is to use it in a tactical shotgun training course.
John B. Holbrook, II
John B. Holbrook, II is a freelance writer, photographer, and author of ThruMyLens.org, as well as LuxuryTyme.com and TheSeamasterReferencePage.com. *All text and images contained in this web site are the original work of the author, John B. Holbrook, II and are copyright protected. Use of any of the information or images without the permission of the author is prohibited.