Basic tactical and sporting shotguns have been around in their current form for more than a century. The venerable pump guns have undergone total overhauls, like the Kel-Tec KSG, but they’re still close to their roots and very efficient. Those who want more speed, or higher capacities, can choose from a wide variety of tested automatic versions. Still, those guns closely echo their pump brethren.
Despite the time tested and effective design, some of us want more. One option that has obsessed designers is the shotgun versions of the world’s two most dominant fighting guns: the AK and the AR. Why would anyone want a shotgun that functioned exactly like an existing rifle? Answers vary, but the obvious reason is familiarity. If you train with an AR-15, you’ll have no difficulty using an AR-10. If you had a shotgun upper that could work on an AR lower, training would be even more efficient.
The Saiga 12s are the clear answer to the AK question. When they work well, they are devastating guns. Yet they have a reputation for being finicky. They may well require some fine tuning of the gas system and can lock up with underpowered ammo. While they are holding their own, they are less than perfect.
Now, on the AR side, we now have a serious contender.
The Intrepid RAS-12
Let’s start with a look at the problems the designers face when trying to convert the AR platform to 12 gauge. The lower of an AR-15 isn’t really large enough to handle the physical size of a 12-gauge shell. We would then need a reliable way to feed 12 gauge shells from either a tube or box (or, potentially a belt). The rimmed 12-gauge shell doesn’t stack up neatly in a box magazine. The belt is a bit extreme. A tube, which has been proven to be the most efficient, won’t really work with an AR lower.
The Intrepid RAS-12 system requires an AR-10 style lower. The one for our test gun is a DPMS. That’s hefty enough to handle the size of the 12-gauge shell and the recoil. The upper is built by Intrepid. The gun uses a box magazine, too, which has been heavily modified to fit the final solution: a custom shaped 12-gauge round.
The need for a new round stems from the way an AR pattern rifle feeds, so lets start there. How do you get 12-gauge shells into a .308 magazine? It isn’t too difficult. The .308 AR-10 magazine is a double-stack, which fits the 12 gauge if it is stacked single-stack style. The magazine (in this case, a Magpul) needs some modification. It will need a reshaped follower. And Intrepid modifies the shape of the magazine itself by sanding down the feed lips.
There’s an opportunity here for Magpul, and anyone else who could produce mags for the RAS-12 round. As the popularity of the gun picks up, which it will, the aftermarket magazine makers will be able to catch up to the demand. Until then, you take what you can get (which isn’t bad, at all).
The polymer on the Magpul mag is just thick enough to allow for the modification. The rounds seat in the magazine perfectly. They feed perfectly. This is due to the magazine, yes, but it has much more to do with the RAS-12’s proprietary ammunition.
A new kind of 12 gauge
RAS-12 ammunition is a 2 3/4-inch 12-gauge shell made entirely of polymer. No brass. Inside are nine OO buckshot pellets. The round reaches speeds of 1,200 fps.
The nose of the shell has a polymer cap that is shaped like old-school ball ammo. It is domed over to allow it to feed into the chamber. We ran all of our test rounds and had no issues at all with feeding. One of the things that Intrepid expects in the break-in period, which is just 50 rounds, is slow feeds or jams. The tolerances are tight and they say (we didn’t experience it at all) that the first round may require an assist to get it seated fully.
The other oddity here is that the shells don’t have rims. The rim on a 12-gauge shell creates all kinds of potential problems. So these are shaped like most automatic pistol cartridges. The extractor works like it would on a typical automatic rifle. We didn’t have any failures to eject either.
The RAS-12 is, in many ways, typically AR in its styling. The barrel on the AR-12 upper is 18.1 inches long. At the end, a muzzle break directs gas up and to the sides. It is incredibly effective at cutting the muzzle rise of the Intrepid. The gun kicks with an appreciable amount of recoil, but nothing like a pump. Truly modular, the AR-12 will work on any AR-10 style lower.
This gun rocks. The recoil is more manageable than any pump 12 gauge I’ve shot. There’s no real muzzle rise. And it is fast. The RAS-12 pellets pattern well. No issues there, at all.
Intrepid has been very upfront with us about the break-in period the gun requires. We expected jams. We didn’t have any issues with the way the gun was functioning. The only thing we were troubled with was a handful of light primer strikes. Some of the rounds required two hits. Only two hits, though. In all my gun reviewing experience, I’ve never seen a problem quite so oddly predictable. If a round didn’t go on the first shot, we re-cocked the hammer and dropped it again and it worked fine.
I reached out to Intrepid from the range for an answer, but the problem was new to them, too. They know much more about this beast than I do, and think the problem is in the firing pin. My take is different and I think it may be user error. We cleaned to gun before shooting it, as we were instructed to do, but at the range it was bitterly cold. It was so cold that the aerosols weren’t working worth a damn. I think we may have gummed something up and inadvertently impeded the path of the firing pin.
Regardless. We’ve sent the gun back to Intrepid for a good inspection. They’ll get it sorted out and back to us soon, so we can finish the true evaluation of the gun.
The RAS-12 for now
I’m going to end by saying this is a gun worth working with. When it was running reliably, the RAS-12 was a great shotgun. I prefer it to the Saiga, for sure, and that’s saying something (as I’ve always preferred the AK platform).
So what about it? Is the proprietary ammo a plus that will catch on industry wide, or is it too limiting?
A complete AR-12 upper and a magazine will run you $1,950. A 100 rounds of the OO buck sell for $299. It isn’t cheap. Intrepid is referring to the RAS-12 as a “truly modern sporting shotgun.” That’s completely true. But it is going to be so much more. As the concept catches on, this gun is going to carve out its share of the tactical shotgun market.
We’ll be back with much more. We only had 50 rounds for this initial look, but we’ll have a followup soon.