Blackwater Sentry 12: First Look at the AR-Style, Polymer Pump Shotgun


A home-defense shotgun needs to be a few things. It needs to be compact enough to maneuver through a home or apartment; it should be easy to use so that everyone in the household can use it in the worst of circumstances; and it must be utterly reliable. I would add that a defensive shotgun should also be easy to load and reload, but the ability to quickly load a tube magazine on a shotgun depends on the gun’s design and how much a person has practiced doing so—until recently. Enter the Blackwater Sentry 12.

Blackwater Sentry 12

Let’s be honest about a few things. The pump guns that most people choose for home defense—your Remington 870s, Mossberg 500s and 590s and the like—can be outfitted with anything you can imagine in terms of components optimized for defensive use. But these shotgun designs date back many decades, built to use with traditional stocks. When you put a pistol grip on them, it works, but the grip is set pretty far back, and all the weight is in front of the shooting hand and distributed poorly, making the gun really front-heavy. Add an extended magazine tube, some kind of optic, rails and accessories such as a gun light and a laser sight, and that’s a lot of weight up front, usually with an extremely light buttstock that does nothing to help balance things out. It’s time for something new.

Rethinking Pumps

There have been strides made in the past decade to completely rethink the pump gun—but almost all have resulted in designs that are more complex, while retaining one or several drawbacks of the older pump guns. But one gun-maker has hit the sweet spot. Introduced in 2020, the Blackwater Sentry 12 shotgun is what I consider the ideal pump-action shotgun.

For a long time, gun designers struggled to overcome the biggest shortcoming of the pump gun design—the tube mag. One solution was to simply remove the elevator and add a big mag well attached to a vestigial mag tube stand-in. We saw this about a decade ago, with Adaptive Tactical’s Venom kits and, more recently, with mag-fed versions of the Model 870 and Model 590 from Remington and Mossberg, respectively. They were all awkward, but functioned well enough—but they had to wait a long time for magazines to be built that would work reliably with shotgun shells.

After all, shotshell design and dimensions predate detachable box magazines, and with their utterly flat noses, rims, lengths that vary from 1¾ inches to 3½ inches and low- and high-brass bases, they almost seem built to defy use in a box mag. However, with the help of 3D printing, high-quality and strong polymer materials and other modern production methods, today reliable box mags for shotshells are a reality.

New Kind

I spoke with Ryan McDonald, CEO of Iron Horse Firearms, which has partnered with Blackwater Worldwide to produce original firearms. He conceived of and designed the Sentry 12 with a few specific goals in mind. McDonald wanted it to be a pump-action shotgun so it could cycle high-powered Magnum rounds as well as the lowest-powered, less-lethal ammunition, and everything in between, covering nearly every type of shell used by law enforcement, the military and civilians.

He also wanted to make something that was modular, much like the AR platform, so that users could similarly customize their pump shotguns to suit their needs. …

This entire article is from the February-March 2021 issue of Personal Defense World magazine. Grab your copy at

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