[Review] IWI TS12: Space Shotgun with Some Flaws

Getting your hands on a gun you’ve wanted for years is always bittersweet.

Exciting that you finally have it, but sometimes they don’t work as well as you hoped.

The IWI TS12 Bullpup Shotgun was one of those guns for me, and I’ve been waiting to test this shotgun out since SHOT Show 2018.

Tavor Shotgun whole shotty
IWI TS12, finally!

And now, with SHOT 2020 just a few weeks away, I finally can write about this space magic bullpup

From the good to the bad to the ugly, I’ve burned through a huge pile of ammo through this gun to see how it runs. My hands are tired, but it’s worth it.

Table of Contents

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Why Bullpup?

In large part, successful combat shotguns have been the same since the Winchester 1897.

U.S. Marine armed with a Winchester 1897 circa WWII

The accepted layout for police and military shotguns was a tube holding 4 to 9 rounds in a standard design.

Bullpup shotguns have slowly become more prevalent, and the shotgun lends itself well to a bullpup layout. 

Shotguns are close quarter’s weapons, and in close quarters the shorter the weapon the better. A bullpup layout can almost cut a standard shotgun in half and reduce the overall length of the weapon. 

Tavor Shotgun vs stocked shotgun
(top) Mossberg 500 Vs (bottom) IWI TS12

A shorter weapon is more maneuverable and more comfortable to handle up and downstairs, around corners, and going through doors. 

Bullpups tend to have lousy triggers, and to be honest, shotguns don’t need excellent triggers. The variance a bad trigger causes in precision isn’t significant at shotgun ranges.

Bullpups are typically a little slower to reload. Shotguns are also not high volume weapons, and you won’t need to suppress a target with one.

Therefore a speedy reload isn’t always required. 

shotgun speed reload keanu
Quad loading a traditional shotgun, not combat effective but great for competition

While other companies have produced bullpup shotguns, we’ve yet to see one of the more significant manufacturers of military and police weapons put their mark on one. 

The IWI TS12 took several years to release as IWI wanted to take their time in perfecting it.

This bullpup shotgun is unlike any other and is admittedly quite innovative. It combines a modern semi-auto action and bullpup platform with old school shotgun handling. 

1480
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Specs of a Space Gun 

The IWI TS12 looks a helluva lot like a space gun. It channels some real starship trooper vibes with it’s somewhat bulky and non-traditional appearance.

Starship Troopers
I have only one rule…

The TS12 is a semi-auto, gas-powered shotgun with two gas settings. 

The settings relate to the power of the cartridge you plan to use. On low, you can use your standard 2 ¾ inch ammunition. On high, you can cycle 3-inch loads with less recoil. 

While a bullpup, the barrel is 18.5 inches long and uses Beretta/Benelli chokes. The gun weighs eight pounds and looks heftier than it is.

Once it’s fully loaded, it’s remarkably balanced. You’d think 15 rounds of 12 gauge would cause the barrel to droop, but it doesn’t. 

The overall length is only 28.34 inches long, and for a shotgun with a stock, that is nothing. 

You get a healthy amount of M-LOK compatible rails on the handguard, ambidextrous QD slots for sling ports, and a full-length scope rail. 

Tavor Shotgun front end
Lots of room for a light, laser, and more.

Size Matters

When it comes to close quarter’s shooting, the smaller the gun, the better.

Shotguns are decisive close quarter’s weapons, and if you can make one short and compact with a usable stock, then you’re ahead of the game. The IWI TS12 does precisely that. 

It shrinks the shotgun platform to a mere 28 inches and change. The Remington TAC-14 is a hair over 26 inches and gives you four rounds of 12 gauge and no stock.

Tavor Shotgun vs shockwave
(top) Remington TAC-14 Vs (bottom) IWI TS12

A traditional fighting shotgun like the Mossberg 590A1 with a 9 round capacity and a stock is 41 inches long. 

The IWI TS12 presents a well balanced, easy handling shotgun for close quarter’s use.

It’s nearly as small as a Shockwave but packs three times the ammunition and a stock to shoulder.

15 Rounds of Firepower 

The under-barrel magazine tube on a shotgun is both a blessing and a curse.

Tavor Shotgun forend
Tavor Shotgun Magazine Tubes

Downside is the limited space for ammunition.

Upside is the ability to continually reload the weapon with fresh shells, as well as the slimline design. 

If you run your weapon dry, you are in for a long and challenging reload compared to a magazine-fed rifle or handgun.

Magazine fed shotguns exist, but they have their own challenges.

Rock Island Armory VR80 Fire
I reviewed the Rock Island Armory VR line of shotguns… this was one of the magazines!

These include massively bulky magazines, a degree of ammo pickiness due to inconsistent lengths, and the fact that the magazines are typically quite expensive. 

The method IWI went with a multiple tube design that allows for an overall higher capacity that reserves the ability to continually load the gun, as well as the slimline design.

The TS12 features three rotating tubes. Each tube can handle five rounds of 2 ¾ inch shells. Or four rounds of 3-inch shells. 

The tubes can rotate clockwise or counterclockwise and are unlocked by a large paddle that sits across from the trigger.

Tavor Shotgun trigger and controls
Ambi tube release set forward of the trigger

If a tube runs empty, the bolt will lock to the rear, and once a freshly loaded tube is rotated into the firing position, the bolt will automatically close and load a round. 

At any given time, two of the tubes are out of commission and in line with separate loading ports. You can keep a tube ready and continually load the other two tubes as necessary.

The tubes are positioned right in front of your hands, and this allows for quick reloading. 

With shotguns like the KSG, the loading port is so far to the rear, and reloads are often slow and force you to move the gun off target.

With the IWI TS12, I can keep the gun on target and load both tubes full of ammo to keep the gun running. 

One well thought out design is the ability to release the shells to unload the shotgun without working the action. Each loading port has a small lever that releases one round at a time and you can admin unload the weapon.

Tavor Shotgun loading gate
Unloading made easy!

Or you could remove one round in the field and load a slug or slugs into a tube.

If you wanted to set this gun up for duty use I could see a lot of value in setting up a gun with two tubes full of buckshot and one full of slugs.

Then train to rotate between the buckshot tubes and to use the slug tube only when you need to take precise shots. 

Types of 12ga Shotgun Shells (L to R: Bird, Buck, Slug)
Types of 12ga Shotgun Shells (L to R: Bird, Buck, Slug)

With three tubes you could do the same for different shotgun applications. Two tubes full of buckshot and one tube full of breaching rounds. It’s all about training. 

Personally, if I used this gun as a home defense shotgun it would be 15 rounds of Federal FliteControl 00 Buckshot

4.25
at Lucky Gunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Space Gun Ergonomics 

This leads us to the gun’s ergonomics. As I mentioned, loading and reloading the gun is easy.

It takes practice and training to do, but you’ll learn it before you know it. 

As a right-handed shooter, it’s easier for me to load the left-hand tube.

Tavor Shotgun loading gate
Tavor TS12 loading gate

In fact, if I’ve dumped two tubes worth of ammo and have one tube in the firing position, it’s fastest to load the left-hand tube, then rotate and reload the next tube rather than reaching over the gun. 

The ejection port and charging handle can both be rotated to the opposite side for lefties. The TS12 is one of the few bullpups that can do this. Unfortunately, only IWI can do this for you according to the manual. 

The comb of the stock is much higher than most, and this requires an AR height sight. A low profile red dot will be positioned too low. I mounted a SIG Romeo5, and it’s a perfect optic for the gun. 

Tavor Shotgun shooting!
Pew pew!

The safety is a simple cross bolt design. It’s placed for an easy reach with your trigger finger.

Gripping the tubes as a foregrip is comfortable, and IWI wisely textured them for a sure grip. 

Honestly, the only downside to the gun’s ergonomics is the bolt release. You have the mash the hell out of it to get the bolt to go back forward.

The good news is it’s not necessary for operating the gun unless you close the bolt on an empty chamber. 

Tavor Shotgun rear end

As I mentioned, the magazine tube lock release is a large pad that is easy to reach and activate. Reach forward with your trigger finger and push it in. Then you can rotate the tube. 

Manual Of Arms

A good shotgun has a simple manual of arms overall and is laid out to be very ergonomic. The fact this shotgun it’s different from most guns means you will have to learn it.

If I handed a shooter familiar with the Mossberg 500 a Remington 870, it wouldn’t take them long to figure it out. 

rem Vs mossberg
Very close to each other, the Remington 870 (top) and Mossberg 500 (bottom)

If I handed the same shooter a TS12, it would take more than a minute to figure it all out. Once the gun is figured out, it is quite easy to master. 

Semi-auto shotguns are some of my favorite guns of all time. Being able to launch five rounds of buckshot in just a couple of seconds is so much freaking fun.

The recoil and muzzle rise of a 12 gauge shotgun lets you know it ain’t a poodle shooter. 

Tavor Shotgun spicy
TS12 getting spicy

My Tavor is no different.

If you don’t control it, it will beat you up and toss you around.

Typically with a shotgun, I pull forward with my off hand and rearward with my firing hand. With this gun, I simply pull it backward and brace it into my shoulder. 

This helps increase control and keeps me from getting too beat up by the recoil of the weapon. Pull it in nice and tight and let it fly. 

The gun cycles very fast, and I can drop all five rounds before the first shell hits the ground. With a reduced recoil buckshot load or a light birdshot load, the gun is plenty controllable.

64
at Lucky Gunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Even with full-powered Mil-Spec buckshot, the recoil is still not bad. 

Recoil is nowhere near a standard pump-action shotgun. The gas regulation and semi-auto action help tame the 12 gauge recoil quite a bit. 

The tubes are exact in their length. They will accommodate five rounds with no leeway. Rio’s 2 ¾ inch loads, for example, are a little longer than 2 ¾ inches, and the gun will only hold 4 of them.

Tavor Shotgun tested ammo
Some of the ammo used to test the TS12!

Not the gun’s fault by any means, just don’t expect any extra room in the tubes. 

With high-quality ammo from Federal, Hornady, Remington, etc., you won’t have an issue loading five rounds. 

6
at Lucky Gunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Cycling between tubes is intuitive, and you will develop an instinctive rhythm when shooting the gun. Kinda like how you build instinctual muscle memory to work a pump action. You can empty it very quickly if you so choose.

The fact that it auto chambers the first available round when you rotate a fresh tube in place means manipulations are significantly reduced.

If you have an “oh crap” moment and run your tube dry, getting more lead on target takes nothing but a twist. 

Tavor Shotgun front view

The trigger is pretty typical for a bullpup design. It’s spongy and stiff, but short, and the reset is very positive. Running it fast is easy to fall into a rhythm with. 

Gear Compatibility 

I have a plate carrier setup just for shotguns.

It’s a 5.11 All Missions Plate Carrier with 5.11 VTAC shotgun pouches, and it’s set up for a standard shotgun like a Remington 870.

30
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

I was happy to find out that all my standard shotgun gear still works with the futuristic TS12. 

Remington 870 (2)
One bag, one box, nice.

You can use standard shotgun tactical gear to load and run the gun, and that’s a nice touch if you are like me and have invested heavily into shotgun gear.

The tube design means it’s easy to load a round or two if there is an opportunity. 

You can pull the old shoot two load 2 to an extreme and be loading two separate tubes while you still have five rounds ready to go.

Remington 870 (7)
5.11 VTAC Bandolier

My gear is setup with the idea I’ll be continually loading my shotgun, and it translates perfectly to the TS12’s layout. 

How Does It Run? 

Here’s the tough part of this review.

The gun doesn’t run 100% of the time.

I expect semi-auto shotguns to have a break-in period, but I’m at over 400 rounds, and the gun still has failures to eject and failures to load. 

Tavor Shotgun sleeping on shells
Tavor Shotgun sleeping on shells after a long day at the range

It’s a very ammo picky weapon. Oddly enough, I can’t determine the factors that make it less picky.

I tried a wide variety of ammunition with this weapon, and I couldn’t find a particular set of features that guaranteed reliability. 

It hates a Fiocchi birdshot load that clocks in at 1330 FPS. I mean, it really hates this load. I couldn’t get a full tube of it to cycle.

A load of Estate birdshot at 1,250 FPS runs well most of the time, as does a Federal load of birdshot at 1,200 FPS. 

MFW trying shotgun loads…

Even with both of these loads, I’d get the occasional failure to eject or specifically with the Federal load I would get a situation where it wouldn’t come entirely out of the tube into the chamber. 

With both Estate and Federal birdshot, I was getting about a ten percent failure rate. Admittedly the gun got better the more I shot.

Tavor Shotgun FTE malfunction
Tavor Shotgun FTE malfunction

At this point, I stripped and cleaned it prior to running buckshot. 

Buckshot wise it would fire the Olin Company 00 and Federal Reduced Recoil 00 Flitecontrol loads rather well.

Not entirely, but most of the time, they worked. I’d say you’d get maybe a 5% malfunction rate with these loads. 

TBH, we expected better from IWI…

With cheap buckshot from Suprema, I couldn’t get through a whole tube without a malfunction. That stuff is garbage ammo though, so I didn’t expect much.

The Rio loads worked okayish, but it’s not the best ammo out there either. 

Reliability wise I was a little disappointed.

I had hoped this gun would be my next home defense shotgun, but it would seem that the Mossberg 590A1 hasn’t be upstaged yet. 

Mossberg 590A1… and it eats EVERYTHING.

By The Numbers 

Ergonomics: 5/5 

IWI took a long time to painstakingly plan out the TS12, and its controls. From the placement of the magazine tube release to the grippy textured tubes turned forend. The TS12 is an excellent weapon control-wise. 

Accuracy: 5/5 

It’s a shotgun, and it’s pretty hard to be inaccurate out to 25 yards with any long gun. The TS12 is plenty accurate when topped with a red dot.

I only fired three slugs through it, and they made a nice clover-shaped group. 

Reliability: 3/5 

Reliability was hit or miss. While the right buckshot load minimized failures, it never ran 100%.

With a 5% failure rate with buckshot, I’m torn between a 2.5 and a 3, but if a ZIP gun from USFA is a 1, then this is at least a 3. 

Looks: 5/5 

Heavy Starship Trooper vibes kiddos. I love the way this gun looks. It’s futuristic, and it looks like I should be on Kelndathu fighting the bugs with it. 

Customization: 1/5 

Uhm, you can toss in different choke tubes and attach M-LOK rails and optics. That’s all, folks. 

1480
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Overall: 3/5

Conclusion

The IWI TS12 is a massively fun gun to shoot. It’s Sci-Fi design makes it a real attention-getter and the 15-round capacity is great. The reliability problems stop it from being an absolute knockout but if fixed, the gun will be unmatched in the combat shotgun field.

What are your thoughts on semi-auto shotguns? Bullpups? Are you okay with a ~5% failure rate? Let us know in the comments! For some more awesome shotguns, take a look at the Best Home-Defense Tactical Shotguns!

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18 Leave a Reply

  • skydoc2336

    Reliability issues in semi-auto shotguns can be entirely ammo-based. I loved my mag-fed Fostech SBV, but Fiocchi 00 Buck absolutely would not cycle through it. Failure to extract, failure to eject, nearly 50% failure rate. But the firearm operated just fine with other ammo, even lighter loads. Then the ATF confiscated all Fostech SBVs... Moving on to the SRM1216 Semi-auto 12 g. Same dang thing. It worked GREAT with everything else (12 different types) from light load #8 bird shot to 3" slugs. But it would NOT reliably cycle Fiocchi 00 buck! I had bought an entire case of that stuff, and couldn't use it except in my Remington 870 pump. I think their cheap cases expanded too much in the chamber and got stuck. Now I've got the TS12. Although I HATE the trigger (a plastic POS with a molded seam on the face complete with plastic burrs, cut into my finger; subsequently fixed with a file and sandpaper), it has functioned flawlessly the first 60 rounds. Lightly loaded bird shot too! Despite IWI admonition to use hotter stuff, cleaned and oiled I haven't found that a necessity. With a Holosun 510C on the rail, I am having a tough time finding a gun case that fits this deep, pudgy weapon (over 13" tall now with the sight). But I've found it superior to the SRM1216 owing to the bullpup design. Still not as fun as the confiscated Fostech SBV though. That was my favorite.

    3 weeks ago
  • Mark

    The manual and the IWI website both state that you should use ammunition that is above 1200fps. The ammo you tested with is at the low end or meets minimum listed for the firearm. The only real quality ammo you used was the Federal and it was at the minimum suggested for the firearm. I would recommend using some more robust ammunition prior to suggesting that the reliability of the firearm is subpar.

    2 months ago
    • Travis Pike

      If you read the article I used a ton of different loads at or above the recommended FPS rating and none of it worked well. In fact, the lower FPS stuff ran most reliably.

      1 month ago
  • Mike Starmer

    I just bought the TS12. Haven't even had it to the range yet. Just finished its initial cleaning. Looking forward to trying it to see how it compares to my Mossberg 500. My wife hates shooting the 500. Hope she likes this one better. I appreciate the heads up on failure rate and ammo type. I've got multiple types of 2 3/4 and 3 inch shells from a variety of manufacturers. I'll use the premium stuff first then try the cheaper stuff after a few hundred rounds. Have you tried to adjust the gas cylinder between heavy and light? I didn't see anything in your review about it. Anyone have any comments about cylinder adjustment? Been reading the post comments and if anyone has any pointers, let me know.

    3 months ago
  • Doug Shannon

    I noticed my failures happen when I tried to fire before shell was in the chamber. What I noticed what worked best was timing. When the pervious shell is about to hit the ground you can then fire. I ran 100 rounds in about 30 minutes. I would say keep your rate of fire between 120 to 360 per minute. I was using Winchester 1250 FPS at 1.25 oz. load

    3 months ago
  • Russ

    I broke mine in manually by hand-cycling it 200 times, then I shot it. I've never had a misfeed or failure to fire. In fact, no problems of any kind.

    4 months ago
  • CJG

    Reviewer may have had a bad apple. Or I received a good one. 50 rounds in, shooting 1300FPS 7/8oz slugs, not a single misfeed. This will replace my KSG. Same firepower, but KSG can short-stroke, is harder to switch tubes in a hurry in the dark, and punishes my shoulder.

    4 months ago
  • JD M

    For nearly $1500 the gun should come already broken in and feed anything it's given. If not then back to the drawing board until they get it right.

    5 months ago
  • Zak

    I'm taking this review with a few grains of salt. You don't break in a new combat shotgun with bird shot... clean the gun first then run 50- 100 rounds of high brass buckshot or slugs. Try federal or any other decent ammo... some might find a break in period frustrating *shrugs. I just shot this sweet gun at my range and the owner said after proper break in it has been flawless through 2000 rounds. It cycles birdshot great now. I will be picking one up in the future!

    6 months ago
  • Matt McFluflang

    Nice write up. Minishells in buckshot would help those who struggle to hit their mark in 15. Or those who just enjoy more.

    7 months ago
  • Mike

    It sure looks neat. But for that much $$$, one could buy 4 Mossberg Maverick 88’s (with 2 barrels) and a whole bunch of ammo and tactical accessories.

    7 months ago
  • J_cobbers

    Reliability is the #1 thing. So close IWI so close. I'd love to try one out, but I don't know if I'd buy considering the cycling issues. As a comparison I had a Keltec KSG which I liked but the pump action needs some refinement, it can get hung up if you don't really slam it back and forwards again, also it needed a butt pad if you're gonna shoot it a lot. Gave it to my brother as a birthday present.

    7 months ago
  • Scott

    If they can get the reliability sorted out, I'd love to have one. I don't why the bullpup design seems to have such issues with different loads. My Mossberg 930 will run anything I've thrown in it as fast as I can pull the trigger. I'd read about issues with it cycling certain loads, but per instructions I found online, if you run nothing but heavy loads for the first 100 rounds or so, it "breaks in" and will run anything, which is what I did. Now I can run anything from bridshot to hot loads without issue. I've never tried reduced power loads, but don't have any reason to as I'll never run them anyway.

    7 months ago
  • Bill

    I wonder how it compares with the KelTec?

    7 months ago
    • Howard

      I have a KSG. Paid $600...No failures of any kind after 500rds of all different kinds of ammo....loading is not that slow with practice

      7 months ago
  • Pete in NC

    Defensive firearm, reliability is everything. A couple of companies make conversion bullpup stocks for Mossberg and Remington pumps that work as well as the original gun.

    7 months ago
  • Jonathan

    I want one...when reliability is addressed.

    7 months ago
  • guy

    I wonder if using the tubes as a grip has any influence on reliability? Since the tubes rotate some play might prevent it from feeding reliably I kinda doubt it but it's a thought. Can I have it?

    7 months ago
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