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Smith & Wesson M&P 12 Review: Best Bullpup Shotgun?

The Smith & Wesson M&P12 is a bullpup style, pump-action shotgun with a futuristic look. But does it hold up on the range? Come find out.

Oh, what a wonderful world it is when another firearm manufacturer offers us a shotgun!

I love shotguns, and as such, I was taken by surprise when the Smith & Wesson M&P 12-gauge landed in our collective laps.

Smith & Wesson M&P12

Not only did the company release a shotgun, but they released a dual-tube, pump-action, bullpup rig reminiscent of the KelTec KSG.

We are taking a deep dive into the heart of this beast! So follow along as we talk specs, features, and range performance.

Table of Contents

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Smith & Wesson M&P 12 Review at a Glance

Pros

  • Bullpup barrel
  • High capacity: up to 7 rounds per magazine with two magazine tubes at once
  • Interchangeable palm swells
  • Large, ambidextrous controls
  • Interchangeable, Remington-pattern chokes
  • Picatinny rail
  • M-LOK barrel shroud
  • Manageable recoil

Cons

  • Long length of pull
  • Some features aren’t totally intuitive, so you really need to read the manual
  • A bit heavy, especially with both magazine tubes fully loaded, though this does help mitigate recoil
  • Not a lot of customization yet

The Bottom Line

The S&W M&P 12 offers professional-grade performance in a compact, reliable, and high-capacity bullpup pump-action shotgun. While there are a few flaws in this shotgun, overall, it’s a very well-made weapon with tremendous potential.

1099
at Palmetto State Armory

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

Specs & Features

Specs

  • Caliber: 12 gauge
  • Width: 3.7″
  • Length: 27.8″
  • Barrel Length: 19″
  • Height: 8.7″
  • Weight: 132.8 ounces
  • Capacity: 6 rounds (3” shells), 7 rounds (2-3/4” shells)

Features

  • Two magazine tubes, each with assist buttons for easier loading and unloading
  • Push-button magazine selector
  • Tactile loaded chamber indicator
  • M&P grip with interchangeable grip inserts
  • Picatinny rail
  • M-LOK barrel shroud
  • Ambi safety selector
  • Modified and cylinder interchangeable chokes

Source: Smith & Wesson

Background

The S&W M&P 12 uses the traditional pump-action design that’s been perfected for over 100 years now. 

Meshed with a bullpup style, the M&P 12 gives off a KelTec KSG vibe with clear design cues taken from the KSG.

Kel-Tec KSG
Kel-Tec KSG…you can kinda see a similar vibe here.

But that doesn’t mean this isn’t a tried-and-true Smith & Wesson gun. Nope, the M&P12 has some features known to run throughout many S&W rifle models — features like M&P pistol grips with interchangeable palm swells, ambi safety controls, and M-LOK slots.

Who Is It For?

The M&P 12 isn’t your typical bird hunting, skeet shooting, hunting shotgun designed to be tossed over your shoulder and humped uphill. Instead, it’s a tactical shotgun.

This shotgun stands ready for defensive use, especially inside the home.

Home Defense Ominous Shadow
When ominous shadows lurk…a shotgun can feel handy.

As a bullpup platform, it’s plenty short, about 10 inches shorter than your standard configuration shotgun. And short guns work well inside the confines of a home. 

Additionally, the bullpup puts the weight rearward, which makes the gun easier to use with a single hand. That’s pretty handy, seeing as this thing weighs close to 10 pounds fully loaded with buckshot. 

Smith and Wesson MP12.

Since it carries 14 rounds of 2.75-inch shells, you are certainly getting into the fight well-armed and loaded for bear. 

All in all, it’s an excellent shotgun for those who might not traditionally like shotguns.

The novel layout, easy accessorizing, and 14-round capacity make it out of the typical shotgun realm. It looks more like a gun you’d see in Aliens than a gun you’d see in the hunting blind.

We think it could take her.

Fit & Feel

The M&P 12’s pump comes with an integrated vertical grip that serves an essential purpose. Bullpup designs keep the gun reasonably short, and as such, your hand is much closer to the end of the barrel.

When you start running the pump fast, free, and fun, your hand might slip in front of the barrel, which could result in a rather serious injury. 

Not good

A vertical grip helps prevent this from happening.

The grip isn’t integrated into the pump but attached via M-LOK. Oh boy, is it attached. S&W wisely used a beefy attachment point that spans the entire bottom of the pump to ensure it won’t slip or break. 

At the rear, we have an AR-15 style grip that incorporates a number of palm swells. You can swap the swells to fit your hand a bit better. I stuck with the medium swell and found it entirely sufficient. 

Smith and Wesson MP12.
This looks familiar

We also get a choke system that uses Remington pattern chokes. The S&W M&P 12 comes with both an improved and cylinder bore choke. Over the barrel sits your optic’s rail as well as a set of M-LOK slots for attaching accessories to. 

As you can see, the S&W M&P 12 has a lot going on…

The first time I shouldered it, the length of pull surprised me. It’s over 14 inches, which is quite long, especially for a bullpup shotgun. That’s a very long length of pull, and smaller shooters need to be aware of it. 

I’m 6 foot 5 inches, and while I can handle it, I even find it to be too long. I like a LOP of about 13 inches, and a lot of folks prefer the 12.5-inch LOPs.

The gun is also hefty…but as a bullpup, its weight is pushed to the rear. Once it’s shouldered, the concern disappears.

I can hold it up forever, and it maneuvers well — rotating, pivoting, and transitioning targets easily and controllably. 

Smith and Wesson MP12 Action open to free malfunction
Action open to free malfunction

All that weight does a great job of reducing recoil, as does that big pistol grip.

The ergonomics are fantastic, to be honest. The AR-like safety is ambidextrous and easy to engage. In front of the trigger guard sits a pump release that’s ambidextrous — pressing downwards to free the pump. 

Smith and Wesson MP12 Pump Release
Pump Release

The pump stroke is smooth and easy — not Wingmaster smooth, but not gritty or sloppy. Swapping tubes can be done quickly, and popping the tube switch is very easy. 

Lefties often have a tough time with bullpups, but since the shells eject downwards, they are spared and encouraged to use the M&P 12. 

What does suck is the reloading ergonomics.

Smith and Wesson MP12 Load Assist buttons
Load Assist buttons

With the loading and ejection port to the rear of the gun, you can’t port load or easily reload the gun on the fly. It’s best to get your work done within those 15 rounds. 

After a good session with most tactical pump shotguns, you get a nice little red shoulder from the recoil. I didn’t get that with the M&P 12, though. In fact, I wanted to keep shooting.

Speaking of shooting…

How Does It Shoot?

This is not a simplistic shotgun.

Most shotguns are pretty easy to figure out in just a few minutes. I’d advise every gun owner to read the manual that comes with any gun, but you need really need to pay attention to the manual of the M&P 12. 

Near the rear of the gun, we have load and unload assist buttons — one on each side for each tube. Press the button downward with a loaded tube, and a round at a time will pop out. When you load the weapon, you can press these buttons to make it a little easier. 

Loading is entirely possible without pressing the button, and it just requires a little more thumb pressure to do so.

At the top of the rear of the gun, we have a loaded chamber indicator that pops up when a round is chambered. 

At the very rear of the gun sits a small button that, when depressed, allows you to extend and open the ejection port area.

Smith and Wesson MP12 button malfunction clearning
This button helps with malfunction clearing.

This allows you to clear malfunctions quickly. I used a set of snap caps to simulate a malfunction, and with the port opened, it’s admittedly pretty easy to dump the stuck shells and go. 

On each side of the pump, behind the hand, sits some big buttons.

These buttons allow you to swap magazine tubes in a flash. It’s the fastest way I’ve seen to integrate a magazine switch with this style of shotgun. 

Smith and Wesson MP12 Tube Switch Button
Tube Switch Button

I’ve fired several hundred rounds through the gun. This includes tons of buckshot, keep in mind most of it being cheapo buckshot.

On top of that, the majority of rounds fired were birdshot. I didn’t run into an issue, which is why I had to simulate a malfunction with snap caps to get things settled. 

12ga Birdshot, Opened
12ga Birdshot, Opened

Patterning wise I used the standard cylinder bore choke and a few different rounds.

With some basic buckshot from Federal, the group was a nice 4.5 inches wide at 10 yards. That’s decently tight and acceptable for home defense. 

With that fancy Federal Flitecontrol stuff, the group was about the size of a 50-cent piece! That’s more than acceptable! 

Federal FliteControl shell, dissected 2
Federal FliteControl shell, dissected

By The Numbers

Ergonomics: 3.5/5 

Ergonomically a lot of the gun is well made and well thought out — a lot of the controls are ambidextrous and very easy to reach and use. The two significant downsides come from the length of pull and how tough it is to reload. 

Reliability: 5/5 

It’s a pump shotgun, and it’s tough to mess up. The gun cycles exceptionally well and does so with gusto. I couldn’t get it to malfunction and had to set one up to get test fixing malfunctions. 

Customization: 2/5

It’s a new gun on the market, so customization is scat. We can toss on optics and lights, and that’s about it. 

Value: 3/5 

The S&W M&P 12 provides professional-grade quality to the bullpup shotgun from a name brand associated with quality. However, that said, the MSRP is $1,165 with retail prices not much below that. 

Overall: 4/5

It’s not perfect, but overall it’s a very well-made shotgun with some tremendous potential. 

Final Verdict

The S&W M&P 12 gauge is a powerhouse of a shotgun. It brings the bullpup shotgun from a fantastic concept to a professional-grade firearm — cycling, firing, ejecting, and performs admirably.  

Smith and Wesson MP12.

Plus, you get an SBS-sized package without the pesky stamps and low capacity of an SBS. What’s not to love? 

What do you think of the Smith & Wesson M&P 12? Let us know in the comments below. For more on shotguns, check out the Best Home Defense Tactical Shotguns.

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8 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    Sammy

    Use some 1,400 FPS stuff or better for break-in. Yes, you have to. Lot of moving parts to start sliding and all fed by a lot of recoil. Thereafter, use hi brass with 00 Buck over 1250FPS or a bit better. THEN you will be happy, Grasshopper.

    I've never understood this mythical "Break-In" period & how after XXX rounds a weapon will function better...
    If it sucks new, it can only get worse. Mechanical items don't heal with use. They wear.

    April 26, 2022 11:59 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Paul

      This is definitely not true.
      Vr80 is definitely
      one of those that doesn’t run great out of the box, but that being said after a few dozen hotter rounds
      it runs magnificently! I can run simple bird shot with no malfunctions.
      So yeah (some) guns just need to be broken in.

      April 28, 2022 7:40 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Vulcan

    Old Marines with bad shoulders want 10 rd mag fed 12ga semi-auto's with a rail for a green instant laser pad. Bullpups fine and dang handy for closer in needs. :) Semper Fi

    PS: You MUST BREAK in those turk semi autos with hi brass, good stuff, at least 50 rds with hi power stuff or you will think something is wrong!!! The directions mention this on most.

    Use some 1,400 FPS stuff or better for break-in. Yes, you have to. Lot of moving parts to start sliding and all fed by a lot of recoil. Thereafter, use hi brass with 00 Buck over 1250FPS or a bit better. THEN you will be happy, Grasshopper.

    April 26, 2022 9:00 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Mark

    No video of young the Bullpup in action? Would be nice to see the new shotgun going thru its paces.

    April 26, 2022 7:56 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Muleskinner

    I've got the KelTec KSG and am not displeased with it. That being said, if I were considering a bullpup shotgun today, I would've been tempted to give the S&W a serious look, even with the +$265 price differential.

    April 26, 2022 7:40 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    David Warshaw

    reliable with mini shells?

    April 26, 2022 5:15 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Jim in Texas

    I hope they plan to make a semi-auto version!

    April 26, 2022 5:03 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    W French

    I haven’t shot this weapon but if it’s anything like other bull pup shotgun I have used (Tavor, Keltec) they have a lot of recoil; way more than a standard (Mossberg 500, Remington 870) pump. A LOT more; I’m not “recoil sensitive” or whatever you want to call it, but it can be taxing.

    April 26, 2022 4:36 pm
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