Cover photo by Stan Nielsen Copyright © 2000
Eugene Nielsen

Silenced Shotgun from Tac Ops
Eugene Nielsen
Cover photo by Stan Nielsen

  The 12 gauge shotgun can be one of the most versatile and effective tools in the tactical arsenal.  Unfortunately, it has two big drawbacks -- it has one heck of a muzzle blast and has an enormous muzzle flash.  These drawbacks often outweigh the shotgun's utility in many tactical scenarios.

 The blast and flash can be a serious liability.  A standard shotgun is hardly a covert tool.  When employed for breaching, the sound of the shotgun’s discharge can lead to “they shot first” scenarios.  The muzzle flash of a shotgun can significantly impair night vision and give away the operator’s position.  The flash can be downright lethal to the operator when operating in explosive environments, such as when raiding clandestine drug laboratories.

The Science of Silence 
 There are three possible sources of sound from the discharge of any firearm that need to be considered when “silencing” a firearm: the weapon’s muzzle blast; the sonic boom caused by a projectile exceeding the sound barrier; and the sound from the cycling of the firearm’s action.
 The muzzle blast is the most significant source of sound.  Muzzle blast is the consequence of high-pressure gasses suddenly exiting the barrel.  If the pressure is reduced immediately before it exits, the weapon’s report will also be reduced.
 There are several ways that pressure reduction can be accomplished. Pressure can be reduced by increasing the volume of space occupied by a given quantity of gasses.  It can also be reduced by decreasing the temperature of the gasses and/or delaying the exit of the gasses by creating turbulence and trapping the gasses.  The effectiveness of a suppressor in reducing muzzle blast is dependent on how well it achieves these objectives.

 Muzzle blast is also reduced by decreasing the velocity of the gasses and either absorbing the sound waves or canceling them by interference with reflected waves coming from the same source.  The behavior of sound waves is similar to that of light waives in many respects.  As with light waves, sound waves can be reflected, refracted, diffracted and scattered.

 Various combinations of components (such as baffles, packing material, mesh, expansion chambers, spiral diffusers, pressure relief ports and wipes) may be employed in a sound suppressor.  Artificial environment technology or “wet technology,” as it’s commonly referred to, may also be employed.  Wet technology employs greases, oils or other fluids to cool the gasses for more effective sound suppression.  The use of wet technology increases the efficiency to size ratio of the suppressor.

A Difficult Task 
 There have been numerous attempts to silence shotguns and eliminate their muzzle flash.  The large bore diameter of the 12 gauge shotgun has been the major impediment to the development of an effective sound suppressor.  Conventional sound suppressor designs of a practical size have allowed too much gas to escape to effectively silence the weapon.

 A lesser but still significant problem has been the fact that most shotgun loads are supersonic.  If a projectile exceeds the speed of sound (about 1,087 feet per second (fps) at sea level), it will “crack” as it passes or the sonic boom is reflected back from a hard object.  This miniature sonic boom can be quite loud.

As a result of the problems in effectively silencing a shotgun firing conventional shotgun cartridges, the US Navy decided to try a different approach.  In 1967, the Navy announced a requirement for a silent shotgun cartridge that could be fired from unmodified, conventional military shotguns.  Although this may have seemed like an impossible task, AAI Corporation did in fact come up with such a cartridge, based on their patented Telecartridge™.  Intended for use by Navy SEAL and Marine Recon teams, the Silent Shotgun Shell has to be one of the most unusual cartridges ever developed.

 The AAI Silent Shotgun Shell utilized an explosive propellant under a folded, steel Telecartridge cup.  When fired, the expanding gasses extended the cup.  The payload, consisting of 12 #4 buckshot was expelled by the initial impulse.  The sealed Telecartridge cartridge cup contained the gasses, flash and most of the noise.

 The Silent Shotgun Shell was a great idea, but it too proved impractical.  To prevent the Telecartridge from rupturing, the muzzle velocity of the round had to be reduced to just 450 fps.  The low velocity resulted in a short range cartridge of limited lethality.  This coupled with the high cost of the rounds caused the project to be dropped after only 200 test rounds were delivered to the US Naval Ordnance Testing Laboratory.

The Clandestine 12 Suppressed Shotgun
 Recognizing the tactical need for a sound- and flash- suppressed shotgun, Mike Rescigno, President of Tactical Operations, Incorporated, set out to develop just such a shotgun.  While well aware of the failures of others before him, he believed that a practical sound suppressor for shotguns was possible.  After four years of extensive research and development, Tac Ops has achieved what has eluded others.
 Tac Ops discussed the design of the suppressor in considerable detail on the condition that I not reveal any of the specifics.  Suffice it to say that it’s very innovative.  The suppressor utilizes an advanced, patent-pending design with proprietary artificial environment technology to provide performance that was previously unattainable.  According to Tac Ops, the suppressor will safely handle all commercially loaded 12 gauge ammunition.

 Called the Clandestine 12™, the sound suppressor has a stainless steel body and heat-treated aircraft-grade aluminum internal parts.  Considering that it’s designed to suppress a 12 gauge shotgun, the suppressor is exceptionally compact.  The suppressor measures 10 inches long and has an outside diameter (O.D.) of  2.75 inches.

The suppressor does add a significant amount of weight to the muzzle.  The Clandestine 12 suppressor weighs approximately 3.75 pounds.   For those who may be concerened about the weight, Tac Ops is currently working on a prototype of a lighter suppressor that is quite revolutionary. 
 The suppressor is a sealed unit and is designed to be user maintainable.  All maintenance requirements are performed without disassembly.  Cleaning is by immersion.  Petroleum naphtha (safety solvent) is recommended for this purpose.

 The Clandestine 12 package is built around the a customized Remington Model 870 shotgun.  The Remington 870 is the most widely used police shotgun.  As with all of Tac Ops weapon systems, the attention to detail on the Clandestine 12 is superb.

 All of  the metal parts, except for the bore and chamber are finished in Walter Birdsong’s proprietary mattte NATO Green-T® and Black-T® finish. Birdsong’s finish was developed specifically for use on weapons. It’s highly wear resistant and has excellent corrosion resistance and lubricity.  Widely regarded as the best finishish of it’s type, it’s specified by the FBI HRT and numerous government agencies. 

The Clandestine 12 is supplied with two barrels: a standard Remington 18-inch cylinder-bore barrel and a 14-inch barrel with the Clandestine 12 sound suppressor permanently attached. The suppressed barrel has a 21-inch overall length.  A Wilson Combat ® / Scattergun Technologies magazine extension tube is supplied for the standard barel.

 The shotgun has a Speedfeed® polymer buttstock with Tac Ops special non-slip texturing on the grip and a Sure-Fire® Responder® fore-end/weaponlight system.  The buttstock and fore-end are finished in green epoxy.  The shotgun has a high-visibility fluorescent lime-yellow follower.

The receiver has adjustable MMC ghost-ring sights with a tritium bar and a Tac Star® SideSaddle® shotshell carrier.  The standard barrel has a Wilson Combat / Scattergun Technologies front sight with a tritium dot.  The suppressor has a tritium dot sight on the top rear end-cap. 
 The Clandestine 12 will probably see a great deal of use as a breaching tool.  When properly employed, a shotgun is an extremely effective breaching tool that can offer a number of advantages over other methods of breaching during dynamic entries.  It can do double duty, providing safer and faster tactical forced entries, while remaining effective as a defensive weapon.

 Shotgun breaching isn’t limited to just doors.  Shotguns can also be employed to breach iron-barred windows, take out sliding glass doors, dislodge the shackles of padlocks, and defeat vehicle door mechanisms with little, if any, collateral damage.

 Breaching shotguns need to have have a 3-inch long stand-off device (commonly called a “breacher”) affixed to the muzzle for safety.  The stand-off vents muzzle gas pressure.  This allows the shotgun to be fired with the muzzle stand-off in direct contact with the jamb or door without any possibility of the barrel or suppressor bursting.

 The muzzle cap of the Clandestine 12 has a threaded extension on the front for Tac Ops stand-off.  Max Maven of Tac Ops developed a special 2-inch O.D. stainless steel stand-off for the suppressor.  It may be quickly un-screwed and removed when not needed, reducing the overall length of the Clandestine 12.  The muzzle of the stand-off is serrated to reduce the likelihood of slippage during door contact. 

 Because of the suppressor, there isn’t any need for for the stand-off to also serve as compensator.   There’s absolutely no noticeable recoil or muzzle climb when firing Clandestine 12.  The Tac Ops stand-off is ported 180 degrees on the bottom.  The ports are quite large and  serve only to vent the gasses.  The lack of ports on the top of the stand-off is intended to reduce the likelihood of debris from being blown upwards towards the operator during breaching operations.

 Chris Billings of Choke™ is developing special subsonic frangible breaching rounds and  subsonic buckshot loads specifically for the Clandestine 12.  Choke currently manufactures a special 00 buckshot tactical load, the Billings Tactical Buckshot round, that utilizes a patented wad design to substantially reduce pattern size.  The company also manufactures a unique 00 Buckshot Precision Bonded round that is designed to offer an alternative to slugs.  The Precision Bonded round provides slug-like accuracy with a single entrance hole while retaining the terminal performance of 00 buckshot.  S.W.A.T. will be doing an in-depth article on Choke’s shotgun ammunition an upcoming issue. 

Testing and Evaluation 
 Always attempting to provide its readers with information on the latest in tactical technology, S.W.A.T. has kept closely abreast of the development of the Tac Ops Clandestine 12 from the beginning.  When Tac Ops begin developing the suppressed shotgun, Mike Rescigno promised S.W.A.T. an “exclusive” as soon as the final prototype was finished.  After what seemed like forever, Mike, true to his word, called to say that the Clandestine 12 was ready. 

 When informed, Editor Denny Hansen said to get on it right away.  Having only a little over a week before S.W.A.T.’s editorial deadline, I hastily made arrangements to meet with Mike at the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Special Enforcement Bureau (SEB) Special Weapons Team range for a demonstration of the capabilities of the Clandestine 12 and an opportunity to test and evaluate it. The SEB is one of the tactical teams now using the Clandestine 12.  Numerous other local, state and federal agencies have also expressed an definite interest in purchasing the Clandestine 12.

 Frank and Chris Billings drove all the way down from Salt Lake City, Utah on literally a moments notice, to demonstrate the Choke Tactical and Precision buckshot rounds to the SEB and to test prototype subsonic loads for the Clandestine 12.  They brought reloading equipment and a chronograph with them and custom-tailored loads for the Clandestine 12 on the spot.  Everyone in attendance was highly impressed with the performance of all of the Choke rounds.  All of the buckshot from the Tactical rounds patterned and under 9-inches at 20 yards, staying in the torso of a man-sized silouette.  The Precision rounds also worked exactly as advertised. 

 At the range, the performance of the Clandestine 12 was nothing short of spectacular.  Perhaps, unbelievable is a better term.  It was hard to believe that we were firing a 12 gauge.

 The muzzle sound signature with subsonic ammunition  was reduced to a level that approximates that of either a .22 short fired from a rifle or a .22 RWS air rifle!  It was simply amazing.  The SEB’s Ralph Garay and Bruce Chase remarked that the manual cycling of the 870’s pump action was actually louder that the sound of a subsonic 12 gauge round being fired from the Clandestine 12.

 The subsonic loads provided by Choke easily took out a lock during informal breaching tests.  Cal Gallegos of the SEB likened the sound made by the Clandestine 12 during breaching tests to that of a rubber mallet hitting the door.  I would have to concur.

 When supersonic 00 buckshot full loads were fired the sonic “crack” of the buckshot masked the sound signature of the suppressor and was all that was was heard.  Even when supersonic loads were employed, a group of SEB personnel who were standing roughly 25 to 30 yards away were unaware that we were shooting the shotgun.

 Close to 30 rounds were fired through the Clandestine 12 while at the range.  The supressor wasn’t cleaned during testing.  No additional artificial environment fluid was added.  There wasn’t any noticeable increase in the sound signature.  The Clandestine 12 was as quiet at the end as it was at the beginning. Muzzle flash was completely eliminated throughout the testing with all loads. Mike Rescigno called me that evening and stated that the can was still wet inside when he returned to Tac Ops office.

 While editorial time constraints prevented as much testing of the Clandestine 12 as I would have liked prior to writing the article, one thing is certain, Tac Ops has a real winner.  The Clandestine 12 is certain to see considerable use in the law enforcement and military SpecOps community.  Agencies can arrange for a demonstration of this unique weapon by contacting Tac Ops directly. 

 Special Thanks: The author and S.W.A.T. magazine would like to give special thanks to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for all of the courtesies that they have extended.  Always striving to better serve the community, the LASD SEB Special Weapons Team is at the forefront of tactics and technology.  It’s truly one of our nation’s finest SWAT teams.

Tactical Operations, Inc. 
433 North Camden Dr. 4th Fl. #239
Beverly Hills, Ca 90210
Phone 310 275-8797
Fax   323 933-3521