Written by Phillip Chambers

Smith & Wesson M&P 12 Review

This strange-looking weapon could be the next best shotgun for self-defense. And while some people might respond, "but it can't compare to the KelTec KSG...", which is a good point, the M&P12 is different from the KSG and most other pump-action shotguns because of the features that Smith & Wesson added to it.

The M&P 12 is a bullpup shotgun with pump-action and a steel receiver. The M&P 12 has dual magazine tubes under the barrel, similar to the KSG. Rounds are loaded and released through an opening just in front of the buttstock's toe, and a selector switch decides which magazine tube feeds into the chamber. The KSG and M&P 12 take different approaches to the "switch." Their controls can be used with either a dominant left hand or right hand, and the M&P 12's safety works like an AR-15's, while the KSG's safety is a square crossbolt above the pistol grip.

History & Origins

Smith & Wesson (S&W), headquartered in Springfield, Massachusetts, is an American manufacturing company that makes firearms.

Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson started the Smith & Wesson Revolver Company in the 1850's after they sold their previous company, the Smith & Wesson Company. This company was renamed to "Volcanic Repeating Arms" and later became the "Winchester Repeating Arms Company" when Oliver Winchester bought it. The company was bought and sold 2 more times before Smith & Wesson Brands, Inc. split off on its own in 2020.

Smith & Wesson is planning to move its headquarters to Maryville, Tennessee in 2023.

When it comes to shotguns, S&W has historically not made many. Their first, the Model 916 was made in the 1970s, but it had a lot of problems. In the 1980s, they worked with the Japanese company, Howa, to make the Model 1000 and Model 3000. In the middle of the 1980s, they got out of the shotgun business and didn't get back in until the 2000s, when they briefly brought in Turkish sporting guns.

When they came out with the M&P 12, it was a surprise to see them step out of their comfort zone.  We're quite impressed though, even though it's a pump-action shotgun, that's pretty much the only normal thing about it.

Key Features


For a bullpup, the trigger isn't terrible, so that's a pretty good start. I would say it's an "average" trigger in this case, however the average for a bullpup trigger could be seen as above average.

Every time you pull the trigger, you'll feel the bump, but it won't beat you up. 

It's a shotgun, for one thing. On a second note , it's a bullpup shotgun (which typically doesn't offer good triggers). So, I didn't think much of it. The trigger on the M&P 12 won't win any awards, but it's better than I thought it would be. It picks up a lot, but it's light and breaks cleanly. Also, the reset takes a while.


On the bottom of the gun, there is a safety that works like the one on an AR-15 and has a 90-degree throw.

The ambidextrous safety selector makes it easy for anyone who knows how to use "America's rifle" to use this one.


A barrel shroud with M-LOK slots and a Picatinny rail runs across the top of the gun. This makes it easy to add things like lights, lasers, and optics. No iron sights are included with the shotgun. For red dots, you'll need an AR height optic because of its inline design.

I put an EOTech holographic sight on the M&P 12 when I tested it and  It was a nice combination. By pure luck, it was centered when I put it together, so I didn't have to make any changes.


The dual-magazine system is the best way to carry a lot of shotgun shells on a single shotgun. The only problem is that the M&P 12 is slow to load once it gets empty. However, this is true for every shotgun with a tubular magazine, including the KSG with two tubes. 

S&W thankfully thought of how to mitigate this issue and put load-assist buttons on both sides of the receiver to make it easier to load and unload the gun. 

Once I learned how to load the M&P 12 the best way, I never used them again. But they were easy to unload because you didn't have to put live ammo rounds right through the receiver.

The dual-magazine tubes can hold either six 3-inch shells or seven 23/4-inch shells. You can make these more useful for defense by loading one with slugs and the other with buckshot.

How Does The Smith & Wesson M&P 12 Perform?


It's pretty accurate at shooting ranges. At home defense distances, it forms a single, ragged hole when FliteControl is used. At 10 yards, the holes in cheap buckshot are about 4 inches wide. Not too bad at all.


It always fired, extracted, ejected, and loaded. The vertical grip even makes short strokes less common. As any pump-action shotgun should be, it is very reliable.

I went through many different loads and there was not a single problem with the high brass, low brass, buckshot, mini shells, birdshot, slugs, and others.


Most of the gun is well made and thought out from an ergonomic point of view. For example, many of the controls can be used with either hand and are easy to reach and use. The length of the pull and how hard it is to reload are the two biggest problems.


  • High capacity: two magazine tubes can hold up to 7 rounds each
  • Revolving cover with release button to get rid of damaged shells
  • Magazine assist buttons to make loading and unloading easier
  • Push-button magazine tube selector
  • Ability to use different types of ammunition
  • Two separate magazine tubes
  • Loaded chamber indicator that you can feel
  • M&P grip with four palmswell grip inserts that can be switched out
  • Safety switch that can be used on either hand
  • Picatinny-style rail for sights and optics
  • M-LOK® slots on barrel shroud
  • The buttstock has a QD push button base that can be used by either hand


  • Long length of pull
  • Not intuitive by design, you really should read the manual before handling
  • Heavier, especially when both magazine tubes are full (this can help reduce recoil though)
  • Minimal customizations available

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