Shotgun Duckbill review: Scattering shot with Paradigm’s GATOR
I grew up reading every military book I could get my hands on. These were the pre-internet days and you frequently discovered things you never knew existed in the pages of a book.
Back in 1997, as a young Marine NCO, I grabbed a copy of Walking Point, a book written by the late Navy SEAL James Watson (below, holding a duckbill equipped Ithaca 37). In this book, Chief Watson would often talk about the pistol grip Ithaca 37 with duckbill attachment he carried in Vietnam. The Duckbill was designed to spread patterns of number 4 buck horizontally, making it, in Watson’s eyes, ideal for use in the jungle.
The duckbill Watson used was made by the Navy in Crane. They worked well, but would fail and crack over time leading to the incorporation of a steel ring at the front of the bills (see image below).
The idea of optimizing shotgun patterns for combat or self defense wasn’t even that new of a concept back then, a patent search will turn up countless shotgun muzzle devices dating back to the late 1800s! You can observe some historical shot diverter technology in the commercial US market as well. When HK brought over the 512 and Franchi first produced the SPAS-12, both were offered with shot diverters similar to duckbills. Commercially available shot diverters like the A&W and Shur-Hit were also available.
In 2014 Paradigm SRP introduced their improved duckbill known as the GATOR (placed above an original Vietnam era duckbill in the picture below).
Built from stronger steel than the original duckbills, the GATOR also includes two small ports on the top of the unit and “teeth” along the front edge. It is threaded on the rear and is available to attach to most standard choke tubes as well as Saiga shotguns. (Paradigm SRP is a defense contractor that is known for it’s portable gyro-stabilized small arms platform, the TALON, to learn more about Paradigm, click here). The teeth on the front of the GATOR aren’t for looks. They are designed for door breaching and less lethal CQB striking applications. The two vents on the top of the choke provide gas venting to prevent over-pressure and help reduce recoil.
My TAC-14, the test firearm I’ll be using for this post, needed to be converted to accept interchangeable choke tubes to use the GATOR. I did this myself, however, most gunsmiths can easily perform this task. It is important to note that Paradigm does not offer this service. If you are interested in the process, take a look at the gunsmith section of this site for the various ways you can install choke tube systems in shotguns. A good start would be Removing a fixed choke from a shotgun barrel and installing a choke tube system.
NO SLUGS. You can’t shoot the GATOR with slugs, doing so will result in either the destruction of the GATOR, the barrel or both. It may also result in personal injury. Because of this, the ability to remove the GATOR by simply unscrewing the choke means you can remove and replace it with a standard choke tube for different applications, such as shooting slugs.
Tell me this thing doesn’t rock! Before we start looking at downrange performance, let’s take a look at what 2.75″ Winchester 27-pellet No. 4 buck does in a factory TAC-14 with 14″ cylinder bore barrel for comparison purposes. At 10 yards (30 feet) with Winchester No. 4 27-Pellet 2.75″ buckshot (XB124) the pattern spread was 10.5″. This is the same load we’ll be testing the GATOR with in this post. Pile of cardboard targets in hand, I headed to the range with the enthusiasm of a guy who has wanted to shoot a duckbill for the past twenty-something years.
I started out at 12 yards with 3 cardboard targets attached to a 4×6.
BOOM! Check that out! Only 6 feet farther away than the 10 yard target shown earlier and and the pattern measured 12″ tall by 33.5″ wide! Second shot, BOOM! This one was 16″ tall by 33.5″ wide! How cool is that? I pulled the targets into the 6 yard line to see how things looked. Shot 1 from 6 yards, 5.5″ tall by 12″ wide. I didn’t take a separate picture of shot 2, but that measured 4″ tall by 17.25″ wide. Shot 3, above, measured 5″ tall by 14.5″ wide! Impressed with the width of the patterns up until this point, I placed a final cardboard target at 3 yards (9 feet) and let a round go. 3″ tall by 6″ wide! For comparison purposes, we typically measure pattern size around 2-3″ at 10 feet, so I was pretty impressed.
If you are a fan of the duckbill or have watched the GATOR promotional video from Paradigm, you’ll note the reference to indexing the choke to shoot a pattern perpendicular to the ground (going vertical) for application where you wouldn’t want the horizontal dispersion. I flipped my TAC-14 gangster style and let a round rip at 20 feet (just shy of 7 yards). It stitched the target vertically, 13.5″ tall and 5″ wide!
I spent the rest of the day shooting a variety of 00 Buck and bird shot loads through the GATOR. There wasn’t a shrub or piece of scrap wood left on the range that wasn’t shredded when I was done. It was by far the most fun that I have had with a gun in a while.
You’ll note my shots tended to be to the left. I think this was because the GATOR was taller than my front sight bead on the bead base. I’ve since corrected this issue by installing a taller front sight, below, and attribute this to myself, not the GATOR. Check out my custom Remington TAC-14 with GATOR! Note: More on customizing the TAC-14 later…
So what do I think of the GATOR?
- It’s a blast! The GATOR elongates the pattern and it works as advertised. It is optimized for No. 4 Buckshot, but will work with 00 and bird shot. It CANNOT be used with slugs.
- Dampens recoil. Adding the heavy steel, ported GATOR to the end of my TAC-14 noticeably dampened recoil; I attribute this to a combination of the mass of the unit and the ports on top of it.
- Perfect compliment to the TAC-14 or Mossberg 590 Shockwave. The GATOR is perfect for these stock-less firearms. I doubt many people would use slugs in either, that means shot only. The GATOR made hits from the hip easy with these guns.
- Removable. Since it attaches to the firearm with an adapter, you can remove it when you want to shoot different loads or slugs.
- More buckshot! I ordered a pile of 3″ N0. 4 buckshot, 41-pellet loads; I can’t wait!