Sunday, December 8, 2013

REVIEW: TriStar SB Folding Survival Shotgun

A couple of weeks ago, I made one of my rare pilgrimages out of the mountains to pick up some supplies. One of the places I stopped was Sportsman's Warehouse. While there, I took a walk over to their gun section to see what kinds of new products they had. Checking out their gun racks, I spotted a rather plain jane single-shot shotgun hiding towards the back of one of the racks.

When I asked to take a look at it, the clerk, though polite, scoffed at the shotgun, telling me it wasn't much to look at and was rather cheaply made. He told me that if I wanted a good single-shot shotgun, I should check out the H&R Pardner sitting next to it. I agreed with him that H&R made a great shotgun, but I still wanted to see this cheap, spartan-looking shotgun lying next to it. Almost begrudgingly, he handed it to me, explaining that it looked rather "useless and cheap."

The first thing I noticed was that for a 12 gauge shotgun, it was extremely light. Then I saw the bargain-basement "$149.99" price tag. Next I realized that it folded in half with just the squeeze of a lever. And finally, I was pleased to note, it had a parkerized finish, something you don't normally see on a shotgun in this price range.

Yep, it wasn't a Browning, but for $150, I thought "What the heck, I'll give it try!" If it turned out to be reliable, it could make a really nice truck/wilderness survival shotgun for very little cash. As you'll see in the sections below, the gamble ended up paying off......

The Gun

There was virtually no information on the SB when I searched the internet. Not even the manufacturer, TriStar Sporting Arms, had any info about it on their website. Luckily, I was able to get hold of a rep at TriStar, who informed me that it was produced as a "backpack/survival shotgun" giveaway for attendees of the 2013 National Wild Turkey Federation Banquet, in 12, 20 and .410 gauges. After the banquet, the remaining leftovers were sold to various Sportsman's Warehouses around the country. He also informed me that it was manufactured by Khan, the reputable Turkish shotgun maker, who, as it turns out, also produces Mossberg's Maverick series of shotguns. 

This new information was definitely encouraging, since even though the shotgun was low-priced, it was probably well made due to it being produced by Khan. I was also encouraged by the fact that it was a giveaway to a turkey hunters banquet, because I would assume that TriStar and Khan made sure the SB would throw a decent shot pattern before giving it away as a gun that could be used to hunt turkeys.


The SB is a lightweight 12 gauge, single-shot, break-action shotgun with a 20" barrel, and chambered for up to 3" shells. When I say "light," I'm not kidding-- this thing weighs in at very svelte 4lbs 4oz:

To put this into perspective, the SB weighs only 14 ounces more than the ultra-light Henry AR-7 .22 Survival Rifle (3lbs 6oz). My first thought when seeing this weight was the horrible, shoulder-dislocating recoil I'd encounter from shooting it! Thankfully, the simple addition of a Pachmayr Decelerator Slip-On Recoil Pad made the gun quite manageable and almost enjoyable to shoot (check out the "Field Test" section below to see more).

The SB is small enough to easily fit inside my diminutive Kelty Redtail 30 Daypack:

As mentioned, the SB folds in half by squeezing a trigger-style lever that sits just ahead of the actual trigger guard. This same lever is also used to open the breech for loading/unloading. Owing to the SB's budget level of production, it takes a "manly" squeeze to disengage it to fold the shotgun open. 

By using my middle finger instead of my index finger, I found it much easier to disengage the lever.

The SB uses an extractor as opposed to an ejector. For a survival shotgun, I consider this a better choice, since extractors tend to be more reliable under tough field conditions.

As mentioned, the SB comes with a parkerized finish on both the barrel and receiver:
(click to enlarge)

The SB's 20" barrel has a simple brass bead site. There is no removable choke. I'm still trying to verify through TriStar what type of choke it has (modified, improved, etc) and will update this review as soon I get this information.

There is a simple manual safety:
 Safe position (click to enlarge):

The SB comes equipped with sling swivel studs on the stock and forend:

The butt plate is removable by two screws, and the stock itself is hollow. There is enough room in the stock to hold up to 10 shotgun rounds or other assorted survival goodies.


To test the SB as a potential survival shotgun, I wanted to see how it would pattern its shot at common shotgun hunting ranges. Before starting the test, I installed a Pachmayr Decelerator Slip-On Recoil Pad to make the gun more comfortable to shoot, and an Allen Shotgun Shell Holder:

Federal Power-Shok 2 3/4" 00 Buckshot at 32 yards

Using a pine tree to lean against, and shooting 2 3/4" Federal Power-Shok 00 Buck from 32 yards at a Champion X-Ray Elk target (range was measured using a Nikon ProStaff 3 Rangefinder), all nine 00 pellets struck the Elk, with four hitting the vital area. Buck shot is generally not recommended for Elk hunting, but at this distance in a survival situation, it would have been reasonably effective:

(click to enlarge)

Winchester Supreme Double X 3" Magnum Copper Plated 000 Buck at 32 Yards

(click to enlarge)

Closeup- Mr Turkey would have been in big trouble:

Remington 2 3/4" #4 Birdshot at turkey target at 40 Yards

This shot was taken at a steep right angle at 40 yards while hiding behind trees, to simulate having to take a shot from a less than perfect position. As you can see, multiple pellets still struck the turkey's vitals:

As you can see, the patterns were definitely effective for a cheap, $150 shotgun. The #4 shot patterned well enough for nearly any small game or large birds within 40 yards. I also tried a few rounds of Remington 2 3/4" #8 Birdshot off camera, and the patterns were dense enough that I could easily hunt small game birds out to 40 yards or more.

Slugs, Adapters

I was unable to procur Slugs in time to test them in the SB for this review, but have some Brenneke slugs on the way to me via UPS as we speak. I also plan to try some of Short Lane's .22, 20 Gauge and .410 Gauge adapters in the SB soon. Will post the results in this review after they arrive.

Recoil, Trigger Pull and Shell Extraction

I fired a total of twenty three 2 3/4" shells, and seven 3" magnum shells through the SB during testing. With the Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pad, recoil was stout, but not painful at all. The Pachmayr did an excellent job of managing recoil, and really is a necessary accessory for this shotgun, because without it, it'd be a real shoulder buster. 

The SB's trigger was definitely on the stiff/gritty side, but not enough to impede accuracy in any of the tests. A good trigger job by a qualified gunsmith would probably do wonders for this gun. 

There were also no issues with shell extraction, as all fired shells easily pulled out.


I'm happy to report that this little folding shotgun turned out to be one of the best buys I've made in years. For $150, you get an ultra-lite folding shotgun that patterns effectively, has a parkerized finish, is sturdily constructed, and fits inside of a daypack. You will have to add a good slip-on recoil pad like the Pachmayr Decelerator to make it more user-friendly, but I consider this a minor issue considering all the positive attributes of the gun. I like the SB so much, I've already added it to my backcountry survival kit.

I should note that the TriStar rep explained to me that even though the SB is not a regular production item, they would strongly consider releasing it again if the demand were there. If you're interested in having TriStar release this gun, email

4.5 out of 5 Stars (Highly Recommended)

UPDATE- Short Lane 12 Gauge Adapters Review/Blackhawk Sling and Shell Carrier Review

About the author
Jason Schwartz is the founder and senior editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is a former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and has taught bushcraft and wilderness survival techniques to the Boy Scouts of America, interned with the US Forest Service, and studied wilderness survival, forestry and wildland firefighting at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado. Jason has also written for magazines such as The New Pioneer and Backpacker, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 National Magazine Award (NMA). Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ (without spaces)

No comments:

Post a Comment