Friday, April 18, 2014

TriStar SB Folding Survival Shotgun Update/ Short Lane 12 Gauge Adapters Review/ Blackhawk Sling and Shell Carrier Review

Back in December, I wrote a review on a 12 Gauge folding shotgun called the TriStar SB. Even though it only cost me $149.95 at Sportsmans Warehouse, it turned out to be an excellent buy. It proved to be effective and reliable while only weighing 4 lbs 4 oz. After putting the SB through its paces, thoughts filled my head about the many ways I could "bling" it out to enhance its functionality as a survival tool. Here are some of the cool accessories I found for it.......

Short Lane Multi-Caliber Shotgun Adapters

(Images courtesy of Short Lane Adapters)

Short Lane's 12 Gauge caliber adapters allow a wide range of shotgun, pistol and rimfire ammunition to be fired in any single or double-barreled break action shotgun. Being able to fire assorted ammo in a 12 gauge shotgun can come in handy during ammo shortages or if you live in a remote, off-the-grid location with limited access to ammo.

The thinly stocked shelves at our local mountain hardware store since the ammo shortage began:

Short Lane was nice enough to send us a few of their adapters to test out in the TriStar, including their 12 Gauge to 20 Gauge Adapter12 Gauge to 410/45 Colt Adapter, 12 Gauge to .22LR "Zombie" 3" Rifled Adapter, and their Dave Canterbury designed Pathfinder 8".22LR Rifled Adapter: 

Short Lane's leather belt case for the 3" adapters:

(Image courtesy of Short Lane)


To find out if the Short Lane adapters were effective as survival/hunting tools, I tested them on assorted paper wildlife targets at typical small game hunting distances. I used a Nikon ProStaff 3 Rangefinder to ensure I was standing at an exact distance from each target.

Short Lane 12 Gauge to 20 Gauge Adapter

For the first test, I tried Short Lane's 12 Gauge to 20 Gauge adapter at 20 yards on a Champion squirrel target, using Winchester's popular 20 Gauge Low Brass 7/8oz #6 Birdshot load, freestanding:
(click to enlarge)

20 Yards at a steel vegetable can using the same load:

30 yards with the Winchester low-brass shells. The shot pattern thinned out considerably but was still effective:

20 Yards using Estate's 20 Gauge 7/8 Ounce # 7.5 Birdshot ammo (Estate ammo is a generic Federal shotgun ammunition that performs well for the price):

30 Yards with the Estate ammo-- As was the case with the Winchester ammo at this distance, the pattern thinned considerably, but would have still been effective, especially if the point of aim was adjusted to the left to put more of the shot on the target:

I also tried Federal's popular 20 Gauge 1 ounce Turkey/Pheasant "WingShok" #6 Birdshot load in the Short Lane adapter (this load recoils nearly as much as a 12 Gauge shell!). It patterned well on the squirrel target at 20 yards:

Shooting the WingShok load at 30 yards. Just like the other loads at this distance, the pattern thinned out considerably:

I also wanted to see how well the WingShok would pattern on a Champion Turkey target at 30 Yards:

30 yards is pushing the limits pattern-wise, but it would have still been effective:

12 Gauge to 20 Gauge Adapter VERDICT

Weighing only 1 1/4 ounces, the Short Lane 12 gauge to 20 gauge Adapter is an effective, easy way to transform your 12 gauge shotgun into a reasonably effective 20 gauge shotgun out to about 30 yards. A better shotgun with a full choke could probably extend this range out to 40 yards or more. Highly recommended

Short Lane 12 Gauge to 410/45 Colt Adapter

I tried a variety of ammo in the Short Lane 410/45 Colt adapter, and found the absolute limit of its pattern effectiveness to be about 20 yards. I also discovered quite a bit of velocity loss when using this adapter (see the test at the end of this section). After testing several types of 410 ammo, I found these two loads patterned the best:

Remington 410 3" #5 Birdshot at 20 Yards:

Federal's 3" 410 # 7.5 Birdshot at 20 yards. This was by far the best patterning load in the adapter:

For curiosity's sake, I also tried out some of Federal's 2.5" 410 Handgun Personal Protection rounds, which are loaded with #4 Birdshot. I wanted to see if they could be used for hunting in the event that more conventional 410 hunting ammo was unavailable. Beyond 15 yards, the pattern was too thin to be effective, but within 15 yards, they worked quite well. Here is the pattern at 15 yards through the Short Lane adapter:

Is there a loss of velocity when shooting 410 through an adapter in a 12 gauge barrel?

From the moment I received the 410 adapter, I wondered how much power/velocity would be lost when shooting it through a 12 gauge barrel. I didn't have access to a chronograph, so I devised a simple "poor man's" test- shoot the bottom of a steel vegetable can with a 410 shell through the Short Lane adapter, and then shoot the same can with a 410 shell through a standard 410 shotgun barrel and compare penetration.

The results were quite surprising. Shooting Remington 2.5" 410 #6 Birdshot through the adapter at 15 yards (I used 2.5" 410 Shells since they have a higher velocity than 3" 410 loads, to ensure a fair test), the pellets were unable to penetrate the bottom of the can. I then shot the bottom of the can at 25 yards with the same load using a Chiappa Double Badger 410 Shotgun. Even with 10 yards greater distance, the regular 410 had noticeably more power, completely penetrating the can with all pellets except for one which hit the edge of the can where the metal is thickest.  

15 Yards (left) with 410 Short Lane adapter, 25 Yards (right) with Chiappa 410 Shotgun:

VERDICT: Due to the velocity loss, I wouldn't recommend using this adapter past 15 yards for hunting. Anything further might might lead to an injured animal that has to needlessly suffer due to under-penetration. Even so, I'd still keep one of these in my preparedness kit for hard times, because it still beats not having a gun if you need to hunt to survive.

Shooting 45 Colt through the 410/45 Colt adapter

Due to the 410/45 Colt adapter having a smoothbore to accommodate shooting 410 birdshot rounds, 45 Colt rounds keyholed badly when shot through it. In fact, most of the rounds fired were found stuck sideways in the wooden stumps I was using for the target backstop. I found that it was not accurate enough for hunting (unless you get REAL close) and only good for self-defense purposes. Here is a 5-shot group shooting Black Hill's popular 45 Colt Cowboy ammo at 15 yards:

VERDICT: If you're depending on shooting 45 Colt through this adapter for survival hunting, look elsewhere. For self-defense and plinking, it should work fine.

Zombie 3" Rifled 22LR Adapter and Pathfinder 8" 22LR Rifled Adapter 

(Images courtesy of Short Lane)

Of all the Short Lane adapters I tried, the 22LR Zombie and Pathfinder adapters were the biggest disappointments. I tried both of them at ranges out to 25 yards using the recommended Remington Golden Bullets, and could not get consistent groups past 10 yards, and neither would shoot to the point of aim beyond 10 yards. The Pathfinder adapter also tended to shoot to the left, sometimes substantially if the range was farther than 12-15 yards.

To make sure it wasn't just the TriStar SB that had this problem, I tried the adapters in two other shotguns-- a brand new H&R Pardner 12 gauge Single-Shot Shotgun (the gun they were originally designed for) as well as a Baikal Double-Barrel Shotgun. Even with these guns, the adapters didn't work well.  The results were virtually the same. 

After playing around with the 3" Zombie adapter a bit and figuring out how to make it hit what I was aiming at, I managed to get this result at 15 Yards using the recommended Remington Golden Bullets ammo (I had to point the bead of the SB's barrel on the lower part of the front paws of the squirrel target to get this group):

I found that removing the Zombie adapter and putting it back in the TriStar would make it shoot to a different point of aim each time, sometimes wildly, even after marking the barrel with a magic marker.

8" Pathfinder Adapter-- After trying the Pathfinder adapter in the TriStar, I found that I was unable to get decent groups with it, so I switched over to an H&R Pardner 12 Gauge Single Shot Shotgun in order to give the adapter a fair shake. It seemed to shoot a little better in the Pardner, but I still found it hard to get consistent groups that shot to the point of aim. Here is my best result at 25 Yards with Remington Golden Bullets, kneeling position:

This kind of accuracy makes the Henry AR-7 Survival Rifle I tested recently seem like an Olympic match rifle by comparison. I am no competition shooter by any means, but having qualified as Expert while in the Reserves, I make sure to practice proper marksmanship and breath/trigger control when testing guns. I feel confident in saying that an average person with decent shooting skills using these adapters will experience the same issues when using open sights.

VERDICT:  No matter how I rotated the adapters in the barrel, I could not get the bullet to hit the point of aim unless I was within 5-10 yards of the target. In a survival situation, this inconsistent accuracy would make me SOL if I needed to harvest game beyond 10 yards to survive. Short Lane has a great idea with these adapters and they are certainly of high quality, but outside of self defense or plinking, I wouldn't rely on one of these for wilderness survival unless I got REALLY close.

The other negative is that these adapters are recommended to only be used with Remington's Golden Bullet 22LR Hollowpoints for accuracy. With today's massive 22LR ammo shortage, this disadvantage is obvious. Out of curiosity, I did try other quality 22LR ammo in the adapters such as CCI's Mini Mags and Velocitors as well as Winchester's Super X, and the accuracy was even worse. So you're pretty much stuck with using Remington Golden Bullets for accuracy if you're lucky enough to find them.

For self defense at close range, these adapters should work adequately, but for survival hunting (where you might need to hit a tiny target such as a Pine Squirrel at 25 yards), I'd stick with Short Lane's 20 gauge or 410 gauge adapters if you need something to depend on in a crunch. Those adapters, within reasonable range limitations, will consistently hit their mark at the point of aim without fuss or drama.

Blackhawk Shotgun Shell Sling and Stock Pouch

I searched around a bit when trying to figure out a good strap solution for the TriStar. I wanted a sling that could hold extra shells, was built durably, and was easy to attach. After a bit of internet surfing and reading forum reviews, I decided to go with Blackhawk's Shotgun Shell Sling:

I like the Blackhawk sling because it holds 15 shells, easily attaches and unattaches from the shotgun with steel spring hooks, plus, it converts into a belt bandoleer. It's not perfect (it can be a bit heavy on one side when loaded with all 15 shells), but overall, I really like it. It can carry a variety of different ammo, as well as some spare 22LR ammo in coin tubes for a .22 trail pistol or for a Short Lane 22LR Adapter, an idea I got from the Sensible Survival blog:

The other accessory I was looking for was a good buttstock shell holder. The Allen shell holder I used in the original writeup worked great, but I wanted to see if there was a pouch that would protect the shells from damage and severe weather. While checking out Blackhawk's catalog for the shotgun sling, I also noticed their Buttstock Shotgun Shell Holder Pouch. After trying it out, I give it a thumbs up. It feels sturdy and installs on the buttstock fairly easily with velco-adjustable straps:

Although the Blackhawk pouch only holds five 12 gauge shells, I found that it can hold up to seven 20 gauge shells, or six with the Short Lane 20 Gauge adapter, due to its pouch/flap design:

Final thoughts

With the addition of the Blackhawk accessories and the Short Lane 20 gauge and 410/45 Colt adapters, I was able to turn the SB into a handy and flexible wilderness survival/off-the-grid hunting shotgun for not a whole lot of money. Though I can't recommend the Short Lane 22LR adapters for anything other than plinking or self defense due to inconsistent accuracy past 10 yards, I do recommend grabbing one each of their 20 gauge and 410/45 Colt adapters to throw in your kit. Their 20 gauge adapter in particular was ultralight, easy to use, and effective within most small game hunting distances.

Cheers, Jason

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)

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