I know what you’re thinking; that’s a Witness Protection gun! Well, Witness Protection is a term applied to a commercial version of a shotgun used by the Marhsall’s service. However, the Marshal’s never called it the Witness protection shotgun. Instead, they called it the Marshal’s Service Short Shotgun. A Marshal named Lynn Jordall came up with the idea and worked with an armorer at Glynco named Gene Thompson to produce the first of these shorty shotguns.
According to Gene Thompson, he built the first prototypes, and when they decided to produce the shotgun en-masse, they contracted the creation of the bird’s head grips out to Jim Wilson of Wilson Combat. Wilson was young at the time, and he hadn’t formed one of the premier firearms companies just yet.
The early version of the gun utilized Remington 870s with barrels trimmed to 14.5 inches and the cylinder bores modified to accept Mossberg pattern chokes. Almost 250 of these guns were created and fielded for various roles in the Marshal’s Service, including Witness Protection.
What Makes a Marshal’s Service Short Shotgun
I know we’ve established. Well, they are characterized by barrels as long as 14.5 inches and as short as 12.5 inches. The Marshal’s Service Short Shotgun Is a pump-action 12 gauge, and it’s built specifically on a Remington 870 receiver. The Witness protection models sold by Wilson were likely the closest you’d get, but there is a more affordable and NFA-free option to replicate this classic short blaster.
Specifically, you are going to have to look for the Remington TAC 14 Hardwood Model. It’s about as close as you can get to Marshal’s Service Short Shotgun without a tax stamp and a gunsmith. I’m using a TAC 14 Hardwood for this very article.
Like the actual Marshal’s Service Short Shotgun, the TAC 14 Hardwood utilizes wood furniture, including a crafted pistol grip only design. The barrel is short and sweet, and ultimately the weapon is highly maneuverable and a potent powerhouse.
The weapon holds four to five rounds, with this model featuring a plus one magazine extension. Also, an essential part of the gun is the forward hand shield. This prevents your hand from slipping in front of the barrel and becoming Swiss cheese. Of course, that shield acts as a sling point as well.
These Short Shotguns often wore M1 Carbine slings, and they provided a small package that could be concealed over the arm with a sling and a windbreaker. Concealing the TAC 14 would turn it into an AOW, so don’t try it.
Why Does it Bang?
The Marshal’s Service Short Shotgun brings compact firepower home without the cost of being an SMG. A short shotgun like this delivers a ton of power per trigger. Sure, the lack of a stock makes it tougher to wield, but it’s really not that hard to be efficient with practice.
Pair it with the correct ammunition, and you can easily wield the weapon accurately. Moreover, contrary to popular belief, it won’t smack you in the face if you try to aim. In fact, I can handle it with a single hand and not experience some crazy whip-like recoil. I blame the propagation of the AR-15 for making people so sissified about recoil.
Sure it kicks a bit, but it’s not a damn elephant gun. The bird’s head grip actually makes it easy to control and doesn’t beat your wrist up with every shot. You can easily steer or direct the gun when necessary, and it’s short enough to work in and out of vehicles easily. Plus, you can tuck in close to the body for close retention sue and have a powerhouse of a weapon on tap.
The Action is the Juice
It’s a challenge to handle and shoot, but that’s the fun of it. The Marshal’s Service Short Shotgun and the TAC 14, by extension, is a blast to shoot. It requires good technique, but landing quick headshots for the low ready is immensely satisfying.
Sure, you can put a string of 5.56 into a target from 15 yards, but is that really fun? Or even challenging? Nah, but hammering a target with buckshot over and with a PGO firearm provides a real thrill. The TAC 14 Hardwood brings back a law enforcement weapon that time has forgotten, and it’s nice to own an NFA-free replica of the Marshal’s Service Short Shotgun.
Thank you Mr. Pike for finally get some more of the “untold” TRUE story of the USMS Short Shotgun (MSSS) program into the public eye!
Special thanks to the visionary creator of the MSSS, Marshal Service Armorer Gene Thompson for taking the time to share even more details of the true development of this specialty firearm of which all the non-NFA “Shockwave” type firearms of today are based.
I’ve had the honor and privilege of knowing Mr. Gene Thompson for a few years now. I had been fascinated with the concept of the MSSS, after briefing seeing one in the fall of 1985. Like so many others, I too had read the various & incorrect “Witness Protection Shotgun” type articles over the years and it’s been fascinating to learn the real truth about their development and the MSSS program!
Working with Mr. Thompson, I’ve been fortunate to learn all the details of the program from inception to completion. He and I have even drafted a detailed 64-page history of the entire program and an abbreviated 11-page overview of the shotguns, including many never before published photos, including the only known photos of the very first MSSS prototype shotgun Gene refers to in his comments below.
As with Gene Thompson, I too invite Travis Pike, or other interested authors/publishers, to contact both Gene and I, should they wish to publish an expanded 11-64 page article on the true development of the Marshal Service Short Shotgun (MSSS) – so that the entire firearms community can learn all the details!
this is my first comment here after reading for Years!
Thank You Gene for the Clarification.
I for One Would Love to hear the Story of how such a cool and Influention Weapon was Created.
Just finished reading the above article on the Marshals Service Short Shotgun and need to clear up a few points. I was the Marshal Service Armorer in 1982 and created the first two Marshal Service Short Shotgun prototypes with input from USMS Inspector Lin Jordahl. The two prototypes were hand made by me at the Marshal Service Armory located at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center at Glynco Ga. They were made from Remington 870 blued Wingmaster 870 service shotguns with 20″ barrels taken from Marshal Service inventory.
The pistol grips where my design: The decision was made to make an additional 50 Short Shotguns 25 for Witness Protection and 25 for the Warrant. Squad. With me doing the other modifications I didn’t have time to modify the butt stocks to pistol grips so we contracted with Jim Wilson to do them with a pattern made by me and instructions on how to make them. Jim Wilson had no input on the pistol grip design.
Contrary to numerous magazine articles and misleading advertisements Wilson Arms never supplied any of his Witness Protection shotguns to the Marshals service.
The Remington Tac-14 Hardwood: The original Marshals Service Short Shotguns where blue steel 870 Wingmasters with polished bolts and no Flex Tab followers, they did not have a magazine extension. The Tac-14 has a safety plate supplied by Sage International which is the same one used by the FBI. I used that safety plate as an idea, but hand made a similar trimmed down version for use on the Marshals Service Short Shotgun. The Tac-14 pistol grip and forearm are either dark stained birch or maple. The Marshal Service Short Shotguns all had walnut pistol grips and forearms. The Tac-14 pistol grip is not quite the same shape as my original design, the Shock Wave pistol grip is closer but, slightly longer to get the necessary 26″ overall length. The Speed Feed plastic pistol grip is an exact copy as I sent them a pattern to copy. The Tac-14 has a 14.0″ barrel with no choke tube The MSSS had a 14.5″ barrel with modified choke. I wish Remington would have contacted me I would have helped them make an exact copy.
How many where made: I made the original 50, The 25 that went to witness Protection had the birds head pistol grip. The 25 that went to the Warrant Squad had the 14.5″ barrel but, used the plastic pistol grip from the factory Remington Law Enforcement folding stock.
I built 6 for Bureau of Prisons for use in Prison transfer busses.
25 were built for training guns used at the Federal Law Enforcement Training
Center at Glynco, Ga.
I built one for myself on a Form 1. It was on display in the indoor firing range
range at Glynco until I retired in 2006.
I built 2 exact copies, one for each for of my two sons using factory
replacement part receivers that had never had a butt stock attached, with
14.5″ barrels for an overall length of 26 1/4″.
I invite Travis Pike to contact me if he wishes to do an article on the true development of the Marshal Service Short Shotgun.
Gene Thompson, Marshal Service Armorer 1979-1984