The Star Wars Shotgun

The UTS-15 Redfines “Tactical Smoothbore”
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The combat shotgun has a long history in the US. The UTS-15 brings the concept and payload into the 21st century.

There’s a whiff of buckshot embedded in the American DNA. We love our combat smoothbores. As a country, we’ve carried them in every battle and police action of the last two-and-a-half centuries, and when the fighting gets close in, there’s still nothing more devastating than a fast volley of buck from a street sweeper. So, too, the design of the combat shotgun continues to evolve and improve. Meet the UTS-15, one of the latest advanced designs to shoot its way into the marketplace, but first, let’s briefly look at our own buckshot legacy.

As a military leader, George Washington was particularly fond of buckshot according to Harold Peterson’s Arms and Armor of Colonial America. Writing to the Board of War, Washington wrote, “It appears to me that Light Blunderbusses on account of the quantity of shot they will carry will be preferable to Carbines, for Dragoons, as the Carbines only carry a single ball, especially in case of close action.” His request wasn’t looked upon with favor, but Washington went on to recommend that his troops load for their first volley “one musket ball and four or eight buck Shott, according to the strength of their pieces.”

The buck-and-ball load continued to be popular during the Civil War. Given the lack of arms on both sides in 1861, family shotguns commonly marched off to the front by necessity. Confederate cavalry units were particularly prone to use sporting shotguns and buckshot with deadly effect.

Lifting the top cover exposes both magazine tubes and the chamber for a quick, visual safety check.

The dual magazine tubes load from the top and are sealed by dust covers.

A true “Scout” shotgun—shorter, lighter, more maneuverable—the UTS-15 delivers a lot of firepower in a compact package.
The UTS fire control system is right off the familiar AR-15.

Possibly, the most famous smoothbore unit was New York’s Irish Brigade. The Brigade made a conscious decision to hold onto their 1842 smoothbore, .69-caliber muskets and buck-and-ball loads, distinguishing themselves throughout the war, particularly at Gettysburg, where their place in history is marked by a Celtic cross and an Irish Wolfhound monument.

As the country moved West so did the ever versatile shotgun in the hands of farmers, ranchers, peace officers, guards, the military and a hoard of ne’er-do-wells.

WWI brought us the first general issue, mission specific, combat shotguns, the Winchester Model 97 Trench Gun, Model 1917, along with the Winchester Model 12 and Remington Model 10 Trench Guns. At the urging of Gen. Pershing, approximately 30,000 were issued, which brought howls of official protests from the Germans, describing it as “American barbarism.”

WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq brought us new models with brand names like Mossberg, Remington, Savage, Stevens, Benelli, Browning, Beretta, Franchi, Manville, Colt, S&W, Ithaca, Winchester and High Standard, and the combat shotgun continues to evolve. The new UTS-15 is a sterling example of how really high-tech the modern combat shotgun has become.

When you open the box of a UTS-15, you know immediately it’s all business, with a little bit of Star Wars thrown in. It’s imposing. The two magazine tubes running down both sides of the barrel carry either 7 rounds of 12-gauge, 2-3/4-inch or 6 rounds of 3-inch magnums. With one in the chamber that’s 15 rounds or 13 rounds of shot, buckshot, slugs, tasers or non-lethal rounds at your command on a selective switch basis.

With 15 rounds waiting in the tubes, the muzzle end of the UTS-15 is a sobering sight.

After removing the barrel-retaining nut, the UTS breaks down into three modules.

You pick it up, and you realize it only weighs 6.9 pounds and in its bullpup format is only 29 inches long with a full-length 18-1/2-inch barrel. Magic? No. The receiver is 100 percent polymer. In fact, 80 percent of the total shotgun is carbon fiber reinforced, injection molded polymer. It’s the brainchild of Ted Hatfield, UTAS-USA Director of Product Development, and UTAS of Turkey, a firm which specializes in firearms design, engineering and OEM manufacturing. Remember the svelte Hatfield muzzleloading rifles of yore or the exquisite, Turkish-produced, Augusta, Marias or Valier series of shotguns once offered by Kimber? Those were the conceptual creations of Ted Hatfield. He knows his business. In fact, he grew up in it.

The original UTS-15 got off to a rough start with just a bit too many synthetic parts. This second generation got it right, but it’s still a radical design, which will have to prove itself over thousands of rounds.

My first thought on picking up the UTS was it would require a lot of practice to master the design and constant practice to keep its controls in memory. Was I ever wrong. It’s a very straightforward pump shotgun. The fire control system is out of an AR-15. The pump action is simple, with a rotary-head locking bolt. Loading the two magazine tubes is only a matter of stuffing cartridges into them from the top of the gun rather than from the bottom.

It’s a super safe design. Simply lifting the hinged top cover lets you visually inspect the ends of both magazine tubes as well as the chamber for live rounds. It’s an instant check. Also, all shells loaded into the magazine tubes are clearly visible from the outside of the gun. Really fine design touches!

Holt’s favorite 12-gauge defensive load is Winchester PDX slug/buck combo shell, and at 15 yards it’s devastating.

So, too, are 27 pellets of No. 4 buck from a 2-3/4-inch shell at 15 yards.

It’s a super safe design. Simply lifting the hinged top cover lets you visually inspect the ends of both magazine tubes as well as the chamber for live rounds. It’s an instant check. Also, all shells loaded into the magazine tubes are clearly visible from the outside of the gun. Really fine design touches!

The only aspect of the design which threw me was the loading tube selector switch which can be seen just aft of the rear sight. It’s a 3-position switch. Switched to either the left or the right, it controls which tube the gun will feed from. It’s a great idea. For example, you could have buckshot in one tube and slugs in the other. Anyway, looking at the switch, I assumed that when you flicked it to the left, the gun would feed from the left magazine tube, and to the right, the right. Wrong! It’s a cut-off switch. When flicked to the left, the left tube is cut-off, and the gun feeds from the right tube and vice versa. To my mind, that switch is totally counterintuitive.

What happens when the switch is left in the 12 o’clock position? The action feeds from both magazine tubes. That’s 15 rounds of lead hail as fast as you can rack that pump handle.

As supplied by the factory, the UTS-15 does not come with a set of sights, just a full-length Picatinny rail, giving the owner maximum flexibility in setting up the gun just the way they want it. Being a straight-stocked bullpup, the line-of-sight is high. A small optical unit in keeping with the featherweight gun would be the ideal solution. As an accessory, the company does offer a combination laser/flashlight unit, which slides into the front housing and is activated by a side-mounted switch on the frame.

I tried a set of metallic, factory, accessory sights in which the front sight is screw adjustable for elevation and the rear sight, which is windage adjustable, offers a flip over combination of an open “V” or a ghost ring aperture. Nicely made sights, but the front sight screw would not screw down far enough to give me a perfect 15-yard zero.

I think I would set-up the UTS with the integral laser/flashlight unit and a compact optical sight mounted on the rail.

The factory set of accessory metallic sights includes a peep.

Which can folded down to reveal an open sight.

The protected front is a large bead.

I think I would set-up the UTS with the integral laser/flashlight unit and a compact optical sight mounted on the rail.

Both the magazine loading ports and the ejection port are covered with dust covers. The ejection port cover is magnetic and opens immediately when the bolt is retracted. Ejection is to the right. As a check, I fired the UTS from the left shoulder without catching an ejected case so that’s not a problem. The right-hand mounted safety is not reversible. It should be.

How did it shoot? The UTS comes with a cylinder choke. The thread form is Beretta. The gun also came with a 10-inch barrel extension and 3-shot and 5-shot plugs. The trigger is a joy. On my Lyman electronic gauge, it averaged 4-1/2 pounds—light and crisp. With 2-3/4-inch buckshot, slug and Winchester’s PDX buck-and-slug combo round, it’s an easy gun on the shoulder and, being straight-stocked, muzzle flip and recovery time is minimized. Being short, it is maneuverable and fast-on-target.

With a length-of-pull of 12 inches and OAL of only 29 inches, the bullpup has a distinctive feel and handling characteristic quite unlike a conventional firearm. It’s really a “Scout” shotgun—shorter, lighter and more maneuverable.

The company website, which is entertaining, promotes the UTS-15 as a turkey or big game gun. It would certainly serve perfectly in either role with the proper chokes, and it’s available in six different exterior finishes and patterns. It’s a shotgun at its best deliberately aimed. It would not be an ideal wing-shooting smokepole, however.

For cleaning purposes, the modular UTS-15 simply comes apart in your hands after the barrel-retaining nut is unscrewed. It’s remarkable, and when you have the separated modular sections lying there in front of you, you begin to understand how 80 percent of the UTS is composed of carbon fiber, reinforced, injection molded polymer. And if you want to continue to strip the modules down further, the exceptionally well illustrated owner’s manual will take you down that road to the last little screw.

The UTS-15 is an impressive concept gun, reflecting brilliant engineering and advanced production processes. It’s a 21st Century firearm with a bit of Star Wars flair thrown in.

UTS-15

Maker: Uts-Usa
1247 Rand Rd
Des Plaines, Il 60016
(847) 768-1011
www.utas-usa.com
www.gunsmagazine.com/index

Action type: Pump
Gauge: 12, 2-3/4- Or 3-inch
Barrel length: 18-1/2 inches
Overall length: 29 inches
Choke tube: Cylinder, Beretta thread
Weight: 6.9 pounds
Finish: Hunter camouflage (tested)
Sights: Picatinny rail
Stock: Polymer
Price: $1,450

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