Army's Ultimate 12 Gauge M4 Accessory

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The US Army has finally fielded the M26 Shotgun. While the weapons have been used overseas as for testing and evaluations and with special operations units, the Army has now issued them to the Screaming Eagles of the 101st Airborne Division based at Fort Campbell Kentucky.


Sgt. Vincent Mennell, a combat engineer with Company A, 2nd Brigade
Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne
Division (Air Assault), fires the newly issued M26 Modular Accessory
Shotgun System at Fort Campbell's Range 44b, Feb. 10th. The 2nd BCT,
also known as the Strike Brigade, is the first unit in the Army to be
issued the future weapon. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Joe Padula, 2nd BCT
PAO, 101st Abn. Div).

Developed officially as the XM26 Modular Accessory Shotgun System and known in military circles as the MASS (the DoD loves acronyms), the M26 has been in development since 2003. In 2004, 200 prototype XM26s were deployed to Afghanistan with the 10th Mountain Division, firing some 15,000-rounds under combat conditions. The improved M26 was then tested at Aberdeen Proving Grounds with more than 80,000 rounds of all types being fired through the test weapons. Torture tested under combat conditions from -50 to 160 degrees F, the M26 was put into low rate production in 2009.

When compared to other under-barrel shotgun systems like Knight Armaments Master-Key system that uses modified commercial shotguns, the M26 is unique.

The M26 has an eight-inch barrel and weighs a remarkably low 2 pounds, 10-ounces. It is designed to either fire from a five or 10-round single stack box magazine. It is neither pump nor semi-automatic in action and instead cycles through a simple and efficient strait-pull bolt action that is cycled after each round to both eject the used shell and load a fresh one. It can fire either 3-inch or 2 inch standard 12 gauge shells.

Very effective using buckshot rounds. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Joe Padula, 2nd BCT
PAO, 101st Abn. Div).

The M26 under an M4 carbine (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Joe Padula, 2nd BCT
PAO, 101st Abn. Div).

The M26 can be mounted under the barrel of a M4 or M16 type rifle as an accessory. Using less than lethal rounds the shotgun can be used by Military Police and constabulary units for crowd control and enemy POW security. Engineering units and infantry working in urban environments can use the M26 as a breaching shotgun without having to carry two separate long arms. When used for breaching the M26 can be fitted with a 3-inch standoff choke to allow safer firing. It is also conceivable that Army beach master units can use the M26 as a line thrower shotgun for watercraft operations. While using the weapon as a combat shotgun is not intended, it certainly can be pressed into that role if needed.

M26 in stand-alone configuration, note the hydraulic butt stock, reflex sight and soldier working the left-hand side bolt action. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Joe Padula, 2nd BCT
PAO, 101st Abn. Div).

The M26 can be dismounted from a rifle and used as a stand-alone weapon as well. All that is needed is attaching the combination buttstock/pistol grip. The buttstock is equipped with a hydraulic recoil dampener than absorbs felt recoil. Recoil is reported to still be stout but much more manageable than other short-barreled shotguns. Overall length when used in a standalone configuration is 24-inches with a total weight of 4 pounds, 3 ounces. When used in this stand-alone set up the M26 can be fitted with any number of optics and accessories such as the M68 sight, Eotechs or similar holographic reflex sights. However with the short barrel, effective engagements will be limited to that typical of handgun ranges.

- Note the bolt in folded position on a stand-alone M26. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Joe Padula, 2nd BCT
PAO, 101st Abn. Div).

An estimated 13,132 will be produced all together by C-More/Vertu Corporation of Manassas, Virginia who did the research and development of the weapon system. The latest contract was for 2500 M26s at just around $5.5 million, making these handy little 12-gauges somewhere around $2200 apiece. If they ever do hit the civilian market bet that you would have to get a AOW tax stamp as well.

One things for sure, the last thing you would want to see if you are a terrorist insurgent is a US Army paratrooper coming down your hallway with one of these bad boys.

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February 22, 2012  •  01:19 PM
Interesting concept but having a fair amount of time carrying the M203 in the A2 configuration my preference would be to stick with the M204 and some 40mm buckshot rounds. Cant imaging a straight pull bolt being that much faster than the push/pull single shot action on the M203 and im sure it would far less than 5.5 million to retro fit current M203's with stand off devices for breaching?

always heard that 40 mm buckshot was in the inventory but I never actually saw or fired one.

Perhaps we have a supply seargent who can weigh in on this.

February 23, 2012  •  08:10 AM
Waste of money.
February 23, 2012  •  01:48 PM
Good article but if I was a soldier I think I would leave it back at base and not carry around the 4+ extra pounds of gear.
March 7, 2012  •  12:55 PM
Its a NO GO! Unless of course you are assigned to only breech doors and post!
July 17, 2012  •  11:00 PM
If Tackleberry1 is still around I can confirm the presence of 40mm canister (shotgun) rounds for the old M-79 grenade launcher in Vietnam. The projectile was a plastic,sabot-type device with "air-grabber" slots surrounding a center cylinder filled with quarter-inch lead balls and capped with a plastic lid. Upon firing, the round would escape the muzzle and the slots would slow the carrier while the lead balls would be propelled out of the cylinder by their kinetic energy. It was not a long range round by any means but I understand it was dandy for clearing rooms and bunkers as well as defense against ground assault. I don't know if they are still in the inventory.