What’s the Best Capacity Shotgun Magazine?

So you want to use a magazine-fed shotgun for home defense, hunting, or competition, or just mag dumping into a heap of trash. I get it. These platforms offer quicker reloads and even higher ammunition capacity. Plus, they tend to be pretty common these days. The problem is that there doesn’t seem to be an accepted standard magazine capacity. With rifles, we expect 30 rounds, and with handguns, anywhere from 15 to 21 is pretty normal these days. Yeah, mag-fed shotguns don’t have that standard capacity. 

Shooting with 8 round magazine
The 8-rounder offers plenty of ammo and lots of firepower.

So what works best for a box magazine-fed shotgun? That’s the question I aimed to answer today. I got my hands on a few varying-capacity magazines and an AK-style shotgun. As you know, the AK series of shotguns basically come in two varieties, the Saiga, and Molot Vepr. 

Mine uses the Vepr pattern magazines, and luckily, there seems to be a wide variety of Vepr mags on the market. I grabbed a basic five-rounder, an eight-rounder, a ten-rounder, and of course, a massive 25-round drum, a ton of shotgun ammo, and sought to figure out what works best for what. 

The Molot Vepr Magazines In Action 

AK-style shotguns are pretty famous, and lots of people produce lots of shotguns and lots of magazines. If you are going to use your AK shotgun for serious tasks, then you need to invest in serious magazines. There are plenty of cheap options, and cheap options can be plenty of fun, but do you want to rely on a cheap magazine for anything besides range use? With that in mind, you want to invest in quality mags. 

Molot Vepr predictably makes the best mags for their platform. They are polymer magazines but feature metal feed lips that won’t bend or expand after being left loaded. These magazines are steel reinforced with inserts and are tough as nails. 

Molot Vepr magazines
The Molot Vepr magazines are tough, well-made, and super reliable.

They have a reliable and very capable follower that doesn’t tilt or bind, or fail. The magazines are hefty, and you can feel it. In all my shooting to figure out the perfect magazine capacity for various roles, none of these mags ever failed. They kept ticking regardless of how much abuse they took. 

One of the bad things with 12 gauge shotgun mags is the massive size. Molot couldn’t prevent that, but they could and did texture the magazine to make it easy to grip, rip and reload. One of the problems with mag-fed shotguns is the difficulty of loading a huge mag with huge ammo. The extra texture helps keeps a hand in place and makes it easy to rock and lock into my Vepr clone. 

Digging Into Magazine Fed Shotguns 

The main tasks of shotguns for me are home defense, hunting, competition, and having fun. With that in mind, I used my variety of magazines to see if one works better than the other and how capacity affects that role. Here is what I found during my journey with magazines, shotguns, and range time. 

Metal feed lips
Metal feed lips keep things tough.

The Best For Hunting – 5 Rounder

Predictably if you want to hunt, you don’t need a ton of ammo and might not be allowed to hunt with a capacity of five rounds. The five-rounder is absolutely perfect for hunting deer, hogs, and even small game if you so choose. When it comes to hunting with a shotgun, mag-fed shotguns aren’t exactly bird guns, so I’m focusing mainly on mammals. The shorter magazine and limited capacity ensure the gun isn’t too heavy and, more importantly, ensures it’s not too bulky. 

Magazines and drums
What’s the right capacity for your shotgun? Well, it depends.

Part of hunting is being quiet, and a bulky magazine opens up greater chances for it to snag or bang on branches, on the wall of your deer blind, or on your tree stand. That’s not something you want to happen, and with a shorter mag, it’s easier to ensure it doesn’t bang around if it’s smaller and less likely to catch. The longer mags are bulkier and simply more of a pain. 

 It’s also much easier to fully unload a mag-fed gun than a standard tubular shotgun. Something that didn’t occur to me until recently. Remove the mag, and eject the round from the chamber. Nothing to it. 

The Best For Home Defense – 8 Rounder 

I was torn between the ten and 8-rounder for defensive use. Both offer a substantial amount of ammo for a shotgun. Both of these magazines feed perfectly and without issue. In testing, I discovered two issues with the ten-rounder. First, it’s tougher to load into the gun overall. A loaded ten-rounder does not load well on a closed bolt. 

Molot vepr 8 round mag
The mag is heavily textured and easy to grip

All the shoving and slapping to get it in told me it was under some pressure. I figured the pressure would speed up deformity. I kept my gun cruiser ready beside the bed and didn’t want undue pressure on the shells. Next, the length of the ten-round magazine makes it a little unwieldy on the nightstand. It catches on little things, bumps them, etc., in a way the eight-round magazine didn’t. 

Best for Competition – 10 Rounder 

Shotgun-based competitions are all about speed. A fast run is necessary, and a fast run is one you have to reload less and more ammo means fewer reloads. The Vepr series is pretty dang popular in the world of 3-gun and open division, so it’s not a big surprise the 10-round magazines exist. Since the competitions are shoot, shoot, shoot, you don’t have to worry about pressure. 

Vepr with ten round magazine
Ten rounds is a lot of ammo…

The 10-round magazines are quite reliable and are about as long as a magazine-fed shotgun magazine can get. As they get longer, reliability starts to become an issue, and they begin to curve in a crazy way. Ten rounds is a great sweet spot for capacity and reliability. 

Best For Fun – The SGM 25-Round Drum 

The only non-Molot Vepr magazine in this list is the personal pan pizza-sized 25-round drum. It’s massive and holds a complete box of ammo. Drums can be finicky, but at the range and for plinking, it’s plenty reliable. I wouldn’t keep it loaded and bouncing around, but if loaded and shot, it seems to work pretty dang well. 

Vepr drum 25 rounds
Who doesn’t love to beat a drum?

It’s ridiculous in size, and that honestly makes it an absolute blast. Have you ever bump-fired a shotgun? Well, this drum allows you to get some serious ‘bursts’ in. The SGM drum is a blast and makes range trips a ton of fun. When you return to tradition and dump ammo into the trash, this drum will be there for you! 

The Mag Fed Shotgun 

Shotguns are a thinking man’s weapon. This includes the barrel length, chokes, and ammo choice, and with mag-fed shotguns, the appropriately sized magazines. Make smart choices be picky, and get a magazine and capacity that works for your chosen task. More isn’t always better, but it should always be an option. 

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine Gunner and a lifelong firearms enthusiast. Now that his days of working a 240B like Charlie Parker on the sax are over he's a regular guy who likes to shoot, write, and find ways to combine the two. He holds an NRA certification as a Basic Pistol Instructor and is probably most likely the world's Okayest firearm instructor. He is a simplicisist when it comes to talking about himself in the 3rd person and a self-professed tactical hipster. Hit him up on Instagram, @travis.l.pike, with story ideas.

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