I was wandering through my local gun store the other day and saw a pistol grip 12 gauge pump with an 18.5” barrel with Hawk 981 stamped on its side. I like to think I’m fairly up to date on firearm manufacturers, but had never heard of Hawk. A quick Google search and I learned the IAC Hawk 981 is a Chinese clone of a Remington 870.

 

When I saw it was Chinese I was turned off. I know Norcino makes a good AK, but that’s about the only thing I know about Chinese guns. I’ve owned a variety of foreign-made firearms; German, Russian, Croatian, Italian, Swiss, Israeli, Romanian, Turkish, Czechoslovakian and Slovenian. So I have no problem putting my cash down for an import. For some reason, though, buying a Chinese gun just felt wrong.

Then I checked the price tag. A very reasonable $125 American dollars later and I was the skeptical owner of a Chinese gun that I would probably hide from my gun friends.

I took the Hawk home for closer inspection. The machining looks pretty good, especially when you consider the price tag. The metal used on the internals is definitely a low-grade soft steel. The finish isn’t great, but it’s more than acceptable. The Hawk also takes 870 parts and accessories, except barrels which is not threaded for chokes.

I briefly considered switching the furniture to Magpul but realized doing that would more than double the cost of the shotgun. It seems kinda stupid to spend $140 on a stock and forend for a shotgun that cost $125.

Normally when I buy a new gun I can’t wait to get it out and shoot it. Frequently I head to the range immediately after I pick it up, but I had no real desire to shoot my new 12 gauge.

So why did I buy this thing? Honestly it was an impulse purchase. I have no real need for it. I figured at least I could put it in the trunk of my car for a just-in-case gun.

But then I got to thinking. Could I trust a cheap-o Chinese pump in a “just in case” scenario? After having the Hawk sit on my dinner table for about two months (sorry, Emily) I finally decided to take it to the range. Actually, I decide to take my new CZ 75 Omega to the range and brought the Hawk along just for the hell of it.

I threw some 00 buck and dove shot in my range box and set off. Shooting buckshot from a pistol grip shotgun isn’t what I’d call fun. The Hawk’s pistol grip is rather thin at the rear which causes a sharp pain in your strong hand when firing. I’m not recoil shy at all, but putting buck through the Hawk is downright unpleasant.

After dumping the five round tube as fast as I could I almost said that was enough. Shooting five rounds isn’t near enough of a test to qualify this thing a gun as “just in case” ready, but I switched to dove loads. With the lighter loads I was able to ignore the recoil and focus on the gun.

The trigger isn’t great, but acceptable. It’s smooth enough and short at least. The pump action didn’t have that satisfying feel that most pump actions have. The action didn’t feel very tight, the action bars felt as if the were scrapping the inside of the receiver.  The traditional push button safety has a very tactile feel. Honestly everything felt about how I expected it to.

I was happily blasting away at the boxes and really enjoying myself. Then I experienced a failure to eject. I had cycled the forend all the way to rear with authority like every other shot, yet the shell was just sitting there inside the gun.

A failure to eject in a pump action shotgun is something I have never experienced. I was a little disappointed but for $125 what do you expect? After inspecting the ejector I found it to be under almost no spring pressure. I had left my ejector pressureometer at home so could only guess that the spring pressure was around 3-4 pounds. The weak ejector was clearly the problem. A problem that persisted at random throughout the next 40 or so rounds.

Aside from a weak ejector the gun functioned just fine. It feeds perfectly and has a decent trigger. Having ejection issues is a huge problem, though, especially for a gun that’s built to function as a home defense shotgun. Sure the sound of a racking 12 gauge may enough to scare off a bad guy, but that’s not enough to rely on for home defense.

I have owned unreliable guns before, I think they are useful for training new shooters in remedial action. I don’t mind a minor hiccup every now and then with a gun that is strictly a range toy. The Hawk is not a range toy because its unpleasant to shoot. I can’t use it as a “just in case” gun because I just don’t trust it. It’s not worth selling, so what do I do with it? Should I have the ejector fixed? I have no affection for this gun so I just cant justify spending the money or time on fixing it.

Conclusion

Honestly I don’t know what to do with this gun. It willll probably end up at the back of my workshop/gun room and rust away. I’ll stumble across it a couple of times a year, clean it up and put it away again. The Hawk is destined to live in gun purgatory for the rest of its life. I’m not a gun snob — I love a reliable gun that is within most people budgets — but the Hawk isn’t that.  Basically if you want a Remington 870, you should probably buy one

Specifications – Hawk 981 Shotgun

Guage:  12
Action:  Pump Action
Barrel Length:  18″
Capacity:  5+1
MSRP: $274 (Street Price $149-$199 depending on model)

 

Ratings (Out of 5 stars)

Accuracy: * * *
It’s an 18.5” twelve gauge, with no stock or rear sight. Definitely a minute of bad guy gun.

Ergonomics: * * *
The pistol grip is functional, if not comfortable. The forend does its job. The safety is easy to reach as is the pump release.

Reliability: * 
A 12 gauge pump that won’t eject reliably just won’t cut it.

Customize This: * * * *
Lots of options because 870 parts will work in the Hawk (except barrels for some reason).

Overall: * *
Its affordable, made of soft metal and fairly unreliable. Oh well.

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41 Responses to Gun Review: IAC Hawk 981 Shotgun

  1. Maybe it’s a clone of new production 870s. Reliability issues wouldn’t be a surprise in that case.

  2. I had a problem with the 870 Express not ejecting. In that case it was the chamber needing polishing that fixed the issue. I know its a different issue than what you experienced but it seems that Remington is not what it used to be.

    • Ejecting, or extracting?
      I’m not sure how a chamber needing polishing would affect a shell already extracted.
      Not to say it couldn’t, I just don’t understand how.

    • My NEF/H&R Pardner Pump also had that issue. Polishing the chamber fixed it.

      If I’m not mistaken, the Pardner Pump and the Hawk are both pretty much the same gun, marketed under different labels. Both are 870 clones made by Norinco.

      The Pardner Pump received a pretty good review here on TTAG some time back.

  3. Since it is Chinese, you get reliability with numbers. If 5 defenders had these, I bet at least 3 would work.

    Stupid Chinese.

    • Why in Hell would anyone buy a freaking Chinese gun? Absolute stupidity in my opinion. I vote with my wallet and buy American whenever possible.

    • That is a stupid statement.

      The Hi-Point is a funky designed, American made, weird and ugly, but generally reliable pistol.
      This shotgun is a clone of a Remington shotgun.

      It would be more accurate to say it is the EAA Witness of shotguns (the EAA Witness being an inexpensive clone of the classic CZ75 like this is a clone of the classic 870).

      • stupid statement? have you ever OWNED a hi point or you just believe whatever they tell you on here? i had one, it was a POS, wouldnt get through any mag with out jamming more than once. but what do i know, i only owned one and shot it but you read something so im sure you are right.

        • Just giving you a hard time. I’m sorry, I went overboard calling your statement “stupid”. Mainly, I just wanted to point out that Hi-Point isn’t a clone of anything else. It is just it’s own weird gun.

          Like you, I use to own a Hi-Point pistol (a C9) and I didn’t like it at all. It jammed all the time (a magazine issue I think). I bought it used for $90 and dumped it for $60. Ugly, blocky, low capacity, and not reliable – Sometimes being a cheapskate comes back to bite me.

          On the other hand, I do currently own a Hi-Point carbine (4095) and like it fairly well. It has never jammed on me, and makes a fun cheap gun.

          I think these Chinese shotguns are more like the Hi-Point carbines. They are inexpensive, but generally functional.

    • This. If you can get a pump for 125, sink 10-20 of time and parts in and get a reliable shotgun, it is worth your time.

  4. I have a Hawk 982, with a full stock and ghost ring sights. Picked it up a few years ago on black friday for $100 shipped. Gotta say- It’s worked perfectly for me. Never had a failure to feed or eject, the ghost ring sights are dead on for me, and I find it comfortable and easy to shoot. Not bad for a 5 shot pump with good sights for the price of a used single shot.

  5. Expanding a little on Sian’s comment, this is now a good candidate for a teach-yourself-gunsmithing gun.

    If it’s more or less an 870, then you (or someone else) can practice things like replacing the extractor, polishing the chamber, threading the barrel for chokes, etc., without risking damage to a “good” gun.

    But, since it’s already known to be a (mostly) functional gun, you can work on one thing at a time and check the results. And if those results include a non-functional.gun, then the sunk costs aren’t that high.

    If you don’t want to do this yourself, I’d put an ad up on the local range board. Ask for $100, take $75, and chalk the difference up to experience.

    • On a Remington 870, yes, it is. The ejector springs are riveted at the front of the ejector housing; To do it right, IF that’s the only problem AND you can save the original rivet, you’ll need a hollow end-mill and a peening punch of the right size. If you CAN’T save the rivet, you’ll need one more punch, a drill, a new rivet, a surface grinder or file (unless you don’t mind rivet heads sticking out of the side of the receiver a bit), some bluing or Parkerizing, and a bit of luck. If the housing is damaged, that’s TWO rivets, another punch. . .
      On the other hand, the chamber-area illustration for the subject gun looks like the factory employed a cheese-grater or carpenter’s rasp to smooth in there; A cheap brake-cylinder hone with a soupcon of kerosene might work wonders if used judiciously (so the gun doesn’t turn into an 11-gauge).

  6. My buddy’s new Remington 870 (recent production – key word) had the same problem.

    When I was deployed to Iraq I learned all the brand new AKs we were buying for the Iraqi Police (so they could sell them to insurgents for food and stuff later . . . but that is another story) were made in China. Most of what Trump says about trade is pretty much nonsense, but that’s a mind blower. I’m sure there was some underused American sheet metal stamping company that would have been happy to make AKs. To your point about “feeling bad to buy a Chinese gun” . . . your government didn’t feel bad.

  7. “When I saw it was Chinese I was turned off. I know Norcino makes a good AK, but that’s about the only thing I know about Chinese guns”

    That statement told me that you are lacking some basic “gun guy” knowledge. Any self respecting “gun guy” knows that Norinco makes a decent SKS as well as AK. The Chinese Mosins are OK as well.
    🙂

    As far as cheap Chinese shotguns go, my Pardner Pump, and Stevens 320 seem decent and functional.

    • I had a norinco SKS back in the day and I wished it would come alive so I could strangle it to death. I’ve never been happier to see a gun walk out my door.

      • I have heard SKSs were notorious for having the cosmoline-like preservative hardening up over time in very hard to reach areas like the internals of the bolt.

        As in takes a few hours of actual effort to get it out of there. Could that have been what was ailing your SKS?

        • Not sure but I had 12+ inch groups at 100 yards and it jammed more than Jimi Hendrix after smoking a bowl.

        • The first gun I bought was a Yugo SKS that had a half inch of cosmoline on and in it absolutely everywhere. It came down to either taking it apart and soaking it in a tub full of gasoline or paying a gunsmith, and I ended up going with the latter. He threw it in his giant ultrasonic tank for 12 hours and that did the trick. Of course, he had to dump the entire tank afterwards but it was $50 very well spent (even if the gun itself cost me like $100 haha).

        • Hot water and simple green with disposable turkey basting pans solved all my cosmo problems on various ratty x commie guns.

    • Glad you mentioned the Chinese made Stevens 320, it caught my eye. Any upcoming reviews of this gun?

  8. Good writeup. A lot is writtenabout $1,400 1911’s, it’s interesting to see, other than a Hi Point, Phoenix or Chipmunk, what absolute minimum money will get, new.

  9. I am sure some one would buy it if you wanted to sell it.

    If I ever see one at $125 I would purchase it also.

  10. Not a shotgun person but if I were I would rather buy this than the garbage Remington is putting out these days.

    • Yes. If you want an unreliable shotgun spend 125 on this chinese gun. My son spent 3 times that much and got an unreliable 870. Save money. Was the Remington 3 times as unreliable as the chinese gun?

  11. I took a Norinco 987 (which is also an 870 clone) in trade for a half case of Wolf 223 several years ago, and have put several hundred rounds through it without a hiccup, so I guess they run hot & cold. A couple of nice things about it the trigger group is all metal, you don’t get that with an 870 Express, and the forward barrel lug is situated better for mounting accessories. The barrel also seems to be heavier than an 870 Express barrel.

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