Blackwater Sentry 12 Shotgun
Travis Pike for TTAG
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[UPDATE: Since this review was published, Iron Horse Firearms has parted ways with Blackwater Worldwide. You can get more information about the Iron Horse Sentry 12 shotgun here.]

The former CEO of Blackwater, the renowned, often controversial private security company, has gotten into the firearms world. I’m not clear how the company’s corporate structure works and how much the current Blackwater company has in common with the security company (now known as Academi) if any, but it’s the name they’re going by.

The Blackwater Sentry 12 pump action shotgun is their latest creation and is a unique firearm. American made, box magazine-fed shotguns are typically designs adapted from standard tube magazine-fed guns (see the Remington 870 DM and the Mossberg 590M). The Sentry 12 is different because it was built from the ground up to be a magazine-fed pump-action shotgun. 

The Blackwater Sentry 12 is a 12 gauge shotgun that comes with two five-round box magazines. The gun can chamber both 2.75 and 3-inch shells. The Sentry 12 comes with no sights but has a full-length Picatinny rail that runs the length of the gun’s monolithic upper receiver.

The barrel is 18.5 inches long and is a cylinder bore. The firearm is a light 6.5 pounds, and I have liked my shotguns lighter than heavier lately, so that’s a good thing. The overall length is about 36 inches, so it squeezes into most AR 15 cases.

Blackwater Sentry 12 Shotgun
Short, light, handy, and powerful (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The Sentry 12’s unique look is a blend of AR aesthetics and futuristic sensibilities. It’s certainly a cool looking gun, at least in my book. There’s a healthy heap of AR inspiration in the design, and that’s not a bad thing. Lots of American gun owners know how to handle a AR-15, so for them, the Sentry 12 will be a natural fit.

The gun breaks down in a very similar manner to the AR-15. You separate the upper from the lower and then remove the bolt and bolt carrier. Quick, simple, and efficient.

Blackwater Sentry 12 Shotgun
The Sentry 12 ready for cleaning (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The barrel is easily removed via an exposed barrel nut. This allows for easy cleaning, but I imagine Blackwater could produce shorter barrels for SBS models or even braced firearms models. You can remove the stock, and maybe Blackwater will make adapters to use other stock types in the future. 

Controls and Ergonomics

The Sentry 12 is quite ergonomic and possibly one of the most ergonomic shotguns out there. It’s a light 6.5 pounds and 36 inches in length overall. The controls are quasi-AR, with a very similar safety and magazine release. The pump release is toggle placed right behind the magazine well. All the controls are completely ambidextrous. 

Blackwater Sentry 12 Shotgun
Right hand side controls…it’s fully ambidextrous (Travis Pike for TTAG)

Not reversible, but truly ambidextrous. 

Blackwater Sentry 12 Shotgun
Left hand side controls (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The pump action forend is small and slim, but provides more than enough room for a good grip. It’s ribbed for your control. The reach from the pump is shorter than both Mossberg and Remington by about 2 inches. This makes the shotgun more accomodating to smaller shooters. 

Blackwater Sentry 12 Shotgun
With more aggressive texturing the pump would be perfect (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The action itself is smooth and tight. The gun has dual action bars and isn’t sloppy like a Mossberg. It’s tight like a good 870. That’s not to say a tight action means increased reliability or anything critical to the firearm. It’s just a nice-feeling action and should be credited as such. 

Speaking of Blackwater or Iron Horse, or whoever designed the gun was smart when it comes to the length of pull. The LOP on the Sentry 12 is only 12 inches and some change. That’s much shorter than the 13.5″ to 14.5″ LOP most shotguns have. This makes the gun much more comfortable and easier to use in a squared-off, modern shooting stance. 

Blackwater Sentry 12 Shotgun
The length of pull is a comfortably short 12 inches (Travis Pike for TTAG)

Also, that LOP makes the Sentry 12 accessible to smaller shooters. My 5-foot 4-inch petite girlfriend could comfortably handle and shoot the gun safely. She said it was much more comfortable than the Mossberg 500 we had at the range that day with its 13.87-inch LOP. 

The Sentry 12 is a nice design from someone who knows and uses shotguns in a tactical manner.

The Magazines

The 5-round magazines confuse me. If this was an imported gun, I’d get it, but five rounds ain’t enough in this reviewer’s opinion. Most tactical shotguns can hold anywhere from 7 to 9 rounds, and if you are using a box magazine, seven or even nine rounds doesn’t create anything too long for effective use. I hope Blackwater makes some higher capacity options available in the future (I’d be surprised if they don’t). 

I will say extra magazines are seemingly very affordable. Twenty bucks isn’t a bad price, and it beat the pants off VR and Mossberg magazine prices. The magazines are mostly polymer with metal reinforcements at the top, and they feature smart design influences. The magazines are slightly longer than they need to be. This gives you extra room that keeps the magazines easy to load and insert into the gun. 

Blackwater Sentry 12 Shotgun
Five rounds ain’t really enough (Travis Pike for TTAG)

You can load the magazines into the Sentry 12 with a closed bolt easily. The magazines also won’t test your thumb strength. A lot of magazine-fed shotguns are a great way to get some (a lot of) grip exercise, but the Sentry 12 isn’t one of them. 

As a side note, they fit perfectly in Blue Force Gear Ten-Speed AR 10 pouches. However, most AR 15 kit isn’t compatible. 

Range Time

Shotguns are so much fun to shoot, and in these trying times, I can still get shotgun ammo in all varieties (at least so far). Armed with 200 rounds of birdshot, 100 rounds of cheap Rio buckshot, and plenty of clay pigeons, I hit the range for a couple of days. 

Blackwater Sentry 12 Shotgun
Smooth pump action and excellent ergos make the Sentry 12 a joy to shoot (Travis Pike for TTAG)

Mag after mag of bird and buck proved this gun is as reliable as a pump gun gets. The Sentry 12 never failed to extract, eject, or pick up the next round. The smooth and light-resisting pump presents no struggle to make the gun cycle and function.

The pump forend could have more aggressive texturing. As my hands got sweaty, I found them sliding back and forth on the pump. A slight hump acts as a handguard, and my hand never left the pump when sliding, it was just annoying. 

Blackwater Sentry 12 shotgun
The Sentry 12 is a flat-top design with 17 inches of Picatinny rail, allowing you to add the irons or optic of your choice. (Courtesy Blackwater)

The gun comes without sights, but the rail is long enough to add whatever you want to the gun. I used a SIG Romeo 5 XDR, and it proved to be a good companion to the gun. The Olight Odin was less ideal, but that’s another subject for another day. 

Blackwater Sentry 12 Shotgun
Wooooo (Travis Pike for TTAG)

As you’d imagine, a 6.5 pound 12 gauge can have some kick to it, but with the push-pull technique, I never found it brutal with standard velocity buckshot loads. My aforementioned girlfriend handled it fine with buckshot, and she’s a relative noob to shotguns. 

Here’s a load of Rio buckshot at 10 and 15 yards to show the patterning with affordable ammo. 

Blackwater Sentry 12 Shotgun
10 yards with the cheapest buckshot I have (Travis Pike for TTAG)

With good recoil mitigation techniques, I could blast through a 5-round magazine in 2.3 seconds according to my shot timer. 

Blackwater Sentry 12 Shotgun
15 yards with the cheapest buckshot (Travis Pike for TTAG)

Since this is a mag-fed gun, I had to do some shooting with mag changes. I started with one round in the gun, fired it, then did a magazine change, and ended by firing another single round. I could do that reload drill in three seconds and did it five times. With more practice, the time would be reduced, but off the cuff, that’s not too bad. 

The magazines don’t drop free, so you’ve got to grip and rip them. If you’re smarter than me, you won’t instinctively keep returning the pump forward before you reload and could shave a little time just for that. The magazines lock firmly into place, but there is no click or feedback to tell you that, so I always give the bottom a healthy smack. 

The Sentry 12 is a very nice change from other magazine-fed pump actions. Being built from the ground up as a magazine-fed pump gun was a good start and to me, it results in a better firearm than adapting a tube-fed shotgun design to take box magazines.

The ergonomics are on point, the magazines are well done, and the gun performs. I have a few minor complaints, but the biggest is that $899 price tag. Hopefully, the gun will be a bit cheaper when it hits dealers. 

Specifications: Blackwater Sentry 12 Shotgun

Barrel Length: 18.5 inches
Overall Length: 36 inches
Weight: 6.5 pounds
Caliber: 12 Gauge, 2.75 and 3-inch chamber
Capacity: 5 rounds (two magazines included)
MSRP: $899 ($895 retail)

Ratings (out of five stars):

Accuracy: * * * * *
The Sentry 12 is a shotgun and at shotgun ranges it’s tough to miss with a shoulder-fired weapon and decent technique. The cylinder bore allows it to function perfectly with great long-range loads like Federal FliteControl.

Reliability: * * * * *
Pump-action shotguns can mess up, but it’s gotta be pretty poorly designed to do so. The Sentry 12 is well designed and it functions perfectly with both cheap and good ammo. The pump action is smooth and never binds. Loads from magazines easily and ejects shells reliably.

Ergonomics: * * * *
I’ll be harsh here and complaint that the magazines don’t drop free when the release is pressed. And there is no feedback when you insert a new magazine into the Sentry 12. There are rear QD sling points but no forward sling points (you’ll want to use a single point sling with the Sentry 12). The good news is everything else here is great. The controls are where they should be and they’re ambidextrous.

Customize This: * *
The long rail at the top allows you to outfit the gun with optics, sights, a 12 o clock flashlight, and that’s about it. No extended magazines, replacement barrels, or stocks are available at the time of this writing.

Overall: * * * *
The Blackwater Sentry 12 is a great shotgun, and it’s the best mag fed pump action I’ve handled yet. I want to see bigger magazines, but my complaints are minor. Blackwater might be new to the firearms game, but the Sentry 12 shows a promising future for them.


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  1. The author is correct about it looking cool, because it genuinely does look fun. But if I’m going to have one in an AR-type platform, I want it to be semi-auto. That’s just me.

    If anyone else here decides to buy one, I’ll gladly try it for a few shots. Then I’ll give it back and not buy one for myself, lol.

  2. Huh?!? 900bucks for a low capacity pump(5 round mags?)? I’ll stick with a higher capacity Maverick88. Cool name though😃

  3. my boss says he has a pump auto shottie. i countered, basically, one or t’other. he insists it is a pump (to load only) semi- auto (he caught himself there).
    do such things exist?

    • Look up the Franchi SPAS – 12…arguably the worst combat shotgun ever made. I shot (tried to shoot) one years ago and it was terrible in every way…hard to load, hard to cycle, notoriously unreliable…a genuine Italian-made POS shotgun.

      • And I think the “12” in it’s name was a reference to how many pounds it weighed. Empty.

        • A friend of mine told me a story about he had a opportunity to fire one. He only had two black powder rounds available. They rusted the innards. The owner was not happy, but probably should have cleaned the gun.

        • It had that funny ass gut hook folding stock that I could not find a way to get comfortable with.

          In fairness the Remington 870, which was still a quality gun, had a funny stock that folded over the top of the pistol grip model and I could not get happy with that thing either.

          But, yeah, the Franchi sucked.

          • @JWM

            Schwarzenegger in his prime would have had issues trying to cycle the SPAS(tic)12 in the manual pump mode. Saw one at a gun show last year for almost $2k (advertised as a ‘rare find, quality Italian combat shotgun’)…I laughed all the way down the aisle. It brought to mind the P.T. Barnum quote… “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

    • The Benelli M3 is such a weapon. Semiauto for standard pressure and pump for less lethal and clearing malfunctions. The Franchi Spas 12 is also a example.

    • In addition to the mentioned Benelli M3 and Franchi Spas-12, there’s another oddball hybrid 12 gauge in an AR-esque style made by I believe one of the Turkish companies? Bottom line, yes, there are shotguns such as what he was talking about. Then again, it’s just as likely he could be clueless

      • thanks y’all. he says he and a friend pages 200 each so Turkish sounds right.
        thanks jay, nice guy, ccw instructor, square, etc. but not the most lumen equipped maglight in the drawer.

  4. $895 is a bit steep, I checked out the link to Ranier Arms.

    As everyone has said..”no” . A semi is much harder to do with box mags. This one looks good, maybe patterns and shoots good, but price I can get a well known name shotty pump like a Mossberg 590..Almost $400 bucks cheaper.

  5. It’d be a very cool $500 shotgun, but I wouldn’t shell out an extra $400 for style points alone.

    • They do look very polymer. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, though.

      Just going by the way they look in the disassembled photo, they seem very solid. No buffer-tube stress point that causes the weakness issues in polymer AR lowers. If they’ve designed it right, that polymer lower could be just as durable as a metal one, if not more so.

      I wonder why it wasn’t mentioned in the review…

  6. Seems like every time I turn around there’s another example of some quasi AR 12 gauge being released, and yet I’ve only actually seen 3 in the wild, 2 of which were on store shelves. Clearly SOMEONE is buying these but who?

    • “I still don’t understand why I would want detachable magazines for my “serious” shotgun?…”

      So this is unnecessary and none of us are Jerry Miculek.

      Or his daughter, although I can reload my modded 870 like this.

      A 10 round mag fed shotgun in an AR platform (rem AR is most commonly owned sporting rifle these days). The problem is that getting these types of shotguns to run correctly and fast is a hard engineering problem. Gas, no gas, not enough gas, bolt design, materials, barrel length, list of things that has to work right is immense.

  7. Newhaven 600AT (Mossberg under the K-Mart banner way back in the Blue Light Special era), $89

    Mossberg 590A1 w/ bayonet, made out of spare parts found on GunBroker. Under $200 anyway.

    Somehow, a $900 five shot pumper made by a guy with ties to very bad Russkie and Chi-Com investors just ain’t ringing my chimes. Nice that it’s American made and all, but where’d the investment dollars comfrom? Were they dollars? Or was it Rubles? Or Renminbi?

  8. No adjustable stock like an AR, why not? Big flaw in my opinion. And too pricey considering the stock is not adjustable. I’ll stick with my Hogue Tamer Pistol Grip Mossberg 500 Crusier.

  9. Armscor VR80 looks better IMHO. I believe it’s not built in the Philippines, like most shotty’s of this sort their made in Turkey.

  10. The Olight Odin was less ideal, but that’s another subject for another day. ?
    I wana know what’s up ?
    Why ?
    I was looking at buying one for my Sentry 12

    • Short answer? Recoil bent the mounting system and it won’t attach to a gun. Happened in the first 150 rounds or so.

      • Wow !
        That’s a real bummer !
        Did you let Olight know ? I would hope they could look into that.
        Thanks Travis, I’ll look at surefire

  11. Nowadays, you need to add another rating: Availability . If they are available, they will sell.

  12. It has the look and the name. The take down is interesting. I wonder how well this would work with a breacher barrel. This one might be a consideration for purchase.

  13. I am making a good salary from home 1200-2500/ DOLLARS a week , which is amazing, under a year back I was jobless in a horrible economy. I thank God every day I was blessed with these instructions and now it’s my duty to pay it forward and share it with Everyone………

  14. A rifle must be aimed. So does an AR shotgun.
    A shotgun is fired by feel and a good natural point.
    This shotgun and those like it are an aberration,
    made for people who want guns but do not understand guns.

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