Armoscor Rock Island Armory VRPA40 Shotgun
Travis Pike for TTAG
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The Armscor Rock Island Armory VR family of shotguns is a line that seems to be continually growing, which is just fine with me. I appreciate the budget-friendly nature and reliable design of these guns.

The VR line is known for being semi-automatic, magazine-fed shotguns. The newest model in the VR line, though, is the magazine-fed 12 gauge Rock Island Armory VRPA40, and is the first pump action shotgun in the VR line.

The best part of the VR line is the magazine commonality between the guns. That stays the same with the pump-action, and you can use any of the VR magazines with it. Magazine sizes include 5, 9, and 19-rounders.

The VRPA40 comes with two 5-round magazines and a limiter that will reduce the capacity of the 5-round magazines to 3 rounds for bird hunting, I assume. The VRPA40 takes Beretta/Benelli Mobilchokes and comes with three of them. The gun has a lot going for it for the relatively low price.

Armoscor Rock Island Armory VRPA40 Shotgun
The Armscor RIA VRPA40’s receiver is made of 7075 T6 aluminum and features a heat shield. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The VRPA40 comes complete with a high visibility front sight, a rear ghost ring, a heat shield, an optics mount, and sling swivels. Out of the box, the gun was well lubricated, as were the magazines.

Ergonomic Breakdown

The shotgun’s ergonomics are a bit all over the place, but nothing is inherently wrong. The weirdest is the pump release. It’s positioned right above the magazine and just forward of the magazine release button.

Armoscor Rock Island Armory VRPA40 Shotgun
Magazine release and pump lock release buttons. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

It’s placed in such a way that you have to release your firing grip to access it. The crossbolt safety on the VRPA40 is positioned right behind the trigger and is easy to reach. The magazine release button is placed just within my finger’s reach…its a stretch, but I can make it.

The reach to the pump also feels longer than usual and, like most shotguns, the LOP is more suited for those with larger frames like me than your average person. An adjustable stock of some kind would be convenient, preferably in the same design of Magpuls with adjustable spacers. It’s shootable for me, but I’m 6 foot 5, and even I feel its slightly on the long side.

The gun is very light, which I appreciate. I like my shotguns lightweight, and the 6.9 pounds of VRPA40 isn’t bad. The weight will change depending on magazine length.

The 19-round magazine is, well, ridiculous. I have no real use for it other than this is ‘Merica and I’m supposed to be a free man. But it makes the gun heavy and long vertically. With the magazine placed right in the center of the weapon, it doesn’t feel unbalanced, though.

Armoscor Rock Island Armory VRPA40 Shotgun
The 9-round detachable magazine is the best compromise between ammo capacity and size. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The 9-round magazine is just right. It gives you the same capacity of a Mossberg 590M with almost a pound shaved off. The 20-inch barrel length is excellent for home defense use and most practical applications, though the more standard 18.5 inches would be a bit shorter, and there’s really no reason for a 20-inch barrel here if you aren’t stacking an extra round in a tube magazine.

The Magazines

The VR series magazines are made of metal and quite robust. The followers are massive, and the magazines feed reliably. The 5 and 9-round variants will feed 2 3/4 and 3-inch rounds, but the 19-rounder is 2 3/4s only. The magazines are easy to take apart for maintenance and to install the limiter.

The downside is learning how to load the rounds correctly, which can be difficult.

Armoscor Rock Island Armory VRPA40 Shotgun
All the options on the Armscor Rock Island Armory VRPA40 pump shotgun. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The 5-round magazines, in particular, are the hardest to load. When loading, you have to ensure the rim of the top round doesn’t catch on the bottom part of the rim of the round beneath it. I did this on the top round of one of the five rounders, and it caused a malfunction when I went to load the gun.

On the Range

Most of my testing is predictably done with cheap birdshot. I used some Estate loads I bought at Academy quite cheaply. A 250-round box of those, plus a hundred rounds of Fiocchi high velocity, and some assorted buckshot and slugs made up the rest.

Armoscor Rock Island Armory VRPA40 Shotgun
The RIA VRPA40 loaded and ready to go with black synthetic furniture. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The only malfunction was caused when I failed to load the top round correctly. I’d chalk that up to user-induced. You’ll want to practice a little to ensure you don’t make the same mistake.

The sights quickly became a favorite feature of this gun. I appreciate how fast and precise I can be with them. Shooting birdshot, I like to use clay pigeons as targets placed on my berm. When testing, I try to make it more fun than just shooting handguns.

Armoscor Rock Island Armory VRPA40 Shotgun
The orange fiber optic front sight on the Armscor VRPA40 is easy to see and fast to pick up. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

I set four clay pigeons on the berm in a square pattern and aimed at the center. I used a shot timer to record the time it took to burst all four and tried to beat my time. The sights made it easy to be fast and precise. The rear ghost ring is very wide, and that makes it quick to get the gun on target.

Armoscor Rock Island Armory VRPA40 Shotgun
Precision matters even with shotguns. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The sights are adjustable, too, which makes it easy to dial the weapon in for whatever load you choose to use.

Armoscor Rock Island Armory VRPA40 Shotgun
Game over, buddy. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

I patterned the gun with Federal FliteControl 00 loads and moved the sights a hair to match the pattern. This resulted in my being able to score sub-1.5-second snapshots into the head of a target at 15 yards from the low ready.

Boom, Boom, Boom

I wish the pump was textured more aggressively. I’ve trained myself to work the pump with gusto to avoid short stroking and my hands often felt like they were close to slipping off. A little skateboard tape might do.

In terms of magazine changes, you won’t be doing it as fast as you do with an AR-15. Shotgun magazine reloads aren’t particularly speedy.

Armoscor Rock Island Armory VRPA40 Shotgun
With 19 rounds of ammo, who needs to reload? (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The magazines don’t always drop free when you press the release button…you’ll have to pull them out before ramming another one in place. Reloading the gun with the 5 and 9 round magazines isn’t ridiculous, however doing it with the 19-rounder is a bit of a hassle.

Armoscor Rock Island Armory VRPA40 Shotgun
(Travis Pike for TTAG)

Recoil is standard 12 gauge recoil. It can be rough if you don’t know how to mitigate it. The trigger is a little mushy, but light overall. The pump action is very smooth and glides rearward without much force exerted.

Armoscor Rock Island Armory VRPA40 Shotgun
Port loads are definitely possible with the VRPA40. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

I was curious if I could still do port loads should I run the VRPA40 dry. It turns out I can and was able to do them quickly. The detachable magazine doesn’t interrupt feeding from the port in case you need an emergency reload.

I enjoyed this little gun and was surprised at the quality compared for the very reasonable price. They seem to be floating around for about $250 retail. It’s a very affordable price for a magazine-fed pump-action shotgun. In my opinion, it’s a better design than the Remington 870 DM and cheaper than the Mossberg 590M models.

Specifications: Rock Island Armory VRPA40 Magazine-Fed Shotgun

Barrel Length: 20 inches
Overall Length: 40 inches
Weight: 6.9 pounds
Caliber: 12 gauge
Chamber: 2 3/4 and 3 inch shells
Capacity: 5, 9, and 19 rounds
MSRP: $399 (about $250 retail)

Ratings (Out of 5 Stars)

Ergonomics * * *
The ergonomics aren’t bad, but they aren’t great. The shotgun feels a little long and I wish the pump had more texture to it. Fast mag swaps won’t be easy, and the pump lock is unusually placed.

Reliability * * * * *
The only malfunction I experienced in 350+ rounds was when I didn’t load a shell in the magazine the right way. That’s it. The VRPA40  fired everything else perfectly fine. (No, it doesn’t cycle mini shells.)

Trigger * * * *
Nothing to write home about but the trigger is more than serviceable. And on a shotgun the trigger matters relatively little. It’s above average in my opinion.

Customization * 
You can put an optic on it, and that seems to be it.

Overall * * * *
The VRPA40 is a fun little gun with a very affordable price tag. Magazines vary in capacity quite a bit and give you plenty of ammo capacity options. I could see the VRPA40 being a fun 3-gun shotgun (though slow on the reloads), and even a good hunting and home defense shotgun.

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46 COMMENTS

    • Egad, that just looks wrong. Why not a 19-rd drum that would fit better under the frame? There’s no way you could stand at low/field ready with that thing dangling down and hitting your knees, or at high ready with it sticking out in front of you like a third arm.

      • “There’s no way you could stand at low/field ready with that thing dangling down and hitting your knees, or at high ready with it sticking out in front of you like a third arm.”

        That’s what she said.

    • Reminds me of those weird 50 round AK/SKS mags that curled all the way up to the barrel. There weren’t very many of those, and last time I saw one was back in the late 90s.

  1. A friend once bought one of the AK variant shotguns with an AK type magazine years ago. I nearly laughed when I saw it, but that would have been impolite. I did tell him that I felt it would give him problems. He assured me it wouldn’t. Said he was using in matches instead of one of his M1 Super 90s. I thought, “That’s a mistake.” Anyway, he drove down to Florida for a shooting event at the Academy. By now he had been carrying the weapon and/or keeping it loaded for a few weeks. When he attempted to chamber a round it wouldn’t. Nor the next or the next, etc. It seems about the first half dozen or so rounds had deformed under constant spring pressure in the magazine. He went back to his Super 90s. I guess you can try to make shotgun look a rifle, but it’s still only a shotgun.

    • Gadsden Flag,

      I can somewhat see the appeal of a detachable magazine-fed shotgun: fast (sort of) reloads.

      Personally, I would only buy a detachable magazine-fed shotgun as a fun gun. If I were serious about combat/self-defense, I would want a shotgun with a fixed tube magazine. And if I were really worried about capacity, I would get one of the shotguns with extended seven shell capacity tube magazines. If I blow through all seven shells and my life is still in so much danger that I don’t have time to reload a 7-shell tube magazine, I probably wouldn’t have time to change a detachable magazine, either.

      And another argument in favor of shotguns with fixed tube magazines for combat/self-defense: I can add shells to my tube magazine at any time when conditions allow, which we obviously cannot do with a detachable magazine.

      • Uncommon,
        First, I don’t own any “fun guns.” They are all serious. Though, I do have fun with those I own.
        Second, if you needed more rounds you would go to a 7 rd. magazine. Wow! Two whole rds.!

        Last. Reload a shotgun in less time than it takes to change a magazine. You are kidding; right? (Rifle!)

        Either you’re as “slow as molasses in January” or I’m as fast as “chained blue lightning.” I’m not either. Although, my Lt. used to have to run the line when I qualified. He always said, “You’re so fucking fast!” I had usually holstered before anyone else finished the drill. Always scored 100%. Understand, the course of fire was not difficult and I thought time allowed was ridiculously liberal. They let me design a course of fire. Once. The vote was split. That was great! That was too hard! Of course, my coures required moving, shoot/no shoot and transition from long gun to. hand gun and use of cover/concealment. I loaded their magazines. They never knew when they would run dry. Caught in the open empty. Dead. Come back tomorrow. We did that once. Sheriff said it took too long to qualify, even though it used less ammo. Took too long to qualify.

        • Gadsden,

          My comment referred to the article which stated that changing the detachable magazines is slow with this particular shotgun. I believe it was slow for three reasons:
          (1) Ergonomics (you have to adjust/move your hands?)
          (2) The magazines did not drop free.
          (3) I am guessing that inserting a new magazine is cumbersome for some reason.

          When you combine all three factors, it apparently takes a relatively long time to change magazines in that shotgun. I am guessing that it would not take the average person much longer to reload the tube magazine.

          Anyhow, my primary point was that you are most likely in a world of hurt if you blow through seven shotgun shells and still need to reload quickly.

  2. Not trying to derail this thread but i want to talk about pronouncing the name of this country in a stupid way because some think its funny.

    Do you know who came up with this stupid word that really lights up the brains of dimwits? Will Fucking Farrel, liberal “funny guy” who also took part in that hollywood video advocating for civilian disarmament. Remember that?

    “Murica”….oh thats sooooo funny. Liberal funny guy says funny thing and now all the stupid people imitate him. Pathetic.

    • Yeah but we turned that word around on them. Sort of like how Yankee Doodle was originally a British song to insult Americans, until we started to play it loud and proud.

      • Or how we have bastardized the Catholic word “Infidel”.

        Originally meant a non-believer in God, or non-christian.

        Now I see these yahoos in gun shows with it on their shirt or tattoos while wearing a christian cross around their neck thinking they are cool and instead looking like the fools they are.

        Don’t let your sworn enemy change your culture.

        • I don’t think it’s a specifically Catholic word, it means non-faithful, but there’s no specific religion attached.

          “Late 15th century from French infidèle or Latin infidelis, from in- ‘not’ + fidelis ‘faithful’ (from fides ‘faith’, related to fidere ‘to trust’). The word originally denoted a person of a religion other than one’s own, specifically a Muslim (to a Christian), a Christian (to a Muslim), or a Gentile (to a Jew).”

          It what one person uses to attack another person who does not have the same sky daddy.

          It’s a term religionistsuse to denigrate people that they want to steal property from, as in “let’s go to the land of Canaan and kill the infidels and take their property.”

  3. Sorry, but that 19 round mag doesn’t look stupid enough to satisfy me. I’m holding out for a 77 rounder that will drag on the floor and double as a barrel stave.

  4. Sorry but this review is somewhat like a JB Powers award, total B.S. I have had a few Rock island Armory firearms and all were junk. The 1911 I had was perfect training pistol for clearing jams. It would jam on about every third round. Call to Rock Island arms resulted in no help, warranty was worthless. Just my opinion, but until they have some quality control, steer clear of R.I. arms.

    • I hate to break it to you, but you likely just have bad magazines. I have seen dozens of RIA 1911s, none of which had any issues if using good mags, you know like every other decent 1911 out there…

  5. After the day I’ve had, this was almost as humorous as Twitchy Joe telling that dude with a hard hat that he was full of shit. Kind of like trying to use a 20# sledge hammer to do stain-grade interior finish work. No spank you.

  6. And there I was, smack dab in the middle of a herd of Mergansers. Shotgunm bananas hung up in the brush. Yank yank. And there I was as the herd of Mergansers thundered off across the plains.

  7. The manual says that the barrel is contoured. Is that the same as rifled? Should I use rifled or sabot slugs? Thank you!

    • Contoured means the barrel diameter changes with length. Not sure if this is a rifled barrel or smooth bore.

      A. Shooting with a barrel whose inside is smooth:

      1) If you shoot a smooth wall slug (sabot) from a smooth wall barrel, your accuracy will suffer a bit because there’s little-to-no spin imparted to the slug and the slug can therefore tumble.

      2) If you shoot a rifled slug (a Foster slug) from a smooth wall barrel, your accuracy is much better because the rifling on the slug imparts spin to the projectile and stabilizes it somewhat.

      B. Shooting with a barrel whose inside has rifling (twists and turns cut into the barrel):

      1. If you shoot a smooth wall slug (sabot) from a rifled barrel you get good accuracy because the slug spins due to the rifling.

      2. If you shoot a rifled slug (a Foster slug) from a rifled barrel this is questionable. Some say they get good accuracy others not so good due to the competing grooves on the barrel and the slug not matching up. Some also advise against doing it because it can foul the barrel.

      Safest bet: use sabots (no rifling) in rifled barrels and rifled slugs (Foster slugs) in smooth bore barrels.

  8. I so wish I read your article before purchasing this pumpaction for a home defense weapon. Now I will need to probably have to get an over under of some sort. I am 5’2” and many years ago shot skeet and did well with it. However my husband and my male homesteading friends mentioned pumpaction. When you mentioned it being a stretch for you I about slapped myself in the forehead. I go to pick our gun up soon, the background check was taking forever, but even my husband is shorter than you and I am wondering where to sell it at this point as it may have been a big mistake. We wanted a Mossberg for a shotgun, but they were selling out everywhere. As far as homedefense for me I now want a Smith and Wesson 9mm EZ as it felt great in my hand and I could rack it without as much effort as other 9’s. Open to suggestions for shotguns for us shorter folks. Btw, I liked the idea of preloading the boxes but reading about the hiccups you had with those ugh! I am having serious buyers remorse. Plan on taking courses as soon as possible too to learn our way around whatever we purchase. TY for any suggestions.

  9. I bought one
    Stock is the same length as my other shotguns.
    It feels longer because the foreend is about 2” further away. why? I dont know, but at 6’2” its to far away for me to like, so i am cutting the stock so i can get closer, as i doubt anyone gonna fix that fore end quickly enough for me. Reloads are fast for me. Mags are falling free.
    I do wish the mag release was ambi, as it would speed up reloading some. I wish the mag release/catch was more like an AR15 as parts to change it would be faster coming.
    First pump action shotgun i’ve ever had, that i did not have to hone smooth before i shot it.
    Amazing Remington or mossberg could not figure this design out, genius.
    This is the first time i have ever commented on anything, but what the hell maybe my comment will help some poor soul.
    Great gun, buy one and cut the stock.

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