Gun Review: Rock Island Armory VRPA40 12 Gauge Shotgun

Armoscor Rock Island Armory VRPA40 Shotgun

Travis Pike for TTAG

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.

comments

  1. avatar GS650G says:

    That 20 round magazine borders on ridiculously long. Does it double as a boomerang?

    1. avatar 41mag says:

      I want it. I read it’s compatible with the BP12 that I just bought.

    2. avatar I Haz A Question says:

      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.

      1. avatar Kevin says:

        “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.

    3. avatar arc says:

      A drum would have a better profile. I dislike long mags, they don’t play well with bipods.

    4. avatar Ron says:

      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.

    5. avatar Von says:

      No the aerodynamics are off, but it does double as a trigger for snowflake meltdowns.

  2. avatar Lost Down South says:

    $250 retail?

    Turkey, right?

    1. avatar Ron says:

      Could be, but mossbergs pump actions are still made in America and cheap last I heard. Unless that’s changed recently.

    2. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      I believe Rock Island Armory manufactures all of their firearms in the Philippines.

  3. avatar RidgeRunner says:

    Choke?

    1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

      4th paragraph.
      unless you were referring to the above twss.

  4. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

    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.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      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.

      1. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

        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.

        1. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

          Sorry for typos. Been up since 0430 hrs. Trying to follow election returns.

        2. avatar uncommon_sense says:

          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.

  5. avatar Stooopid gunz says:

    Aaaaahahahahahaha. If you buy this pos, you’re a real donger!!!

  6. avatar """A"""Merica THAT STARTS WITH THE LETTER "A" says:

    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.

    1. avatar Ron says:

      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.

      1. avatar Just a student says:

        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.

        1. avatar Miner49er says:

          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.”

      2. avatar DinWA says:

        Like how sometimes I tell other gunfolk I’m an Ammosexual Gundamentalist and we have a good laugh.

    2. avatar possum says:

      Is hard to say America with a mouth full of red man,

      1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

        beechnut.

        1. avatar Miner49er says:

          Mail pouch

  7. avatar Ralph says:

    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.

  8. avatar tdiinva says:

    An actual gun review. I get the need to cover gun rights but I would like to see more actual new gun stuff.

    1. avatar Hhhhhhyeah says:

      Since there’s plenty of room in this world for 2 gun blogs may i suggest TFB?

      1. avatar tdiinva says:

        I read that one too. Matt E is a trip. Lol

  9. avatar N8thecowboy says:

    Man. I’ve heard of banana clips, but that’s a plantain!

    1. avatar jwm says:

      That’s an elephant tusk.

  10. avatar DigDouggler says:

    “That’s an elephant tusk.”

    No, it’s a:

    https://gfycat.com/defensiveglaringhectorsdolphin

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      What did the elephant say to the naked man?

      Answer: “How do you breath through that little thing?”

  11. avatar Wally1 says:

    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.

    1. avatar Bree says:

      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…

  12. avatar Ferg in Tahoe says:

    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.

  13. avatar possum says:

    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.

    1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

      look closer. there’s a harlequin.

    2. avatar jwm says:

      My uncle was a worm rancher at one time.

      I got caught in a stampede and it scarred me for life.

  14. avatar Evan says:

    No one asked for this. That is all.

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