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