Product review: Why you should feed your shotgun Hornady TAP ammunition

The right ammunition dramatically enhances the performance of this legendary fight stopper


I’ve previously written about the trend to take lethal shotguns out of police cars, which I think is a shortsighted move that deprives officers of a necessary tool. Far from being “antiquated,” the shotgun is a powerful and capable weapon that every officer should have access to when they’re on patrol.

Like every police weapon, the shotgun can benefit significantly from advances in ammunition technology. While most manufacturers spend a lot of time working to improve the performance of their handgun and rifle ammunition, few pay much attention to their shotgun fodder. It seems there’s a mistaken belief in the industry that shotguns are “low tech,” existing products work “good enough” and there’s no interest in pursuing better performance.

Fortunately for us, the ammunition wizards at Hornady Manufacturing didn’t get that message.

The Hornady TAP Entry load fragments in ballistic gelatin, producing an explosive temporary wound channel, while still meeting the FBI’s minimum of 12 inches of penetration. (Photo credit/Hornady Manufacturing)
The Hornady TAP Entry load fragments in ballistic gelatin, producing an explosive temporary wound channel, while still meeting the FBI’s minimum of 12 inches of penetration. (Photo credit/Hornady Manufacturing)

Pushing the envelope

The shotgun may be one of the longest-serving tools in American policing, but that doesn’t mean the platform has been optimized. In looking at the police shotgun, the Hornady Manufacturing engineers saw ample room for improvement in duty ammunition for the venerable tool.

After looking at available products in the market, the Hornady team identified three areas of concern they wanted to address with their new ammunition for the smoothbore:

  • Recoil control: The 12 gauge shotgun – particularly in pump-action guns – has a reputation for beating up the shooter. As police recruitment and demographics have changed over the decades, the appetite for recoil has decreased.
  • Pattern spread: The spreading pattern of a shotgun is both one of its greatest advantages and one of its greatest disadvantages. At shorter ranges, the spread of pellets is not wide enough to be a concern, but as the ranges increase there is a possibility that some of the pellets will stray far enough away from the point of aim that they will create gaps in the pattern and may become a safety hazard.
  • Transition from breaching to defense: Many law enforcement shotguns are being used as breaching tools these days, with specialty frangible ammunition designed to defeat locks and hinges without creating an undue safety hazard for the operator. The problem with this specialty ammunition is that it’s typically ill-suited for anti-personnel use, which means the breacher must quickly transition to another weapon after the door is opened – something which tactical circumstances may or may not allow.

Hornady knew that any new shotgun products would have to address these concerns to be considered an upgrade over existing products, so they focused their talents on achieving improvements in these areas.

Bucking the trend

The Hornady Tactical Application Police (“TAP”) Reduced Recoil OO buck load is Hornady’s answer to the quest for an effective 12 gauge duty load that doesn’t kick too much. The load is designed for 2¾-inch chambered guns and features eight OO buck pellets loaded to reduced velocity to lessen the recoil energy sensed by the shooter.

Many competitors offer OO buck shells with nine pellets, but these loads tend to produce patterns where eight pellets form a reasonably distributed group, but the ninth pellet strays wide. Since this erratic pellet could be a hazard to innocents, and since the extra mass of the ninth pellet increases the momentum felt by the shooter, Hornady wisely elected to make its TAP Reduced Recoil an eight-pellet load to avoid those problems.

Hornady also loaded the TAP Reduced Recoil so that the shot column generates a muzzle velocity of about 1,000 fps from the 18.5-inch barrel of the police-favorite Remington 870. This velocity is approximately 100-150 fps less than competing designs, which helps to make the 12 gauge TAP Reduced Recoil shoot softer than other manufacturer’s reduced recoil loads. This helps to improve officer comfort, confidence and performance with the shotgun, while still providing effective terminal performance.

One of the most significant attributes of the TAP Reduced Recoil load is the tight pattern produced by the “Versatite” wad that cups the shot column as it travels down the barrel. The Versatite wad is designed so that its opening is carefully controlled and metered, which results in the shot column spreading less rapidly after it separates from the wad in free air. Hornady testing has shown that the TAP Reduced Recoil’s pattern spreads approximately 1.325 inches at 7 yards, 2.687 inches at 15 yards and only 4.437 inches at 25 yards from the muzzle. These are exceptionally tight patterns, given the traditional rule of thumb that indicates a pattern will spread about 1 inch for every yard of distance.

The tight patterns produced by the TAP Reduced Recoil load not only concentrate the power of the shot charge for maximum terminal performance (by improving sectional density and not allowing pellets to escape and miss), but they also extend the effective range of the shotgun. Police officers can fire at more distant targets and still be assured the pattern will remain on the target without creating an undue risk for bystanders in the background. In fact, one agency with a number of shootings utilizing the TAP Reduced Recoil reports that in its latest engagement, every one of the eight pellets hit the suspect at a distance approaching 50 yards. This kind of performance is certainly not the norm for 12 gauge buckshot and demonstrates a distinct advantage of the Hornady load.

The Hornady TAP 12 Gauge Reduced Recoil load demonstrates excellent penetration in calibrated ballistic gelatin testing, reaching an ideal depth of 18 inches. (Photo/Hornady Manufacturing)
The Hornady TAP 12 Gauge Reduced Recoil load demonstrates excellent penetration in calibrated ballistic gelatin testing, reaching an ideal depth of 18 inches. (Photo/Hornady Manufacturing)

For those agencies desiring a full-power load, Hornady offers the TAP Light Magnum, with a muzzle velocity of around 1428 fps from the 18.5-inch barrel of a Benelli M1 Super 90, one of the most popular semiautomatic shotguns in police service. The TAP Light Magnum is particularly well-suited for semiautomatic guns and uses the Versatite wad to provide similarly tight patterns – only 5.187 inches at 25 yards – that keep all the pellets on target. The TAP Light Magnum is loaded in a red hull to allow easy identification and prevent confusion with the TAP Reduced Recoil, which is loaded in a blue hull.

Knock, knock

The Hornady TAP Entry load is a special-purpose product that’s designed to serve as a breaching round, yet still provide effective performance against human threats. The 0.75-ounce slug is made of sintered metal and is designed to disintegrate when fired into door locks and hinges, allowing them to be destroyed without jeopardizing officer safety.

The unique feature of the TAP Entry is its ability to serve as a personal defense round. The gaping cavity in the nose of the frangible slug ensures it will expand with great energy inside the target, yet still provide sufficient penetration for wounding. When fired into bare, calibrated, 10% ballistic gelatin, the fast-moving, 1575 fps slug immediately produces an extremely large temporary cavity, which reaches its maximum dimension just 3 inches into the gelatin. This shallow and explosive temporary cavity is paired with a permanent cavity that reaches the 12-inch minimum required by FBI standards, giving the TAP Entry a wound profile that’s similar to some of the low-penetration, .308 caliber rounds produced by Hornady for law enforcement.

This is not the typical wound profile for a breaching round, which usually produces explosive, but shallow wounds that won’t reach the vital organs and structures. In contrast, the penetrative capability of the TAP Entry allows an officer to safely breach a door with the shotgun, and still be armed with a capable weapon for self-defense if the situation doesn’t allow the time to switch to a preferred, primary entry weapon. It penetrates deeply enough to incapacitate but does not over-penetrate.

The frangible nature of the TAP Entry also allows it to serve as a training round for steel targets, providing a significantly enhanced margin of safety over traditional lead shotgun slugs, which tend to splash and ricochet after they strike the steel. The TAP Entry is also safer to shoot on steel than buckshot, whose pellets also tend to ricochet off the hard surface and create a hazard for personnel.

Mission accomplished

The shotgun still plays a vital role in law enforcement and deserves a place in the police arsenal. Its legendary, fight-stopping performance is dramatically enhanced if it’s fed the right ammunition.

There’s truth to the saying that “you are what you eat,” and if your shotgun eats the advanced ammunition from Hornady Manufacturing, then you know it’s going to get the job done. There’s no more advanced ammunition on the market for the police shotgun.

God bless and be safe out there.

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