For many, the ultimate defensive longarm is the ubiquitous slide-or pump-action shotgun. Combining simplicity of operation and reasonable cost, pump shotguns are exceedingly popular for self-defense. An excellent representative of this type is the P-350 Defense shotgun, an affordably priced shotgun manufactured in Istanbul, Turkey, and imported into the United States by Stoeger Industries. The 12-ga. P-350 Defense, a variant of the company's line of P-350 sporting shotguns, is a 3½" chambered slide-action shotgun that is available with either a conventional or pistol-grip polymer buttstock. The latter was received for testing. The shotgun has an overall weight of around 6½ lbs. and an overall length of 39¾" with an 18½" barrel. The polymer buttstock features a 1" ventilated recoil pad and a molded-in sling attachment point, matched to a steel sling swivel on the shotgun's magazine cap.
Operationally, the P-350 Defense employs a 4140 steel bolt assembly with a rotating, multi-lug head. The bolt head locks directly into a barrel extension, which is threaded onto the rear of the P-350 Defense's barrel. This allows the shotgun to employ a lightweight 7012-T6 aluminum alloy receiver. In addition, the multi-lug, rotating-bolt system of operation provides an extremely strong lock up. The end result is a strong and lightweight shotgun. Dual action bars have pretty much become the standard these days in slide-action shotguns, but the P-350 takes that design a step further. One of the theoretical advantages of dual action bars, which connect the sliding fore-end to the bolt assembly, is reduced action binding as well as added strength over a single bar. Rather than just employing two separate bars, the P-350 combines both bars into a single unit the manual terms a "slider." Manufactured from 4140 steel, this substantial piece measures 14¾" overall and is solid for its forward 5¾".
The P-350 Defense, as with all P-350 variants, features a full-length polymer fore-end, which extends nearly all the way back to the forward part of the receiver when locked in the full forward position. As the action is cycled and the fore-end is pulled rearward, the rear third of it covers the forward area of the receiver and practically conceals the lower loading port. Due to the relatively long action length of a 3 ½"-chambered 12-ga. shotgun, this long fore-end is handy as it allows users to hold the fore-end a bit farther back when cycling the action.
To increase strength and stability, the P-350 features a block around the rear portion of the magazine tube, just forward of the receiver, described in the manual as a "fore-end slider." This aluminum block serves two purposes. Firstly, it acts as an area of additional support for the fore-end-a feature particularly helpful if the fore-end is being held primarily in this rear area.
Secondly, it acts as a guide for the action bars, adding extra stability and further reducing the potential for binding. The steel magazine tube of the P-350 Defense holds four rounds of 3" or 3 ½" shells, or five 2¾" shells. Operation of the shotgun is simple and straightforward, with shells loaded either directly into the tube through the open bottom of the receiver or dropped singly into the open ejection port from the side when the action is open. A simple crossbolt plunger-type safety button located at the rear of the plastic trigger guard has a red ring on its left side, which is exposed when the shotgun is taken off "safe." An "action release lever" is located in the forward right side of the trigger guard. The sighting system of the P350 Defense continues the theme of simple ruggedness, with no rear sight unit and a simple blade-type front sight. The barrel of the shotgun is substantially thick without being "clubby," with a wall thickness of 0.10" at the muzzle.
The P-350 Defense received for testing exhibited extremely good fit and finish, particularly considering its modest $329 retail price. The aluminum receiver featured an evenly applied matte finish, and the steel barrel sported a matching matte manganese phosphate finish. From a handling standpoint, the P-350 Defense proved to be compact and handy, at least as much as a full-size, 3½" -chambered 12-ga. shotgun can be. Our testers did note that the safety button and action release lever were a tad on the small side, although they did function properly.
For testing, we tried the P-350 with some Federal Premium Vital-Shok 12-ga. 3", 00 buckshot. Although this ammunition is intended for use as hunting ammunition, the abundant power and relatively limited penetration also makes it well suited for use in a defensive shotgun such as the P-350 Defense. We also function fired the gun with 2¾" and 3½" shells as well. Over the course of our testing, the shotgun performed well, although the 3 ½" shells did initially have a few double feeds when the tube was fully loaded. However, this cleared up shortly thereafter. We did note that the P-350 Defense seemed to pattern a bit low at 25 yards. This is likely due to a somewhat high front sight without a corresponding rear sight unit. Once that was taken into account, the low patterning issue was mitigated. In the crowded self-defense shotgun market, the P-350 Stoeger should stand out due to its extreme ruggedness, impressive capabilities and utterly affordable price point.