All around the country, gun clubs are sponsoring zombie-themed shooting competitions. They are taking advantage of the current craze for events, firearms and gear especially configured for battling the undead. From wild paint jobs to bizarre accessories, these fun shoots have certainly inspired some interesting and creative firearm configurations. Not everyone will dedicate a firearm to the process of decommissioning the deceased, but it’s not hard to find one that could hold its own at a match, both cosmetically and functionally, while remaining easy to convert for less supernatural applications.
The Stoeger Double Defense looked like it would meet the requirements without the need for additional, and often expensive, modifications. These double-barrel shotguns are available in either an over/under or side-by-side configuration chambered in 12 or 20 gauge. For this review, I opted for the iconic machismo and the zombie-stomping power of the side-by-side coach gun configuration chambered for 12-gauge shotshells.
For those who are familiar with coach guns from cowboy action competitions, it's plain to see the Double Defense is based on a proven and respected design. However, this shotgun has several features that are not typical of the breed. The two 20-inch barrels, with fixed Improved Cylinder chokes, are factory ported to reduce felt recoil. The traditional brass bead sight has been replaced by a bright green fiber optic. The steel components are treated with a non-reflective matte-black finish instead of bluing, and the wooden stocks have been painted to match, and the shoulder stock is fitted with a rubber pad instead of a hard plate.
While coach guns typically have two triggers, the Double Defense has a single trigger that fires the right barrel first followed by the left. One more notable modern update to the Double Defense is the addition of Picatinny accessory rails. A short rail is mounted on top of the barrels near the breach for attaching optics, while a full-length rail runs along the bottom of the barrels for attaching lights, lasers and other accessories.
At the range, the Double Defense proved to be a handy shotgun right out of the box. Although coach guns have limited ammunition capacity, they’re rugged and simple to operate, and the hinged action makes it easy to verify the state of the chambers. The shortened double-barrel configuration swings and points comfortably and naturally. Coach guns can be a great fit for small-framed shooters or those looking for a shotgun that's straight forward to run.
The single trigger was crisp and reliably cycled between the two barrels. The fiber-optic front sight was bright and visible for quick target acquisition. The Double Defense successfully fired and extracted every shell it was fed, from affordable bulk birdshot loads to premium defensive shot shells. With a little practice it became an intuitive process to reload by opening the action, pulling out the spent shells with the support hand, loading two fresh shells from a belt or a shell holder on the stock, closing the action, disengaging the tang-mounted safety (which resets each time the action is opened) and firing. The barrel porting did help to mitigate felt recoil with mild loads, but full-power buckshot and slug shells still felt like full-power loads. Using reduced-recoil buckshot, like Winchester's WinLite or Remington's Managed-Recoil rounds or birdshot loads, successfully reduced the level of felt recoil.
With the basics of the gun worked out, it was time to get into zombie mode by trying out a few different sighting options and accessories. An Allen elastic shell holder was slipped over the stock to provide five additional rounds of ammunition. Since the lower rail reaches right to the muzzles of the Double Defense, a Laserlyte ZK PB Serrated Zombie Killer bayonet was attached to give the gun that all-important bit of zombie-fighting flair.
I couldn't help but smile at the reactions of other shooters on the range as I blasted away at Birchwood Casey Darkotic zombie targets with Hornady Zombie Max shot shells using this stealth black double gun sporting a bright green bayonet. A couple of men in their 50s kept giving me that "You've got to be kidding" look, while a group of 20-somethings gazed on with what seemed to be a little jealousy. This reaction just about sums up the two common reactions folks have to the zombie apocalypse movement.
With upper and lower accessory rails in place, this seemed like a good opportunity to test out two different aiming solutions. The optics rail was tested with the no-batteries-required Trijicon RM05 Ruggedized Miniature Reflex sight. Using a reduced-height sight mount provided by Trijicon, the RM05 was quick to sight in and proved to be ideal for use in bright and low-light conditions.
The lower rail of the Double Defense was tested with Laserlyte’s RML Kryptonyte Center Mass CM-15 green laser sight. The RML was mounted to the rail 3.25 inches behind the ZK bayonet. Whether by design or good fortune, the two Laserlyte products did not interfere with each other. Most laser sights, green or red, project a single beam of light on targets to help guide the shooter's aim. The RML is different in that the sight is fitted with a splitter that breaks a single green laser beam into a central point of light surrounded by a halo of eight additional laser points. As the distance to the target increases, the central point of light remains central, while the eight surrounding points spread apart, just like shot pellets.
Having sighted the RML in at 7 yards, with the central light point hovering level with the shotgun's bead sight, the outer halo created an 8.5-inch pattern. As I learned in a tactical shotgun class not too long ago, 18.5-inch barrel defensive shotguns fitted with Cylinder Bore chokes usually cause birdshot and buckshot to spread at about 1 inch-per-yard of distance to the target, or about 7 inches at 7 yards. The RML sight's pattern will successfully outline, like a sight reticule, the average defensive shotgun’s pattern. In the case of the Double Defense, the 20-inch barrel and Improved Cylinder chokes changed the patterning a bit. Buckshot patterns were tighter than usual, averaging 5 inches at 7 yards, with birdshot opening up to an average of 9 inches at the same distance. Either way, the RML created a clearly visible pattern that will successfully aid in placing shots center-of-mass with this and other shotguns. It certainly does look cool down range.
Is the Stoeger Double Defense side-by-side 12 gauge a fun zombie gun? No doubt about it! Its quick handling, manageable recoil and easy operation make it ideal for this kind of themed shooting event. While the usefulness of a fixed Laserlyte bayonet is debatable, the RML Kryptonyte Center Mass CM-15 green laser sight proved to be a very useful sighting option for at-home and relatively close range (25 yards or less) defensive applications. But what if you don't want to dedicate a shotgun to just zombie-themed shooting events? Simply remove the bayonet, swap out the "Zombies Only" ammunition for bona fide field and defensive loads. Then take advantage of the Picatinny rails to mount lights, lasers and optics for personal protection, camping or casual hunting and clays.
Manufacturer: Stoeger Industries; Stoegerindustries.com Model: Double Defense Action: Break-Action Side-by-Side, Caliber: 12 gauge Finish: Matte Black Stocks: Matte Black Wood Sights: Fiber Optic Front, Picatinny Sight Rail Barrel Length: 20-Inch Ported Overall Length: 36.5” Weight: 6.5 lbs. Chokes: Fixed Improved Cylinder (Both Barrels) Length of Pull: 14.5” Drop At Heel: 2.5” Capacity: 2 Accessories: Allen key and replacement screws for Picatinny rail, lock and manual Suggested Retail Price: $499