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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Homefront Defensive Devices Compression 12 Gauge Followers

I have come to appreciate the fighting shotgun as a part of my defensive arsenal.  The advantages and disadvantages of scatterguns are well known-and subject to much debate, but they boil down to massive firepower and versatility in the plus column, and small magazine size and cumbersome loading in the minus column.

When I decided to delve into the world of shotguns, I selected a Mossberg M500 12 gauge for its large magazine capacity and excellent ergonomics.  While I fell in love with the gun right off the bat, there was one thing I was not enamored with: the stock follower.  There were numerous times when the cheap metal follower would bind up when dirty, and even more times when I could find no reason for it to bind up between the receiver and magazine tube.

One of my shooter buddies put me in touch with Frank McNitt, owner of Homefront Defensive Devices, who had just the thing to cure what ails me.

I was familiar with Frank's work with HD2 (shorthand for his company's name), having checked out his excellent (and intimidating) Pumkin Puncher standoff/breaching devices. He was bringing some new followers to market, and immediately sent a couple out for me to test.

The followers were HD2's Workhorse and Defender followers.  As a complete side-note, HFD2 shipped these incredibly fast.  The shooters I know that have gear from them have reported the same thing, which is always a good sign.

These followers are dissimilar to what's probably already in your gun.  The standard shotgun follower in most pump-action shotguns is essentially a metal cup that holds the spring in the hollow portion of the cup.  The follower is usually very close to the diameter of the magazine tube and completely circular with no cutouts.  This is a simple design that's been in use for a long time, but it's not the best at what it is doing.

Because the follower is close to the diameter of the magazine tube, it can trap debris between it and the tube as it is loaded.  In a perfect world of indoor ranges and no real bad guys, this is less of an issue as you probably won't be loading a shell that has been in the dirt or at the bottom of a dump pouch for hours.

Similarly, if the follower or spring is excessively worn, they can bind as the gun is loaded or cycles, especially if the gun is dirty.

HFD2 deals with these issues by making a thicker follower with cutouts to allow debris to pass through the follower instead of binding in the tube.  The Workhorse follower is anodized red, and the Defender follower is anodized blue.  Both followers are machined out of a piece of 6061 aluminum alloy.

Underneath the follower body is a captured spring loaded peg.  This compresses as the gun is loaded and stops the follower from tilting or binding up, especially when loaded roughly.  Since installing the follower in my Mossberg and my co-workers Remington 870, I have not had a problem with the follower binding up when loaded.

To take apart the follower, you simply press the base in and twist it so the locking tabs slide along their track and over the notches in the body of the follower.  You can only do it one way, so if you're doing it wrong,I don't know what to say to you.

This will allow you to remove the base from the body, and the captured spring.  You have now taken down the follower for cleaning.  Reversing the procedure puts it back together.  Either way, it's very simple.

HFD2 advises that the cutouts will allow any debris that pass through and exit the magazine tube as the gun is cycled and fired.  So far, I have not had a jam in about 200 rounds since installing the followers.

As a shooter, I am much more familiar with the carbine and autoloading pistol.  I know what it takes to make a gun reliable, and a lot of this has to do with the magazine.  Replacing the standard GI green or black follower with an anti-tilt follower is a critical step to enhancing reliability of the weapon.  With the design of the shotgun being so different from either of those platforms, it took me a while to get my head around what made a shotgun reliable and effective.  The binding of the follower was a concern to me, so I made sure to clean and lubricate the magazine tube and load the weapon forcefully to avoid the issue.  However, there are times when slamming the new rounds into the tube is not an option.  I had to find another way to deal with the issue.  Once I had installed the followers and worked the guns over, it dawned on my that this was the equivalent of installing an anti-tilt follower in my carbine magazines.  As I ensure that all my magazines have anti-tilt followers, doing the same for my fighting shotgun makes perfect sense to me.

Another issue I had with the stock follower was the low visibility of the part, making checking for a loaded tube more time consuming than it needs to be.  To remedy this, I marked the follower with a white paint pen.  Although this increased the visibility, it did nothing for the issue of the follower sticking in the tube.

With HFD2's enhanced followers, the visibility issue is no longer a concern.  The red and blue anodizing is highly visible even in low light, and makes checking for an empty tube a breeze.

With the simplicity of most modern pump shotguns, most modifications users make are external.  Personally, I bolted on all sorts of gear to my gauge before doing anything to improve its actual performance.  No matter what I did to my gun, it still had the loading and feeding issues.

Internally, other than the feeding/loading issues, I had little to complain about with my shotgun.  Now that I have installed the HFD2's new follower, my gun cycles like its supposed to, and I have total confidence in the fighting scattergun as a part of my arsenal.

If you need to iron out your gun's feeding/loading cycle, or just need a high-vis follower, take a look ad HFD2's offerings.

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