Armscor/Rock Island Armory Matte Nickel M5 12 Gauge Fighting Shotgun

by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

January 29th, 2014


Click pictures for a larger version.





Top to bottom: crossbolt safety, slide latch, disassembly pin.







The M5 is very easy to load.





Dual slide rails.





Buttstock holds two extra shells in reserve.



Fighting shotguns have become very popular in recent years. With home invasions on the rise, more and more people are realizing the need to have a good home defense plan, and having the necessary hardware to defend the home from those who would do us harm. Up close and personal, there is nothing that beats a good shotgun in the hands of a person with limited gun-handling skills. For highly-trained professionals, there are some military-grade weapons that might be better in certain circumstances, but even that is arguable. My late father-in-law, SGT. Charles Jerles, a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars, preferred to carry a shotgun in the jungle. He told me that it was very effective against the enemy in the close-up conflicts in the jungle, and was much quicker at ending a fight than was the M16.

There are a few very modern shotguns on the market that are purpose-built for fighting. The SRM, UTAS, and Kel-Tec shotgun videos that we have made are some of our most popular to date. While these are very good weapons, a shotgun of standard pump configuration does just as well in almost every situation, and it does so in a simpler design that costs a lot less to purchase, and that brings us to the subject of this review; the Armscor M5 shotgun. Having reviewed Armscor products here before, such as the Rock Island 22 TCM 1911 pistol, I expected it to be a quality shotgun, so I ordered the M5 with confidence from Gallery of Guns.

The M5 is based upon the old High Standard Flite King design, but unlike the sporting versions of that design, the M5 is purpose-built for fighting. I recently came across a great deal on the M5 from Davidson’s Gallery of Guns, and I ordered five of them. I issued one to my son-in-law, and the other four will serve here as home-defense weapons, placed strategically around the home. Davidson’s is a large firearms distributor, selling directly to gun dealers around the nation. However, through their Gun Genie on Gallery of Guns ( ) anyone can place an order. When doing so, the Gun Genie will give the purchaser several buying options from dealers in their area. The price is listed from each dealer, along with any applicable taxes, background fees,  and shipping costs. The purchaser picks the gun up at the local dealer of his choice, filling out the required paperwork. The buyer pays a deposit online, and the balance when picking up the firearm from the local dealer. This way, the buyer gets a great deal, as dealers are competing for his business, and there are no hidden fees nor taxes. Going onto Gallery of Guns, I poked in my ZIP code, and received several offers from dealers within twenty-five miles of my location. The gun prices on the Parkerized version of the M5 varied from a low of  $189.19 to a high of $221.99, not including the shipping, tax, and transfer fees. The totals, including all fees and taxes, ran from $232.64 to $269.03 US. For a quality fighting shotgun, this M5 is a real bargain. The matte nickel version of the M5 is only about eight dollars more, so I opted for that. Of course, buying more than one reduces the shipping and transfer fees per gun, making the M5 an even better deal.

Back to the shotgun, the M5 is a very well-built shotgun. It holds five rounds in the magazine, for a total capacity of six rounds at the ready. The black synthetic buttstock has storage for two more shotshells. The M5 uses both two-and-three-quarter and three-inch shotshells. It loads through the bottom, like most pump guns, and a shotgun of this style allows the magazine to be topped-off during a fight, if necessary. In other words, when the situation allows, another shell or two can be placed into the magazine without taking the gun out of the fight. A plus for the M5 is that when the bolt is closed, the shell lifter (carrier) is in the upward position, making it really easy to thumb another shell into the magazine, without having to push up on a spring-loaded lifter.

The Armscor M5 is a heavy-duty shotgun, built for hard use. The weapon is built primarily of steel, with synthetic buttstock and forearm. The cylinder-bore barrel is threaded into the steel receiver. It does not simply slide in, as with most pump guns. The M5 has twin action bars, and this is absolutely the smoothest action on any pump shotgun that I have ever fondled or fired. No twisting nor binding, just a really slick action, and a very good trigger pull as well. The M5 weighs in at seven pounds, fourteen ounces on my scale, balancing and handling very well. The twenty-inch barrel is fitted with a brass bead sight, and the aforementioned heat shield. For those who prefer a more-visible tritium night sight, XS Sights makes a dandy Big Dot sight that fits right over top of the bead. The synthetic buttstock holds two shells in reserve, and has a synthetic rubber butt pad. The forearm is heavily grooved for a positive hold, and is very comfortable to use.  The overall length measures 39.375 inches, and the M5 has a 13.75 inch length of pull.  The trigger pull measures a bit over five pounds on my resistance gauge, but feels much lighter, due to its smoothness.

The matte nickel plating looks great, contrasting nicely with the black buttstock, forearm, and black-anodized. aluminum trigger guard. The heat shield over the barrel is a cool touch, in more ways than one. It protects the shooter’s hand from a hot barrel, and it just looks pretty cool, as well. For those who want a darker finish, the M5 is also available in a matte black Parkerized finish, as noted above. The bolt is jeweled on both models.

I fired the Armscor M5 shotgun on paper and steel targets using slugs, buckshot, and birdshot. The only loads that were painful to shoot were the ones that are always painful to shoot; the three inch turkey loads. These heavy loads throw as much shot with each pull of the trigger as two 12 gauge target loads, so the gun is going to back up a bit. One trick that I learned long ago when testing a bunch of turkey loads was to hold the shotgun slightly off the shoulder. We have always been told to hold the shotgun firmly to the shoulder to reduce felt recoil, but I have found that holding the shotgun in an isometric two-hand hold, similar to holding a handgun, helps a lot. Push forward with the strong hand, while pulling rearward with the support hand, holding the weapon a couple of inches off the shoulder. It works. Anyway, back to the M5, every type of shotshell tried functioned flawlessly through the smooth action. There were no failures of any kind.

There are several rumors bantered about, by gun shop commandos and on the internet. One is that birdshot is useless for defense. This is false. At across-the-room distances, a load of birdshot is very effective, yet if it passes through an apartment wall, it loses power quickly, reducing the danger to neighbors. Another myth is that the mere sound of racking a shotgun slide will make any attacker piss his pants and run off. This is ridiculous and dangerous. Before engaging an intruder, the chamber should be loaded. Racking the slide to scare off an intruder gives away your position, and reduces your capacity by one shotshell. The attacker should hear nothing, and maybe just see a flicker of muzzle flash before his brain shuts down.  One last mistake that many shotgun owners believe, because they have been told this by “experts” is that you just point the shotgun in the general compass direction of your target, and you can take out everything in that ZIP code. This is also false. A shotgun has to be pointed accurately, especially a home-defense shotgun that is used most likely at a distance of seven yards or closer. With a cylinder-bore twelve gauge shooting buckshot or heavy birdshot, the spread will be about the size of your hand, or tighter, across a typical bedroom.

Dealing with the capacity of the M5, lots of folks think that they have to have the latest and greatest modern shotgun with a shell capacity of a dozen or more. Those shotguns are nice. I like them, and own a KSG myself, but realistically, I don’t think that I need a shotgun with that much capacity, and I keep my standard pump guns loaded around the house. The M5 shotgun has a loaded capacity of six, is very easy to load on-the-go, and should serve well. There is no provision to attach a magazine extension, but none is needed, except for competitive shooters. In the real world, I am perfectly happy with six rounds of number 4 or 00 buck loaded in the M5.

Shooting the M5 was a real pleasure. It functioned flawlessly with every type of shotshell fed it, with the exception of one three inch Hornady turkey load empty shell that stuck in the chamber, which might have been my fault: the M5 comes packed heavily in grease, and I might not have cleaned the chamber adequately. However, every other shell worked perfectly, even other Hornady turkey loads, so it also might have been a problem with that one shell.

The M5 is easier to load than most other pump shotguns on the market. It is easier to work the action than most other pump shotguns on the market. It is easier on the wallet than most other pump shotguns on the market. That last feature is very important to most of us. Many times, gun writers are lost on the significance of price when it comes to buying weapons, as we usually get a pretty good deal on the latest and greatest guns on the market. However, to a young father with a mortgage, a car payment, and a family to feed and clothe, price is important. To a single mom trying to make a living for herself and the kids, but needing a home defense weapon, price is important. The good thing about the M5 is that we do not have to sacrifice quality to get a good price. Armscor makes their firearms in the Philippines, and they use quality materials assembled with skilled craftsmanship. The M5 shotgun is a fine choice at any price, but it doesn’t hurt that it costs less than the competition. I like it, I use it, and I highly recommend it.

Check out the M5 and other Armscor/Rock Island firearms and accessories online at

To order the M5 online, click on the Gun Genie at

To order quality shotgun ammunition, go to and

Jeff Quinn

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Click pictures for a larger version.







The M5 is also available in black Parkerized finish.



00 Buckshot pattern at 21 yards.



#4 Buckshot pattern at 12 feet.



#7-1/2 Bird Shot pattern at 5 yards.



Back side of 3/8" plywood target stand shows the effectiveness of #7-1/2 Bird Shot load at 5 yards.