"Guns have two enemies: rust and politicians,” the old saying goes. It’s a joke, but, like all good jokes, it also tells truth. Since the rest of the pages of this publication thoroughly explain the first threat, allow me to focus on the latter: environmental hazards, especially humidity and salt, create rust, and rust is bad for your guns.
Those who live on a coast have a challenging time keeping their guns protected from the elements. The closer to the sea we live, the worse it gets. Beach dwellers and boat owners, who must constantly deal with this corrosive cocktail of humidity and salt, often must pay dearly for marine-grade firearms, as the industry doesn’t offer many options. But, Tennessee-based SDS Imports sought to fix this by scouring the world for an inexpensive option that still meets the demanding standards of the U.S. market. Given the vast improvement of Turkish-made firearms in recent years, it’s not too surprising that SDS came back with the Tokarev USA TX3 12HDM, a marine-grade, pump-action shotgun with the very low recommended price of just $299.
When I first read the specs, I had my concerns. Did they reduce the price by eliminating features or cutting quality? As the TX3 Marine had nearly every feature I could ask for in a defensive scattergun, I had to suspect lower quality. Indeed, once I received it, the concern remained, as it certainly presented the appearance of a shotgun that should cost quite a bit more; however, applying some materials and production knowledge answers much. For instance, the sample was clad with gorgeous Turkish walnut furniture, considered to be one of the most luxurious of hardwoods. While this might be an expensive move for an American manufacturer, the material is native to Turkey. The shiny electroless nickel-plating is another intersection of quality and affordability. Its electroless plating is faster, less expensive and better suited for irregular shapes than common electrolytic nickel plating, yet yields a harder, more-uniform finish.
As I was satisfied with the quality of the shotgun’s exterior, I dug deeper. Tokarev uses solid 4140 Chromoly steel to craft the TX3’s barrel, and it is built to survive heavy-duty defensive loads. (That toughness, combined with the gun’s ability to accept three-inch shells, presents many ammunition options.) This barrel is mated to an aluminum-alloy receiver, which helps to keep weight down without sacrificing quality. I thought it was a classy move on Tokarev’s part to plate the receiver to match, even though there’s no functional reason to do so, considering aluminum’s natural corrosion resistance. Moving onto the trigger assembly, I wasn’t a fan of the plastic trigger guard, but this is a great way to keep the price down. Molding plastic is cheaper and faster than machining metal, and to this date, I haven’t snapped a single trigger guard made this way. Also, considering it will be in a marine environment, this takes advantage of the material’s natural weatherproofing.
When I opened it up to view the interior of the receiver, I found it devoid of any tool marks or other imperfections—another easy place to skimp, should you be looking to reduce production costs. I followed the dual action bars throughout their entire stroke, which was another factor that earned my respect. Single-bar pump actions are far cheaper to build, but are mathematically half as durable as a twin-bar design. Furthermore, having two bars creates a counterbalancing effect that yields a smother stroke with far less chance of binding.
I can only handle a gun for so long before I have to take it to the range, so I set out for a beach-side range in eastern Long Island. While I could test its function anywhere, I wanted to see how the finish of this TX3 would fare after an onslaught of sand and salted air. I began the process by patterning some of Winchester’s Defender 00 buckshot from 15 yards. Out of the box, the gun shot a little high and right, so I dialed most of the error away via the adjustable ghost-ring rear sight. If I wanted to, I could have attached a red dot to the Picatinny rail section that sits just forward of it, but since the factory front sight is built with a fiber-optic rod, I didn’t see a need for a red-dot in daylight conditions.
Satisfied with my zero, I blasted away at a series of Caldwell AR-500 IPSC targets to reproduce a defensive scenario and to get a better feel of the trigger. At more than eight pounds, some might consider the trigger a bit stiff for precision work, but last time I checked, shotguns aren’t exactly surgical instruments. Naturally, I didn’t notice the heavy trigger pull while I was moving and shooting, but what I did notice was how exceptionally smooth the fore-end slid back and forth across the magazine tube. It’s a tricky balance to strike whenever coatings are involved, but Tokarev got it right.
Dumping six shells onto target was no task at all, and for a 12-gauge, the recoil wasn’t the worst I’ve ever felt, and the gun can also take slugs and steel shot with available chokes threaded on. Tokarev protects your shoulder through the combined effect of the gun’s sheer mass and the thick rubber recoil pad. Care is also provided for your hands, as this shotgun features a ventilated heat shield, which helps prevent burning yourself while you reload the gun.
My range day ended after pushing the gun as hard as I could in a failed attempt to induce any malfunctions. Reloads went smoothly, allowing for both dual and quad loading, something I only expect from a purpose-built match shotgun. The official wrap-up came about a month later when I inspected the unpreserved shotgun, which sat in my unfinished basement, wholly exposed to non-stop moisture. Despite being put away dirty, there was nary a sign of corrosion, and again, I was impressed.