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Caliber 12 Pic60The Dagger SAP6 is a new entry into the Canadian tactical shotgun market.  Starting at $699, the SAP6 was designed in Canada by Tactical Imports and is manufactured in Turkey specifically for the Canadian market.  With an overall length of 29 inches and a straight-insertion box magazine, this non-restricted 12-guage stomper is poised to be a serious contender in the home defense category.  Over the course of five hours at Abbotsford Fish and Game, under the watchful eye of Abbotsford Tactical Shooters Co-Director Claude Murdoch, we pounded two hundred and fifty rounds of trap loads into steel targets and another fifty rounds of slugs and buck to put this beast to the test and figure out just how hard we could make it run.  How did it do?  Read on.

The SAP6’s most bluntly obvious features are the 11.4 inch barrel, the factory pistol grip, and, of course, the 6-round box magazine projecting from the receiver.  The barrel is cut nearly flush with the pump, making the gun as short as possible in this configuration.  Set atop the gun is a full-length rail which accepts the vast majority of standard picatinny-moiunt accessories, from optics to enhanced iron sights to weapon lights.

Caliber 12 Pic62Delving deeper into the SAP6 reveals a series of carefully planned details.  The forward rail screw is a bead sight and the rail lugs are machined out in the centre, allowing the user to skip optics and still get a better-than-average sighting system with the rail lugs acting as a rear notch sight – those of us who spend our days with carbines and pistols may appreciate the extra feedback this provides.  There is a small downside to the centre channel: technically, the picatinny rail spec has each lug extend the full width of the rail and as such, a very few mounts clamp in the centre of the rail.  It’s not common, but you may find the occasional accessory that won’t lock down, so just be prepared for a bit of research when you pick your mounts.

The full-length rail avoids the pitfalls we’ve seen with some short barrelled shotguns’ awkwardly low point of aim: a similarly-sized Dominion Arms Grizzly generated the comment “you’d better be shooting country singers, because you need to aim for the belt buckle to hit the centre of mass”.  The SAP6 was easy to put on target, however, and patterned fairly well for such a short gun: 00 buck printed a four inch circle at 5 yards, six inches at 10, and ten inches at 15 yards.  At room-to-room distances, this thing is a beast.

Caliber 12 Pic63On top of the rail, I mounted an Aimpoint T1 Micro for the duration of the testing.  Frankly, the combination of the Micro and a fast-handling shotgun should probably be considered “cheating”.  I zeroed the gun with slugs at 75 yards, and from that moment on, the pure simplicity of “dot on target, target obliterated” was hard to overlook.  One minor issue that cropped up after about two hundred rounds was that the screws holding the rail down began to back out.  This could be pretty easily corrected with loctite or a spring punch so not a huge concern for the prospective owner in my opinion.

The barrel is meaty and there’s plenty of thickness to install a choke on the muzzle which would come with some significant advantages; aside from the ability to control the spread, I found myself wanting some kind of muzzle device when shooting through the 9-hole wall at Abbotsford Fish and Game.  The lack of overhang over the pump left me a little unsure of myself when pushing hard on the wall’s tighter slots.  A choke or breacher would make the 9-hole a breeze.

Caliber 12 Pic65The pump tube cap comes fitted with a sling swivel, which as a carbine guy who is used to buying sling attachments, struck me as a nice touch.  I hung a spare VTac 2-point on it and felt well-equipped.  But I think like a carbine shooter.  I was immediately warned by Claude Murdoch, the experienced shotgunner, that I’d regret my setup: “You’ll end up twisted up on the 9-hole and get that sling right over your muzzle and blow it to shreds when you’re lying on the ground trying to aim up at one of the steels,” he told me.  I promised to keep an eye on it, and that lasted about an hour.  Then, on the 9-hole wall, while lying in a puddle and trying to get an eye on one of the steel targets from the ground-height holes, I blew the front of my sling off.

So in the future, I’ll probably skip the supplied sling mount and pop a rail-mounted one on instead.

Moving back from the sling mount, you’ve got yourself some no-nonsense polymer furniture which worked fine in the wet, coastal weather of our late October range day, and then another interesting feature: the pump tube is wrapped in a coil spring which keeps the action closed.  This spring assist is easy to overcome when racking the shotgun; the action is barely stiffer than my 870.  But it does keep things closed up when you’re firing in, or transitioning to, really awkward positions, which I appreciated.  It does make side loading a little more difficult, as the action immediately springs closed if you’re not actively holding it open but…you have spare magazines for that, right?  Why put one in the gun when six are available on your belt in the same amount of time?

Caliber 12 Pic64Of course that begs the question of why the action wouldn’t simply remain closed on its own and the answer is yet another of the SAP6’s interesting design features: it has no action lock. If you want to cycle the action, you pump the gun.  There’s nothing in the way.  When the pump is forward, lugs on the bolt engage and lock it up tight but as soon as the pump is pulled back, the lugs retreat into their recesses and the bolt slides freely.

Again, from the perspective of a carbine shooter, this makes sense.  It’s very easy to clear the SAP6; it’s very easy to check to see that there’s nothing chambered.  It’s as easy to do with winter gloves as without.

The one quirk that some users may find which results from the lack of an action lock is that if you’re used to running a shotgun hard, you may be in the habit of preloading the pump a little for a faster rack.  That’s not going to work with the SAP6; rather, I’d recommend taking the Louis Awerbuck approach and pull the shotgun into your shoulder with your dominant hand while pushing the pump forward with your support side hand.  This technique was originally developed to mitigate recoil and keep shotguns flatter with the goal of faster shot to shot recovery times, but it’s perfectly suited to the SAP6’s lockless action.

Caliber 12 Pic66Where I found this a bit tricky was in unconventional shooting positions.  Lying on my side in urban prone with the gun angled upwards through a narrow hole, I found I had to concentrate a bit not to pull the action open – again, this is partly a byproduct of the fact that I primarily shoot semi-automatic carbines, and when I do use a shotgun, it’s always been an 870, which is not at all sensitive to preloading the pump.

Moving back from the pump, we encounter the polymer magwell and trigger group housing.  The magwell is clean and slick, and while not flared or chamfered I found it very easy on insertion and never missed on hung up on a mag change.  The mags go straight in rather than rock-and-lock and they’re fast.

Caliber 12 Pic44The magazines themselves were reliable and trouble free – I tried four of them and was satisfied with the performance.  I’d like to see an eight or nine round version just to get the capacity up to what an extended-tube Remington or Mossberg would offer; in particular anyone using the SAP6 in 3-gun would benefit from this as some courses of fire will be designed for a gun that will hold the common maximum.  The SAP6 is quick to reload, but on a course of fire designed by shooters expecting a 9-round Mossberg 590 might well be slower to shoot even with fast mag changes.

Of course not every course of fire will have that limitation.  Shooting the 9-hole wall, 2 rounds per hole, I blew past much better shooters simply because once they ran dry, it was all side loading one shot at a time.  Even a fast side loader will struggle against a mediocre shotgunner with a gun that tops up nearly instantaneously.

The trigger guard houses a Remington-style safety and this is my only major gripe with the SAP6 experience.  The safety is stiff, and I mean stiff.  So stiff I couldn’t believe it.  If I owned the testing gun, I’d take the trigger assembly apart, pull the safety out, clean it up on all surfaces, radius out the detent pocket a bit, and put it back together.  I have no doubt that this could be accomplished fairly simply but not owning the test gun, I was a bit hesitant to dismantle it and begin modifications.  Instead I just cycled the safety, over and over.  In total I believe I cycled it about 700 times, and it’s still way too stiff to use easily.  And for the record, I work extensively with leather and steel and I wear a size 12 glove.  If I find it hard to work the safety, I think many people would find it essentially impossible.  To be fair, this gun is brand new to the market.  Every copy on the market is an early production model and I think it’s forgivable to have an oversized part.  But this needs to get fixed on subsequent iterations or this gun will have a serious safety flaw – as in you won’t be able to use it when you need it most.

Caliber 12 Pic50The SAP6 came with a collapsible pistol grip stock installed and is available with an optional fixed, traditional stock.  The test model showed up with the optional stock in the box as well but honestly, I was happy enough with the collapsible pistol grip version that it didn’t seem worth changing it out.  The attachment is enough like an 870 stock that I wouldn’t have been surprised if my 870 stock swapped right in, although Tactical Imports says that nothing carries over from the 870 at all.  If you’re someone who needs to replace stocks and foregrips, the SAP6 will present a bit of a challenge.  It’s brand new, and aftermarket support is nonexistent at this time.  Personally I’d just run the existing hardware and call it a day.

Things get a bit quirky when you go to strip the gun down.  The included manual is a little light on technical detail so don’t expect much help there.  There are two pins holding the magwell and trigger group in place and they pop out as you’d expect: rack the action, knock out the pins, and the magwell drops out, although this gains you very little access to the internals.  Beyond that, casual field stripping seems impossible.  It’s either serious tear-down or nothing.  I opted for nothing and lubed by hosing oil throughout.

Caliber 12 Pic52One note: do not, for any reason, depress the trigger with the magwell out.  There is nothing holding the hammer spring in, and the spring and cap will disappear either in your living room or your garage.  This was tested by both the writing and editorial staff as a service to the reader.

Final thoughts: this is a worthy machine and I like it, but there are a couple of quirks that the buyer should consider:

The safety issue needs to be addressed, whether that’s changing the shape of the detent pocket or simply manufacturing the part with greater clearance between the safety and trigger guard.  That can be corrected at a user level but on subsequent guns it should be fixed before the guns ship.

If there is no ready method to field strip the gun, a more detailed manual would be useful, although frequent teardowns are probably unlikely.  Still, it’s a little unnerving to be faced with the prospect of completely disassembling a gun for which there are no instructions on reassembly to be found anywhere online.

Caliber 12 Pic54The six round magazines are good, but eight or nine would make this gun really tough to beat.  Tactical Imports has hinted at a larger capacity magazine for the very near future but no definite information exists about the capacity.  I doubt much effort would be going into a seven rounder, so it seems safe to conclude that we’ll see a significant upgrade but exactly what, or when, I couldn’t say.

Finally, if you use the SAP6, you need to train to its method of operation.  Don’t preload the pump; keep the gun under tension and rack with authority.  If you treat it correctly it performs extremely well.

Bottom line…if you want a mag fed pump shotgun and you would rather deal with a couple of quirks than the build quality issues we’ve seen with some of the competitors, the SAP6 is your gun.