By Bruce Flemings
The .410 gauge single-shot shotgun has a long history of dispatching snakes and other small pests. Over the years, several companies have offered small and light-weight .410 shotguns with names like Snake Charmer and Snake Tamer so there would be no mistake about their intended use. The Heizer PS1 miniaturizes the single-shot .410 shotgun to a pistol that rides as easily in your pocket as it would in your tackle box.
Heizer Defense is a new name in the firearm marketplace, but its manufacturing roots run deep in the Aerospace Industry. Heizer Defense is a subsidiary of Pevely, Missouri-based Heizer Aerospace, located just south of St. Louis, Mo. Heizer’s first entry into the market is the PS1 Pocket Shotgun Pistol, chambered for .410 gauge 2.5” shotshells as well as 45 Colt cartridges. The single-shot pistol is marketed as the “Ideal companion for hunter/fisherman/hiker”.
Heizer PS1 Pocket Shotgun Specifications:
Weight – 21 1/8 oz.
Height – 3 7/8″
Width – .72″Length – 5.7″
MSRP – $499
Stainless Steel Frame and Barrel
Finish – ISONITE (salt bath nitriding) Matte Black
Other finish options include: Polished, Military Green, Bronze, Prison Pink, Desert Tan, and White Cerakote
The Heizer PS1 ships in a flat cardboard box resembling a small pizza box. Emblazoned with the Heizer ‘Flaming H’ logo, the box opens to reveal the usual items you would expect to receive with a new pistol. Heizer ships the PS1 in a black padded zipper case suitable for transportation to and from the range. A cable lock, fired case and Owner’s Manual are also included in the box.
Two thoughts crossed my mind as I handled the PS1 for the first time. My first thought was that the pistol was substantially heavier than it looked. My second thought was the PS1 was built like a tank. Built entirely of stainless steel, the PS1 weighs just over 21 ounces. The shape of the grip fit really well in my hand. With only one barrel, the bore line is very low. For me, the PS1 pointed very naturally. Closing my eyes and bringing the pistol up to eye-line had the sights in nearly perfect alignment when I opened my eyes. Since the pistol is so short, I quickly realized that my support-side thumb extended beyond the muzzle with my normal thumbs-forward grip. I made a mental note to use a revolver style grip technique when I finally got the PS1 out to the range.
The PS1 pocket shotgun consists of two primary components. The barrel assembly attaches to the frame with a single barrel pivot pin. Removing the barrel from the frame is as simple as pushing out the captive barrel pivot pin from the left side of the frame until it stops against the right side of the frame. The only tool you need is your thumb to complete this operation. With the barrel pivot pin pushed aside, the barrel assembly lifts off the frame. No further disassembly is required to complete routine cleaning and lubrication.
Heizer machines all frames and barrels at its in-house production facility. Frames start as stainless steel blanks and are machined in pairs. You may have noticed the matching serial numbers on both sides of the frame in the pictures. This is purposely done as a quality control measure. I found the machining to be outstanding, with no visible tool marks, even inside the frame. The frame and barrel have both been treated to a beautiful matte black ISONITE finish by PARKER TRUTEC.
Reassembly of the barrel and frame requires positioning the barrel on the frame and pushing the barrel pivot pin through the barrel lug and into the left side of the frame, where it locks in place. Pushing down on the rear of the barrel allows the barrel locking lug to push the barrel release forward until it clears the locking notch. The massive under-barrel locking lug and barrel release block secure the barrel and frame during firing.
The sight system is machined into the frame and barrel. Each side of the frame has one rear sight half machined into it. When the two frame halves are joined together, the rear sight is formed. The front sight is machined into the top of the barrel. This low-profile sighting system is very robust and virtually impossible to damage.
Peering down the barrel, I was surprised to see how Heizer decided to treat the bore. Starting at the breech face, the 3.25 inch long barrel has 1.3 inches of 45 Colt chamber, followed by 1.45 inches of smooth bore, and finally .5 inch of rifling. I was curious to see how this bore configuration would handle various 45 Colt and .410 shotshell loads out on the range.
Heizer is very proud of the roller bearing trigger system, which does not require any lubrication. The trigger pulls straight back with a trigger stroke of approximately 4/10ths of an inch. The trigger weight progressively builds throughout the trigger pull and finally breaks at just over 12 pounds. The digital trigger pull gauge I have available is limited to 12 pounds and the PS1 trigger exceeded the capacity of the gauge on every test. While the exact pull weight is not known, the trigger “felt” consistent with each pull. The double-action design of the trigger allows for infinite restrike capability should you have a failure to fire with a round.
The PS1 has two more features that I think are worth mentioning. The first is a spring-loaded extractor that lifts the fired brass or hull clear of the chamber when you release the barrel. Lifting the fired brass or shotshell hull .17 inch above the chamber doesn’t sound like much, but I found it to be just enough to grab the brass or hull rim for easy removal. The last notable feature is the storage compartment located in the hollow grip of the PS1. The storage compartment holds two 45 Colt shells and is accessed by pulling down on the ribbed portion of the access door on the bottom rear of the grip. When closed, the access door is securely held in place by a ball detent mechanism.
Heading out to the range with a variety of .410 shotshell and 45 Colt ammunition, provided by Ammunition Depot, I put the PS1 to the test. As I worked through the various loads and targets, I was surprised by how pleasant the PS1 was to shoot. I believe the combination of total weight, low bore axis and ergonomic grip all played a part in the shooting experience. The only discomfort I had shooting the PS1 was during the chronograph testing while shooting from a rest.
The PS1 functioned flawlessly throughout the two trips it made to the range. There were no failures to fire or extract with anything I fed it. I did note the pistol shot about 3 inches above point of aim with 45 Colt ammunition out to 10 yards. Shotshell patterns were more true to point-of-aim, with the shotshell wad frequently hitting the target near the point of aim.
I discovered that 45 Colt ammunition selection may be important with the PS1. I had 185 grain and 225 grain loads available for testing. The lighter 185 grain loads cut elongated holes in the 10-yard targets, which indicated unstable bullet flight and key-holing. The 225 grain loads punched clean holes in the target at 10 yards with no indication of key-holing. As previously mentioned, only the last half inch of the PS1 barrel is rifled, and this may not impart enough spin on some bullets to allow stable flight.
Reviewing the PS1 was my first opportunity to experience the terminal performance of the new breed of .410 shotshells specifically designed for self-defense. Both the Hornady and Winchester loads consist of multiple projectiles of various profiles and weights. Both loads tested well in the PS1, delivering the majority of the projectiles to point of aim at five yards. If I were considering the PS1 for self-defense purposes, I might consider one of the multiple-projectile shotshells over a 45 Colt load.
I’ve read a few reviews of .410/45 revolvers, and one of the biggest complaints about the revolvers is that the rifling in the barrel has a tendency to adversely affect shot patterns with the light-weight size 6, 7.5, 8, and 9-shot pellets. Patterns end up looking like donuts, with nearly empty centers and dense outer rings. The PS1 barrel didn’t seem to have that problem. When patterning size 8 shot at 10 feet, the pattern was uniformly dense in the center with a sparse outer ring.
Prior to releasing the PS1, Heizer turned its staff loose with 20 cases of .410 shotshells and a single PS1. Three daysand 5,000 rounds later, the PS1 was still running strong and ready for more. At the top of the article, I mentioned that the PS1 is built like a tank. I’m not at all surprised the PS1 stood up to the 5,000-round endurance test. I think the people who buy a PS1 will have a pistol that will provide a life-time of service.
The Heizer PS1 is definitely a special purpose pistol for the outdoors person who values a compact platform over something with greater ammunition capacity. I’ve pocket carried the PS1 for several days in a Remora pocket holster and have become accustomed to the reassuring weight in my pocket. I really hope the PS1 sells well, because I really want to see what is on the drawing board for Heizer’s next firearm.