The Escort Gladius 20 Gauge for Home Defense

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escort

The very ergonomic pistol grip has a soft rubberized coating that provides excellent grip. The forward down-grip handle is hard plastic.

Just a few years ago, many in the gun world scoffed at the idea of a 20 gauge as a dedicated home defense gun.  But today, many experts agree that the 20 gauge is not only sufficient at the distances most likely to be in play in a home defense scenario, many feel it is a better choice than the traditional 12 gauge.  With the right loads, a 20 gauge is devastating, presents less risk to non-threats (as it is less prone to over-penetration), and is able to be managed by smaller members of the household who may need to use it in defense of themselves or others. This is a gun review though, so I won’t go any deeper into that debate, other than to say that I tested and evaluated this shotgun specifically with that purpose in mind.

The Escort shotgun line is made in Turkey by Hatsan Arms, and is imported to the U.S. by Legacy Sports.  The line is available in several configurations, from hunting to tactical – and in pump or semi-auto actions in 12 and 20 gauge. The gun tested is the 20 gauge semi-auto home defense model. And it essentially comes fully dressed and ready for work.

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The Escort Semi-Auto is a complete tactical package

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The fiber optic dots help level off the ghost ring sight.

Specs

  • Gauge = 20
  • Barrel Length = 18”
  • Overall Length = 40”
  • Weight = 6.8 lbs.
  • Choke = Cylinder bore
  • Action = Semi-auto (5+1 capacity)
  • Receiver = CNC machined aircraft grade aluminum alloy.
  • Trigger pull = 5 lbs., 5 oz. as measured
  • The list price for the semi-auto is $579.

Aside from the general specifications, what does $500+ get you with the Escort?  Well, it gets you quite a bit.  This shotgun is equipped handsomely from a tactical point of view, and leaves little (if anything) to be desired.  And the Escort Gladius is not just all dressed up with no place to go – it shoots pretty good too.

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The muzzle break, heat shield, and front sling swivel are just some of the standard features of the Escort Gladius.

Let’s move down the length of the Escort and take a closer look at how it is equipped, and what that means for a home defense tool.  Starting out at the business end, there is a nice muzzle break of standard birdcage design.  How much it helps with felt recoil, I can’t really say, but it does seem to reduce muzzle flash pretty well – and that is important for a defensive gun.  I have to admit, it doesn’t hurt the appearance either.

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The front sight contains a long red fiber optic tube that gathers a lot of light. The sight picture is fast and clear.

Just behind that, we find a large red fiber optic front sight, well shielded.  The long fiber tube collects a lot of ambient light and glows well even in moderate indoor lighting. Further back, there is a metal heat shield atop the barrel, which covers the majority of the exposed surface and protects the shooter from grasping a hot barrel.  Below that, the polymer fore-end stock provides a nice gripping surface, and has picatinny rail on the bottom and both sides.  The included down grip handle occupies the larger portion of the lower rail (unless you opt not to attach it, which is an option) but there is still some usable space.  The bottom and both sides provide about 3” of usable rail.  The side mounts would be ideal for a flashlight or laser.  I actually mounted a camera to one side, to capture a few interesting images.  The down grip handle is a nice touch for a defensive shotgun, and even contains a latching flap at the base to access the inner storage.  The mounting surface is a bit longer than necessary, I think – and takes up more real estate on the rail that it should have to.

This brings us back to the receiver, which is an aluminum alloy and nicely machined. Inside, there are no visible tool marks or coarse machining. The bolt fit is very good, and the action cycles smoothly.  Outside, the receiver is finished off with a flat black coating that is impressively durable.  Atop the receiver is another 5 inches of picatinny rail, lest you want for a place to mount that red dot optic.  The rear sight sits just behind that, and it is a nice one.  Fully adjustable for windage and elevation, the rear sight incorporates a ghost ring with two green fiber dots (tubes) on either side.  So if you prefer the ghost ring and post or the three-dot sight picture – the Escort has you covered.

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The trigger assembly is removable and well fitted to the receiver. The button safety is an effective and proven design, but a bit awkward to use.

The trigger group is housed in a polymer trigger guard that marries tightly to the receiver.  It can be removed for cleaning and maintenance via two pins, but when in place I doubt any dirt will find its way in.  Completing the mechanism is the cross-button style safety just behind the trigger.

The Escort comes with a pistol grip that is very ergonomic.  I found the size, angle, and rubberized texture all creates a very comfortable and firm grip on the shotgun.  There is no access to storage in the pistol grip.  The butt stock is also black polymer and includes an adjustable cheek rest and a quick access compartment for two shells.  The rubber butt pad is adequate for a good grip to your shoulder and recoil absorption.   Finishing off the bells and whistles is a pair of sling swivel connectors fore and aft.

An interesting option on the Escort is the Cut-Off switch on the receiver that allows you to eject the chambered round – lock the bolt back – and prevent the next round from being fed from the magazine.  The apparent purpose for this would be to quickly change ammunition type, albeit from single feeding only.  I found that this only works when the action is manually cycled via the charging handle – it won’t work if you engage the cut off and fire the gun.  That is by design, but I tried anyway.

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Light loads, like this Winchester target load spread quickly and are insufficient for any serious use. Pictured is the pattern from a single shot.

The Escort Gladius 20 gauge comes with everything but the kitchen sink, but how does it shoot?  As I mentioned, it shoots pretty good.  I fed several types of ammo through this gun, from light target loads to hot slugs and turkey loads, and I found the accuracy to be consistently good across all of them.  It shot about 3” low at between 7 and 10 yards.  That can be adjusted via the rear and/or front sights but I didn’t bother.  Point of impact (so long as it was reasonable) was not as important to me as consistency.  And consistent it is.  I finally settled on a Federal premium turkey load as the overall sweet spot for this gun, and it literally put 15 shots into a single hole.  The spread was minimal, and at defense distance this would be an awesome, yet manageable load in this gun.

Additional accessory items included are four stock drop spacers, which would enable some adjustment of the way the shotgun fits the shooter, a magazine limiter rod that will reduce the magazine capacity to two shells, and a choke adapter that replaces the muzzle break.

I wasn’t able to get my hands on 20 gauge buckshot or some of the designer ‘home defense’ loads that are offered – and this is one of the few disadvantages of the 20 gauge – it simply isn’t as popular as the 12 gauge and therefore ammo choices can be sparse.  Best bet would be to special order what you plan to rely on and be sure you have enough to train with and keep a proper supply for defense.

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With sub-second cycling, the Gladius can put multiple hits on target quickly.

At less than seven pounds with an 18” barrel, this gun still lets you know you’re shooting a shotgun. Especially with the high copper content high velocity loads like a #5 turkey, or a slug.  But it is manageable, and something that smaller or younger family members can be trained to use.  With lighter recoil they are less likely to fear the gun, and more likely to handle it well if they ever need it.  Which leads me to the important point of reliability.  I had a couple of ejection failures with one brand of light target loads (Winchester), out of 100 or so shot.  Every other brand and type, including other light target loads from Federal, performed flawlessly.  Not enough data there to lead me to any conclusion, but I would not rule this gun out as a reliable home defense option.  This is also a shotgun I would seriously consider taking to a 3-gun match.  With the right ammo, the Escort 20 gauge could be an excellent entry level match gun just the way it comes.

The Escort Gladius 20 gauge shotgun is a purpose built defensive weapon, and is well appointed to serve in that role.  Aside from a laser or tactical light, and maybe an optic, there is nothing to add to this gun.  It is ready to grab when you hear the glass break at 2 am, and it is ready if you want to take it to a 3-gun match. It is well made, and all indications are that it will be reliable and durable. I’d like to see some small changes: a safety located atop the receiver for less awkward manipulation, a better charging handle (this one is a steel stud that screws into the bolt, and comes with a rubber cover that keeps it from tearing up the box–which is surprisingly easy on the hands), and an extended magazine tube as standard.  Five plus one is not too bad, but for home defense I would want to add at least two shells to that.  These minor gripes aside, I find the Escort Gladius 20 gauge from Legacy Sports to be a very viable home defense shotgun at about half the price as the tactical versions of the well-known domestic brands.  It is generously packaged with all the bells and whistles.  It’s worth a look.

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The trigger breaks at 5.5 pounds, typical for a shotgun.

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The author doesn’t go much above 150 lbs., and still finds the Gladius 20 gauge very manageable, even for an extended range session.

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The fully adjustable rear sight incorporates both a ghost ring and two dot fiber-optics. There is a good 5 inches of open picatinny in front of it – if a mounted optic is desired.

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The stock includes storage for two extra shells and an adjustable cheek rest.

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The forward handle takes up a lot of real estate on the lower rail, but includes a storage compartment.

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Best performance was achieved with Federal Premium MAG-SHOK high copper/high velocity rounds. The author would not feel under-protected with this combo. Fifteen consecutive shots produced this single hole at 7 yards, shooting off-hand.

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The rear sight’s fiber optic inserts are shielded by large wings.

{ 35 comments… add one }
  • Mike September 5, 2017, 5:09 pm

    A receiver-top/tang safety isn’t manipulatable from a pistol grip, and would not be “less-awkward”, so even though it’s your preference without regard for the gun’s configuration, it’s not a good option.

  • Rudy September 4, 2017, 3:34 pm

    I love the features to the Escort, it has everything that I would want in an shotgun. I one problem I have with the design of this shotgun is it not ambidextrous. A left-hand shooter would have to rest their cheek on the two shell storage and the sling swivel connector in the rear stock. I don’t believe either would be comfortable during shooting. Also, it does not appear that the charging bolt is reversible. If any of these items are fixable please let me know.

    • Mike September 5, 2017, 5:11 pm

      Rudy, Escort makes true left-handed shotguns, just not with all the Gladius features. With some parts swapping, you might be able to come up with something in-between the Gladius and a standard model that is custom for you.

  • Ernest July 3, 2016, 9:47 pm

    If any of you hombres need more than six shots from a shotgun in a home defense situation, you actually need either a LOT more range time or a prepaid funeral service for yourself (better use of your money). We’re not talking some make-believe fantasy video game here..

    • Ben January 29, 2017, 1:14 am

      I was in Law Enforcement a few years was wounded while serving plus in many home invasions as both a child & adult during which people got both wounded and or killed …guess what I used more then 6 shots from one shotgun. Had 6 home invasions in my life 4 as a young child took more then 6 shots one that left well over 100 gun shot hits in or outside our homes from the attackers. Another at 13 I killed one instantly a second later died and the third was paralyzed for life (which I am not proud of) a fourth was believed escaped he later was hit in the leg by police in the shootout to get him …..I believe I fired 8 shots on them from my H&R .410 , 3 inch break apart shotgun.
      I also served decades in the military I am a disabled combat vet of everything from Panama, Somalia, Gulf War current Iraq/Afghan combat deployments many of which I was wounded severely several times while serving in. I have seen firefights that last weeks and use over 1 million rounds.

  • jesse May 19, 2016, 2:07 pm

    Does anyone know if you can put a drum on this gun.. where would I go to find specifics? Thanks..

    • Ben January 29, 2017, 1:17 am

      No it has a tube magazine.

  • mobilebyrd May 24, 2015, 9:46 am

    I almost bought one of these until i saw a video documenting how easily a shell can get stuck loading the tube which reportedly renders the gun useless. Search YouTube for escort gladius jam. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=LVt5t4yhKXk I watched the video (skip to 2:30 in) and decided to order something else. Looks like a MAJOR design flaw which is easily recreated under stressful conditions which might cost someone their life. I don’t work in this industry, have never touched any of the guns made by this company and I likely never will after watching the video. Been shooting since I was about 8 or 9 and a failure like what I saw is not acceptable when hunting turkeys much less defending one’s life which is this guns advertised and intended purpose. Looks like a Turkish turd to me.

    • Dog June 11, 2015, 10:30 pm

      Misinformation mobilebyrd. You didn’t read at 1:01 in the video you linked to. (You just skipped to 2:30 in) His gun is the 12 Gauge version he purchased in April 2013. Hatsan redesigned that assembly right around that time. Also, the 20 gauge Gladius was not even released until the end of 2014.

    • Mike September 5, 2017, 5:17 pm

      You can also jam an 870 by accidentally overloading the magazine, buy you never hear anybody complaining about that.

  • Jo Ann August 9, 2014, 7:01 pm

    I bought the Mossberg SA Tactical 20 ga. n didn’t like it at all. Would cycle reliably only with buckshot or slugs. Recoil was horrible. Sold it at a loss n got a used Remington 1100 20ga; cut barrel to 19″, shortened stock to fit, removed magazine plug and I’m ready to defend my home. Shot a round of skeet to function check and it was most excellent with even target loads, handles #2 Buck at 100% so far. Recoil easy as well.

  • Ken Rayborn August 6, 2014, 12:27 am

    This thing looks like a “tactical” weapon. Where would one find additional information on this gun?? Please respond to Email. Sincerely appreciate your time!!

  • deebar August 4, 2014, 6:49 pm

    First , the charging handle is hokey to say the least and ” screw in ” ? Give me a break . I don’t understand the passion for a forearm down grip . I’ve shot competitively since I was 11 , shot for Federal for 9 years and was a member of the International Trap and Skeet team .
    There are reasons for none of the pistol grips or down grips being used competitively with shotguns . It’s because of the smoothness of motion . On rifles it’s a different story . Keeping the barrel down is not a problem with any gauge and is a fallacy that a down grip does a better job .
    I’ve shot all gauge with my Model 32 Remington (now Kreigof) 12, 20, 28 and 410 and 20 is my favorite for anything including ducks , geese and turkeys and even deer . Pattern kills , not necessarily the gauge . I will shoot my 20 against any 12 which I have for years except for comp .
    I would stick with a Rem. or Mossberg .

  • Russ August 4, 2014, 4:47 pm

    Excellent set up. I like it a lot.
    If I had to pick at it I could only say that a Tritium big dot would be better for the home use. Outdoors, Great.
    I have a great set up with my 870 12 GA, but I want one of these.

  • alen hanna August 4, 2014, 12:15 pm

    I have a custom converted Saiga 20Ga. (To meet 922R) that puts that thing to shame. I have a few high cap. mags. And a 25 Rd. drum, hand made from aircraft aluminum, that is a work of art. Has all the evil features, Pistol grip, AR stock, Hi cap mags.
    As for ammo you can buy 3″mags with eighteen .28 Cal. balls (#2 Buck) that I am quite sure would ruin your whole day. I also have hand loaded shells with eight 00 Buckshot balls with an extra hot powder load. People have a bad habit of underestimating things like 20Ga., .223, 32 Auto, 9mm, .22 ETC. The right setup and proper bullet placement will beat out heavy artillery in the right hands.

    • Russ August 4, 2014, 4:27 pm

      Saiga, that sounds real cool.
      I wish Remington would pull their heads out and put removable “military like” mags in their 870’s & 7600’s
      I havn’t seen the Saiga set up that way as of yet.
      Great idea.

  • Duane August 4, 2014, 12:03 pm

    Too bad not legal in Jersey (auto shotgun with pistol grip)
    I have an Escort 20 auto youth model that I got just for the purpose of my wife being able to handle it. This would be perfect if we could get it here.

    Tester – reviewer, did you try any limp or loose grip shooting to see if it would cycle properly?

    • Justin Opinion August 4, 2014, 4:06 pm

      Duane – very good question to ask, and I didn’t specifically test for that. I shouldered the gun most every time, and the few hip shots I took with it, I had a firm grip (a nice advantage with the pistol grip and forward handle). I mention in the review that some light Winchester target loads caused a few failures to extract and cycle – so I suspect one could produce that condition with a limp hold also.

  • tom g August 4, 2014, 11:36 am

    Great looking shotgun but just try to find one as I have been looking for one for five months. They are nowhere to be seen in stores. Nobody carries them. Only way to get one is buy it thru Legacy……at full retail and sight unseen

    • t-rob February 12, 2015, 12:22 pm

      Try foxfirearms.com
      I got mine for $415 + $30 shipping .

      • Doug May 17, 2015, 4:01 am

        So did I. Chad Fox is an outstanding man to deal with.

    • Eddie May 19, 2016, 11:36 pm

      Fairburn pawn shop has them new in box 20 ga. Fair urn Ga. Got mine 2weeks ago thing is awesome crazy rapid fire fastest I have ever seen in a semi auto shotgun! Buy one and enjoy it was ranked 5th in guns and ammo home defense shotguns.

  • william couch August 4, 2014, 11:09 am

    looks like a high point carbine

  • spellchecker August 4, 2014, 10:53 am

    Muzzle brake, not break. Just like how your car’s brakes slow it down, so does the muzzle brake slow the backward motion of the gun. It doesn’t break anything. Get it?

  • G. Powell August 4, 2014, 9:38 am

    I have had trouble finding a retailer with 20 ga. tactical shotgun in stock. Any suggestions?

    • R.H. August 4, 2014, 11:16 am

      G. Powell – Go to http://www.legacysports.com and click on Find a Dealer (top left, next to the Legacy Sports logo). Select U.S.A. then just the Select One filed to choose your state; click Submit. This will bring up an authorized dealer list for your state. Scroll down the list until you find a dealer near you. All of them contain a street address and phone number, and most also have a web site listed. This will be a big help finding an Escort dealer near you. If you don’t find a dealer in this list, contact Legacy Sports’ sales team at: 1-800-553-4229 or (775) 828-0555.

      Regards,

      Rick

      • Russ August 4, 2014, 3:58 pm

        If you go to http://www.slickguns.com you can search the best deals on all available guns and ammo.
        I found these 20 GA SGs just now. Many others but these were set up like the articles SG was

        Mossberg 500 Special Purpose Pump Action Shotgun 20 Gauge 20″ Barrel 8 Rounds 3″ Chamber Collapsible Stock Muddy Girl Camo Matte Blue 54303 $448.45 free shipping @ cheaper tan dirt.

        Mossberg SA-20 Tactical 20ga 20in Matte Black Shotgun 5 Shot free shiping $423.99 @ Kentucky Gun Co.

      • Mike September 5, 2017, 5:33 pm

        I did this and found that just because they are authorized dealers doesn’t mean they stock the guns. Call ahead. 3 of 5 I called had none. The other 2 had no tactical Escort options, just field guns.

  • Norm August 4, 2014, 9:22 am

    I hate that dingus looking thing hanging down off the front forearm. Just something to get hung up or to get in the way at the worst possible moment. More mental masturbation . . .

    • Jimbo August 4, 2014, 10:07 am

      Think about the end-user there dingus (proper use of the word). A vertical grip on the forearm makes a big difference mitigating barrel jump and recoil – especially if you have small hands, i.e. a female, child. Additionally, in the event of multiple rounds fired, you don’t want mommy messin up her manicure on a hot barrel.

    • Russ August 4, 2014, 4:41 pm

      More control to point and aim.
      Your wrist isn’t prone, but in a more economical/fighting position.
      More positive racking and better purchase on forend.
      Pretty dam perfect actually and would never get in the way of anything.(funny statement)
      Operate a grip like that on an SG, you will change your mind.

  • Chuck Conrad August 4, 2014, 8:06 am

    No extention tube allowed per federal regs. Evil foriegn firearm cannnot have more than 5 rounds in shotgun form. I have a 12g and it’s a great shooter.

    • antonio August 4, 2014, 2:01 pm

      You’re in your own castle dude, no problem, get a 50 round tube if you want, just make sure you can hold it up…

    • Cwilly August 4, 2014, 4:12 pm

      Don’t know if that’s true. Mossberg sells a shotgun in their catalog with an extension tube that holds thirteen shells.

  • Cwilly August 4, 2014, 5:18 am

    I have used this setup for years but I use Mossberg SA20 and it works great. As far as ammo there are plenty of choices they just aren’t on some of the ammo sites. Remington has some really good foster slugs and Rio makes good buckshot. This setup let’s my wife and daughters feel good about picking it up and using it. They won’t touch a 12 gauge. Good article, it’s time people start looking at the 20 gauge guns.

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