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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.