Tough, Versatile, and Budget-Friendly, Midland’s Backpack Shotgun Might be Your Best Hiking Companion

“If I could only have one gun…”

We’ve all asked this question. It’s a hypothetical doomsday scenario for most, but anyone hoping to carry a firearm on a backpacking trip has felt the reality of this dilemma. The happy medium between compact, lightweight, and versatile can be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. Handguns hit the first two criteria, but most fail to match the long-range capability of a long gun. An AR-pattern rifle can be compact and lightweight, but a .223 isn’t ideal for flying game, which might be the best source of food in a survival scenario.

Plus, if you’re planning to traipse through the woods and scramble over boulders, you don’t want to bring an expensive firearm. You want something cheap but durable, a gun with a design so simple you won’t have to worry about moving, breakable parts.

The Backpack is aptly named—it will fit in almost any size pack, especially if you choose a model with a short barrel.

Meeting each of these criteria might be impossible, but the Backpack by Midland Arms is about as close as any firearm has come. The Backpack is cheap, compact, relatively lightweight, and currently comes in the three most popular shotgun calibers (12GA, 20GA, and .410GA). Packing birdshot and slugs would allow you to take whatever game happens to be in the area, and the $149 MSRP means you wouldn’t have to worry about marring an expensive finish. Plus, the single-shot break-open design is about as simple and indestructible as it gets.

Here’s the best part: Backpack barrels are interchangeable, and Midland plans to introduce rimfire and centerfire models soon. Between a 12GA barrel and a rifle-caliber barrel, you’d be able to take almost any kind of North American game from distances that exceed the range of shotgun slugs.

Removing the barrel is a simple process requiring only an Allen wrench of the correct size (provided).

Here are the specs on the model I tested:

Caliber: 12GA

Barrel Length: 24”

Overall Length: 40.4”

Overall Folded Length: 24.4”

Width Folded: 9.5”

Weight: 4.8 lbs

Length of Pull: 12.5” no spacers to 14.5” with two spacers

Drop in Comb: 1.5”

Chokes: Barretta Mobilchoke

Midland also offers the 12GA with 26” and 18.5” barrels, the 20GA with 22” and 26” barrels, and the .410GA with 22” and 18.5” barrels.

Features

The diversity of Midland’s offerings mirrors the customizability we’ve come to demand from our firearms. These days, customers expect rifles, shotguns, and handguns to be tailored to each individual shooter, and the Backpack’s range of calibers and barrel lengths let you do exactly that. Younger shooters can start with an 18.5” barrel chambered in .410 and gradually work their way up to a 12GA.

Unlike most budget shotguns, the Backpack also allows shooters to customize the length of pull. Plastic spacers can be added or removed from the stock to accommodate a wide range of statures. Right now, each firearm comes standard with two spacers, but Midland plans to sell the spacers separately so shooters can increase the length of pull beyond 14.5”.

Length of pull can be modified to fit individual shooters.

Shooters can customize the appearance of the firearm as well. The grip panels on the forend and wrist can be removed, and Midland will soon begin offering colored panels that can replace the standard black.

Grip panels can be removed to further customize the firearm.

The stock also doubles as a storage space where backpackers and hunters can keep emergency medical supplies or survival gear. Removing the two screws at the base of the stock is a simple task that only requires a Philips head screwdriver.

Hikers can pack medical and other emergency supplies in the stock.

The best feature, of course, is the one for which the Backpack is named. An indent in the forend allows the shotgun to be folded into a neat, compact package, which can cut the overall length in half, depending on which barrel you choose. In this configuration, it fits nicely into a medium-sized backpack or can be strapped to the side without the barrel protruding above the backpacker’s head.

An indent in the forend allows the Backpack to fold more compactly than other break-action shotguns.

Midland sent me the 12GA with a 24” barrel, which is the second largest shotgun the company offers. A 20GA or .410GA with a shorter barrel would have allowed for even easier backpack storage.

The Backpack fit reasonably well in my daypack, but a larger bag would have better accommodated the 24” barrel.

If I were to carry the Backpack, I would likely strap it to the sides or the back.

Quality?

At this point you’re probably wondering about quality. A $150 shotgun sounds almost suspiciously cheap, and it’s natural to assume that Midland cut corners during the manufacturing process.

I posed this question to the Midland reps at this year’s NRA Annual Meetings, and while they didn’t divulge their business model, they explained that Midland shotguns are manufactured in the same Turkish factory as many of the big-name brands, including Mossberg. The gunsmiths building the Backpack have experience building firearms for other companies known for high quality and reliability. Midland Arms is also relatively small (only about 8 full-time employees), so they don’t have the same overhead costs as larger companies.

While it might not be the prettiest gun you own, the Backpack is constructed from quality materials and won’t fail you in the field.

In terms of components, the receiver and barrel are both CNC machined from 4140 steel forgings, the barrel is dark chromed to protect against the elements, and the stock is injection molded. Midland also isn’t reinventing the wheel. Though not identical, the Backpack’s design is based on an old Beretta design, which means that, despite Midland’s relatively short track record, their shotgun designs have already stood the test of time.

Rather than using a zinc alloy, Midland uses steel forgings for their receivers and breech blocks. Midland CEO Val Forgett provided these photos from a recent trip to the factory.

“Making guns using these materials and finishes are what ensures Midlands can be handed down from generation to generation,” Midland President and CEO Val Forgett told me via email. “That is what I want to see in this line. I still have my old single-shot from when I was a kid and want to make sure that 100 years from now, today’s Midlands are still being shot.”

My experience with the firearm gave me no reason to doubt Midland’s claims of quality. The shotgun feels solid in the hands, and I couldn’t find any rough cuts in the steel components. The action locks tight without any wiggle, and the trigger, lever, and safety engage positively without any mushiness. Most importantly, the firearm never failed to function as advertised. Only time will prove definitively the Backpack’s long-term quality, but my initial testing indicates that this shotgun will last well beyond my lifetime.

Performance and Function

The Backpack’s simple design is ideal for new shooters and young shooters. The action breaks open via a lever forward of the trigger, which I found to be stiff but not unreasonably so. Shells are loaded one at a time into the chamber, and the action closes with a firm, tactile click. A small silver button on the left side of the receiver indicates the gun’s status by both sight and touch, so new shooters can be certain whether they’ve loaded the firearm. The positive trigger-block safety is located just rear of the trigger.

The single-shot, break-action design is ideal for new shooters and young shooters.

The 8-pound trigger is heavy but not unpleasant. There’s virtually zero take-up and no grittiness. I found it to be more than adequate for shooting clays, though it might be more difficult to take accurate longer-range shots with Midland’s forthcoming rimfire and centerfire barrels.

Trigger, action lever, and safety are all located within easy reach.

Shells are extracted by hand, which is less than convenient, but it also eliminates one more spring-loaded component that might break out in the field.

I enjoyed shooting the Backpack. I loved its lightweight design and short overall length. After shooting clays with the Midland’s shotgun, a standard pump action felt clumsy and over-large. The Backpack is a great option for shooters with small statures, though its customizable length of pull allows it to fit larger shooters too.

Shooting birdshot was fun. Buckshot… not so much.

The gold front post is easy to pick up.

It handled well during my time at the clay range. The large, gold front sight is easy to see, and the rubber buttstock pad minimized birdshot recoil even given the gun’s light weight. The receiver also includes a small notch that can be used with the front sight for more precise aiming. The 12GA and 20GA models come with a modified choke and are compatible with interchangeable Beretta chokes.

The Backpack comes with a modified choke and a choke wrench.

Federal ammunition performed well in the Backpack.

I shot patterns with birdshot and buckshot at 15 and 30 yards using Federal’s 1 1/8 ounce Gold Medal Grand target loads and Premium 00 buckshot.

The birdshot pattern measured 15” at 15 yards and 25” at 30 yards.

Buckshot patterned an 8.5” spread at 15 yards and a 20” spread at 30 yards.

While I have few serious criticisms of the gun, I would caution against shooting heavy loads with the 12GA. While the birdshot loads weren’t entirely unpleasant, I didn’t want to shoot more than two patterns with the buckshot. I didn’t even try shooting slugs. The shotgun’s weight doesn’t absorb much heavy recoil, and while the buttstock pad helps, it still felt like most of the energy from the buckshot transferred directly into my shoulder.

New shooters—and experienced shooters looking to avoid shoulder bruises—should probably stick to lighter loads with the 12GA or move down to the 20GA or .410GA.

Conclusion

The Backpack from Midland Arms could be the best value right now in the firearms industry. Its price point fits any budget, and it’s designed and manufactured to function reliably for decades after purchase. The Backpack you give to your son or daughter stands a good chance of being given to their son or daughter, which isn’t always the case with low-cost firearms.

The Backpack’s customizability also allows it to grow with the shooter or be modified to be used in a variety of applications. Whether you’re looking for a first gun, a woods gun, or a survival gun, the Backpack can be suited to meet your needs. The “if you could only have one gun” debate will never be resolved, but Midland’s shotgun deserves a look for your next outdoor adventure.

Click here for more info on the Backpack.

***Shop GunsAmerica for your Midland Backpack.*** 

 

{ 21 comments… add one }
  • Horace Potter June 11, 2018, 4:33 pm

    Would it kill anyone in the corporate office by designing it with an ambidexterity safety??? C’mon, there are hundred of thousands of us left-handers that would be interested in this gun IF…IF…we could only reach the safety!!!! Why? Why not put the safety on the top of the receiver? It can’t cost that much! Once again, we stand here empty handed and ignored! Our money’s no good!!!

  • JCitzen June 11, 2018, 4:20 pm

    I wished I’d have had this in 20 gauge instead of the cheap Sears aluminum shotgun I had as a kid. I got pretty good with that shotgun, and in fact, now I can’t stand to haul a heavy shotgun while hunting. The 20 gauge is more that enough for every situation I used to hunt in as a young fellow.

  • Linkavitch June 11, 2018, 3:19 pm

    The barrel is waaaaay too long for a backpacking gun.

    Drop it down to 18” and more people will be interested

  • Peter Brown June 11, 2018, 1:58 pm

    Where is the backpack shotgun? This may be suitable for sasquatch but backpacking?
    Call it a step-shotgun for spouse or mature youth graduating from .410 or 20 ga. and somewhat, kinda stowable for the very small vehicle. U.S.A. made? Nope. Thank you but no thank you.

  • Airborne 8 June 11, 2018, 1:36 pm

    Come on, If you can’t totally conceal it IN the backpack what’s the point of making it a break-down? If it’s suppose to be a break-down why would you design one that still makes you carry it OUTSIDE the backpack??!!
    It comes under the unbrella of a survival weapon to be used to take game and which can be concealed easily…get the Henry breakdown .22 use w/hollow points. If it’s big enough to stick out of your pack, then get the combo Savage 30-30/12 ga. now that’s a versatile SHTF gun.

    • Jordan Michaels June 11, 2018, 4:06 pm

      Hey, Airborne 8. That’s a good point, and I was a bit disappointed myself. But as I say in the review, Midland offers a number of options that could have easily fit in my pack, and the backpack itself isn’t very large. I still think the gun is aptly named.

  • RGE June 11, 2018, 11:09 am

    Stevens made a single shot shotgun, real nice. Take down was real easy and didn’t require any tools or pulling a plug out. Also had an exposed hammer and hammer block. Used a lever instead of a snaggy thing at the bottom to open the breach. Broke down in 2 seconds for easy carry. This thing it doesn’t break down easy, doesn’t fold at 180 degrees. Seems clunky.

    • UncleNat June 16, 2018, 5:03 pm

      Not to mention they designed it in the early 20th century. Way many out there that deserve a good home.

  • shrugger June 11, 2018, 10:32 am

    You had me until ‘Turkey’.

  • Todd June 11, 2018, 10:21 am

    I dig it.
    My tweaks were I still a manufacturer would be:
    Make it considerably closer to 180 degrees when broken for transport.
    Eliminate the need altogether for an allen wrench.
    Modify, significantly, the snaggy lever.
    The least expensive drill&tap on the receiver.
    Make certain that it is comparable with slide-in barreled inserts.

    LOVE the Beretta interchange!

    Todd.

  • John L June 11, 2018, 10:19 am

    I like innovation of any kind. But….. The elephant in the room is ammo weight. Shotgun shells are very heavy. How many would be willing to tote that extra weight in a backpack? I see this as a decent training tool for new shooters, but weight and that awkward fold (more of a triangle) doesn’t lend itself to the stated purpose.

  • Calisdad June 11, 2018, 9:14 am

    Using a less obtrusive barrel release tab such as Stevens has employed for years would make the gun less likely to catch on- well everything. A poly choke would insure you always have the right one too. And although you may never take off the grip panels where on earth did they find slotted screws?

    Make the barrel easier to pop off like the Model 39 Winchester and provide a canvas carry sack and they could sell a lot of them.

    Good to see a manufacturer targeting the entry level sportsman.

  • Stephen Graham June 11, 2018, 9:14 am

    Mr. Michaels, that is an extraordinary review of what seems to be a relatively simple fire arm. Please do more reviews of all firearms!

    • Jordan Michaels June 11, 2018, 4:08 pm

      Thanks, Stephen. Will do.

  • Brad June 11, 2018, 7:54 am

    A 12g insert to a rifle caliber would be nice if you could tuck it away in the stock. Other than that looks like a nice buy for the price. Doesn’t need to be a beretta to function. Same exact function without the heavy price tag is good to see.

  • Mike Kolendo June 11, 2018, 5:43 am

    Neat idea and neat price. What would be even better is the old Savage idea of a 22 caliber over and under with a 12 or 20 gauge barrel below.

    • MikeB June 11, 2018, 8:01 am

      The Savage was my survival firearm that was required by our aero club when I was stationed at Eielson AFB, Alaska, back in the ’70’s. Usually strapped on a Ruger Blackhawk .357 as well.

  • bbbs53 June 11, 2018, 3:53 am

    Beretta has been making this type shotgun for 30 years, although not for 150 dollars. You definitely get what you pay for, Italian craftsmanship or dubious Turkish manufacturer. I would pay the extra for the Beretta and did.

    • Jerry Jones June 11, 2018, 7:27 am

      WHOOOOOSH……….a sound you must here often as the “point” of what you waste your time reading whizzes over your head.

  • Mark June 9, 2018, 5:08 pm

    With NEF getting out of the game I see a big space in the market for this gun, especially with mid-pressure rifle cartridges like 30WCF and .44Mag.

  • Mike S. June 8, 2018, 1:47 pm

    Sounds like a nice first shotgun for my boys. With interchangeable barrels and calibers it would be ideal for them to learn to shoot with. The price line just makes it more appealing, especially noting where and who is manufacturing it and the standards that they manufacture to.

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