UTAS UTS-15 Review
Part 1 - Introduction, Specifications and Summary
October 20, 2013

UTAS UTS-15 Review

Vice President Joe Biden said "Buy a shotgun, buy a shotgun...", I agree!

UTAS UTS-15 Review

It is hard to dispute the effectiveness of a shotgun for home defense, and for the first time I think I partly agree with one of Biden's recommendations, although, I don't think home defense was the primary role that UTAS had in mind when they developed their UTS-15 shotgun.  Clearly the UTS-15 was developed for tactical applications where short length, quick point-ability and high capacity are needed.  The UTS-15 bullpup design with its 15-round capacity clearly meets these needs.  Currently UTAS makes four models of their UTS-15 shotguns; Black, Desert, Hunting and Marine.  UTAS had some nice high resolution images of these shotguns on their Press webpage and I added them below.  Clicking on a photo (or typically any photo in my reviews) will bring up a high resolution photo.  Enjoy.

 

Figure 2 - UTS-15 Black
UTS-15 Black

Figure 3 - UTS-15 Desert
UTS-15 Desert

Figure 4 - UTS-15 Hunting
UTS-15 Hunting

Figure 5 - UTS-15 Marine
UTS-15 Marine

The UTS-15 was first developed at the request of Smith & Wesson back in 2006 when S&W asked UTAS to develop the "ultimate police shotgun".  S&W wanted a shotgun that was 12 gage, pump action, less than 30" overall length and have at least a 13 round capacity.  After four years of development, UTAS developed the UTS-15 shotgun which is a bullpup design, made of approximately 85% fiber reinforced polymer and has a full capacity of 15 (14+1) rounds with 2.75" shells.  In the process of developing this shotgun, UTAS wanted to make it available to the normal consumer (not just law enforcement), so they kept the barrel length and overall length long enough so the shotgun is not considered an NFA item.

The MSRP on the black version shown in this review is $1200 without any accessories.  Based on doing a search on the internet, it looks like the street price for the UTS-15 is near or above the MSRP which is a statement on this shotgun's popularity and demand.

During my reviews I like to compare my results to the manufacturer's claims where possible so the following text in colored italics was taken directly from the UTAS website on 9/8/13 and gives the Key Features and Specifications for the UTS-15 Pump Shotgun.  The , and are my way to keep up with details that I have covered in this review with either photos, commentary or both.

Key Features

  • Dual loading port doors and retractable magazine followers allow for super fast reloading without the hassle and awkwardness associated with other pump shotguns.
  • The UTS-15 features a positive bolt lock that locks the action closed when the locking lugs are fully engaged.
  • The bolt release button is located under the rear of the stock well away from the trigger for added safety when unloading a live round from the chamber.
  • The UTS-15 will fire any 2 ½”, 2 ¾” or 3” 12 gauge shell on the market with complete reliability and safety. No adjustments are necessary, just load and shoot.
  • The UTS-15’s patented dual, selectable magazine system feeds shells alternately from each magazine tube when the selector is in the center position. Shells can be feed from individual magazines by moving the selector to the left or right position.
  • The shell loading carriage is spring operated to provide instant and positive shell feeding every time no matter how fast or slow the action is pumped (I found that cycling the action too fast would cause feeding issues) or in what position the gun is held; left side, right side or even upside down the UTS-15 loads lightning fast every time.
  • The optional internally mounted spotlight / laser night sight’s push button is conveniently and quickly activated with the shooter moving only their trigger finger.

Specifications

  • Gauge: 12
  • Chamber: 2.5", 2.75" & 3"
  • Capacity: 15 (7+7+1)
  • Overall Length: 28.3" review shotgun measured 29.5" with the cylinder choke tube installed
  • Barrel Length: 18.5" review shotgun measured 19.8" with choke removed and 20.53" with cylinder choke installed
  • Weight: 6.9 lbs without the sights, laser/light and sling swivels, but with the cylinder choke tube installed, the shotgun weighed it at 7.9 pounds
  • Choke: Beretta Style
  • Width: 2.55"
  • MSRP: $1200 for the basic black model

This review is broken down into multiple parts with this page providing links to each part along with an overall summary of the specifications, pros and cons, and my final "bottom line" comments.  Make sure you take time to checkout the other parts of the review because they contain many photos and lots of commentary.  Also, there is an extreme amount of detail in those parts which is not covered on this page.

As you read these Pros and Cons below, keep in mind that it is hard to keep my particular preferences from creeping in the equation.  Therefore, it is important that you take the time to look at the other parts of this review so you can decide yourself on items which may be more of a personal preference.

Pros:

  • The barrel axis is located at the center of the buttpad which reduces muzzle rise when fired.
  • One of the great features about the UTS-15 is that it can have a combination red laser and 200 Lumen light assembly embedded in the forearm of the shotgun.
  • One of the first things I noticed when I shouldered the UTS-15 was the short length of pull (LOP).  The LOP on this shotgun measured about 11.8".  At first, I wasn't sure if I liked the LOP, but after shouldering it many times and getting used to the compactness of the shotgun, I have grown to like the fit.
  • The safety is located on the left side of the shotgun in a position and configuration similar to that of an AR style rifle.
  • The trigger pull measured measured 4.3 pounds based on an average of 10 pulls using a Lyman Digital Trigger Pull Scale.  The trigger had some initial take-up (0.04"), no perceivable creep and then seemed to break crisply at just over 4 pounds.
  • The UTS-15 can be disassembled (field stripping) for cleaning in less than 30 seconds (after you are familiar and have done it once or twice) and reassembly is also fast and easy.
  • The look of the shotgun along with the 15-round capacity makes the shotgun something that immediately draws the interest of your shooting buddies.

Pro/Con/Comment (you decide)?:

  • The barrel measured 19.8" with choke removed and 20.53" with cylinder choke installed.  This is different than the advertised 18.5" and I feel that UTAS needs to update their literature on this shotgun.
  • If you remove the weight of the laser/light and sling swivels, 4.90 and 1.85 ounces respectively, the shotgun weighs in at 7.90 pounds which is different that the 6.9 pounds shown at the UTAS website.
  • The texturing on the sides, rear and front of the grip really do reduce the slick feel of the polymer grip and it would be a nice addition if UTAS could include this type of texturing on their forend.
  • I actually received two different shotguns for review.  The bolt on the first shotgun didn't seem to be locking into place as consistently as I thought it should.  You can check for this in the store by opening the upper stock and pressing the trigger plate to allow the mouse trap spoon to rotate down as you cycle the bolt.  If you do this a couple of times and the bolt is not locking every time, ask the clerk to bring you another shotgun so you can check that one out.  The bolt locked perfectly on the second shotgun I received and this should be the case for a properly functioning shotgun.
  • I'm still a little surprised that the receiver is all polymer and only time will tell if this part will be able to handle the long term use.  I'm sure UTAS has done some endurance testing and they feel polymer materials will work.
  • It is possible to pull the trigger and release the hammer prior to the bolt being locked in place.  Since the firing pin cannot reach the primer until the bolt is locked in place, there shouldn't be any safety issues, but if you pull the trigger too soon in a rapid fire sequence, you may need to cycle the action and eject a live shell to re-cock the hammer.
  • Throughout my range tests, I put around 200 rounds through the UTS-15.  Clearly this number of rounds was not enough to test the durability of the shotgun, but I feel it was enough to give me a good idea on reliability.  With 2.75" shells, I found the shotgun to be very reliable as long as you cycle the action in a deliberate fast rear stroke all the way to the stop, hesitate/pause for a fraction of a second in the rear action position, and then with a deliberate stroke push the action forward until the bolt locks.  A fraction of a second pause at the rear stop for 2.75" shells and slightly longer for 3" shells seems to be what the shotgun likes to allow the timing of the shells to get into the proper position on the loading ramp.  I wouldn't be too concerned with this pause because if you watch some of the cycle rates in the video, you will see that the shotgun can still feed fast.

Cons:

  • The spring that flips the door open on this shotgun did not have enough force/travel to press the door against the stock when in the open position and the door would rattle when open.  Potentially a different spring or second magnet on the lower portion of the stock could correct this rattle.  I'm not sure if this is unique to this shotgun or if all are this way.
  • At the rear of the lower surface of the stock is the bolt release button.  I found this location to be a little awkward to use.

 

Bottom Line:

Although the UTAS UTS-15 shotgun started development back in 2006, the USA production line didn't start until 2012.  As with any new production line and product, I feel that some bugs will always need to be worked out.  There are several reviews that show some UTS-15 shotguns may not be reliable.  I can't speak for those reviews, but in full disclosure I did send back the first shotgun I received for review because I didn't think the bolt was locking in place to my satisfaction.  I can only speak about what I have seen first hand during this review and my overall opinion is that the second UTS-15 shotgun I tested "can be" a reliable shotgun.  The reason I'm saying "can be" reliable is that this shotgun is not very forgiving if you slow stroke, short stroke or overly fast stroke the action, and this may have been the real issue behind some other negative reviews.  If you take the time to learn how to shoot the UTS-15, it can be very reliable. Prior to me making my first shot, I studied the shotgun to understand how it worked and what might be potential issues for operation.  During my range test using 2.75" shells, I only had one feed issue with a 2.75" shell not feeding into the shotgun and I believe this was because I cycled the action too fast.

When you consider the uniqueness, capacity and compactness of the UTS-15, I expect that this shotgun will be around for many more years.  As UTAS receives more feedback from consumers, UTAS will continue to improve upon this platform and hopefully achieve a robust platform that is not as sensitive to how you cycle the action.  Would I purchase this shotgun and expect my wife or daughters to use it for home defense?  No.  Would I purchase this shotgun for its uniqueness, capacity and compactness after having tested it and knowing its characteristics? Oh yes!  For me, the UTS-15 makes a great range gun and is an impressive shotgun platform that will always gather a crowd.  If I were to consider utilizing this shotgun in true tactical situations where my life depended on the shotgun, I would need to do some training under stress to become confident that I have trained my muscle memory to cycle the action at a reliable rate every time.

If you are in the market for a high capacity shotgun that breaks away from the traditional standards, I would definitely take the time to consider the UTS-15.  As always, do your research, read and watch other reviews, and check out a UTAS UTS-15 the next time you are at the gun store.


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