I think the first time I saw it was at SHOT Show a couple years ago. I had forgotten all about it until it came up for review. It was a strange looking, surprisingly good shooting shotgun back then, and it still is today.
Like every bullpup ever made, the Radikal NK-1 is a weird looking gun.
The upside to weird looking is pretty huge. The NK-1 seeks to overcome the two major disadvantages of the shotgun in “tactical” usage.
The first is that shotguns are typically quite long and therefore difficult to move safely and quickly inside the confines of vehicles, buildings, tunnels and corridors. The NK-1 largely eliminates this issue by going with a bullpup design. It’s about five inches longer than the US Army’s 5.56NATO SBR of choice, the M4.
Despite a total length of 38″, the NK1 has a full 24″ barrel. Wrapped around that barrel is what the owner’s manual refers to this as a “muzzle brake.” It is not a muzzle brake. It’s a hollow tube that sits over the barrel. It’s not vented, weighted, or anything.
If you want to run the gun without what is not a muzzle brake, but may be a barrel shroud, it should make no difference. It didn’t for me.
A 20″ barreled version of this same gun also exists, where the muzzle ends almost immediately after the handguard. No “muzzle brake” is included in that version.
The other major disadvantage of a traditional tube-fed shotgun is low ammunition capacity and slow reloading times. Lena Miculek’s famous silent video is still the best dual loading instruction I’ve ever found, but even she takes a while to load eight new shells into an empty gun. Any remotely competent shooter will beat her reloads when using a magazine swap, and by a lot.
The key to really fast reloads on a tube-fed gun is simple. Don’t let the gun go dry in the first place. You don’t have to keep a mind to round count, you simply have to make sure you’ve drilled into your brain that any chance you get, you’re filling that tube back up. A single, or even double shell load doesn’t take long at all.
The huge advantage of the magazine is the fast swaps not just additional rounds, but different kinds of rounds. Five to ten new rounds of buckshot, birdshot, or slugs, are all about two seconds away. There’s just no way to do that swap with a traditional tube magazine.
There are different strategies to work around this with a tube-fed shotgun, but none of them are anywhere near as fast and efficient as simply dropping the current magazine and putting in a new one.
The disadvantage of the magazine fed shotgun is that single alternate loads are more difficult, and, of course, you need a bunch of magazines. The tube-fed gun’s loading mechanism is totally self-contained. You can’t lose, forget, or drop a magazine. You can, however, lose, forget, or drop, all those extra shells you had to put somewhere.
These advantages and disadvantages highlight the fact that the shotgun is the thinking man’s weapon. Not because smart people use shotguns, but because it provides you so many options, you have to think and plan to use it well. Stupid people using a scattergun in any kind of dynamic, complex scenario tend to get weeded out pretty quick.
It should be noted there are two versions of this firearm. This is the second, updated version. Magazines designed for the original version are not compatible with this version. You can find both 5 and 10-round magazines on the United Sporting Arms LLC website.
The five-round magazines I used functioned perfectly well. A first round failure-to-feed was never an issue, they never failed to lock into the receiver or drop freely from the magazine well with a firm press of the magazine release.
Magazine changes on any kind of a bullpup firearm tend to take just a little bit more training than a traditional semi-auto carbine or rifle. In those guns, the magazine is right next to the magazine release, so both of your hands and your eyes are all in the same place. The human brain likes that.
Like most bullpups, the NK-1 has the ambidextrous magazine release next to the firing hand thumb, but the magazine is far behind that position, and outside of the shooter’s forward view. If you’ve laid out your kit right, magazine swaps with a bullpup can be very fast, since everything is close to the body. But you’ll need to really drill that motion so that your support hand automatically comes back to the shoulder every time to replace that empty magazine.
Bullpups of all types are well-known for having crappy triggers. The long bar and transfer system between the trigger shoe to the hammer and trigger mechanism do not lend to light, crisp action.
The NK-1’s trigger isn’t bad at all. Color me pleasantly surprised. It’s not a “shotgun” trigger at all. It feels much more like a milspec AR trigger, although it’s probably a little better.
Using a Lyman digital trigger scale, the trigger averaged to 5lbs 7oz over five pulls. Yes, there’s some squish and grit, and if this were a precision bolt gun it would be less than ideal. But this is a shotgun, and it’s great for that. As it is, the trigger enables the shooter to make fast and very precise (for a scattergun) follow-up shots.
Just about everything on the NK-1 is ambidextrous. Even the charging handle can be moved to the left or ride side. Just pull it out and swap it. The ejection port will remain on the right.
The only ergonomic failing of the NK1 is the selector switch, but it’s a big one. Small and thin, I was never able to get it to switch from safe to fire with just my firing hand thumb, at least not without a few tries. With gloves on, it was impossible.
Switching up the practice and instead using the switch on the opposite side with my trigger finger, taking the selector from safe to semi was easier, but then getting it back on safe was a challenge.
A set of Magpul-esque rip-off flip-up plastic sights come stock with the gun. They slip right on and work just fine.
What works even better is the top rail for mounting optics. If you’ve never run a red dot on a shotgun, you’re missing out. A single simple red dot optic is ideal, and is truly a what-you-see-is-what-you-get sighting solution, and a complete game changer for shotgun use in low light.
A red dot optic on a shotgun isn’t really more accurate than irons, but it’s just as accurate at much faster speeds. The NK-1 with an Aimpoint red dot and loaded with 00 is giggly fun.
If you’re going to use a red dot, or even a magnified optic for slug hunting, you’ll appreciate the adjustable cheek riser on the NK-1. If you’re going to go with the stock irons, you’ll likely want to leave the cheek riser in place.
Disassembly of the NK1 should not be done in the field. It’s a bit cumbersome and requires the use of tools. If you need to clean it, I would suggest a spray cleaner followed by a healthy dose of CLP and a bore snake.
I found disassembly particularly difficult, because the far forward takedown pin (there are 3) simply wouldn’t come out. I finally called the retailer and let him know that I might break the gun trying to disassemble it. He said he hadn’t heard of that problem before, but if for some reason I damaged the gun, no problem, he’d immediately send me a new one.
I took a pair of pliers, a punch, and heavy mallet to the pin, and got it out without damaging the pin or the receiver, though it never got any easier to get out. I’ve looked online, and I can’t find anyone else reporting this issue.
Reliability was great. Eventually.
The gun was pretty clean, with a very light coat of oil on it right out of the box. I was grateful to see that it wasn’t caked in packing grease, as I often find with imported firearms. All the NK-1 required was a quick spray of CLP.
My first 10 rounds using Winchester 9-pellet 00 buckshot included several issues with failures to feed. The next five, which were Armscor buckshot, experienced the same issue. But by the end of the next 5-round magazine, things were running well. After those first 20 rounds, I never had a problem again with any 00 round, either 8 or 9-pellet, and from a wide range of manufacturers.
With the ammunition crisis in full swing, one of the few rounds I had a whole lot of still was 00 buck. I probably have a couple thousand rounds of it, so I used quite a few of them for this review. After that first couple magazines of issue, I didn’t have another problem with buckshot. After the initial inspection, I never lubed or cleaned the gun again. I also put 10 rounds of Herter’s Foster type slugs through the cylinder bore, having no issues there either.
Dove shot, however, repeatedly failed to cycle the gun at this point. Failures were intermittent, but more likely to fail to feed than run smoothly.
Swapping the choke to full, I ran two boxes (10 rounds) of 5-shot 3″ Winchester Long Beard Turkey rounds. I didn’t have any cycling issues with those, but, expectedly, recoil did increase substantially. Given the overall short nature of the gun, the included sights and the ease of mounting optics, that means the NK-1 would make a very odd, but oddly very functional turkey gun.
There’s no reason, using this combination, that 50-yard shots on toms wouldn’t be very doable for a competent marksman (though it’s a lot more fun to call them in closer). You may have to modify the magazines to reduce the total capacity to comply with local game laws.
The owner’s manual states that the shotgun shouldn’t be considered reliable until after at least 100 rounds of break-in. I experienced exactly that. After all of the buckshot was fired, about 200 rounds, I went back and tried the dove loads again. This time they cycled, although I did have four failures to feed in 100 rounds of mixed dove loads.
Winchester’s “low noise/low recoil” shells I use for cowboy action matches wouldn’t cycle. They would fire fine, but then the charging handle had to be used to operate the gun like a bolt action shotgun. Most rounds you would use for defense or hunting seem to run reliably in the gun after a very significant break-in period.
The first version of the gun included two pistons, one for standard loads and another for buckshot and slugs. This version doesn’t include two pistons, and it is not required to swap them out to run different shells.
The NK-1 includes several chokes; IC, modified, and full choke tubes, along with cylinder bore. It also includes a nice choke wrench.
The typical accuracy pattern for a cylinder bore shotgun is exactly what I experienced with the NK-1. It is a painful and persistent myth that shotguns at home defense or “tactical” distances don’t need to be aimed. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Buckshot at close range has proven to rapidly incapacitate and kill for hundreds of years. But the fundamentals of marksmanship always apply, and shotguns still have to be aimed.
The standard 00 buck pattern for a cylinder bore shotgun is typically a 1-inch spread for every yard. This is exactly what I experienced with the NK-1. At 15 yards, the pattern would completely cover a standard 19-inch wide silhouette target. At 25 yards, one or two pellets would miss entirely. You are responsible for every single projectile fired.
Remember, the closer the target, the faster they can cover the ground to you. You’ll want every one of those pellets center mass if you intend to immediately stop an attacker at even seven yards. On a determined and moving aggressor, this is a serious challenge, especially in the dark.
With the supplied iron sights and using simple Herter’s Foster type slugs, I was able put every round inside an 8-inch plate at 100 yards. Without a magnified optic and a sabot slug and slug bore, this is about what I get with every shotgun.
At just a bit over 7 lbs, I expected the NK-1 to recoil a bit more with buckshot and slugs. It didn’t. Most semi-autos soak up a bit of the recoil, but it’s really the ergonomics of the gun that lead to a gentler shooting experience.
The adjustable cheek riser allows you to keep your head up and the wide stock shape works well to keep the stock locked in place so the gun doesn’t build momentum coming back to the body. The compact grip allowed by the bullpup design also allows the shooter to keep everything in tight, so the shooter’s full body weight can be perpendicular to the line of recoil.
The format, with its weight mostly to the rear and right in the shooter’s hands, means that the barrel starts and stops moving much faster than with a full-length traditional birding gun. That makes rapid target transitions faster and more precise, but dove hunting a quite a bit more challenging. The NK-1 is very much a specialized machine.
With an MSRP of $650, the NK-1 is a little more expensive than what most of us are used to from Turkish shotguns. It’s also about half the cost of the Tavor TS12. For what you get, that six and half bills is still a heck of a value.
Specifications: Radikal NK-1 Shotgun
Manufacturer: International Firearm Corp.
MAX CHAMBER SIZE: 3″
STOCK MATERIAL: SYNTHETIC
WEIGHT: 7.3 lbs
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style and Appearance * * *
Nothing fancy in the finish. Every bullpup looks strange. That goes double for bullpup shotguns.
Customization: * * * * *
You can swap out chokes easily, and they are all included with the shotgun. There are both 5 and 10-round magazines. The adjustable cheek riser is nice but the top rail for mounting optics is even nicer.
Accuracy * * *
Exactly average for any cylinder bore gun.
Reliability * and * * * * ½
After a long break-in time, it works great on anything but the lightest loads.
Overall * * *
It’s awful hard to measure the Radikal NK-1 against anything else. There aren’t a whole lot of tactical bullpup 12s on the market. But if you need a tactical bullpup shotgun, and whether you do or not is entirely up to you, the Radikal NK-1 is a solid buy. It’s weird looking, but good feeling, and a solid performing shotgun.