Several weeks ago, I came across the Steiner Mk7 Battle Light for shotguns. The Steiner Mk7 is a 350 lumen light that replaces the magazine end cap of a tube fed shotgun. I have long considered just such a concept (although my idea was somewhat different), so when I saw that the light had been discontinued by Steiner and that the remaining stock was on clearance at a significantly reduced price, I decided to invest in one to experiment with the concept.
In my mind, I had thought that a light that replaced the magazine cap but that had the battery recessed into the magazine tube would be an extremely low profile solution for a weapon mounted shotgun light. The two problems that immediately come to mind with such a design are reduced magazine capacity and the mechanics of switching and activation. (Interestingly enough, I have heard recent discussion on a podcast that the new detachable box magazine fed iterations of Remington and Mossberg shotguns would be ideal for such a design, since the legacy magazine tube would allow for battery placement inside the tube.)
With the Steiner Mk7, magazine capacity is preserved by attaching the light housing containing the battery to a replacement magazine cap. This design, however, does preclude installation of a magazine extension. For me and my purposes, there are some other problems with the light as well.
Some preliminary online research revealed that at least one YouTube commentator already identified one big limitation of the light… namely, it is not really ideal for shotguns that come with extended magazine tubes from the factory. (The Mossberg 590 and Winchester 1300 Defender would be two such examples.) Such a long magazine tube simply places the light too far out for easy activation of the switch. Unfortunately, for my short stature, I discovered that even with a regular length magazine tube, the switch is too far forward for me to reach and easily activate from my fighting stance. When I first received the light, I briefly mounted it on my Remington 870P SBS. I quickly discovered that in order to reach the switch and activate the light, I either had to severely blade my body in a horribly unnatural and contorted stance, or I had to activate the light from a ready position before I shouldered the weapon.
This is a good place to talk further about the switching. The light has two push-button switches located on opposite sides of the light body. In this sense, it is ambidextrous. (There is a large o-ring on the replacement end cap that I believe serves to create tension on the threads when the light body is threaded on and allows the activation buttons to be correctly oriented without necessarily fully tightening the light body onto the end cap.) The buttons are click on, click off, and do not offer a momentary function. You can also turn the light on with one switch, and then turn it off with the other, or vice versa. For the way I would have to activate the light on my gun, this is actually an ideal switch. I would need to turn it on as I mounted the gun, then turn it off when dismounting the gun. This would also work fine if I was searching a structure with the light reflected off either the ceiling or floor, but the bottom line is that I have to activate the light before I mount the shotgun. This is easily accomplished by running my hand forward on the forend and activating the light with my thumb or index finger. Conversely, a momentary switch that required me to keep my finger on the button simply wouldn’t work. The activation also makes sense if you consider the manipulation of a pump-action shotgun. Even if I could reach the switch with the gun in my shoulder, I would have to release it to manipulate the forend.
If I look past the activation concerns, there is one other potential issue with this light for my particular situation. My 870P is a SBS, and the body of the light extends past the end of the barrel. While I suspect this wouldn’t be a big problem, I do have some concerns about whether the light’s proximity to the muzzle might lead to some damage from muzzle blast. As well, I technically have to put my thumb forward of the muzzle to activate the light.
One positive attribute of the design is that the light is easily removed from the magazine end cap for training purposes when you might not want to subject the light to a high round count class.
All in all, I still think this light is a neat low profile concept. However, just based on my initial impressions, I see why the light has been discontinued. I also think it is probably best suited for non-NFA barreled shotguns with standard length magazine tubes. I did take some photos of the light on my gun with my spare 18 inch barrel mounted, and you can see that the longer barrel creates a shadow above the target. This probably isn’t a big deal, but was just something I noticed.
I would also be really tempted to try it out on a TAC-14, but that would involve the same concern that I have with it mounted on my SBS with its 14 inch barrel. Really, in an ideal world and with an unlimited budget, I would have an old Wingmaster vent rib barrel cut down to roughly 16 inches, install XS rifle sights, and have a cool looking short barreled shotgun that had the lens of the light roughly even with the muzzle. But, even this wouldn’t make the activation any easier.
While the Steiner Mk7 is a really neat idea, for right now I think that my +1 magazine extension is more useful to me on my gun. I download the magazine by one round based on advice from Tom Givens, and the magazine extension allows me to maintain the original magazine capacity of the gun. I may revisit mounting the Steiner Mk7 at some point in the future, but for right now, my search for the ideal shotgun weapon light continues.
I should also mention that I’m not discussing the relative merits of this light completely in a vacuum. I have a Surefire forend for my Winchester 1300 Defender, and frankly, I’m not a huge fan. There’s a reason I don’t have one for my 870P. The Surefire forend is no doubt the gold standard for shotgun weapon mounted lights, but on a weapon that I’m trying to keep as lightweight and streamlined as possible, the forend is more bulk than I really want on my gun. I say this as the guy that doesn’t even yet have a side saddle mounted. As always, I reserve the right to change my mind in the future.
What is your experience with shotgun weapon lights? If you have a unique solution that works for you, please share it in the comments or on our Facebook page. As always, we welcome feedback and civil discussion. If you haven’t already, please follow the blog and stay tuned for future articles!