The Special Operations Weapon was a fully automatic shotgun designed to be used by US Navy SEALs in the Vietnam War, by Carroll Childers, an engineer at the Naval Special Weapons Center.
Combat experience with the Ithaca 37 and Remington Model 870 spurred experimentation with a series of fully automatic shotguns. The Remington Model 7188, used by SEALs, was a full-auto based on the company’s Model 1100 semi-auto hunting gun. Although boasting a cyclic rate of about seven rounds per second, the gas-operated 7188 reportedly was difficult to control as well as prone to malfunction from environmental factors.
At the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Va., magazine master, gun enthusiast and engineer Carroll Childers designed and patented a completely different full-auto shotgun colorfully acronymed SOW for Special Operations Weapon.
A developmental SOW—called at the time the MIWS for Multipurpose Individual Weapon System—is preserved among many other one-of-a-kind artifacts in the Naval Historical Center’s collection. The chunky and stubby slab-sided aluminum and steel first-generation prototype is fed from the top using one of the multi-round box mags Childers developed for the 870 shotgun. This one is apparently intended for hip fire only, featuring two pistol grips with heavily worn and deeply scratched olive drab paint giving much evidence of rough use during testing.
Development of the Childers SOW and its 12-gauge ammunition never went into full scale production due to funding being rescinded.