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The Gun Shots
May 06, 2013
Best Shotguns 2013: OL Ranks and Reviews This Year's Top New Shotguns - 1
by John B. Snow
In February, the OL test team put the screws to 9 of the best new shotguns on the market. See which guns scored the highest in our annual shotgun test.
Beretta A400 XPLOR Action
This 20-gauge from Beretta, the first sub-gauge in the A400 series, is brimming with amenities and useful features. The kick-off system is one of the better recoil-reducing designs on the market, and by adding it to this shotgun Beretta has made an outstanding semi-auto for high-volume bird shooting. The gun comes with a shim kit and three choke tubes, and is compatible with Beretta’s electronic unit, which fits into the stock and counts rounds, measures the temperature, and calculates recoil. We liked the looks of the gun too. The finish on the receiver is distinctive without being tacky, and the grain-enhancing finish on the wood gives it a classy look. It also shouldered, swung, and shot like a dream. For all these reasons, the A400 XPLOR Action is our Editor’s Choice shotgun for 2013.
Stoeger Condor Longfowler
This shotgun harkens back to the great waterfowling era at the turn of the last century. It has the kind of no-frills, utilitarian design that characterized many of the non-pedigreed shotguns of that time—they were built to knock ducks and geese out of the sky and nothing else. At more than 8 pounds (and with a 7-pound 10-ounce trigger pull), this Brazilian-made shotgun is a bit of a brute—a gorilla at the double-gun ball, if you will—but you can’t get more gun for the price. The matte finish is ideal for duck hunting, though the lack of ejectors could get irksome when the sky is full of birds. Nonetheless, the value of the gun for even the most cash-strapped hunter earned it this year’s Great Buy award.
Beretta A300 Outlander
This new Beretta isn’t very flashy, but what does make it stand out in the company’s lineup is where it is produced: right here in the USA. That makes the gun cheaper to produce and puts it at a more attainable price point than other Beretta semi-autos. However, the price ($845) wasn’t the only thing that impressed us. This 7-pound, 3-inch 12-gauge moved quickly onto the target and shot well. The trigger on our sample was just average, as was the quality of the shotgun’s wood, but the value the A300 represents made it easy to overlook these issues.
Browning A5 3.5
The silhouette of the A5 is unmistakable. But unlike John Browning’s original recoil-operated Auto-5s, the current ones have inertia-driven actions. New this year is a 3 ½-inch version that will appeal to many waterfowlers. The gun is gorgeous to look at and hold, and it shoots like it has a personal grudge against all things flying. Even so, the price is pretty steep—despite its coming with a nice hard case and three choke tubes. For fans of the humpback look who live for cold fall mornings in the marsh, this shotgun will hold lots of appeal.
CZ-USA 612 Wildfowl Magnum
For its first venture into the pump-action shotgun market, CZ settled on a slam-dunk platform: a bargain-priced 3 1/2-inch gun slathered in camo. There’s nothing particularly surprising about the gun, which is made in Turkey. The trigger is too heavy and the camo finish is too slick, but it handled singles and doubles just fine, and for $409, what did you expect? The receiver is tapped for a scope mount, which is a nice feature, and it comes with two extra choke tubes to refine your patterns. It is built strong enough to take on a bulldozer and will no doubt be a good seller.
Fabarm Axis Trap
This lovely beast of a shotgun has a simple job—turning clay targets into powdery ink blots in the sky—and it does that job very, very well. The speed with which it gets on the going-away targets that characterize trap shooting is nothing short of scary. And thanks to the quality of its trigger—by far the best among the shotguns in the test—the shots themselves feel more like an act of will than an act of your trigger finger. The adjustability of the shotgun’s raised rib and stock allows for a true custom fit and pattern placement. At $3,995, this is a real bargain for a serious trap gun, many of which cost at least twice as much.
The shotgun test team couldn’t help but develop a bit of a crush on this sexy little Italian 28-gauge. The lines of the rounded action, the dimensions and comfortable fit of the stock, and the quality of the finish on the metal all won us over. We were also surprised at how well it handled very tough long crossers during the evaluation. This gun really shoots. It comes with selective mechanical triggers, an automatic safety, and a basic set of flush-mounted choke tubes. It’s a good value for the price, but we wished the wood was of a higher grade.
Mossberg 835 Util-Mag RRS
At first glance, it looks like Mossberg decided to stick a wheel from an inline skate into the buttstock of the new 835 Util-Mag RRS. In reality, it is an oversize damper, like those used on Mathews bows to reduce vibration. In the case of the Mossberg, it is supposed to soak up recoil. We weren’t sure whether it did so, but regardless, this 3 1/2-inch pump action had the same good balance and rugged feel as every other 835 we’ve shot. One feature that has real benefit is the removable cheekpiece, which can be swapped out and replaced with different inserts to raise the comb height.
Tri Star Viper G2
This Turkish-built 28-gauge is a funny little gun. The test team, to a person, just loved the way it shot and handled. With its 30-inch barrel, it swung very well and was able to dust clays at improbably long distances. As with any gas-operated 28, it has negligible recoil, and during the evaluation it never had any cycling or feeding issues. It’s a shotgun you could shoot all day long. That’s the good news. On the other hand, the shotgun’s design left us cold. The checkering on the forend is a half-hearted affair and the lines adorning the receiver look like an airline route map.
See the best new rifles of 2013