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Ducks and geese are built to endure the worst of conditions. To take on nature’s most durable birds, you need a shotgun that’s as tough as they are. Here are seven key features to look for in a shotgun for waterfowl.
1) Rustproof Metal**
For additional corrosion resistance, most manufacturers apply coatings to their gun barrels and receivers. The Remington 887’s ArmorLokt coating, Browning Maxus’ Dura-Touch Armor Coating, and the Ithaca M37 Waterfowl’s Perma-Guard are all good examples of virtually impenetrable protective barriers.
Foul-weather hunting requires heavy clothing, which might mean you’ll need to shorten your stock late in the season to accommodate those extra layers. Synthetic stocks allow you to do this. The most versatile and easy-to-use stock system on the market is found on the Mossberg Flex. The Kick-Off Mega stock, available only on the Beretta A400 Xtreme, offers the best combination of felt recoil reduction and adjustability.
**Pictured, from top: Browning A5 Stalker, Mossberg 835 Ulti-Mag, Beretta A400 Xtreme
3) Slip-proof stock**
These days synthetic stocks can’t be hurt by anything. Pick one with a textured surface that offers a lot of grip, like on the Browning Maxus, which is tacky along its entire length. Other guns, such as the Remington Versa Max and Beretta A400 Xtreme, get their grip from over-molded rubber inserts on the pistol grip and forend, which also work well in cold and wet conditions.
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4) Internal Plating
Plating internal components with a corrosion-resistant barrier helps prevent rust from developing where you can’t see it. Various materials are used, including the nickel Teflon used to coat internal parts on the Remington Versa Max autoloader.
5) Ease of Cleaning
Even tough modern shotguns deserve a good cleaning at day’s end. Choose a gun that breaks down into simple parts, without springs and rods you could lose. The Benelli Vinci disassembles quickly into just three pieces and is a model of simplicity.
You can tell in the store whether a gun will be easy to use with gloves. Is the trigger guard oversize, as on the Benelli Super Nova pump? Is the safety easy to reach, and does it offer a large target? These might seem like minor details–until you’re shouldering the gun with frozen fingers stuffed in soaking gloves.
7) Durable Action
The most reliable action for foul-weather waterfowl hunting is still the simple pump. With slide guns–like the Mossberg 835 Ulti-Mag Waterfowl, the Remington 870 Express, or the CZ 612 Wildfowl Magnum–there’s really not a whole lot that can go wrong, plus they’re easy to load and unload in nasty weather. That said, modern autoloaders are worlds ahead of what was showing up in duck blinds in your father’s time. The new recoil-operated Browning A5 comes with a 100,000-round guarantee, and the inertia-operated Benelli Super Black Eagle is well known for its reliability. The Versa Max uses a unique gas port system that bleeds off more gas for lighter loads, so the action cycles with any style shotshell.