First Look: 11 Best Shotguns for 2012

Beretta A400 XPLOR
Beretta's latest version of its new flagship semiauto, the A400 XPLOR, now comes in a field version with a copper-bronze colored receiver. Dubbed, the "Action," it weighs around 6 ¾ pounds and is chambered for 2 ¾ and 3-inch loads. Based on what I have seen from other Beretta A400s I've shot, this gun will cycle everything you feed it, down to the lightest sub-one ounce reloads and it will run for a few thousand rounds (or more) between cleanings. The walnut has Beretta's enhanced Xtra wood grain with an oil finish. The Action offers the option of the very effective Kick-Off recoil reducer and Beretta's Grip Pod, a counter that keeps track of the rounds you fire, relative recoil, and temperature. The Grip Pod counter will come in handy for high volume South American dove shooting, but for those of us who don't jet off to Argentina every weekend, non-grip pod versions will be available soon. $1825 with Kick-Off $1620 without Kick-Off. --Phil Bourjaily
Benelli Ultra Light 28 Gauge
The Benelli Ultra Light may be the greatest upland semiauto ever. For this year, Benelli adds a 28 gauge version to the existing 12 and 20, an announcement that will thrill the small but devoted cult that loves the 28. The new 28 UltraLight is listed at a mere 4.9 to 5 pounds. Like its bigger 12 and 20 gauge siblings, it has a magazine tube shortened to 2-shot capacity and a carbon fiber rib on its 26-inch barrel to save weight. The stock is walnut with Benelli's tough Weathercoat finish. The gun comes with three choke tubes and promises to figure prominently in the nightmares of grouse and woodcock everywhere. MSRP: $1799. --PB
Weatherby PA-08 Synthetic Slug Gun Combo
For just under $500 this 12-gauge pump comes with a 28-inch field barrel and a 24-inch rifled barrel. The rifled barrel has a 1-28" twist rate and comes with a Weaver-compatible cantilever scope mount. For the field barrel, the gun comes with three chokes: Improved Cylinder, Modified and Full. It's a fairly light gun, 6.75 pounds, and is chambered for three-inch shells. --Alex Robinson
Browning Citori 725 OU
Browning's Citori comes in a brand new version this year, with a lowered receiver profile and lighter, slimmer barrels. Overall, the 725 weighs nearly ¾ pound less than a standard Citori. I shot pheasants and doves with a 725 last fall and I pronounce it the liveliest Citori ever. As a bonus, the 725 has mechanical triggers in place of the inertia models, and they have a nice clean pull. The 725 comes in both Field and Sporting models, in 12 gauge only. The sporting gun has 3-inch chambers, a departure for Browning target guns, meaning it will make a nice crossover target/hunting gun. Field model: $2,469; Sporting gun: $3,313. --PB
Fabarm XLRS Velocity
Earlier this year Caesar Guerini, known for its excellent O/Us, took an equity stake in another Italian gunmaker, Fabarm. The first result of the two companies' integration is the Fabarm XLRS Velocity semiauto. It's a nicely decorated crossover target semiauto for trap and sporting clays that, if you told me to imagine a Caesar Guerini semiauto, is the gun I would have envisioned. The gun has an adjustable comb and a high post rib that adjusts from a flat 50/50 point of impact for sporting clays up to aggressively high for trap. I haven't shot one but the action is so beautifully polished and finished inside you have to believe it's going to work very well. With its $3,200 pricetag, the XLRS Velocity is a gamble, but there is nothing like it on the market right now. --PB
Winchester Super X Pump Turkey Hunter
Winchester's SXP pump now comes in several 3 ½-inch versions, including this turkey gun. It has a 24-inch barrel, turkey choke, camo finish and fiber optic sights, all for a very attractive price. The SXP is a Turkish-made redesign of the old underappreciated M1300 and it retains every bit of its predecessor's slickness while bearing a strong family resemblance to the SX3 semiauto. At a listed 6 5/8 pounds - and it feels every bit that light - this is an easy carrying gun, as a turkey gun should be. It will also rock you with 3 ½-inch shells in the chamber, but remember, just because they fit in the gun doesn't mean you have to shoot them. Even with 3-inch shells this gun has the features to bring home the gobblers this spring. Price: $599. --PB
Franchi Affinity
Unlike Franchis of the past, this autoloader works off of an inertia-driven action. While it's not exactly the same system that Franchi's sister company, Benelli, utilizes, it should still prove reliable. The Affinity is available in 20 gauge and 12 gauge and comes dressed in Advantage Max4 camo. Franchi held back and built this autoloader to be a three-inch gun and because of it, it's lighter and handles easier than most 3 1/2-inch duck guns. For $850 you get the gun and three choke tubes. --AR
Winchester SX3 With a New Pricetag
One welcome way to make an already good gun better is to lower the price. Winchester's Super X3 semiauto is still the same light,fast, reliable semiauto it has always been, but by making some cosmetic changes, Winchester has been able to significantly diminish the price. Doing away with the Dura Touch finish on the synthetic stock and the Perma Cote UT metal finish on some guns means, for instance, that a 3 ½-inch Waterfowl model that cost $1,479 last year has dropped in price to $1,199 this year. The SX3 still has a weight-saving alloy magazine tube and the same reliable action that powered the Super X2 and Browning Gold and Silver semiautos. Its very soft shooting gas system combined with the Inflex recoil pad make this light gun comfortable to shoot and a great choice for an all-around gun. --PB

There are a handful big shotgun releases for 2012. These are the 11 new scatter guns that caught our attention at SHOT Show.