11 Tough, Purpose-Built Waterfowl Shotguns
Pro-style waterfowl shotguns offer custom features right out of the box. Here are some of the best
Hunter numbers may be dwindling overall, but the waterfowling faction seems alive and well based on all the new gear introduced each season. This includes shotguns. Nearly every gun manufacturer offers at least one waterfowl-specific scattergun. These tricked-out “pro” models feature numerous enhancements designed to improve both performance and durability, such as oversized controls, tough Cerakote and camo finishes, specialized choke tubes, and/or lengthened forcing cones. Here are 10 of the latest and greatest “pro-style” shotguns you may want to tote to the marsh this season.
TriStar Hunter Mag
The Hunter Mag is a 3.5-inch, 12-gauge over/under from TriStar. It comes with a synthetic stock and forearm, sling swivel studs, rubber recoil pad, fiber-optic front sight, and five Mobile-style choke tubes in skeet, IC, modified, IM, and full constrictions. It’s offered in complete Mossy Oak Break-Up camo with 26-inch barrels, designed mainly for turkey hunters, or Duck Blind camo with 28- or 30-inch barrels for duck and goose hunters. However, waterfowlers will be most interested in the new model with bronze Cerakote on the barrels and receiver and Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Blades camo on the stock and forearm. Make no mistake, this gun is no Cynergy, but then again it costs less than a third as much. The Hunter Mag would make a great starter gun for waterfowlers on a budget, or a great backup gun for the blind or truck.
Mossberg 930 Pro-Series Waterfowl
The 3-inch, 12-gauge Mossberg 930 Pro Series Waterfowl features numerous enhancements over standard 930 models, including a boron nitride coating on the gas piston, piston ring, magazine tube, hammer, sear, and return spring plunger and tube for improved corrosion-resistance and reliability. The return spring is stainless steel to resist rust. The shell stop, bolt slide, and elevator have all received extra polishing to reduce friction and provide faster cycling and follow-up shots. I had the pleasure of shooting the 930 Pro in Maine last season, where it performed flawlessly on sea ducks. For those needing more firepower, there’s also a 3.5-inch, 12-gauge 935 Magnum Pro-Series model with the same enhancements. Both come with a 28-inch barrel, fiber-optic sight, three chokes (IC, M, F), and complete Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Blades camo coverage.
Stoeger M3500 Waterfowl Special
For nearly a decade, Stoeger’s M3500 semi-auto has provided hunters with both 3.5-inch 12-gauge capability and rugged inertia-operated performance at a price nearly anyone can afford. The new M3500 Waterfowl Special continues that budget-friendly tradition while incorporating features hardcore waterfowlers are sure to appreciate. The receiver and barrel have a flat dark earth Cerakote finish, while the synthetic stock and forearm are covered in Realtree Max-5 camo. The extra-large bolt handle and bolt release button facilitate gloved usage in cold weather. The 28-inch barrel comes with a red fiber-optic front sight and three extended choke tubes in close range (IC), mid-range (modified), and extra-full turkey constrictions. A recoil reducer that can be screwed onto the stock bolt and paracord survival sling round out the Waterfowl Special package.
Winchester SX4 Hybrid Hunter
While it may not be labeled a “pro” model, Winchester’s SX4 Hybrid Hunter certainly meets the criteria. A durable, flat dark earth Cerakote finish on the receiver and barrel will withstand the harshest elements encountered while waterfowling. Camo finishes on the synthetic stock and forearm include Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Blades and Bottomland, True Timber Strata, Realtree Max-5, and, new for 2019, Realtree Timber. The controls on the SX4, including the safety, bolt handle, and bolt release, are already oversized, so no modifications were needed there. All Hybrid Hunter models come in 3.5-inch, 12-gauge with either a 26- or 28-inch barrel, Truglo fiber-optic front sight, and three chokes (IC, M, F). The Active Valve gas system is both reliable and soft-shooting, especially when coupled with the thick, recoil-absorbing Inflex recoil pad.
Remington V3 Waterfowl Pro
Remington’s new V3 Waterfowl Pro features an oversized bolt handle and bolt release button and wider loading port, all of which make operation with gloves easier. The barrel and receiver have received a tough Cerakote finish, while the synthetic stock and forearm are camouflaged. Three options are offered: burnt bronze Cerakote with either Realtree Max-5 or Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Blades camo, and Patriot brown Cerakote with Realtree Timber camo. All come with 28-inch barrels, a HiViz front sight and steel mid-bead, and three choke tubes: IC, modified, and full. This 3-inch, 12-gauge autoloader is powered by the soft-shooting VersaPort gas system which reliably cycles both 2 ¾- and 3-inch shells. Remington’s excellent and ultra-soft SuperCell recoil pad helps absorb the kick from those heavy, magnum duck and goose loads.
Franchi Affinity Elite
The Franchi Affinity is already one of the best values going among inertia-operated semi-autos, both in terms of features and dependability. The new Affinity Elite takes that value a step further. The bolt handle is already extra-large, but now there’s also an oversized Sure Cycle Bolt release button. The barrel’s forcing cone has been lengthened for improved patters. The receiver and barrel have a Cerakote finish, while the synthetic stock and forearm are covered in Optifade camo. There are two color options: burnt bronze Cerakote and Optifade Marsh or cobalt Cerakote and Optifade Timber. The Affinity Elite is available in both 3.5- and 3-inch 12-gauge with a 28-inch barrel or 3-in 20-gauge with a 26-inch barrel. All come with a Truglo dual-color, fiber-optic front sight, TSA recoil pad, and three extended chokes: close, mid, and long-range.
Retay Masai Mara 3.5
Hunter’s unfamiliar with Retay shotguns may want to check out the company’s Masai Mara line of semi-autos. They feature a patented Inertia Plus Locking System that ensures the rotating bolt head locks into place every time, eliminating that dreaded “click” inertia guns are notorious for. Also nice is the push-button trigger group and beefed up ejector, both of which are easily removed for cleaning. Waterfowlers will be most interested in the super magnum 12-gauge Masai Mara 3.5. It has an oversized bolt release button and bolt handle, Cerakote-coated receiver and barrel, and a camo synthetic stock and forearm. Finish options include bronze or earth Cerakote with Bottomland or Timber camo, or OD green Cerakote/Max-5 camo. 26-, 28-, or 30-inch barrels come with a Truglo front sight and five chokes: skeet, IC, modified, IM, and full.
The receiver and magazine cap of Fabarm’s 3-inch 12-gauge XLR5 Waterfowler have a tough, olive drab Cerakote finish that resists corrosion. The synthetic stock and forearm are covered in True Timber Viper Western camo with a rubberized Soft Touch coating that provides a sure grip in wet conditions. The 28- or 30-inch Tribore HP barrel is covered in the same camo with a red fiber-optic front sight. Inside, the three-stage gradually tapering bore essentially acts as one long forcing cone to both reduce recoil and improve patterns. Three flush chokes (medium, long, extreme) and one extended choke with matching camo band are included. The soft-shooting, fast-cycling Pulse Piston gas system reliably handles a wide range of loads. The bolt handle, safety button, and trigger guard opening are all huge for easier use with gloves. Left-hand models also offered.
Beretta A400 Xtreme Plus
While Beretta’s new 3.5-inch, 12-gauge A400 Xtreme Plus doesn’t come in Cerakote (yet), it certainly meets all the other criteria of a “pro-style” shotgun. The bolt handle and bolt release button are both huge, the loading port is enlarged for easier use when wearing gloves, and the forcing cone is extremely long—14-inches—extending all the way down the bore as far as the magazine cap. Finish options are Realtree Max-5, Mossy Oak Bottomland, True Timber DRT, black synthetic, and soon Gore Optifade. All are available with either a 26- or 28-inch Steelium Plus barrel equipped with a steel mid-bead, fiber optic front sight, and five extended Black Edition choke tubes. The Kick Off recoil reduction system and soft cheek piece combine with the already soft-shooting gas system to tame the kick from heavy 3.5-inch thumpers.
Browning Cynergy Wicked Wing
For those who prefer the dependability and smooth-swinging characteristics of a double barrel, this year Browning introduced a Wicked Wing version of its Cynergy over/under. The 12-gauge Cynergy Wicked Wing joins the A5 and Maxus semi-autos in Browning’s Wicked Wing line of waterfowl-specific shotguns. This specialized Cynergy features 3.5-inch chambers and a burnt bronze Cerakote finish on the receiver and barrels. The synthetic stock and forearm are available in three camo patterns: Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Blades or Bottomland and Realtree Max-5. The comb is adjustable, a spacer adjusts LOP, and an Inflex recoil pad mitigates recoil. Barrels come in lengths of 26-, 28-, or 30-inches, all with Vector Pro lengthened forcing cones, an ivory front bead, and three extended Invector-Plus “Goose Band” choke tubes in IC, modified, and full.
Benelli SBE 3 Performance Shop Waterfowl
Benelli’s new SBE 3 Performance Shop Waterfowl Edition is the SBE 3 diehard waterfowlers have been waiting for since this third generation of the 3.5-inch, 12-gauge Super Black Eagle was introduced. Internal enhancements include a honed and polished inertia action for faster cycling, an oversized bolt handle and bolt release button, and a lengthened and polished forcing cone. That last item improves patterns from the 28-inch barrel, especially when paired with the set of three Rob Roberts Triple Threat choke tubes which are included—close, medium, and long-range. Patterns are computer analyzed for uniformity and consistency. Outside, the receiver and barrel have been given a bronze Cerakote finish, while the synthetic stock and forearm are covered in Gore Optifade Marsh camo. A paracord sling and HiViz CompSight complete the package.