Year of The Mod Shotgun

Last year wascalled “the year of the Turkish invasion” because we tested three gunsmade in Turkey, one of which, a … Continued

Last year wascalled “the year of the Turkish invasion” because we tested three gunsmade in Turkey, one of which, a frisky little side-by-side double, danced offwith our Editor’s Choice award. This year the invasion continues, with theintroduction of a pair of Turkish-made over/unders that represent opposite endsof the price scale: one costing more than $5,000; the other, less than$500.

The big news,however, is in autoloaders, with two legendary American names going toe-to-toewith spectacular new guns. The looks and engineering of both of these shotgunsare so nontraditional that they may be regarded with disdain by thesquinty-eyed traditionalist. But we might as well get used to them becauseunder their ultra-modern exteriors is some impressive engineering that willrevolutionize the way shotguns are made and the way we shoot them.

BERETTA 3901 GAUGE: 12 GA. TRIGGER PULL: 4 LB. 13 OZ. ACTION: SEMI-AUTO

Beretta’sautoloading shotguns have one of the best-proven and most reliable gas-operatedsystems in the entire gun industry. This is one of the many reasons Beretta’sautoloaders are widely used for both hunting and the full range ofwing-shooting games.

The M3901 wetested is another addition to its line of competition shotguns, but with adifferent and worthwhile twist–it’s an entry-level gun for young skeet orsporting-clays shooters that “grows” along with them. Of course thereis nothing new about guns with adjustable combs, cast and length of pull, butthe 3901 starts out with an honest small-fry stock–only 12¼-inch length ofpull–that can be lengthened a half inch at a time by inserting spacers. Thecomb can likewise be adjusted so that the young shooter has the benefits of aproperly fitting stock.

The shotgun’sgrip geometry, which has a rather horizontal profile, garnered praise from thetest team for its comfort.

FINAL SCORE: F G[VG] E

Retail: $898

Performance:***

Design: ***

Price/Value:***

800-237-3882;berettausa.com

TESTERS’COMMENTS

⿪ Functionedreliably with all ammo tried

⿪ A gun a youngshooter can grow into

⿪ Trigger pullsmooth and light

⿪ Bolt-releasebutton was a bit hard to push

KIMBER MARIASO/U GAUGE: 20 GA. TRIGGER PULL: 5 LB. 15.5 OZ. ACTION: OVER/UNDER

Like the elegantlittle side-by-side double bearing the Kimber name that won last year’sEditor’s Choice award, this Turkish-made over/under features gorgeous wood,rich case coloring on the receiver and quick-detachable sidelocks that areprettier on the inside than on the outside.

The chrome-linedbores add value, and the team was impressed by the innovative screw-in choketubes that fit flush with the muzzle without the usual wrench notches.

The gun was sucha joy on the skeet field, and pointed so well in our hands, that two cases of20-gauge shells quickly disappeared. Since classic styling and high-grade woodare hallmarks of Kimber guns, they invite themselves to be judged on this basisand our sample lost points on the only so-so engraving and rather carelesscheckering, which should have been better for a gun with a price tag of morethan $5,000.

The lack of aselective trigger also disappointed our test shooters, as did occasionalmisfires with a variety of ammunition.

FINAL SCORE: F G[VG] E

Retail:$5,799

Performance:***

Design: ****

Price/Value:*

800-880-2418;kimberamerica.com

TESTERS’COMMENTS

⿪ Lovely wood

⿪ Trigger pullwas a bit too heavy for a light gun

⿪ Felt recoilseems too hard

⿪ Points well butlost points on price/value

MOSSBERG SILVERRESERVE O/U GAUGE: 12 GA. TRIGGER PULL: 6 LB. 5.5 OZ. ACTION: OVER/UNDER

The Turkishinvasion continues, with Mossberg now importing a modestly priced over/underthat, like most of the other Turkish-made shotguns we’ve tested, is solid andfunctional.

This is about allyou could ask for in an O/U with a street price in the $500 range, but theSilver Reserve we tested was also pretty nice looking, with some engravingenhanced by gold overlays and a hand-checkered walnut stock.

Best of allthough, it proved to be a real shooter, causing our shotgun team to suggestthat the gun would be a better bargain even at a somewhat higher price if ithad autoselect ejectors rather than a simple shell lifter. This feature wouldgo nicely with its existing barrel selector.

On the skeetfield the Mossberg performed well, with one tester noting that its muzzle-heavyprofile made it very easy to swing. About the only complaint anyone had wasregarding the sticky barrel selector, which required excessive effort tomove.

FINAL SCORE: F G[VG] E

Retail: $634

Performance:***

Design: **

Price/Value:***

203-230-5300;mossberg.com

TESTERS’COMMENTS

⿪ Functionedbeautifully

⿪ Screw-in chokesnice touch for price

⿪ Wish it hadauto ejectors

⿪ A greatover/under for the money

REMINGTONCTI-105 GAUGE: 12 GA. TRIGGER PULL: 5 LB. 6.5 OZ. ACTION: SEMI-AUTO

When Remingtonintroduces a wholly new autoloading shotgun the shooting world takes notice.Its M1100 was a milestone in autoloading development, as was the earlier M48series. You might wonder how the immensely popular M1100 could be improved on,but when you see, handle and shoot the CTi (the chemical symbols for carbon andtitanium, which play big roles in the gun’s construction and lightness), yourealize that Remington has taken a bold step into a brave new world of firearmsengineering.

So what’sdifferent? In a word–everything: from the distinctive carbon-fiber shell overthe receiver and carbon-fiber vent rib to the bottom loading and ejection,recoil-reduction system, smooth “roller-bearing” sear release and racystyling. This is also the first shotgun made with a titanium receiver. There isno loading/ejection port on the receiver side. Instead, you push a shell intothe magazine via the bottom port, from where it is instantly cycled into thechamber. The system takes some getting used to, as the suddenness of theoperation makes it feel like you’re putting your fingers in a mousetrap, but itworks.

FINAL SCORE: F G[VG] E

Retail:$1,332

Performance:***

Design: ***

Price/Value:***

800-243-9700;remington.com

TESTERS’COMMENTS

⿪ Recoil is verymild

⿪ Would beexcellent for hunting and sporting clays

⿪ Bottom ejectionworks great

⿪ Pointsquick

⿪ Liked the looksa lot

OUTDOOR LIFEEditor’s Choice 2006

WINCHESTER SUPERX3 GAUGE: 12 GA. TRIGGER PULL: 6 LB. 8 OZ. ACTION: SEMI-AUTO

A few months backI wrote a column about Winchester’s mostly failed efforts to make and market atruly successful autoloading shotgun. For the most part, my commentary wasgloomy but I ended the piece more or less upbeat: “My guess is thatWinchester’s quest for a great shotgun for the 21st century is justbeginning.”

The Europeanmakers of Winchesters surely hooted and poked each other in the ribs when theyread this because they were only weeks away from unveiling an all-newautoloader–the Super X3–destined to become OUTDOOR LIFE’S Editor’s Choiceshotgun for 2006! Wow, talk about a turnaround in the fortunes of Winchestershotguns, and with the pall cast by the recent closing of Winchester’s NewHaven plant, it couldn’t have come at a better time.

The SX3 is verymuch the latest European style. The traditional checkering has been replacedwith laser-cut grooves that form geometric swirls. And the bright red letteringon the grayed receiver might be off-putting for traditionalists (like me) whopine for the Winchester of bygone days.

But when you snapit to your shoulder you feel a gun that wants to shoot. And this one reallydoes.

FINAL SCORE: F G[VG] E

Retail: $979

Performance:****

Design: ***

Price/Value:***

800-333-3288;winchesterguns.com

TESTERS’COMMENTS

⿪ Pointed andshot well

⿪ I liked thisgun

⿪ Felt great toshoulder and shoot

⿪ Nice recoilpad

⿪ The best testedthis year

OUTDOOR LIFEGREAT BUY 2006

REMINGTON SPR453 GAUGE: 12 GA. TRIGGER PULL: 5 LB. 4 OZ. ACTION: SEMI-AUTO

Beauty is asbeauty does, it’s been said, and in the hands of our shotgun test team thisno-frills autoloader from Russia took wing and became this year’s Great Buyaward winner. Last year we tested one of the first of Remington’s”Spartan” imports, a plain but solid over/under that earned good marks.Remington now imports these guns under the classier-sounding ISP (InternationalSporting Products) global group.

To win thishonor, a gun must not only represent a fair dollar value but also deliverperformance beyond what one would expect from a product in its price category.Or, as one of our test shooters astutely observed, “When it comes to value,performance trumps appearance every time.” Not just a warmed-over design,the SPR 453 has an up-to-date tunable gas system to operate 2¾-inch to 3½-inch12-gauge shotshells. Our sample came adjusted for heavy loads, which causedsome ejection failures with the light target loads we used on the skeet field.This could have been corrected by simply resetting the gas system, but the gunswung so smoothly, we didn’t want to stop shooting.

FINAL SCORE: F G[VG] E

Retail: $405

Performance:***

Design: **

Price/Value:****

800-243-9700;remington.com

TESTERS’COMMENTS

⿪ Shot andpointed very well

⿪ An affordablegood start for a new hunter

⿪ I shot this gunthe best of all

⿪ Plain to lookat but lovely in the hands

THE RATINGS Excellent: **** Very Good: *** Good: ** Fair: *