By Kent Danjanovich
Fall is definitely in the air and I know all of you upland game hunters and waterfowlers are chomping and the bit to get out and ruffle some feathers. With so many great firearms on the market today, it is tough to talk about all of them, but since I am a little particular to the auto-loading and O/U models, I thought that I would put together a short list of some of my favorites that just might find a place in your gun safe as well, that is if they are not already there!
Beretta A400 Xtreme
The Beretta A400 Xtreme is a gas-operated autoloader with a self-cleaning piston that carries a bold name and performance to back it up. Weighing in at 7.6 pounds and packed full of features that serious duck hunters demand, the A400 Xtreme carries a price tag of $1,895 and is backed by the Beretta name and reputation for quality. It includes Beretta’s Kick-Off Recoil reduction system, which reduces recoil by up to 60%, allowing faster follow-up shots and more time in the field. It’s also protected by Beretta’s Aqua Technology corrosion-proof barrier. Available in a 26-, 28- or 30-inch barrel and chambered for 3 ½” shells, the A400 is wrapped in Realtree Max-5 camo.
Double-barrel shotguns to some may seem a bit out of place in a duck marsh, but Browning’s Cynergy stack-barrel, chambered in 3 ½ inches is right at home in the duck blind. Combining a full coating of Mossy Oak’s new and innovative Shadow Grass Blades camouflage, along with the comfort, reliability and simplicity of an over/under, the Cynergy is actually a perfect fit for the marsh. It comes with Browning’s Dura-Touch coating, InvectorPlus choke tubes and a recoil pad that uses Inflex Technology to reduce recoil by 25 percent. The Cynergy is a premium over-and-under with a price tag around $1,999.
The Browning Maxus is rapidly gaining popularity among waterfowlers who demand a tough autoloader chambered in both 3- and 3 1/2-inch offerings. The Maxus is available in three waterfowl camo patterns: Mossy Oak Bottomlands, Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Blades and Realtree’s brand-new Max-5. Weighing in at only 7-pounds, the Maxus is perfectly suited for a goose pit or for hunters who spend their mornings standing waist-deep in flooded timber. Loaded with features and a price tag of $1,469 (3-inch model) this waterfowl special will last a lifetime and perform at a level you’d expect from a premium shotgun. Complete with heavy-duty Dura-Touch coating that will withstand all the abuse a duck season can dish out, an InvectorPlus choke tube system and insertable stock shims to customize the fit of the gun, the Browning Maxus is likely to earn a permanent place in any hardcore waterfowler’s gun safe.
Winchester SX3 Waterfowl
The Winchester SX3 Waterfowl is a premier gas-operated autoloader and as reliable as it is affordable at an MSRP under $1,200, available in both 3- and 3/12-inch models. Offered in both 12- and 20-gauge models with barrels ranging from 26 to 28 inches, the SX3 appeals to a diverse group of hunters. It’s wrapped in Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Blades camo and comes with Winchester’s InvectorPlus choke system, a chrome-lined barrel and the patented Active Value gas system that cycles a variety of shotshells and limits recoil. The SX3 also includes a drop-out trigger system for easy cleaning and a synthetic stock with textured grip surfaces. It’s a greenhead’s nightmare and a duck hunter’s dream.
Remington Versa Max
Innovations abound in the Remington VersaMax family, including those versions made for dedicated waterfowl hunters. Remington created a larger safety and a wider trigger guard opening for easier operation with gloved hands. The Versaport gas system regulates the cycling pressure based on the length of the shell. Nickel Teflon and nickel-coated parts on the inside and Mossy Oak Duck Blind camo on the outside resist corrosion typical of any waterfowl situation. The twin-piston, gas-operated VersaMax also has a self-cleaning operational system that limits jams and debris buildup to ensure safe, reliable operation every time you pull the trigger. Many say that this is the perfect waterfowl gun and priced right at an MSRP of $1,599.
Benelli Vinci and Super Vinci
The Benelli Vinci is a semi-automatic hunting shotgun chambered in 12 gauge. The Vinci is named after the famous Italian Renaissance man Leonardo da Vinci because, Benelli says, like da Vinci, the Vinci is an innovator. The Vinci uses Benelli’s Inertia Driven System where recoil energy cycles the action. The bolt is semi-fixed until the backwards force, vibrating through the gun, arrives to the bolt housing, the vibration rattles the bolt and it slides back. As it travels back it pushes against the inertia spring and once compressed all the way, the spring pushes back in turn the bolt travels forward. This system is used instead of letting gas or the initial explosion drive the bolt back. And, since the gases don’t seep into the chamber there won’t be any carbon-build up.
Other features include a single-stage trigger that sets off the action with a short pull. It is a 3-piece modular design, so it’s easy to snap together and disassemble. The ComforTech Plus recoil pad adds comfort and absorbs and dampens recoil. The vent rib acts as a guide leading to the mid-bead and bright red bar front sight. Both models are lightweight at around 6.8 pounds and retail for between $1,349 and $1,649.
Benelli Super Black Eagle II
A favorite among waterfowlers, the Benelli Super Black Eagle II sets the standard for styling, versatility and performance. If you are looking for the kind of reliability that you can count on, the Super Black Eagle II is for you. The original 3-1/2’’ semi auto shotgun, the SBE II uses the proven Benelli Inertia Driven® bolt mechanism to shoot 2-3/4’’, 3’’ and even 3-1/2’’ magnum ammunition without adjustments. This high performance gun also features the ComforTech system to reduce recoil up to 48% without adding any moving parts or weight. This technology also reduces muzzle climb by 15% for faster follow-up shots, allowing shooters to get back on target up to 69% faster than comparable shotguns. Get your hands on a Super Black Eagle II and find out why this quick shooting, reliable semi-auto shotgun is so popular with current and future Benelli owners! MSRP $1,699.
The affordable M3020 is a 20-gauge inertia-driven autoloader from Stoeger that will break neither the bank nor your shoulder. It’s the perfect gun for a duck hunter who prefers the lighter recoil of a 20-gauge or a youngster just starting out in the duck marsh. The M3020 is offered in Realtree Max-5 camo and shoots both 2 ¾- and 3-inch shells to provide the reliability and versatility duck hunters demand from their shotgun at a great price of under $650. Now a good shotgun can’t do much for you if you don’t load it with good ammo. Here is a list of ammunition choices from the very top of the line, as well as some a little bit more cost effective that will get the job done as well. Now most of these are waterfowl specific, but each company also makes a full line of upland game ammunition and all can be found on the shelves of your local Sportsman’s Warehouse.
This devastating steel ammo from Federal mixes innovative and lethal FliteStopper steel pellets with standard steel pellets in the range- extending FliteControl wad for superior downrange patterning and hitting power. Unlike standard round steel pellets, FliteStopper pellets have a sharp cut-on-contact surface that produces bird-slaying wound channels unlike anything you’ve seen before. The FliteControl wad is configured 180° compared to standard wads, so the cup flares at the rear instead of the front. This causes pellets to remain more tightly patterned longer as they leave the barrel, adding 10-15 yards of effective range compared to conventional steel loads and increasing pellet energy downrange. This deadly combination of superior patterning, increased knockdown power and longer range means there can only be one forecast when Black Cloud FS Steel shows up in the blind – expect it to rain ducks and geese! A little pricey at around $21 per box for 3” and $25 for 3 ½” shells, but the results are awesome.
Trust the proven, deadly performance of the Fasteel Precision Steel Waterfowl Shotshell the next time you head to the blind. Fasteel shells combine all weather primers, custom blended propellents, a scientifically designed wad for reduced recoil and shot protection, with water resistant construction. This proven combination delivers consistent patterning, balanced shot-string, less recoil, superior penetration and retained energy shell after shell after shell. 1425 fps. Pricing around $16 for 3” shells and $22 for a box of 25, 3 1/2 “ shells.
Remington Hypersonic Steel
1700 fps from a steel load? Confidently sighting in on a goose at 60 yards? These are no longer a dream for waterfowl hunters with Remington’s HyperSonic Steel shotshells. These innovative loads are the fastest velocity, highest downrange pattern energies Remington has ever produced in a steel waterfowl load. Its big speeds help reduce the lead you need to take on birds in the air, increasing your success rate and reducing the number of crippled birds flying away. The heart of this shell is Remington’s patented Xelerator wad. This innovative design features an “ignition chamber” filled with a small powder charge that moves the shell’s entire payload forward slightly before the main charge ignites, providing increased volume behind the wad for the charge. This innovative wad is the key to delivering this kind of power without causing dangerous chamber pressures. The HyperSonic’s shot cup starts out as one piece, keeping the shot together (to put more pellets in the head and neck) before “stress concentrators” on the sides cut the shot cup into petals, releasing the pellets. Don’t ever watch pellets bounce off the chest of a long-range bird again, choose HyperSonic. At the upper end of the price range at $25 per box of 25.
Remington Sportsman Hi-Speed Steel
Remington Sportsman Hi-Speed Steel offers all the dependability and performance you would expect from Remington ammunition without breaking the bank. Sportsman Hi-Speed Steel’s sealed primer, high quality steel shot and consistent muzzle velocities combine to provide reliability in adverse weather, while delivering exceptional pattern density and retained energy. An economical, high-speed steel load that is ideal for short-range high-volume shooting during early duck seasons or over decoys. Sportsman Steel works equally as well in upland situations that require the use of non-toxic shotshells. With a price tag hovering around $13 per box of 3 inch and $18 for 3 ½ inch shells, they are also a little easier on the wallet.
Winchester Blind Side
With 250% more trauma-causing power and 15% more pellets per shell, ducks and geese won’t know what hit them. Game-changing hexahedron-shaped pellets crumple waterfowl with a six-sided punch that cuts through feathers and keeps going. Unlike round shot, Hex shot focuses energy transfer and concentrates blunt-force trauma with sharp corners and flat sides for massive wound channels and flight-stopping shock. Space-optimizing Hex shot also provides superior packing density by stacking gap-free in the shot cup. These tight-fitting stacks create room for 15% more pellets in every shell and save space for bigger powder charges, providing more velocity. The exclusive Diamond-Cut Wad manages pattern density and uniformity with diamond-shaped air-brake petals for improved downrange performance, stretching the instant kill-zone up to 25% beyond the 30” sweet spot. Great knock-down power. You’ll be paying for that power though, at around $25 per box of 25.
Winchester Xpert Waterfowl
Value-priced, high-performance steel shotshells, Winchester’s Xpert Waterfowl loads deliver a sizzling velocity of up to 1625 fps for an incredible boost in superior, bird-bagging performance. At under $14 per box of 25 in 3” and $19 for 3 ½ “, they are one of the best cost saving alternatives on the market.
High-energy, high-density shells use Pattern-Density Technology to put 20% more lethal pellets on target at 40 yards than any steel ammunition. Hevi-Metal shotgun shells are tough to beat. Although they top the price list at around $30 per box of 25, you’ll wind up with far less cripples and more ducks and geese in your bag at the end of the day.
Upland Game Shotguns
You may notice a family resemblance, but let’s get one thing straight, this ain’t your Grandpa’s Auto-5. In fact, the iconic humpback-shaped receiver is the only thing this new Browning autoloader shares with its legendary namesake. The all new Browning A5 is built to be the most reliable, fastest cycling, best performing and softest shooting recoil-operated (yes, recoil-operated) autoloader on the planet. And Browning is so confident in the A5, they are standing behind it with a 100,000 round or five year guarantee that this shotgun will work, come hell or high water. Standing firmly behind this claim is the ultra-reliable, honed to perfection Kinematic Drive System. Other innovations, like the new Invector-DS choke tube system and Inflex II recoil pad are sure to place the A5 right at the top of the industry. MSRP differs on the model, but most come in under $1,599.
Browning Citori 725
Browning’s Citoi 725 is the evolution of John M. Browning’s legendary B25 Superposed, now with the modern performance advantage of a low-profile receiver. The 725 receiver is significantly lower than other Citori 12 gauge receivers, yet the 725 shares the renowned durability of generations of Citori over and unders with the same rugged full-width hinge pin and tapered locking bolt design. With a 725, you get the “one with the gun” feeling you want, with the long lasting durability you expect from a Browning over and under. And the features don’t stop there. The 725 showcases an all-new mechanical trigger (FireLite) that offers unmatched feel and lighter pull weights than ever before. Inflex Technology has also been added to make shooting more comfortable. And the new Invector-DS choke system moves to a new level of performance. MSRP $2,495, but can usually be found in the store for much less.
Beretta A400 Xplor Light
The Beretta A400 Xplor Light weighs in at about 6-pounds in their 12-gauge model and combines Beretta’s Blink operating system with a nickel-chromium-molybdenum Steelium barrel and new Micro-Core recoil pad in a light-recoiling, gas-operated upland shotgun. A new gas piston coupled with a rotating bolt head and slick feeding system provides perfect cycling with 2 ¾- and 3-inch shells. The stock and fore-end are of select Grade II oil-finished checkered walnut and the polymer trigger guard contributes to the gun’s noticeable light weight, all adding up to a MSRP of around $1,499.
Benelli reveals a new inertia-driven shotgun, the Ethos. It’s an elegant semi-auto that can cycle both light 7/8-ounce target loads and 3-inch goose loads. Stocks are cut from AA-Grade European walnut and incorporate a progressive recoil system that self-adjusts to the load’s kick. Another cool feature is the rotating bolt head, which locks the bolt even if you ease it forward, as opposed to allowing it to slam closed. A carbon fiber rib helps shave ounces from the 6-pound 12-gauge. The new technology and style of this gun make it a true showstopper. MSRP $1,999 for the black anodized receiver and $2,199 for the nickel-plated engraved receiver.
A sleek, instinctive-pointing profile teams with precise balance and lightweight to make the Franchi Affinity semi-auto shotgun a fast-handling extension of the shooter, resulting in more broken clays and more limits of birds. The 12 gauge model tips the scales at just 6.5 lbs. and the 20 ga. at 5.6 lbs. With a slim fore-end and grip, its refined design delivers a responsiveness few other semi-automatic shotguns can match. The consistently reliable Inertia-Driven bolt system features a rotating bolt head that ensures positive steel-to-steel lockup. The gun’s safety is located on the back of the trigger guard for instinctive operation. Punch out a single pin to remove the trigger assembly for easy deep cleaning. The 28” vent-rib barrel is outfitted with a front red fiber-optic bar sight. Each shotgun comes with a shim kit for adjusting drop and cast, resulting in a true custom fit. The inertia system combines with a TSA recoil pad to mitigate kick and get you back on target quickly. MSRP $949.
So, if you are in the market for a new shotgun for yourself or maybe a son or daughter just starting out in the sport, you can check all of these great firearms out as well as many more during your next visit to your local Sportsman’s Warehouse. Their helpful and knowledgeable staffs will undoubtabley have a few ideas of their own to help in your quest of purchasing a great shotgun that will service your needs for years to come. And with all of the great advancements in chokes, stock finishes and the ability to interchange all types of ammo for just about any type of hunting, you just may find one that fits all of your possible needs.