Browning BPS Stalker Composite No. 012212305 3-inch 12 Gauge, $500
The adage of "Beware of the one who uses a single gun" can be applied to quite a few firearm fanciers who favor an all-around shotgun to fulfill their various needs in the home and field. Since the legendary Winchester Model 12 pump-action shotgun dominated the market in days of old, slide-actions have been a favorite shooting tool of those who might touch off a couple of boxes of ammunition a year as well as to many wingshots and target busters who buy their shells by the pallet. Pump-action shotguns have a well-earned reputation of performing in all kinds of conditions and shooting situations where reliability is not an option, it is a necessity.
Shooters who use their one gun for all types of service are normally proficient in putting their firearm to good use. Being familiar with the way the multi-use shotgun handles and performs is a big plus in filling a game bag or defending the homestead.
The fact that pumps, particularly those that can be found in the used-gun racks of sporting goods stores across the country, carry price tags in the low to moderate range is another factor adding to their popularity. Picking up a good shooting tool for under $500 is a satisfying accomplishment in most hunting and shooting circles.
Our trip to the used-gun rack resulted in the selection of three popular makes and models of pump-action shotguns for testing on the patterning range and in the field. We were looking for models that were all capable of performing multiple service, such as self-defense firearms in a home; good-patterning short-range shotguns for turkeys; and adequate performance on clay targets or even wingshooting situations such as in the dove field.
We selected a Browning BPS Stalker Composite No. 012212305 3-inch 12 Gauge with a price tag of $500.
As experienced slide-action shooters are aware, pumps are not known for the fine balance and handling ability of high-end shotguns like the over-and-unders or semi-automatics used by top-gun clay-target competitors. However, they work well as dependable field guns where the shooter is attempting to fill a game bag in rough-and-tumble conditions. Pump-actions tend to be more of a workhorse than a racehorse, and that is why a lot of everyday shooters and hunters are willing to part with a few dollars to put them into their shooting tool collection.
To check out the shotguns in a variety of shooting situations, we selected the following test ammunition:
For clay targets, we used Winchester Super X 2.75-inch Game Loads with 1 ounce of No. 7.5 shot and an average muzzle velocity of 1290 fps. For turkey targets, we tried out Federal Premium Mag-Shok 3-inch loads with 2 ounces of No. 4 shot and an average muzzle velocity of 1300 fps. For home defense, we fired both Remington Express Buckshot 2.75-inch loads with 12 pellets of 00 buckshot and an average muzzle velocity of 1325 fps and Winchester Super X 2.75-inch loads with 1-ounce rifled hollow-point slugs and an average muzzle velocity of 1600 fps.
We limited our testing to the 2.75- and 3-inch shells.
One of the more affordable guns in the Browning shotgun lineup, our test 26-inch model is still in the companys catalog, selling for $579 suggested retail. The $500 price reflects what was on the hang tag at Durys Gun Shop in San Antonio (www.DurysGuns.com).
Like most Browning products, the pump-action shotgun manufactured by the company has a quality feel and design that has found favor with a huge number of hunters and shooters. Although slide-action shotguns are not known for their balance, we liked the feel and heft of the Browning from the first time our staff picked it up from the used-gun rack. When snuggled into the shooters shoulder, the Browning was easily the most comfortable of the trio of test guns, our testers said. The longest of the three, the Browning had an overall length of 46.5 inches, with a length of pull of 14 inches. Featuring a drop at the comb of 1.25 inches and a drop at the heel of 2.25 inches, the composite stock provided a good fit for all members of our test team.
One of the first plus factors we noted was the ambidextrous safety on the top of the receiver. Combined with the bottom ejection systemone of the few such systems in the pump-action worldthis shotgun is truly a firearm that fits both right-handed shooters and lefties. We also put a check mark on the plus side of our ledger for the Hi-Viz red-bar front sight that had been installed on the Browning. Not a big factor in shooting clay targets, the red sight did provide a better shooting platform for acquiring paper targets and would provide good service in turkey hunting conditions or as a home-defense gun. Yet another plus for the Browning was the trigger pull, with the break occurring at about 6 pounds, well within the favored range of most shotgun enthusiasts. On the clay-target range and in the dove-hunting field, the Browning excelled. Even with the 26-inch barrel, the shotgun moved through targets and birds with smooth ease, and spent shells were ejected with authority in all conditions. From the 2.75-inch loads to the heavy 3-inch loads, recoil was not considered excessive. Putting the shotgun to the patterning test confirmed the reason for our success in the field and on the clay range. At a range of 30 yards and using the modified choke, the Browning produced a perfect 50-50 pattern, with the pellet spread evenly distributed across the paper.
Switching to the buckshot loads (we removed the choke and moved up to a range of 20 paces for all the buckshot and slug tests), the 12 pellets were all contained in a 7-inch-diameter circle, and the slug shots were all in the X-ring. We were very pleased with the way the Browning performed in home-defense mode.
The turkey-load patterning was also very satisfying with the Browning, although like the other two shotguns, hits were a little lower than we would have liked. Once again, using the Modified choke and shooting targets set up at 30 yards, the Browning placed an average of 75 No. 4 pellets in the head, neck, heart, and lungs of the turkey. That type of killing pattern would assure a turkey hunter that the shotgun would do its part in filling a game bag.
Our Team Said: It was hard to find any downside to the Browning, which handled well, patterned well and performed in the field in a manner that exceeded our expectations. Although the Brownings price tag was the highest of the trio, we believe the few extra dollars would be well spent in picking up this pump that capably fills its role as an all-around shotgun.