August 2006

Semi-Auto Shotguns: Browning Gold Sporting Beats Benelli

By all measures, Benelliís new SuperSport is a fine shotgun, but when we compared it shot for shot against the stalwart Browning, the Italianís higher price knocked it out.

As the average age of clay-target shooters continues to inch higher, many veterans are turning to less expensive, lighter, softer-shooting semiautomatics as substitutes for their over-unders. The common objective is to find a firearm that doesn’t strain the pocketbook; is easy on the arm muscles; and doesn’t send the shooter into shoulder shock from recoil.

However, because the single-barrel shotguns are lighter and quicker to get on a target, all of them require a little more finesse if a shooter is intent on being competitive or filling a game bag. This means there is more need for a little extra push or pull by the shooter, rather than relying on the glide of a heavier stackbarrel.

The Browning Gold Sporting Semiautomatic 12 gauge, $1105, has earned a good reputation as a moderately priced shooting tool at clay target courses across the country, despite some travails. The initial burst of enthusiasm for the shotgun when it first entered the market was slightly deflated by problems with broken firing pins and other mechanical failures with early models. However, those failures seem to have subsided with the more recent production runs.

Following the pattern of the legendary Remington 1100 semiautomatic that once dominated the skeet shooting community (and also suffered some early mechanical problems); the Browning Gold Sporting has become one of those shotguns that nearly everyone gives the old college try.

But there are plenty of challengers out there vying for the Browning’s sporting-clays spot, one of which is the other semi-auto in our test, the Benelli SuperSport. The model we tested is the latest version of another veteran line that has been favored by both bird and clay target shooters. With its space-age looks and feel, the Benelli SuperSport Semiautomatic 12 gauge, $1735, is one of those love it or hate it shotguns.

The sharp angle of the trigger guard and the Comfortech stock’s synthetic design, plus the two-toned receiver, are all striking innovations that make the Benelli stand out in a gun rack. We found that most of these innovations earned high marks in both function and appearance for testers who like an updated look.

To put our test shotguns through their paces on the sporting clays course, our shooting crew fired a variety of ammunition, including Remington Premier STS Low Recoil 2.75-inch, 2.5-dram shells. We fired two versions of this loading, one which had 1.125 ounces of No. 8s, and the other with same payload, but in No. 7 1/2s. Both shells are low recoil, with an average muzzle velocity ranging from 1100 to 1145 fps. Because the Browning would only handle 2.75-inch shells, no 3-inch shells were used in our test sessions. Here’s our test report:

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