January 2007

Benelli SBE II Is Our Pick Over Beretta, Remington Autoloaders

The Super Black Eagle II led the way when tested against the Beretta Urika Trap Optima and the Remington 105Cti. But all three are classy autoloaders with slightly different missions.

Itís always been sound advice to buy the best quality one can afford. But Americans are often conflicted consumers since a red, white and blue trademark doesnít always mean top quality.

Thatís because, we suppose, U.S. manufacturers have to cut corners in order to pay decent wages, workmenís compensation, life insurance, medical/dental benefits, pensions, and other sundries that donít clutter up the overhead of some off-shore competitors.

One of the affected areas, in terms of quality and durability, has long been the area of semiautomatic shotguns. American designer John Browningís classic Auto-5 was made by FN in Belgium and later by Miroku in Japan a lineage shared by the companyís (and sister company Winchesterís) subsequent autoloaders. The Mossberg autoloaders that are still made stateside are designed with popular price points in mind, not history. Ithaca Guns USA no longer makes autoloaders; nor do Ruger or Savage, and aside from Remington, American manufacturers import semiautos rather than make one of their own in this country.

In fact, when it comes to truly classic designs, Remingtonís 1100 gas gun may be the only American-made autoloader to merit consideration. The 1100ís autoloading predecessors the recoil-operated Model 11-48 and the pioneering gas-operated Sportsman 58 and 878 Automaster designs never caught the public fancy for a variety of reasons. And the gunís successor, the 11-87, still has sufficient warts almost two decades after its introduction to merit the 1100ís continued prominence in the Remington product lineup.

Introduced in 1963, the 1100 still maintains sufficient interest for Remington to evolve the design more with the "Competition" in 2005 and the G-3 (for third generation) in 2006. But weíre not here to dissect the 1100ís tried-and-true physique, which is merely dressed differently in the Competition and G-3. No, the Remington autoloader in todayís limelight is the new-for-2006 Model 105Cti.

Billed as lightweight, but with soft-recoil and extraordinary patterning performance, the 105Cti is the first Remington autoloader whose base model wears a four-figure price tag, which puts it into a pretty spiffy neighborhood.

The Italians, on the other hand, are long-term residents of said gated community with Benelliís Super Black Eagle II and Berettaís 391 versions today arguably representing the royalty in autoloaders.

Some may label a head-to-head comparison of these particular three guns as "apples and oranges." From here, however, itís more of a "tangerines and oranges" deal. Though the Benelli SBE II (No. 10016) is a thoroughbred hunting gun, the Beretta Urika Trap Optima No. J391501, $1250, is primarily a target gun, and the Remington 105Cti (No. 29521) is still in early-design limbo between the two, they are all classy, expensive auto-loading designs worthy of state-of-the-art designation.

All three 12-gauge guns feature back-bored (.735-inch interior diameters compared to the 12-gauge nominal .729) barrels, stepped ventilated ribs, three-shot magazines, cross-bolt safeties and smooth, crisp triggers. They all also came with classy plastic cases befitting 4-digit retail shotguns, with molded impressions to fit the various gun parts, choke tubes and wrenches.

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