July 2007

Used Shotguns: Which Pumps Should You Buy? — And Avoid?

A test of four slide-actions — Benelli Nova, Mossberg Model 835, Remington Model 870, and Winchester Model 1200 — shows that a bargain price does not always result in a bargain.

A rugged, reliable shooting tool can be any one of a variety of firearms available to the hunter or shooter who just wants a shotgunthat is easy on the wallet and gets the job done.

These "bang-around" shotguns can face a hard life of being bounced around in the trunk of a car or stuffed in a pickup toolbox before being brought out for during dove, quail or pheasant season. They often do double duty when waterfowl season rolls around and hunters don’t want to expose a fine fowling piece to the mud and gunk that go hand-in-hand with duck and goose blasting.

Finding a bargain-priced firearm that will hold up to these often harsh conditions can require a trip to the used gun aisle of your local sporting goods store. Sometimes, the result is a shooting treasure that was broken in by another owner.

Our excursion into the used pump shotgun arena resulted in a collection of four models that are among the most popular 12-gauge slide-actions found in hunting fields across the country.

The four included: a Benelli Nova in 90 percent condition and with a price tag of $240; a Mossberg Model 835 UltraMag in 93 percent condition for $190; a Remington Wingmaster Model 870 in 97 percent condition for $400; and a Winchester Model 1200 in 95 percent condition for $230.

Prices and conditions may vary for the same models in other parts of the country, but the quartet does provide a fairly comprehensive representation of hunting tools in use throughout the country.

All of the members of our test team were right-handed, so our comments about access to items such as the action release are limited how we managed with the firearms. None of the pumps we tested offered ambidextrous safeties or action releases.

Hunting loads limited to 2.75-inch shells were selected as the test ammunition for our four pumps to level the playing field. Some of the used firearms would handle 3-inch shells and others would not. The test ammunition included Winchester Super Speed Game Loads of 3.25 drams of powder and 7/8 ounces of No. 8 shot with a muzzle velocity of 1,350 feet per second. In addition, we performed patterning tests with some veteran heavy game loads in the form of Federal Hi-Power 3.75 dram shells with 1.25 ounces of No. 7 1/2 shot and a muzzle velocity of 1,400 fps.

Here’s our test report:

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