January 2008

Side-by-Side Showdown: S&W’s Elite Gold Outshoots L.C. Smith

We matched two 20-gauge side-by-sides made for bird hunting to see how they handled in the ?eld. We found that price, at least in this case, really does matter.

At one time, the shotgun that was the must-have tool for many a bird hunter was a finely crafted side-by-side. Fixed chokes, lots of drop in the stock with the resulting hefty recoil from all but the lightest loads, and a wide view down the barrels were what serious wingshooters had to accept.

Times have changed, and the "double barrel" has fallen out of favor in most shooting circles. Semiautomatics and over and unders dominate most scattergun venues, with their owners citing less recoil, smoother handling and more availability among the reasons for their selection of more modern shooting tools.

However, like the little engine that could, the side-by-sides still chug along in a limited market and are sought out by shooters with a little sense of history in their souls.

Two new entries into this select category of shooters are the Smith & Wesson Elite Gold Grade I 20 gauge side-by-side and the L.C. Smith 20 gauge side-by-side now distributed by Marlin. While the S&W version is designed with the more traditional English double styling and the L.C. Smith is a reproduction of the working tool models of American doubles, both offer a taste of the old days.

Each shotgun has its pluses and minuses, and the S&W version carries a price tag that is a little more than $400 over the L.C. Smith. Finer wood, better case hardening and a slimmer, trimmer balance add to the price of the S&W.

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