September 2009

SuperMag Battle: Remington NitroMag vs. Benelli SuperNova

In this showdown of mighty 31/2-inch-chamber pumpguns, we encounter a camo-clad Benelli that is one of the best of its type weíve seen. However, the same canít be said for the Model 887.

Somewhere in the neighborhood of 1988, the last "new" production shotshell cartridge of any note was introduced by Federal Cartridge Company: the 31/2-inch 12 gauge. It was the Mossberg 835 slide-action that helped launch it, and it was the proliferation of the long shell that sealed the demise of the 10-gauge shotgun, as you can actually get more performance out of a 12-gauge 31/2-inch load, chambering it in a shotgun that is less bulky, more versatile, and less costly to shoot than a comparable 10-gauge gun. Thatís not quite obsolete, but Federal Cartridge currently lists only five 10-gauge loads, while the company offers more than 75 different 12-gauge shotshells. Whether a 31/2-inch 12 gauge makes a lot of sense today is another matter. The preconceived notion is that a 31/2-inch shell is automatically a Roman candleóbut that is far from the truth. The 23/4-inch "baby magnum" lead shotshell has always had a 11/2-oz. payload. Typical steel 31/2-inch shells are 13/8-oz. to 11/2-oz. payloads: no heavier than many older 23/4-inch lead loads, much less 3-inch 12-gauge shells.

But even though standard-length shells and the guns that shoot them can certainly get the job done, we cannot deny the appeal of shotguns that will shoot 31/2-inch shells, in part because they will shoot nearly any 12-gauge shotshell out there. Here, we look at two of the latest and supposedly greatest of the long-chambered slide-action twelves, the Benelli SuperNova No. 20115 MAX-4 HD Camo 12 Gauge Pump, $599; and the new-for-2009 Remington M887 NitroMag No. 82500 12 Gauge, $399. We should note that Benelli offers a matte black version of the SuperNova at $499 and that Remington offers the camo version of the M887 at $532 MSRP, but the differences were so significant that finish and price were secondary issues.

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