November 2010

All-Round Shotguns: Browning, Remington, and Winchester

In this showdown of pump shotguns, we went looking for an affordable slide-action that hunts, competes, and, in a pinch, could be used to defend the castle. Our team liked the Stalker.

The adage of "Beware of the one who uses a single gun" can be applied to quite a few firearm fanciers who favor an all-around shotgun to fulfill their various needs in the home and field. Since the legendary Winchester Model 12 pump-action shotgun dominated the market in days of old, slide-actions have been a favorite shooting tool of those who might touch off a couple of boxes of ammunition a year as well as to many wingshots and target busters who buy their shells by the pallet. Pump-action shotguns have a well-earned reputation of performing in all kinds of conditions and shooting situations where reliability is not an option, it is a necessity.

Shooters who use their one gun for all types of service are normally proficient in putting their firearm to good use. Being familiar with the way the multi-use shotgun handles and performs is a big plus in filling a game bag or defending the homestead.

The fact that pumps, particularly those that can be found in the used-gun racks of sporting goods stores across the country, carry price tags in the low to moderate range is another factor adding to their popularity. Picking up a good shooting tool for under $500 is a satisfying accomplishment in most hunting and shooting circles.

Our trip to the used-gun rack resulted in the selection of three popular makes and models of pump-action shotguns for testing on the patterning range and in the field. We were looking for models that were all capable of performing multiple service, such as self-defense firearms in a home; good-patterning short-range shotguns for turkeys; and adequate performance on clay targets or even wingshooting situations such as in the dove field.

We selected a Browning BPS Stalker Composite No. 012212305 3-inch 12 Gauge with a price tag of $500, a Remington Model 870 Express Super Magnum Synthetic No. 25102 3.5-inch 12 Gauge, $300; and a Winchester Model 1300 Turkey Win-Cam with a price tag of $400. All of the shotguns were in good to very good condition and showed little sign of wear and no indication of abuse by their former owners. Buyers of used firearms are advised to always be cautious in their purchase, as no one wants to pay good money to be stuck with someone else’s problems.

As experienced slide-action shooters are aware, pumps are not known for the fine balance and handling ability of high-end shotguns like the over-and-unders or semi-automatics used by top-gun clay-target competitors. However, they work well as dependable field guns where the shooter is attempting to fill a game bag in rough-and-tumble conditions. Pump-actions tend to be more of a workhorse than a racehorse, and that is why a lot of everyday shooters and hunters are willing to part with a few dollars to put them into their shooting tool collection.

To check out the shotguns in a variety of shooting situations, we selected the following test ammunition:

For clay targets, we used Winchester Super X 2.75-inch Game Loads with 1 ounce of No. 7.5 shot and an average muzzle velocity of 1290 fps. For turkey targets, we tried out Federal Premium Mag-Shok 3-inch loads with 2 ounces of No. 4 shot and an average muzzle velocity of 1300 fps. For home defense, we fired both Remington Express Buckshot 2.75-inch loads with 12 pellets of 00 buckshot and an average muzzle velocity of 1325 fps and Winchester Super X 2.75-inch loads with 1-ounce rifled hollow-point slugs and an average muzzle velocity of 1600 fps.

Since the Remington was the only one of the trio that would handle 3.5-inch ammunition, we limited our testing to the 2.75- and 3-inch shells. If handling the largest 12-gauge shells is important to you, then scale the 870‘s grade up as you deem appropriate.

The results of our trip to the patterning range were all acceptable, although we noted that the Winchester really seemed to shine with the turkey loads and produced an exceptional number of kill shots on the Shoot-N-C Turkey Silhouette Targets. Details of how each shotgun performed on the range and in the field follow:

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