Dove hunting offers prime September shooting action in many states, and the quest for the best gun for that sport continues unabated. Because most dove hunters have batting (shooting) averages on par with a AAA shortstop coming to the bigs—if he hits his weight, he's lucky—there's always interest in finding a better gun to hit the tricky-flying birds.
Many's been the time when members of our staff have been afield deer hunting and walked into a mess of quail, and wished for a shotgun to knock down a bird or two. Or, conversely, when we've been fall turkey hunting with a shotgun and saw a huge buck rise up 75 yards away, making us pine for a rifle. Though such situations occur when we're least prepared, which is to say most of the time, there is a way to have our cake and eat it, too.
In the wide world of shotgunning, you got your tube-fed pumps and semiautos, your one- and two-shot break-action single shots, over/unders, and side by sides, and the occasional bolt action. But few shotgunners have beheld a magazine-fed pump or semiauto, which on the surface at least, offer simple operation and a lot of capacity.
We recently tested two box-fed shotguns from overseas that are sold in America. The first was the Saiga Semi-Auto 12-gauge, $380, which we obtained from CDNN, P.O. Box 6514, Abilene, Texas 79608; (800) 588-9500; fax (915) 695-4898. European American Armory of Cocoa, Florida, imports the Saiga from Russia. Documents packed with the Saiga describe it as appropriate for "amateur hunting of small and medium winged game," but to our eyes, it was configured much more like a self-defense shotgun. This was due in part to the gun's black metal and plastic finish, rifle-type open sights, and five-round magazine (5+1) capacity. Ditto that for the Italian Valtro Model PM5 (Versione Calcio Plastica, MSRP $350), a slide-action seven-shooter (7+1) that came with an attached pistol-grip stock, sights, a thread protector/Cylinder choke, and a wrench.
Two Armscor models function as well as we could ask, and similar guns from Norinco and Winchester are worth a look.
Finding an affordable over/under is getting easier to do, depending on what you mean by affordable. For many, the cutoff is at $1,000; for others, it's $1,500, and so on. For some, price is no object.
But everyone wants a gun they can shoot, and such a gun is worth its weight in gold, irrespective of what it costs. We recently had a chance to try two shotguns from U.S. Repeating Arms Co. and Franchi that held out hope of being good shooters that wouldn't break the bank. The guns were USRAC/Winchester's Supreme Field, which carries an MSRP of $1,383, and the $1,275 Franchi Alcione Field. Here's what we found:
The side-by-side has largely fallen from favor—witness the paucity of them in most companies' lines. But we test two inexpensive models to see what they offer the budget-minded shooter.
The storied Winchester 1897 brings a lot of memories to the Cowboy range, but the updated Chinese copy offers a lot for shooters to consider. Our pick: Go with the newer gun.
By name, it's the Remington, but it's a load to shoot. The SIG Arms Aurora is a faster, slicker product, in our estimation.
Beretta's $960 gun was fast on targets and produced little kick. Also, though not our first picks, Browning's Gold Hunter Classic and the Remington 11-87 Premier can also be good choices.
Outfitting yourself for a Cowboy Action event involves sixguns, rifles, and shotguns. Most stages of a typical Cowboy event require all three types of firearms. Many words have been written about today's handgun choices, and a fair amount of copy has been penned about rifles, but precious little has been mentioned about shotguns.
The Cowboy Action-shooter's shotgun has to be either a non-eject side-by-side double—with or without hammers—or an appropriate pump or lever shotgun from the tail end of the 19th century. Some shooters use vintage guns, some of them over a century old, but we think most shooters will be better served with modern shotguns. In this report we look at three double guns suitable for the game, all of them 12-bores with 20-inch barrels. They came from EMF, TriStar, and Stoeger. All were blued, and had wood buttstocks and forends. One of them was choked. One had hammers, but the others were hammerless. All had double triggers, and all were made with the Cowboy game in mind. Here's our findings.
In a test of high-brass shell shuckers, we thought the Model 37 Waterfowler outdid the Mossberg 835 Ultra-Mag in crucial areas.
The bolt-action has become state-of-the-art in slug guns, ostensibly because of the greater inherent accuracy of the solid, vibration-resistant lock-up provided by a bolt, and partly because of price point.
The Browning A-Bolt slug gun was probably the best-designed production bolt gun ever made when it was introduced in 1996. But it was discontinued after just three years of production because, at $700 retail, it simply couldn't compete with the Marlin 512, Mossberg 695 and Savage 210 on price. The latter three were not only much less expensive (at least 50 percent cheaper), but were seen to rival the Browning's performance in all but the most experienced hands.
These are not the bolt-action shotguns you might remember from your youth — $100 beginner models by Mossberg and Marlin — although there are some similarities. The addition of good-quality rifled barrels, which in turn allowed the use of high-tech saboted slugs, elevated the bolt-action designs among slug shooters.