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Field-Gun Showdown: Semiautos From Weatherby and Escort

One of the ongoing arguments between wingshooters is the 12 vs. 20 discussion. The short version of that issue can be summed up in two questions: Can I get away with the smaller gauge for the shooting I do?, or, Do I need the deeper and wider shotshell selection that the 12 gauge offers? One of the major reasons hunters choose a 20 over a 12 is the formers smaller frame, weight, and recoil. Though they may already own a 12, many field sportsmen wind up reaching for their 20s because the smaller gun is easier to handle, and there are just a few situations-layback goose hunting and spring turkey hunting, to name two-in which the bigger 12-gauge payload might make a difference.Based solely on ballistics, its tough to make a case that the 20 gauge cant do most or all of the jobs the 12 gauge does. But thats not the whole story. There are certainly restrictions based on the 3-inch guns available for the two gauges. Looking at the major shotgun lines, Remington puts 3-inch chambers for both gauges its 11-87 Sportsman, Sportsman Camo, and Sportsman Synthetic lines, but it also doesnt chamber 20 gauges at all in its specialty guns for turkey, deer, and waterfowl, and some of the other 11-87s. Mossberg shunts its three 20-gauge models into the SA-20 line, offering no 20s in the 935 or 930 lines. In its vast selection of semiautos, Beretta offers just the AL391 Teknys Gold Sporting, AL391 Urika 2 Youth X-Tra Grain, and the 3901 Citizen Synthetic in 20 gauge. Available shotshell loads, too, show an overwhelming preference for the 12 gauge. Picking just one company to sample, Federal offers 65 12-gauge loads in its inventory, but only 21 20-gauge shot loads, a 3-to-1 edge.So, even before we get rolling, the discussion of picking a 20 over a 12 for all-round use doesnt get much traction; there are just not enough 20-gauge shotguns and 20-gauge loads to make a 20 practical for use from woodcocks and snipe to Canadas and Merriams. But if we recast the argument to make it an upland comparison, then suddenly the playing field evens out.Toward that end, we found two lightweight low-cost polymer-stocked shotguns from Weatherby and Escort we wouldnt mind schlepping around North Dakota to shoot pheasants. Our test guns were the SA-08 Synthetic from Paso Robles, Calif.-based Weatherby and the LSI/Hatsan Escort PS-20 HAT00115 3-inch 20 Gauge, $399 (price from Gallery of Guns online store).The Escort Magnum 20-bore we tested was made by the Hatsan Arms Company in Izmir, Turkey and imported by Legacy Sports International of Reno, Nevada. LSI supplies a five-year warranty for the Escorts it imports, while Weatherby does not offer a written warranty on the SA-08.Roy Weatherby introduced his first autoloading shotgun, the Centurion, in 1972 and it stayed in the lineup through 1975, when it was replaced by the Centurion II (1976-1981), which itself was supplanted by the Model 82 (1982-1989). Weatherby made a return to the semi-automatic market in 1999 with the SAS shotgun made by Valtro in Italy. The SAS was discontinued in 2007. The current lineup offers many choices, including the budget-priced SA-08, which is described as "a reliable workhorse that handles everything from early-season dove to late falls heaviest waterfowl loads. Injection-molded synthetic stock is tough enough to turn back the worst of conditions." Just what we wanted.Its also imported from Turkey, and Weatherby lists it at $469, but one of the companys online retailers, Gallery of Guns, lists the SA-08 No. SA08S1228PGM at $565, not including shipping or sales tax. Heres what our scattergunners thought of the pair:

20-Gauge Auto Shoot-out: Beretta, Browning, Remington

Twenty-gauge high-performance lead loads can often outperform their commonly used 12-gauge counterparts-this has been shown vividly again and again. The most relevant example at hand is a load for wild pheasants. Often, the 12-gauge load selected happens to be the cheapest load available at the time, too often a promotional load with various sketches of birdies on the box. It will fall into the category of a 1.25-ounce 1330-fps load at an attractive price. Though the consumer might be told it is "ideal" for pheasants, things dont always work as described or as promised-one of the reasons for this publication.[IMGCAP(1)]Used with quality loads, such as 1-5/16 ounce Winchester Supreme STH2035 shotshells or the Federal PFC258 3-inch shells, we recently proved once again that 20-gauge autoloaders like the guns tested below can produce patterns not just the equal of common 12-gauge loads, but verifiably superior.In this shoot-off, we looked at three familiar names associated with gas-operated shotguns: Beretta, Browning, and Remington-to see what their blued-steel-and-walnut editions have to offer todays shotgunning enthusiasts. Our specific test products were the Beretta AL 391 Urika 2 Gold No. J39TB26 3-inch 20 Gauge, $1550; Browning Silver Hunter Twenty No. 011350605, $1079; and the Remington 1100 Premier Sporting Twenty No. 82846, $1385.Our test ammunition included both 7/8 oz. Estate loads and Winchester Super-X Heavy Game Loads No. XU20H7 with 1 ounce of No. 7 1/2 shot-what we use as an everyday dove load along with Fiocchi 20HV75 shells. We also patterned with Federal Mag-Shok high-velocity lead 3-inch 1-5/16 ounce No. 5 shot (No. PFC258) and Winchester Supreme 1-5/16 ounce 3-inch shells with No. 5 shot (No. STH2035). We shot our patterns at 40 yards, the patterning all shot from bag and cradle. We also fired the guns extensively at the range and in the field to record what we liked and didnt like about the guns. Heres what we learned:

Solid, Dependable Pumps: BPS Beats Ithaca Featherweight

The quest for a used shotgun that will meet the all-round needs of a hunter and target shooter can often require some lengthy rack time looking over a number of selections. Toss in some specific needs and that search becomes even more complicated. We set out with a goal of finding a small-gauge shotgun that had to meet a number of requirements:

-A length of pull suitable for a youngster or small-stature shooter.

-Reduced recoil to keep a novice shooter from experiencing shell shock and possibly giving up the sport.

-An action that could be worked by either a right-handed or left-handed shooter.

-Simple function and a shell ejection system that did not sling spent shells all over the countryside.

What we finally brought to the test table were two pump-action shotguns that have been providing hunters across the country with a quality field gun for quite some time. Our pair of pumps that met our special needs were the Browning BPS Special Steel Field Model and the Ithaca Ultra Featherlight Model 37.

Both of the shotguns featured short barrels and were more suited to field use than clay target busting; and both offered qualities that have built a good fan base for the veteran firearms.

One of the key features of both shotguns is the bottom ejection system that helps a shooter retrieve fired hulls by keeping them close to your feet, rather than flinging them into the next county. This feature is particularly welcomed by dove hunters who don't want to irritate landowners by leaving spent shells all over the county or by those shooters who like to retrieve their hulls for reloading.

The bottom-ejection system, which worked well with both of our test shotguns, also eliminates the problem of spent shells flying across the field of vision of left-handed shooters, which can happen with a right-hand port of a standard pump shotgun.

While prices and conditions of representative models of the two shotguns might vary by quite a stretch depending upon where the purchaser picks up his prize, we were pleased to find both of our models carried price tags of around $400. As a beginner shooting tool or a reliable back-up shotgun, any quality scattergun costing about four Benjamin Franklins is normally a bargain. As our testing was limited by the parameters of our specific needs, we decided to focus on some standard 2 3/4-inch field and target loads for our test ammunition. The loads included Winchester Super Speed Xtra Game Loads with 2.5 dram equivalent of powder and 7/8 ounces of No. 8 shot with a muzzle velocity of 1,275 fps; Estate Super Sport Competition Target Loads packing 2.5 dram equivalent of powder and 7/8 ounces of No. 7.5 shot with a muzzle velocity of 1,200 fps; and Winchester Super Sport Sporting Clays with 2.5 dram equivalent of powder and 7/8 ounces of No. 7.5 shot with a muzzle velocity of 1,300 fps.

Patterning performance with all the ammunition in each of the shotguns was satisfactory. The loads all produced a 50-50 pattern (50 percent of the shot below and target center and 50 percent below) at 30 yards. That is an ideal pattern for a field gun. Here's our test report:

Stoeger Condor I Over/Under Shotgun a Good Buy In 20 Gauge

The makers of Britain’s best side-by-sides have been known to wonder aloud why American shooters lean toward the over and under configuration. “I say, it’s not as though you chaps had eyes placed one above the other.” No, gentle-men. It’s because the side-by-side double has vanished, sadly, from the production lines of the major American manufacturers. It’s because of that sighting plane down the upper barrel and quick target acquisition. It’s because the over/under gets a second round off quicker than a pump and with less disturbance to the sight picture—be the target clay, feathered, or four-footed. All of which you know and prove by crafting such guns with exquisite precision.


Ruger Red Label Our Pick In A 20 Gauge Over/Under Shotgun

At times, Gun Tests has been criticized for comparing apples to oranges. An expensive handgun versus a similarly-designed cheaper version in the same caliber, for example. Our intent in such cases is to find out whether the higher price is proportional to higher performance and, if not, to let the chips fall where they may.

We do not expect such criticisms with this comparison of over/under shotguns. Both are closely comparable in price. The Citori is directly descendant from John Browning's wonderful Superposed. The Red Label is yet another success story in the continuing saga of William Batterman Ruger. Both 20 gauges are not ideally suited for trap, skeet or sporting clays when up agai...

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