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Youth Semi-Auto 20 Gauges: CZs Model 720 Is a Best Buy

New shooters, especially young ones, usually begin training with a rimfire pistol or rifle because recoil is minimal. This makes it easier for the shooter to concentrate on fundamentals such as sight alignment and trigger control. Introducing a young beginner to shotgun shooting with a bore smaller than 12 gauge is a good idea for much the same reason. In this test we will evaluate three 20-gauge semi-automatic shotguns with reduced-length stocks. A shorter stock makes it easier for the younger or smaller shooter to point the shotgun and achieve a solid mount. Semi-automatic operation relies upon energy from the ammunition to cycle the bolt, so, in effect, each gun offered a built-in mechanism to reduce recoil to some degree or another. Our test shotguns were the $1299 Benelli Montefeltro Combo, Browning's $1179 Silver Hunter Micro Midas, and the $499 CZ 720 Reduced Length shotgun.

Our first step was to pattern each shotgun. This meant firing at a stationary paper target to determine the size, shape, and density of shot impact each gun would deliver at a given distance. For tips on patterning we visited the shop of Larry Feland located in Cypress, Texas (FelandGunsmith.com). Feland began his career in 1981 and soon found himself bending stocks and making leather pads for none other than Cyril Adams, one of the world's renowned double-gun experts and author of Lock Stock and Barrel: Making an English Shotgun and Shooting With Consistency. An expert in the field of shotgun fit, Feland specializes in aligning the shotgun with the eye of the individual to deliver shot where the shooter is looking.

The first question we asked Feland was if the procedure for patterning a semi-automatic was any different than patterning over/under or side-by-side shotguns. We also asked if 20-gauge shotguns should be patterned differently than 12-gauge models. The answer was no to both questions. But Feland did advise that the shotgun should be benched and shot like a rifle. This would help evaluate tendencies of elevation or alignment to the right or left by reducing the effects of individual shooter fit.

All three of our guns arrived with removable choke tubes. The choke tube acts like a funnel to regulate the final diameter of the bore and the manner in which shot is metered into the atmosphere. Some shooters feel that patterning with a choke that is more open will reveal more about the bore. But Feland pointed out that using a tighter choke would actually be more definitive. Not all of our test guns arrived with a full set of chokes, so we decided to pattern using the most commonly chosen constrictions, which are Improved Cylinder (IC) and Modified (MOD). Feland advised a pattern distance of 20 yards for testing with the IC choke and a distance of 35 yards to test with Modified chokes. Our pattern procedure was to mount each gun in a rifle rest and shoot one shot per target per choice of ammunition. First, we shot an IC choke at 20 yards, then installed the Mod choke and fired on the 35-yard board.

Each shotgun was capable of chambering 3-inch ammunition. But since were trying to avoid unnecessary recoil, we chose 2-inch cartridges from Remington and Winchester. The Remington Premier STS Target Loads and Winchester's AA Target Loads each launched a 7/8-ounce payload of No. 9 shot over a powder charge of 2 dram equivalent. Our choice of Winchester Super Target threw No. 8s.

Our next step was to put each shotgun into the hands of a young beginner shooter under the watchful eye of an instructor. Our junior shooter was a 15-year-old young lady whose previous experience was limited to informal clay shooting with her father's Browning A5 12-gauge shotgun, probably less than 75 rounds in total. Our choice of instructor came by way of recommendation from World Side by Side Champion Ed Arrighi. Brian Ash, the son of sporting clays gurus Gil and Vicki Ash, literally grew up in the sport. His input regarding course design has been sought repeatedly by the National Sporting Clays Association for the national championships held annually at the National Shooting Complex in San Antonio, Texas. Ash (email: Bash390@aol.com) teaches at American Shooting Centers located in George Bush Park in Houston, Texas (AMShootCenters.com). Lessons for our beginning shooter utilized several shooting stations along the Blue Sporting Clays trail designated for beginning and intermediate shooters. She shot the stations a minimum of three times to cover all three shotguns. Because the Benelli Combo also shipped with a full-length stock, we enlisted an adult beginner to challenge clay targets on the skeet field. We chose the Winchester Super Target ammunition for the bulk of our field shooting with the supplied Modified chokes installed. Here is what we learned.

20-Gauge Pump Shootout: BPS Slide-Action Has What We Want

Where are some great reasons for considering a 20-gauge pump shotgun. Considering the common 3-inch chamber length available today, the 20 gauge itself works well as a general-purpose hunting gauge, handling appropriate payloads for most upland game as well as decoying waterfowl, all in a trimmer package than expected from a 12 gauge. When a common question with autoloaders is constantly focused on "what it cycles with," no such issues exist with pump-action repeaters that do their job regardless of payload and velocity considerations. Finally, in a day when quality autoloaders can easily breach the $1500 threshold and the sky is seemingly the limit for stack barrels, pump-action repeaters with similar (or better) build quality and less maintenance requirements can be acquired with significantly less financial stress.We recently tested a trio of slide actions whose prices, at least, promised more value for the dollar than some other lines can deliver. The parameters for this match-up were simple: we wanted representative high-quality models of highly polished blue and checkered walnut in 20-gauge pump guns that are presented as high-quality repeaters. Our 3-inch-chamber 20 gauges were the Ithaca Model 37 Featherlight, $859; Brownings BPS No. 012211813, $566; and the Remington Model 870 Wingmaster No. 26947, $773. The three have interesting and sometimes interlocking histories.The pump gun is an important part of Americana. The inherent appeal is clear: single sighting plane, reliability, load flexibility, and attractive price point in a repeating shotgun that offers the potential to drop that third bird. The pump gun has long had a history of military and civilian use, and accomplished shooters still enjoy the pump for the same reasons that some of us like manual transmissions. The days of the great pump gun have provided a lot of hunting memories, and continue to.The 20-gauge-only Remington Model 17 was introduced in 1921. The design is attributed to John Browning (U.S. Patent #1,143,170 of 1915) with later refinements by John Pederson in 1919 and even later by G. H Garrison. It was Remingtons first 20-gauge pump, and 73,000 were sold.Ithaca was poised and ready to introduce this shotgun coinciding with the expiration of the Browning patents: it was to be the Ithaca Model 33. Noting that related Pederson patents were in force until 1937, it became the Model 37 instead. Reportedly, Ithacas motivation was to compete with the Winchester Model 12, which also was originally produced in 20-gauge configuration only. With the discontinuation of the Model 12 from standard production models in 1963, the Ithaca has assumed the mantle of the longest-running pump-action available, a direct descendant of John Brownings last pump-action design.Brownings own BPS, its parentage also likewise entrenched in the Model 17, was introduced in 1977. Currently, it is offered in more gauges and configurations than any other pump action were aware of, the line continuing to expand over the last 30 years. Unlike many other pump actions, the BPS has never been offered with poor finishes and crude machining intended for the big-box stores. Rather than just a clone of the 1917 genre, the BPS quickly assumed an identity of its own by virtue of its double action bars, a tang-mounted safety, and its eye-catching higher-post ventilated rib.Remingtons 870 Wingmaster has become a dynasty of sorts all on its own. Unlike some Remington shotguns that became instant popular successes (the Model 1100, to name one), the history of the 870 shows that the converse was true. In its 1950 introduction, it was introduced to great fanfare with a variety of gauges (12, 16, and 20) and a variety of configurations. Not all shooters at that time were pleased, as it was a clear downgrade compared to the Model 31 it replaced. Yet, the Model 31 was never the popular success of the Model 12 it attempted to compete against, and in its 18 years of production, never achieved 190,000 units. Despite the somewhat sluggish start of the 870, it cracked the million-gun mark by the mid-1960s, and 4 million by the mid 1980s. As of this writing, more than 9.5 million 870s have been manufactured, with the 10-million mark growing ever closer.Though we nominated a clear winner below, we still think the slide-action repeater can be improved, and we would suggest these makers consider modifying their stocks to make them user-adjustable for cast and drop. Implemented quite successfully in semi-autos, such a change would be an easier task with pumps-no worries about tubes or springs residing in the buttstock that might be compromised. Whoever said, "Fit isnt everything in shotguns-it is the only thing," wasnt off the mark, in our estimation. The first manufacturer to apply adjustable stock shims to pumps will have a big leg up over the competition.But for now, we have what we have, and heres what we learned in this shoulder-to-shoulder evaluation:

20-Gauge Pump Shootout: BPS Slide-Action Has What We Want

Where are some great reasons for considering a 20-gauge pump shotgun. Considering the common 3-inch chamber length available today, the 20 gauge itself works well as a general-purpose hunting gauge, handling appropriate payloads for most upland game as well as decoying waterfowl, all in a trimmer package than expected from a 12 gauge. When a common question with autoloaders is constantly focused on "what it cycles with," no such issues exist with pump-action repeaters that do their job regardless of payload and velocity considerations. Finally, in a day when quality autoloaders can easily breach the $1500 threshold and the sky is seemingly the limit for stack barrels, pump-action repeaters with similar (or better) build quality and less maintenance requirements can be acquired with significantly less financial stress.We recently tested a trio of slide actions whose prices, at least, promised more value for the dollar than some other lines can deliver. The parameters for this match-up were simple: we wanted representative high-quality models of highly polished blue and checkered walnut in 20-gauge pump guns that are presented as high-quality repeaters. Our 3-inch-chamber 20 gauges were the Ithaca Model 37 Featherlight, $859; Brownings BPS No. 012211813, $566; and the Remington Model 870 Wingmaster No. 26947, $773. The three have interesting and sometimes interlocking histories.The pump gun is an important part of Americana. The inherent appeal is clear: single sighting plane, reliability, load flexibility, and attractive price point in a repeating shotgun that offers the potential to drop that third bird. The pump gun has long had a history of military and civilian use, and accomplished shooters still enjoy the pump for the same reasons that some of us like manual transmissions. The days of the great pump gun have provided a lot of hunting memories, and continue to.The 20-gauge-only Remington Model 17 was introduced in 1921. The design is attributed to John Browning (U.S. Patent #1,143,170 of 1915) with later refinements by John Pederson in 1919 and even later by G. H Garrison. It was Remingtons first 20-gauge pump, and 73,000 were sold.Ithaca was poised and ready to introduce this shotgun coinciding with the expiration of the Browning patents: it was to be the Ithaca Model 33. Noting that related Pederson patents were in force until 1937, it became the Model 37 instead. Reportedly, Ithacas motivation was to compete with the Winchester Model 12, which also was originally produced in 20-gauge configuration only. With the discontinuation of the Model 12 from standard production models in 1963, the Ithaca has assumed the mantle of the longest-running pump-action available, a direct descendant of John Brownings last pump-action design.Brownings own BPS, its parentage also likewise entrenched in the Model 17, was introduced in 1977. Currently, it is offered in more gauges and configurations than any other pump action were aware of, the line continuing to expand over the last 30 years. Unlike many other pump actions, the BPS has never been offered with poor finishes and crude machining intended for the big-box stores. Rather than just a clone of the 1917 genre, the BPS quickly assumed an identity of its own by virtue of its double action bars, a tang-mounted safety, and its eye-catching higher-post ventilated rib.Remingtons 870 Wingmaster has become a dynasty of sorts all on its own. Unlike some Remington shotguns that became instant popular successes (the Model 1100, to name one), the history of the 870 shows that the converse was true. In its 1950 introduction, it was introduced to great fanfare with a variety of gauges (12, 16, and 20) and a variety of configurations. Not all shooters at that time were pleased, as it was a clear downgrade compared to the Model 31 it replaced. Yet, the Model 31 was never the popular success of the Model 12 it attempted to compete against, and in its 18 years of production, never achieved 190,000 units. Despite the somewhat sluggish start of the 870, it cracked the million-gun mark by the mid-1960s, and 4 million by the mid 1980s. As of this writing, more than 9.5 million 870s have been manufactured, with the 10-million mark growing ever closer.Though we nominated a clear winner below, we still think the slide-action repeater can be improved, and we would suggest these makers consider modifying their stocks to make them user-adjustable for cast and drop. Implemented quite successfully in semi-autos, such a change would be an easier task with pumps-no worries about tubes or springs residing in the buttstock that might be compromised. Whoever said, "Fit isnt everything in shotguns-it is the only thing," wasnt off the mark, in our estimation. The first manufacturer to apply adjustable stock shims to pumps will have a big leg up over the competition.But for now, we have what we have, and heres what we learned in this shoulder-to-shoulder evaluation:

Choosing a 20-Gauge Pump: Remington Edges Mossberg

For home defense, the focus is usually on 12-gauge shotguns, but we recently tested two 20 gauges that for many-if not all-folks would be better choices because of their lighter weight and reduced recoil. Our test products this round were the Remington Model 870 Express Pump Synthetic 7-Round 3-Inch 20 Gauge No. 81100, $397; and the Mossberg 500 Persuader/Cruiser 3-Inch 20 Gauge 6-shot No. 50452, $388.Both guns were matte-black synthetic-stock pumps with 3-inch chambers, with 18- or 18.5-inch barrels and weights between 5.1 (Mossberg) and 6.5 pounds (Remington).Not to spoil the surprise, we liked both of these 20 gauges a lot, and we would buy either one of them. In particular, for those shooters who already own an Express or Persuader 12 gauge for hunting or other uses, wed recommend staying with your "house" brand and buy the 20 gauge youre already familiar with. The reason many shooters should prefer these 20s for home defense over a bigger 12 gauge is that theyre noticeably lighter than the 12s. In the September 2005 issue, we tested the Remington Model 870 Express Synthetic 12 Gauge Magnum No. 25077, $345, which weighed 7.25 pounds, and the Mossberg Persuader Model 590A1 12 Gauge Magnum No. 51411, $443, which weighed 6.9 pounds. The 20s we tested weigh three-quarters of a pound to nearly 2 pounds less, respectively, than their counterpart 12s, which make them better choices for women or teenagers who might want to shoot them, but they dont give up much in terms of hall-clearing power or capacity.To function-test these pump guns, we took a trip to the tactical range and fed them a diet of common 20-gauge loads. Our test rounds were Remingtons ShurShot Heavy Dove 20 Ga. R20HD-S 2.75-in. 2.5 Dr. Eq. 1 oz. No. 8s; Sellier & Bellot 20 Ga. Field Load 2.75-in. 2.75 Dr. Eq. 1 oz. No. 8s, and Remington Premier STS Steel Light Target Load 20 Ga. STS20LS7 2.75-in. 2.5 Dr. Eq. 7/8 oz. No. 7s. At the firing line, both guns functioned properly, and we recorded no failures to fire or stoppages of any sort, though we had some trouble loading the Mossberg, which we detail below. In terms of materials, the Mossberg had an aluminum-alloy receiver that really cut its weight, while the Remingtons was steel. Both had alloy trigger guards, and the safety button for the Remington was steel while the Mossbergs was plastic. We like the Remingtons use of a steel receiver and buttons and metal trigger guard.Both guns have only the most rudimentary sights, which is fine for how they will probably be used, with shotshells. At close quarters, either shotgun would be an effective self-defense choice. Firing at 10 yards, we shot coffee-saucer-size patterns. However, the Remington holds six in the magazine and the Mossberg five, and that extra round might be the tiebreaker for some owners, as it was for us.After the bang-bang section was complete, we moved on to other areas of function to separate them and call a winner. Heres what we found out:

20-Gauge Semis: Beretta Ekes Out Win in Competition Clash

There are two sides to the competitive shooting coin—one side is the challenge of being the best you can be and the other side is just being able to have a little fun. Picking the right shooting tool to handle both sides of this coin has become a lot easier with the availability of a good number of quality, fine-handling 20-gauge semiautomatics. These small gauge shotguns provide the shooter with a lighter, quicker target-busting tool that also carries the freight in the field during bird-hunting sessions.

For our field test, we selected three 20-gauge semiautomatics for a clay-crunching challenge that pitted a trio of Italian-made shotguns in a head to head to head battle. The three shotguns we collected from Dury's Gun Shop in San Antonio were the Benelli Super Sport, $1,700; the Benelli Cordoba, $1,500; and the Beretta AL 391 Urika, $1,350. All prices reflect Dury's asking price at the time of our test.

As noted, all of the shotguns are made in Italy and all of them have very similar dimensions, although both the Benelli shotguns featured synthetic stocks and forearms while the Beretta offered the more traditional satin-finished walnut stock and forearm. With all sporting 28-inch ported barrels to help reduce recoil and with little difference in weight and overall length, our test team placed increased emphasis on function and handling ability—and also factoring in the price tags as another ledger entry.

Our test ammunition for the trio included Estate Super Sport Competition Target 2.75-inch, 2.5-dram-equivalent shells in No. 7 1/2 shot (muzzle velocity 1200 fps); and Winchester AA Super Sport Sporting Clays 2.75-inch, 2.5-dram-equivalent shells in No. 7 1/2 shot (muzzle velocity 1300 fps). We patterned each of the shotguns with both types of ammunition, using Improved Cylinder chokes when firing at paper set up 25 yards downrange.

The Beretta produced the best pattern, a 50-50 spread with half of the hits above the center and half below. Patterns were 60-40 (more hits below the center than above the center) with both of the Benelli shotguns. The Super Sport was also patterned slightly to the left. While all the patterns were acceptable for both clays and birds, the Beretta scored the first victory in our testing with its paper punching performance.

Here are the rest of our test results:

20-Gauge Semis: Beretta Ekes Out Win in Competition Clash

There are two sides to the competitive shooting coin—one side is the challenge of being the best you can be and the other side is just being able to have a little fun. Picking the right shooting tool to handle both sides of this coin has become a lot easier with the availability of a good number of quality, fine-handling 20-gauge semiautomatics. These small gauge shotguns provide the shooter with a lighter, quicker target-busting tool that also carries the freight in the field during bird-hunting sessions.

For our field test, we selected three 20-gauge semiautomatics for a clay-crunching challenge that pitted a trio of Italian-made shotguns in a head to head to head battle. The three shotguns we collected from Dury's Gun Shop in San Antonio were the Benelli Super Sport, $1,700; the Benelli Cordoba, $1,500; and the Beretta AL 391 Urika, $1,350. All prices reflect Dury's asking price at the time of our test.

As noted, all of the shotguns are made in Italy and all of them have very similar dimensions, although both the Benelli shotguns featured synthetic stocks and forearms while the Beretta offered the more traditional satin-finished walnut stock and forearm. With all sporting 28-inch ported barrels to help reduce recoil and with little difference in weight and overall length, our test team placed increased emphasis on function and handling ability—and also factoring in the price tags as another ledger entry.

Our test ammunition for the trio included Estate Super Sport Competition Target 2.75-inch, 2.5-dram-equivalent shells in No. 7 1/2 shot (muzzle velocity 1200 fps); and Winchester AA Super Sport Sporting Clays 2.75-inch, 2.5-dram-equivalent shells in No. 7 1/2 shot (muzzle velocity 1300 fps). We patterned each of the shotguns with both types of ammunition, using Improved Cylinder chokes when firing at paper set up 25 yards downrange.

The Beretta produced the best pattern, a 50-50 spread with half of the hits above the center and half below. Patterns were 60-40 (more hits below the center than above the center) with both of the Benelli shotguns. The Super Sport was also patterned slightly to the left. While all the patterns were acceptable for both clays and birds, the Beretta scored the first victory in our testing with its paper punching performance.

Here are the rest of our test results:

20-Gauge Youth Shotguns: Are They Effective For Self Defense?

We wanted to know if these smaller, lighter guns were suitable for home protection. Tested: Winchester's Ranger Compact, Remington's 870 Youth Express, and the Mossberg Bantam.

Remington 870 Express Tops Other 20 Gauge Combo Shotguns

The 12-gauge shotgun is overwhelmingly popular with American shooters, but the 20-gauge shotgun is also an effective hunting tool when it is used properly. Although we have tested several standard shotguns in this gauge, this is our first evaluation involving 20-gauge slugs.

Ammunition of this kind is available with a rifled or a sabot slug that weighs either 5/8-ounce (275 grains) or 3/4-ounce (328 grains). The lighter slugs are loaded to a muzzle velocity of around 1,450 feet per second for a muzzle energy of 1,285 foot pounds. The heavier slugs are good for around 1,600 feet per second and 1,866 foot pounds. In contrast, a 12-gauge 1-ounce slug with a velocity of 1,600 feet per second...

Magnum Pump-Gun Matchup: Benelli, Mossberg Go At It

Wanted: A simple, all-purpose pump shotgun for hunting upland game and waterfowl. Must be low-maintenance, tough, attractive, handy, inexpensive, and reliable. Serious inquiries only, please

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