Sporting Clays Shotguns: Benelli and Remington Go Head To Head
These two companies make largely unheralded shotgun models purportedly earmarked for the competition clay market. We test them to see if we’d pay their steep prices.
Though more clay targets are broken every year in the skeet and trap games, sporting clays competition continues to grow at a pace that may allow it to overtake the others in the not too distant future. The sporting game’s prime appeal is its unusual and challenging target presentations, which can range from hardened disks rolling along a bumpy trail (rabbits) to curving, dropping, fading minis that look like floating periods when thrown 30 yards away.
Experts in the game shoot guns ranging in price from expensive stackbarrel Krieghoffs, Perazzis, and Berettas (to name a few) down to field-class autoloaders. But a segment of semiauto guns marketed for this use has grown up with the game itself, and though guns in the class are called “sporting” shotguns, they can easily pull double-duty on the circuit or in the field.
Among the self-loading products in this niche are Benelli’s Sport shotgun, $1,340; Beretta’s ten Urika AL391 Sporting products, which range in price from $1,000 to $1,230; Browning’s Gold Sporting Clays ($798) and Gold Sporting Golden Clays ($1,267) units; the Fabarm Sporting Clays Lion auto, $959; the Mossberg 9200 Custom Grade Sporting Shotgun, $590; the Remington 11-87 Premier Sporting Clays, $779; 11-87 SC NP, $905; and 1100 Sporting 12, $859. (All prices from Gun Digest 2000.)
More often than not, these “sporting” autoloaders are separated from the field models by an expanded feature set, which usually includes a complete set of choke tubes from Cylinder to Full, tube wrench, a different buttplate, improved metal cosmetics, extended barrel lengths, and upgraded wood quality. So, for the most part, they are the same as the mainstream guns in their home stables, which made us curious about whether the sporting tag truly offered some value in terms of performance, or whether such autos were merely prettied up hunting guns.
We expected to have a lot of fun finding out, and we weren’t disappointed when tested Benelli’s Sport shotgun head to head against the Remington 1100 Sporting 12, which was introduced this year.
Our recommendation: This gorgeous shotgun functioned flawlessly and didn’t pound us quite as hard as the Benelli, mainly because of its greater weight. If we were a Remington adherent, or if money was an issue, we’d pick it over the Benelli. But it just didn’t handle as fast as the other gun, putting it behind the Italian gun in this test.
The 1100 Sporting 12 (catalog number 5315) joins the 1100 Sporting 20 Autoloader and 1100 Sporting 28 Autoloader in the Remington stable this model year. They all MSRP for about $860, and sell for around $675 (Gun List).
The Sporting 12 comes with only a 28-inch barrel and 2 3/4-inch chamber. It measures 49 inches overall, and has a 14.2-inch length of pull, a drop at the comb of 1.5 inches, and a drop at the heel of 2.25 inches. It has a ventilated rib to disperse barrel heat, and the muzzle accepts Rem Choke choke tubes (Cylinder, Improved Cylinder, Light Modified, and Modified come with the gun). There are two beads on the ventilated rib, the smaller, silver mid-rib bead measuring 0.07 inch wide and the front white bead measuring 0.12 inch wide. The rib itself is 0.29 inch wide and is lined to reduce glare. The semi-fancy American walnut stock has a gloss finish, and the receiver is blued with a high polish.
Our test sample had gorgeously figured buttstock wood and a 0.70-inch-thick soft-rubber buttpad. The pad had been cut down on top and rounded at the toe to reduce the chances of it snagging on clothing. We never had any trouble shouldering the gun as a result. We didn’t particularly like the gloss finish on hot summer days; it was very slick on both the forend and wrist, despite the nicely executed checkering.
The gun shot a variety of light target, field, and heavy game loads, up to the maximum its 2.75-inch chamber would accept—unlike the 11-87 SC NP Premier, whose target barrels are not equipped with a pressure-compensating gas system and can only handle loads up to 3.25 drams of powder and 1.25 ounces of lead shot, according to Remington specifications. It patterned acceptably with all the lead rounds we tried. Looking down the receiver and the barrel, we liked the clean sight picture on top of the gun. The flat-top receiver blended a little off-center with the barrel, but it didn’t bother us. We’d remove both of the damn beads, however, since it’s easy to shift eye focus to the beads and away from the target. The Rem Chokes could be installed and removed by hand, which made swapping them out station to station a breeze. The trigger needed work, in our opinion, to remove creep. But it broke at only 4 pounds.
The gun’s handling was sluggish compared to the Benelli, we thought, mostly due to its higher weight. We recognized, however, that this extra heft had an upside as well, because when we shot the guns a lot, we welcomed the soft kick of the 1100 more than the Benelli. We really began to notice the difference around the 65-target mark in a 100-bird round, about the same time the Remington began to feel heavy in our hands.
It is precisely this balancing act that makes choosing one gun over the other fairly difficult. The Remington is much cheaper. And many shooters will prefer the 1100’s weight, since they can condition to move the gun quickly, but they don’t want to flinch because of recoil.
Our recommendation: Buy it. This fast-handling 28-inch gun shoots well and has plenty of field and range uses.
Benelli’s Sport shotgun, listed in the company’s catalog as item number 10610, is based on the Montefeltro line (in fact, the Sport owner’s manual is for the Montefeltro Super 90), but has exterior styling more like a Super Black Eagle, primarily the squared receiver. Otherwise, the 28-inch wood-stocked No. 10800 Montefeltro and the Sport are very similar. Both guns come with five chokes (C, IC, M, IM, F), they have satin walnut finishes, red-bar sights, capacities of 4+1, and similar physical dimensions. The Montefeltro weighs 7.1 pounds and measures 49.5 inches in overall length, compared to the Sport’s 7.1-pound heft and 49.6-inch OAL. Also, the Sport’s LOP is 14.4 inches, with a drop at the heel of 2.25 inches and a drop at the comb of 1.4 inches. The Montefeltro’s respective dimensions are 14.4, 2.4, and 1.5 inches. Likewise, both guns come with chrome-lined bores proofed for steel shot and have hard-anodized aluminum receivers—which likely accounts for the sizable difference in weight between the Sport and the 1100 reviewed above.
Additionally, both guns have adjustable stock-drop kits.
But the Montefeltro lists for $940 and the Sport for $1,340. What do you get for the extra $300?
Some interesting additions, as it turns out. The Sport comes with two ventilated ribs made of carbon fiber. The stepped version is said to be the better choice for skeet and sporting competitions The second rib measures 10mm (0.39 inch) in width and is said to be better for trap shooting or for people who like a wider sighting plane. Both units have center beads and the red-bar high visibility front beads. The silver center bead on our gun measured 0.05 inch wide and the front sight was 0.07 inch wide. The skeet rib was 0.32 inch wide.
Also, the Sport’s choke tubes are extended stainless steel with checkered gripping areas, plus they have a cut-out for a wrench in case they get balky. The Sport’s length of pull can be adjusted from a maximum of 14.4 inches, down to 14.1 inches or as low as 13.75 inches by placing or removing optional spacers.
Other niceties include a cushion-soft buttpad, better wood, and an action tuned to function with light target loads. Also, a third rib that has no step is available as an option.
We can’t say for sure these features are worth the dollars to you, but they do add some value and flexibility to the Sport that its stablemate lacks. Moreover, they give the Sport quite an edge in a head to head battle with the otherwise solid, competent 1100.
We initially shot the Benelli with both the trap and skeet ribs and wound up preferring the narrower skeet rib. The flat, nonreflective top surface of the skeet rib lacked a channel on the trap rib we found distracting. We shot a range of loads in the Benelli and found it functioned easily with all of them, and we got a nice spread of patterns with the five chokes.
Shooting the Benelli side by side with the Remington, we much preferred the Italian gun. The Sport balance point was in the middle of the bolt, making the weight distribution seem even lighter than its 7.1-pound scale measurement. The gun’s narrow forend felt comfortable in the lead hand, and the gun felt speedy tracking clay targets and birds. But as we mentioned above, the Sport’s lighter weight could be a problem for some shooters, because in our view, the Benelli kicked more than the gas-operated 1100. With light target loads, though, that’s no real problem. If you were going to shoot a steady diet of 3-inch magnums in the Benelli (the 1100 can handle only the 2.75-inch rounds), we’d think hard about that. The Sport’s trigger wasn’t anything to write home to Urbino, Italy, about, but it was adequate. It featured creep before the break and went off at 5.2 pounds.
Gun Tests Recommends
Remington 1100 Sporting 12, $859. Buy It. A steel receiver adds weight that slows this gun down, but many shooters will like that extra heft if they plan to shoot a lot of targets.
Benelli Sport, $1,340. Buy It. In this matchup, we prefer this gun over the 1100. It is simply a faster, more elegant product, in our view. A more troublesome matchup for the Sport might be the similar Monte Super 90, because the Sport costs 32 percent more.