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Foreign-made shotguns are among the best - and most affordable - of 2011

Jun. 9, 2011 - 01:56PM   |   Last Updated: Jun. 9, 2011 - 01:56PM  |  
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Turkish walnut has been shaped, polished and finished to create work-of-art shotgun and rifle stocks for generations. But when it came to crafting the whole enchilada the full scattergun or rifle quality was often suspect.

Times are changing, and Turkish factory standards are increasingly certified to meet rigorous quality and precision standards such as ISO 9001. That's not to say every gun you pick up is going to thrill you, but at the price for which many Turkish-made shotguns can be had, some solid-shooting offerings represent good value.

Here's a look at some shotguns we examined at the 2011 SHOT Show, including many imports:

Weatherby SA-08 Entre Rios

This new 28-gauge from Weatherby's Turkish-made SA-08 line is a deft-handling, nicely balanced, lightweight weapon, probably because it is truly designed and built on a 28-gauge frame. Weighing 5.25 pounds, the semi-automatic Entre Rios should be sweet on high-volume dove shoots where recoil can add up over an afternoon. The rub will be the current cost of 28-gauge shells.

Entre Rios province, the gun's namesake, is one of the hottest dove-shooting areas of Argentina, not too far from Buenos Aires.

The shotgun is available with a 26- or 28-inch chrome-lined barrel with a vented top rib and lengthened forcing cone to help drive tighter patterns. It has a length of pull of 14 3/8 inches. It features a pretty walnut stock with precision-cut checkering and high-gloss finish. The receiver is made from a machined aircraft-grade alloy, which helps with weight.

Each Entre Rios comes with skeet, improved cylinder and modified choke tubes.

Price: $749.">Website.

TriStar Sporting Arms

We haven't looked closely at TriStar, another "value" line shotgun made in Turkey, over the years. But last year, TriStar's Viper Generation 2 semi-automatic drew solid reviews for a gas-operated shotgun with fine Turkish walnut stock costing less than $500.

Worth taking a look at is the new Viper G2 Youth, now available with a camouflaged synthetic stock and forearm. Particularly sweet is that a 20-gauge version comes fitted with a youth stock but provides an adult stock and 2-inch barrel extension in the box. Once a youngster outgrows the shorter stock, swap it out and lengthen the barrel for an adult-sized shotgun. All for about $500 or less.

The gun weighs 6.2 pounds, comes in either 2-inch or 4-inch chambers, with 24-inch barrels and three "Beretta-style" chokes, improved cylinder, modified and full.

TriStar also extends its line of Cobra pump-action tactical shotguns into the field with the Cobra Field Pump, which adds a 28-inch barrel and extended forearm. It weighs 6.9 pounds and is chambered for 3-inch shot shells. It comes with only a black synthetic stock and one modified choke, but it also has a low suggested retail price.

Prices: Viper G2 Youth, about $500; Cobra Field Pump, $319.">Website.

Akkar field & youth

Istanbul company Akkar built many of the Charles Daly hunting and tactical shotguns. When Charles Daly's parent company and importer KBI went belly up early last year, Akkar decided to keep producing the over-and-under, semi-automatic and pump shotguns in the same configurations offered with the Charles Daly brand, with Samco Global Arms Inc. doing the importing.

Worth a look if you can find one are the Akkar 206 Field over-and-under shotguns, new youth 20-gauge and 28-gauge semi-automatics and the 300CY Compact Youth 28 Pump. George Woford, the manufacturer's representative in the U.S., says the 12-gauge 206 is sold by the name "Churchill" in other countries. It comes in three looks mainly based on stock quality, finish and barrel length. Two versions have 28-inch barrels, with the third at 26 inches. The high-end, highly select walnut stock edition looks nice.

The youth Model 600CY Compact Youth in 28 gauge also is getting considerable dealer interest, Woford says.

All guns handle 3-inch shells, have case-hardened receivers, and accept MC-5 Mobile Chokes.

Prices: $749 to $879 for the 206 Field, depending on finish and stock; $469 to $629 for the youth 28-gauge semi-automatic; and an affordable $311 for the synthetic-stock version and $363 for the walnut version of the 300CY youth 28-gauge pump.">Website.

Remington Versa Max

One knock on many semi-automatic, gas-operated shotguns sized for 3.5-inch shot shells is that they sometimes don't cycle 2.75-inch shells with the best reliability. This Remington shotgun, which debuted in late 2010, addresses that issue with the self-cleaning "Versaport" gas system that regulates gas pressure based on shot shell length. For example, when a 3.5-inch shell is in the chamber, only three ports open, compared to seven ports with a 2.75-inch shell.

The major manufacturers have focused on improving reliability and reducing recoil. Remington claims the Versa Max 12-gauge has the recoil of a 20-gauge, showing test results for one 3-inch lead shot shell that depict recoil energy just below the highly touted Benelli Vinci and Browning Maxus, guns the Versa Max is designed to compete with.

This 7.5-pound gun has a nice feel and swings easy with sure handling thanks to overmolded grips. The receiver is milled from a solid block of aluminum and hard-anodized to military specs. The 26- or 28-inch barrel is over-bored for tighter shot patterns and includes four or five ProBore chokes, depending on the model.

The Versa Max is treated with a corrosion control compound and is available in black, Mossy Oak Duck Blind Camo, or Realtree AP-HD Camo patterns.

Internal components feature nickel plating and stainless steel. To better fit the shooter's frame, drop and cast can be adjusted with the turn of a screw, and length of pull can be tweaked with an included spacer kit.

The gun received the National Rifle Association's Golden Bullseye Award as 2011 Shotgun of the Year but then immediately suffered an early safety recall last year because of some out-of-specification hammers. Remington was promoting the gun at the recent NRA convention and appears to have remedied that embarrassing situation.

Price: Usually sells for $1,100-$1,350, depending on the model.">Website.

Browning A-Bolt

I've always been a fan of bolt-action slug guns for deer hunting. The then-pricey Browning A-Bolt shotgun was on the market from 1995 to 1998, just a couple of years after I paid a couple of hundred bucks for my old Marlin 512 Slugmaster in the early '90s. I've still got that Marlin, which now has well more than a 100 deer notches figuratively carved into its nondescript birch stock.

This resurrected Browning A-Bolt 12-gauge slug gun looks like it'd be a shooter, with a 22-inch rifled barrel with a 1-in-28-inch twist rate. Browning says 1-inch groups at 100 yards should be the rule. The A-Bolt is a proven smooth action. The detachable magazine drops out on a hinged floorplate. Of course, I like the camo version in Mossy Oak Break-Up Infinity, but it's about $150 more than the basic black synthetic stock model.

It comes with a TRUGLO fiber-optic front sight and adjustable rear sight, but since it's also drilled and tapped for a scope and you'll likely be shooting deer out to 150 yards or more get a scope.

Price: $1,240 in Mossy Oak Break-Up Infinity camo,">Website.

Savage Model 212

Savage's 20-gauge bolt-action slug gun drew many fans among the whitetail deer hunting crowd. Loaded with some of the newer, premium shotgun slugs, deer hunters could zero their gun to take deer at distances nearly double the 100 yards considered standard a decade ago.

The Model 212 offers hunters a 12-gauge edition that features a synthetic stock with Realtree Hardwoods camouflage. This gun weighs 7 pounds and has Savage's popular Accu-Trigger, a two-shell capacity and detachable box magazine, although it's ugh plastic. The 22-inch matte finish steel barrel has a somewhat slow 1-in-35-inch rate of twist. It's tapped and drilled, ready for a scope.

The key with any slug gun is finding the ammo it likes.

Price: $660 but likely will sell between $550 and $600.">Website.

Mossberg ‘Turkey THUG' Series

Turkey hunters go tactical, especially with the 535 ATS version of this shotgun.

Mossberg is promoting the heck out of this gun. The "THUG" series will be offered in the pump-action models 835 Ulti-Mag, 535 ATS and 500.

I like the Model 535 ATS, decked out with TRUGLO red dot sights, pistol grip and full Mossy Oak Break-Up Infinity camo.

The 6-pound 535 accepts up to 3-inch shot shells. It features Mossberg's user-adjustable LPA trigger, a 20-inch barrel with a tight X-Factor Ported Choke Tube. The receiver is drilled and tapped but also sports a minirail.

Price: $671 fully tricked out.">Website.

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