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2014 shotgun guide: See the standout new guns & ammo

Mar. 14, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
(Manufacturer images)
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Firearms makers are rolling out a few new shotgun models and a number of product line extensions that show substantial tweaks to the original models.

The melding of tactical looks and sporting performance continues, especially in turkey-hunting guns.

While checking out the thousands of guns on display at the 2014 SHOT Show, it also was interesting to note the hastening movement away from traditional camo patterns from industry behemoths such as Realtree and Mossy Oak. Fun, creative patterns from Muddy Girl, Proveil and Boneyard Camo are increasingly adorning firearms.

A few new shotguns that stood out:

Franchi Intensity

The Intensity is the 3.5-inch chambered extension of the popular Affinity line, which uses the Inertia Driven system popular throughout much of the Benelli family of brands. While the 7.2-pound semi-automatic gun is designed for heavier loads, it has a slim, synthetic pistol grip and fore-end and can handle shells down to 118-ounce target loads.

The receiver is made from an aluminum alloy strengthened with steel. Length of pull and the drop and cast are adjustable (as they are on most shotguns today). It comes with a 26- or 28-inch barrel, three choke tubes, vented rib, and red fiber-optic front sight. Available in black or choice of two popular camo patterns. $1,099-$1,199

Weatherby SA-08 Deluxe 28 Gauge

Weatherby’s expansion into 28-gauge with its popular SA-08 shotgun line paid off big when this new shotgun was given an NRA Publications Golden Bullseye Award as the 2014 American Rifleman Shotgun of the Year. Award criteria include reliability in the field, innovative design and function, value to the purchaser, and styling that befits hunting and shooting enthusiasts.

This lightweight (5.5 pounds), light-recoil gun debuted in 2013. The frame is scaled down to fit 2¾-inch, 28-gauge shells. The receiver is made from an aircraft-grade aluminum alloy. The select-grade checkered walnut stock and all metalwork have a high-gloss finish. The chrome-lined barrel has lengthened forcing cones for improved patterns and a vented top rib. Barrels are 26 or 28 inches. Comes with three choke tubes. $849

Remington Versa Max Waterfowl Pro

Customer input figured entirely prominently into this substantially redesigned 12-gauge Versa Max, according to Remington’s shotgun products manager Edward Mazzeo. Notable changes include an enlarged feeding port and oversized bolt handle, safety and bolt-closure button. These are designed to make the gun easier to load and operate in cold winter months while wearing gloves.

The gun’s gas system design regulates cycling pressure based on shell length, helping it handle all sizes of shotshells up to 3.5 inches, while delivering recoil characteristic of a 20-gauge.

It has a synthetic stock and fore-endwith overmolded grips for sure handling in sloppy weather, a 28-inch nickel barrel with four choke tubes and nickel Teflon-plated internal components. Available in Waterfowl Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Blades camo. $1,730

Benelli Ethos

Benelli’s Ethos shotgun the is latest in its lineup of Inertia Driven semi-automatics. This lightweight (just 6.5 pounds with a 26-inch barrel) 12-gauge offering takes 3-inch shotshells and felt exceptionally light in recoil during test shooting.

The stock is AA-grade European walnut, and the receiver can either be black anodized ($1,999) or nickel-plated and engraved ($2,199). The gun comes with five interchangeable Crio choke tubes. It’s designed to cycle light loads, even as low as 78 ounces.

New features include a patented locking system that uses a detent mechanism added to the bolt body. This ensures that the rotating bolt head locks, even if the bolt is eased forward without force. A beveled loading port and redesigned carrier facilitates easier placement of shells in the magazine. The Ethos has a replaceable carbon-fiber rib that also contributes to reduced weight. Interchangeable front sights enable shooters to quickly switch between red, green or yellow fiber-optics, which are supplied with the gun. Also available with a 28-inch barrel.

CZ Model 620 Big Game Pump

Made in Turkey, this 20-gauge pump has a synthetic stock and a 22-inch, blued smoothbore barrel threaded for interchangeable chokes. It comes with a rifled choke designed to spin Foster-style slugs and improve their accuracy. A Weaver-style rail comes mounted to the barrel, allowing you to add a favored low-power scope or red-dot optic. Affordable. $399

Winchester SX3 Long Beard

This is a substantially new design for the SX3 semi-automatic shotgun. The pistol-grip stock comes with three interchangeable recoil pads to adjust the length of pull. The 24-inch barrel has a Briley X-Full Long Beard Invector Plus extended choke tube supposedly designed for the new Winchester Long Beard XR turkey loads. The barrel is topped with a Tru-Glo fiber-optic front sight. The rear sight folds down. It also has a Weaver-style cantilever scope mount rail design in case you want to use other optics. Available in a Realtree Xtra Green camo pattern. $1,270

Weatherby WBY-X 459 Shotguns

Weatherby’s expanded WBY-X shotgun line features both pump-action and semi-automatic guns in 12- or 20-gauge. The 459 series guns are designed for home defense. These shotguns have short 18.5-inch, chrome-lined barrels with ported choke tubes. Few things get a bad guy’s attention in the dark like the sound of a load of buckshot being cycled into a pump-action shotgun. $459; $749 for the semi-auto SA-459 Black Reaper version with its skull-themed monotone camo.

An SA-459 Turkey Gun looks nearly identical to the Black Reaper model but has a longer 21¼-inch barrel with a removable, extended, ported “extra full” choke tube and a Mothwing Spring Mimicry camo pattern. It also comes in 12- or 20-gauge. $699

Browning Citori 725 Field

This 20-gauge line extension of the sweet-shooting Citori 725 over/under shotgun handles and shoots like a champ, mounting and pointing exceptionally well during test shooting. The steel, low-profile receiver has a silver nitride finish accented with beautiful engraving. Hammer ejectors kick out spent shells. The stocks are made of grade II/III walnut with a checkered, close-radius pistol grip and glossy oil finish. Vector Pro lengthened forcing cones help you shoot precise, well-proportioned shot patterns. It also has a top-tang barrel selector and safety switch, ivory front and mid-bead sights, and an Inflex recoil pad.

Accommodates up to 3-inch shells, weighs just 6 pounds, 4 ounces. If you can afford one, it makes a great bird and sporting-clays gun. Offered in field and sporting models. $2,469

Cavalry SX Over/Under (American Tactical)

Made by Turkish manufacturer KOFS, this over/under in 20-gauge shot exceptionally well at the SHOT Show’s range day, mounting and handling not unlike the far more expensive Citori 725. It would be interesting to shoot them side by side and review performance after a couple thousand rounds.

This is a new line for American Tactical, and company representatives are excited about its potential popularity, given the $499 list price for models with extractors and $559 for models with ejectors. The ejector models will be available by late spring.

All guns feature a top-quality Turkish stock, a moly steel, chrome-plated barrel with vented top rib, and five interchangeable chokes. They can handle 3-inch magnum shotshells. Available in 12-, 20- and 28-gauge and .410 bore; and 26- or 28-inch barrel lengths. A new .410 bore and 28-gauge Cavalry SV combo with the barrels interchangeable is also available for $859.

Ruger Red Label

This shotgun was discontinued by Ruger in 2011. Various reliability issues reportedly affected sales, so the company took the product off the market and made adjustments. The new Red Label has refinements to the inner workings, a new center of gravity for easier handling and features to reduce recoil, such as 2-inch lengthened forcing cones and maximum backboring of the barrels.

The receiver is stainless steel. The blued barrels have a ventilated rib and come in 26-, 28- and 30-inch lengths. A cut-checkered American walnut stock has a traditional pistol grip, tapered fore-end and a stainless-steel latch release. The gun comes with five steel shot-compatible, screw-in Briley chokes and wrench and a custom-molded, semi-soft case. Weight ranges from 7.5 to 7.9 pounds. Available in 12-gauge. $1,399


CVA Accura MR with Nitride-Treated Barrel

There’s not a whole lot new in the muzzleloader world, but CVA is improving its highly touted Accura V2 Thumbhole and Mountain Rifle (MR) guns by treating their superb Bergara barrels with a “ferritic nitrocarburation” process, a common hardening and rust-proofing technique often used in military applications. It turns the rifles’ 416-grade stainless steel a matte black color and hardens the outer layer, protecting the barrel inside and out.

I shot an Accura Mountain Rifle last year and found it to be an exceptionally accurate, easy-to-manage muzzleloader. Beyond the quality barrel, features such as the easily removed Quick Release Breech Plug, PalmSaver Ramrod and the included sling and scope mounts put these guns among the finest in muzzleloading. $595

Shotgun ammo

Winchester Long Beard XR Lok’d & Lethal

Winchester Ammunition continues to innovate. Long Beard XR Lok’d & Lethal made its debut last fall, and it will be bad medicine for turkeys. The pellets stay together in a tight pattern well downrange. In fact, Winchester states that Long Beard XR shells place twice the amount of pellets in a 10-inch circle at 60 yards than competing shells. The secret is encasing the copper-plated pellets in resin. There is no loose buffering material in the shotshell. Traditional shot loads see some pellet deformation as air spaces between pellets are closed during ignition and the load moves down the gun barrel. Deformed pellets don’t fly as true and often represent the stray “flyers” seen in patterns.

Pellets encased in resin have no air spaces. The resin fractures into dust as the gunpowder ignites. This dust buffers the pellets as they move through the barrel. During testing, it wasn’t unusual to place 15 to 20 pellets in the head-and-neck certain kill zone of turkey targets at 40 yards. Available in 12-gauge; 3 and 3-5-inch shotshells. About $19 a box.

Ken Perrotte is a Military Times outdoors writer.

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