Pictured: Mossberg 930 HP (top); Beretta A400 28-Gauge
Shotguns outlast their owners. That can be good in ways you wouldn’t expect. You probably won’t be around to explain to your great-great-grandchildren why they inherited, say, your 2012 impulse buy that’s covered in toxic-green skull camo.
But such longevity is a problem for manufacturers. They would go broke waiting for us to wear guns out before we buy new ones. They have to find niches. Some niche products turn into home runs. The Benelli Super Black Eagle, the first semiauto chambered for the then-new 3 1⁄2-inch magnum shotshell, could have been received as a gimmick. But it was a good gun, and its timing was perfect: It was introduced in 1992, and in 1993 rains fell on the drought-stricken prairie-pothole region, starting a waterfowl boom that lasted 20 years. The SBE became a duck hunter’s mainstay.
At this year’s remarkably zombie-free SHOT Show I looked for guns that will stand the test of time, as the SBE has. I can’t predict the guns we’ll need 100 years from now, but these five will be relevant for the next decade. Here they are, in descending order of relevance:
1. Tempio Syren
The industry’s usual approach to making women’s guns is to take a youth gun and paint it pink, disregarding the fact that women and children are not the same shape. Syren, a new Caesar Guerini brand, offers a line of guns with stocks designed specifically for women. Guerini over/unders and Fabarm o/u’s and semiautos compose the Syren line. The flagship model is the handsome Tempio o/u, which comes in field and target models in 12 (target only), 20, and 28 gauge. (See the Tempio Syren video).
Why buy it now? Because you finally can. Women, who are the fastest-growing segment of shooters, don’t want pink guns that fit poorly any more than they want pink waders that fit poorly. $3,950-$4,295; syrenusa.com
2. Citori 725 20-Gauge
Browning’s Citori 725, introduced three years ago, was an example of how to properly make over a classic. Slimmer barrels and a trimmer receiver made the stolid Citori much livelier. Browning even threw in bonus mechanical triggers. This year, the 725 is available in 20 gauge, and it’s a perfect match. The field model weighs 6 pounds 6 ounces with 28-inch barrels, and it feels great in your hands.
Why buy it now? Midwestern pheasants are down, but Great Lakes ruffed grouse are coming off the low point in their 10-year population cycle. There should be more birds every year for the next five or six years. Plan to be in the grouse woods every October through 2020. $2,470-$3,140; browning.com
3. Beretta A400 Xplor Action 28-Gauge
One of the hits of the pre-show range day was Beretta’s A400 Xplor Action semiauto in 28 gauge. People shot it and shook their heads at the way it crushed targets with no recoil. The first 28-gauge semiauto Beretta has ever made, the Action has the same proven design as the 12- and 20-gauge A400 gas guns. This one is scaled down to true 28-gauge proportions and weighs about 5 1⁄2 pounds, yet it’s well balanced and easy to shoot. (See the A400 Xplor Action 28-Gauge video).
Why buy it now?**_ While other gamebird populations are up and down (mostly down, these days), mourning doves remain abundant everywhere. A 28-gauge is the perfect gun for them. $1,550; berettausa.com
4. Remington Versa Max Waterfowl Pro
This new version of the Versa Max borrows extras from the world of three-gun shooting that make this 31⁄2-inch gas gun easier to load and shoot in a cold blind. The bolt release, bolt handle, and safety button are all oversize. The feeding port and competition carrier are enlarged. A couple of minor early Versa Max bugs are fixed. “The magazine cap of 1,000 turns” is gone, and the wobbly fore-end is now fairly solid. (See the Remington Versa Max Waterfowl Pro video).
Why buy it now? The rising price of tungsten leaves steel shot as the only cost-effective pellet for waterfowl, especially for big Canadas. With steel velocities now up to 1600-1700 fps, that means more recoil, especially in 3 1⁄2-inch goose loads. The Versa Max’s weight and gas system combine to make it shoot softer than any other semiauto. $1,730; remington.com
5. Mossberg 930 High Performance
Mossberg’s big push this year was a line of Duck Commander models, intended to cash in on the Duck Dynasty mania. Amid racks full of camo guns and red-white-and-blue bandannas, a tall, white Model 930 semiauto with a 12-round magazine extension stood out. It’s intended for America’s no-plug, no-limit, high-volume wingshooting season: the spring snow goose conservation order, intended to curb out-of-control populations damaging fragile native tundra. The 930 has a top safety and a reputation for reliability. This High Performance version also comes with a standard-length magazine tube for those days a 13-shooter isn’t allowed.
Why buy it now?_ Overpopulated white geese will be flying north in spring long after the fall of the Duck Dynasty. $945; mossberg.com