One SHOT Show ritual is “Industry Day at the Range.” The international media is bussed to the Boulder Rifle and Pistol Club in the desert. Journalists shoot guns with lots of free ammunition fueling the frenzy. Step off the bus and the torrent of bullets from high-tech black guns pinging steel targets conjures Fallujah. But amble down the hill to the sporting shotgun tents and you’ll find a slower pace set by clay targets sailing skyward.
This year we saw lots of new over-unders and semi-automatics. Some were available during Industry Day at the Range, while others remained beneath artful lighting in exhibitor booths at the Sands.
Here’s a round-up of the best new wing and clays shotguns from 2015 SHOT Show.
Benelli is revered for forward-thinking, semi-automatic shotguns that exemplify modern Italian design. As with its semi-autos, Benelli totally redefined the vernacular for field guns with its first ever over-under called the 828 U, optimized for comfort and dependability.
Benelli’s first over/under is the spectacular 828 U shown here in a nickel-finished receiver.
A so-called floating breech block reduces recoil. Here’s how it works. Open any over-under and you’ll see the barrel chambers where you drop in the shells and the breech face inside the receiver. When the shotgun is closed, the two components are sealed to bear the explosive force of a shot.
By contrast, the 828 U has two springy plates on the breech face, which compress to absorb the kick of a shot. Felt recoil is further reduced in the recoil pad where internal buffers rebound sequentially to absorb the shock wave before it reaches your shoulder.
The 828 U has the first shim kit for an over-under. Wedge-shaped shims come standard with semi-auto shotguns. The shims are inserted between the stock and the receiver to adjust the height and lateral angles for fit. It’s a mystery why no other over-unders included shims before. You can also raise the stock’s comb (where it meets your face) with three different sized gel pads. So now you have a well-fitting, soft-shooting field gun right out of the box.
The 828 U screams of innovation — especially at $2,499. Spent shells eject with a gas system similar to semi-automatic shotguns compared with the mechanics you find on most over-unders that harken back to the late 19th century. The trigger is removed with a single screw for easy cleaning. The featherweight carbon-fiber rib and aluminum receiver contribute to an easy 6.5 - 6.6 pounds depending on barrel length.
I shot Benelli’s 828 U and it’s lively (quick to the target), comfortable and intuitive. When it comes to looks, the contemporary 828 U is bound to polarize. If Apple designed an over-under field gun, the 828 U would be it. Visit http://www.benelliusa.com/828u-shotgun
Browning 725 Citori in 28 gauge and .410
Although Benelli’s 828 U stole the show, my heart belonged to the new Browning 725 Citori in 28 gauge.
The 725 Citori over-under was introduced in 2012 as a successor to the fabled 625 Citori. From the get-go, the 725 Citori was lauded for nimble handling, its FireLite mechanical trigger and improved ergonomics.
The 12 gauge appeared first, followed by a 20 gauge in 2014. Now we get the fabulous 28 gauge and tinier.410.
Browning’s 725 in 28 gauge (top) and .410. The 28-gauge was lovely to shoot.
The biggest complaint of these small gauge shotguns is that they’re too light and “whippy” for a controlled swing to the target. Browning addressed the problem by adding the 28 gauge and .410 barrels to the larger 20 gauge receiver. Although several manufacturers take this approach, it works incredibly well on the .410 and 28 gauge. At 7 pounds, 2 ounces, some critics may complain the 28 gauge is too heavy. I found it wonderful during rounds of clays.
The ballast of the 20 gauge receiver makes for a great swinging 28 gauge and .410 over-under. Combined with a flawless sight picture down the rib and the FireLite mechanical trigger, the 28 gauge 725 Citori is a winner. Not to disparage the .410, it’s just that the 28 is my favorite gauge. I could’ve smashed targets all day with that gun and you’ll probably feel the same.
The .410 and 28 gauge 725 Citoris come in field and clays models with different barrel lengths at a starting price of $2,539. Visit http://goo.gl/v02BzF.
While Benelli dazzles and Browning refines old-school, Beretta is clearly the luminary in the shotgun universe. With massive R&D programs and an international aesthetic unified across firearms, apparel, luggage, luxury destinations, wineries and retail galleries, Beretta remains the industry’s avant-gardist.
Beretta displayed a stunning side-by-side and new over-under at the SHOT Show. I wish they had been available at the range, along with the other Beretta shotguns, because both are beauties.
The “486 by Marc Newson” is a custom side-by-side that artfully reinterprets Beretta’s 486 Parallelo upland gun. In a visual sleight of hand, the London-based industrial designer attained a supermodel grace to his 486 rendition with a “wood bridge.” The factory 486 features a safety/barrel selector at the end of a long steel strip known as a top tang, which extends from the receiver. Newsom eliminated the top tang, integrating that switch directly into the slender walnut stock found on traditional English bird guns. The effect suggests Audrey Hepburn’s willowy neck.
Newsom softened the edges on the receiver then adorned it with Asian-inspired engraving etched by a laser that creates a “texture wrap.” He reshaped the trigger guard and eliminated its mounting screws for a fully organic fashioned shotgun. The “486 by Marc Newson” is available through Beretta Premium dealers and Beretta Galleries. Prices start at $24,995. Visit http://www.beretta.com/en-us/486-by-marc-newson.
The new Beretta DT11 ACS.
Although the “486 by Marc Newson” commanded center stage in the Beretta USA exhibit, clays shooters should enjoy Beretta’s new DT11 ACS (All Competition Sporter). It shaves one pound from the original, reducing the weight to nine pounds. A fully adjustable rib and comb allow the gun to be tuned for sporting clays, skeet and trap. The DT11 ACS sells for about $9,500. Visit http://www.beretta.com/en/dt11-acs.
Caesar Guerini USA
Caesar Guerini USA introduced an array of models and enhancements to their family of competition clays shotguns.
An updated Summit Ascent features a 10mm high fixed rib for a more upright shooting. An adjustable comb stock is also standard. The second new model is a Summit Impact, which is based on the rugged Invictus action. Highlights of that shotgun include a newly designed adjustable rib and anti-vibration system.
Caesar Guerini’s Invictus Trap gun with red inserts in the new two-piece rib.
The Invictus received attention. It will be available as a skeet gun with a new mechanical trigger system. The trap model gains a forend balancing system along with a two-piece top rib and optional color inserts.
Caesar Guerini’s most popular sporting clays line gets a new addition called the Summit Sporting Compact. It’s distinguished by a new stock with a smaller pistol grip, 13-7/8-inch length-of-pull, Monte Carlo comb and increased pitch. This model should prove popular with anybody looking for a more compact version of the standard model.
The Shot Show also served as a venue for engineering enhancements announced by Caesar Guerini. A new mechanical trigger system ensures reliability with sub-gauge tube sets. It will be standard on all skeet models and optional on all other models.
The proprietary Maxis choke system has been improved with a series of milled slots on the sides of the external end of the choke and a wrench that engages the slots to mechanically tighten the choke tubes. The revamp cuts the gas and dirt that can migrate between the barrel and tube. A new barrel selector has been designed with all target models in mind. The new version makes it necessary for the shooter to purposely engage the selector in a way that prevents the unintended changes. For pricing and availability, visit www.gueriniusa.com.
The CZ Sharp-Tail side-by-side replaces the venerable Ringneck. CZ-USA says that a new CNC-machined receiver and upgraded action endow the Sharp-Tail with independent floating firing pins, coil spring operated hammers and newly designed sears for longer life and durability.
The CZ Sharp-Tail in 20 gauge.
The shotguns have a single, selectable mechanical trigger and Turkish walnut stock with pistol grip. The case-hardened finish is a carryover from the Ringneck.
Sharp-Tails can be purchased 12, 20, 28 gauge and .410 with 28-inch barrels. Five flush choke tubes are standard. Prices range from $1,022 to $1,229. Visit http://goo.gl/9rqLqa.
A new family of innovative target shotguns headlines the 2015 product announcements.
The AXIS RS12 Sporter FB gets Floating Barrels (FB) for better performance and handling. The FB barrel system incorporates a front barrel hanger and no center ribs for precision point of impact, reduced weight and improved cooling. FB models have been introduced with the AXIS RS12 Trap FB and AXIS RS12 Trap Combo FB that bundles a 32-inch over/under set with a 34-inch unsingle or a combination set of both.
The AXIS RS12 Q.R.R. FB from Fabarm USA.
A new AXIS RS12 Q.R.R. FB has a Quick Removable Rib on the FB barrels to adjust the point of impact. The AXIS Q.R.R. FB comes standard with a 50/50 point of impact rib while the 65/35 rib is optional.
All new Fabarms retain the Tribore HP tapered bores and are available in right- and left-handed models. For pricing and availability, visit www.fabarmusa.com.
With a fresh line called Italyco, the Italian gunmaker continues its American strategy of custom, bespoke shotguns. Fausti bills the Italyco side-by-sides and over-unders as “The Antique of the Future” — in reference to the rounded, neoclassic elegance.
Fausti’s new Italycos.
The side-plated receivers are offered in polished coin or mottled case colors derived from traditional bone and charcoal techniques. These guns are tailor-made with individually measured stocks and specifications. Prices vary on materials, barrel lengths and engraving. Visit http://www.faustiusa.com.
The company has a new 12-gauge semi-auto called the V3. Its VersaPort® gas piston system let Remington reduce the weight and size for easier field use. Unlike other gas operated semi-automatic shotguns, the V3 VersaPort gas system is located directly in front of the receiver. This results in a properly designed forend for ideal ergonomics and centers the weight between the shooter’s hands – delivering superior balance and swing performance.
The anatomy of Remington’s V3 semi-auto.
As the heart of the V3, the patented VersaPort delivers superior reliability through its system of gas ports and gas pistons for enhanced load versatility, while softening recoil and reducing maintenance. The VersaPort gas system self-regulates gas pressure based on the length of the shell, for reliable cycling no matter the load from the lightest of target shells loads to the heaviest of magnum, according to Remington. the V3 is as comfortable on the sporting clays range as it is in the duck blind.
VersaPort is self-cleaning — reducing overall maintenance time and effort also thanks to fewer parts than the VersaMax.
Remington’s V3 is available in wood and synthetic versions with an adjustable stock system for cast and drop. Prices range from $895 to $995. Visit http://tinyurl.com/kkp5dw3 .
The maker of over/unders and semi-autos specifically measured for women entered its second year with two models: the Syren Magnus and the Syren XLR5 Waterfowler. As with the originals, the shotguns are variations on the models offered by parents Caesar Guerini and Fabarm.
The Syren Magnus with new side plates.
The Syren Magnus is Syren’s first side-plated over/under. Bottega Engravings C. Giovanelli of of Brescia, Italy, which engraves Caesar Guerinis, was tapped to create the flower bouquet that is the hallmark of Syrens. The shotgun is being offered in both sporting and upland models in 12, 20 and 28 gauge with combo sets available.
The Syren XLR5 Waterfowler is a camo-patterned semi-auto. It’s based on the gas-operated Fabarm but with a stock fitted for women. For pricing and availability on both shotguns, visit www.syrenusa.com.
Weatherby resurrected its Orion over/under and unveiled a new semi-auto called the Element Deluxe.
The Weatherby Orion.
The 12-gauge Orion ships with a 26- or 28-inch barrel and three-inch chamber. Each weighs approximately seven pounds. Standard features include a high-gloss Grade A walnut stock with Prince of Wales grip and Pachmayr Decelerator. Suggested retail price is $1,099.
Weatherby’s new Element Deluxe begins a new line that features an inertia-operated action. The shotgun comes in 12, 20 or 28 gauge with either a 26- or 28-inch barrel. The 12- and 20-gauge options have a three-inch chamber, while the 28-gauge has a 2 ¾-inch chamber. Each Element Deluxe weighs under seven pounds. Prices range from $1,099 for the 12- and 20-gauge to $1,149 for the 28 gauge. Visit www.weatherby.com.
Irwin Greenstein is the publisher of Shotgun Life at www.shotgunlife.com.