I will never forget the first time I saw one of my best friends take a shooting lesson...
The shotgun stood upright in a museum-quality case, halogen lamps kindling the mystique of the Prodigal Son.
The Browning Superposed in front of us was a one-of-a-kind called Golden Days. Belgian master engraver Dany Matagne had spent 300 painstaking hours detailing the doves, bobwhite quail and Gamble quail with gold, green gold, copper and palladium - the entire landscape study framed in a floral scroll. If ever there was a rendition of upland heaven, it was here on the receiver of this $80,000 Superposed.
It's an autumn afternoon in southern New Jersey and I'm in a luxurious tent browsing the best shotguns, when something different, beautiful, stunning catches my attention.
While Argentina gets the great bulk of wingshooting travel press, neighboring Uruguay offers gunning that's every bit as good. Since I've made nearly 50 trips to Colombia, Argentina, Bolivia and Uruguay I guess I have to be considered a veteran at shooting there. But on every trip I've learned something, often times I've learned a great deal.
It started in a pizza and sandwich shop in South Philadelphia, and eventually led to one of the great finds in the world of big-bore collectors.
Today, Bernie Liberati can legitimately claim he is the only man to own two consecutively numbered L.C. Smith 8-gauge shotguns -- a highly coveted find given that only 35 total were ever made.
The achievement is a far cry from the kid who delivered pizzas and sandwiches in South Philly. Delivering food in that neighborhood may not sound glamorous, but it opened the door into the world of big-bore shotguns for Bernie...
After working there for a while, the shop owner had taken Bernie out hunting one night.
"We didn't get anything, but I had fun," he said.
The Boy's First Shotgun
Afterwards, his boss suggested that Bernie may want to buy a shotgun. Bernie didn't own a shotgun (or any other kind of gun for that matter). The man offered to get one for Bernie, and soon the delivery boy entrusted his boss with the cash to buy his first shotgun.
It turned out to be a 12-gauge Daiwa, made by Singer Nikko in Japan.
"It was beautiful," Bernie recalled.
So beautiful, in fact, the man offered Bernie $175 -- a full $25 more than what the boy paid for it. Did Bernie bite? No way. But it was his first introduction into the value of shotguns -- planting a seed that would grow into a fascination with the thunderous big bores.
Telling Dad About the Shotgun
In the meantime, though, Bernie had to contend with his father. You see, when he came home that night with a shiny new shotgun in a cardboard box, he father reprimanded: "You can't bring that in the house."
I said "I have no place to put it."
Dad: "That's your problem."
As the sun went down, young Bernie was relegated to the porch. Wearing only a t-shirt, it was like sitting in a refrigerator out there -- until his mother intervened.
"My mother was inside, complaining, ‘How could you let my son sit out in the cold?'" Finally, his father let the boy in...along with his brand new shotgun.
Bernie and his friends loved to take his new Daiwa out to a field near the Philadelphia airport. "We'd set up a skeet machine and no one would bother us. The police would come by to make sure we weren't doing anything wrong, that we weren't drinking."
Yes, those were the good old days.
Fast forward to 1992...
Bernie's father, now 78, wanted to retire from the customs house broker company he owned since 1963, Morris Friedman and Co. So rather than sell the business to a stranger, he gave it to Bernie.
A Fateful Meeting With Jim Stahl
One day, Bernie was hard at work in the office, when one of his regular contacts from U.S. Customs stopped by -- a guy named Jim Stahl. He suggested to Bernie they go trap shooting one night. (As fate would have it, Jim would become active in the L.C. Smith Collectors Association.)
They had such a good time they thought it would be a good idea to make it a regular Wednesday night ritual.
After a few times out trap shooting, Jim invited Bernie to go hunting... and they had a great time doing that too.
As their friendship grew, Jim introduced Bernie to side-by-side shotguns. Bernie was bowled over when he discovered that Jim's collection actually reached 25 side-by-sides.
"That's unbelievable," Bernie told Jim, laughing about it today and given the size of his own collection.
Bernie's Shotgun Education
In conjunction with the side-by-side collection, Jim was an avid collector of books related to vintage and big-bore shotguns.
Thanks to Jim, Bernie embarked on his shotgun education.
But Bernie was about to get hooked.
One Saturday afternoon, Jim took Bernie to visit Hollowell's Gun Shop in Connecticut.
"We're walking around and Jim says what kind of gun do you want?"
Bernie's wasn't exactly sure what he wanted, but he knew what he didn't want: a 12-gauge.
"Everybody has a 12 gauge," Bernie remembers telling Jim.
As they wandered the around the store, Bernie thought he would go for a .410.
"But there was this 10-gauge Remington. It was cheap and unique," Bernie said.
Out of the Corner His Eye...
Then lightning struck...
Out of the corner of his eye, Bernie spotted an 8-gauge J.P. Clabrough "in the middle of the table. It was the first 8-gauge I'd ever seen." After negotiating about 90 minutes, Bernie brought home the first two big bores of what would become an extensive collection.
"And that's how I started. I was fortunate in that people were not that enthusiastic about buying them, and the prices were pretty affordable," he said.
After years of collecting 4-, 8- and 10-gauge vintage beauties, Bernie was finally able to put it together: his prized consecutively numbered 8-gauge L.C. Smith Grade 2 shotguns.
The first one he purchased was number 46291. As fate would have it, Bernie bought it on Valentine's Day 2006.
Only three weeks later, another 8-gauge L.C. Smith Grade 2 became available.
As Bernie tells it, "There was a fellow who was member of the L.C. Smith Collector's Association. Unfortunately, he was going through some rough times." The man needed to liquidate his collection, and the dealer who got it immediately gave Bernie a call.
When Bernie got it, he realized it was numbered 46290.
Well, from the kid sitting out on the porch that one chilly night with his first shotgun, Bernie now owns about 50 big bores.
"I like the fact that they're unique, and have a history behind them," Bernie said.
But these stunning shotguns aren't mere museum pieces for him.
"I shoot them at least twice a year."
Bernie Liberati today with his son, Bernie.
The components of a shotgun shell include the rim, primer, brass, shell case, powder, wad and shot — with the exception of shotgun slugs, which are like blunt bullets encased in a shotgun shell and used on larger game.
Caution ladies: If your husband or boyfriend hands you one of his old shotguns for a round of clays shooting, say “Thanks but no thanks.”
Anecdotal evidence points to the above situation as a sure-fire way for a woman to never pick up a shotgun for the rest of her life. Why?
Three-hundred targets, three sporting clays courses, 48 hours.
The eight of us piled into three cars to meet the challenge.
We left from Greater Baltimore on Friday morning. The group split up according to breakfast habits. Us four, not real big on lumberjack specials, decided to sleep the extra 30 minutes and grab a last-minute coffee at home.
Benelli Introduces Performance Shop SuperSport Models in 12- and 20-Gauge
The ultimate “speed gun” for sporting clays has just gotten faster and easier to handle, with more effective patterning. Working in partnership with world-renowned
Briley Manufacturing, a select number of Benelli SuperSport shotguns have been fine-tuned to offer outstanding handling characteristics and superior performance.
Each Benelli Crio® ported barrel has been modified with lengthened forcing cones for a polished taper between the chamber and barrel. The 12-gauge guns have been back-bored to .733 inches to reduce backpressure, ensure consistent patterning and reduce felt
recoil. To get you in action quicker, each gun has been fitted with a Briley EZ bolt release mechanism and an enlarged ergonomic bolt-operating handle.
The trigger assemblies of all Benelli Performance Shop SuperSports have been fine-tuned for a crisp pull and unexcelled performance. In addition, these guns feature Benelli’s proven ComforTech® system with gel recoil butt pads and comb inserts that reduce recoil by as much as 48% and muzzle climb by 15% —all without adding any extra weight.
The Benelli Crio® barrels, combined with Briley’s color-coded Spectrum choke tubes,
improve shot strings to yield denser, more uniform shot patterns resulting in more clay-busting power. Completing the package is a 6-ounce weighted fore-end cap for greater balance and smoother swing.
The average weight is for the 12 gauge is 7.7 pounds with its 30-inch barrel. It has a magazine capacity of 4+1. Length of pull is 14 3/8 inches. The 20-gauge weighs 6.7 pounds with 28-inch barrels The suggested retail price for the 12 gauge is $2,769, while the 20 gauge is priced at $2,665.
The Ithaca Gun Company Rolls Out a New 28-Gauge Pump
A new 28-gauge pump gun was introduced by the Ithaca Gun Company in Upper Sandusky, Ohio. This little gem of an American shotgun costs $999 for an “A” Grade, $1,589 for a “AA” Grade and $3,499 for the “AAA” Grade.
Built on a 28-gauge frame, it features 3-inch chambers, gold trigger, bottom ejection and a black walnut stock and forend. The gun is available with 26-inch or 28-inch barrels.
Browning Unveils New Maxus Autoloader
For 2009 Browning introduces the all new Maxus™ autoloading shotgun. Several innovative technologies combine to make the Maxus deliver up to 18% less felt recoil for greater comfort, 44% less muzzle jump for more accurate follow-up shots, plus 19% faster bolt speed and 24% faster locktime than the nearest competitor.
Power Drive Gas System. The new Power Drive Gas System on the Maxus features a new gas piston design that has larger exhaust ports to dump gases faster on heavy loads. An all new patented, enclosed seal design keeps residue out of the action for cleaner operation. The piston has a 20% longer stroke travel to be even more reliable with light loads.
Inflex Technology Recoil Pad. Browning’s new Inflex Technology recoil pad is the softest pad on any autoloader. More than a mass of recoil absorbing material, it has been engineered with directional deflection to pull the comb down and away from the face of the shooter with every shot for even greater comfort and faster follow-up shooting.
Lightning Trigger System: The new Lightning Trigger System featured on the Maxus is designed to offer a smooth, crisp feel with minimal travel. With locktimes averaging .0052 seconds, the Lightning Trigger is 24% faster than the nearest competing autoloader, making ever pull perfect. It is also easy to remove for cleaning.
Vector Pro Lengthened Forcing Cone: Vector Pro features extended forcing cones that are over 2" longer than other systems. The taper is much more gradual than the 5º industry specification for even less shot deformation resulting in more uniform and consistent patterns. The Vector Pro geometry completely eliminates any step or double taper between the chamber and bore.
Speed Lock Forearm: With the new Maxus, Browning engineers have eliminated the traditional bulky screw-on magazine cap and replaced it with the patent-pending Speed Lock Forearm. This secure forearm attachment system makes taking down the Maxus for cleaning or storage faster and easier than ever before, and makes attaching or removing a sling a snap. By simply lifting a lever, the forearm is easily removed.
Speed Load Plus: Browning’s new patent-pending feeding system sends the first shell loaded into the magazine directly into the chamber. Now, unloading is just as easy with the Maxus. The speed unload feature make emptying the magazine fast and easy, without having to cycle and chamber every shell with the bolt handle.
Turnkey Magazine Plug: The Maxus features the patent-pending Turnkey Magazine Plug that makes removing the plug simple by using any vehicle key. Combined with the Speed Lock System, the magazine plug can be removed from the Maxus in mere seconds.
The new Browning Maxus will be offered in 12 gauge only in 3 inch and 3 ½ inch models. The receiver is made of strong, lightweight aluminum alloy. The barrels have a lightweight profile design with flat ventilated rib. The composite stock has a close radius pistol grip with in-molded textured gripping and Browning’s proven Dura-Touch® Armor Coating for a sure hold and sleek feel in all climate conditions. Average weight on the new Maxus is 6 lbs. 14 oz. The Browning Maxus comes equipped with a magazine cut-off to allow the shooter to easily unload the chamber to change loads without cycling a shell from the magazine.
Browning Maxus Stalker models Suggested Retail, $1,199.00 in 3" and $1,379.00 in 3 1/2" with 26" or 28" barrels. The Maxus Mossy Oak® Duck Blind models Suggested Retail, $1,339.00 in 3" and $1,499.00 in 3 1/2" with 26" or 28" barrels.
Franchi Adds Renaissance Sporting Model in 20 Gauge
The Franchi Renaissance Sporting shotgun is now available in 20gauge. Weighing in at 7.4 pounds, Franchi’s new 20 gauge is fitted with a sturdy, stainless steel box-lock action to handle a steady diet of high-brass target loads and has 30-inch ported barrels with
lengthened forcing cones to guarantee uniform shot patterns and to reduce backpressure for reduced felt recoil. Knurled, extended choke tubes make it quick and easy to change chokes between stations or shots.
The coin-finished receiver features floral scroll engraving and gold embellished details. The stock, crafted from figured select walnut, features fine-line cut checkering and a traditional oil finish to accentuate the wood’s grain. The stock comes standard with an adjustable comb for a personalized fit, and Franchi’s patented recoil-reducing Twin Shock Absorber™ system diminishes felt-recoil by 44%. The suggested retail price is $2,199.
Blaser Shows New 28-Gauge F3
Blaser, the company that redefined high-quality affordable shotguns, introduced its first 28-gauge model into the U.S.
The new gun, yet unnamed and priced, was shown at the Shot Show in Orland, Fla., January 15-18. It features either 30 or 32 inch barrels, a scaled English-style forend while maintaining the weight of the company’s 12 and 20 gauge for improved control. More information will be released when available.
Verona Shotguns Return to U.S. in Side-by-Side and Inertia-Driven,
Major gun maker Legacy Sports International is resurrecting the Verona shotgun brand in new side-by-side and semi-automatic versions.
The side-by-sides will be manufactured by Fausti in Italy. The box-lock models come with color case hardened receivers embellished with laser engraving. Featuring ejectors, the new side-by-sides are available in 12, 20 and 28 gauge models, each built on its own scaled frame. They are chambered for 3-inch magnum rounds, except for the 28 gauge which has a 26-inch barrel chambered for 2¾-inch shells. All the models come with five interchangeable chokes. All the Verona side-by-sides have a suggested price of $1,999.
Verona’s semi-automatic shotguns will be available in 12 and 20 gauge models. They are inertia driven and come with either wood or synthetic stocks. The wood shotguns feature 3-inch chambers, while the synthetic versions are chambered for both 3-inch and 3½-inch shells with a 4+1 magazine capacity. Prices range from $1,199 to $1,299.
Remington® Introduces the Model 870™ Express® Compact Line of
Remington introduced three versions of the Model 870 Express Compact pump action shotgun in 20 gauge and a shorter Model 870 Express Compact Jr. in 20 gauge. They feature durable synthetic fore-ends and stocks with a shorter length of pull than our standard Model 870. A new Adjustable Length of Pull (LOP) System easily adjusts incrementally up to one inch. The gun also features the SuperCell recoil pad, which soaks up force to create the most comfortable shooting experience possible.
The Express Compact is available in the following versions – Black Synthetic, Realtree Hardwoods HD® and Remington’s exclusive, Mossy Oak® Blaze Pink Camo. The Express Compact Jr. is available in a Black Synthetic version.
Remington’s new LOP system is comprised of two 1/4-inch and one 1/2-inch length spacers and corresponding screws -- allowing both youth and small-stature shooters the ability to personalize each gun to their individual shooting preference and dimensions. Young shooters now have the capability to “custom fit” their shotgun as they grow.
America’s most popular pump action, the long-lasting Model 870, features twin-action bars and ultra-reliable feeding, extraction and ejection. All metal surfaces feature a non-glare, matte finish. The hammer-forged, carbon steel Rem™ Choke barrel features a vented rib with single bead sight and a Modified choke tube (Full choke tube with Compact Jr.) is included. All models have rugged synthetic stocks and fore-ends with sling swivel studs. Prices range from $399 to $439.
The New Stevens 512 Gold Wing From Savage Arms
Savage Arms introduced the 512 Gold Wing in its Sevens family of shotguns. The box-lock bargain is made in Turkey in 12, 20, 28 gauge and .410 models.
The over/under 512 Gold Wing includes a black-chrome finish with a raised gold pheasant. The Turkish walnut stock is finished in satin lacquer with laser-engraved fleur-de-lis checkering on the side panels. The suggested retail price is $699.
Winchester Introduces New Steel Loads
Winchester expanded its line of Xpert line of steel upland game and target loads in both 12 gauge and subgauge shells. The new additions now give upland shooters their first 28-gauge and .410 steel shells. The 28 gauge is 2¾ inches long holding 5/8 ounce of size 6 or 7 shot. The velocity is 1300 fps. The .410 shell is 3 inches in length and houses 3/8 ounce of 6 shot. It has a velocity of 1400 fps.
On the 12-gauge front, a new 11/8 ounce shell is available in a 2¾ inch length. Shot size is either 6 or 7. The velocity is 1280 fps. Prices vary according to retailer.
Birchwood Casey’s Perma Fin Air Cure Gun Finish Kit
Birchwood Casey’s® Perma FinTM is a revolutionary new finish that allows shooters to easily refurbish the metal on their firearms.
Perma Fin is a single component, water-based polyurethane resin liquid that provides excellent adhesion to not only metal firearm surfaces, but to plastic and rubber as well.
It can be applied with an air brush or a fine paint brush to provide a durable, long lasting black satin finish.
Perma Fin air cures, so no heating or baking of parts is required.
There is no mixing of components, no harsh chemicals, and because it is water based, clean up is simple and easy.
It is available as a kit with an air brush, 1 pair of vinyl gloves, 1 abrasive sanding pad and two 3-ounce bottles of Perma Fin, or in individual 3 ounce bottles.
Retail price for the kit is $64.40 and $16.10 for the 3-ounce bottles.
What’s the difference between a choke and a tube?
The choke controls the constriction at the muzzle. The tube (or subgauge insert) is a sleeve that fits inside the barrel in order for you to safely shoot different gauges from a single gun. Each tube is machined to a specific gauge -- like the gun barrel itself.
These tubes don’t work with pumps or semi-autos because the receivers are gauge-specific. For example, you can’t load a 20-gauge shell into a 12-gauge pump or semi-auto receiver under any circumstances. With your over/under or side-by-side, however, the shells are loaded directly into the chamber. Crack open the gun, and the proper set of tubes can turn your 12 gauge into a 20-, 28-gauge or .410 shotgun.
There are plenty of options when it comes to finding the perfect tube set for your shotgun.
Some shotgun manufacturers bundle tube sets with a new gun. For retrofitting, tube sets can be purchased over-the-counter while others have to be sent to the tube manufacturer where they are fit to your gun. You can go with a full-length set of tubes or shorter chamber-length tubes.
Your decision is usually based on price and weight.
Full-length tube sets can weigh 5-12 ounces, affecting the balance of your shotgun. But if you’re a nose-heavy kind of shooter who believes the extra weight improves your swing, then these tubes are for you. Other shooters balk at the extra up-front weight, and may opt for shorter tubes.
Into the Chamber
Chamber-length tubes let you reduce your gauge preference without going for a full-length version. When you fire, the subgauge shell then patterns with a 12-gauge barrel. How does that affect your shooting? Some manufacturers swear that there’s no penalty whatsoever -- or even go as far as to claim an improved pattern compared with an original subgauge shotgun.
Given their size, these chamber-length tubes are less expensive than the full-length alternatives and are obviously lighter (3-4 ounces).
Regardless of which tubes you ultimately use, there are a few cautionary measures to consider. Make sure your shells eject properly and your chokes still fit. If you’re using chamber-length tubes, you also have to examine if the ejectors start moving them out of the gun. Hunters will want to verify that their tube sets can accommodate 3-inch shells as well as steel shot.
Shooters who reload their own ammo may encounter ejector problems. Since reloaded shells tend to get distorted, their imperfections may contribute to persistent troubles when combined with auto ejectors and tubes.
And then there’s the triggers…
Your 12-gauge shotgun probably uses an inertia trigger, where the recoil from the first shot resets the trigger for the second shot. Since subgauge shells have less recoil, the second shot may not automatically reset. A quick trip to your gunsmith could fix the problem. For shotguns with a mechanical trigger (not recoil-dependant), shooting subgauge shells in your 12-gauge won’t impact trigger performance.
While tube sets are plenty of fun and open you to new shooting experiences, they are not to be trifled with. Remember, tube sets change the character of your shotgun, and there are always inherent risks with this kind of undertaking. So read the user manual carefully before installation.
Wingshooting is the real deal for shotgun enthusiasts.
Clays sports such as skeet, trap and sporting clays were originally invented with a single goal in mind: improve your ability to shoot real birds with real feathers.
While a hefty kill for the day will certainly bring on a healthy smile, wingshooting is more than shooting your own dinner.
Wingshooting tradition runs deep in the American psyche. For many, wingshooting and the Second Amendment’s the right to bear arms, are virtually synonymous.