6 New Shotguns Put to the Test

6 New Shotguns Put to the Test

G&F reviews 2019 shotguns

From lightweight over-unders to versatile semi-autos, the shotgun class of 2019 has something for every hunter.

The shotgun is perhaps the most versatile of all hunting tools, perfect for everything from bagging doves to harvesting a big buck. What’s more, shotguns are useful all year-round: When the fall and winter seasons close, spring turkey hunting is right around the corner, and the summer is a great time to enjoy a few rounds of trap, skeet and sporting clays at your local range. If you have a good shotgun there’s no reason why it should be collecting dust in your gun safe.

Over the course of the last 12 months there have been dozens of new shotgun designs introduced, and we’ve whittled that long list down to six models that are superb for hunters. They vary in price, function and purpose, but regardless of where you live or what you hunt there’s a scattergun on this list that will fit your needs.

BERETTA A400 XTREME PLUS

2019Shotguns
BERETTA A400 XTREME PLUS

Late last year I had the opportunity to torture-test the Beretta A400 Xtreme Plus. While hunting ducks in the Great Salt Lake, which is seven times more saline than ocean water, this gun was exposed to corrosive salt and muck for days. It was never cleaned. It never faltered. Apparently, Beretta has faith in this gun’s durability, and it’s justified. At the heart of the A400 is Beretta’s proven gas-piston action that functions with a broad range of loads. These guns also come with Beretta Steelium barrels, which help improve patterns. The bolt handle has a unique cone-shaped design that’s extremely easy to use with bulky gloves, and the bolt-release button is an oversized toggle that’s also simple to manipulate. Kick-Off Mega and Kick-Off3 technology comes standard in the stock, and the soft comb insert helps reduce recoil.

Lying in a layout blind in the shallow, murky waters of the Great Salt Lake, our group shot limits of teal each day with these guns, and despite the rather unnatural shooting position and magnum non-toxic loads, the Xtreme Plus was comfortable to shoot. None of the seven shooters in the field experienced any issues despite tough conditions, and I was impressed by the gun’s finish and functionality. The oversized bolt controls are simple to operate and the crossbolt safety is tucked neatly into the receiver profile, yet it’s easy to find and manipulate.


2019Shotguns
Bottom Line: A cutting-edge waterfowl gun from the world’s oldest gunmaker.

SPECS


Type: gas-operated semi-automatic


Gauge, Chamber: 12, 31/2”

Barrel Length: 28”

Stock: synthetic Kick-Off Mega; LOP 14.25”; adj. drop at comb, heel


Metal Finish: Mossy Oak Bottomland

Overall Length: 53”

Weight: 7.5 lbs.


Accessories: 5 Optima-Choke HP Black Edition extended choke tubes (C, IC, M, IM, F)

MSRP: $1,900

beretta.com

WINCHESTER SUPER X4 20-GAUGE

2019Shotguns
WINCHESTER SUPER X4 20-GAUGE

A few yearsago, Winchester introduced its newest generation of semi-auto shotguns, the Super X4 (SX4). Since that day hunters have been hounding Winchester to release a 20-gauge version, and it’s finally here. Like the 12-gauge model, the SX4 20 utilizes Winchester’s excellent Active Valve gas system which self-regulates gas bleed-off and allows excess gas to escape through the Quadra-Vent ports. The system is easy to clean, doesn’t require any O-rings that can break, and it functions with everything from light target loads to 3-inch magnums. The SX4 20-gauge features a trimmer forearm than the previous-gen SX3, and the pistol grip has been redesigned for a more comfortable hold. Also new are the oversized bolt handle, bolt release and safety on the SX4; all can easily be manipulated while wearing gloves.

Last fall, I carried a 20-gauge SX4 Waterfowl while duck hunting at Reelfoot Lake, and the gun functioned perfectly. The Active Valve system, stock spacers (which allow for a custom fit) and Inflex recoil pad made recoil very tolerable while shooting 3-inch loads considering this gun weighs under 7 pounds. The TruGlo red fiber-optic front sight was easy to see in low light. Later in the year I carried the SX4 rabbit hunting behind my beagles, and the gun stood up well to the briar scratches and abuse.

2019Shotguns
Bottom Line: This is a soft-shooting semi-auto that’s fairly priced and isn’t picky about loads.

SPECS

Type: gas-operated semi-automatic

Gauge, Chamber: 20, 3”

Barrel Length: 28”

Stock: synthetic; LOP 14.25”; drop at comb 1.75”; drop at heel 2”

Metal Finish: Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Blades

Overall Length: 49”

Weight: 6.8 lbs.

Accessories: 3 Invector Plus choke tubes (IC, M, F)

MSRP: $1,070

winchesterguns.com

WEATHERBY 18i SYNTHETIC

2019Shotguns
WEATHERBY 18i SYNTHETIC

The Weatherbyname will forever be associated with ultra-fast magnum cartridges and ornate bolt guns, but the company has been in the shotgun business for over five decades. Following Weatherby’s historic move from California to Sheridan, Wyo., its first new product was the 18i, an Italian-made inertia-operated 12-gauge semi-auto. Four models are currently available: the walnut-stocked 18i Deluxe in 12 or 20 gauge, the 18i Synthetic, and two 12-gauge Waterfowler models. The Deluxe comes with a 3-inch chamber, and all the other guns come with 3 1/2-inch chambers.

The Synthetic’s polymer stock features relatively aggressive texturing on the pistol grip and forearm, and soft-touch texturing provides a secure and comfortable grip on the gun. A soft comb insert comes standard—which helps mitigate recoil. The genius of the inertia system is its simple operation with few moving parts, and that lends itself to superb reliability. The Weatherby handled light.

1 1/8-ounce target loads without any issues. Firing 3-inch magnum waterfowl loads generates substantial recoil, but the elastomer stock helps keep recoil manageable. One thing worth noting is that the Weatherby’s forearm was one of the most comfortable in the test group, with a deep finger channel and a wide, rounded belly that sits comfortably in the hand. The balance point lies at the front of the receiver and the gun swings smoothly, making it a suitable clay target or dove gun, too.

2019Shotguns
Bottom Line: A versatile, reliable Italian semi-auto that’s priced right.

SPECS

Type: inertia-operated semi-automatic

Gauge, Chamber: 12; 31/2”

Barrel Length: 28”

Stock: synthetic; LOP 14.33”; drop at heel 1.5”; drop at comb 2”

Metal Finish: matte black

Overall Length: 49.25”

Weight: 7 lbs.

Accessories: 5 choke tubes (C, IC, M, IM, F)

MSRP: $1,099

weatherby.com

CZ 1012 BRONZE

2019Shotguns
CZ 1012 BRONZE

The 1012 is CZ’s first inertia-operated semi-auto shotgun, and it’s a good one. It features a one-piece aluminum receiver with a stylish semi-humpback design, and there are five variations currently available: three wood-stocked models with optional black, grey or bronze receivers, and a synthetic version in black or camo. These 12-gauge semi-autos come with an 8mm flat rib, fiber-optic bead, a 3-inch chamber and five extended choke tubes.

Weighing in at just 6.5 pounds, the 1012 Bronze model I tested is light enough for all-day carry yet it handles recoil efficiently thanks to a well-designed stock and soft recoil pad (though recoil is stouter than with CZ’s gas guns, as you’d expect). The Turkish walnut stock is basic but well-figured for a sub-$700 shotgun, and the inertia design is smooth cycling and clean, reducing maintenance. Controls include a cross-bolt safety behind the trigger guard, a shell-release lever and a bolt-release button.

Field-stripping the gun for standard maintenance is simple, and the minimal number of moving parts means this gun runs well with little care. In fact, CZ says that it put the gun through a 5,000-round torture test with no cleaning, and experienced no parts breakage or malfunctions. I didn’t reach those numbers in my own tests, but through several rounds of trap and five-stand I experienced no malfunctions. With its 3-inch chamber the CZ is shorter than the Weatherby by more than an inch, and it handles nicely and is well-balanced. The bronze receiver finish adds a touch of class, the extended choke tubes make swapping constrictions fast and easy, and the post-style bolt handle is a feature you’ll love. The CZ 1012 is also one of only two guns in the test that came with its own hard plastic carrying case. It’s an affordable scattergun that’s well-suited for a wide range of hunting situations.

2019Shotguns
Bottom Line: The durable and well-executed CZ 1012 is a great gun that is affordable.

SPECS

Type: inertia-operated semi-automatic

Gauge, Chamber: 12; 3”

Barrel Length: 28”

Stock: Turkish walnut; LOP 14.5”; drop at comb 1.5”; drop at heel 2.25”

Metal Finish: bronze receiver, gloss-black barrel

(The CZ 1012 also comes in a synthetic version with a matte-black or Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Blades finish)

Overall Length: 47”

Weight: 6.5 lbs.

Accessories: 5 choke tubes (C, IC, M, IM, F)

MSRP: $659

cz-usa.com

BROWNING CITORI 725 FEATHER SUPERLIGHT

2019Shotguns
BROWNING CITORI 725 FEATHER SUPERLIGHT

No false advertising. The Citori 725 Feather Superlight in 20 gauge weighed just 5 pounds, 7 ounces. That’s 5 ounces lighter than a 20-gauge Citori 725 Feather and a full pound lighter than a standard Citori 725 Field. Those weight savings are made possible thanks to an aluminum-alloy receiver with a steel breech face and hinge pin, and a low-profile 725 boxlock action. The stock is carved from grade II/III black walnut and features 20 LPI checkering and an oil finish that is both durable and good looking. The stock design, with a straight grip and Schnabel fore-end, is perfect for making fast shots on upland birds. Typical of Browning 725s, this gun is elegant, with neatly-engraved game scenes on the sides of the silverreceiver, contrasting blued barrels, classic ivory front and mid beads, and a gold-plated alloy trigger.

With a between-the-hands balance point, the 725 swings smoothly and comes quickly to the shoulder, making it ideal for long walks in search of upland birds. It’s an unparalleled grouse gun, short enough to function in thick cover and agile enough to make fast shots, but there’s really no bird from woodcock to doves to pheasants for which the Feather Superlight is not superbly suited. And while recoil is more pronounced than with heavier guns (though still manageable), the 725 makes a great skeet and sporting gun. The tang-mounted safety/barrel selector is classic Browning, and it’s easy to use for right or left-handed shooters. While it isn’t cheap, the Feather Superlight is a gun you’ll be proud to own and pass downsomeday.

2019Shotguns
Bottom Line: An upland hunter’s dream, the sub-6-pound Feather Superlight will spoil you.

SPECS

Type: over-under

Gauge, Chamber: 20, 23/4”

Barrel Length: 26”

Stock: grade II/III walnut; LOP 14.25”; drop at comb 1.5”; drop at heel 2.5”

Metal Finish: silver-nitride receiver, polished blued barrels

Overall Length: 43.75”

Weight: 5.5 lbs.

Accessories: Invector DS-Flush choke tubes (IC, M, F)

MSRP: $2,670

browning.com

POINTER PHENOMA

2019Shotguns
POINTER PHENOMA

Pointer shotguns, which are imported by Legacy Sports International, are growing in popularity in the U.S. because they’re reliable and affordable. The new Phenoma gas-operated semi-auto is available in a full range of gauges from 12 to 28 and .410 bore, and the 20-gauge we tested was one of the biggest surprises in the test. The Turkish-made Phenoma cycled smoothly, handled beautifully, broke clays with authority, and with an MSRP of $669 it’s a superb value.

The Phenoma’s walnut stock lacks some of the figure and style of the other guns, but the gun’s overall design and quality is excellent for this price range. The grip is angled just right for a comfortable hold on the gun, and controls are easy to use. Balance point is directly between the hands, and the gas-piston operating system is easy to access and clean. At 6.4 pounds this gun is easy to carry all day and recoil is mild, even with magnum loads, though I do wish it offered sling studs. There were no cycling issues. Everyone who touched the Phenoma extolled its handling characteristics. These guns are available in a number of configurations, so no matter whether you want to shoot clays or gobblers you’ll find one that fits your needs.

2019Shotguns
Bottom Line: If you’re looking for a reliable, soft-shooting, affordable shotgun, the Phenoma should be on your list.

SPECS

Type: gas-operated semi-automatic

Gauge, Chamber: 20, 23/4”

Barrel Length: 28”

Stock: Turkish walnut; LOP 14”; drop at comb 1.5”; drop at heel 2”

Metal Finish: gray Cerakote receiver, blued barrel

Overall Length: 48.5”

Weight: 6.4 lbs.

Accessories: 5 choke tubes (C, IC, M, IM, F)

MSRP: $669

legacysports.com

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