It’s not a new saying for waterfowl hunters to hear, but the Good ‘Ole Days are now. Right now!
And not only in terms of bird numbers, season lengths, and bag limits but in the world of technological advancements as well. Gear, that is.
And in no realm are these advancements more dramatic than in the field of waterfowl firearms. Operating systems, recoil reduction, weight, styling, appearance; today’s waterfowl shotguns have been transformed from mere tools to works of art.
Here is a look at some of the finest duck and goose shotguns now and for 2019:
Mossberg M930 Pro-Series
Mossberg was the first to introduce the revolutionary 3.5-inch shotgun platform back in the day, courtesy of its wildly-popular Model 835 Ulti-Mag. Since then, the company has continued to grow in terms of arming 21st Century waterfowlers, offerings that have included the 3.5-inch M935 autoloader, as well as the smaller 3-inch M930. Today, both semi-automatics are available in a Pro-Series Waterfowl format featuring the same tried-and-true gas operation system, same elemental internal components, and the same rugged abuse-taking exterior. The new Pro-Series sports an attractive engraved receiver, stainless steel recoil spring, and Mossberg’s adjustable Stock Drop System that allows each M930 to be custom fit to the individual.
Remington Versamax V3 Field Sport
Recoil reduction. Pointability. Ease of maintenance. Reliability. When it comes to Remington’s latest entry into the semi-automatic shotgun fray – the V3 Field Sport – these words say it all. The V3 starts with the Versaport operating system, a gas-metering program that self-adjusts to any shotshell based on its length. It’s a simple system; two piston or metering valves placed in a user-friendly location integral to the barrel. Merely pull two holding bolts, and the valves drop out. What’s more, the Versaport system contributes greatly to making the V3 one of the softest-shooting, if not the softest-shooting autoloader out there.
Winchester Super X4
It began with the popular SX2, and progressed to the SX3. For 2018, the innovative minds at Winchester Arms were proud to introduce the next generation of the Super X Series, the SX4. Another in the family of gas-operated autoloaders, the SX4 is all about features and ease of use. A self-adjusting ACTIVE Valve System cycles all shotshells – 2.75 to 3.5 inches – smoothly and reliably, while the Quadra-Vent ports allow excess gas to escape, resulting in a cleaner shotgun after the fact. A quick drop-out trigger group, too, assists for end-of-day cleaning. A larger operating handle and bolt release button mean the SX4 is kinder to glove-wearing ‘fowlers, while the Inflex Technology recoil pad softens the push, especially when shooting hard-hitting 3.5-inch shotshells.
Browning Wicked Wings A5
Browning says the new Wicked Wings A5 “isn’t your Grandpa’s Browning,” and truth be told, they’re absolutely right. Yes, this one still sports the legendary humpback receiver. And yes, this new version is still recoil-operated; however, it’s at that point the similarities end. At the foundation of the new WWA5 is Browning’s Kinectic Drive System, a reliable, almost maintenance-free system that has proven itself in the field over the past several years. Like its forefather, the WWA5 is slim, trim, and surprisingly light at 6.75 pounds. She is capable of handling 3.5-inch shotshells; however, given her diminutive size, recoil can be quite noticeable. Everything else is just simply top shelf.
Franchi Affinity 3.5
Another recoil-operated autoloader, this one from the fine folks at Franchi USA. The Affinity 3.5, though feeling and handling like a small-bore shotgun, offers all the capabilities and advantages of today’s big 3.5” shotshells. Working in tandem, the Affinity’s Inertia Driven operating system and TSA recoil pad – NOTE: Three different pads are available, allowing shooters to almost instantly adjust length-of-pull – make shooting the Affinity a pleasant rather than a tooth-jarring experience. Available in four finish options, the Affinity 3.5 comes with the shooter’s choice of either a 26” or 28” barrel, and an easily-removable balance weight in the stock. Customization. That’s the Affinity 3.5.
The 1012 is CZ’s next step in the evolution of their fine line of semi-automatic shotguns. Described as a gas-less operating system, the 1012 uses a recoil-style spring within the bolt itself to store kinetic energy. Upon firing, the 1012’s bolt rotates and unlocks strong twin barrel lugs, extracts the spent shotshell, and places a live round into battery, all within milliseconds. The major advantage to this system, as it is in all recoil-operated systems, is dramatically diminished maintenance. No gas means less mess, and less mess means fewer hours at the cleaning table. Currently, the 1012 is available in a wood-stocked version with either a bronze or grey receiver, or a synthetic model bedecked in Mossy Oak’s Shadowgrass Blades camouflage pattern.
Benelli Super Black Eagle III
From the moment it was introduced, Benelli’s Super Black Eagle (SBE) autoloader was a smashing success among waterfowlers, both domestic and international. And with good reason. Actually, three good reasons – reliability, reliability, and, yes, reliability. Today, the third generation of this beloved shotgun, the SBE III, has garnered excellent reviews and a stalwart reputation nationwide, and for all of the same reasons, including reliability. From the SBE III’s Inertia Drive operating system to her Comfort Tech 3 stock design and advancements in recoil reduction, this, many believe, is as close of ‘fowling perfection as one can get.
TriStar Cobra II
Semi-automatics, without question, rule the modern waterfowling; however, there are a long line of pump-action pieces out there more than capable of holding their own when it comes to reliability and rugged. TriStar’s Cobra II is one such offering. Sporting a chrome-lined barrel, extended forearm, durable synthetic stock, matte black finish, and a versatile 3” chamber, the Cobra II may not be pretty, but it’s, without question, a definitive waterfowling shotgun. Available currently only in a 12-gauge format, the Cobra II comes standard with a 28” vent rib barrel, and Benelli/Beretta’s tried-and-true easy-in/easy-out choke tube system.
Beretta A400 Xtreme Unico
Touted by Beretta as “the best synthetic shotgun for every challenge,” the A400 Xtreme Unico offers comfort, power, and reliability at its highest level. A gas-operated semi-automatic, the A400 sports a list of features and mechanical advancements second to none. But the A400 doesn’t stop at reliability. Inside and out, the Unico is protected from wear, tear, and Mother Nature, thanks to a variety of rust-proofing, chrome-plating, and corrosion-inhibiting treatments. Recoil, too, is addressed, with Beretta’s Kick Off recoil reduction system that uses not one but two hydraulic dampeners strategically located throughout the firearm. No matter the weather. No matter the rigors. Beretta’s A400 Xtreme can handle it.