January 17, 2023
By Alan Clemons
After hunting with Stoeger's M3500 snow goose gun last February, it was great to compare the updated M3000 series about 10 months later in Arkansas for ducks. With sleeker lines and ergonomic updates, Stoeger's M3500 series easily fits among the best new shotguns for 2023.
Gone is the blocky, somewhat oversized design of the M3500 from the last decade. Introduced in 2012, then also as an update to prior models, the series of hunting, field and self-defense shotguns had a big forend, big grip and burly workhorse attitude. Those with smaller hands or wanted a sleeker shotgun had to look elsewhere. This year's updates provide a more sleek design overall, texturing for better grip, a redesigned angle on the grip behind the action and more.
Our group of hunters in December, all being introduced to the new M3500, had no issues with shouldering, swinging, loading, feeding or shooting. After a couple of days, our bags were hefty with mallards, gadwalls, divers and even a few geese. Find out more below about the redesigned Stoeger M3500 and the other best new shotguns of 2023.
The addition of the Benelli Intertia-Driven System in the legendary Montefeltro line adds yet another plus to this favored upland hunting and clay target series. The Montefeltro's clean lines and easy handling have been favored for years by hunters and shooters. Now the addition of the internal powerhouse gives shooters a redesigned bolt handle for easier manipulation, improved ergonomics and a two-piece shell latch for easier loading. Still familiar, of course, is the Montefeltro's sleek walnut stock, blued finish, Micro Cell recoil pad and trim 5.3- to 6.6-pound weight depending on model. It's available in 12- and 20-gauge with vent-ribbed barrels of 24-, 26- and 28-inches, along with compact models in both gauges. $1,499 | benelliusa.com
Browning Citori High Grade
Discerning shooters and collectors no doubt will take a look at the 50th anniversary High Grade Citori, thanks to its stunning features. These include a silver-nitride receiver with full scroll engraving, gold-plated trigger, hand-engraved trigger guard and Grade IV gloss finish walnut stock with 20 lines-per-inch checkering. This isn't a safe queen, however. It comes with five Invector-Plus Midas choke tubes, 30- and 32-inch barrels and a chrome-plated chamber. Would you hunt with it? To celebrate a 50th anniversary, why not? That's what shotguns are designed for … to be in the field. $8,399 | browning.com
Stoeger M3K 3-Gun
If you’re interested in competition, Stoeger’s no-nonsense M3K 3-Gun model may get your attention. The 12-gauge has a combo of black synthetic stock and fore around a 24-inch barrel and easily cycles 2 3/4- and 3-inch shells thanks to its Inertia-Driven System. Other features include an elongated carrier, enlarged and beveled loading port for faster reloads, oversized safety, blue anodized aluminum bolt release, shim kit for customized fit and a 4+1 magazine capacity. $699 | stoegerindustries.com
Remington 870 FieldMaster Synthetic
New owners, new outlook … don't let the past bog you down when it comes to Big Green's forward progress. The new Model 870 FieldMaster Synthetic is just one example, as hunters will find a workhorse shotgun at an affordable price. The Model 870's receiver is milled from solid steel. Twin action bars provide reliability and consistency for follow-up shots. The gun has synthetic stock and fore, a non-reflective, black matte finish, adjustable face comb insert, FieldMaster finish to protect against rust, and more. It shoots 2 3/4- and 3-inch shells, and two models can handle 3 1/2-inch shells. The 20-gauge Compact model has a 21-inch vent rib barrel and length-of-pull kit. $519 | remarms.com
American Tactical Cavalry
The new Cavalry over/under from American Tactical has a lightweight aluminum receiver, synthetic stocks and is designed for 3-inch shells. The 22-inch barrels have interchangeable choke tubes, and the stocks are dressed in Mossy Oak camo. The Cavalry has a vented rib and fiber-optic front sight, but are drilled and tapped for a Weaver scope mount. It will be available in 12-, 20- and .410-bore for hunters looking for a reliable, no-frills gobbler getter. $699 | americantactical.us
Benelli 828U Steel
Benelli's new 828U Steel model in 12- and 20-gauge is made with a steel receiver, which adds a bit of weight to help mitigate recoil with heavier loads. The 828U series has a steel lock plate on the back of the barrel to help contain shotshell pressure and prevent transfer to the receiver. Also new with the 828U is the Benelli Surface Treatment (BE.S.T) on the barrels, receiver and lock plate. The proprietary BE.S.T. coating offers corrosion and abrasion resistance, making the shotgun practically impervious to harsh environments. The gun features a AA-Grade satin walnut stock and forend, satin receiver, gloss barrels, Benelli’s three-stage recoil buffer Progressive Comfort System and more. It is chambered for 2 3/4- and 3-inch in 12- and 20-gauge, with barrels in 26-, 28-, and 30-inch. Crio-treated chokes in C, IC, M, IM, and F are also included. $3,399 | benelliusa.com
Benelli M2 Field
The legendary M2 Field shotguns have been given a facelift this year, starting with an updated stock, forend and receiver. The latter pair have a more sleek profile while a longer grip surface on the forend bodes well for shooters of all sizes. The round bolt release button is now a longer bar shape that is easier to find and quicker to manipulate when wearing gloves. The upgraded buttstock has an extended AirTouch surface behind the pistol grip for more traction in wet or icy conditions, and also includes the new Micro Cell recoil pad. This one-piece unit works in conjunction with a corrosion-resistant recoil tube and stainless-steel spring inside the stock to significantly reduce felt recoil. Optional Micro Cell recoil pads are also available in varying widths to offer customized length-of-pull adjustment from the standard 14 3/8 inches (13 1/8 inches on the Compact models) to 13 7/8 or 14 3/4 inches. $1,399 and up | benelliusa.com
CZ-USA G3 Series
A new 712 G3 semi-automatic 12-gauge joins the CZ USA lineup this year with multiple options. Among them are a Hunting model with 28-inch barrel and Camo Tera full coverage camo and synthetic stocks, or a Utility model with 20-inch barrel and black synthetic stock. The gun also is available in a traditional hardwood stock version with a 26- or 28-inch barrel. The gas-operated 712 G3 shotguns have two pistons. One is tuned for heavy waterfowl loads and the other for lighter sporting loads. Chrome-lined barrels are chambered for 2 3/4- or 3-inch shells, with five interchangeable Active-Choke tubes. $579-649 | cz-usa.com
Franchi Instinct Sideplate
A year after being introduced, the Instinct Sideplate line from Franchi is getting two more models this year in 16- and 28-gauge. The shoguns feature luxurious AA-Grade walnut, gold inlay game scenes, blued barrels and a balanced design that assists with swinging on birds or targets. The new shotguns come chambered in 2 ¾ and 3 inches. Each has auto ejectors, barrel selectors, auto safety, C, IC, M, IM, and F extended chokes, and a custom-fitted hard case. $2,399 | franchiusa.com
J.P. Sauer & Sohn SL5 Select
For hunters seeking a solid semi-automatic with simple looks, the new SL5 Select may fit the bill. The walnut stock and forearm is enhanced with laserline to highlight the walnut's natural beauty. The smooth-cycling SL5 Select is available in 26-, 28- and 30-inch chrome-lined barrels. Upper and lower receivers are aluminum, for light weight, handling and durability, and have a matte finish to eliminate glare in the duck blind. All SL5 Select shotguns feature sling attachments, a Cervellati recoil pad and a red single-bead LPA front fiber-optic sight. $1,479 | jpsauer-usa.com
Mossberg SA 20, SA 28 Turkey
Mossberg’s turkey offerings take flight this spring with fully-camouflaged SA-20 and SA-28 Turkey Pistol Grip versions and a SA-20 Turkey with camo-covered, classic stock and forend featuring Mossy Oak Greenleaf camo. SA-Series autoloaders have a gas operating system that vents excess gases, reducing recoil and lessening stress on components. Chambered in 20 gauge (3-inch) and 28 gauge (2.75-inch), all models feature a five-round total capacity and 22-inch vent rib barrels with the versatility of an interchangeable choke tube system (Extended Turkey choke tube included). Barrels are topped with fiber optic Ghost Ring sights and receivers feature a Picatinny rail for ease of adding optics. The SA-20 and SA-28 Turkey Pistol Grip models have a compact pistol grip stock and 22-inch barrel. $816 and up | mossberg.com
Stoeger M3500, P3500
As noted earlier, these well-known shotguns from Stoeger are not new. But the facelift they, and their M2 Field counterparts in the Benelli family received, are worth noting. Benelli owns Stoeger and Franchi, giving consumers a variety of options in firearms and price points.
With the Stoeger M3500 and P3500 models, the slimmer design is noticed easily after comparing with the prior design. The grip and fore are trimmer; for younger shooters, women or those with smaller hands, the difference will be quite welcomed. For men with larger mitts, enjoy the ability to have a workhorse shogun with some weight to absorb recoil but with trimmer lines for easier handling. The redesigned grip is not a true pistol grip design, but has a slight downward cant that leads to more comfort. The back of the receiver has been lowered and beveled, too, for quicker acquisition on a smoother sightline.
An oversized safety button and bolt handle are great with (or without!) gloves, as is the beveled loading port. The checkered synthetic stock and rear grip offer traction with or without gloves. In all eight models, Stoeger’s internal Inertia Drive guts still power through ammo from 2 3/4- to 3 1/2-inch, and the 26- or 28-inch barrels wear Realtree’s Max-7 camo. $439 and up | stoegerindustries.com
Mossberg 940 Pro Tactical
Mossberg’s popular 940 Pro Tactical Optic-Ready series gets an addition with the 940 Pro Tactical Holosun Micro Dot Combo. It has an HS407K open reflex optical sight, meaning you can choose between the standard 940 Pro Tactical or a ready-for-the-range combo. The 940 Pro Tactical series are 8-shot autoloaders with a gas system that can run up to 1,500 rounds between cleaning. They have corrosion-resistant internal parts and finishes, including a nickel boron-coated gas piston, magazine tube, hammer and sear. A knurled, extended charging handle and oversized, ergonomic bolt release lever provide for easy manipulation. The extended magazine tube allows for a 7+1 round capacity with 2.75-inch shells. A barrel clamp features a sling swivel stud plus dual-sided M-LOK-compatible slots for accessories. The 18.5-inch matte finish barrel has a fiber optic front sight. $1,333 (Holosun model) | mossberg.com