December 07, 2015
We were pleasantly pleased to see so many new over-unders on the market this year. We are big fans of O/U's. They are among the safest shotguns: you can see down the barrel to confirm that nothing is obstructing it, like a 20-gauge shell in your 12. They are easy to clean and maintain. It's also nice to have a two-choke option on the fly when you're in the field.
If hunting means more to you than just dropping birds, you probably have an over-under shotgun in your collection.
Our editors checked out five brand-new O/U's to help you decide if you need a new one, and, if so, which one.
Benelli 828U | Innovative Italian
Benelli has been introducing amazing semi-auto shotguns these past few years. The Legacy, Vinci, Ethos come to mind. And the true workhorse, the Super Black Eagle, turned 25 in 2016. But this year, Benelli really turned the tables and introduced a truly innovative over-under called the 828U.
The first thing you'll notice is the unique way the barrels lock into the receiver. Instead of the barrel closing up tight to the receiver, the barrels of the 828U actually lock to a firing plate, not the receiver. That means Italian engineers could take weight off the gun by using aluminum instead of steel on the receiver. The 28-inch barrel version is a feathery 6.6 pounds.
For the shooter, it means that gun shouldered beautifully, has a bit of a weight-forward balance and was a pleasure to shoot. It has a custom comb and 40 possible positions with shims. The body is smooth, contemporary and very Italian. Auto safety, mechanical triggers, crio barrels and carbon-fiber rib.
The engraved, nickel-plated version is $2,999, and blue anodized receiver style (pictured above) is $2,499
CZ-USA Redhead Premier | New, one-piece CNC'ed receiver
The Redhead is CZ-USA's flagship over-under shotgun. The Redhead Premier is the latest iteration of the line. The gun is manufactured in Turkey by Huglu, which has been producing quality for many brands for more than 50 years. The Premier has near identical specs to its predecessor, the Deluxe, but the Premier offers a new one-piece CNC'ed receiver. That means the guts of the gun are more precisely machined and it costs less to produce.
When testing the Premier over-under shotgun, one feature that stood out was the ventilated rib barrel, which kept the barrel noticeably cooler.
Although we ran a couple hundred shells through the gun, the cocking system was still quite tight. When you first use this gun, make sure you open the breech all the way or you might find — like we did — that the second pin won't fire. Call it operator error. Likely the spring will loosen up after more shooting, and both hammers will cock consistently.
For its price, TriStar's new Setter S/T has some nice touches, including a handsome walnut stock and forearm, along with a nicely engraved receiver.
Tristar Setter S/T | Great price for this starter
Our 12-gauge tester was well-balanced, and it featured a chrome-lined chamber and barrel with a vent rib and fiber-optic sight. TriStar's Setter S/T over-under shotgun offerings, including their semi-autos, have impressed us. The company makes no bones about the fact that many of its guns look very similar to more expensive guns on the market. In many cases, they are made in those same Turkish factories where the higher-cost guns are made.
The Setter employs a single-selective trigger and top tang safety/selector. Five Beretta-style choke tubes were included with the gun we tested, and a rubber recoil pad is standard issue. TriStar backs the gun with a five-year mechanical warranty.
Weatherby Orion | The "hunter" resurrected
Weatherby is re-introducing a over-under shotgun many hunters fondly recall: the Orion. Although it's a new gun, it's easily recognizably as the old Orion, which was imported from Japan by Ithaca, Mitsui later by Weatherby. It does have a few changes -- the receiver is streamlined and the gun has a Prince of Wales grip.
Also, the barrel selector is on top of the neck, along with the safety (both of which felt good and were easy to use). When I tested it, I shot it well and it performed without fault. Given its solid feel and decent wood (grade A walnut), I thought it was a $2,000 gun. In fact, it will sell for about half that. It's a lot of gun for your money.
Browning Citori 725 | A fine new 28
The 725 comes from the group responsible for continuing the legacy of John Moses Browning, and in some ways the gun evolved out of the Superposed, JMB's last firearm design and one of the first over-under shotguns.
Two of the more noticeable features that are updates from earlier designs are the low-profile receiver and the FireLite mechanical trigger, both of which improve accuracy. The receiver allows shooters to get down closer to the bore, while the trigger provides for a lighter pull.
As is typical for most shotguns, Browning first introduced the 725 in 12 gauge, then 20 and finally in 28 -- which was added this year and is the model we tested -- and .410. All feature Invector-DS chokes, an Inflex recoil system and receiver engraving that makes this gun fit right in at any upland game club or sporting clays range.
Standout Over-Under Shotgun: Benelli 828U
The 828U is, by far, the most innovative over-under shotgun we tested. Throw in the fact that it shoots well and looks a lot like an Italian sports car, and well, we're in love again. We still haven't figured out what the 828U stands for and neither do the folks at Benelli.
Steel Barrel Locking
The plate locks into the barrels to eliminate recoil slamming into the receiver. Benelli could then make the receiver lighter, hence the 6.6-pound 12 gauge.
Removable Trigger Group
Here's a feature you usually see in very high-end guns: a removable trigger group. This makes it easy to clean and maintain. It also makes a simpler mechanical link-up in the receiver.
If Pope Julius II asked Michelangelo to design an over-under, I think it would have looked like the 828U. The Urbino designers take risks and succeed. Grazie!
Guns reviewed by Game & Fish/Sportsman editors Shaun Epperson, John Geiger, Terry Jacobs, David Johnson and Paul Rackley