This bird, flushed by the dog, appeared to go straight up. Author shot, and he was then on his way down. This is why it was good to have someone with a camera who was not hunting.
This bird, flushed by the dog, appeared to go straight up. Author shot, and he was then on his way down. This is why it was good to have someone with a camera who was not hunting.

Field Testing: An Oklahoma Quail Hunt

A hunt to field-test these new shotguns was held for a few writers and personnel from Smith & Wesson/Blue Heron Communications at the famed Selman Ranch in Oklahoma. This is a 14,000-acre ranch located in the northwest part of that state, and it’s quite famous. In fact, there was even a book written about this ranch’s history. This book, The Buffalo Creek Chronicles, by Lantzy and House, tells how the Selman family carved out a living on this land, one rich in game throughout its sagebrush-covered rolling hills.

As we arrived and drove into the ranch area, in certain ways it was like going back in time. As a kid, I remember my grandmother’s farm and the machinery of the day, now all gone. It was good to see a lot of the equipment of our past still onsite, reminding us of the jobs it had once accomplished. Then it was time to check in, head to the main house to eat dinner, and then hit the sack in preparation for two days of shooting.

The following morning, we woke up to a great breakfast to begin the day. Then we were directed to a shooting area about a half mile away where Colie Selman, the staff and our group set up clay target throwers to give us all practical experience with the new shotguns.

I did shoot all of these at the SHOT Show but now we could shoot all we desired and fire at targets not confined to “straightaways” but angled or, to add difficulty, launched right off the ground as a quail flies. After a few hours of shooting, we broke up into two groups and with dogs and a skilled handler in tow, it was off to try our luck. After a few hours of hunting, we met for lunch and in the afternoon, we went out to other areas to hunt some more.

When flushed, grouse move and move fast, and here is when a shotgun that fits and naturally swings as the Elite Silver does is necessary to consistently point, shoot and drop that bird. I really appreciated the S&W over-under, an action type I have always done my best with.

The next day, we had the option to go back to quail areas or try fields with pheasants. I opted for the pheasants. Again, the dogs were great and their pointing gave the hunters a few seconds to switch mental gears so to be ready for that flush that would happen any second. When it did happen, the birds’ flight patterns were not as fast as the quails’ but seemed to be more erratic. Again, this is where a shotgun that naturally points greatly helped me harvest that bird.

What made a lasting impression on me with these three shotguns, especially the semi-autos, was that even when filthy, they simply did not malfunction. During all that shooting – and gun writers have never been known for being over-protective with test guns – the S&W shotguns continued to work flawlessly. Even though I at times have a mental block with any side-by-side shotgun, the Elite Gold 20 gauge was a pleasure to carry and shoot.

With over-under and semi-autos admittedly being my preference, I was not disappointed with the Elite Silver over/under or the Series 1000 semiautos. The 12-gauge models I shot were on the heavy side but, being so well balanced, they made swinging and point shooting feel natural. When you’re hunting and a bird goes up, the shotgun should be shouldered and fired almost instinctively. If your alignment is good, the bird falls out of the sky. When this consistently happens, at least part of the credit should go to the shotgun – and credit is certainly due to the new S&W shotguns.

What was also interesting was that none of the S&W shotguns was a favorite of everyone. Some preferred the 20 gauge side-by-side, others the over-under and others the semi-auto, which just goes to show you that love is ever in the eye of the beholder. It also means that there is something for everyone from Smith & Wesson.

Entering the shotgun market was an adventurous step for a company whose expertise was, and still is, handguns. Yet it was that adventurous attitude that drove S&W to apply for new patents and to build a plant in Turkey dedicated entirely to ensuring the quality of these new shotguns.

Sources for Additional Information:
Boyt Harness Company (800) 550-2698

Smith & Wesson (800) 331-0852

Selman Ranch (580) 256-2006

Gun Digest 2011 - The World's Greatest Gun BookThis article is an excerpt from Gun Digest 2011. Click here to order your copy.