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Top Upland Hunting Shotgun Options (2022)

Top Shotgun CZ-USA BOBWHITE G2 WITH WIREHAIR POINTER

Hit the field and fill your bag with these top upland hunting shotgun options available today.

Updated 5/03/2022

What Are Your Best Bets For Upland Shotguns:

The days when we used one shotgun for everything are long past. Your granddad and Uncle Bill might have owned a Browning Auto 5 or a Model 12 Winchester and used it for anything with feathers or fur.

Times change. Today, hunters want specialized tools to bag their particular quarry. To that end, we’re looking at the top upland bird hunting shotguns available today. Light and fast in the brush, these smoothbores are tailor-made to knock flushing roosters out of the sky.

Browning Citori White Lightning

Top Shotgun Browning Citori White Lightning – 018142304

In 1973, Browning gave us the Citori as a less expensive alternative to the superposed shotgun—the last project of firearms icon John Moses Browning. Now, among the various versions of the Citori, we have a “white” version, meaning the receiver is not blued or color case-hardened, and the natural-colored steel receiver and trigger guard are protected from corrosion by a durable coating process called a “nitrided” finish, which offers similar protection to bluing.

The 16-gauge has enjoyed something of a revival, especially with upland hunters. New for this year is a 16-gauge version of the White Lightning model. With pretty walnut wood, polished-steel, engraved receiver and extended choke tubes, the White Lightning Citori is a sexy devil.
MSRP: $2,839.99; Browning.com

CZ-USA Bobwhite G2

Top Shotgun CZ-USA BOBWHITE G2

Upland hunters have a thing for side-by-side shotguns; there’s no denying it. Every shotgunner wants at least one nice double-barrel in their arsenal. The Bobwhite G2 could be it. CZ improved the original Bobwhite in several ways, including a new, durable finish, internal coil springs instead of leaf springs (they last longer and retain elasticity better) and a CNC-cut receiver with internal workings that work slicker than a greased lizard.

This little gun weighs in at only 5½ pounds and will be the envy of your bird-hunting buddies the minute you pull it out of the case. The Bobwhite G2 ships with five interchangeable chokes, has 28-inch barrels and a somewhat remarkable price.
MSRP: $709; CZ-usa.com


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F.A.I.R. SLX 600 Black

top shotgun slx600-black

Established in 2010, the Italian Firearms Group (IFG) is the importer of four respected Italian firearms manufacturers: F.A.I.R., Sabatti, Tanfoglio and Pedersoli. Manufactured in Italy’s Lombardy region by Fabbrica Armi Isodoro Rizzini (F.A.I.R.), the SLX 600 Black is an upland hunting shotgun with some surprises. First, this gun weighs fewer than 7 pounds—even in the model with 30-inch barrels.

As I’ve said before: You carry a shotgun a lot more than you shoot it. F.A.I.R.’s trademark bright-black bluing on the barrels is impressive, as is the select European walnut stock and forend, which is adorned with fine-pitch laser checkering at 25 lpi. This is old-world Italian craftsmanship … and it shows.

The SLX600 Black can also be purchased with multiple barrel sets, allowing hunters to change out barrels to different gauges as conditions warrant. A 20-gauge set is available for 12-gauge frames, and 20-gauge, 28-gauge and .410 bore are available for 20-gauge frames. All barrel sets come with complete choke tube sets for the corresponding model. If, like me, you are prone to covet a shotgun whose manufacturer’s name you can’t pronounce, the F.A.I.R. SLX 600 Black might be for you.
MSRP: $1,675; ItalianFirearmsGroup.com

Benelli 828U Performance Shop Upland

Top Shotgun 828u_upland_0

Upland bird hunters want a shotgun to be light and fast—as in light to carry in the field and fast to point and get on target. Based on the popular 828U, the Performance Shop Upland features upgrades from Benelli’s Performance Shop to produce a shorter, fast-swinging gun. Benelli shortened the length of pull on this shotgun to 14¼ inches and the barrels to 24 inches. Its weight is only 6.4 pounds.

This gun was made for use in the brush. As with the original Benelli 828U, the Progressive Comfort stock with Quadra Fit customizing system offers less felt recoil and the ability to easily adjust drop, cast, comb height and length of pull for a custom fit. The stock and forend are AA-grade satin walnut, along with an anodized bronze/matte-blue receiver and carbon-fiber stepped rib. The 828U Upland retains the revolutionary breech design with a steel lockplate opening system, eliminating wear and tear on the aluminum receiver.

This shotgun is a looker and has some souped-up ergonomics (that is, how the gun feels when you pick it up, handle it and shoot it) that many bird hunters are going to like.
MSRP: $3,499; BenelliUSA.com

Savage 555 16-Gauge

top shotgun Stevens555_Compact_28GA_RightProfile

As noted earlier, the 16 is back in vogue, mostly because of the demands of grouse and woodcock hunters. Savage has answered the call with a nice, little, over-under in its 555 line that won’t require a co-signer at the bank. An aluminum receiver is scaled to gauge and incorporates a steel insert that reinforces the breech, thus minimizing weight and maximizing strength.

The enhanced version of the 555 features an imperial walnut stock and forend, auto shell ejector and a silver, scroll-engraved filigree ornament receiver. Standard features include a manual safety and a single, selective mechanical trigger. Chrome-lined barrels and a tang-mounted safety are part of the package. This shotgun weighs in at 6½ pounds.
MSRP: $768 (standard model); $937 (enhanced version); SavageArms.com

TriStar TT-15 Field

Top Shotgun TRISTAR TT-15-Field-Web-full

Available in 12-, 20- and 28-gauge as well as .410 bore, this shotgun features a top tang barrel selector and safety, steel mono-block barrel construction and Turkish walnut stock and forearm. The TT-15 Field comes with five interchangeable Beretta/Benelli Mobil-style choke tubes (SK, IC, M, IM, F), choke box and choke wrench.

The primary safety on the TT-15 is located on the top tang. When engaged, the safety is designed to block the trigger, hammer lever and hammer, which makes the firing mechanism immobile. This shotgun boasts robust ejectors—items not usually found on economy-priced guns, and they’re also backed with TriStar’s five-year mechanical warranty.
MSRP: $945 (12- & 20-gauge); TristarArms.com

The article originally appeared in the October 2019 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

6 Top Waterfowl Hunting Shotgun Options (2022)

Waterfowl Shotgun Lead

Rugged enough to survive the harsh conditions of the duck marsh and put meat on the table, these are among the top waterfowl shotguns available today.

Updated 4/28/2022

What Are The Top Waterfowl Shotgun Choices:

At one time considered a generalist, in its modern iteration, the shotgun has become a specialized too. Gone are the days when your granddad would shoulder his good ol’ Browning Auto 5 to bag anything with feathers or fur.

Waterfowlers in particular finicky about what smoothbore they take with them into the blind.

And why not? A shotgun meant to knock down quails on the wing most likely won’t excel at taking down a goose on a high pass shot. With that in mind, we’ve put together the top waterfowl hunting shotguns available today. The guns are tailormade to survive the harsh conditions of the duck marsh and put meat on the table.

Browning BPS

Top Shotgun Browning BPS Field MOSGB – 012288204

The Browning BPS (Browning Pump Shotgun) has been around for more than 50 years and has proved itself in the field. Browning saw fit this year to make a few improvements to this shotgun—which is no stranger to the duck marsh. A redesigned stock and forearms, the addition of Browning’s Inflex recoil system and a larger, more glove-friendly trigger guard are all changes the duck and goose hunter will have no problem with.

The BPS is also now available with a Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Habitat camo pattern for waterfowlers. This model weighs 8 pounds and has a 3½-inch chamber for when you want to shoot the big stuff on geese. It ships with three Invector Plus chokes, has a 26-inch barrel, 14½-inch length of pull and comes with sling swivel studs to better pack it through the swamp. This is a lot of shotgun.
MSRP: $829.99; Browning.com

Benelli Super Black Eagle 3

Benelli Super Black Eagle 3
There’s no question about the quality of Benelli shotguns. From hunting to sporting to tactical applications, Benelli is sure to have a model that is considered to be at the top of its class. When it comes to waterfowl shotguns, that model is the Super Black Eagle 3. The standard model is 12-gauge and features a 3.5-inch chamber, but 20- and 28-gauge offerings are available with a variety of chamber sizes as well. Speaking of options, the Super Black Eagle 3 is also offered with several different finishes, barrel lengths and in both right- and left-handed configurations.

The SBE 3 should be incredibly ergonomic as well, thanks to its stock, controls and redesigned loading system. They call the stock the Comfort Tech 3, and it was designed to dramatically mitigate recoil by way of embedded shock-absorbing inserts and a butt pad. The latest iteration now also incorporates a cheek comb pad to soften impacts on the face. The shotgun also features an oversized safety and bolt handle for easier manipulation of the weapon, and Benelli claims that the new loading system makes reloading effortless.
MSRP: Starts at $1,799; BenelliUSA.com

Remington V3 Pro Waterfowl

Top Shotgun REMINGTON Versa Max Waterfowl Pro_Shotgun_Right Profile_Remingtont (1)

Following on the heels of its daddy (the VersaMax), the V3 has established its place in the world as a soft-shooter. The revolutionary VersaPort Gas system enables this shotgun to shoot the lightest target and dove loads while also handling magnum goose and turkey loads.

Remington stepped up its game with the advent of the V3 Pro series, adding an oversized bolt handle, safety button and bolt release, along with carving out the loading port for easier loading with bulky gloves. The real deal here for duck hunters is the Cerakoted receiver inside and out, because nobody is as hard on a shotgun as a duck and goose hunter.

The V3 Pro Waterfowl includes three black, extended chokes—improved modified, modified and full—and shims to adjust drop and cast on the stock. The barrel is 28 inches long, and the length of pull is 14¼ inches. This could be the indestructible duck gun you’ve been looking for.
MSRP: $999; Remington.com


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Stoeger M3500 Waterfowl

Waterfowl Shotgun Stoeger

Stoeger answered the call from waterfowlers in 2019 with new features on its M3500 Waterfowl shotgun. In my view, the biggest advantage for the waterfowl hunter here is the Cerakoted barrel and receiver in Flat Dark Earth finish. The stock and forend are Realtree MAX-5 camo.

The M3500 is an inertia-driven gun, and loading, unloading and operating it in cold weather is made easier by the oversized bolt handle and bolt-release button. A specially machined and beveled loading port makes feeding shells into the magazine tube with gloved hands quick and efficient. Five (IC, M, XFT, close-range and mid-range) extended choke tubes and a wrench come standard with the Waterfowler.

A shim kit is also included; it allows for adjustment of the gun for drop and cast. The full-length vented rib is topped with an easy-to-see red-bar front sight that stands out in low light. The receiver is drilled and tapped for the addition of an optic, and it ships with a paracord sling. The M3500 shoots 2¾-, 3- and 3½-inch ammo, has a 14 3/8-inch length of pull, weighs 7.8 pounds and comes with a five-year warranty. This is a lot of duck gun.
MSRP: $849; StoegerIndustries.com

CZ-USA 1012 Synthetic Mossy Oak Bottomland Camo

Waterfowl Shotgun CZ 1012Camo

Hunting shotguns should do one thing without fail: go boom! every time you pull the trigger. The new CZ-USA 1012 in Mossy Oak Bottomland camo is a semi-auto that will shoot whatever you stick in it—from light, 2¾-inch loads to heavy, 3-inch Magnums.

This isn’t a gas-powered shotgun that can be a little finicky when it gets dirty; the 1012 uses the energy of the recoil to eject the spent shell and load the next round. CZ-USA put the 1012 through the wringer—firing more than 5,000 rounds without cleaning or any lubricant. The 1012 Synthetic has a 14½-inch length of pull, 8mm flat vent rib, 28-inch barrel, extended black chokes and weighs a surprising 6.5 pounds.
MSRP: $749; CZ-usa.com


TriStar Viper Max 3½-Inch Magnum

Top Shotgun TRISTAR Viper-Max-3.5-Bronze-Blades-Web-full

TriStar has added a 3½-inch, chambered gun to its semi-auto line for the waterfowl hunter. The Viper Max allows you to shoot light target loads to heavy waterfowl loads utilizing a two-piston system. The Viper Max comes with light- and heavy-load pistons.

The light-load piston is used for 2¾-inch shells; heavier magnum rounds use the heavy-load piston. The secondary piston can be stored in the forearm for easy retrieval. The Viper Max comes with four Beretta/Benelli Mobil Chokes (SK, IC, M, F), as well as overmolded rubber grips on the stock and forearm for added comfort.

A newly developed recoil pad and swivel studs are also included, and the Viper Max is backed by a five-year warranty.
MSRP: $825 (for the Bronze or Mossy Oak Blade model); TristarArms.com

The article originally appeared in the October 2019 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.


Adam Borisenko contributed to this article.

Gamo Swarm Magnum Takes Air Rifle Reloading Up A Notch

Gamo Swarm Magnum 1

A repeating air rifle with velocity to spare, the Gamo Swarm Magnum brings air power to the hunt.

How The Gamo Swarm Magnum Blows The Competition Away:

  • 10-shot rotary magazine that feeds a new pellet into the chamber every time the rifle is cocked.
  • Pushes .22 pellets at the top edge of break barrel velocities — 1300 fps.
  • Two-stage adjustable trigger, known as the CAT System (Custom Action Trigger.
  • Double-integrated sound moderator built into the barrel.
  • RRR System (Recoil Reducing Rail), a two-piece aluminum rail separated by dual polymer struts, absorbs recoil.

Dotzie, my little mountain cur squirrel dog, was very insistent. “Get over here — and get over here right now,” she said loud and clear while barking up a red oak tree 200 yards from me. Arriving on the scene I found the brindle-and-white-colored canine dancing around the tree and telling the world she had a squirrel up there, dead to rights. Now it was time for me to do my part.

After a considerable search, the grey squirrel was located high in the oak tree plastered to limb. Instead of the usual .22 caliber firearm, I eased the Gamo pellet rifle against a convenient tree for a rest and started the trigger squeeze with the squirrel in the scope. The shot was close but no cigar … and the squirrel was off to the races through the treetops.

Grabbing the barrel of the rifle, I quickly cranked it downward, cocking the rifle while the loading mechanism automatically inserted another .22 pellet into the chamber. Following the squirrel in the scope as best I could, I waited for him to pause briefly as he would leap from limb to limb. This process entailed moving from tree to tree with the squirrel, and Dotzie following the squirrel with me, all the while barking furiously. The tree rat finally paused a half second too long, I delivered the shot, and Dotzie was more than happy to grab it when it hit the ground. Without the quick reloading feature on the Gamo, I would not have collected the squirrel.

A New Era In Pellet Rifles

About 3 years ago, Gamo made history when they unveiled the 10X Quick-Shot technology for what is basically a repeater pellet rifle. Someone at Gamo was on their game when this self-loading feature was conceived.

For the author, “fun” is found in the squirrel woods with a good air rifle and his mountain cur, Dotzie.
For the author, “fun” is found in the squirrel woods with a good air rifle and his mountain cur, Dotzie.

In a nutshell, the rifle employs a 10-shot rotary magazine that snaps into the top of the barrel and feeds a new pellet into the chamber every time the rifle is cocked. The advantage of rapid reloading when hunting small game and varmints cannot be overemphasized. The magazine-fed convenience was first shown on the Swarm Maxxim .177 caliber air rifle, and now 10X Quick-Shot tech is available on the Swarm Magnum .22 caliber pellet rifle.

More Power, More Speed

Air gun geeks are just like the rest of the world: They want more — more in the form of power, force delivered with a pellet — and this is accomplished with more speed. Like race cars and horses, air gun makers want to go faster.

“The Swarm Maxxim produced 975 fps in .22 caliber, and the Swarm Magnum pushes that up to the top edge of break barrel velocities at 1300 fps,” said Lawrence Taylor, Director of Public Relations at Gamo. “A .22-caliber pellet traveling at that velocity packs a punch downrange. The Swarm Magnum is a good choice for hunting small game like squirrels and rabbits anywhere, but especially in semi-urban areas where it’s not safe to shoot a .22 rimfire that has the potential to travel a mile.”


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The Swarm Magnum achieves these pellet speeds by means of the IGT (Inert Gas Technology) Mach 1 power plant; this is the cylinder that air is compressed into when the air rifle is cocked. The Mach 1’s 33 millimeter pneumatic cylinder rockets pellets up to 1,300 fps. It also promotes smooth and consistent cocking with constant power delivered to any pellet you shoot. Key benefits of this system over a spring system air rifle are higher velocities, more accuracy and less vibration when the air rifle is fired.

The Gamo Swarm Magnum uses the company’s 10x Quick Shot System, which auto-loads a new pellet each time the gun’s break-barrel action is cycled.
The Gamo Swarm Magnum uses the company’s 10x Quick Shot System, which auto-loads a new pellet each time the gun’s break-barrel action is cycled.

The heart of any rifle is the trigger, and the Swarm Magnum has a two-stage adjustable trigger, known as the CAT System (Custom Action Trigger). This is pretty heavy stuff for a pellet rifle: Both stages are adjustable and you can do it yourself, on the kitchen table, with no gunsmith needed.

Suppressed Is Not Silent

Achieving great speed in a pellet rifle is a trade-off in that the faster the pellet travels, the more noise the gun will make. Whisper Fusion on the Swarm Magnum incorporates a double-integrated sound moderator into the barrel. The pellet travels through two different chambers, compressing and preventing noise expansion.

“I always tell folks getting into air guns to not expect these high-speed rifles to be same as the BB and pellet guns of their youth,” Taylor said. “They are always surprised by the crack of a high-velocity gun.” The reason for this is simple: The speed of sound is around 1,125 fps, and when the pellet’s velocity exceeds this, you get the resulting crack of breaking the sound barrier. Heavier pellets will reduce the speed, and if you get below this threshold you will notice a reduction in sound.

The Mystery of Recoil

Recoil in air rifles perplexes many new shooters. Put a scope intended for a firearm on an air rifle and you may be headed for trouble. Air guns tend to have a weird “backward” recoil, more so on spring-powered guns, but the break-action air-powered guns can also be problematic as the piston slams forward — not backward — as it does in a firearm.

Are small-bore air rifles the new .22LRs? No way. But — their accuracy and velocity capabilities make them a viable option for small game hunting and light range work.
Are small-bore air rifles the new .22LRs? No way. But — their accuracy and velocity capabilities make them a viable option for small game hunting and light range work.

Gamo uses the RRR System (Recoil Reducing Rail) on the Swarm Magnum, which is a two-piece aluminum rail separated by dual polymer struts to absorb the shockwaves generated by the recoil. The rail also features a hole, and the front ring a peg that fits into it during mounting. Users must remove the scope from the rings first, fit the peg into the hole and use the wrench to snug it down, and then mount the scope. This system makes for the most solid fit with less vibration and less damage to the scope.

The Bottom Line

You may very well be surprised with the accuracy of the Swarm Magnum — I was. I expected enough accuracy for hitting squirrels and other small game at short or medium ranges (50 yards or less), but I did not expect .22LR-like groups on paper. Along with this accuracy, the air gun has lots of power, more so than some other pellet rifles I’ve hunted with — and it seemed to have no problem taking down squirrels.

The cocking effort on this air gun is 41 pounds, meaning that it takes that much pressure to pull the barrel down and cock the rifle. Your 6-year-old is probably not going to be able to do this unless he or she is already training for college football, but for most adults it should not be a problem. The scope supplied with the air rifle is not a high-end optic, but it is adequate and filled the bill for the testing and hunting I did with it.

Gamo addressed the air gun recoil demon with the RRR System — and this is important. Trying to sight in an air rifle, or any rifle for that matter, is a gold-plated mess if you can’t keep scope mounts, scope ring screws and all that goes with it tight and in its place. So far, this rail system seems to be taming the air gun recoil exceptionally well.

Today’s air rifles are far removed from boyhood BB guns. The Gamo Swarm Magnum fires a .22-caliber pellet up to 1,300 fps.
Today’s air rifles are far removed from boyhood BB guns. The Gamo Swarm Magnum fires a .22-caliber pellet up to 1,300 fps.

The 10X Quick Shot system simply makes shooting an air rifle quicker and more enjoyable, and for hunting or pest control, follow-up shots are much faster. If I would have had one of these rifles when I was a kid preying on English sparrows, starlings and other pest birds, I would have probably taken several thousand more than I did. And if you carry additional preloaded magazines in your pocket, reloading is really, really fast.

For small game hunting, pest control or just plain ol’ plinking with your kids, the Swarm Magnum with an MSRP of $279 will be hard to beat.

The article originally appeared in the February 2019 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

Birdshot For Home Defense: Too Much, Too Little Or Just Right?

Shotgun-penatration-8

Does birdshot provide the stopping power you need without concerns of over penetration? We test to find out.

Is Birdshot Wise For Home Defense:

  • Fine shot, delivered from close-range tends to pattern very close together and will leave a wound much like a shotgun slug.
  • While a standard wall (in testing) will stop much of the birdshot, it's still wise to consider the potential for bystander injury.
  • If in a home alone, buck might be a more potent option.

Right after the much beloved 1911 pistol versus Glock handguns argument, maybe no other firearms topic enjoys as much debate as shotguns for home defense. And because the shotgun is such a versatile weapon and can fire drastically different types of ammunition, this leads to another dimension in the debate: Which is what type of ammo is best for home defense? Law enforcement agencies have long used No. 00 buckshot as the ammo of choice, and within the effective yardage boundaries of buckshot, there’s no doubt it is effective.

In my time of wearing a badge and toting a gun, I saw lots of people that had been shot, including many with shotguns. Some were murders, some were intruders in homes and a lot were hunting-related shootings — both people being mistaken for game and accidental discharges. One thing always surprised me: how many fatalities actually occurred with shotguns, even at some distance. Though the pattern of the shot had acquired some spread, often some of the shot would find its way to the victim’s vitals … and it was lights out.

The specter that always arises is the issue of using large buckshot for home defense purposes, or instead using something that’s seemingly tamer, such as in shotshells loaded with No. 6 or No. 7½ shot. Proponents of large buckshot will say that No. 00 buck loads are needed to put down an aggressor. Those who chose smaller shot for these situations maintain that buckshot tends to have too much penetration and will endanger others in the house when it shoots through walls.

The test including the construction of simulation wall, including two layers of sheetrock, fiberglass insulation and 2x4 studs. A second wall with a gel block was added 4 feet behind the first, to simulate an in-home hallway.
The test including the construction of simulation wall, including two layers of sheetrock, fiberglass insulation and 2×4 studs. A second wall with a gel block was added 4 feet behind the first, to simulate an in-home hallway.

So, all that leads to one question: Is smaller shot adequate for home defense concerns and safer for others in the house? Let’s see.

Build The Wall

I built two walls, double-sided with drywall or sheetrock, whatever you call it in your part of the country. The walls were framed in 2×4 pine lumber with studs in the middle, spaced 16 inches on center, and rolled fiberglass insulation between the studs. In other words, they’re much like walls found in most stick-built houses across America.


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The walls were placed about four feet apart to simulate this scenario: If you fire at an intruder in your home with birdshot loads — and miss — what happens to the first wall on impact, what would the effect be on anyone in the simulated hallway, and how would the opposite wall stand up to the pellets? Also to be noted is the spread of the pattern at 10, 15 and 20 feet. Remember: We’re talking about confrontations occurring in the home here, and most would be at very close range.

Pattern from No. 00 buck, fired from 15 feet, detailing the exit from back of the second wall.
Pattern from No. 00 buck, fired from 15 feet, detailing the exit from back of the second wall.

I placed blocks of Clear Ballistics gel in front of the second wall to get some idea about what penetration would be like if a person should be standing in the hallway when the shot came through the first wall.

The entire test was done with a new Retay USA shotgun, the Masai Mara Warden. Retay makes a full line of the Masai Mara (named for a wildlife reserve in Kenya) shotguns in field guns, turkey and waterfowl models. The Warden is a tactical-home defense model and the latest of this line. All of the testing was done with a modified choke. I used 2¾-inch Aguila sporting clays shotgun ammo, packing 1 1/8-ounce of No. 7½ shot moving at 1,325 fps.

Redecorating With A Shotgun

Aided by my able assistant, shots were fired into the first wall from 5, 10, 15 and 20 feet. All of the shot payloads penetrated both sides of the first wall, making a neat hole in the center of the pattern, very similar to that of a slug.

Pattern of No. 7½ birdshot, shot from 20 feet, entrance hole into first wall.
Pattern of No. 7½ birdshot, shot from 20 feet, entrance hole into first wall.

The shot then struck the Clear Ballistics gel and the second wall. Regarding the shot that struck the wall and not the gel: All of it penetrated the front of the wall. Virtually none of the No. 7½ shot emerged from the rear of the second wall, with the exception of one pellet.

And just because I knew it would come up in the mind of someone — maybe everyone — reading this, I fired one round of Remington No. 00 buckshot from 15 feet. The buckshot did not seem to slow down on either wall, and the pattern was about the same on the entrance of the first wall as compared to where it exited the second wall.

Here’s how the information on the test shots into the wall shook out.

Shotgun penatration 15

Thoughts On Shooting Holes In Walls

I would think it’s clear that an assailant at any of the ranges noted (and somewhat beyond) has had a very bad day if shot with birdshot of any size. This is somewhat intuitive information, but a payload of fine shot, delivered from close-range tends to pattern very close together and will leave a wound much like a shotgun slug.

I cannot address this fact without reminding shooters that sights on a tactical or home defense shotgun are very important. The tired old adage of “just point the shotgun in the general direction because you can’t miss” really needs to go away. The cold, hard truth is that you can miss. Look at the pattern sizes of the accompanying images: In home defense situations in close quarters with adrenaline running full blast, missing is very easy to do. Open rifle sights on a shotgun are vital, and large ghost-ring rear sight is even better.

Also important here is the fact that friendlies and family members behind a wall inside the home are very much at risk if we send a load of shot their way. The data shows that after the second wall of standard construction, you may be OK when shooting fine shot — but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it. Knowing where others are located in the home is very important if you ever find yourself in a home defense fiasco.

Another important point is the big difference between birdshot and No. 00 buckshot. We’ve shown that fine shot will be very lethal to your intended target, but it’s more easily stopped by walls inside the home. If you’re alone in your home or think you will always know where family members are located (I wouldn’t bet the farm on that, either), then No. 00 buck might be the way to go — but remember how it exited from the second wall.

This article originally appeared in the March 2019 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

Best Shotguns And Shotgun Shells For 2019

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The must-have shells and best shotguns to keep you blasting away in 2019.

What are the best shotguns and ammo this year:

Ah the shotgun … as ubiquitous as cravenness in politics, but a whole load more useful, and enjoyable. Arguably the most versatile of all firearms, outside of going center mass on a nickel at 1,000 paces it will get most jobs done. Hunting, home defense, plain ol’ busting clays – it’s got you covered. And the scattergun continues to get better.

We’re not just talking guns here, though there are some real gems that shine through as of late. But also what you feed these ravenous beasts. Never before have shotgun shells been better designed and higher performing than today, with cutting-edge shot and materials milking the most out of your favorite smoothbore. Turkeys and intruders beware.

A new year well upon us, there’s already been some solid additions to the shotgun end of the market and plenty to add to your guns safe. So, without further ado, here are eight new shotguns and shotgun ammo options you need on your radar.

Winchester Ammunition Xpert Snow Goose

Best Shotguns WINCHESTER XPERT SNOW GOOSE

Xpert Snow Goose shotshells were designed with the hardcore snow geese hunter in mind and combines two of Winchester’s waterfowl technologies: Xpert steel shot and the Diamond Cut Wad. Xpert Snow Goose is available in 12 gauge 3-inch and 3.5-inch BB, and also with a duplex payload of No. 1 and No. 2 shot. These shotshells also use a gray hulls, so leery snow geese are less likely to spot the pile of hulls around your blind when the shooting is good. MSRP: $16.50 for 3-inch Xpert box of 25; $21 for 3½-inchers // www.winchester.com

CZ-USA CZ 1012

Best Shotguns CZ-USA 1012 AUTOLOADER BRONZE

Brand new for CZ-USA is an auto-loading shotgun that’s not gas operated. The new CZ 1012 makes use of a spring-bolt system, which stores the energy of the fired shell and uses it to rotate and unlock the twin lugs of the barrel extension and eject the spent casing. The functioning advantages are huge: The amount of fouling and powder residue is greatly decreased, and cleaning the gun is much less a concern. The CZ 1012 has a 28-inch barrel and five extended chokes tubes, weighs 6½ pounds and two of the models have a cool grey or bronze finish. MSRP: $659 // www.cz-usa.com

CZ-USA Bobwhite G2

Best Shotguns CZ-USA BOBWHITE G2

CZ-USA also brought back a popular double-barrel shotgun: the Bobwhite G2. This trim little gun has a straight English-style stock with double triggers and a new durable finish, 28-inch barrels and ships with five chokes. The Bobwhite has been improved with a CNC-machined receiver and a new internal spring system using coil instead of leaf springs, which last longer and retain their tension and elasticity better. The 28 gauge model is a petite little thing that’s very seductive and weighs 5½ pounds. MSRP: $655 // www.cz-usa.com


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Charles Daly AR-12S

Best Shotguns CHARLES DALY AR12 S SHOTGUN

Several new shotguns are to be released by Charles Daly for 2019, and one is the AR-12S shotgun, featuring a 19.75-inch barrel with a modified Beretta/Benelli Mobil Choke, chambered in 3-inch 12-gauge. It has an adjustable comb, a carry handle, adjustable rear sight and standard front sight, and it comes with a single-stack five-round magazine. MSRP: $517 // www.charlesdaly.com

Charles Daly Honcho Tactical Triple

Best Shotguns CHARLES DALY HONCHO TRIPLE SHOTGUN

Also new in the lineup is the Honcho Tactical Triple, featuring three 18.5-inch barrels with a bottom-barrel-mounted Pic rail. The gun is available in 12-gauge or .410 bore, both with 3-inch chambers. Fire sequence: right, left, top. Intimidation factor as a home defense weapon: off the charts. MSRP: $1,299 // www.charlesdaly.com

Mossberg 590 Nightstick

Best Shotguns MOSSBERG 590 NIGHTSTICK FIREARM

The Mossberg 590 Nightstick is the latest edition in the series built on the Model 590 action. The Nightstick features a 14-inch heavy-walled barrel, a 5+1 round capacity and a matte blue finish. The main event here is the wood furniture on this gun, which gives a retro look that has to be noticed. MSRP: $539 // www.mossberg.com

Benelli 828U Sport

Best Shotguns BENELLI 828-U-sporting-intero-NEWwhite (2)

There is no doubt that Benelli makes some fine shotguns with its proven inertia system. So, for the company to bring out its first O/U shotgun is big news, even though it was officially new early in 2018. The Benelli 828U Sport features excellent ergonomics, and some of the goodies include an adjustable weighting system to adjust the balance of the shotgun, matte blue finish and AA-Grade satin walnut. The 828U is built around a steel receiver for additional weight, and the improved grip angle and comb height work in conjunction with the tall rib and sight channel to point fast and swing smooth. MSRP: $4,399 // https://www.benelliusa.com/

Browning TSS Tungsten Turkey

Best Shotguns Browning TSS Tungsten Turkey box (1)

Browning is announcing its new TSS Tungsten Turkey loads with new duplex payloads of No. 7 and 9 shot, as well as No. 7 shot. The TSS shot used in these loads has a high density of 18gm/cc, which means greater pellet energy and longer range performance. The duplex payloads of No. 7 and 9 shot deliver three times more pellets on target and 30 percent deeper penetration in a 20-inch circle at 60 yards when compared to standard No. 5 lead loads. A .410 bore of No. 9 TSS shot offering is also available and boasts 70 percent more pellets in a 20-inch circle at 60 yards vs. standard 12 gauge No. 5 lead loads … and it provides similar penetration. MSRP: $44, 12 gauge 3-inch box of five; $39 for 20 gauge // www.browningammo.com

Editor's Notes: This article originally appeared in the December 2018 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

Winchester Model 12: The Perfect Pump-Action Shotgun

The Winchester Model 12 shotgun set the mold — and then broke it — for what a pump-action gun should be.

What Makes the Winchester Model 12 An Exceptional Pump-Action:

  • Internal hammer streamlines an action made from a single billet of forged steel
  • Internal parts are all hand fitted giving it an extremely smooth action
  • Bolt locks directly into the receiver, making the action exceedingly strong
  • Overall graceful lines that make it a real looker
  • Offered in 12, 16 and 20 gauge

I will never be able to look at a Model 12 Winchester shotgun without thinking of him. Tall and lanky, he was one of those guys who seemed all disjointed and clumsy, but he wasn’t. He could walk in the mountains all day and he didn’t seem to tire. His long legs gave him a stride that was seemingly impossible to keep up with.

The internal parts of the Model 12 action were all hand-fitted and machined to precise specifications. This gave the Model 12 its reputation for a smooth action with excellent reliability, and it’s the primary reason why so many of these guns still work and see the fields today.
The internal parts of the Model 12 action were all hand-fitted and machined to precise specifications. This gave the Model 12 its reputation for a smooth action with excellent reliability, and it’s the primary reason why so many of these guns still work and see the fields today.

As a boy, I have a distinct memory of following him and I was almost always running, running to catch up. I can see him ahead of me, a Winchester Model 12 casually resting on his shoulder as he disappeared behind some big oak or tangle of brush. I guess he waited for me at times; he never left me in the woods.

I called him my “hunting uncle” because he was a friend of my father’s, but not blood kin. He was inherited from my dad and, after a few years, I was allowed to venture into the grouse and turkey woods with him even if Dad couldn’t make it that day.

It’s funny how kids see things in the world: At the time, I never questioned how he was able to spend so much time in the woods with me and a Model 12 shotgun. He didn’t seem to have a regular job, a wife and family, or any of the other things that would keep most people from going hunting whenever they wanted. I never asked him about any of this because I just wanted to go hunting. And he did, too, so we went. Things were much simpler then.


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We had ruffed grouse in my part of the world back then, in numbers far exceeding what we have now. He always had good dog, either a skinny pointer or cat-footed setter with a bloodied tip on its tail — and let me tell you, they were some kind of deadly. I’m sure he missed sometimes, but I can’t remember it. If there was more than one bird on a flush or he needed a second shot, I could hear the cha-chank of the action between rounds … but it was lightning fast. He did all of this with a battle-worn Winchester Model 12 that had an action as smooth as newly churned butter. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever be able to shoot like him.

He was a Model 12 man all the way, though he had other shotguns, and lots of them. He had a house full of guns, but the Model 12 Winchester was his hands-down favorite. “Finest pump gun ever made,” I can still hear him say when he would catch me handling one of his collection. This man, who was way larger than life to me as a kid, held the Winchester Model 12 as possibly the greatest shotgun ever made. Was it?

The Man From Utah And Beyond

Most discussions on the history of any iconic firearm start with John Moses Browning. At the risk of stating the obvious, Browning was a certifiable genius in firearm design whose name is linked to dozens of well-known guns — including the Colt 1911 pistol, the Browning A5 shotgun, the Winchester Model 1894 lever-action rifle and the Model 1918 Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) — to name only a few.

Winchester Model 12 1

Shotgun history lore holds that Winchester wanted John Browning to design a repeating shotgun, and Browning wanted to go with a pump-action model. Winchester at the time believed they needed to stay with a lever-action gun because this was their trademark, so Browning gave the world the Winchester 1887 shotgun.

The Model 1887 did OK, but it had some demons in the form of functioning issues, and Winchester relented and gave John Browning the go-ahead to work on a pump-action shotgun. Browning whipped out the Winchester Model 1893 in short order, and this gun was soon replaced by the Model 1897 (aka the Model 97): a solid, tank-like shotgun that sold for more than 60 years.

Some sources give John Browning the credit for the Winchester Model 12 shotgun, but the real daddy of the Model 12 was a fellow working for Winchester by the name of Thomas Crossley Johnson.

T.C. Johnson went to work at Winchester at the tender age of 23 and worked there almost 50 years, accumulating 125 patents on firearms — including the Model 21 double-barreled shotgun and the Model 12. Johnson took the basic idea for Browning’s 1897 pump gun and reworked it to give us the most elegant, streamlined shotgun seen up to this point. What T.C. Johnson did, in a stroke of genius differing from Browning, was to do away with that awful exposed hammer on the Winchester model.

The Model 97 had many fans and still does, but these were the ones who had learned to keep their thumb out of the way of the slide, which moves reward from the receiver to cock the gun as the action is worked. For this reason, some dubbed the Model 97 the “thumb buster,” and although most shooters only made this mistake once, T.C. Johnson knew there was a better way.

The Perfect Repeater

Johnson worked his magic and developed an internal hammer inside a streamlined receiver made from a single billet of forged steel. The internal parts of the action were all hand-fitted and machined to precise specifications. This gave the Winchester Model 12 its reputation for a smooth action, probably unrivaled to this day.

Winchester Model 12 3

While the internal workings of the Model 97 were no slouch, the Model 12 action is stronger in that the bolt locks directly into the receiver. The safety is located on the front of the trigger guard where it should be because the finger of the shooter naturally rests there, not on the rear of the trigger guard. The trigger pull on a Model 12 is superior to any pump gun offered today, which is something most shooters don’t think about.

Most Model 12 shotguns produced had no trigger disconnector. This means, like its predecessor the Model 97, it could be “slam fired.” By depressing and holding the trigger a round can be fired every time the action is worked. Other than a combat situation, the actual practicality for this type of firing may be questionable, but a skilled shooter can slam fire a Model 12 faster than most auto-loading shotguns can be cycled.

When the Model 1912 made the scene in 1912 (shortened to “Model 12” in 1919), it soon became the darling of hunters, trap and skeet shooters, and shotgunners in general. Remember: Up until this point, most people were shooting double-barrel shotguns; the age of the repeating shotgun was just starting.

The Model 97 had been around awhile, but when shooters saw the graceful lines of the Model 12 compared to the homely old thumb buster ’97, it was love at first sight. The Model 12 seduced many a shooter — and it did so for the next 46 years. The Winchester salespeople dubbed it “The Perfect Repeater,” and most sportsman and shooters believed it.

For reasons that are not really clear, the first year of the Model 1912 shotgun produced only 20-gauge offerings. In 1913, it became available in 12 and 16 gauge, and in 1934 a 28-gauge version was added. (If you find a 28-gauge Model 12, you had better buy it or I will). If you find a .410 Model 12, you had really better buy it because Winchester never made one.

Winchester Model 12

Winchester engineer William Roemer designed a perfectly scaled-down version of the Model 12 for the .410 bore: It was christened the Model 42 and produced from 1933-1963 in Field, Deluxe and Skeet models. A Model 42 Winchester is a thing of beauty, and I always thought any man (or woman) shooting skeet with a Model 42 had a certain sense of style. The Model 12 man from my youth had one Model 42 he let get away from him in a trade, and I think he regretted it to the grave.

The total list of all available models and variations of the Winchester Model 12 can boggle the mind of the most ardent Model 12 aficionado. Field guns were offered in 12, 16 and 20 gauges with full, modified and improved-cylinder choked barrels. Screw-in chokes had made the scene by the late 1950s, and Winchester offered them in the “way ahead of its time” Model 59 — but that’s another story completely for another issue.

Trap and Skeet guns, Deluxe Pigeon Grades and Super Field Grades were all there to lust after. Among the variations available, Model 12s could be ordered with a Cutts Compensator or a Poly Choke; they were ugly as hell but they shot like a house on fire. Barrels on Model 12s were Winchester proof steel and made in standard blue, stainless and nickel steel. You have to figure a man carrying a Model 12 with a nickel steel barrel is not to be trifled with.

By the middle 1950s, a standard order Model 12 had an MSRP of $93.85. That was with a plain barrel and no rib; it weighed 7.5 pounds and had a very pretty American walnut stock and forearm. The Pigeon Grade VR Trap Gun model, at about the same time, sold for $260, the most expensive Model 12 in its day. Try to find one for that now.

Like the Model 97, the Ithaca Model 37 and others, the Model 12 had a long run with the military starting in World War I and extending all the way into the Vietnam era. Model 12 shotguns became known as “trench guns” and were supplied with heat shields on the barrel and bayonet lugs. Can you imagine troops in trench warfare slam-firing a Model 12? A few years later they could have been back in Kansas, pheasant hunting with the exact same gun.

The Model 12 era really ended in 1950 when Remington trotted out the Model 870 pump gun. The very things that made the Model 12 what it was — the machined, hand-fitted inner workings of the shotgun — made it too expensive to produce. This was a new age of stamped parts and lower production costs.

The Winchester Model 12 was discontinued as a production gun in 1964, and the world tilted a little on its axis that day.

Editor's Notes: This article originally appeared in the December 2018 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

Operation Shotgun Recoil Reduction

Bad shotgun habits abound, nine times out of 10 precipitated by a gun's recoil.

What are the three ways to reduce a shotgun's recoil:

  • Increase the weight of the gun.
  • Shoot lighter loads with less velocity.
  • Insert some form of compensation between the gun and your shoulder.

Without a doubt, the greatest foe of our shooting enjoyment is the old demon recoil. Recoil — and the resulting “kick” — is the root of most all evil in our shooting habits, whether we flinch, jerk triggers or stop our gun swing as we try to compensate for getting hammered when the gun goes boom. Recoil is the greatest obstacle of novice and first-time shooters even getting introduced to the sport. Ask any new shooter as they line up to try the shotgun, and the thing they’re universally most worried about is getting kicked. Hard.

Shotgun Recoil 5

Back in the alleged good old days, it was common practice to hand a kid an ill-fitting shotgun and laugh when it kicked him like an army mule. I would like to say this practice has gone by the wayside, but I still hear about it and see it on various embarrassing videos. There are legions of shooters who will carry bad habits to the grave, most of which are associated with recoil. The point is, shooting a shotgun should be fun — and that means we need to do all we can to control recoil.

There are basically only three ways to reduce recoil in a shotgun: The first is to simply increase the weight of the gun. A heavier shotgun absorbs more of the recoil than a light one. This is why field guns used for hunting are heavier than competition shotguns for trap or sporting clays — hunting loads kick harder. But, you will carry the field gun more than you will shoot it, and just the opposite is true for a competition gun.

Next, you can shoot lighter loads with less velocity. Reducing the amount of powder and lead in the shell will help greatly with recoil reduction. (Newton’s Third Law of Motion, opposite and equal reactions, remember?)

Last, you can insert some form of compensation between the gun and your shoulder. A recoil pad, a compressible device in the stock or a gas-operated action in the shotgun that disperses some of the gases expelled, all lessen recoil.

Find Out More: The Science of Recoil

Soft-Shooting Gas Guns

Gas-operated actions on shotguns can take several forms, but all of them use some type of piston which, by the pressure of the fired round, moves the action of the weapon. In this way the action is opened, the bolt moves back, the empty is extracted and the new round placed in the chamber. Boom, boom, boom.

Remington’s V3 utilizes a series of ports located within the chamber. These ports are positioned so that recoil reduction happens regardless of the shotshell size being used. With a 2¾-inch shell, all seven ports are exposed — directing the expelled gas into two compartments that hold the VersaPort pistons, which work the action of the shotgun. With a 3-inch round, four of the ports are utilized. And with a 3½-inch shell, only three ports are uncovered.
Remington’s V3 utilizes a series of ports located within the chamber. These ports are positioned so that recoil reduction happens regardless of the shotshell size being used. With a 2¾-inch shell, all seven ports are exposed — directing the expelled gas into two compartments that hold the VersaPort pistons, which work the action of the shotgun. With a 3-inch round, four of the ports are utilized. And with a 3½-inch shell, only three ports are uncovered.

Looking back, 1963 was definitely the watershed year for gas-operated shotguns because Remington introduced the Model 1100. The 1100 followed the Remington Model 58 and 858, and it replaced them as it became the first successful (and reliable) auto-loading gas-driven shotgun. Soon after coming onto the scene, the 1100 became the darling of trap shooters, skeet shooters and hunters as well.

Much of what made the 1100 so successful was that its gas-driven action took some of the sting out of shooting, and it could run different kinds of ammo — such as 2¾- and 3-inch shotshells in the Magnum models. This happened to be foreshadowing of the appearance of the VersaMax years later by Remington.

The Model 1100 bleeds off some of the gasses from the fired shell and uses part of them to work the action as any auto-loader gas gun does. The real genius in the 1100 action is that it’s basically a gas-powered Model 870 pump gun. The ports, which bleed off excess gas, are found near the front of the forearm. The gas from the fired round is used to work the action and move the action sleeve, which connects to the bolt carrier and ejects the empty casing. A new shell is released from the magazine: This trips the carrier release, and as the action spring in the stock pushes the bolt forward, the bolt grabs the new round and pushes it into the chamber.

Read Also: Gun Review: Classic Remington Model 1100

All of this sounds fairly easy on paper, but as you might suspect, the sequence has to be finely tuned to function properly, and the Remington engineers made sure they had it right before they unveiled the 1100. Like all gas-powered actions, the Model 1100 has one big nemesis: The accumulation of burned powder and fouling from the fired shells. Most 1100 shooters will tell you that the gun needs to be stripped down and cleaned after 200 rounds or so.

Gas-powered shotguns did not change much after the Model 1100 for years. In 2010, Remington brought a new operation system to the shotgun world: Remington revamped a model for a gas-powered shotgun that was first created in Italy and put to use in the Benelli M4. Remington engineers worked their magic on this concept and gave us the VersaPort system.

The VersaPort in the VersaMax system utilizes the pressure from a fired shell very quickly by venting it through the orifice holes in the chamber. This enables the Remington V3 and VersaMax to convert the energy created by the gas into work to drive the system sooner, over a longer period of time — enabling the system to spread out the energy created over a longer period of time, reducing felt recoil.
The VersaPort in the VersaMax system utilizes the pressure from a fired shell very quickly by venting it through the orifice holes in the chamber. This enables the Remington V3 and VersaMax to convert the energy created by the gas into work to drive the system sooner, over a longer period of time — enabling the system to spread out the
energy created over a longer period
of time, reducing felt recoil.

The VersaPort system was revolutionary in a couple different ways. First, it used the length of the individual shell being fired to regulate how much of the expelled gases to be used. With a 2¾-inch shell in the chamber, all seven of the small ports are exposed — and these ports put the expelled gas into two compartments that hold the VersaPort pistons, which work the action of the shotgun. With a 3-inch round, four of the ports are utilized. And with a 3½-inch shell, only three ports are uncovered.

Another major breakthrough of the VersaPort system is the concept of how quickly the gas from the fired shell is captured and used. Firearms engineers have long known that the faster the gases are captured and used to function the shotgun — or ported out of the system — the less recoil will be transferred to the shooter.

“The impulse (impulse = force x time) created by the ignition of a given shell is the same in any shotgun,” said Andy Haskins, a Research and Development Engineer at Remington Arms company. “The VersaPort system utilizes the pressure from a fired shell sooner than other gas systems by venting it through the orifice holes in the chamber. This enables the V3 and Versa Max to convert the energy created by the gas into work to drive the system sooner … and over a longer period of time. By venting the gas earlier, combined with the Supercell recoil pad, we’re able spread out the energy created by the recoil event (impulse) over a longer period of time, therefore reducing the peak force felt by the shooter.”

Conventional gas-operated systems before VersaPort located the gas ports as much as 10 inches in front of the chamber; the VersaPort utilizes the gases almost immediately. The twin pistons below the chamber move very little by using the force of the expelled gas, but the bolt is moved backward and the fired casing is ejected and a new round is chambered. The twin piston system eliminated the use of different O-rings, metal adjustment rings and other items that are sometimes a headache to deal with.

Facing Inertia-Driven Recoil

No doubt you’ve heard more about a gun inventor from Utah named John Moses Browning than you have about Danish gunmaker Christer Sjörgren. In 1903, both unveiled what would become iconic recoil operated shotgun actions. Browning gave us the Automatic 5, with what became known as the long recoil system. Sjörgren’s shotgun harnessed the force of inertia and used it to move the bolt backward as it pushed against a spring. This motion ejects the fired shell and loads a fresh round as the bolt returns to battery for firing.

Find Out More: Auto-5: Those Hammerin’ Humpbacks

ComforTech recoil systems on Benelli synthetic-stocked guns, like the Super Black Eagle 3, utilize 24 synthetic, recoil-absorbing chevrons. The chevrons are arranged diagonally from the heel of the buttstock to a point just behind the grip. The stock is designed so the exterior shell flexes outward to further dampen recoil.
ComforTech recoil systems on Benelli synthetic-stocked guns, like the Super Black Eagle 3, utilize 24 synthetic, recoil-absorbing chevrons. The chevrons are arranged diagonally from the heel of the buttstock to a point just behind the grip. The stock is designed so the exterior shell flexes outward to further dampen recoil.

So, the inertia gun was born — but the idea remained largely dormant until it was resurrected by Benelli in the late 1960s. Benelli embraced the inertia system and incorporated it in its line of semi-auto shotguns, including its iconic Super Black Eagle. It should come as no surprise that other shotgun-focused companies — Franchi and Stoeger — also offer inertia shotguns.

Here’s the deal on inertia-driven shotguns: Most have less moving parts than the gas-operated guns, there are no pistons and chambers to capture and route the expelled gases, and with less parts these guns are almost always lighter. The inertia gun uses the force of the gas to move the action of the gun rearward — it doesn’t vent any of it off to lessen recoil. Inertia guns are generally considered less finicky, easier to clean and will operate under severe conditions. The downside is that they’re also known to kick harder than gas-operated shotguns.

So, how do we handle the old demon recoil in inertia guns?

The folks at Benelli knew long ago that they’d have to deal with the recoil associated with inertia guns. Currently, Benelli employs two systems for recoil control in semi-autos: Wood-stocked shotguns use the Progressive Comfort System, and synthetic-stocked shotguns have the ComforTech technology.

The Progressive Comfort recoil-reduction system incorporates three sets of patented interlocking flexible buffers that absorb recoil at different stages, dependent on the strength of the shotshell’s load. Looking at the inside of a Benelli Ethos shotgun stock, you can see the polymer system, which includes three sets of fingers. These three sets of fingers each have a different elasticity, and the load used determines which sets of fingers are utilized for maximum recoil reduction. The first set of fingers is very flexible for light loads, the second set a bit stiffer for field loads and the third set is optimized for heavy magnum loads.

Learn More: Benelli Ethos 28 Gauge Shotgun

Benelli uses the Progressive Comfort recoil-reduction system in its wood stocks, which incorporates three sets of patented interlocking flexible buffers that absorb recoil at different stages, dependent on the strength of the shotshell’s load. As shown in this Ethos stock, the first set of fingers is very flexible for light loads, the second set a bit stiffer for field loads and the third set is optimized for magnum loads.
Benelli uses the Progressive Comfort recoil-reduction system in its wood stocks, which incorporates three sets of patented interlocking flexible buffers that absorb recoil at different stages, dependent on the strength of the shotshell’s load. As shown in this Ethos stock, the first set of fingers is very flexible for light loads, the second set a bit stiffer for field loads and the third set is optimized for magnum loads.

ComforTech recoil systems on Benelli synthetic-stocked guns, such as the company’s flagship Super Black Eagle 3 shotgun, deal with recoil in a different manner. The stock is divided by 24 synthetic, recoil-absorbing chevrons. The chevrons are arranged diagonally from the heel of the buttstock to a point just behind the grip. The stock is designed so the exterior shell flexes outward to further dampen recoil. Together with the ComforTech Plus recoil pad, this design spreads the peak force of recoil over a longer period of time.

A nice addition to the Benelli line is the ComforTech Plus Comb Pad. Part of what we associate with the “kick” of a shotgun is the pounding we may get from the comb of the stock on your cheek. This pad cushions the cheek during recoil and provides a slick surface that allows your cheek to slide along the comb during recoil. This eliminates frictional resistance and insulates your face from shock and vibration.

Remember: The “kick” you feel when shooting a shotgun — known as felt recoil — is subjective. How much you think a shotgun kicks may not be the same for me or your shooting buddy. How much a recoil pad or a certain stock design helps with demon recoil may be like saying who the prettiest girl in your senior class was — everyone may not agree.

So, with that in mind, find a system that works well for you and your shooting style: Your comfort level and overall accuracy will greatly improve.

This article originally appeared in the 2018 Shooting Is Fun issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

5 Common Shotgun Shooting Mistakes And How To Correct Them

World-record shotgun shooter Dave Miller identifies the five most common missteps that plague shotgunners and their cures.

What are the common shotgun shooting mistakes:

Shooting a shotgun is easy, right? Everybody knows you just point the muzzle in the general direction of the target and pull the trigger. With all those hundreds of shot pellets it’s hard to miss. But — somehow — we do miss … and some of us miss a lot.

Shotgun Shooting Mistakes 5

Dave Miller doesn’t miss with a shotgun very often. In fact, he probably misses less than anyone you know. Miller is the Shotgun Product Manager and Pro Shooter for CZ-USA, maker of many fine shotguns, rifles and handguns. Forget about Dave Miller as a Master Class Sporting Clay shooter and National Sporting Clays Association Level 2 Instructor. Forget about 2015, when Dave Miller landed in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most clay targets shot in 1 hour — 3,653.

Do that math: That’s one clay busted, on average, every 0.99 seconds.

All this sums up to the fact that Dave Miller basically shoots shotguns for a living, and precious few of us can say that. Who better than Miller to provide some tips on improving our scattergun skills?

So, here are five common mistakes us shotgunners make, and advice from Dave Miller on how to deal with them. Remember, some tips are specific for bird hunting, some for clay shooting — and some will help with both.

Mistake No. 1: Looking at the gun first

“You can’t shoot what you can’t see,” Miller said. “Train yourself to look at the target, and then move the gun.” Miller noted that it’s not really necessary to “see” the gun — that is, the rib and the end of the barrel — if your eyes are on the target and you mount the gun properly. “Remember, its eyes first and then the gun,” Miller added.

Shotgun Shooting Mistakes 6

In hunting situations, Miller noted that it’s especially important to concentrate on a flushing or incoming bird and not the gun. Is it a hen or a rooster pheasant? What species and gender of waterfowl is it? You can’t tell if you’re looking at the gun. Also, clearly seeing the target and what is beyond it addresses obvious safety concerns as well.

Mistake No. 2: Not moving to the target

Ever had a grouse or pheasant erupt from cover as you face an angle away from the bird? Then, in haste, we often take the shot from an awkward, twisted position — and often we then miss. Miller stressed that moving to the target in a motion he calls, “step to the shot,” is very important.


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“You have to take the time to move your feet and step in front of the target,” Miller said. “In this way, you’re in the proper body position to move the gun in front of the bird. Think about starting with the gun ahead of the bird, even at the low ready position when possible.”

Remember, there’s plenty of time to do this. When that grouse or pheasant or quail explodes out of cover, shooters tend to think they must shoot immediately or lose out. How fast is that pheasant flying anyway? Check the velocity on the shotshell on the box you’re using. Thirteen-hundred fps is almost 900 miles an hour, and the bird certainly isn’t moving away that quickly. You have time to step into the shot and get into the right position.

Mistake No. 3: Not inserting the muzzle ahead of the target

“There’s nothing good on the backside of the target,” Miller said. “Never get behind, and always mount the gun ahead of the target.

From the sporting clays box to the wingshooting fields, Miller breaks down his shot process into a series of repeatable steps that have become second-nature during every single station and flush.
From the sporting clays box to the wingshooting fields, Miller breaks down his shot process into a series of repeatable steps that have become second-nature during every single station and flush.

“In wingshooting, most birds are taken with a ‘cut-off’ move, which is where the muzzle is inserted in front of the bird from a line different than that of the target — to cut it off,” he added.

In clay target situations, the cut-off move is usually applied when the shooter is moving from the first target to the second in doubles. The shooter kills the first clay and then moves the muzzle directly in front of the second to cut it off. The key is to keep the barrel moving to avoid falling behind the pace of the target. Once behind, it’s extremely difficult to catch up.

Mistake No. 4: Fearing the rabbit

Many sporting clay shooters get spooked by the “rabbit” station. The way the target is presented, bouncing along the ground at a speed likened to an aspirin shot out of a .257 Roberts, can give any shooter nervous twitches at the line.

“Remember that the rabbit is a ‘type’ of target, not just the presentation,” Miller said. “This clay is thicker and harder to break than other clays. This means that the rabbit is heavy and loses its spin faster than other targets.

Practice doesn’t make perfect, but more time spent shooting from the sporting clays box does equal more feathers in the upland vest.
Practice doesn’t make perfect, but more time spent shooting from the sporting clays box does equal more feathers in the upland vest.

“Targets break easier when they’re spinning,” added Miller. “In clay shooting, centrifugal force is your friend for an easier break.”

For this reason, Miller instructs that the shooter should almost always plan to break the target while it’s under power to take advantage of the spin. In other words, attacking a rabbit quickly gives the shooter the added advantage of centrifugal force to break that clay with a less-perfect shot.

Mistake No. 5: Not establishing a routine

“A shooting scenario can’t end the same way every time — successfully — unless you start the start the same way every time,” Miller said. The CZ-USA Pro Shooter stresses establishing a routine, and do it the exact same way regardless of the situation — every time.

“There’s always a series of steps I go through — a ritual, if you will — each and every time I enter the box,” said Miller.

  1. Where is the target coming from?
  2. Where can I see it the best? This is where I want to kill it.
  3. Adjust my body and foot placement for that position.
  4. Start the gun between where I will begin to see the bird and the point where I want to break it.

I’m looking at point A, and I’m going to break the clay when it gets to point B. I will start the gun about in the middle of these two places, at about what I call a 50 percent hold point.

After setting the Guinness World Record for most clays broken within an hour at 3,653 — that’s averaging one clay per second — Miller celebrated with a tattoo and commemorative shotgun to further exemplify a life committed to the shotgun.
After setting the Guinness World Record for most clays broken within an hour at 3,653 — that’s averaging one clay per second — Miller celebrated with a tattoo and commemorative shotgun to further exemplify a life committed to the shotgun.

For wingshooting applications, Miller suggested keeping with a routine as much as possible, carrying the gun the same way all the time — having both hands in the correct place with the barrel angled up into a safe position to maintain readiness.

And when it comes time to react when stepping into the shot — the “stutter step” that you do to position yourself and place the gun in front of the bird — do it the same way every time. Following these simple steps will put more X’s on your score sheet and more birds in the bag.

Just to be honest, I don’t except to become a shooter on the level of Dave Miller any time soon, but I do know that if I follow these tips to correct mistakes, I will hit more feathers and clays. I might even hit that dang rabbit a little more often, too.

Editor's Notes: This article originally appeared in the October 2018 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.


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TSS Shot: Is It Right For Home Defense Applications?

TSS (tungsten super shot) is dynamite on turkeys, but how does it potentially perform on bad guys?

Do TSS Shells Work For Home Defense:

  • Tungsten is denser and harder than lead.
  • It produces tighter patterns than lead.
  • It also flies further.
  • At 10 yards, Federal’s HeavyWeight TSS hits with 1,595 ft-lbs, but penetrated half of what Remington’s Ultimate Defense Buckshot did.

When I started to venture into the realm of TSS, I began to think about other applications for it besides turkey hunting. The first thing that always came to mind was home defense. Being pretty unfamiliar with TSS because I had not shot much of it at that point, I quickly formulated some assumptions about the overall performance of tungsten shot. As usually happens when we presume something too quickly, I was wrong.

For self-defense, comparing lead and tungsten is like comparing apples to oranges.

First, I figured it went without saying that tungsten shot would no doubt stop an aggressor as quickly as a load of lead, but I also assumed it would offer too much penetration and endanger others in home defense scenarios.

On the range, Federal’s HeavyWeight TSS load was compared to a conventional home defense round, Remington’s Ultimate Defense Buckshot. The Remington shell is 2¾ inches, shoots 1,200 fps velocity at the muzzle, and contains 8 pellets of 00 buckshot. The Federal HeavyWeight TSS is 3 inches, shoots 1,200 fps muzzle velocity, with a 1¾-ounce payload of No. 9 shot. Both rounds were fired on paper and into Clear Ballistic gel at 10 yards.

Here’s how it shook out:

While the Federal TSS round delivered a whopping 1,595 foot pounds of energy at 10 yards, the penetration was less than half of the Remington 00 buck. If you’re going to use your turkey shotgun for home defense, leave the TSS shells in the gun for this purpose.

The 3-inch No. 9 Federal HeavyWeight TSS shoots with a muzzle velocity of 1,200 fps, and put 611 pellets in a 5-inch circle from 10 yards with an extra full choke (upper left). When used with an open bore (below), the pattern turns into a clean, single hole. Sound backward? It’s all about the relationship between the choke and the wad.
The 3-inch No. 9 Federal HeavyWeight TSS shoots with a muzzle velocity of 1,200 fps, and put 611 pellets in a 5-inch circle from 10 yards with an extra full choke (upper left). When used with an open bore (below), the pattern turns into a clean, single hole. Sound backward? It’s all about the relationship between the choke and the wad.

Maybe the biggest lesson learned here was to NOT use the Federal Heavyweight TSS load in a defensive shotgun choked cylinder bore — in other words, no choke. The Federal TSS load, fired at 10 yards from a Mossberg 500 shotgun with a cylinder bore, produced a clean single hole, as if a slug had been fired. I believe this occurred because of the FliteControl Flex wad, which needs some form of choke to deploy so that it can separate from the shot payload. It would be very effective on intruders, but don’t miss!

Editor's Notes: This article originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.


For more shotgun posts check out:

What’s the Deal with TSS Shotgun Shells?

Are the new TSS shotgun shells all they're made out to be? Can they be used for home defense?

How TSS shotgun shell perform better than lead:

  • TSS stands for “tungsten super shot.”
  • Tungsten is denser and harder than lead.
  • Whereas water is 1 g/cc in density, lead 11.3 g/cc, tungsten is 18 g/cc.
  • The density allows the TSS to fly further.
  • Hardness allows shot to maintain its form, thus create a better pattern.
  • Tighter patterns make smaller gauges more viable on longer shots.

Unless you have been living under the proverbial rock, you’ve likely heard some scuttlebutt about TSS shotgun shells. TSS — meaning “tungsten super shot” — has become all the rage in the shotgun world, mainly in turkey hunting circles. But a little testing proved it can do so much more.

Although not new, TSS has recently been brought mainstream by Federal Ammo. Turkey hunters are salivating, but the new load also has plenty to offer those who like a shotgun for home defense duties.
Although not new, TSS has recently been brought mainstream by Federal Ammo. Turkey hunters are salivating, but the new load also has plenty to offer those who like a shotgun for home defense duties.

TSS is not new. An almost cult-like group of turkey hunters has been handloading TSS for several years.

Reports of this mysterious shot began to surface on the internet, and several websites sprang up where members of the TSS cadre would meet and talk over recipes for loads. Word of incredible patterns at ranges previously unheard of spread across the land. The word was out, and for shotguns, TSS was the new magic metal.

Federal Brings TSS To The Masses

Federal Premium Ammunition introduced a new TSS shotshell this past January at SHOT Show, and the buzz was immediate. The HeavyWeight TSS load was greatly anticipated and hit the market about a year after Apex Ammunition started selling TSS shotgun shells. The HeavyWeight load features TSS shot in No. 7 and No. 9 shot in three gauges: 12, 20 and .410.

Who needs a .410 turkey load? One of the virtues of this shot that TSS devotees like to preach is that the heavier-than-lead material makes the smaller gauges a viable option over the bigger 12-gauge boomers.

Besides the TSS shot, Federal’s new load has some other qualities going for it, including buffering the shot and a rolled crimp on the end of the shell. Buffering the shot is as important with TSS as it is with lead.

“Buffer evenly distributes the ignition force throughout the payload, allowing for uniform separation of the shot at muzzle exit,” said Federal Premium Shotshell Engineer Adam Moser. “Buffering lead shot also helps reduce pellet deformation caused by ignition forces.

The 3-inch No. 9 Federal HeavyWeight TSS shoots with a muzzle velocity of 1,200 fps, and put 611 pellets in a 5-inch circle from 10 yards with an extra full choke (upper left). When used with an open bore (below), the pattern turns into a clean, single hole. Sound backward? It’s all about the relationship between the choke and the wad.
The 3-inch No. 9 Federal HeavyWeight TSS shoots with a muzzle velocity of 1,200 fps, and put 611 pellets in a 5-inch circle from 10 yards with an extra full choke. When used with an open bore above, the pattern turns into a clean, single hole. Sound backward? It’s all about the relationship between the choke and the wad.

“A roll crimp on the shell helps provide uniform compression of the buffered payload, which generates consistent ballistics and better pattern efficiency,” Moser added. Combined with a clear plastic card wad, it also ensures that the entire buffer remains sealed inside the cartridge.

Another important aspect of the HeavyWeight TSS load is the FliteControl Flex Wad, which was introduced with the launch of Federal Premium’s redesigned Black Cloud waterfowl shotshells. The wad’s design is meant to improve pattern density and consistency when fired through ported and non-ported chokes.

“The wad’s redesigned rear-deploying brake fins and side-mounted vents stimulate the payload for separation from the wad at the right moment for the densest, most consistent patterns,” said Dan Compton, Shotshell Product Line Manager. To do this, Federal Premium engineers beefed up the wad’s brake system, starting by reinforcing the wad’s flexible rear fins with sturdy supportive gussets.

“We rely on gas pressure from inside the barrel to flex the fins and open them, which triggers the shot to separate from the wad,” Compton added. “If there’s not enough pressure, the wad doesn’t slow down enough for optimum separation.”

Intrigued as always with anything that comes out of shotgun, I decided to find out more about this scattergun magic potion. What is TSS, anyway? How does it compare with conventional shotshells? Are TSS loads good for anything besides turkey hunting? Can I really kill turkeys at 85 yards with TSS (OK, I’m kidding on that one, but just a little)?

Pay attention now, class — today’s lesson is on Tungsten Super Shot.

TSS 101: The ‘Magic Metal’

Tungsten is a rare metal found naturally in the earth and is also known as “wolfram.” The name tungsten comes from a Swedish term, tungs sten, meaning heavy stone, and it’s used to make several items including tungsten-carbide drill bits and filaments for light bulbs. Although tungsten is mined all over the world, most comes from China and tungsten shot is made there as well. The TSS shot we shoot is about 95 percent tungsten, with the remainder being made up of nickel, iron or copper.

For turkey hunters, comparing lead and tungsten is like comparing apples to oranges. Where tungsten really shines is in pellet count (using smaller pellets while retaining energy), and especially at extended ranges.
For turkey hunters, comparing lead and tungsten is like comparing apples to oranges. Where tungsten really shines is in pellet count (using smaller pellets while retaining energy), and especially at extended ranges.

It’s tungsten’s weight (density), along with its hardness, that makes it shine as a pellet for shotshells. Density is usually measured in grams per milliliter, and most tungsten shot is 18 g/cc. Water, by comparison, is 1 g/cc, and lead is about 11.3 g/cc.

For our purposes here in comparing the performance of shotgun pellets, think of two pellets of equal size— one is lead and the other is tungsten. Now, think about playing fetch with your dog and throwing two balls of equal size; one is a whiffle ball and the other is a baseball. The baseball is heavier and denser than the whiffle ball, which will fly farther and hit a target with more force.

Don’t do as I did and confuse density with hardness: they are two different things. If you put a lead and a tungsten shot pellet in a set of pliers and clamp down on them, you’ll deform the lead pellet long before the tungsten.

A shotgun is an imprecise weapon, and shot pellets have a wild ride from the muzzle to the target. Lead pellets are bumping into each other and shot in the rear is pushing on pellets in the front of the load. Lead will deform under these conditions, and misshapen pellets tend to fly erratically and make holes in the pattern.

Tungsten shot, being many times harder than lead, maintains its form and will hold a better pattern. Because it’s harder and heavier, smaller tungsten shot will perform on the level of much larger lead shot. Number 9 shot, once thought of as unheard of for hunting purposes, has become the darling of the TSS world. The difference in loading No. 9s compared to No. 4 shot is phenomenal. A 3-inch, 1¾-ounce load of No. 9 shot will contain about 637 pellets, while the same load of No. 4’s will give you about 256. It’s all in the math.

How Does It ‘Stack Up?’

There are dozens of shotshell loads available for comparison to TSS ammunition. To simplify things, I wanted to compare TSS performance with a standard turkey load and a home defense shotshell. I have used Remington Nitro Turkey loads for several years and know others who have as well, and I’ve seen more than a few turkeys fall to this shotshell.

While the TSS patterns are impressive, you pay for what you get. A cache of Federal HeavyWeight No. 9s will run you north of $40 per fi ve-count box.
While the TSS patterns are impressive, you pay for what you get. A cache of Federal HeavyWeight No. 9s will run you north of $40 per fi ve-count box.

The Remington Nitro Turkey loads (12 gauge, 3 inch, 1 7/8-ounce No. 4 lead shot) and the Federal HeavyWeight TSS (12 gauge, 3-inch, 1¾-ounce No. 9 tungsten shot) were fired onto paper targets and into Clear Ballistics gel at 35 yards. Clear Ballistics is a synthetic gelatin created to test terminal performance of projectiles from firearms. The material is completely reusable and transparent, so you can easily see the penetration of bullets or pellets after the shot. It’s really cool stuff and reveals a lot of info.

The shotgun used for this was a CZ-USA Magnum Reaper (CZ’s new turkey gun), which is an over-under shotgun with 26-inch barrels. The choke tube used was the Xtra Full choke that’s supplied with the CZ Magnum Reaper.

At 35 yards, the Remington Nitro load put 45 pellets in a 5-inch circle, with an estimated velocity of 800 fps; this translates to 204 foot pounds of energy (fpe) delivered to the target. The Federal HeavyWeight round hit the 5-inch circle with 103 pellets, at an estimated velocity of 750 fps, creating 155 foot pounds of energy smacking the target. The Remington lead No. 4s penetrated the Clear Ballistics gel approximately 6½ inches, and the Federal TSS tungsten shot penetrated 6 inches.

I found it interesting that the Federal No. 9 TSS shot embedded in a mostly uniform pattern, with the majority of the pellets having traveled the same depth in the ballistic gelatin. The Remington No. 4 lead pellets pierced the medium about 6½ inches — a few went deeper than that, and several traveled less. While I don’t have any real slow-motion video proof, this would indicate the TSS load is delivering the shot charge to the target in an even manner, with a short shot string.

Some would say this is an unimpressive showing for the TSS load because it produced slightly less foot pounds of energy and velocity to the target. You must, however, look at the number of pellets. While 45 pellets for the lead in a 5-inch circle is certainly not bad, 103 TSS pellets is twice as good. It should also be noted that a TSS-specific choke tube would produce a higher pellet count on the target. Double the number of pellets would certainly give more room for error when taking a bead on a turkey’s head.

The TSS Takeaway

A bonus for the advent of using TSS shot is going to be the increased use of the smaller gauge shotguns. You will see more 20 gauge and .410 shotguns used on turkeys than ever before. This will translate to older hunters with bad shoulders, lady hunters, kids and really anyone tired of being pounded by 12-gauge loads going afield, and that’s a good thing. Look for a revival in the use of the .410 shotguns.

TSS Specs

TSS shot, because of its properties, is going to deliver more shot on target, be it paper, ducks or turkeys. At traditional or moderate ranges (up to 40 yards), some would question the need for the much more expensive TSS loads (MSRP for a box of five 12-gauge, 3-inch Federal HeavyWeight TSS shells is $44.95; a 3½-inch box of five will run about $49.95), but for every hash mark past the 40 yard line, tungsten shot is going to prove its worth exponentially. Think of it this way: How many times are most of us going to pull the trigger during turkey season anyway?

Editor's Notes: This article originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

Ammunition: Shotgun Slugs 101

Modern-day shotgun slugs have had their own evolution and history, and as you may suspect, they’re not all created equal.

What styles of shotgun slugs are available today:

In general, there are two main types of shotgun slugs: Full-bore slugs, in essence, fill up most of the bore of the shotgun as they travel down the barrel, and sabot slugs that employ a plastic sabot to engage the rifling and then drop off after it leaves the barrel, much like a wad deviates from a load of birdshot in flight.

Foster Slugs

Federal’s TruBall slug is of the Foster design, meaning it has a hollow rear portion. Modern technology, however, has allowed for tweaks and design changes that have led to ever increasing accuracy.
Federal’s TruBall slug is of the Foster design, meaning it has a hollow rear portion. Modern technology, however, has allowed for tweaks and design changes that have led to ever increasing accuracy.

This is the original slug created to be fired in a smoothbore shotgun. Karl M. Foster started making them for neighbors in the early ‘30s as people were looking for something to knock down a deer to feed families during the Great Depression. Foster originally hand-cast these slugs and filed grooves on the side for rifling, which is much the same as Foster-type slugs appear today.

The Foster slug’s greatest characteristic is a hollow rear portion, which puts most of the weight near the tip of the slug. If the slug starts to yaw in flight, which they almost always do, the weight forward aspect is thought to bring the slug back into a straighter, more stable flight … much the same as a badminton shuttlecock or air rifle pellet works.

Foster slugs are also known as “American” slugs to distinguish them from European-type slugs such as the Brenneke. Rifling on the Foster slug gives it no gyroscopic spin advantage as barrel rifling does with a rifle bullet, but the grooves on the side of these shotgun slugs do allow for easier transition as they’re swaged down to pass through various chokes.

Foster slugs are capable of being fired through most shotgun chokes, rifled choke tubes and rifled shotgun barrels — though shooting a Foster through a rifled barrel will do little more than dramatically foul the rifling. Stay away from super-tight turkey chokes with any slug; at the very least, “pinching” will occur and group sizes will be measured in feet, not inches.

For reasons not clear to anyone, including me, gun writers in the era when Foster was around confused his name with the Forster Brothers who made reloading tools during this same period. So, sometimes you may see “Forster” when referring to the Foster-style slug.

Brenneke Slugs

The Winchester Deer Season slugs also took a page from the Foster playbook, though they feature a polymer “tail” that acts much like fl etching on an arrow.
The Winchester Deer Season slugs also took a page from the Foster playbook, though they feature a polymer “tail” that acts much like fl etching on an arrow.

The German Wilhelm Brenneke gave us the Brenneke slug in 1898. The chief variance from the Foster slug is that the Brenneke is solid and has a wad attached to the rear of the slug that remains on the slug after firing. The wad may be plastic, cellulose fiber or felt, and it gives the slug stabilization in flight.

Like the Foster, the grooves on the side of the Brenneke give it no spin stability but do help with moving into a choke with less deformation. The Brenneke slug is solid and gives more penetration with less deformity and is often chosen for dangerous animal applications, as well as some military and law enforcement needs.

Sabot Slugs

For the slug shooter looking to maximize range, there is no better combination of a sabot-style slug and a fully rifl ed slug barrel. Add a polymer tip to the equation, and accuracy — as well as terminal performance — get pretty impressive.
For the slug shooter looking to maximize range, there is no better combination of a sabot-style slug and a fully rifl ed slug barrel. Add a polymer tip to the equation, and accuracy — as well as terminal performance — get pretty impressive.

The shotgun slug that so many of us have trouble pronouncing (sab-oh, the “a” is short and the “t” is silent), a plastic sabot encases the slug and engages the barrel’s rifling, giving the slug much of the spin advantage of a rifle bullet. To be most effective, the sabot needs to drop from the slug as soon as possible after leaving the barrel, much like a birdshot wad.

Shotgun slugs came out of the dark ages with the advent of the sabot slug and rifled shotgun barrels. What we have now with sabots is, in effect, rifle bullets the size of shotgun slugs (.72 caliber for 12 gauge and .61 for 20 gauge). This is a huge piece of lead or copper cast downrange at the target. Ballistic-tip slugs slip through the air with a much greater ballistic coefficient than the punkin’ ball slugs of old, which means they fly farther with greater retained velocity. Many slug shooters will tell you that, with the right gun and slug combination, 200-yard shots are not out of the question.

Editor's Notes: This article originally appeared in the June 2018 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

5 Best Slug Gun Options Ready For Deer Season

Though very often overlooked, the slug gun continues to evolve — which means much-improved accuracy.

What are the best slug guns available:

I knew I had arrived. Dad put a handful of green “punkin’ ball” shells in my coat pocket and told me I could load up when it got daylight. “Stay on this stand, don’t make any noise and don’t shoot if the deer is too far away — about 50 yards is your limit.” He turned and disappeared into the darkness. Long speeches were not the style in those days.

Four hours and a dried out turkey sandwich from Thanksgiving dinner later, I stood over my first deer. It was a little fork-horn buck, and I would not have been any more proud if it had been a Boone and Crockett monster. The old Model 37 Ithaca 16-gauge pump gun, the same shotgun we grouse hunted with, and the Remington slugs had done the job. That’s how we did it in the ‘60s.

Maybe no other modern shotgun has evolved as much as the slug gun, shotguns specifically employed for shooting solid “ball” ammunition. The original concept of shooting lead slugs was to give shotgun shooters more versatility in the game they could take. This is exactly what our colonial ancestors did with smoothbore muskets and “fowling pieces.” The Revolutionary-War-era hunter and soldier could load Old Betsy with a solid ball of lead, or one ball and a few large buckshot (known as “buck and ball”), or a load of fine birdshot. In this manner, he could hunt rabbits, birds, deer — and Redcoats.

Today's Slug Guns

Rifling the barrel of a shotgun has brought us to a brave new world in slug shooting. Some states still require the use of a shotgun when hunting whitetails with a firearm, and several companies continue to offer — and evolve — their slug gun lineups.

Ithaca Model 37 Deer Slayer III

Ithaca-Slug-Gun
The Model 37 Ithaca pump gun has been around a long time, and this shotgun has killed more deer than Lewis and Clark. The 37 was designed by none other than John M. Browning and was first produced in 1937. The Deer Slayer III features a solid steel receiver CNC machined from one piece of steel, as is the heavy-walled 26-inch fluted barrel (1:26 twist), which is fixed to the receiver. The Model 37 is famous for its bottom ejection and loading port. If you’re used to an 870 or other side-ejection-port gun, it may be like Bluegrass music — you’ll either love it or you’ll hate it. The Model 37 Deer Slayer III is a lot of history and gun for the money. Cost depends on the grade of walnut stock you order. MSRP: $1,350 and up

Remington Model 870 SPS Super Slug

Remington-Slug-Gun
It’s always hard to find something yet to be said about the virtues of the Model 870 — with more than 11 million of these guns sold, somebody must like them. Remington took the solid action of the 870 and made a slug gun out of it, adding a thumbhole stock and a thicker barrel, but they did something else that other slug gun makers have not: Remington pinned the barrel to the receiver for extra stability, which means better accuracy. The barrel is fluted to minimize weight and heat buildup, and the Super Cell recoil pad will be appreciated when shooting some hard-thumping slugs. The receiver is also drilled and tapped, and a Weaver-type rail is included. MSRP: $829

Winchester SX4 Cantilever Buck

Winchester-Slug-Gun
New for 2018, the SX4 slug gun is fast handling and fast cycling, which is what the SX Winchester shotguns are famous for. This is a dedicated slug gun with a 22-inch rifled barrel, adjustable rifle-style sights with TruGlo front fiber-optic, and a cantilever optic-mounting base. The self-adjusting Active Valve System in the Winchester SX shotguns has been tested by time and will take some of the felt recoil out of heavy slug loads, which is always a blessing. In addition, the ambidextrous cross-bolt safety is quickly interchangeable, and length-of-pull spacers allow you to adjust to shooter size — or when you’re wearing four layers of clothing while trying not to freeze on your stand. MSRP: $959.99

Savage 212 and 220

Savage-Slug-Gun
I’ve seen deer camps in shotgun-only states where most of the crowd shoots a Savage 212 (12 gauge) or the 220 (20 gauge). This gun has a loyal following, and it’s mostly because of the accuracy. Paired with the right ammo, this shotgun is a legitimate 200-yard gun. This is largely due to a bolt-action design — other shotguns are usually pumps or semi-autos, and these actions can allow too much play in the bore, chamber and throat for rifle-like accuracy. Savage also put the user-friendly AccuTrigger on these guns and an oversize bolt handle, both of which are great for when you’re fumbling with gloves on. The button-rifled, 22-inch matte-blued carbon-steel barrel is drilled and tapped for mounting a scope, and the magazine is a detachable box that holds two rounds. MSRP: $704


Stoeger 3000R

Stoeger-Slug-Gun
The Stoeger 3000 line of semi-autos has been around a while — long enough to earn a reputation of reliability and a lot of gun for the price. Stoeger’s semi-auto shotguns feature the Inertia Driven system, and it’s one of the simplest and cleanest-running shotgun actions around. It’s an inertia system though, not a gas gun, so you will feel some of the heavy slugs you shoot. The 3000R slug variant has a 24-inch rifled barrel with a 1:35 rate of twist and a cantilever scope mount. The 3000R doesn’t have all the frills of more expensive slug guns, but with such an attractive price tag you’ll get used to it quickly. MSRP: $619

Editor's Notes: This article originally appeared in the June 2018 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

Why The Home Defense Shotgun Rules The Roost

The shotgun reigns supreme for defending your home. Period.

What goes into a home defense shotgun:

I would never think of Bart Simpson in the same way again. Bart was displayed on a red T-shirt, and he wasn’t looking too good. The guy wearing the shirt was even worse. He had just taken a load of No. 6 shot in the upper left chest from roughly 15 feet away. He was justifiably shot while armed, invading an occupied home.

People see the AR as a true firearm “platform” due to its ability to be customized, but there are plenty of tactical upgrades for a range of different shotguns. Or, you can get the upgrades straight from the factory with the Mossberg Scorpion (pictured above).
People see the AR as a true firearm “platform” due to its ability to be customized, but there are plenty of tactical upgrades for a range of different shotguns. Or, you can get the upgrades straight from the factory with the Mossberg Scorpion (pictured above).

Working as a DNR Officer, I had stopped by to offer assistance when I heard it all on the radio. Now the guy in the T-shirt was slumped against the wall, head slightly tilted upward with a look on his face like he wanted to say something. But he was done talking in this world; he had just been shown that the shotgun is the best gun for home defense.

Why The Shotgun?

Why is the shotgun the best firearm for home defense? Two big reasons: range and firepower. Range is the distance between you and your aggressor — and home defense confrontations will sometimes be measured in feet, not yards. For our purposes here, firepower means how much hot lead we can bring to bear on the target in the shortest amount of time. No firearm yet invented is capable of protecting us better from anyone who has entered our home uninvited and intends to bring harm to you and yours.

How so? In short, it’s the type of ammunition fired by the shotgun. A typical 2¾-inch shotshell loaded with 00 buckshot will contain 8 to 9 .33-caliber pellets. If you fire three rounds in a home defense situation, you could be offering your assailant as many as 27 .33-caliber projectiles to consider. If you can deliver that much devastation in the same amount of time with a handgun or rifle, your name must be Jerry Miculek, and in that case, you certainly don’t need any advice from me or anyone else.

Another reason for using a home defense shotgun for this work is that many of us have a general familiarity with the weapon. Unless you’ve had adequate training with a handgun, most of us cannot hit the broadside of a barn with it, even if we are standing inside the barn. Hitting our target is simply easier with a long gun, more so with the shotgun. Patterns are tight at close range, even with short-barreled, tactical-style shotguns with little or no choke in place.

The gun the author keeps by the side of his bed is a Remington 870 Express Tactical.
The gun the author keeps by the side of his bed is a Remington 870 Express Tactical.

Still, the shotgun is more forgiving than the pistol or rifle in stressful home defense scenarios. A greater percent of the population has had some experience with the shotgun; you shot clays one time with a buddy, went pheasant hunting with Uncle Ed back in the day — maybe you handled the Model 12 Grandad kept in the corner at this house. The point is there are more of us, untrained, that feel more comfortable picking up a shotgun than a handgun. This makes all the difference when that thing goes bump in the night.

Remember, home defense might not necessarily mean confronting two-legged problems. Whether you live in the wilderness or the suburbs, having unwelcome animal visitors pay you a visit is fairly common. A rabid fox or raccoon can be easily dispatched with 00 buckshot. Black bears are abundant in many parts of the country now, and having one stroll through the yard or try to get in your house is not unheard of. Believe me when I tell you that a 12-gauge slug is great medicine on bears at short range.

Last summer I spent a week training with Alaska DNR, Fish and Game, USGS and others in a bear defense and awareness class. It was interesting to me that these Alaskans, who would often be working in remote areas, usually chose the same weapon many of us would for home defense: a 12-gauge pump shotgun with a short tactical-style barrel and extended magazine. The reasons for choosing this weapon are the same for the homeowner and the guy in the Alaskan bush — dependable operation, and massive firepower at short range if you need it.

In short, what the shotgun does better than any other firearm in a close-range confrontation is end the fight. Neither the rifle nor the handgun can do this as well in a home defense situation. The two drawbacks of the shotgun — limited magazine capacity and time needed to reload — are more than made up for with the superior firepower it delivers. (Reload time might now be a moot issue with the advent of the Remington 870 DM and the Mossberg 590M, both with detachable box magazines.)

The Defensive Shotgun: A True Platform

Depending on where you live, two-legged predators might not be the only thing you’re forced to encounter. A 12-gauge pump shotgun is also perfect bear medicine.
Depending on where you live, two-legged predators might not be the only thing you’re forced to encounter. A 12-gauge pump shotgun is also perfect bear medicine.

It seems many of us think only the AR-style rifles can be considered a firearm “platform.” The defensive shotgun in its simplest form might be a plain Jane pump-action 12-gauge. Think about a Remington 870 or Mossberg 500, standard stock, one simple bead on the barrel, bare bones — no frills. The shotgun in this form is absolutely capable of handling a bad situation with an intruder at your home. Can we make it better? Yes we can. Personal preferences and your wallet are the only factors limiting how far you want to go with additions and upgrades.

The stock on the shotgun is the place to start to make the shotgun a better fighting tool. Very few of us fit the standard, off-the-rack production model shotgun stock. Some form of adjustment to make the shotgun fit us better, which makes the gun more comfortable to shoot, (this gives us better accuracy) is usually in order. Many defensive shotgun instructors will advise you the stock on the fighting shotgun should be a little shorter than the one you use for wing shooting. We shoot these two shotguns differently. The fighting shotgun is aimed like a rifle, and a shorter stock gives you better control of the weapon and allows you to stay down on the gun easier.

Sweetening Up The Stock

An AR-style adjustable stock can be the answer. Mesa Tactical makes several versions; one is the LEO Telescoping Stock conversion kit, which gives the shooter a collapsible, AR-style stock with a pistol grip and an optional hydraulic recoil buffer. Another is the High Tube Stock Kit, which includes a Picatinny Rail that mounts directly from the stock adaptor to the top of the receiver, giving a platform to mount whatever type of optic you might choose.

Enhancing The Sights

After the stock, sights on the shotgun should be the next consideration. As noted before, the defensive shotgun must be aimed, and XS Sights offers Tactical Shotgun Ghost Ring sights. This set includes a green tritium front sight and two, interchangeable, fully adjustable, rear ghost ring apertures to accommodate long- and short-range shooting. Steel wings give added rear sight protection. The dovetailed front sight fits the factory sight ramp with minor fitting. For a defensive shotgun, mount the larger aperture ring for short range and forget about the smaller one. These sights are available with and without the wings on the rear sight; I prefer the one without wings for faster target acquisition.

Building Up Body Armor

HOME DEFENSE Shotguns Fourth

In reality, gunplay in a home defense arena will rarely entail more rounds than what your shotgun will hold, but do you want to bet your life on that? A sidesaddle on the gun ensures the additional rounds will be there if you need them. ATI (Advanced Technology International) sells a wide array of aftermarket add-ons for shotguns, including a TactLite Shotshell carrier, which holds five shells, attaches to either side of the stock and has a Military-Grade Synthetic construction.

The Gun Beside My Bed

I’m not one of those people to expect everyone else to like what I like. Preferences in food, politics, music and guns are entirely up to you. I also think it is best to keep things simple, and the shotgun I’m going to grab if the Boogie Man comes around is a Remington 870 Express Tactical model. An 18 ½-inch barrel, an extended magazine allowing seven rounds in the gun and XS Ghost Ring sights give this shotgun all the essentials I want on a home defense shotgun. If you said you would want basically the same gun but it would have to be a Mossberg Model 500 or 590, or a Benelli Nova, I would very much understand. To each their own.

My preference for the 870 is not hard to figure out. Years of hunting with the 870 and then having one issued to me for many years as a police officer gave me a lot of familiarity with the Remington. The key here is having confidence in your weapon, knowing that it’s up to the task you’re going to ask of it and being familiar with the gun. You should know where the safety, action release, trigger and loading port are and be able to work the action of the shotgun, load and unload it blindfolded.

A Word About Ammo

Like any firearm, shotguns are only as effective as the ammunition you feed them. In matters of home defense, whether to load birdshot, buckshot or slugs has been debated more than where Jimmy Hoffa is hidden and has paid the rent for several gun writers. Our greatest concern with firing a shotgun in the house is, of course — too much penetration.

Your choices of factory defensive shotgun loads are many. Do your homework and load up with what gives you confidence.
Your choices of factory defensive shotgun loads are many. Do your homework and load up with what gives you confidence.

If we have to pull the trigger, we want to penetrate the intruder but not go through a wall and strike a family member. The list of variables in these situations is endless, and you can “what if” yourself to death. Let’s try to keep things simple.

Unless you find yourself in some extreme circumstance — like dealing with a grizzly bear that gets in your house — for anything inside the home let’s take slugs off the table. Have a slug in your ammo carrier if you want. Now you must choose between buckshot — usually 00 size or something like No. 4 buck — or birdshot, say No. 6s or No. 7½. If you’re very concerned about penetration to other rooms, go with the birdshot. Why? Because at short range, it’s not going to make much difference. If you don’t believe me, try this:

Measure the length of your living room or bedroom. Go to the range and post a target based on those measurements, and fire away with a load of 00 buckshot. Now do the same with a 7½-shot dove load. Unless you have a really big house, the patterns are going to be very similar at short, in-home distances.

The lesson is this: At short range, birdshot is very devastating. In a typical 2¾-inch 12-gauge load of No. 7½ shot, there are about 350 pellets. At close range, these pellets are tightly bunched and hit with an effect more resembling a slug than birdshot. Once the shot starts to spread a little, the small pellets are less likely to penetrate walls.

The addition of a Mesa Tactical LEO Collapsible stock is just one of many customizations that can be made to a home defense shotgun.
The addition of a Mesa Tactical LEO Collapsible stock is just one of many customizations that can be made to a home defense shotgun.

Remington’s Ultimate Defense buckshot load comes in a managed recoil version and less recoil will always result in better accuracy. Federal makes two buckshot loads in its Premium Personal Defense line — the 00 load has 9 pellets in the 2¾-inch shell, and the No. 4 buckshot load has a whopping 34 pellets. Again, pick your poison.

Thankfully, most home defense confrontations end without shots being fired. Many perpetrators flee or simply give up when they see the homeowner is armed. If you ever find yourself in this predicament, I hope you’re armed with a home defense shotgun — and I hope your guy doesn’t have on a Bart Simpson shirt.

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

Unconventional Shotguns For Defensive Use

There’s more to shotguns than pump actions and tube magazines. Check out these two unconventional shotguns perfect for defense, or fun at the range.

Different takes on the shotgun:

  • The Kalashnikov variant Saiga is a popular semi-auto, box magazine shotgun option.
  • The TriStar KRX is based off the AR and is as familiar as the beloved rifle.
  • While both are solid options, a good ol’ pump will still do the job with the right training.

While Remington and Mossberg have recently come out with detachable magazine versions of their revered 870 and 590 shotguns, there are plenty of other unconventional shotguns on the market that are magazine fed. Some have been available for a while, whereas others are more recent developments. Here, I'll highlight two specific shotguns: the Saiga 12 and the TriStar KRX.

The Russian-made Saiga 12 is one of the most popular box magazine semi-auto shotguns currently on the market. Named for the Saiga antelope of the Russian Steppes, it’s a variant of the Kalashnikov rifle series, maybe one reason for its popularity. The Saiga is known for eating ammo whether the gun is clean or dirty (like the AK-47 rifle) and has a following in the 3-Gun world. My own two cents on the Saiga is that it’s ugly as hell but goes bang when you need it to. A buddy of mine who works with Alaska DNR carries a Saiga 12 for bear defense. He’s a Marine (there are no former Marines) and knows his firearms, so he must have confidence in this shotgun.

Unconventional shotguns -Lead
TriStar KRX

The TriStar KRX Tactical Shotgun is a semi-auto shotgun with a detachable magazine in an AR platform. The TriStar people knew what they were doing; those familiar with the AR rifle will automatically know where the safety selector and magazine release are, and it will “feel” like your AR rifle when you pick it up. For a defensive shotgun, this might be the pick for those who want to stay with the AR configuration.

In the end, the choice between a conventional tube-fed shotgun and a detachable-magazine variant lands on the individual shooter. Back in the day, motor heads loved to argue the Ford versus Chevy debate, and box magazines opposed to tubes is much the same. What’s important is finding the shotgun that fits you and that you shoot best. After that, you spend your hard-earned money on the best training you can find and then shoot as much as possible. Now you have done all you can to be prepared when the feces hits the fan. You might not believe in the Easter Bunny, but you have to believe in your shotgun.

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the February 2018 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

The Box Magazine-Fed Shotgun Quandary

The box magazine-fed shotgun is nothing new and has always stirred heated debate. Here are a few points to know before you decide for or against them.

What you need to know about box magazine fed shotguns?

  • AK-style shotguns have utilized detachable magazines for decades.
  • Pump-action shotguns are the newest addition to the box-magazine shotgun family.
  • Detachable magazines excel in tactical situations, making reloads faster.
  • Box magazines put the weight of the gun at its middle.
  • Balanced, they are quicker pointing and more stable.
  • They cut down on reload time compared to tube-fed magazines.
  • Box magazine-fed shotguns transition between different ammunition more quickly.

A detachable box magazine on a shotgun is a lot like Sasquatch, Moth Man and the Easter Bunny. Some of us believe in them; many of us don’t. Much like the Glock vs. the 1911 debate and other inane gun arguments, this topic can make things lively in the barbershop and the lunchroom, and it keeps gun writers from starving to death.

box magazine shotgun -quan-first

The concept of a box magazine fed shotgun is not new, and has actually been around for quite a while. Still, for many all this remains too unconventional and should not be talked about in polite company, like the time your Uncle Ed got drunk and fell into the Christmas tree.

The box magazine fed shotgun comes from a different side of the universe compared to a rifle. Rifle cartridges are metallic, slender and usually pointed, ideal for sliding out of the confines of a magazine and into the chamber of a rifle. Shotgun shells are the opposite in that they are blunt, heavy and made of plastic, which can become dented and deformed — not exactly perfect for making the gun function well.

Box magazine - shotgun Mossberg-590MHere are some of the arguments on tube versus the detachable magazines fed shotgun that you might hear around gun club benches, gun store counters, Internet forums and other institutions of higher learning.

• A box magazine fed shotgun is not practical. Shotgun shells are large and take up a lot of room, so a magazine that will hold a sufficient amount of ammo has to be big and bulky. This makes the shotgun unwieldy and hard to balance, and the magazine might catch on something during a fracas.

• A shotgun with a tube magazine is OK for hunting, but in tactical situations, reloading is too slow and difficult under stress, and you might be limited on magazine capacity.

• For tactical situations, a shotgun with a tube magazine works well, as the shooter can perform the “shoot one, load one” discipline (tactical reloading) and keep the magazine topped off.

• Tube-fed shotguns carry the majority of the weight forward. This helps with felt recoil and makes the gun easier to control while firing.

• The box magazine fed shotgun bear the weight of the ammo roughly in the middle of the gun. This stabilizes the weapon and makes it easier to point and get on target.

Even before the recent unveiling of the box magazine fed pump shotgun, such as the Remington 870 DM and Mossberg Mag-Fed 590, there was a small selection of this style to choose from, albeit all semi-autos. Utilizing the AK-47's long-stroke piston operation, guns such as the Molot Vepr 12 and Saiga 12 have become popular tactical shotgun options in some corners of the shooting world.

As their fans are more than familiar, the guns are fast and powerful, offering overwhelming firepower and fast reloads. Additionally, they transition loads as quickly as you can change magazines. Ideal, however, the system still draws its share of detractors. Though, their disapproval, in many cases, could be classified as unwarranted.

Critics of these guns like to point to problems with failures to feed causing malfunctions. If a gas-operated semi-auto shotgun is having trouble, the problem is often the ammo, not the gun. Inexpensive, low-brass shotgun shells might not have enough power to make the shotgun cycle properly. So, before you dismiss the new shotgun you just acquired as a “cheap Russian-made piece of junk,” you should take a look at the cheap shells you might have just picked up at Wally World.

Obviously, this is not an issue with magazine fed pump shotguns, perhaps opening their versatility. The 870 DM and 590 will happily chew through light field loads at the trap range and ask for seconds. Then, with nary a burp, gnaw on 3-inch buckshot loads. A bit more tactical-practical.

Pro or con, the magazine fed shotgun is here to stay, namely because it's already been around for a spell. 

This article originally appeared in the February 2018 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine. Article expanded.

Gun Review: Remington 870 DM Shotgun

Remington revamps a classic with its new 870 DM line of mag-fed shotguns.

How has Remington revitalized one of the most popular shotguns of all-time with its new 870 DM?

  • The 870 was introduced in the early 1950s and is the best-selling shotgun of all time
  • The newest variation — the 870 DM — features a detachable magazine.
  • The tested shotgun loaded easily and fed without flaw.
  • The magazine releases via a lever situated at front.
  • There are five models available ranging from basic to tactical and hunting models.

Anybody who knows anything about art knows about the Mona Lisa. Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous painting is recognized by most people on the planet and is reportedly insured for 800 million dollars. Most of us don’t know much about art, but we know what we like, and we like the Mona Lisa.

Box-First

Likewise, anyone who knows anything about scatterguns is familiar with the Remington Model 870 pump-action shotgun. The Model 870 came to us in 1950 (some will tell you 1951) and went on to become the best-selling shotgun of all time, now numbering more than 11 million sold. American shotgunners know what they like, and they like the 870.

The Ever Popular 870

There are Remington 870 pump guns sitting in closets, gun cabinets and bedroom corners all over America. We’re on our third generation of hunters and shooters that grew up on an 870, and they have used it to shoot almost anything that walks, crawls or flys, from big bears to bobwhite quail. In fact, I would like to see all the ducks and geese in one pile that have been taken with a Remington 870!

Like most iconic firearms, the Model 870 has its own posse of fiercely loyal fans. I’m pretty sure there are devotees who light candles at an 870 shrine every night and probably think there’s no reason to ever change the basic design of this shotgun.

Or is there?

Why Would You Change An Icon?

Remington recently announced something most of us thought would never happen: They changed the basic design of the Model 870 and put a detachable box magazine on the most beloved shotgun since the Winchester Model 12. I didn’t hear about the sky falling anywhere, and I don’t think the earth tilted on its axis. The new version is called the 870 DM (detachable magazine).

“The 870 DM is a concept that came about during discussions on how we could advance the pump-action shotgun in some meaningful way,” said Daniel Cox, shotgun product manager at Remington. “We quickly found most people agreed the pump-action shotgun was one of the most reliable and versatile defensive firearms we have today. In these discussions, it became clear there was only one real opportunity to improve the pump shotgun as a defensive firearm. Pump-action shotguns have limited capacity and can sometimes be slow to reload under stress when compared to other common defensive firearms used today.”

The 870 DM is more than just a conversion kit to permit the use of detachable magazines. Remington has been working on this project for years, and the action is definitely different than a standard 870’s action.
The 870 DM is more than just a conversion kit to permit the use of detachable magazines. Remington has been working on this project for years, and the action is definitely different than a standard 870’s action.

Cox went on to tell me Remington saw this as an opportunity to step out of the box and innovate to improve the pump-action shogun by offering a legitimate solution to this concern.

“The 870 DM is a pump-action shotgun that was designed to feed from a detachable magazine and not just a conversion kit on an existing gun,” he said. “This feature takes the venerable pump-action shotgun and allows users to load and reload it much faster and much more effectively right out of the box.”

Cox saying the new 870 DM is a pump gun that was designed to feed from a detachable magazine is important. Remington didn’t start this project yesterday; it has been going on for a few years. As far as making the existing 870 action convert to a detachable box magazine, don’t think for a minute that was easy. One engineer at Remington told me it was like “teaching a horse to fly.” Internally, the action of the gun is different, so there won’t be a conversion kit for the 870 you already have.

On The Range

Under full disclosure here, when I took the 870 DM to the range, I would’ve not been surprised to have some small glitch in the ammo feeding and functioning department. By that I mean it’s a new shotgun with a new concept with respect to the magazine — I expected there to be problems. This was not the case, and these may be words that I have to digest later, but to date I’ve not had a malfunction with the 870 DM. This has been through testing with several types of shotgun ammunition, including Remington, Aguila, Federal and Winchester.

When you fire the 870 DM and work the action, you will notice little difference in that of your Dad’s 870 Wingmaster. The magazine itself loads easier than I thought it would, and after a brief wearing in process the magazine inserted and released easily from the magazine well.

There are a total of five 870 DM models, each with varying furniture and designed for different purposes. Shown here is the Magpul variant, which features that manufacturer’s ergonomic SGA stock.
There are a total of five 870 DM models, each with varying furniture and designed for different purposes. Shown here is the Magpul variant, which features that manufacturer’s ergonomic SGA stock.

A word here on extraction of the 870 DM’s magazine: At first blush, I assumed the mag would drop out when the release lever was engaged, but the release lever is depressed and the magazine is stripped from the gun with the shooter’s support hand. Remington engineers had to deal with a gremlin: The pounding recoil in a 12-gauge shotgun (think 3-inch magnum loads) while keeping the magazine inserted in the gun for feeding and extracting concerns, and all the while having the magazine well with tolerances to easily insert and dump the magazine. An internal spring in the magazine well to hold the magazine in the proper position was the answer.

The furniture on this gun is by Magpul and features its ergonomic SGA stock, which means it feels good in your hand, is “grippy” and easy to hold on to, and the shape tends to get you down on the gun and into the sights quickly. The SGA stock is adjustable as to length of pull, which can be important for a defensive shotgun.

The sights on this first model of the 870 DM (there will be five models available: a Base Model, the MagPul model, a Kryptek Camo hunting model, a Base Hardwood model, and a Tactical Model with pistol grip and including an XS Sights Ghost Ring rear sight and a standard dot tritium front. The rear sight is mounted on an XS Sights Shortrail Picatinny-style rail. Target acquisition with this sight is very fast.

The Final Tally

Box-fifth
There will be those who will say putting a detachable magazine on the 870 is a terrible idea. For a defensive shotgun, they will say the long magazine is in the way when things turn lively and you can hold just as much ammo in an extended magazine tube. Maybe so, but you can start the fight with seven rounds of buckshot in the gun (six in the mag, one in the chamber) and you can definitely reload a second magazine of six rounds faster than a standard tube-fed shotgun. These sort of arguments, like the Ford and the Chevy discussions, will be going on long after I am gone.

Defensive shotgun aside, some dyed-in-the-wool 870 fans will simply think it heresy to put a box magazine on this shotgun. They may think Remington painted a mustache on the Mona Lisa. I stand on the side that doesn’t see it that way.

This article originally appeared in the February 2018 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

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