SHOT Show 2019: Best New Hunting Shotguns
The halls of this year’s SHOT Show were stuffed with new shotguns, from .410 to 12 gauge with intertia-operated semis dominating new offerings.
There seems to have been a bumper crop of hunting shotguns in 2019, with the halls of the SHOT Show stuffed with new scatterguns from .410 all the way up to 12. There was a little bit of something for everyone, though inertia-operated semiautos dominated the bulk of the offerings. The smaller bores were out in force compared to years past, with the humble .410 making an appearance in many manufacturers’ booths. The side by side seems to be making a showing again, with new offerings from a few makers.
- Benelli Super Black Eagle 3 Performance Shop Waterfowl Edition
- Remington V3 Turkey Pro
- CZ USA Bobwhite G2
- Tristar Viper G2 Bronze .410
- Stevens 301 .410 Turkey
- Stoeger 3500 Waterfowl Special
- Franchi Instinct LX
- CZ USA 1012
- Charles Daly 536 .410 Side-by-Side
- Beretta A400 Xtreme Plus
- Winchester SX4 20 Gauge and Compact
- Franchi Affinity Elite
Benelli Super Black Eagle 3 Performance Shop Waterfowl Edition
Benelli has long been known as the gold standard in waterfowl shotguns, and the Super Black Eagle 3 Performance Shop Waterfowl Edition is the flagship of the fleet.
Benelli’s Performance Shop builds upon the Super Black Eagle 3 with a litany of enhancements, starting with a hone and polish job on the action. A custom-tuned trigger group provides a crisp break more akin to a performance rifle than a duck gun. The forcing cone is lengthened and polished; each Waterfowl Edition is test fired and scrutinized by a computerized pattern analysis machine to ensure consistent and even patterns. Three Rob Roberts Triple Threat choke tubes provide your choice of constriction.
Other improvements include an oversized bolt handle, enlarged bolt release, HIVIZ CompSight, and a paracord survival sling. All this comes at a price though, don’t expect to find this top of the line semi below the starting price of $3,199.
Retay Masai Mara Waterfowl
Like a lot of people, I was introduced to the Retay Masai Mara through Phil Bourjaily’s nouns, verbs, and adjectives last year. Since that time, the Turkish-made semi has gained a lot of admiration with waterfowl hunters here in the U S of A.
Looking to ride that wave of popularity, Retay is introducing a waterfowl-specific model that features a 3.5-inch chamber for those that like to throw the big pills at ducks and geese. The Masai Mara Waterfowl uses an inertia system similar to the one found on Benelli’s line of autoloaders, but swaps in their own bolt design for one that won’t deliver the “Benelli click” that can occur if the gun is bumped out of battery. Unique to the Retay lineup is a trigger group that pops out with the push of a button, making cleaning simple.
Additional waterfowl-specific features include an enlarged bolt handle and bolt release button designed for use with gloved hands. The 7.25-pound Masai Mara Waterfowl is available in black for $1,200, or $1,399 for Bottomlands or Max5 camo.
Remington V3 Turkey Pro
In 2016, Big Green introduced the VersaMax self-regulating gas system that cycles just about any shell it’s fed. Now, Remington has put that action to use in a turkey-specific autoloader.
The V3 Turkey Pro was designed from the ground-up for gobblers, which should come as no surprise as the folks at Remington have built more than their fair share of turkey guns over the years. To facilitate sitting stock-still at the base of a tree, the stock has been shortened to 13 inches.
A 22-inch barrel is nimble in the woods, and is crowned with a TruGlo Head Banger choke, featuring an extra-tight .665-inch exit diameter to drop Toms where they stand.
The V3 Turkey Pro is outfitted with a TruGlo red-dot sight, for a shade under $1,200.
CZ USA Bobwhite G2
There are few things more classic than a side-by-side shotgun, outfitted with a trigger for each barrel. CZ updates the timeless design with the Bobwhite G2, the reintroduction of a customer favorite sure to find its way out into a dove field, partridge thicket, or pursuing its namesake quail across the grasslands.
The G2 builds off the best features of the original Bobwhite, using technology to create improvements that will be appreciated during a long day afield. The updated receiver is turned with all the precision afforded with a modern CNC mill, shedding ounces and shrinking the receiver. Keeping traditional lines, the G2 has the straight-wristed English stock you’d expect on a double-trigger gun. Rounding out the old-school feel is a set of extractors that won’t have you bending over to pick up your empties.
The two triggers allow you make split-second decisions about choke selection, choosing a wide pattern for tight flushing birds or a tighter constriction on those wild-breaking galliformes. And speaking of chokes, the Bobwhite ships with five, covering the gambit from cylinder to full. The 28-inch barrels are finished in black chrome for rust resistance, and the bores are chrome-lined so steel shot is no problem.
The Bobwhite G2 is built on gauge-specific frames in 12, 20 and 28 bores, with a suggested retail price of $650, though expect to pay a bit more for the 28.
Tristar Viper G2 Bronze .410
Tristar is known as a bargain brand, but the Turkish maker has really stepped up its game of late—so much so that the NRA awarded the company its Golden Bullseye Award this year.
The scattergun that garnered all that attention is the G2 Bronze .410, a gas autoloader with high-class finishing touches, including Cerakote and nicely figured walnut furniture.
Designed for use in the field as well as the clays course, the G2 Bronze will cycle both 2.5- and 3-ich loads so your options are wide open. The chrome-lined barrel will handle the punishment steel shot dishes out, so if ducks in real tight is your thing you can up the ante with the diminutive loads.
The G2 Bronze .410 is available with an MSRP of around $800, though real-world pricing is likely to be much less. Those looking to get into the .410 game with a camouflage autoloader can flinch a little less at the cash register, with the Viper G2 Camo going for about $650.
Stevens 301 .410 Turkey
In case you missed it, 2018’s hottest trend in shotshells was Federal’s Tungsten Super Shot (TSS), super-dense tungsten-iron pellets that deliver unbelievable knockdown power. The powerful payload allows hunters to use smaller shells to take larger game than previously possible.
Stevens is letting turkey hunters take advantage of the powerhouse shotshell in its smallest form—the .410. The Stevens 301 is a break-action .410 single shot with a 3-inch chamber cloaked in either Mossy Oak Bottomland or Obsession camo to stay hidden from the sharp-eyed gamebirds. The Stevens sports a 26-inch barrel topped off with a brass bead, and is outfitted with a removable one-piece rail to accommodate red dots or other turkey sighting solutions. The 301 is equipped with an extra-full turkey tube that has patterned admirably in tests with Federal’s TSS loads.
Sling swivels allow you to distribute the weight of the five-pound shotgun over your shoulders, which will be welcomed as you chase that thunder chicken that always seems to be over the next ridge. The hammer gun will also make a great choice for scattergunning squirrels without destroying meat in the process. You won’t flinch shooting .410 shells out of the 301, and you won’t flinch at the register, as the innovative turkey taker retails for $199.
Stoeger 3500 Waterfowl Special
Stoeger took a number of cues from the 3-Gun crowd to provide waterfowl hunters with a better duck gun.
Stoeger Industries is a member of the Benelli USA family, which allows them to utilize Benelli’s excellent inertia system in their 3500-series semiauto shotguns. They took this solid foundation and kicked it up to their performance shop for a variety of custom features.
As I said, many of these improvements were inspired by 3-Gun competition, including the ground-out loading port that facilitates faster shell stuffing with gloved hands. An enlarged bolt handle and release provide easier manipulation with hands that are often on the edge of hypothermia. Hunters that gun over water will appreciate the rust resistance offered by the Cerakoted barrel and receiver.
The 3500 Waterfowl Special ships with extended choke tubes and a paracord sling—for only $850.
Franchi Instinct LX
Franchi delivers an heirloom-quality over-under bred for the field with the Instinct LX. Despite the high level of fit and finish, this one won’t break the bank.
The first thing that jumps out at you when you see the Instinct LX is the gorgeous color-case hardened receiver, inlayed with gold game scenes including flushing pheasants on one side and ducks on the other and fitted with a gold-plated trigger. The wood is also superb; checkered AA-Grade walnut in a Prince of Wales pattern complimented by a classic Schnabel forend. You can select firing order of the vented gloss-blue barrels using the safety-mounted selector switch. Features designating the LX as a hunting gun include the automatic safety and ejectors that clear the barrels in a hurry to permit rapid reloads, as well as the red fiber-optic bead atop the vented rib gets you on target fast.
This fine firearm comes with three extended chokes, a choke wrench and a fitted hard case, all for $1,700 in either 12 or 20.
CZ USA 1012
CZ USA introduced an inertia-operated 12-gauge autoloader with a 3-inch chamber, at an impressive price point. Expect the wallet-friendly 1012 hit the market in a big way.
CZ proudly proclaims that the 1012 went through 5,000 rounds flawlessly “without a drop of oil or cleaning of any sort” during testing. The action reliably cycles a wide variety of 3-inch shells, from the super-fast to super-light. In testing, the only commercially available shells they couldn’t get to reliably feed were Winchester Featherlite (23/25 ounces at 980 feet per second) on the light side and Remington HyperSonic (1 1/4 ounces at 1700 feet per second) on the opposite end of the spectrum.
The 12-gauge semi is available in a variety of finishes, ranging from high gloss wood ready to make an impression on the skeet range to camouflage designed to disappear in the duck swamp, starting at $659.
Charles Daly 536 .410 Side-by-Side
It would seem that 2019 is the year of the .410, with renewed interest in the downsized bore. Eager to get into the fray, Charles Daly introduced the 536 side-by-side.
Built on a gauge-specific frame, the 536 is light, but manages to not feel dainty when swung. The white steel receiver features extractors, and offers a nice contrast to the blued 26–inch barrels, cut with Rem Choke threads. The break action features a single, selective trigger and a checkered Turkish walnut stock that looks like it costs more than it does.
The manufacturer’s suggested price is $917, but if the other side by sides in the line are any indication, you can expect to pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $650 for this lightweight twin tube. The 536 ships with five extended choke tubes, making it a real bargain.
Beretta A400 Xtreme Plus
Inertia-operated shotguns seem to rule the roost when it comes to duck and goose guns, but that doesn’t mean gas guns don’t have a place in the marsh. Berretta has been proving this for some time with its excellent gas autoloaders, and now improves upon a modern classic with the A400 Xtreme Plus.
Beretta’s A400 Xtreme Plus comes with a host of features that will endear the new firearm to the waterfowl hunter. A lengthened forcing cone and Steelium Plus barrel help deliver excellent patterns with non-toxic shot. To offset the recoil potential of the 3.5-inch chamber, Beretta has incorporated its Kick-Off recoil reducer and kick-reducing rubber comb.
Also making an appearance is the seemingly ubiquitous enlarged loading port, charging handle, and bolt release. The magazine cap is also novel: simple push and give it a half-turn to remove it.
The Xtreme Plus is available in a number of finishes, including Realtree Max-5, Mossy Oak Bottomland, Tru Timber DRT, Optifade Timber, and black/gray—starting at $1,900.
Winchester SX4 20 Gauge and Compact
The Winchester Super X3 made waves when it broke the world’s record for scattergun speed, with pro shooter Patrick Flanigan smashing 12 clays in 1.2 seconds. The well-received SX4 followed in its shoes, delighting shotgunners with its introduction in 2017. Now fans of the 20 gauge can grab an SX4, in full-size and compact variants.
Being a gas-operated gun, the SX4 was already soft shooting. Stepping down to 20 gauge lessens felt recoil even further, making it a solid choice for shooters with smaller frames. The SX4 Waterfowl Hunter Compact model takes advantage of that feature with a downsized stock with a 13-inch length of pull, complete with quarter-inch spacers to provide a custom fit. Both the full-size and compact models feature a Pachmayr Decelerator Recoil Pad to further ease the kick. An oversized bolt handle and release make operation easy when wearing gloves, just like on the 12. The 20 also features the speed-loading feature that has made the SX4 a favorite of three-gun competitors; simply push a shell into the magazine tube and it is ushered into the chamber.
Other features include 3-inch chambers, back-bored barrels, the Invector-Plus Choke System, ambidextrous safety, and a TruGlo Fiber Optic front sight. Look for the line of 20 gauge SX4s starting around $1,070.
Franchi Affinity Elite
When you think of high-end Italian semis, you probably think of the B-guns—Benelli and Beretta. But if you’re looking for those Mediterranean lines with a slightly less cringe-inducing price tag, take a look at Franchi.
Franchi builds on the success of the Affinity line of 12- and 20-gauges with the new Elite models. The Inertia-Driven action comes in both 3- or 3.5-inch sizes that exit into a lengthened forcing cone and chrome-lined barrel, topped off with extended choke tubes of the close, mid, and long-range variety. Upgraded bolt controls and an oversized loading port simply operation, while the easily removable trigger group and recoil spring simplifies maintenance.
Franchi’s twin shock absorber (TSA) recoil pad reduces felt recoil and provides length-of-pull adjustments, and a shim kit allows for drop and cast adjustments to get a near-custom fit. Affinity Elite shotguns are cloaked in cerakote and OPTIFADE camo finishes, starting at $1,249.
Remington V3 Waterfowl Pro
Remington’s VersaPort gas system is loved for its ability to digest a variety of loads without the need to flip over gas rings. That versatility is now available in a waterfowl-specific model with the introduction of the V3 Waterfowl Pro.
Like many others, Big Green sought to make the gun easier to operate by enlarging the bolt handle and safety, and opening up the loading port. For rust resistance, the receiver and barrel are hidden behind a Cerakote barrier that also reduces glare. A Hi-Viz fiber optic front sight and a mid-bead help hunters stay on fast-moving waterfowl.
The Remington V3 Waterfowl Pro is available in Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Blades or Realtree Max-5, starting at $1,195.