Having coached a lot of high school girls in trapshooting, I’m well aware of the challenges women face in finding guns that fit them. So as I walked the aisles of SHOT Show 2016 last month, it was gratifying to see encouraging signs that after years of talking about women taking up shooting and hunting, the industry had finally moved past the “shrink it and pink it” philosophy of marketing. Everywhere I went, I saw manufacturers offering products specifically made for—and often designed by—women: boots, pants, even backpacks.
Best of all, that trend extends to shotguns. I saw half a dozen guns made for serious hunting and shooting—some designed specifically for women, others that will easily adapt to smaller frames while offering full-size performance. Here they are, in the order in which I saw them:
The debut of Caesar Guerini/Fabarm’s Syren line of guns in 2014, with stocks actually designed to fit women’s bodies, was an industry first. However, the $3,000-plus price of Syren over/unders was too rich for some shooters. For 2016, Syren introduces the Elos sporting gun, an O/U with same stock design, but with less decoration than previous models and a lower price tag. It features niceties, such as a trigger that can be shifted rearward to accommodate shorter fingers, and a soft recoil pad to cut the kick. The gun comes in 12 gauge only, with 30-inch barrels and interchangeable choke tubes so you can alter your pattern spread for close range or distant targets. MSRP: $2595.
Following Syren’s lead, Franchi introduced its own Catalyst line of women’s shotguns this year. The Instinct represents a good value in a field O/U that could serve as a gun for skeet and sporting clays as well. The Instinct has Franchi’s take on the Syren stock, with a shorter length to suit smaller statured shooters, and a raised Monte Carlo comb on the stock to better fit long-necked shooters (women’s necks are generally longer than men’s). The Instinct comes in 12 gauge with 28-inch barrels and interchangeable chokes, and is chambered for heavy 3-inch shells as well as lighter 2 ¾-inch ammunition. It has the versatility to be your one gun for everything. MSRP: $1600.
Franchi’s other entry in the Catalyst line is the Affinity semiauto. Light and handy, it should make an excellent field gun. At just 6 ¾ pounds it’s light for a 12-gauge gun, which will make it easy to carry and handle, although the tradeoff will be a little more recoil. The Affinity is an inertia-operated semiauto, meaning that it uses recoil and not gases bled from the gun’s action to eject and load shells. Inertia guns are very reliable, even in bad weather, and they are quite easy to clean. The gun comes in 12 gauge only, with a walnut stock, soft recoil pad, and choke tubes. The Affinity will shoot anything from target loads to turkey loads. MSRP: $999.
Beretta’s A400 semiauto comes in a lighter-weight version for 2016. It weighs just 6 pounds, 10 ounces in 12 gauge. Despite its light weight, the gun will not kick too badly because it is a gas-operated semiauto (gas guns have noticeably softer recoil than any other type) and because it has Beretta’s Kick-Off recoil reducer in the stock. Essentially a shock absorber, the Kick-Off compresses as the gun comes back under recoil, softening the blow to your shoulder. The gun comes in a choice of 26, 28 or 30 inch barrels, all chambered for 2 ¾ and 3-inch shells. It also features Beretta’s GunPod II, a sensor in the stock that records shots fired and miles walked. It even allows you to call home and send your GPS coordinates should you need rescue. Although not a gun designed specifically for women, the A400 Light has a stock that can be adjusted for length and a set of spacers that allow you to customize the gun’s dimensions yourself. With the longer 28 or 30-inch barrel to smooth your swing, it would make a good hunting/sporting clays gun. MSRP: $1600.
For turkey hunting fanatics, Beretta has made its fine A300 Outlander available in a special, camouflage turkey version. Besides a coat of Realtree Xtra to help you blend into the woods, the new model features a shorter, 24-inch barrel that will be easier to handle in the brush or the confines of a blind. The barrel has fiber-optic front and rear sights to help you put a tight pattern precisely on a turkey’s head and neck, and the gun’s receiver accepts a scope mount if you want to add an optical sight like a scope or red dot. It has studs to accommodate sling swivels to make it easier to carry though the woods. Although the A300 isn’t labeled a “women’s model,” it has a stock that can shortened up to an inch with no more tools than a screwdriver, and stock shims that can alter to gun’s dimensions to better suit its owner. In all other ways it is the same gun as the excellent A300 Outlander, which I consider the best value in a semiautomatic shotgun on the market. MSRP: $900
One of several Italian gunmakers in the Rizzini family, B. Rizzini enjoys a reputation for making very good field and target guns. The new V3 target model has a stock that takes its cue from the Syren line, with a shorter overall length and a raised Monte Carlo comb to better suit female shooters. The gun comes in 12 and 20 gauges, with a choice of 28-, 30- or 32-inch barrels to suit different shooting styles. The shorter barrels make the gun lighter and livelier, long barrels add some weight to the front the gun that helps it swing smoothly. The V3 comes with extended choke tubes that are easy to change as you move from close-in to long-range targets. The receiver accents come in a choice of yellow or purple. MSRP: $2450