Noah’s mother had brought her son to me for a trapshooting lesson, and like a good sports mom, she sat and watched as I taught Noah the basics of hitting a moving target. When it was time for Noah to take a break, I asked her if she wanted to try shooting. No, she said. She had never fired a gun in her life and was a little nervous about it. I assured her that I knew I had a gun that would fit her, and wouldn’t kick: a Syren XLR5 Sporting semiauto. She agreed.
I showed her how to hold and operate the shotgun, loaded a cartridge, then stepped back and had threw a clay bird.
She crushed it.
It wasn’t beginner’s luck, because she crushed the next one, too, and the one after that. She handed the gun back to me with a large smile on her face.
A Shotgun for the Female Physique
The Syren line is the first in the industry to be designed for women. That’s important, because most guns are made to fit the average 5-foot, 10-inch-tall man. That means many women learn to shoot with guns that don’t fit them—they’re more difficult to hold and point properly, and recoil is more pronounced. A gun that fits well seems to shoot where you look, which was obviously the case with Noah’s mom and the XLR5.
Syren Vice President Ann Mauro, a shooting coach and competitive shooter, recalls her early days of shotgunning: “I was taking lessons and didn’t have my own gun. I’d borrow one of the club’s loaners and take the recoil pad off to shorten the stock so I could handle it. With no pad on the gun, I had flat, hard wood pressed into my shoulder, and the gun kicked me so much I had to drive home with ice packs on my shoulder.”
Mauro realizes not everyone who tries shotgunning will put up with the pain she endured.
“Women are apprehensive when the pull the trigger for the first time. If the gun hurts, many of them will say, “Why am I doing this?” and quit.”
Syren USA is a division of Caesar Guerini and Fabarm, makers of Italian shotguns tuned to the U.S. market, with headquarters in Cambridge, Maryland. Syren was formed in direct response to the growing number of women taking to the field and range. It’s the only gun company that makes products for women only. In addition to Mauro, the Syren has a pro staff of women who shoot its guns in competition and serve as ambassadors for the brand.
The XLR5 Sporting has a stock that is not only shorter than normal, making it easier for women to bring it to their shoulder, but its design also takes several other anatomical differences between men and women into account. The elevated Monte Carlo style stock accommodates women’s longer necks and higher cheekbones. The stock is angled slightly to the right or left (the gun comes in left and right-hand versions), and the toe, or bottom, of the butt is turned out slightly, to prevent the stock from digging in to sensitive breast tissue. The pistol grip is curved at an angle that allows smaller hands to comfortably hold the gun and shorter fingers to reach the trigger.
The Syren XLR5 Sporting comes in 12-gauge only, but because it’s a gas-operated semiautomatic, it has very mild recoil. A very pleasant side effect of semiautomatic—which functions by bleeding some of the expanding gases out of the barrel to eject the spent shell and load a new one—is that the sharp rap of recoil becomes a much gentler shove. That, combined with a soft recoil pad on the butt, makes it a comfortable gun to shoot. Moreover, the action is tuned to function with very light loads containing 1 ounce or 7/8-ounce of shot, and such loads reduce recoil even further. While gas guns have to be taken apart and cleaned more often than other types of shotgun to keep them running smoothly, this gun is one of the easier semiautos to maintain that I have seen.
The Syren weighs just less than 7 ½ pounds with a 28-inch barrel, making it about three inches shorter and half a pound heavier than the typical sporting clays semiauto, and heavier than, say, the shortened 20-gauged shotguns many other companies offer for women as “Youth and Ladies Guns.” The gun’s weight is a nice compromise: It’s heavy enough to swing smoothly, and the weight absorbs recoil, yet it’s a fairly easy gun to handle. I’ve seen that for myself when I handed it around to the girls on the high school trapshooting team I coach. One wanted to trade her gun for it on the spot. A new girl who had never shot trap before turned in an astonishing first round. They all remarked on how easy it was to shoot and how softly it recoiled.
The gun comes with five extended choke tubes that change shot patterns from very tight for long range shooting to wide open for close shots, making the XLR5 suitable for all clay target games as well as for hunting doves and upland birds. It is chambered for 2 ¾-inch shells only, so it will not shoot the more powerful 3-inch shells used by most waterfowl and turkey hunters. (Syren does offer a camouflaged Waterfowler version of the gun for duck and goose hunters that will shoot 3-inch ammo.)
The Syren has a silver-colored aluminum receiver decorated with engraved roses, a motif carried over in the laser-engraved roses on the stock. The walnut stock has so-called “enhanced” wood grain, which looks good at a distance but fake up close. That’s the only thing I can find not to like about this gun. It also features an enlarged bolt handle and bolt-closing button, which make it easier to load and unload. Those are very useful features to have on a target gun that may be shot 100 or more times in day, and that’s a good thing, because this is a gun you will want to shoot a lot.
The Sporting and Waterfowler models list for $1995 and can be seen at syrenusa.com.
The Syren line also includes over/under models in 12, 20 and 28 gauge, in both hunting and target models. The Syren USA Facebook page lists shoots and events across the country where you can try out a Syren shotgun for yourself.
Specifications – Syren XLR5 Sporting
Action: Gas-operated semiautomatic
Gauge: 12 gauge, 2 ¾-inch shells only
Barrel Length: 28 or 30 inches
Length of Pull: 13 ¾ inches
Weight: 7 ½ pounds with 28-inch barrel
Extras: Five extended choke tubes, hard case
Price: $1995; $2170 for left-handed model