Category Archives: Shotgunner

Weatherby’s Delightful 28

This New Self-Loader Is Perfectly
Scaled To The Cartridge.

Since 1967, Weatherby has been fielding a smorgasbord of fine shotguns and reasonably priced, too, considering the quality being offered. The first model offered was the Regency O/U, made by Angelo Zoli of Italy followed by the Olympian, Athena and Orion models made by Nikko and SKB in Japan. Over the years, there have been series of Weatherby SxSs, pumps and autoloaders as well. When Tim Frampton, Weatherby’s Marketing Coordinator, said they had just added a scaled-down 28 gauge to their SA-08 autoloader line, I had to have it. Twenty-eight-gauge guns are simply seductive.

ome call the 28 a magic gauge; a perfect ballistic marriage between bore size and a 3/4-ounce payload that produces patterns all out of proportion to its diminutive size. This great little gauge is making inroads in arenas other than the skeet fields, and it’s nipping at the heels of the light 20 in many upland venues.
I’m not the first to observe the charge weight-to-bore size of the 28-gauge seems to produce unusually well distributed patterns. I’ve run tests comparing the patterns produced by Winchester’s AA Sporting Clays 3/4- and 7/8-ounce loads and their high brass 1-ounce game loads in both 28- and 20-gauge guns, and I really could not find any consistent difference between the performance of the 28 and the 20. In fact, often patterns produced by 28-gauge guns were less patchy.

Not only do most 28s pattern exceedingly well, but also most people can shoot them well. They’re fast on target, easy on the shoulder and so light that you can spend the whole day in the field with them without feeling like a gun bearer. If you think you’ve seen more 28-gauge shells on store shelves lately, you have, and thankfully, the price of the little tubes is coming down with each passing year.

The SA-08 line of Weatherby autoloaders in 12- and 20-gauges has been around for several years, and they’ve earned a respectable following. For decades, Weatherby’s autoloader lines were made by either KTG or Nikko in Japan, not so with the SA-08 models. They are being produced in Turkey, which has become the breadbasket for autoloading shotguns of every grade.

The new SA-08 28 gauge is being offered with either a 26- or 28-inch barrel. I’ve shot enough 28s to know their light weight combined with an aggressive hand/arm movement by the shooter can throw off leads because of the 28’s speed to and through the target. I figured that the 28-inch barrel would provide just a bit more weight forward that could prove to be an advantage in a 5-1/2-pound gun. Indeed, it worked out that way. With its alloy receiver, the Weatherby is just ever so slightly muzzle-weighted, and it was designed to be that way.

Opening up the shipping box, I was delighted to see the petite frame of the new SA-08 and the Weatherby level of quality evidenced by the fit and finish of the gun. The alloy receiver sports a high gloss, black finish accented by Weatherby’s distinctive signature logo in gold and a chrome-plated bolt. The bore as well is chrome lined, making the gun weather resistant and easier to clean. The barrel sports a 6mm ventilated top rib with a single brass bead at the muzzle. Supplied also are Improved Cylinder, Modified and Full choke tubes and a wrench.

The action is conventional with a cross-bolt safety at the rear of the triggerguard, a button bolt release on the right side of the receiver and drop-down trigger and fire control group held in place by a single push pin. I was curious about the trigger weight-of-pull. It checked out on a Lyman electronic scale at a crisp 5 pounds.

Holt’s Hasenpfeffer is much closer to the table thanks to the quick shooting Weatherby 28.

The new 5-1/2-pound Weatherby (above) is perfectly scaled to the 28 gauge. The Weatherby is supplied with a light load and a heavy load gas valve (below, left) to moderate recoil. The light alloy receiver (below, right) is responsible for giving the SA-08 a weight-forward balance.

The components of the gas operating system are scaled to the gauge, lightweight, without adding unnecessary mass. All the SA-08 Weatherby guns are supplied with two, quick change, alloy gas valves—one marked for “Light Loads” and the other for “Heavy Loads.” Their function is to moderate and manage recoil which is necessary in 3-inch chambered 20- and 12-gauges but less so in a 2-3/4-inch chambered 28-gauge firing 5/8 ounces of steel or 3/4 to 1 ounce of lead.

The gun is stocked in walnut with 22 LPI checkering and a high gloss finish. Stock dimensions are pretty standard with a length-of-pull of 14-3/8 inches, drop at the comb of 11/2 inches and drop at the heel of 2-1/4 inches. Supplied in the parts kit are four stock shims—three for adjusting drop and one for adjusting cast. Owners largely ignore stock shims, but I strongly urge you to use them if the factory stock is not properly set up for your body. The Weatherby buttstock is nicely finished off with a rigid rubber recoil pad incorporating a smooth plastic heel plate, which prevents the butt from snagging on your clothing as you mount the gun.

Weatherby lists the weight of the new 28-gauge with either barrel length as 5-1/2 pounds. On my Sunbeam scale, the SA-08 weighed in at 5 pounds, 9 ounces. Close enough!

How did it shoot? The first thing I want to learn about an autoloader is whether or not it will shoot to the point-of-aim. Guns with removable barrels often do not, although it is less likely a problem with a quality made gun. Next, I want to see how the gun patterns at a reasonable hunting range of 30 to 40 yards. The one target on the market enabling me to make both tests is HunterJohn’s clays patterning target.

The HunterJohn target consists of 126 life-size clay birds which are roughly the body size of a small game bird. To aid in pattern evaluation, there are five 30-inch circles—the black circle is perfectly centered while the other four are slightly offset to compensate for off center patterns. In the middle of the target is a bright, red 4-inch aiming point.

Shooting a premium shell loaded with high antimony hard shot, in this case Remington’s 3/4-ounce Nitro Sporting Clays load of 7-1/2 shot, I backed off 15 feet from the target, aimed precisely for the red center and fired. At that distance, the shot charge acts like a unified projectile and gives you an immediate reading as to whether the gun shoots to the point-of-aim. As you can see from the test target, the Weatherby did.

In 28s shooting 3/4-ounce loads, I tend to favor a modified choke for upland hunting to really hammer the 20-inch core of a 30-inch pattern. Backing off to 30 yards, I again held for the red center and let fly. As you can see, that 20-inch core area is filled with killed birds with two or more pellets in them. You couldn’t ask for a better-modified choke pattern with 3/4 ounce of shot.

While there were no bird seasons open when I was testing the Weatherby, cottontails were in abundance, and in Arizona, the rabbit season runs all year long. The dogs and I like a little Hasenpfeffer from time-to-time so off we strolled with the little Weatherby in hand to bag some bunnies. I do like a fast, light gun for rabbit hunting, and the Weatherby is all of that. Over the period of four mornings, I fired nine shots and cooked eight cottontails. I couldn’t have done better with a 12 gauge.

My wife has traditionally shot a 20-gauge autoloader but last season complained about recoil. After shooting the 5-1/2-pound, 28-gauge Weatherby on some informally tossed clays; I could tell from her smile and the gleam in her eye that it’s going to be out with her 20 and in with the Weatherby 28. I don’t even have to sneak it in the back door!

Twenty-eights are like that. They’re seductive, and the svelte, new Weatherby brings out all the sterling performance the little gauge has to offer.
Holt Bodinson

HunterJohn Targets
P.O. Box 477, St. Louis, MO 63166
(314) 531-7250

SA-08 Deluxe 28 Gauge
Maker: Weatherby
1605 Commerce Way
Paso Robles, CA 93446
(805) 227-2600

Action: Gas operated, semi-automatic
Gauge: 28
Capacity: 2+1,
Barrel Length: 28″
Choke: IC, M, F
Length-Of-Pull: 14-3/8″
Drop-At-Comb: 1-1/2″
Drop-At-Heel: 2-1/4″
Overall Length: 48″
Weight: 5-1/2 pounds
Finish: Glossy
Stock: Walnut
Sights: Single brass bead
Price: $849

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GUNS October 2013

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Starting Early, Starting Right

Mossberg’s Unique Youth Shotguns.

Insuring the future of shooting sports by actively recruiting youth into the sport is a national goal of the utmost importance. We are reminded as individuals and organizations that mentoring young men and women and introducing them to the shooting sports is the future, and while it’s often hard to pry them away from their computers and iPhones, I think we’re doing a pretty good job of getting them out to the ranges and in the field.

mpanies that have been coming up with new models of rifles and shotguns every year proportioned to youths or smaller stature adults.

The crafting of firearms proportioned to youths is as old as the art of gunmaking itself. Over the last 500 years, there have been exquisite, scaled-downed wheellocks, flintlocks and percussion arms crafted for the youth of the day by the very best gunmakers. Yes, they were arms commissioned by the hunting aristocracy for their children, but it shows how concerned they were that their children were suitably outfitted and hopefully would uphold their sporting heritage as they grew into adulthood.

Fortunately, now housed in museums and private collections, many examples of historical youth arms have survived in surprisingly good condition. They serve as an inspiration and a reminder for our generation and our arms companies that our young men and women need firearms that fit them, and their introductory experiences with suitably scaled arms will insure the shooting sports become a lifelong passion.

Using the model designations of “Bantam” and “Super Bantam” across the entirety of its rimfire, centerfire and shotgun lines, Mossberg is the industry champ when it comes to offering youth and petite models in a smorgasbord of calibers, finishes and features. In fact, at last count, Mossberg offered 21 models of shotguns alone in their 500 Youth Series which covers the entire waterfront of scattergun hunting and target shooting.

Focused primarily on .410 bore and 20-gauge chambering, Mossberg’s 500 and 510 Mini Youth Series shotguns include all-purpose field models with removable chokes. A specially engraved, 20-gauge, 510 Mini Super Bantam, Mossy Oak “Turkey Thug” model dressed in Mossy Oak Obsession camo with an adjustable synthetic stock and padded sling. There’s a 500 Super Bantam “Slugster” in 20-gauge dressed in Realtree camo with a 24-inch rifled and ported barrel, adjustable synthetic stock and cantilever scope mount. There are even several 20-gauge combination models with adjustable synthetic or fixed wood stocks with two barrels: a 22-inch general purpose, adjustable choke barrel for upland game and a rifled, ported slug barrel for big game.

In short, the 500 Youth Series includes 12-, 20-gauge and .410-bore chamberings in field, turkey, and multibarrel variations with 18.5- 20-, 22-, 24- smoothbore and 24-inch slug barrel options, stocked in either synthetic with adjustable length-of-pull or solid synthetic and wood stocks in a variety of camouflage or standard finishes.

Youth Styles
But there’s more than just an infinite choice of options defining the Mossberg Youth Series. The secrets are in the design details.
Not long ago, when a manufacturer offered a “youth” model shotgun, the only change carried out on an existing adult model was to shorten the existing stock from the butt end. Mossberg’s 500 Youth Series is a much more refined product.
Recognizing that small hands need to be placed closer to the trigger, Mossberg both shortened and tightened the pistol grip-to-trigger distance and added the option of using quick replaceable spacers and recoil pads of varying thicknesses to adjust the overall length-of-pull to the shooter’s smaller physique.

Even subtler is what Mossberg did to the forearm of the Youth pump series. They brought the forearm back toward the shooter’s operating hand to accommodate the shorter arms of a young shooter. They also coined a neat name for their new design—the E-Z Reach forearm.

There are two additional features I like about the whole Youth series as an introductory repeating shotgun. Mossberg’s sliding safety, placed right on top of the rear receiver, is immediately obvious, intuitive in operation and convenient.

Why more manufacturers don’t place it there is beyond me. Anyway, it’s the ideal placement of a safety for a beginning or seasoned shooter.

The second touch, and my hat’s off to Mossberg for thinking about it, is that the Youth pump guns come factory-fitted with an extended magazine plug that prevents shells from being loaded into the magazine. As delivered, it’s a single-shot pump, and it’s the ideal teaching platform until the student becomes totally familiar with the gun, its operation and its safe handling.

Putting theory into practice, I ordered a 510 Mini Super Bantam Field model from Mossberg to test on a true youth and a friend of the family. Zack Bristow is 13. He’s a fine young man and was born into a sporting family. His father, Kirby, is a research biologist with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, and his grandfather, Bud Bristow, is the past-director of the Arizona Game and Fish Department as well as the Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries Department.

Having said that, Zack never shot a shotgun that was really fitted to him so on Easter morning Zack, his father, grandfather and I took the Mossberg 20-gauge Mini Super Bantam to the field.

The Mini Super Bantam is a marvel of miniaturization. With an 18.5-inch ventilated rib barrel and a synthetic stock with an adjustable LOP from 10-1/2 to 11-1/2 inches, it weighs only 5 pounds. It’s a wand of a shotgun, but overall, it’s well balanced.

Taking the gun and Zack in hand, Grandfather Bristow measured the stock against Zack’s reach and added the supplied 1-inch spacer and recoil pad. He replaced the factory installed “modified” choke tube with the IC tube supplied, and then both Dad and Grandfather Bristow did a little coaching before the shooting began. What they both noticed was that Zack was mounting the shotgun like a rifle, holding his body very vertical and not leaning into the gun to facilitate a fluid swing.

The nice thing about coaching youths and women is they don’t come supplied with ingrained faults and respond quickly to a coach’s advice. Zack did and, with that custom fitted Mossberg Mini Super Bantam, smoked clay-after-clay. In 6 months from now, teenage Zack will need a longer stock, but that’s what’s neat about the Mossberg lines. Their shotguns are modular, and the factory and Mossberg dealers offer a variety of options in alternative stocks and barrels.

If you really want to improve the shooting performance and enjoyment of youths and smaller stature adults and hopefully insure that they will carry our shooting sports on into the future, consider fitting the gun to them and not them to the gun. It will make all the difference in the world to them and to our future sport.
By Holt Bodinson

500 Super Bantam Combo
Maker: O.F. Mossberg & Sons, Inc.
7 Grasso Ave.
North Haven, CT 06473
(203) 230-5300
Action: Pump-action repeater
Gauge: 20 (3″)
Choke: Accu-Set
Capacity: 6
Barrel Length: 22″ vent rib, 24″ fully rifled slug
Length-Of-Pull: 12″ – 13″
Overall Length: 39-3/4″
Weight: 5.25 pounds
Finish: Blue, Mossy Oak or Realtree camo,
Sights: Dual bead
Stock: Synthetic
Price: $518
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Winchester’s Remarkable Model 1887

And Now Century Arms Imports An Inexpensive Version Of This Lever-Action 12-gauge Shotgun.

If there ever were a shotgun with an iconic image, it’s Winchester’s big lever action. Known as the Models 1887 and 1901 and chambered in both 10 gauge and 12 gauge, it was John Browning’s response to Winchester Vice-President T.G. Bennett’s request for a lever-action shotgun that would complement and enhance Winchester’s extensive lever-action line.

Browning’s first reaction, however, was to try to dissuade Bennett from pursuing a lever-action shotgun. Browning had been working on a slide-action design (later to see light as the Model 1893), and he felt strongly that his pump gun “would be easier to operate and better-looking.” On the other hand, speculation has it that Browning had just been handed a $50,000 check from Bennett for his 1886 rifle patent so he might have been feeling somewhat solicitous that day toward Bennett.

In any case, less than a year later, Browning had been issued a patent for a perfectly functional, compact, lever-action shotgun, which Winchester dubbed their Model 1887 and put into immediate production. A remarkable fact is that in three successive years, Winchester Repeating Arms had purchased and placed into production three of Browning’s greatest designs: the Model 1885 single-shot rifle, the Model 1886 lever-action rifle and the Model 1887 lever-action shotgun.

In March, 1887, at the age of 32 and married with two children, Browning was “set apart as a Mormon missionary to the southern states.” He had never seen a production model of the 1887 since it was not released until June of that year, and Browning had left on his mission in March. In a window of a southern sporting store, John Moses Browning finally got his first glimpse of the Winchester Model 1887. He entered the store, picked up the shotgun, mounted it and rapidly cycled the action before Browning’s companion told the flabbergasted owner the man operating gun invented it.

Unique Action

Like most of Browning’s designs, the action of the Model 1887 is unique and distinctive with a minimum of moving parts. The humped-back action is actually compact when you consider that the shotgun was chambered for the 12- and 10-gauge shells. The secret to its compact design is that it is a true, enclosed rolling block.

As the lever is opened, the breechblock rotates rapidly away and down from the chamber. As the lever is closed, the breechblock rotates up and forward, another shell is positioned to be chambered by a lifter being fed from a 5-round tubular magazine, and the recessed hammer is fully cocked. There is an interference built into the parts so that the lever must be fully closed and locked before the gun can be fired. The hammer features a 1/2-cock safety notch, which is engaged by lowering the hammer as the trigger is pulled.

It’s a fast action to cycle. In an era when single- and double-barreled shotguns prevailed, the 1887 provided an astonishing level of firepower—six quick shots to be exact—one in the chamber and five in the magazine.

The Winchester proved popular on both sides of the law. In fact, the first Model 1887 I ever saw was on the floor of Jensen’s Gun Shop in Tucson, Ariz., 4 decades ago. It was a 20-inch barreled, riot gun in 10 gauge and marked along the barrel “TPD” or “Tucson Police Department.” Not knowing any better and at the time focused on 1911 match pistols and big game rifles, I passed it by.

The Model 1887 could be ordered in a variety of grades, finishes and barrel lengths. The standard 12-gauge model featured a 30-inch, full-choked barrel and either a case-hardened or blued receiver. The 10-gauge model sported a 32-inch, full-choked barrel. Either model could be ordered with a cylinder or modified choke at no extra cost. Winchester even offered Damascus barrels as an upgrade.

According to Winchester historian, George Madis, three, rifled-barreled, Model 1887s are known to exist chambered for the .70-150 Winchester cartridge. That’s a .70-caliber cartridge formed from a brass 12-gauge shell pushing a bullet weighing 700 to 900 grains by 150 grains of powder. A real stomper round on both ends!

In production for 11 years, from 1887 to 1898, approximately 64,855 Model 1887’s were produced.

In 1901, Winchester introduced a refined version of the Model 1887. According to the contemporary Winchester catalog, “It has a tighter breech joint more completely supporting the shell in the chamber. A positive firing-pin retractor is supplied. The 2-piece, finger lever is made separate from the breech-block and with a finger lever lock.” The Model 1901 was available only in 10-gauge. It was in production from 1901 to 1920 and only 13,500 were produced.

The fact is that another Browning design, the Model 1893 and its successor, the highly successful Model 1897 pump gun, and simply destroyed the lever-action shotgun market, but the 1887/1901 is back and back big.

Cowboy action shooters, who were familiar with the movie debuts of the big Winchester in The Professionals (1966) and The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972), were a natural market for the intriguing model.

Then flashing across the screen in 1991 in the hands of Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2: Judgment Day was a sawn-off barrel and pistol grip stocked lever-action Winchester. Hollywood producers seemed to fall in love with Winchester’s lever-action shotgun because in a matter of years it made a series of big screen appearances in Jumanji (1995), The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996), The Mummy Returns (2001), Monte Walsh (2002), Ghost Rider (2007), Hot Fuzz (2007), Sherlock Holmes (2009), Public Enemies (2009) and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011). Hollywood should have awarded it an Oscar.

It didn’t take long for companies like Cimarron Firearms and Chiappa to move quickly to fill the demand with the most recent and most affordable model being imported from China by Century International Arms. The model pictured here is the Century International Arms 20-inch barreled, 12-gauge, riot gun rendition which is being made for them in China by the zhong zhou Machine Works. It carries with it a suggested retail price of only $399.95.

The Century International Arms model is not as nicely machined and finished as an original or as one of the more costly replicas. It incorporates an abundance of cast parts, but it functions just like an original Winchester, and it functions fine as long as you cycle the action with gusto.

The bore at the muzzle measures 0.725 inch on my gun, which places the choke midway between cylinder and improved cylinder, and I have been extremely pleased with the uniform and well centered patterns it throws at 25 yards.

The Century Model PW87 is one of those unique, historical and affordable fun guns. I could see myself carrying it hunting cottontails over beagles or quail over pointers. It’s perfect for informal clays shooting, and you’ll probably be the only one in the community to own one.

“Iconic” is the word for Winchester’s big lever-action shotgun, simply iconic!
By Holt Bodinson

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Turkey Gun Extreme

Legacy’s Escort 12-gauge self-loading gun smooths out heavy-duty shotshells.

Legacy Sports International, which imports the lines of Howa, Puma, Citadel, ISSC, Nikko Stirling and Buffalo River, has been continuously improving and expanding their “Escort” line of Hatsan, Turkish-made, semi-automatic shotguns. I’ve handled a number of Escort models and have been consistently impressed with their features, workmanship and competitive pricing.

This past fall I had an opportunity to work with one of Legacy’s latest offerings, the stylish Escort Extreme Magnum Turkey model, cloaked entirely in Realtree camouflage. The dedicated Magnum Turkey proved to be a classic turkey and varmint shotgun, digesting every 2-3/4- and 3-inch load without a hiccup.

In my hunting lifetime, no game species has generated more enthusiasm than the wild turkey. The turkey is simply North America’s greatest game bird, and its recovery from a population low of 30,000 in the 1930s to more than 7 million today is one of the hunting community’s greatest success stories.

Keen of sight, omnivorous in his food habits, the turkey in my mind ranks right up there with the whitetail deer when the conversation turns to the most challenging hunts of a lifetime. To hunt him is to respect him. You can spend a lifetime pursuing him and still be outfoxed on a regular basis.

Many states, like Arizona, give the turkey almost big game status with limited draws for specific management units. Currently, there are populations of turkeys in every state except Alaska. He is a big bird and he’s fast—capable of doing 25 mph on his feet and 55 mph in the air.

We hunt him in the spring when he’s love sick and most vulnerable, and in the fall, when he and she are just out there somewhere. The latest figures indicate that almost 3 million hunters pursue the big bird each year, and to do so, you do need some turkey-specific gear.

The majority of states require the use of a shotgun for turkey hunting, partially because it’s traditional and more recently because it’s considered safer by our game and fish departments. The trend in shotguns has been toward camouflaged autoloaders and pumps with 24- to 26-inch barrels fitted with very tight “turkey chokes” and an optical or day-glo-type sight.

In turkey hunting, the object is to lure the turkey as close as possible, hopefully within 30 yards or less, and place a carefully aimed load of No. 4, 5 or 6 shot into the head and neck area. That is what kills turkeys instantaneously. Turkeys on the ground are somewhat protected from small-size shot by their heavy wing feathers and well muscled breasts. Body shots, except when the bird is flying or wounded, are to be avoided.

Turkey hunting is one of those rare occasions when you actually aim a shotgun like a rifle so there is an emphasis on fitting turkey guns with pistol grip stocks and rifle-type open or optical sights. Personally, I favor high-visibility, open sights should I have to take a quick shot at a flying or wounded bird. As offered, Legacy’s Escort has all the features a dedicated turkey gun should have and more.

The typical setup when turkey hunting is to be in full camo with your back up against a tree to eliminate your silhouette and with your gun resting across a bent knee. The gun has to blend in, and the application of Realtree’s AP camouflage on the Escort Turkey gun is ideal. It’s one of those camo patterns general enough in color tone and design to match any woodland or brushy environment.

Another consideration when you have your back against a tree is recoil. Nothing is more painful than touching off a magnum shell with your shoulder backed up against a 100 year old oak. That’s why I prefer a gas driven, semi-automatic when turkey or varmint hunting. The gas system simply smooths out the recoil impulse.

The rubberized pistol grip found on the Escort serves two vital functions. It enhances your stability and trigger control when taking a carefully aimed shot, and it places your hand in a position to soak up just a bit of recoil as well. The Escort is fitted with a 1-inch-thick rubber recoil pad, but it’s unforgiving. I would recommend replacing it with one of the newer high-tech pads.

I would also recommend the use of a ported turkey tube to further tame felt recoil and muzzle flip. The Escort’s 24-inch barrel comes fitted with an extended turkey tube with a restriction of 0.665 inch, which is almost universal in the world of extra-full turkey chokes. As you can see from the killer patterns delivered at 40 yards with Winchester XX turkey loads, the factory choke gets the job done in spades. In addition to the turkey tube, the Escort comes with C, IC, M, IM and F tubes as well.

The buttstock of the Escort is adjustable for drop with the use of two supplied spacers with thicknesses of 2mm and 2.5mm. They can be used singly or in combination. I find when asking around that few shotgunners actually experiment with their adjustable buttstocks to alter drop or cast-off/cast-on. It’s a shame. Minor stock adjustments can improve your “shooting flying” performance overnight.

Also incorporated in the buttstock are speed-feed clips holding two extra shells. I carried 4-buck in those clips in hopes of ambushing a coyote. Used in conjunction with the magazine cut-off button of the Escort, the readily available shells in the speed feed clips can be a game changer in the field.

You are going to be doing a lot of walking and hopefully, walking out with a Tom over your shoulder. A sling on your shotgun is an invaluable accessory, and the Escort is factory equipped with sling swivels.

Shotgunner 1

The Escort’s suit of Realtree camo blends well into most hunting environments.
The rubberized pistol grip enhances stability, trigger control and cushions felt recoil.
Having a rib under the forearm for mounting night lights is a plus for varmint hunting.

shotgunner 2

Successful turkey hunting usually requires full camouflage of hunter and gun.


Legacy’s Escort is fitted with HiViz front and rear open sights. It’s a 3-dot system with two green dots on the rear blade and a bright, red dot at the muzzle. The rear sight is fully adjustable for elevation and windage, which is essential for adjusting the center of the pattern to the point-of-aim in a turkey gun. Patterning at distances from 20 to 40 yards will prove without question that the choke tube/ammunition combination delivers a tight, killing pattern. Fortunately, there are some great turkey head and neck targets available like the Champion brand VisiColor targets pictured here that clearly illuminate hits in the red, lethal zone.

Adding the option of an optical sight is a cinch on the Escort since the receiver sports a full-length Picatinny rail. For varmint shooting, there’s also a rail on the bottom of the forearm just begging for a big, red, night-light.

All in all, Legacy’s dedicated Escort Turkey gun is a great package for the turkey hunter. It’s a well thought out, well-executed and affordable design.

Did I bag my fall Merriam’s turkey? No, I did not, but spring is just around the corner. Hope springs eternal in a wild turkey hunter!
By Holt Bodinson

shotgunner 3

At 40 yards, the Escort delivered excellent killing patterns in the red zone.

Shotgunner 4

The Picatinny rib gives the hunter an option of installing optical sights on the Escort. The oversize operating handle proved handy when shooting with gloves on.

shotgunner 6

Having some extra shells or different shells at hand can be a game changer in the field.

Champion Traps & Targets
1 ATK Way, Anoka, MN 55303
(800) 635-7656

Escort Magnum Turkey
MAKER: Hatsan, Turkey
IMPORTER: Legacy Sports International
4750 Longley Ln., Ste. 208
Reno, NV 89502
(775) 828-0565
Action: Gas
Caliber: 12 gauge, 2-3/4″, 3″
Barrel Length: 24″
Choke: Turkey, F, IM, M, IC, C
Overall Length: 44″
Weight: 7.4 pounds
Finish: Realtree AP
Length-of-Pull: 14″
Price: $673

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GUNS April 2013

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The Browning 725

Look what they’ve done to the Citori!

Browning’s new Model 725 is not your father’s Citori. Introduced in 1972, the Citori is certainly one of the world’s most successful O/U designs, but like all good designs, it was time for a facelift. Having aged through a series of model changes starting with the Model 325 and advancing through Models 425, 525 and 625, the Citori has worn many faces with many designations and price points, ranging from plain field-grade hunting models through 4-barrel, Grade VI skeet sets. A Superposed it’s not, but the new Model 725 is certainly challenging Browning’s oldest and most famous shotgun model. In some respects, it’s even better.

Shotgunner 2

The Model 725 (above) is defined by its low-profile receiver. Even the top line of the
standing breech is more sculptured and streamlined. The side panels of the sliver-nitride-
coated receiver (below) support stylish hunting scenes.

Shotgunner 5

Browning played it very close-to-the-chest with the redesign. It was really a tightly kept state secret until the unveiling this year. I imagine sitting down with a CAD program and beginning to redesign the flagship O/U in the Browning line was either a challenge or a moment of trepidation for the design engineer assigned to the task. The end result is a remarkable transformation of a 40-year-old design.

The most significant change in the new Citori is a completely new receiver profile. The Citori was never known for having a low-profile receiver. It does now. The height of the receiver has been reduced by 1/8″ and the top of the standing breech slimmed down and reduced in profile accordingly.

An 1/8″ doesn’t seem like much of a change, but when mated with the slimmer barrel profile of the new Citori, it changes the whole dynamic of the gun. Subtle changes to a shotgun can have dramatic results. Changes like adding a single layer of moleskin to the comb or lengthening or reducing the length of the stock by fractions of an inch or adding drop or cast-off by bending the stock or adding a ventilated rib can radically affect the way in which a gun handles and performs for its owner.

The result of giving the Citori a lower profile is that the Model 725 feels lighter and achieves that much sought after balance and weight distribution between the hands we often describe in a shotgun as being “lively.” The shallow frame of the new 725 also facilitates that ideal hands-in-line, hand-to-barrel relationship so important to accurate and intuitive shotgunning.

While Browning uses a monobloc hinge in their Cynergy model to achieve the lowest-profile receiver in the industry, the Model 725 achieves a lower profile while keeping the full- width hinge pin and tapered locking lug of the original Citori design justifiably famous for its strength and longevity. Tapering the locking lug allows the lug to compensate for wear as it occurs by progressively seating deeper in the locking recess, and, of course, a hinge pin is always replaceable. Keep the hinge pin, monobloc recess, locking lug and fore-end iron properly lubricated, and the Citori will perform perfectly through tens-of-thousands of rounds. It’s a robust design and a tough gun.

shotgunner 4

The top lever and safety/selector (above) have been restyled for the new model.
With a weight-of-pull of only 3-1/2 to 4 pounds, the mechanical trigger (below)
is sensational.

shotgunner 3

As remarkable as the new frame profile of the 725 is, the new “Fire Lite” trigger is fantastic. If I were blindfolded, handed the new Citori and pressed the trigger, I would conclude that I had been handed a Krieghoff or Perazzi match gun. Gone is the older inertia design that depended upon recoil to reset. In its place is a mechanical trigger, with a release weight of 3-1/2 to 4 pounds as measured by my Lyman electronic scale. Frankly, I was so surprised by those weight measurements I had to remeasure the trigger with a Timney mechanical scale and then even confirm my measurements with Denny Wilcox, Browning’s Product Manager. Wilcox confirmed that the factory specification is indeed 3-1/2 to 4 pounds.

Not only are the triggers sensationally light, but also there is a minimum of take-up and overtravel. The new mechanical trigger is simply the finest trigger I have ever worked with on a field-grade shotgun. “Crisp” is the word! On the sporting grade Model 725s, the trigger is setup to be adjustable for finger-to-trigger length and is available with three different, canted, trigger shoes—a wide checkered, wide smooth or narrow smooth model.

There is even a new choke tube design in the Model 725. Browning introduced their long Invector-Plus tubes years ago. The new tube for the Model 725 is named “Invector-DS,” the “DS” standing for “Double Seal.” It’s a thin-walled, flush-mounted tube in the field grade and an extended, finger-tightening tube in the sporting grades. The new Invector-DS tubes are l-o-n-g. They’re a full 3/4″ longer than the current Invector-Plus tubes. With the increased length of the new tube, Browning has been able to more gradually taper the choke and constrict the shot resulting in improved, more consistent shot patterns and slightly higher velocities.

The Invector-DS tube is threaded at the muzzle end and, where the threads are on the Plus series tube, there is an expanding, brass gas seal that compresses against the wall of the barrel as the tube is tightened. “Double Seal” it is with the brass gas seal preventing gas and fouling from wedging in between the wall of the tube and the barrel, keeping the surface of the tube cleaner and making choke tube removal much easier. The Invector-DS factory tubes are available in 7 degrees of constriction from skeet-to-full, and being thin walled, they maintain the slim, new barrel profile of the 725.

One of the less visible improvements incorporated in Model 725 is the Inflex II technology built into the recoil pad. Inside the pad are a series of ribs that flex when the shot is fired and actually lower the comb slightly away from your face during recoil. The combination of a shallower-profile receiver and the Inflex pad, work together to reduce barrel flip and moderate felt recoil. It’s a dynamic system that works.

If I sound enthusiastic about this new Citori, I am. I bought the first one I saw in Tucson, and Golden Steamer and I are chomping at the bit for the opening of the 2012 quail season. With the new Model 725 in hand, I think this may be a hunting season to remember.
By Holt Bodinson

MAKER:Browning (by Miroku)
One Browning Pl.
Morgan, UT 84050
(800) 333-3288
Models: Field (tested), Sporting, Adjustable Sporting, Featherweight (tba), Action: Over/under, Caliber: 12 gauge, Capacity: 2, Barrel length: 26″ or 28″ (Field), 28″, 30″ or 32″ (Sporting), Choke: Invector-DS (7), Overall length: 43-3/4″ with 26″ barrel, Weight: 7 pounds, 4 ounces, to 7 pounds, 10 ounces, Finish: Silver nitride (receiver), blue (barrels), Sights: front and mid bead, Stocks: Field: Grade ii or iii walnut, Sporting: Grade iii or iv, Drop-at-comb: 1-5/8″ (field), 1-9/16″ (Sporting), Drop-at-heel: 2-1/2″ (Field & Sporting), Length-of-pull: 14-1/4″ (Field), 14-3/4″ (Sporting), Price: $2,469 (Field), $3,139 (Sporting)

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The DT11

Beretta rolls out a Champ.

The Italians have a gift when it comes to building delightful over/under shotguns. It’s in their blood. It’s in their culture. They simply have an innate flair for making lively, aesthetically pleasing shotguns.

The house of Beretta is a case in point. Little did Bartolomeo Beretta know in 1526 when he received an order for 185 arquebus barrels from the Doges of Venice that 486 years later his family would still be making guns under the Beretta banner in rural Gardone and be known for being the oldest family owned business in the world. That’s the pedigree Beretta’s new competition DT11 line brings to range.

The DT11 line can be thought of as an evolutionary refinement of the already durable and match-winning DT10 series of competition models. Beretta’s DT11 is designed to go head-to-head with Krieghoff’s and Perazzi’s in international competition, and it’s being hand assembled by Beretta’s craftsmen in the Premium Gun Group, who even balance each individual gun around the hinge pin by adding lead to the stock.

At Beretta’s Shooting Grounds in Dover Furnace, N.Y., I had an opportunity to shoot with and speak at length with Dr. Niccolo d’Amico, the Product Manager of Beretta’s premium gun line about the development of the DT11. Dr. d’Amico was the pivot man in the development process of the DT11 and responsible for bringing together the experience and recommendations of seasoned shotgun competitors with the engineering, production and marketing expertise of the company.

What Dr. d’Amico stressed was the final design of the DT11 was very much driven by the end-users, shotgunners like ourselves, who are engaged in the sport for fun, fame or money. He commented, “The DT11 is a gun from a shooter to a shooter.” I couldn’t help but observe that Dr. d’Amico’s favorite sport is bunker trap and that the new DT11 trap gun is without question the most refined model in the whole line.

Beretta’s use of the acronym “DT” stands for “detachable trigger.” Actually what we’re talking about is a completely hand-detachable lock assembly. By pushing the safety fully forward and then breaking the gun open, the shooter can simply withdraw the compact lock assembly from the bottom of the action. Beretta stresses the safety factor in their design in that the shooter must break open the gun before the lock assembly can be removed.

What are the advantages of a detachable lock system? First and foremost, if the shooter were to experience a lock failure in the middle of a tournament, he could replace it in seconds. The ability the system gives the owner to clean, lubricate and otherwise service the lock is obvious. On a more esoteric level, if the shooter desired to use a release trigger, for example, in a particular event, he could swap out locks.
By Holt Bodinson

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The Future Is Flexible

Especially with the new Mossberg FLEX 500 12-gauge shotgun.

I was always curious about European arms makers who offered one rifle receiver and interchangeable barrels in a dozen different calibers. Knowing a few sportsmen who bought into the concept, I observed that, most of the time, their one receiver was mated with one favorite caliber barrel while the other barrels languished, gathering dust in the gun safe.

Then along came the AR’s and, depending upon the mission, both soldiers and shooters began swapping out uppers, buttstocks, handguards, sighting systems, flash suppressors and suppressors willy-nilly. We are definitely headed into a modular world of firearms in which form follows function and right at the head of the flexible shotgunning pack is Mossberg. Modifying their already modular Model 500/590 pump shotgun series, Mossberg has created a fascinating array of low-cost optional assemblies and a unique quick-change system they call “FLEX.”

Mossberg’s FLEX system was originally developed with a military application in mind. The military had made it known they were interested in a modular shotgun. Mossberg’s rugged and utterly reliable Model 590A1 pump gun already was the US military’s primary fighting shotgun, as it has been here for the last 25 years and currently in 41 other countries as well, so Mossberg moved vigorously ahead to design a flexible shotgun system that would put them in first place for the next 25 years. Then the climate changed.

For whatever reason, budgetary or otherwise, military interest in the modular shotgun concept waned so Mossberg moved the project to a back burner where it simmered for 7 years.
By Holt Bodinson

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General Kalashnikov’s Shotgun

This AK-style 12 Gauge Is Gaining A Following Among 3-Gun Shooters And Predator Hunters

Morphing rifles into shotguns is a curious business. The classic example was the German conversion of the Mauser 98 into Geha-branded, 16-gauge sporters between-the-wars. The end result was a pretty nice looking bolt-action shotgun if a bolt-action shotgun appealed to you. The action, more than any other element of these designs, make rifle-to-shotgun transformations so intriguing.

Recently, there have been two, rather interesting, contemporary adaptations. The Russian arms factory of Izhmash has developed .410, 20- and 12-gauge models based on the AK-47 action, which go by the name of “Saiga” while Eksen Arms in Istanbul, Turkey, has fielded the AR-15-looking Akdal MKA 1919 in 12 gauge. Both brands speak well for their genealogy with the Saiga being a faithful adaptation of the AK-47 mechanism while the MKA 1919 resembles an AR in cosmetics only.
I’ve not had an opportunity to work with the new MKA 1919, but the Saiga has been around for a few years, and I’ve had some experience with it.

The Russian maker, Izhmash, the Izhevsk Machine Engineering Plant, was established in 1807 by the decree of Tsar Alexander I. Izhevsk is located approximately 683 miles east of Moscow. Because it has been the small arms manufacturing center for Russia, the city of Izhevsk was a “closed city” until 1992, when, with the break-up of the USSR, travel restrictions were lifted and Izhmash was transformed into a diversified “Open Joint Stock Company” that also manufactures under the brand name “Baikal.” The Izhmash plant still produces 85 percent of Russia’s small arms, but the “Open Joint Stock Company” is also now producing automobiles, motorcycles, machinery and variety of consumer products.

In an effort to diversify its small arms business and to appeal to the civilian market, Izhmash developed their AK-47 based “Saiga” line of sporting rifles and shotguns. Naming their new line after the odd-looking, Roman-nosed, endangered antelope of the Russian steppes has always puzzled me, but then again, we tack the names of birds and mammals on American made firearms willy-nilly as well.

The most popular of the Saiga shotguns is the 12-gauge, which handles 2-3/4″ and 3″ shells. It has seen a dramatic rise in popularity with the advent of 3-gun matches and a growing public awareness for self-defense preparedness. It is not only popular because of its AK-47 reputation of rugged reliability, but being fed with box magazines, it’s quick to reload as well as having a fast cycling rate. Moreover, it’s an affordable semi-automatic, priced today below $600.

On the sporting side of the ledger, the Saiga is a fun gun for informal clay pigeon shoots. While not exactly designed as a handy upland game gun, it does just fine for static types of hunts, such as predator calling and the pursuit of doves, waterfowl, and turkeys, or as a slug gun when hunting from a stand.

The Saiga pictured here is a 12-gauge with a 19″ barrel, a 41″ overall length and, with an empty 5-shot magazine, weighs exactly 7-1/2 pounds on my Sunbeam scale. This popular version is being marketed by Century International Arms.
By Holt Bodinson

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Happy 100th Anniversary, Model 12

One Of America’s Most Popular Shotguns Can Still Be found Afield.

I’ve owned a lot of nice doubles and over/unders and still do, in fact. Nothing quite has the feel and dynamics of a well-balanced double. It’s a very personal type of gun, and if it fits you right, it will make you look like one of the smoothest, most deadly and debonair gunners extant. Yet, when the dove and quail seasons break open, and I find myself and my dog out in the field at the edge of dawn, it’s just as possible I’ll be carrying an old Model 12 Winchester pump in 16 or 12 gauge. Old habits are hard to break, and fine, old shotguns seem to improve with age. It’s hard to believe, but Winchester’s Model 12 is enjoying its 100th anniversary this year.

Pump shotguns are a uniquely American design. While the Model 1897 Winchester exposed hammer shotgun was highly successful, selling over a million, the sporting public at the turn of the 20th century was clamoring for a more contemporary and modern-looking repeater. In fact, because of increasing urbanization with a parallel decline in big-game hunting, there was less and less demand for high-power rifles and more and more sporting demand for rimfire rifles and shotguns.

Winchester had already produced its sleek, hammerless repeating rifles, the Models 1903, 1905, 1907 and 1910 and even for a brief period, an auto-loading shotgun, the Model 1911, which looked a lot like an enlarged version of their self-loading rifles but failed to compete commercially with John Browning’s design.
By Holt Bodinson

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Shotgunning Miscellany

It’s A Horn-A-Plenty For Scattergunners

Here’s a new company with a couple of unique ideas for coloring shot and making it a marker for who shot what. The impetus for developing colored shot for waterfowling started with a situation that arose among a group of hunters shooting out of the same blind. As the birds came into the decoys, everyone opened fire. After the smoke had cleared, the ducks were retrieved, and one was found to be wearing a band.

Now if you’ve ever hung out with a group of serious waterfowlers, you know duck bands are considered the most precious prizes of the hunt. Strung along a duck call lanyard, they’re worn as ersatz jewelry and symbolize the years a hunter has spent on the water as well as his prowess with a scattergun and decoy spreads. And so an argument ensured among the group as to who had downed the banded duck; of course, everyone present claimed they had.

Spectra Shot—CSI In Box

Spectra Shot’s solution to such problems is to offer the waterfowling public colored shot—four colors of colored shot to be exact—yellow, orange, blue and green. If there were more than four hunters in a blind, I guess you could add nickel-plated shot, copper-plated shot and plain steel shot as additional markers.

In any case, through the use of colored shot and a little bit of plucking, the winner of the band could be promptly determined. In the unlikely case more than one color of shot was uncovered, I suppose the hunters could draw straws or play dibs.
Every manufacturer of shot and shotshells has at one time or another tried to develop colored shot. In the past, the results were either toxic, too expensive or more likely, the colored coating would simply flake off the shot. What Spectra Shot has done is to develop a non-toxic coating and a process that insures the color adheres to the shot. In the ammunition world, that’s quite an accomplishment.

As we go to press, Spectra Shot is moving through the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s testing protocol for non-toxic shot and should be available for the 2012 waterfowl season. Initially, colored Spectra Shot will be loaded as 1-1/4 ounces of No. 2 steel shot in 3″, 12-gauge hulls with a muzzle velocity of 1,400 fps and competitively priced.

Another product under development by Spectra Shot is skeet size shot that becomes luminescent when shot in the presence of ultraviolet light. Stay tuned.
Story by: Holt Bodinson

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