Celebrating the year’s new smoothbores
Despite a pandemic-fueled buying surge that focused the shooting industry’s attention on rifle and pistol sales, gunmakers still turned out plenty of interesting new shotguns in 2021. The comparatively new category of women’s shotguns continues to grow, reflecting the increasing number of women in the shotgun sports. There is good news for fans of waterfowl, target and upland guns too. In all, there’s enough here for everyone to find at least one new gun he or she absolutely has to own.
The first 3½" semi-auto, the Super Black Eagle, made Benelli a household name among waterfowl hunters. This year, 3" 12- and 20-gauge models join the 3½" SBE3 in the lineup. They share all the features of the 3½" SBE3: carbon-fiber rib; recoil-reducing Comfort Tech stock; enlarged controls; and the Easy Lock bolt, which is impossible to knock out of battery.
The 3" 12 makes a versatile choice for hunters who want to cycle lighter practice and dove loads or who never shoot 3½" loads and see no reason to pay for a 3½" chamber. The 3" 20 caters to the growing number of duck hunters who enjoy bringing smaller bores to the duck blind. Both gauges come in synthetic and camo versions starting at $1,699.
Last year Benelli introduced its BE.S.T. (Benelli Surface Treatment), a coating of hard carbon particles that protects metal from rust and abrasion on selected SBE3 and Ethos models. This year the BE.S.T. lineup expands to include ETHOS Cordoba models in 12, 20 and 28 gauge with the Comfort Tech recoil-reducing stock, a choice of 28" or 30" ported barrels and clear windows in the magazine tube so you can be sure your gun is loaded when doves are flying fast. The guns list for $2,349.
For clay shooters, Benelli offers the ETHOS SuperSport, tricking out the ETHOS platform with a 28" or 30" ported barrel with a wide rib and front and middle beads, extended Crio chokes and a carbon-fiber finish on the stock and forend. Available in 12, 20 and 28 gauge, it lists for $2,229.
The Maxus, Browning’s flagship semi-auto, has gotten a big enough overhaul this year to earn the designation Maxus II. It retains the good features of the original, such as its reliable gas system, Browning’s Speed Loading feature and the handy Turn-Key magazine plug that’s easy to remove and replace. It also has a conventional magazine cap, which replaces the Maxus’s one annoying feature: a forend latch. Now you can add a magazine extension for snow geese or a weight for target shooting. The redesigned synthetic stock is easier to cut to length than most synthetic stocks, and it features a soft cheek pad, to reduce recoil. The Maxus II comes in camo and black hunting models in 3" and 3½" 12 gauge and in a carbon-fiber-patterned 12-gauge sporting gun. Prices start at $1,589.
Every year Browning introduces a limited run of Citoris in its High Grade program. This year’s model is a beautiful smallbore Field Sporting Grade VII gun with Grade VI/VII walnut and eye-catching silver inlaid gamebirds on a silver-nitride receiver. The 20, 28 and .410 versions come with a choice of 30" or 32" barrels and a hard case. They should be equally at home in the dove field or on the clays course. They list for $6,459 in 20 gauge and $6,559 in 28 and .410.
Browning has dressed up the A5 Hunter in a limited-edition Grade III version with glossy, oil-finished, Grade III Turkish walnut in 3" 12 gauge with 26" or 28" barrels for $1,939. There’s also a limited-edition Sweet 16 with the classic round-knob grip and a traditional checkering pattern that should catch the attention of plenty of bird hunters. It comes with 26" or 28" barrels for $1,739.
Browning also is offering 16-gauge fans a limited run of its Citori White Lightning on a true-to-gauge frame. It has an engraved, silver receiver, oil-finished Grade III/IV stock, extended Midas choke tubes and 26" or 28" barrels. The price is $2,739.
There are also Grade I and II runs of the Citori Hunter in all five gauges. The Grade I features a blued receiver; the Grade II has Grade II/III wood and a nickel-plated, gold-highlighted receiver. Both feature Browning’s excellent Inflex recoil pads. Grade I guns start at $1,999; Grade IIs start at $2,199.
CAESAR GUERINI USA
For 2021 Caesar Guerini has added two guns available only through its Elite dealers. The Revenant, Guerini’s most expensive and ornate shotgun, features a Boss-style forend, a round-body action and a distinctive gold-inlaid engraving pattern that blends precise five-axis laser engraving with skilled handwork. The new Revenant Sporting comes in 20 and 28 gauge with a target-style stock and pistol grip and a choice of 30" or 32" barrels for $14,750.
There’s also a limited-edition round-bodied Ellipse Gold. It has a case-colored receiver accented by gold inlays and features extra-deluxe wood. It will come in a run of 20- and 28-gauge guns with 28" or 30" barrels, a solid rib and a wood-grain hard case. A rounded Prince of Wales grip is standard, but a straight grip and left-handed stock are available on request. The Ellipse Gold lists for $7,825, with a 20-/28-gauge set that sells for $10,550.
Made for a century near the French arms-making center of St.-Étienne, Chapuis guns should become better known in the US now that Benelli USA has become Chapuis’ sole distributor here. The initial offerings consist of the Faisan O/U and the Chasseur side-by-side. Both guns feature choke tubes and coin-finished receivers, and each comes in two grades: a Classic finish, featuring AAA walnut and laser engraving, and an Artisan model, with 5A wood and hand engraving. Both guns are made in 12, 20 and 28 gauge with 28" barrels. Classics start at $4,159 for the Faisan and $4,359 for the Chasseur. Artisan models start at $8,759 and $8,999.
Made by AKUS, one of Turkey’s best-regarded gunmakers, Dickinson shotguns enjoy a good reputation for looks and craftsmanship, and the company produces some stunning high-grade guns at surprisingly reasonable prices. The new Royal over/under (see Gun Review, May/June) is one such high-end gun, featuring hand-detachable sidelocks. It has a premium hand-finished, hand-checkered Turkish-walnut stock with a rounded grip. You can choose between a richly engraved coin finish or sparsely decorated sideplates that show off beautiful bone-charcoal case colors. The Royal comes in 12 and 20 gauge with a choice of 24", 26", 28" or 30" barrels. At $5,465 it’s a lot of gun for the money.
At the other end of the price spectrum, Dickinson introduced a line of single-shot Ranger shotguns in walnut and synthetic models. They come in 12, 20 and 28 gauge with fixed Modified chokes and .410 with a Full choke. Barrels are 24", and there’s an 18½"-barreled Survival model too. They are fun, handy guns, and at $144 are so inexpensive that you almost can’t afford not to buy one.
Although known for its break-actions, Dickinson makes autoloaders too. The newest is the ASI inertia gun, a lightweight, 3" 12-gauge hunting gun that comes in all even barrel lengths from 24" to 30" in walnut, black synthetic and camo. Prices start at $599.
Long before Fabarm joined Caesar Guerini, the company was well known in Europe in its own right, especially for its Tribore (a long forcing cone, with an overbored section in the middle tapering as it nears the choke) boring system. For 2021 Fabarm gives the Elite treatment to its Elos 2 hunting gun. Available in 12 and 20 gauge with 28" barrels, the Elos 2 Elite has upgraded, oil-finished wood, a case-colored receiver with gold gamebird inlays and a price of $3,325.
The first double offered by Fabarm, the Autumn (see The Gun Rack, Jan/Feb), appeared mid-last year. It has classic lines and a case-colored receiver enhanced by deep-relief engraving. The matte-finished wood is available in a straight-grip/splinter-forend configuration or a pistol-grip/semi-beavertail version, and both styles have a single selective trigger. Fit and finish are excellent, the weight is light, the balance is good and the gun comes in 20 gauge with a choice of 28" or 30" choke-tubed barrels. The price is $4,095.
On the competition side, there’s a pair of new Elos combo guns. Intended to be the only gun you’ll need to shoot all clay disciplines, the Elos N2 Allsport Type-T has a 30" or 32" O/U barrel with Fabarm’s clever Quick Release Rib, which lets you switch ribs and point of impact in a minute. A 34" unsingle barrel adds to the Allsport’s versatility, making it truly a gun for all games. The Elos N2 Allsport Type-T has an adjustable comb and a hard case, and the whole package sells for $4,695. Owners of current N2 Allsport O/Us can buy the unsingle barrel separately for $2,594, which includes a fitting charge and a new case.
Fausti shotguns look a little different this year. The company has a new logo to go with its new slogan, “I’ll Be Your Gun.” The logo appears on the bottom of the frame and the toplever and signals a renewed commitment to innovation and growth. Two staples of the lineup, the DEA and the Class Aphrodite, ably demonstrate that Fausti already knows how to make good shotguns.
The DEA side-by-side comes in 12, 16, 20 and 28 gauge as well as .410 with a choice of either a coin or case-colored finish. It has a AA walnut stock with an oil finish, straight grip and semi-beavertail forend. Even the 12-gauge weighs less than 7 pounds, while the 28 and .410 weigh around 5. The gun has a single, non-selective trigger and ejectors. All the gauges except .410 have choke tubes, and you get a choice of 26", 28" or 30" barrels in all five gauges. Prices start at $3,718.
The Class O/U comes in several variations, all of them, well, classy. Among them is the Class Aphrodite, with a Monte Carlo stock and dimensions designed for women. Like the DEA, it boasts oil-finished AA walnut. The coin-finished receiver is decorated with gold floral scrolls, and the gun comes in 12, 16, 20 and 28 gauge with choke tubes and in .410 with fixed chokes in both hunting and sporting barrel lengths. Prices start at $4,199.
Franchi’s Instinct line of over/unders keeps growing, this year adding a pair of 28-gauges, both with upgraded decoration. There’s an LX, with 28" barrels, a case-colored steel receiver and AA-Grade satin walnut for $1,799 and a lightweight SLX, with 28" barrels, an alloy frame and AA-Grade satin walnut for $2,099.
Krieghoff announced three new models of the venerable K-80. The lighter-weight K-80 Parcours model, very popular with sporting clays shooters, is the focus of the new introductions. There’s a 34"-barreled Parcours intended for long presentations. It comes with fixed Modified/Improved Modified chokes for $12,895 or optional Krieghoff Thin Wall choke tubes for $13,695.
The new Parcours-X is for those who find the Standard to be a little too heavy and the Parcours to be a little too light. The Parcours-X has 32" barrels, which split the difference between the other two models weight-wise; a flat, tapered rib; and factory Thin Wall tubes. The price is $13,695.
Although plenty of women already shoot K-80s, Krieghoff now offers a Victoria version of the Parcours with a stock designed for female shooters. It is available in 12, 20 or 28 gauge with either 30" or 32" barrels, and it comes in a cream leather case for $12,895.
Mossberg’s new Reserve Series O/Us, comprised of Silver and Gold Reserve guns (see The Gun Rack, May/June), replaces the old Silver Reserve II line. Made by Khan, in Turkey, the newest iterations of the Reserves are nice guns, with good fit and finish and nicely figured, satin-finished walnut stocks. The lineup starts with a black, synthetic-stocked 12-gauge and includes hunting guns, youth guns, target guns and a Gold Reserve Super Sporting with a full adjustable comb and pad. Prices start at $636 for the black version and top out at $1,221 for the Super Sport.
Built in a high-tech Turkish factory, Retay inertia autoloaders have caught on quickly among American hunters since their introduction just a few years ago. Well made and well finished, they have a bolt that can’t be easily bumped out of battery that sets them apart from almost every other inertia gun on the market.
The latest Retay offerings include a 20-gauge version of the company’s flagship Masai Mara semi-auto. It’s available in walnut- or synthetic-stocked models, and there’s a short-barreled turkey hunting version starting at $1,255.
A new model, the Gordion, features a one-piece receiver, the inertia-plus bolt and a lower price tag. Weighing in around 6¾ pounds, the 3" 12-gauge Gordion comes in a handsome walnut upland version as well as synthetic and camo models with enlarged controls. Prices start at $799 for black synthetic.
Rizzini has introduced the Venus, which joins the growing category of women’s guns. Made in both field and sporting models, it’s an ornately decorated gun with a rounded action covered in floral scroll and a select-grade walnut stock with 26 lines-per-inch checkering. The Monte Carlo stock has a slightly reduced length of pull (the Sport model has an adjustable comb), and barrels measure 26" and 28" on the Field model and 28", 30" and 32" on the Sport model. The Field model is available in 20 and 28 gauge as well as .410 and lists for $5,690; the Sport model comes in 12, 20 and 28 gauges and lists for $5,369.
SKB has added a field gun, the 720 O/U, to its lineup this year. Made in 12, 20 and 28 gauge as well as .410 on three different frames, the 720 is available with 26" or 28" barrels. There’s a two-barreled 28/.410 set and a youth 20-gauge as well. Long forcing cones improve patterns, and each gun comes with five choke tubes. The 720 features a single, selective mechanical trigger. The white chrome receiver has gold gamebird embellishments, and the wood is Grade II Turkish walnut. All models list for $1,559 except for the two-barrel set, which is $2,329.
Syren USA kicked off the welcome trend of shotguns designed to better fit women. The latest Syren over/under, the Julia Sporter (see Gun Review), is also the most ornate. It features case-colored sideplates decorated with a striking gold engraving pattern designed by master engraver Dario Cortini and deluxe-grade wood. The stock is designed for women, with a shorter length of pull, a tighter grip radius, a Monte Carlo stock, pitch out at the toe and an adjustable comb. Barrels measure 30". The price is $6,050.
Phil Bourjaily sold his first outdoor story—on snipe hunting—to Field & Stream in 1985. He currently is the shotgun columnist for Field & Stream and Ducks Unlimited magazines. Phil has traveled widely in pursuit of birds and waterfowl, but his favorite hunts are for geese, turkeys, doves and pheasants close to home. He enjoys skeet and sporting clays as practice for fall hunting seasons. A 1981 graduate of the University of Virginia, he makes his home in his native Iowa with his wife, Pamela, and his German shorthaired pointers, Jed and Zeke. He has two grown sons.