The year’s class of new smoothbores
This year’s SHOT show was especially light on shotguns, with Benelli, Beretta, Fausti and CZ among the last-minute Covid cancellations. Even before the pandemic, the SHOT Show had been attracting more handguns and “black rifles” and fewer shotgun companies every year, and Covid seemed to only accelerate the trend. These days you have to look at SHOT and elsewhere to see what’s new in shotguns. This year it was well worth the search, as there are several good introductions, including a gun chambered for the long-rumored and finally realized 3" 28-gauge. Sixteen-gauge fans will find a few new guns to think about, as well, and there are several new hunting, waterfowl and target models.
The year’s biggest surprise was Benelli’s latest version of the Super Black Eagle 3—one that will allow waterfowlers to downsize to a 28-gauge. Three-inch 28-gauge shells are already available for the new magnum smallbore, which packs all the features of the 12- and 20-gauge SBE3s, including the ComforTech stock, Easy Locking bolt, and enlarged bolt handle and release button, into a 5½-pound package. The gun is available with a 26" or 28" barrel in black for $1,799 or Realtree MAX-5, Mossy Oak Bottomland or GORE OPTIFADE Timber camo for $1,899.
The new Ethos Cordoba BE.S.T. is made for high-volume shooting, with a ported barrel and wide, target-style rib. There’s also a unique “shell view” feature consisting of a plastic window running along the bottom of the forearm, allowing you to peek through cutaways in the magazine tube. “BE.S.T.” stands for “Benelli Surface Treatment,” a high-tech graphite coating for the gun’s metal surfaces that resists rust and abrasion for a guaranteed 25 years. The Ethos Cordoba BE.S.T. comes in 12, 20 and 28 gauge—all with 3" chambers. The gun lists for $2,349.
There is also a limited-edition 828 U over/under this year with a silver steel receiver engraved and highlighted with gold in place of the alloy frame of other 828 U field models. The 28" barrels have a gloss BE.S.T. coating. With its steel frame, the 3" 12-gauge weighs just less than 7½ pounds. Two hundred fifty will be made, and they list for $6,499.
Beretta’s A400 Xcel has been made over with several features intended to make it more shootable. An enlarged bolt handle and closer, which previously shooters had to add aftermarket, are standard on the new A400 Xcel Sporting. So are magazine-cap weights and an enlarged loading port of the type favored by 3-Gun competitors. The stock and forend have been reshaped, and the Kick-Off recoil-reduction system has been integrated into the wood stock. The bright blue that some loved and some hated is seen only on the bolt now. The reshaped receiver has a gray Aquatech finish and faint laser engraving of the word “Xcel” on the side. It comes in 12 gauge with or without Kick-Off and in 28", 30" or 32" barrel lengths. There is a Vittoria women’s model too. Prices start at $1,979.
The A300 line is one of the better values in shotguns, and this year it has grown to include the A300 Ultima. Like the A400 Xcel Sporting, it features a redesigned receiver with enlarged loading port, bolt handle and release button. It has a wider, stepped rib and its own version of the Kick-Off system. It comes in 3" 12 and 20 gauge with a 28" barrel and lists for $849 in black and $949 in Bottomland or MAX-5.
For target shooters, Browning offers a new Citori 725 Medallion High Grade sporting gun. Stocked in Grade IV Turkish walnut with a gloss oil finish, the over/under has an engraved receiver with tasteful gold accents and a medallion in the stock for your initials. The 725 features lower-profile and livelier barrels than the Citori as well as a mechanical trigger and Browning’s lengthened Vector Pro forcing cones and overbored 30" or 32" barrels. It comes in a padded Negrini case for $7,070.
In semi-autos Browning offers nothing brand new, but the company has added several notable line extensions, including two wood-stocked versions of the Maxus II. The Maxus II Hunter ($1,670) has satin walnut furniture and matte blue metal. There’s also a high-grade Maxus II Ultimate with a handsome scroll-engraved silver receiver and gloss-finished Grade III walnut. The Ultimate lists for $2,060. Both guns are available in 3" 12 gauge with 26" or 28" barrels.
The A5 Sweet Sixteen version of Browning’s humpbacked inertia semi-auto has almost single-handedly led the recent 16-gauge revival. This year there are new upland and waterfowl models of the 5¾-pound gun. There is a high-grade Upland version with a silver receiver and oil-finished walnut for $2,030, a synthetic-stock gun in Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Habitat camo for $2,000 and a dandy round-knob Lightning Sweet Sixteen with a gloss finish for $1,820. All the Sweet Sixteens offer a choice of 26" or 28" barrels.
There are also two new 12-gauge versions of the A5 on offer: the Vintage Tan (camo), with an adjustable composite stock and textured gripping surfaces for $1,940, and the Wicked Wing Vintage Tan with a composite stock, Cerakote finish on the receiver and barrel, and an oversize bolt release for $2,160.
In addition to the new guns in the lineup, Browning always offers a number of SHOT Show specials—limited-run guns that dealers can order at the show. This year’s list of SHOT specials included 16-gauge Citori White Lightning, Gran Lightning and Hunter models; maple-stocked 725 trap and sporting guns; left-handed 725 trap and sporting guns; a parallel-comb model and several other O/Us. There were also a number of special versions of the A5, Maxus II and Silver models.
The new Invictus IX sporting gun is Caesar Guerini’s most-ornate, most-expensive, most-durable over/under to date. It is guaranteed to shoot 1 million rounds, and it will look like a million bucks in the process. On the outside, the Invictus IX has the Boss-style forend previously seen on the company’s Revenant, and it has sideplates, offering acres of space for deep-relief laser and hand engraving. Highly figured walnut with 26-lines-per-inch checkering complements the metal. Inside, the gun has larger, replaceable trunnions on the monoblock, not the frame, and a replaceable Invictus Block on the bottom of the frame. Both the trunnions and block can be changed out to tighten the action as it wears. The Invictus IX lists for $19,995.
Also new from Guerini is a compact version of the sideplated Magnus Sporting O/U with a shorter 13.9" (adjustable) length of pull and optional left-hand stock and adjustable comb. The Magnus Sporting Compact sells for $6,525.
And for target shooters who want to shoot all disciplines with one gun, there’s a Summit Trap combo with over/under and unsingle barrels with ribs that fully adjust for point of impact. The combo sells for $9,845.
The Bobwhite has been an excellent, affordable, classic side-by-side with extractors and two triggers for a few years now—ever since CZ reintroduced the new and improved G2 model. This year CZ has extended the line with two variations of the Bobwhite. The Bobwhite G2 Southpaw comes in 12 and 20 gauge with 28" barrels, and the Intermediate is a 26"-barreled 20-gauge with an “intermediate” 14" length of pull, which is ½" shorter than standard. Both sell for just $709.
An upgraded version of the Elos over/under, the Elos 2 Elite features an attractive, case-colored, engraved steel receiver decorated with gold-inlaid gamebirds and upgraded walnut, all for a reasonable $3,560. It’s available in 12 or 20 gauge with a choice of 28" or 30" barrels.
For waterfowlers, Fabarm presents the soft-shooting 3", 12-gauge XLR semi-auto in a “Chesapeake” configuration with camo synthetic furniture, a rubber comb insert and Cerakoted barrel and receiver. It comes with a choice of 28" or 30" barrels in RH ($1,995) and LH ($2,200) models.
Finally, Fabarm’s big introduction for last year, the Autumn side-by-side, can now be ordered with double triggers. The two-trigger option adds $469 to the $4,425 list price of the 20-gauge, which comes in both straight- and pistol-grip models.
FAIR offers a pair of Fossari over/under target guns built on low-profile Boss/Perazzi-like actions. Both have bar-drilled barrels with FAIR’s long X-cone forcing cones. The Fossari CRX9 Sporting has 32" barrels with vented top and mid-ribs and comes in 12 gauge. It sells for $5,954 and can be ordered with an adjustable comb.
The Fossari CRX9 Sporting BSR comes with an adjustable comb on a Monte Carlo stock. It has a lightweight alloy raised rib that fully adjusts for point of impact. It, too, has 32" barrels with a vented mid-rib and comes with five extended chokes in 12 gauge for $6,811. Both guns can be special-ordered with ported barrels.
Fausti shotguns should be more widely visible and available in the US with the company’s rebranding efforts to promote its “Core Line” here. The DEA SLX is the top of the Core Line: a side-by-side with classic lines, a single trigger, engraved sideplates and an oil-finished AAA walnut stock. It comes in five gauges, from a 6¾-pound 12 to a 5-pound .410. The 12, 16, 20 and 28 all have choke tubes, while the .410 has fixed chokes. The DEA SLX starts at $5,150.
A simpler DEA without sideplates starts at $4,045 and complements the SLX. In over/unders there is a decorated Class SLX ($4,190) and a Class Aphrodite O/U ($4,410) for women. The target gun in Fausti’s Core lineup, the L4 over/under, features an adjustable comb and comes in 12, 20 and 28 gauge as well as .410 and with a choice of 28", 30" or 32" barrels. Prices start at $3,310. The entry-level Caledon over/under rounds out the Core line and sells for $2,310.
Franchi’s major announcement for 2022 is the Instinct Sideplate over/under, named for its case-colored and gold-accented sideplates. There’s a 12- and a 20-gauge, both with 28" barrels, AA walnut stocks and Prince of Wales grips. At $2,229, the Sideplate is the top of the Instinct line.
The popular Affinity inertia semi-auto comes in even more versions now, including a true left-handed 20-gauge to go with the LH 12 for $899. The Affinity Elite line of camo and Cerakote-finished 3½" guns now includes 3" 12s as well. Prices start at $1,099.
Krieghoff’s new Parcours-X splits the difference in balance between the heavier Standard and lighter Parcours. The gun has 32" barrels weighted in between the other two models, a flat rib tapering from 10mm to 8mm, and factory thin-wall tubes. It starts at $13,695, with numerous add-ons available.
RemArms, a new company that began producing Remington firearms in April 2021, is offering a FieldMaster version of the Model 870 pump that replaces the Express. Among the upgrades will be walnut furniture with fleur-de-lis checkering; a better, more rust-resistant metal finish; a drilled and tapped receiver; three flush Rem Chokes in place of one; and a softer recoil pad. The first gun available will be a 12-gauge with a 28" vent-rib barrel. It will list for $600.
Turkish manufacturer Retay has branched out from inertia guns into hunting pumpguns this year. The innovative 3½" GPS-XL has a unique forearm that rides the magazine tube on a series of cones to reduce friction and wear on the tube. It also claims to have an especially short stroke for a 3½" pump. It sells for $419 in synthetic and $499 in camo.
There’s also a limited run of high-end Antalya SS inertia guns stocked in Grade IV Turkish walnut and featuring Retay’s pushbutton drop-out trigger as well as the Inertia Plus bolt designed to eliminate the out-of-battery misfire common to inertia designs. The Antalya SS Elegant has a silver engraved receiver and sells for $2,999, while the Jet Black has a black anodized frame and lists for $2,499. The guns are available with 26" or 28" barrels.
Retay’s lower-priced Gordion inertia gun, which was introduced in 12 gauge last year, now comes in 3" 20 gauge. Lower in price than other Retays, it retains the misfire-proof Inertia Plus System and offers 24", 26" and 28" barrel lengths and a black synthetic stock ($799). Camo- and walnut-stock versions (both black and silver receivers are available) sell for $899.
Rizzini adds an IPS (Improved Performance System) model to the BR110 Sporter line. The BR110 Sporter IPS has a rib that adjusts without tools and can be set for 50/50, 60/40 and 70/30 points of impact, making this one gun that could work for all clay disciplines. It also has an adjustable comb on a stock made from Grade 2 Turkish walnut. The frame is gray anodized steel, and you can choose between 30" and 32" matte-finished barrels in 12 gauge. The gun also comes with five extended choke tubes. The BR110 Sporter IPS lists for $3,450.
The “HTR” in SKB 90HTR stands for “high trap rib.” This target O/U joins the low-rib SKB trap models to offer the raised rib that many trap shooters prefer. The guns have fully adjustable stocks and come in both right- and left-hand cast as well as in a shorter-stocked youth model. They are available with 30" or 32" barrels and list for $2,149.
For 2022, 28-gauge and .410 models round out last year’s 720 line of hunting O/Us. The guns have satin-finished, Grade 2 Turkish walnut stocks and silver receivers inlaid with gold gamebirds. The 28 and .410 are built on scaled smallbore frames, and 26"- and 28"-barreled models list for $1,569. The 28/.410 combo has 28" barrels and an MSRP of $2,369.
Syren’s Julia sporting clays gun did so well last year that a Julia Field follows it into the lineup for 2022. The upland over/under has the same case-colored sideplates and striking gold-pattern decoration. It comes in 20 and 28 gauge with 28" barrels. The MSRP is $5,925. Two-barrel 20/28 sets are available as special orders.
TriStar has extended its line of affordable Bristol side-by-sides with a pair of 16-gauges. The Turkish-made single-trigger guns come in a pistol-grip model with a silver receiver and a case-colored, straight-grip model. Both feature ejectors, 28" chrome-lined barrels and choke tubes. Built on scaled 16-gauge frames, they weigh 6½ pounds. The stocks are select walnut with oil finishes. Prices are $1,130 for the silver receiver and $1,190 for the case-color gun.
Left-handed shooters have a great choice in an affordable semi-auto in Winchester’s Super X4 Left Hand. It’s exactly the same reliable, soft-kicking, easy-cleaning gas gun as the standard SX4 but with the ejection port on the left side. The guns were made as a limited SHOT Show Special run, so you may have to search; but you can find one with 26" or 28" barrels in 3" 12 gauge walnut or 3" and 3½" synthetic or camo. Prices start at $1,130 for the black 3" gun.
Phil Bourjaily writes the shotgun columns for Field & Stream and Ducks Unlimited magazines and is an enthusiastic waterfowler and upland hunter. 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.