By Bruce Buck
Remington has a long history with autoloading shotguns. The company started in 1911 with the Model 11, its adaption of the Browning A5. Then came the inertia Model 48 from 1949 to 1960. After that Remington hit it big with the Model 1100, a sweet-shooting gas gun that still is going strong after being made in 40 different models during the past 55 years.
After the short-lived (2006-’09) 105CTi gas gun, in 2010 Remington came out with its Versa Max semi-auto, which continues today. It has a unique Versaport gas action in that the gas-bleed ports are in the chamber, not in the barrel proper. This is a copy of the Benelli M4 A.R.G.O. (Auto-Regulating Gas-Operated) system, developed for the US Marine Corps in 1998. The Versa Max is chambered for 3½” shells but will handle lighter 2¾” loads too. In 2015 Remington added the V3 Field Sport, which used somewhat the same action as the Versa Max but was lighter and only shot 2¾” and 3″ shells. In 2019 the Waterfowl Pro was added to the V3 lineup. The V3 Waterfowl Pro is our test gun, and it incorporates a number of waterfowler-friendly changes to the Field Sport.
The V3 shares the basic concept of the Versaport action with the Versa Max. Most gas-operated semi-autos have gas-port bleeds about halfway down the barrel. The gas from the fired shell exits these ports and pushes against a piston, which cycles the action. The Versaport action has moved the ports from the barrel to the chamber. The V3 has eight chamber ports. They are positioned so that they are not covered by a 2¾” shell, and all the gas pressure generated by the shell operates the action. When a 3″ shell is used, the shell’s extra length covers up and blocks four of the eight ports, so that even though the total pressure from the shell may be higher, less pressure is used. In this way, the shotgun can operate on consistent gas pressure, regardless of the length and strength of the shell.
The wood on the Waterfowl Pro isn’t. It’s plastic.
But Versaporting isn’t the only advanced technology on the V3. Most semi-autos have large recoil springs in their stocks. The V3 has its recoil springs in the receiver. Underneath the chamber of the V3 barrel is attached a gas block containing two pencil-shaped horizontal piston valves, one on each side of the action. These receive the gas pressure from the chamber ports and are pushed to the rear. In turn these rods push against two long, thin recoil springs on the action sides, and this spring pressure cycles the action. The difference is that this all takes place in the receiver, not the stock. This uses fewer parts, keeps weight down and helps center the balance. The manual that accompanies the V3 goes into the maintenance and cleaning of the action in some detail. Owners should be sure to read it. The V3 doesn’t have to be cleaned often, but when it does, the manual is helpful.
The action sports a detachable polymer trigger group similar to those on other autoloaders. The entire gun can be disassembled with a single punch tool. The trigger pull on our gun was 5½ pounds and quite crisp, with only a little takeup. The easy trigger removal made cleaning this part a snap, but getting the long tubular pistons shiny takes a bit more work. Excess gas is vented rearward toward the lower rear of the synthetic forend.
The action incorporates several of the improvements that the Waterfowl Pro has over the V3 Field Sport. The head of the crossbolt safety at the rear of the trigger guard is noticeably larger and rounded. This makes it easier to operate with heavy gloves. The charging handle is somewhat larger than that on the Field Sport, to provide a little easier grip. Ditto the size of the closing latch. It is a bit larger and easier to access than before. One important but subtle change is that the Waterfowl Pro’s loading port, on the bottom of the action, has been rounded and beveled for easier insertion and removal of loaded rounds. All of these improvements are incremental but do make the gun more accommodating.
The barrel on the Waterfowl Pro comes in 12 gauge and 28″. That’s it. Other than the gas block and pistons under the chamber, it is a pretty normal extended RemChoke semi-auto barrel. It is chambered for 2¾” and 3″ shells, not 3½” like the Versa Max. There is a normal-length forcing cone in front of the chamber. The bore is .732″, a touch more overbore than standard but not outrageous. Three chokes are included: Improved Cylinder, Modified and Full, but the dimensions were .006″, .009″ and .012″. That’s closer to the standard measurements for Skeet, Improved Cylinder and Light Modified. That said, the Waterfowler Pro is set up for duck hunting, and that means steel shot for many people. Steel shot patterns tighter than lead, so these choke designations may not be as open in practice as their dimensions would indicate. Owners will have to test for themselves with the loads they will be using.
Make & Model: Remington V3 Waterfowl Pro
Action: Gas semi-auto
Finish: Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Blades with Bronze Cerakote barrel and receiver
Barrel length: 28″
Weight: 7 pounds 6 ounces
Chokes: Three screw-in chokes
Stock: Pistol grip, shim adjustable
Accessories: Wrench, padlock, magazine plug, 3 front sights, manual, lifetime guarantee
Price as tested: $1,195
The top rib is pretty standard: vented, untapered and ¼” wide. It is welded in place and will not come loose the way soldered ribs do. It is nicely scribed on top, to reduce glare, and it sports a small steel center bead. Up front is a 1″ x 1⁄16″ fiber-optic plastic tube “bead.” Red, white and green beads are included. While this is trendy, I don’t know how well it will hold up to the rigors of the duck blind.
The wood on the Waterfowl Pro isn’t. It’s plastic. You can throw the gun in the bottom of your duck boat, and your dog can jump on it all it wants. The stock is 14¼” long, including the super-soft SuperCell rubber pad. This should work for most hunters in heavy waterfowl clothing. Stock height is adjustable with the four included shims, which come in Left/Right cast, Neutral, Drop Down and Drop Up. The highest the Drop Up shim moved things was 1½” at the nose and 2¼” at heel—not all that high for someone with a slender face. The pistol grip is the slightly relaxed field style appropriate for most hunters. There is neither left nor right bias to the grip. The stock is hollow and very light. It is held in place with one easily removed bolt. The rear of the stock has a molded-in sling swivel for the included sling.
Like the stock, the forend is lightweight synthetic. It is fairly slender and not at all intrusive. There is no checkering on the stock or forend, just a lightly molded matte impression that doesn’t do much to improve the grip when held with soaking wet and freezing gloves.
Certainly the most noticeable feature of the V3 Waterfowl Pro is its exterior camouflage and Cerakote thin-film ceramic coating on the barrel and receiver. While the V3 Field Sport is available in matte black synthetic, camo or wood, the Waterfowl Pro comes only in camo. There are three combinations: Realtree Max-5 with a Burnt Bronze Cerakote barrel and receiver, Realtree Timber with a Patriot Brown Cerakote barrel and receiver, and Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Blades with a Burnt Bronze Cerakote barrel and receiver (such as on our test gun). Camo on a shotgun is strictly a question of taste, so you are on your own there. I’ve never noticed the ducks or geese caring one way or the other. The tough Cerakoting of the barrels and receivers adds color as well as a very durable finish. It is for sure that these trendy finishes add a good bit of the $300 price difference between the standard black V3 and the waterfowl models.
This is probably a good place to mention that in addition to the Waterfowl Pro models, a dressed up V3 Turkey Pro model is now available. It has full camo coverage in Realtree Timber plus the bits and pieces added to the Waterfowl Pro—all with a 22″ barrel and special turkey screw choke.
The V3 handled everything I fed it without a malfunction.
Our V3 Waterfowl Pro came in a cardboard box with the three chokes, a flat stamped choke wrench, a trigger padlock, a magazine plug, three fiber-optic plastic front sights, four stock-adjustment shims, a pretty good manual and Remington’s wonderful lifetime guarantee. Gotta love a lifetime guarantee on an autoloader.
Remington claims that its V3 is “the softest-recoiling auto in the field.” The company proudly shows a graph of the V3 compared to autoloaders from Browning, Benelli, Beretta and Winchester wherein the V3 delivers its recoil over the longest period of time at the lowest peak force. In actual shooting, the V3 did appear to be very soft and 1100-like. While I didn’t run a wide variety of loads through the V3, it handled everything I fed it without a malfunction. The crisp trigger was much appreciated.
The gun weighed a very nice 7 pounds 6 ounces. I did feel that the 28″ barrel added more weight up front than I would have liked. The 26″ barrel from the Field Sport would provide a more neutral balance. Then again, 28″ seems to be the popular waterfowl barrel length these days.
And now to price. The V3 Waterfowl Pro retails for $1,195 compared to $895 for the V3 Field Sport. With the usual discounts, you might get a Waterfowl Pro for around $1,000. That’s a heck of a price when you compare it to what some other semi-autos are going for. And you get a soft-shooting gun with a lifetime warranty. Remington has done quite a job here. If you are in the market, don’t duck this gun.