The year’s new crop of smoothbores
This year’s crop of new shotguns has a lot to offer upland hunters, waterfowlers and target shooters. The trend to do-it-all smallbores continues, with three new 3˝ 28-gauges. A couple of guns—Benelli’s all-steel 828 U and Fabarm’s Elos N2 RS Sporting—are heavier versions of lighter originals, a welcome option for those of us who look askance at the trend to ever-lighter smoothbores. Browning celebrates a big birthday with an anniversary Citori, and a couple of old favorites from Benelli get makeovers. In the meantime more guns join the ever-growing ranks of affordable, dependable, Turkish-made semi-autos.
The Montefeltro and M2, longtime mainstays of the Benelli lineup, have both gotten makeovers for 2023. On the outside the guns feature sleeker, modern receivers and furniture restyled to be in keeping with the racy SBE3, Ethos and other Benellis. More important, both now feature the Benelli Easy-Locking bolt, which eliminates any chance of the out-of-battery misfire that doesn’t happen often with inertia guns but always happens at the worst time. And if you have ever loaded a Benelli with cold, numb fingers or a thousand or so times a day in a South American dove field, you will really appreciate the new magazine springs and cartridge latches that let you slide shells into the magazine like butter. The bolt handles and bolt- and carrier-release buttons have been enlarged just enough to be easier to use without being too big.
The Montefeltro comes in 3" 12- and 20-gauge versions with a standard or compact walnut stock and choice of 24", 26" or 28" barrels for $1,499. The M2 is also available in 3" 12 and 20 gauges in standard and compact models. The black synthetic version lists for $1,399, with GORE OPTIFADE Timber, Mossy Oak Bottomland and Realtree MAX-7 guns selling for $1,499.
For over/under fans there’s an all-steel model of the 828 U protected from rust and abrasion with BE.S.T. (Benelli Surface Treatment). The steel frame adds nearly a pound to the gun over the alloy-frame model, giving the 12-gauge an average weight of 7¾ pounds and bringing the 20-gauge up to almost seven. That weight, combined with the very effective Progressive Comfort recoil reducer, means these guns will be comfortable to shoot with heavy waterfowl loads. The 12-gauge comes with 26", 28" or 30" barrels; the 20-gauge has 26" or 28" tubes. Prices are $3,339.
The 28-gauge SBE3 now comes in a weather-resistant BE.S.T. model in recognition of the fact that more and more hunters are opting for smallbores in the duck blind. The 3" 28-gauge SBE3 is a true featherweight at 5½ pounds, and in all other ways it’s a scaled-down version of the 12- and 20-gauge SBE3s, complete with the vibration-reducing ComforTech stock. You can choose between 26" and 28" barrels on this black synthetic smallbore that lists for $2,099.
Benelli USA, benelliusa.com.
Beretta offers a pair of new 687 Silver Pigeon O/Us. The Grade V comes in both field and sporting versions and features Beretta’s Class 3 walnut (an upgrade from the Class 2.5 on the Silver Pigeon III) with a gloss oil finish. It has well-executed engraving done with a 5-axis laser that can work on curved surfaces as well as flat. And unlike too much of the laser engraving these days, the scroll pattern on the SP V has plenty of deep, eye-catching relief.
There is much more to the Silver Pigeon V than good looks. Besides its proven, bulletproof action, the gun has Beretta’s Steelium barrels and Optima HP chokes for top ballistic performance. Both the sporting and hunting models come in 12 and 20 gauge, with the hunting guns made in 26", 28" and 30" models and the sporting guns having 30" and 32" barrels. Stocks made to two different dimensions are available, and there is a B-Fast adjustable comb on the sporting gun.
If you want a 687 target gun even more opulently decorated than the SP V, Beretta has you covered with a new 687 EELL Diamond Grade Sporting. It has oil-finished Class 3 wood and sideplates engraved with game scenes. It comes in 12 gauge with 30" or 32" barrels or in a 30" 20-gauge and lists for $8,299.
The Ultraleggero over/under takes an innovative approach to saving weight on a break-action shotgun. The frame is all steel, not alloy, and it has been skeletonized to save weight. Polymer inserts fill the gaps. The gun also lacks mid-ribs and has had a great deal of wood hogged out of the stock. It has a two-piece forend iron, part of which isn’t iron at all but polymer. All those weight-reduction measures combine to keep the 12-gauge with 28" barrels to a bit more than 6 pounds, and the list price is $2,999.
In semi-autos, Beretta has added a 3" Upland 28-gauge to the A400 line. This newest, scaled-down version should make a great all-around smallbore, with the ability to shoot light 28-gauge target and dove loads but also handle heavier payloads for pheasants and ducks. It comes in walnut with a nickel-plated receiver and a new engraving pattern prominently featuring the number “28.” Currently it’s made with 28" and 30" barrels and sells for $1,829.
Designed for the scholastic-shooting market, the A300 Ultima has a lot to offer any sporting clays shooter looking for a solid value. Based on the company’s 391 gas gun, the A300 Ultima Sporting comes complete with an enlarged bolt handle, closer button and loading port as well as a version of the Kick-Off recoil reducer. The synthetic furniture has a gray “web" pattern, and the bolt closer, shims, magazine cap and grip cap are bright green—and different-color accessory kits are available. The 12-gauge guns are available with 30" barrels, and the 20 has a 28" barrel. While these models are intended for use as target guns, their 3" chambers and swivel studs mean they could serve as hunting guns too. They list for $1,149.
Beretta USA, berettusa.com.
In 1973 Browning introduced a simplified, Japanese-made version of the Superposed that went on to become a classic in its own right. For 2023 the Citori comes in a high-grade 50th Anniversary Edition. A 12-gauge with 3" chambers and 30" or 32" barrels, it’s equally at home in the duck blind or at the range. The gun has a Grade IV gloss-oil-finished stock, 20-lines-per-inch checkering and silver-nitride receiver covered in acanthus-scroll engraving. Browning’s Inflex 2
recoil pad and extended choke tubes complete the gun. These limited-edition Citoris list for $8,399.
At the other end of the decoration spectrum, Browning is offering a synthetic-stock Citori this year. The Citori Composite has black synthetic furniture and an adjustable comb. It comes in 12 gauge with 3" chambers and 26", 28" or 30" barrels for $2,199.
Browning also has added to the Cynergy lineup with a new CX crossover model intended for hunting and sporting clays. The low-profile O/Us have 3" chambers and 28", 30" or 32" barrels in 12 gauge and 28" or 30" in 20 gauge and list for $2,079. A Wicked Wing waterfowling model with bronze Cerakote metal and a synthetic stock in Browning’s new Auric camo is the other new Cynergy for ’23. The 12-gauge, 3½" gun comes in 26", 28" or 30" barrel lengths and lists for $2,580.
CAESAR GUERINI USA
Four limited-edition models comprise Caesar Guerini’s new lineup for 2023. The Ellipse Curve Gold, an already ornate round-body gun, appears in gold-inlaid versions in both field and sporting configurations. The field gun has the gentlest Prince of Wales grip and a solid rib and comes in 20 and 28 gauge, while the 12-gauge sporting gun has a vent rib and pistol grip. The field model sells for $9,795. The sporting gun lists for $10,395. The third gun is an Invictus III, Guerini’s sporting gun that comes with modular, replaceable parts for an extended life and, in this edition, case-colored receiver with gold inlays. The guns come in 12 gauge only with 30" or 32" barrels and sell for $10,125.
Finally there’s a run of Tempio SE field guns featuring gold dove and quail game scenes on coin-finished or case-colored actions. The guns will be available in 20 and 28 gauge as well as .410 and list for $4,995.
Caesar Guerini USA, gueriniusa.com.
CZ has introduced a revamped version of its 712 semi-auto this year. The G3 features enlarged controls, shims to adjust stock fit, and lengthened choke tubes. Two gas pistons come with each gun—one for light loads and one for heavy loads, giving the 3" 12-gauge the ability to cycle everything from ⅞-ounce 1,200-fps light target loads to 2-ounce turkey loads. It comes in a satin-walnut and blued-steel version or in a fully camouflaged model, both with 28" barrels, and a black synthetic “utility" model with a 20" barrel. Prices start at $579.
This year Fabarm has added a heftier companion to its successful Elos N2 sporting gun. The Elos N2 RS Sporting features an added half-pound of weight between the shooter’s hands, giving the gun an overall weight of 8¼ pounds. It also has a stock with added drop and an adjustable comb to fit a wide range of shooters. The Elos N2 RS comes in 12 gauge with 30" or 32" barrels for $3,575.
Fabarm USA, fabarmusa.com.
Fausti continues to make inroads in the US market with its Core lineup of O/Us and side-by-sides. The Class SLX over/unders and DEA SLX side-by-sides come in all gauges and with scaled frames. Both guns are offered with 26", 28" or 30" barrels and coin- or case-colored finishes on their handsome, sideplated frames. The guns have oil-finished AA+ walnut.
The Class SLX is built around Fausti’s strong four-lock action, which features two extra lugs on the inside of the frame. It has a Prince of Wales grip, a rounded forend and a single selective trigger. The DEA SLX is made to the classic Anson & Deeley boxlock pattern and includes leaf springs for better trigger pulls. It has a straight grip and slim semi-beavertail forend. The Class SLX lists for $4,400 to $5,601, depending on gauge. The DEA SLX ranges from $5,680 to $6,342.
Fausti USA, faustiusa.com.
Franchi extends its popular Instinct line with two more Sideplate models—in 16 gauge and 3" 28 gauge. In keeping with the 12- and 20-gauge sideplates, these guns are stocked with AA walnut and feature case-colored sideplates with gold gamebirds. The 16-gauge has a grouse and a pheasant, while the 28 has a woodcock and a quail. Both guns have 28" barrels, Prince of Wales grips, Schnabel forends and extended choke tubes. All the Instinct Sideplates list for $2,399.
Franchi USA, franchiusa.com.
Last year saw the return of the 870 in the 12-gauge walnut-stocked FieldMaster.
For 2023 RemArms extends the line with a 3" 12-gauge black synthetic-stock pump. Raised and extra-high combs will be available as accessories to make the gun more versatile. Like the walnut-stock FieldMaster, the gun is fit and finished to a higher level than the old Expresses, with a matte metal finish that better resists corrosion. It has a black synthetic stock and forend, and the stock comes with a flush, soft comb insert. Raised and extra-high inserts are available separately, for those who need less drop or want to turn a duck gun into a trap gun or scoped deer or turkey gun with a raised comb. The gun also features a soft recoil pad and sling-swivel studs. Twenty-gauge lovers will be happy to learn that the FieldMaster will also be available in both walnut and synthetic 3" 20-gauges this year. All of the guns will list for $610.
Sold exclusively through Bass Pro Shops/Cabelas, the Rizzini BR 110 Dakota offers shooters a decorated version of the basic, excellent BR 110 at an attractive price. The receivers feature gamebird scenes, with pheasants gracing the 12, 16 and 20 and quail featured on the smaller bores. The walnut furniture features Optowood laser treatments to enhance the wood grain. The guns come in all gauges from 12 to .410 and have 28" barrels. They sell for $1,900.
Upgraded wood and an engraved long tang and pistol-grip cap elevate the DLX version of the BR552 side-by-side to another level of elegance above the already good-looking BR552. The new 552 DLX has a pistol grip, splinter forend and single selective trigger along with coin-steel sideplates engraved in a traditional acanthus-scroll pattern. The guns are available in all gauges and with barrel lengths up to 30". They list for $8,064.
Rizzini USA, rizziniusa.com.
Syren stands pat this year with the very successful Julia, currently available in both Syren’s Julia sporting clays gun and field gun. Both guns share the same case-colored sideplates and a striking, original gold-inlay pattern. The sporting model comes in 30" 12 gauge or 28" 20 gauge and lists for $6,850. The field gun comes in 20 and 28 gauge with 28" barrels. The MSRP is $6,250, and 20/28 sets are available as special orders.
Syren USA, syrenusa.com.
TriStar’s Viper G2 Pro builds on the company’s reputation for value and reliability by adding improved controls to an existing platform. All the models now have extended bolt handles and enlarged bolt-release buttons. There’s a walnut-stock version, a black model and an all-new version in Mossy Oak Elements Terra FDE camo in a soft-touch finish on synthetic furniture with Cerakote metal surfaces. The gas gun starts at just $855 in a camo version in 3" 12 or 20 gauge with 26" or 28" barrels.
TriStar’s first inertia gun, the Matrix, comes in synthetic, camo synthetic, and walnut and blued steel. The 12- and 20-gauge guns have enlarged “slammer" buttons and oversized bolt handles and fiber-optic beads. In 12 gauge the guns have 3" chambers and 28" barrels. The 20-gauge has a 26" barrel in the walnut and synthetic versions and a 28" tube in camo. Prices start at just $595.
TriStar Arms, tristararms.com.
Weatherby has its Italian-made 18i semi-auto available in a waterfowl model this year. A 12-gauge inertia gun with a 3" chamber, it will cycle light loads more efficiently than the 3½" model, making it an all-around gun that can be used for off-season practice and dove hunting as well as for ducks and geese. The 18i Waterfowler has synthetic furniture, including a soft comb insert, a 28" barrel and choke tubes on the Benelli Crio pattern. It comes fully covered in Mossy Oak Habitat or Realtree MAX-7 as well as in First Lite Cipher camo with brown Cerakoted metal. The guns list for $1,249.