However, with today's excellent ammunition, improved Cylinder is a sufficient choke for 90 percent of upland hunting. Many point to fast handling as a good upland gun trait, but a smooth, controlled swing beats a fast swing every time. Still, we don't look forward to lugging the equivalent of a '48 Ford engine block through the grouse woods, so light weight combined with balance is the ticket. I've had the chance to shoot a good number of this year's crop, and manufacturers have indeed learned how to lop pounds off their shotguns, yet leave them balanced for a good swing.
This year we also see a resurgence of the 20 gauge. It and the 28 gauge possess the ballistics and performance for almost any upland situation. We were bowling over roosters in South Dakota with Benelli's Legacy 28 last fall!
Today's shotguns are so versatile that it is possible for the upland hunter to use his shotgun of choice not only in his favorite coverts, but on the clay field and in the marsh. Remember the old saying: "Beware the one-gun man. He knows how to use it."
Let's take a stroll through the selections.
Ultra Light This 20-gauge shotgun, weighing in at just 5.2 pounds, is the lightest 20 gauge in the world. Using Benelli's proven Inertia-Driven operating system, the Ultra Light sports a featherweight alloy receiver and shortened magazine tube that holds two shells. Interestingly, the raised target rib used in these guns is made from the same carbon fiber employed in Formula 1 race cars. Ultra Light 20-gauge is an uplander's easy-to-maneuver gun that carries light for hours and hits hard for even longer. And Benelli's Legacy 28 is a great choice for the 28-gauge aficionado.
A400 Xplor Light This 12-gauge shotgun weighs about six pounds and combines Beretta's Blink operating system with a nickel/chromium/molybdenum Steelium barrel and Beretta's new Micro-Core recoil pad in a light-recoiling, gas-operated upland shotgun. A new gas piston coupled with a rotating bolt head and slick feeding system provides perfect cycling with 23A- and 3-inch shells. The stock and fore-end are of select Grade II oil-finished checkered walnut, and the polymer trigger guard contributes to this gun's light weight. The A400 Light is also available with Beretta's Kick-Off recoil-killing system.
Citori Superlight Feather The receiver on this gun is made of a lightweight alloy with a steel reinforcement dovetailed into the breech face and hinge pin. Made in 12 and 20 gauges, they hover right at the six-pound mark. The 26-inch barrel has a lightweight profile to match the action, a ventilated rib and Vector-Pro lengthened forcing cones that lead into .742 backbored barrels topped with Invector-Plus choke tubes for excellent patterning. The straight-grip, English-style stock is Grade II/III gloss-finished walnut, and the fore end is a classic Schnabel style. The single-selective trigger is linked to the traditional Browning top-tang barrel selector/safety.
48 AL Deluxe This is the last semi-automatic shotgun using John Browning's long-recoil action. At 5.6 pounds, the 20-gauge 48 AL is one of the lightest around. The Deluxe model features a Grade-A satin-finished walnut stock and fore-end, and the barrel and aluminum receiver are a highly polished blue. The trigger is gold plated. The 48 AL comes with three choke tubes--improved cylinder, modified and full--and wrench; extended tubes in modified and extra full are extra options. Long a favorite of grouse hunters, the 48 AL carries well and provides three fast shots at quickly disappearing game.
O.F. Mossberg & Sons
SA-20 All Purpose and Bantam These models are an excellent choice for the budget-minded hunter. The six-pound SA-20 is fast handling and lightweight. This soft-shooting, gas-operated semi auto is available in two models: the standard with a 14-inch length of pull (LOP) synthetic stock and forearm, and the SA-20 Bantam with its shortened 13-inch LOP for young or small shooters. The All Purpose offers the choice of 26- or 28-inch vent-rib barrels that come with five screw-in chokes. The SA-20 All Purpose is a good all-around shotgun for beginning and experienced hunter alike.
Versa Max This new release is said to be the best semi-auto Remington has ever made. Using a unique system of seven gas ports located in the chamber, this gas-operated semi-auto will shoot every shell, from the lightest up to 31/2-inch magnums with dependable reliability. The 26- and 28-inch barreled guns come in all black and Mossy Oak Duck Blind camo versions. The all-black Versa Max comes with five Flush-fitting Pro Bore chokes--full, modified, improved modified, light modified and improved cylinder--and the camo versions come with four Pro Bore Extended choke tubes.
Uplander Supreme 20 Gauge Stocked in AA-Grade walnut, the Supreme has a single trigger and a tang-mounted automatic safety that engages each time the gun is opened. Uplander side-by-sides have extractors that make collecting fired shells easy. For strength and durability the receiver is precision machined to exacting tolerances from tough steel to ensure longevity. Stoeger Uplander Supremes come with two flush-mounted screw-in chokes-- improved cylinder and modified. Extended chokes in C, IC, M, IM and F constrictions are available as optional accessories for both 12 and 20 gauges.
PA-08 and Entre Rios Noted for their high-velocity rifles, for well over 20 years Weatherby has also imported excellent shotguns. Their PA-08 pump gun features a high-grade gloss-finished walnut stock, and the blued metal work is also finished to a high gloss. The vent-rib barrels come in 26 or 28 inches with screw-in chokes. For the semi-auto hunter is the new-for-2011 28-gauge Entre Rios, named for one of the great dove shooting regions in Argentina. Built on a 28-gauge size action, the Entre Rios's stock and metal have a high-gloss finish, and screw-in chokes in skeet, improved cylinder and modified are standard.
Winchester Repeating Arms
101 Field This over/under gun returns with its classic stock of high-gloss finished grade ll/lll walnut complete with a vented Pachmayr Decelerator pad with classic white line spacer and the trim grip many remember. The lightweight barrels with their Invector-Plus screw-in chokes provide optimum shot patterns. The action has a low profile for enhanced handling, is deep-relief engraved and the single selective trigger is standard. The 101 is available with 26- or 28-inch barrels, and at seven pounds, promises to be a great companion in the grouse woods or in the corn fields of the Midwest.