Top Waterfowl Shotguns for 2014

Top Waterfowl Shotguns for 2014

No group of hunters asks as much from their guns as waterfowlers. We drop them in sludge, hunt in rain, snow, ice and salt spray. When a wet, muddy retriever walks across our unloaded, uncased gun bouncing in the bottom of the boat, we just shrug it off. And then we expect our shotguns to go "bang."

Thankfully, modern waterfowl shotguns are reliable, despite the abuse we heap upon them. Shotgun makers are duck hunters, too, and they understand a duck gun doesn't have to be pretty (not that there's anything wrong with that). They are building fast-cycling autos that don't have to be babied at the end of a hunt; shotguns that can handle a variety of loads without making any adjustments. Today's fowling guns are multi-purpose shooters, as capable on the skeet range or in the turkey woods as they are in a duck blind.

Benelli ETHOS

An absolutely gorgeous gun, the ETHOS is as reliable and functional as it is handsome. The inertia-driven auto-loader handles the light 2¾-inch loads to the heavier 3-inch shells, and the new patented easy-locking system ensures the bolt is locked every time you close it.

Benelli's Progressive Comfort recoil system takes the bite out of the heaviest loads. The replaceable carbon-fiber rib reduces overall weight and the Crio system barrel improves pattern density for better performance. The ETHOS weighs 6.4 pounds and is available in 26- or 28-inch barrels with five Crio chokes.

Price: $1,999

Beretta A400 Xtreme

Gas-Operated, the auto-loading A400 Xtreme has a self-cleaning piston that keeps the 12-gauge in working order even if you hunt the dust bowl.

Weighing 7.6 pounds, everyday waterfowlers will appreciate the Kick-Off Recoil reduction system. The Blink system allows faster follow-up shots, cycling shells quicker than the rest. Available in 26-, 28- or 30-inch barrels and chambered for 3½-inch shells. The stellar B-Lock system allows you to take the A400 apart in seconds.

Price: $1,895

Browning A-5

It's a good thing Browning resurrected the A-5. The legendary humpback had a proven track record for nearly a century. The new model continues that tradition. Not only is Browning's A-5 coated in Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Blades, it's packed with a list of features that help you knock more birds out of the sky.

The recoil-operated Kinematic Drive system cycles a variety of loads, the Inflex II recoil pad takes the punch out of the heaviest 3½-inch shells and the Dura-Touch stock helps you get a better grip on the gun in all kinds of conditions. Comes with a five-year, 100,000-shot warranty.

Price: $1,580

CZ 612 Wildfowl Magnum

CZ's 612 pump is aimed straight at waterfowlers. Chambered for 3 ½-inch shells, it comes with a 26-inch barrel. Even better, the 612 comes with a modified choke tube designed for steel waterfowl loads and an extra-full choke for turkeys.

There's no need to buy a separate gun for the duck marsh and the turkey woods; this gun is just as deadly on honkers as it is on spring toms. The synthetic stock and barrel are wrapped in an all-purpose camouflage, making it an ideal two-season shotgun.

Price: $428

Franchi Intensity

Much as the name implies, the 12-gauge Intensity is designed for hardcore duck hunters who live for awful conditions. The Intensity is a superb inertia-driven semi-auto available in Mossy Oak Bottomland, Realtree Xtra Green, Max-5 or black synthetic. It comes with stock shims, which allow you to customize the fit, and three chokes.

Additional recoil pads and extended choke tubes are optional. This slender and comfortable shotgun is chambered for shells up to 3½ inches and available with barrel lengths of 26, 28 or 30 inches.

Price: $1,199

Mossberg 930 Yeti

Leave it to Mossberg to be a trend setter. The popular firearms company created the 930 Kryptek Yeti auto-loader just for hardcore snow goose hunters.

Complete with a 12-round extended tube (hell yes!) and Kryptek Yeti camo (also available in black), Mossberg gives snow goose hunters the opportunity to put steel in the air until the geese are on the ground or out of range. It's chambered for 3-inch shells and comes with a recoil pad, a 28-inch barrel and Mossberg's Accu-Set choke tubes.

Price: $945

Remington Versa Max Waterfowl Pro

Is it the most versatile shotgun available? Thanks to Remington's Versaport gas operating system, it just might be. The Versa Max is capable of shooting light 2¾-inch loads to the heaviest goose-thumping 3½-inch shells. Even better, the gun is virtually self-cleaning, meaning you can spend more time in the field and less time at your gun bench.

The Waterfowl Pro is wrapped in Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Blades and the stock has over-molded black grips. It comes with a 28-inch nickel barrel, four Pro Bore extended choke tubes and the receiver is drilled and tapped for scope mounts.

Price: $1,730

Ruger Red Label

Ruger's relaunched Red Label isn't your typical duck gun, but it's a fine addition to any waterfowler's gun safe. And it's just as effective in a layout blind as it is on the skeet range or in the pheasant fields. It combines the style and beauty you'd expect from Ruger with the function and reliability of a well-made over/under.

The Red Label includes the gun's trademark stainless steel receiver, a checkered American walnut stock and a Pachmayr recoil pad. It also comes with a single trigger, a top-tang selective safety and 26-, 28- or 30-inch barrels. Chambered for 3-inch shells and includes five Briley chokes.

Price: $1,399

Stoeger Longfowler

Our fathers and grandfathers knew a thing or two about killing ducks and geese, like a trusty side-by-side was all a man needed to bring home a limit of birds. Stoeger's Longfowler keeps that tradition going.

The no-frills double isn't packed with amenities, but that's exactly why it would make waterfowlers from a by-gone era proud. The Longfowler comes with two extended choke tubes, a 30-inch barrel and an A-grade satin stained walnut stock. It even comes with a price tag that takes you back to a better time. Also available in over/under.

Price: $499

TriStar Viper G2

Reliability at the right price, the G2 is a 3-inch gas-operated auto-loader (available in 20- or 12-gauge) that cycles light skeet loads and heavy waterfowl rounds just the same. The stock is injection-molded, so it will stand up to your abuse for seasons to come, and the forend has a Soft-Touch finish for better feel and grip. Available in Realtree Max-4, with a rubber recoil pad and five-year mechanical warranty.

Price: $609

Weatherby WBY-X SA-08 Compact

Weatherby's new WBY-X series includes rifles and shotguns with flashy camo patterns unlike anything on the market. The SA-08 Kryptek Compact is built for smaller-framed shooters, for anyone who wants a semi-auto with a shorter length-of-pull, a little less weight and slightly shorter barrel.

Available in 20-gauge, the Kryptek Compact is chambered for 3-inch shells and comes with a 24-inch barrel, three choke tubes and Kryptek camo on the stock and forend. The barrel and receiver are blued and the trigger assembly drops out for easy cleaning. The gun weighs just 5¾ pounds.

Price: $699

Winchester SX3 Waterfowl

If the SX3 is lacking something, we can't find it. Everyone in our blinds loves Winchester's premiere auto-loader, available in 3- and 3½-inch chambers, 20- and 12-gauge models and 26- or 28-inch barrels. Loaded with features, it's offered in Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Blades and comes with the Invector-Plus choke system.

The SX3 also has a chrome-lined barrel and Winchester's patented Active Valve gas system limits recoil and cycles shells as fast as you can pull the trigger. The SX3 also includes a drop-out trigger for easy cleaning and a synthetic stock with textured grip surfaces.

Price: $1,139

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