March 12, 2020
If you’ve got a new shotgun with some great ammo and you want to turn the barrel red hot, you can't beat heading north. Far north. The Stoeger M 3500 is an inertia-operated shotgun that worked its way through several boxes of Kent’s Fasteel 2.0 and some of their Bismuth loads to boot during my time at Kris Wujcik’s Michitoba Outfitting, located a stone’s throw from the Saskatchewan/Manitoba border near Strathclair, Manitoba. The beauty of inertia-operation is that it is very clean with none of the dirt and carbon left behind by gas-operated guns.
Inertia operation ain’t nothin’ new. It was developed by a Danish gunsmith named Christer Sjörgen in 1903, the same year John Moses Browning’s long recoil-operated Automatic 5 hit the market. The updated version by Stoeger uses a rotating bolt head that is forced tightly into the barrel extension cuts when the gun is fired by a heavy calibrated spring while the rest of the gun starts rearward in recoil. By the time the shot and wad have cleared the barrel the spring gives up and allows the bolt to move backwards shucking the fired hull from the chamber and slammin’ in a new round for the second shot you need because you missed the first time.
Wujcik’s Michitoba Outfitting has a broad selection of Canadian lands from which to choose when he sets up. Canadian farmers consider all waterfowl pests that eat their grain, so most all welcome hunting. One of the plums of his area is the chance to bag Giant Canada geese (Branta canadensis maxima) which can weigh on average 10 pounds. Thought to be extinct in the 1950s, a flock of 200 birds was discovered in 1962 at Silver Lake in Rochester, Minnesota. Experts say they are the easiest geese to relocate, so they took starter flocks here and there and their numbers have since grown to an estimated 1million-plus in the Atlantic Flyway and over 2 million in the Mississippi Flyway. One afternoon we got into a bunch of these Zeppelin-sized birds, and the No. 2 Fasteel 2.0 dropped them like dish rags.
Most duck and goose hunters are aware of Kent’s Fasteel, for its deadliness on birds at a very reasonable price. The Canadian-owned company loads its ammo in their West Virginia plant where virtually everyone is a hunter, so they take extra care loading your shells as if it were for themselves.
Fasteel 2.0 combines some new twists on this long-proven shell that include a high-performance base wad, and precision-plated steel shot. Zinc-plated shot has the advantages of rust proofing, plus there is some added lubricity that allow the pellets to slip and slide against each other as they zoom down the barrel leading to improved patterning. The shell heads are nickel plated to prevent rust and for smooth chambering.
As a Lucky Strike extra Andy Laidley, Kent’s Canadian VP, brought along some No. 4 bismuth loads, and the combination of the M 3500 and this load that you can shoot in grandpa’s Model 12 dropped a Canada at a good 40 yards the first morning out. I love shooting my Model 12 Heavy Duck with bismuth whose density is 9.7 grams per cubic centimeter (gr/cc), which is gobblety-gook for very close to lead shot’s density of 10 to 11 gr/cc with steel at 7.8 gr/cc.
Stoeger is one of the stablemates of Beretta’s holdings that include Benelli, Franchi and Stoeger. The M 3500 uses essentially the same operating system as the Franchi Affinity and Benelli Super Black Eagle 3, at a near couch-change price. The M 3500 is chambered for 2 ¾, 3 and 3 ½-inch shells and comes in all-camo Mossy Oak Bottomland and Realtree Max 5 with either Burnt Bronze or Dark Earth receivers for extra weather proofing and a cool look, or all-black, all for $769 or thereabouts depending on your dealer.
I shot the 3-inch M 3000 version all one season when it first came out some years ago without a hitch. The only negative I heard was that if you sat the loaded gun down hard, they had the tendency to slip the bolt out of battery causing a trigger-straightening pull and no Bang! Benelli/Stoeger’s head guy Keith Heinlein told me that particular problem had been solved, and I sure didn’t have a problem during our three days of hard shooting. In fact the last two days Wujcik found an edge of a wheat field that had major mallard concentrations nearby, and we felt like Custer at the Little Big Horn as we were repeatedly overrun with mobs of mallards. The shooting was fast and furious and I heard no bellowed profanity because of a jammed gun.
For a great trip, check out Michitoba Outfitting (firstname.lastname@example.org), and for shootin’ at home maybe a new Stoeger M 3500 should be in your future along with a wheel barrow full of Kent’s Fasteel 2.0 and Bismuth. Ya can’t go wrong!