November 03, 2010
Hopefully, your favorite wildfowl shotgun is included in the following rundown. If it's not, drop us a note. The controversy will make for some interesting discussion. Here goes.
1) Remington 870
We could pick a number of different shotguns for #1, but I have to go with the 870, even though this venerable pump gun is not seen as often in duck blinds as it once was. Yes, the 870 is being replaced of late--with shotguns that are even better. But who can argue with 10 million sales?
The 870 has been the darling of wildfowlers since its introduction in 1950. For decades more 870 were carried to the nation's best waterfowling holes than any other. As if the 870 wasn't popular enough--in the 1980s Remington introduced the Express version of this pump, one that was even less expensive, the price making the 870 affordable to virtually everyone. Further, this is a pump gun that worked--flawlessly--every time.
2) Remington 1100
I'm not prejudiced in favor of Remington, but I have to give Big Green the #2 spot as well. The Remington 1100 was very popular prior to steel shot being required everywhere, but the second generation of 1100s then took over - the model 11-87, this one capable of handling 3-inch Magnums - which everyone figured they needed with steel loads. Of course, there was a 3-inch Magnum version of the 1100, but these guns would not shoot lower-powered shells, plus not all that many 3-inch 1100s were produced.
With nearly four million 1100 sales, not including the 11-87s, these gas-operated semi-autos universally found their way to duck marsh after duck marsh, goose pit after goose pit. Shooters love the way the 1100 sucks up demon recoil. That same trait allows gunners to get on the next target easier and quicker.
3) Benelli Super Black Eagle
When it comes to the most popular shotgun among wildfowlers right now - today - I think the Super Black Eagle (SBE) will get the nod. Of course plenty of duck and goose buffs already have a favored fowling piece that's not an SBE. These folks are satisfied with what they already have, so there's no reason for them to change. But there are plenty of folks who have simply bought their first wildfowl gun (an SBE) and those who have switched to the SBE.
While the Mossberg 835 with its murderous recoil was the first 3 1/2-inch 12-gauge, the Super Black Eagle was the first autoloader capable of handling 3 1/2-inch 12 bore fodder, as well as lesser-powered ammo. The original SBE still had plenty of kick on the back end with those huge shells, but in recent years Benelli has come up with a number of ways to tame that recoil.
Not far behind the Super Black Eagle is the Beretta Xtrema. This one was built from the ground up to handle 12-gauge 3 and 3 1/2-inch shotshells. Further, it's gas-operated. That helps tame recoil, but a number of other innovations also help with reduced recoil in the Xtrema.
Their Kick-Off system reduces recoil appreciably. So does their Gel-Tek recoil pad and their overbored barrel. Further, there are elastomer dampeners in two areas that reduce impact. Finally, I think the Xtrema has excellent feel, so much so that, coupled with its recoil absorption, I'm surprised it isn't used in clay target competition more. If this shotgun were produced in a fancy walnut version maybe it would be.
5) Browning Auto-5
Perhaps many of you would put this one higher on your list than my #5. I can see your point. The Auto-5 was a great wildfowl gun, and it continues to be in the hands of many duck and goose masters. Steel shot did not give this Browning a shot in the arm. It continues to be used because non-toxics softer than steel are now readily available.
One aspect that made the Auto-5 shine was the humpback design that so many shooters love. This shotgun was also well known for its dependability. Most Auto-5s were chambered for 2 3/4-inch 12-gauge shells. This is another factor of why you don't see a preponderance of them today - as you once did.
6) Winchester Model 12
Ah - was their ever a sweeter pump gun than this one? Here's another wildfowl gun that may be higher on your Top 10 list than mine. Like the Auto-5, the model 12 waned in popularity after steel shot became mandatory. Before that the great preponderance of model 12s wore 2 3/4-inch chambers. Of course, there were 3-inch duck gun model 12s, but these were and are fairly rare.
The model 12's biggest selling point was probably its feel. Also, because of all machined parts tolerances were minimal and easily maintained during manufacture. This factor made the model 12 very durable. Many of them are still being used by trap competitors who have fired them who knows how many thousands of rounds.
7) The Super Fox
You might think this one an odd pick. It was the model carried by Nash Buckingham. The Super Fox was made with a slightly larger frame than the regular Fox side by side. The barrels were also heavier, plus this gun was overbored! That's right, overboring is not new.
In combination with the Super Fox availability Winchester had just come out with its Super-X Lubaloy ammo--very hard shot, lubricated and protected from barrel scrubbing somewhat. The combination of this new shot and the new Super Fox brought long-range wildfowling into the modern era.
8) The Parker
Maybe it's out of nostalgia that I'm choosing the Parker side by side here. For one thing it's America's most cherished, most sought after, most costly used shotgun. Winchester model 21 owners might argue with that statement, but it's usually the extremely highly engraved 21s (often engraved after market) that top the Parker in price.
Those who love fine English double guns don't have much use for the 21, but English-gun lovers tend to love Parkers. The Parker was made in virtually every gauge and configuration, and that includes 10-gauge and 3-inch 12 bores. Parkers didn't make it into wildfowl blinds in sheer numbers like the 870, but these side by sides were carried by the most astute duck and goose hunters of yesteryear.
9) The Other Beretta Semi-Autos
Today the main Beretta I'm putting at #9 is the AL391 Urika, but I'm also throwing in that model's predecessors, the 390 the 303, and the 302. The 390 and the 391, of course, handle both the 2 3/4 and 3-inch 12-gauge shells interchangeably. The 303 and the earlier 302 handled only the 2 3/4-inchers, though there were 3-inch versions.
Today the AL391 is very popular among wildfowlers, the 390, 303 and 302, of course, less so. What do all four of these models bring to the wildfowl table? I think first and foremost it's feel. These gas-operated semi-autos simply have excellent feel. Further, they are workhorses that can take all the bad stuff that wildfowling can dish out. Like their cousin the Extrema, they are fairly soft shooting, though not on a par with the Extrema.
10) Browning Superposed
The Superposed first came on the scene in waterfowling's heyday, at least the heyday of post market hunting. It wasn't the first over and under. The Boss beat Browning in that race, but the Superposed was the first affordable over and under. Even in the early 1960s it sold for about $300 in Grade 1.
Most all these guns have 2 3/4-inch chambers, so it's relegated to non-toxics like Hevi-Shot Classic Doubles rounds, Kent's Matrix and a few others - all of which, by the way, will kills ducks stone dead--and at good range. Of course, there was also a 12-gauge duck model Superposed with 3-inch chambers.