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As duck season approaches, many of us are shopping for a new waterfowling shotgun whether we need it or not.

Most of us don't. We kill plenty of ducks with the guns we have, but it's hard to resist upgrading to a newer, shinier model with trendier camo.

Forget accoutrements for a moment. A shotgun fires when you pull the trigger. If you lead a bird correctly and shoot within the lethal range of your choke/payload combination, you will kill your duck. That's all there is to it.

Of course, it's not a matter of need, but desire. If you want a new shotgun, then you should have it. The question is whether the shotgun you want is better than the one you have. I made that mistake once, to my painful regret.

The best waterfowling piece I ever had was a black Winchester Super X2 Super Magnum. It cycled the cheapest 1-ounce target loads flawlessly, and it had a surprisingly soft touch with 3 1/2-inch shells. It never jammed nor failed to cycle.

Gander Mountain had a special buy on Super X2s with Shadow Grass camo for the same price that I paid for the black gun. I sold the black gun and "upgraded" for no net cost.

My first hunt with the new X2 was a spring turkey hunt in Grant County. It took three shots to kill a gobbler. The turkey was flying when I finally took it down with the third shot.

When I cleaned the gun that night, the bolt wouldn't close. The recoil spring torqued itself into a pretzel and snapped. The gun essentially blew itself apart.

It took three shots to kill the turkey because the point of impact was no place near the point of aim. Winchester fixed the recoil spring, but the point of aim/impact discrepancy was irreconcilable.

A couple of years later I got a black Super X3. It is a fantastic shotgun, and the best incarnation of the Super X line. If you have an X2 or an X3, resist the SX4, which is a cost-cutting, corner-cutting regression from the earlier models.

On the other hand, if you own a Benelli Super Black Eagle II, you might like an SBE-3 better. Benelli strengthened the action and mated it to a lighter stock, which includes a recoil reducing Comfort Tech-3 system.

A new spring and ball detente applies forward pressure to the bolt and allows you to ease the bolt fully into battery. The SBE2 does not easily go into battery if you ease the bolt forward, and that's a major complaint from those that use it for turkey hunting.

If you want Benelli performance in a budget-minded package, the Stoeger M3500 and Franchi Intensity are decent options for less than $1,000. Benelli owns both brands. They both use Benelli's inertial action and both have 3 1/2-inch chambers. Cosmetic differences aside, they are functionally identical to Benelli.

Benelli is the inertia-action subsidiary of Beretta, which specializes in gas-operated autoloaders. For a dedicated waterfowl gun, I really like the Beretta A400 Xtreme Plus. It is well-balanced, especially with a 26-inch barrel, and it swings fluidly. It's Kick-Off system is said to dramatically reduce recoil on the heaviest loads.

Beretta is famous for reliability, and waterfowlers brag about how many rounds the Xtreme cycles without cleaning.

On the other hand, the Xtreme is not a versatile, all-purpose field gun. It is purely a waterfowl gun, but it excels in that role.

A guy that sells Remington recently treated me to a passionate anti-Remington rant. His experience is a lot different than mine. The Remington V3 and VersaMax (after the first year) are exceptional shotguns.

Their operating system is a remarkably simple adaptation of an old Beretta system. It consists of two small gas-driven pistons. The amount of gas diverted to cycle the pistons is governed by vents in the barrel that are activated or deactivated by the shell length.

I've used both. The Versamax with a 28-inch barrel was too long and front-heavy for me, but the V3 with a 26-inch barrel is a superb, well-balanced and inexpensive shotgun that functions as well on a pheasant field as in a duck blind.

The receiver contains the entire recoil system, there is no recoil spring in the buttstock. That means you can use it as a boat paddle without rusting the guts.

I use mine a lot without a hint of trouble.

For the money - for any money - you can't beat it.

Sports on 09/30/2018

Print Headline: Plenty of fingers scratch itch for new duck gun


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