July 08, 2020
By Joseph von Benedikt
It’s a great time to be a gun guy or gal because firearm manufacturers are gleefully inventing, refining, and adding cool extensions to their lines. In shotguns, this means more purpose-driven special models and variations. As you’ll see, new offerings range from sexy sub-gauge over-under field guns in 28 gauge and .410 Bore to advanced-capability, home- and personal-defense scatterguns. Here are my selections for the most interesting new scatterguns.
Benelli 20-Gauge 828U
Picking between Benelli’s sleek 20-gauge over-under and the company’s superb Super Black Eagle 3 with the B.E.S.T. corrosion protection required considerable contemplation. I chose the 20 gauge because it’s more of a departure from the original, and it offers upland hunters a truly superb field piece.
The frame is downscaled and sized correctly for 20-gauge shotshells. Stock drop and cast may be customized via included wedges that fit between the buttstock and the action.
It’s light enough to pack all day in rough chukar country, too. The barrels have no side rib, leaving them to float separately for the majority of their length. A carbon-fiber rib provides an excellent sighting plane without adding weight.
The barrels and choke tubes are Crio treated, aiding patterning consistency. Impulse-driven ejection controls how far fired hulls are flung, making it easy to pocket empties while in the field. An easy-open lever makes opening the action a cinch. Benelli’s Progressive Comfort system takes the edge off recoil and reduces muzzle jump.
With 26-inch barrels, the 20-gauge 828U weighs 5.9 pounds; with 28-inch barrels, it’s an even 6 pounds. AA-grade walnut makes it easy on the eyes, and a fiber-optic bead aids low-light shooting. Length of pull is 14.38 inches.
MSRP: $3,199, benelliusa.com
Beretta 686 Silver Pigeon
What’s different about this “new” 686 Silver Pigeon? It has ballistically optimized Steelium Optima HP barrels, and it’s available in 28 gauge and .410 Bore, making it one of the few over-unders available in every popular gauge. Now, if Beretta would just introduce a 16-gauge version.
The .410 and 28-gauge versions feature correctly scaled receivers and dimensions. For those desiring versatility, the 686 is also available in combo-barrel sets. The barrels are cold-hammer-forged and chrome lined, making them durable and easy to maintain. Lengths range from 26 inches to 30 inches, depending on gauge. The .410 is available only with 26- or 28-inch barrels.
The safety is automatic. The trigger is a single selective version. A simple silver metal bead up front offers timeless aesthetics coupled with durable usability. Weight of the heaviest version (12 gauge) is 6.8 pounds. All versions have 3-inch chambers with the exception of the 28-gauge gun, which features 2¾-inch chambers.
MSRP: $2,350, beretta.com
Browning A5 Wicked Wing Tungsten
Released as a SHOT Show 2020 special, this retro-modern shotgun is as good as it gets for all-around hunting for any game, anywhere. Tungsten Cerakote on the metal protects it from the elements and provides a no-glare finish. Realtree Timber on the stock enables the gun to blend in with most any hunting environment.
Great features include an oversize bolt release for easy operation even with wet, frozen gloves and chrome lining in the bore to protect from corrosion and make cleaning easy.
This modern A5 is so reliable and robust that Browning stands behind it with a 100,000-round/five-year guarantee “that this shotgun will work, come hell or high water.” That same ultra-reliable Kinematic Drive System that provides ultimate reliability also offers speed and balance and softens recoil to downright civilized levels. Yep, even with zesty duck loads.
Speaking of duck loads, the A5 Wicked Wing has 3½-inch chambers, so you can shoot whatever 12-gauge shotshells you want. The receiver is machined from a lightweight aluminum alloy, so the gun is light enough to pack all day and responsive enough for those heart-stopping mallards that jump out of the ditch right in front of you. Fast aiming is aided by a fiber-optic front bead and an ivory mid-bead on your choice of a 26- or 28-inch barrel.
To make the shotgun shoot where you look, you can adjust drop, cast, and length of pull with the provided stock spacers. Vector Pro chokes with long forcing cones are provided in Full, Modified, and Improved Cylinder. Length of pull is 14.25 to 15 inches.
MSRP: $2,000, browning.com
CZ-USA Redhead All-Terrain
Now this is different! In a significant departure from traditional upland-gun treatment, CZ-USA has introduced a rugged, Cerakote-finished series dubbed the All-Terrain line. Several over-under and side-by-side models and a semiautomatic are included. Because I think it’s most interesting, here’s a closer look at the over-under Redhead All-Terrain shotgun.
Each All-Terrain shotgun features OD Green Cerakote. For those unfamiliar with Cerakote, it’s one of the most highly rated corrosion- and abrasion-resistant metal finishes available. The Redhead All-Terrain has a walnut buttstock and forearm, and I think they preserve the panache and beauty of these classic upland guns.
Another unique and innovative feature is the incorporation of rare earth magnets into the gun’s extractors/ejectors. They prevent modern steel-reinforced shotshells from falling from the chambers of an open gun—even if it’s turned upside down.
To make it easy to pack in the field, the Redhead All-Terrain is fitted with sling swivel studs. Extended, interchangeable choke tubes offer superlative patterning in your choice of restriction. Barrel lengths are 28 or 30 inches, and all but the semiauto Model 1012 are available in both 20 and 12 gauge. Length of pull is 14.5 inches.
MSRP: $690 to $1,123, cz-usa.com
Franchi Instinct SL 28 Gauge
Built using “the best of Italian craftsmanship,” the Franchi Instinct SL just might be the best over-under available for the money. Engineered with receivers scaled to correct 28-gauge size (and .410 for those who really love sub-gauges), this sexy field gun features a brushed aluminum receiver, 28-inch polished blue barrels, and A-grade walnut for the Prince of Wales-style stock.
Weight is just 5.6 pounds. The tang-mounted automatic safety serves as a barrel selector. Each gun comes with extended chokes in Improved Cylinder, Modified, and Full. A red fiber-optic front bead aids shooting at the wee hours of dawn and dusk.
Sporting sleek lines that belie the model’s inherent robust reliability, the Instinct will last forever. In fact, Franchi offers a seven-year warranty. And best of all for upland hunters that wander afar in search of wild-flushing native birds, the Instinct SL mounts, points, and swings like a part of your body. Length of pull is 14.25 inches.
MSRP: $1,700, franchiusa.com
Mossberg SA-410 Autoloader
It could be said that 2020 is the year of the sub-gauge scattergun, and Mossberg’s excellent .410 semiauto is one of the most interesting and most practical—two elements that don’t always come together.
Two different versions are available. One is all black with a synthetic stock and a 26-inch barrel and comes with Mossberg’s Sport Set of chokes in Full, Improved Modified, Modified, Improved Cylinder, and Cylinder. The other version is dressed in Mossy Oak’s Original Bottomland camo, sports a fiber-optic front sight and adjustable ghost ring rear, and a XX-Full Extended Turkey choke tube. Why, you ask? It’s intended to be paired with 3-inch .410 Tungsten Turkey loads and is a magic wand of a gobbler-dropping shotgun.
Both SA-410 versions feature 4+1 capacity and 3-inch chambers. Both have full-length ventilated ribs. At 6.5 pounds, the SA-410 is a bit heavy for small children, but it’s perfect for youths 12 and up working on honing their gun mount and follow-through. Length of pull is 13.75 inches.
MSRP: $615 (black), $735 (camo with sights), mossberg.com
Remington 870 .410 Turkey TSS
Here’s Big Green’s offering to .410 afficiandoes. Optimized for extremely heavy, deep-penetrating Tungsten loads, this sleek, little pump gun features a 25.0-inch barrel. To maximize effectiveness with those light-recoiling, heavy-lethality Tungsten .410 shells, the barrel sports a TRUGLO rail system incorporating a high-visibility front sight and a rear Picatinny rail and ghost ring aperture sight.
An extended Super-Full choke tube maximizes pattern density to help hunters put plenty of payload into the kill zone, and it can be swapped for more versatile chokes should you wish to press this gun into service on upland birds.
MSRP: $699, remington.com
Of all the shotguns introduced in 2020, this one is generating the most buzz. Partly because Savage has never before built semiautomatic shotguns. Partly because it sports a price rivaling many high-end Italian guns. But mostly because once you handle it, the price seems entirely reasonable.
A lot of research went into the Renegauge. Simple stuff first: The stocks were designed by the same team that engineered the very ergonomic Axis II riflestock. Candidly, it looks a bit funny at first glance because it doesn’t look like a classic semiauto shotgun stock. But, man, it feels good! To me, the styling and the ergonomics have something of a Magpul look and feel. As a good shotgun should be, the Renegauge is adjustable for stock length of pull, drop, and comb height.
As for function, Savage’s engineers came up with what they term the D.R.I.V. gas system. It stands for Dual Regulating Inline Valve system, and it is designed to handle anything from mild low-brass target loads to steamy 3-inch duck loads without a hiccup.
Reciprocating parts are chrome plated, adding natural lubricity and making them easy to clean. A “stock rod buffer” reduces felt recoil. A red fiber-optic front sight provides excellent visibility. Oversize fire controls make for easy functioning when wearing gloves.
Three flush-mount choke tubes come standard (Beretta/Benelli compatible) in Improved Cylinder, Modified, and Full. Interestingly, barrels are fluted and are available in 26- and 28-inch lengths. Black, Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Blades, and Mossy Oak Bottomland finishes are offered.
MSRP: $1,549, savagearms.com
Stoeger M3500 Predator Turkey
I’m not much of a turkey hunter, but if I were, this shotgun would be a candidate for my pick of the year. Sporting a recoil-controlling vertical pistol grip; a 3½-inch chamber; and a compact, maneuverable, 24-inch barrel, it’s ideal for wary gobblers and wily coyotes alike.
Stoeger’s Inertia Drive provides a reliable operating system. Two Mojo chokes enable hunters to pick one that patterns ideally with their preferred turkey or predator loads. Aggressive porting just aft of the muzzle reduces muzzle jump and recoil.
Mossy Oak Overwatch camo helps the gun blend in with most natural environments. To help the hunter place precise shots even way out there, the receiver is drilled and tapped for an included Weaver-type optic base. For those who prefer to hunt without an optic, the front sight is a capable fiber-optic version.
Each gun comes with a paracord sling. Capacity is 4+1. Weight is 7.5 pounds. Length of pull is 14.36 inches.
MSRP: $929, stoegerindustries.com
Winchester SX4 Waterfowl Hunter
With subtle but effective True Timber Prairie camo, an oversize charging handle and bolt release, and a reversible safety button, this outstanding duck gun is optimized for hard work under adverse conditions.
Two versions are available. A 3½-inch chamber handles any and all waterfowl shells without a hiccup, from max-payload 3½-inchers right down to mild 2¾-inch bismuth loads. The version with a 3-inch chamber costs less and comfortably handles 95 percent of the loads popular with waterfowlers.
A chrome-plated chamber and bore are impervious to corrosion and provide reliability-enhancing natural lubricity. Capacity with the plug removed is 4+1 when loading 2¾-inch shells. Invector-Plus chokes in Full, Modified, and Improved Cylinder are included.
Winchester’s Inflex 1 recoil pad softens and slows the transfer of recoil. Plus, it features a small hard-rubber insert in the heel of the stock, which helps prevent the buttstock from hanging up beneath the armpit or on other clothing when mounted in a hurry. It’s a small thing, but it may make the difference when attempting a fast shot on a crossing bird.
Weight is kept to a minimum by using an alloy receiver and trigger guard assembly. Barrel lengths are 26 and 28 inches. A TRUGLO fiber-optic bead helps fast shooting, and stock spacers enable the shooter to finesse fit to perfection so those fast shots kill birds cleanly.
MSRP: $940 to $1,070, winchesterguns.com