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Something new in the sights: Shotgun makers roll out retooled, downsized favorites

Jun. 14, 2012 - 04:05PM   |   Last Updated: Jun. 14, 2012 - 04:05PM  |  
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New shotgun rollouts have been cautious this past year mainly line extensions, retooling of favorite guns and downsizing to the increasingly popular 28-gauge bore size. One notable exception is the Mossberg FLEX Series modular shotgun allowing shooters to easily swap out components and giving it unheard-of versatility.

Mossberg FLEX Series

Changing barrels on shotguns has always been easy, but swapping stocks and recoil pads has required disassembly and tools. Changing a fore-end is rarely seen. But in Mossberg's FLEX Series, one receiver can be fitted with basic components and accessories that tool-lessly transform the gun. Mossberg offers 11 Model 500 or 590 pump-action shotgun base models with 16 FLEX accessory components and extensive barrel options. Base models come in 12-gauge with 3-inch chambers. Some models have an adjustable trigger. Choose your finish on barrels, receivers and the nine stock variations, including standard full-length stocks, stocks with a pistol grip, a six-position adjustable tactical stock or a hunting stock with a four-position adjustable, dual-comb. Plenty of variety all around. ($500-$750, accessories $20 -$150, 10-year limited warranty,

Steyr Duett

This isn't just a shotgun but a 50-50 shotgun and whatever rifle caliber you want to match it up with, shooting 12-gauge shotshells from one barrel and rifled bullets in one of eight popular American and European calibers including .243 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield and .308 Win. from the other. This is the 148-year-old company's first rifle/shotgun. The cold-hammer-forged, free-floated and adjustable rifle barrel is below the shotgun barrel. Features a slim stock, long, engraved side plates and gold-plated, single-stage triggers. (Suggested $2,850 for the standard model,

Browning A5

This 2012 sports the square-back or humpback-shaped receiver of vintage models, but the receiver is made from lightweight, aluminum alloy. Barrel lengths range from 26 to 30 inches. Barrels have a flat, ventilated rib. The new A5 employs what Browning calls the "Kinematic Drive System," which converts recoil energy into the mechanical motion that operates the action. Gases created on powder ignition are sent out the barrel and away from the action. A "Vector Pro" lengthened forcing cone is designed to minimize shot deformation and improve patterns. Removing the magazine plug is fast and simple by twisting the cap off with any vehicle key. It comes with three Invector-DS choke tubes, Inflex II Technology recoil pad, front and mid-bead sights, and stock spacers. (Suggested $1,559, expected this summer,

Browning Citori 725

The new model 725 evolves the venerable B25 "superposed" (over-and-under) shotgun first made in 1926. The change is a low-profile steel receiver, significantly lower than those of other Citori 12-gauges. A new mechanical trigger (FireLite) crisply breaks at lighter weights and provides immediate second-shot capability. Browning says the lower receiver affords better recoil control and less muzzle jump. It's hailed as a "target shotgun," but dove field and other upland bird shooters should find it flexible. The ported barrel has ventilated top and side ribs. The barrels have the Vector Pro forcing cones, plus a five-tube Invector-DS choke system. The barrel is topped with a HiViz Pro-Comp sight and ivory mid-bead. The grade III/IV walnut stock of the sporting model has a glossy finish and a close-radius pistol grip. (Suggested $3,139, "Field Grade" version with a lower-grade walnut stock is $2,470,

Stoeger Condor

If you're looking for an affordable 28-gauge over-and-under, this is a good bet. The bigger-is-better crowd may disdain these lighter loads, but a quick-handling, fine-pointing 28 can bust as many birds with a lot less thump than larger shotguns in the hands of a practiced shooter. The Condor has a box-lock, break-action with all-steel jeweled mono-block and extractors. It uses a single trigger, eliminating a fumble factor for some. The stock's pistol grip and fore-end are slender. The gun weighs 6 pounds. It's available with 24- or 26-inch barrels, comes with improved-cylinder and modified choke tubes, A-grade walnut stock and brass bead front sight. (Suggested $449,

Stoeger M3000

This 12-gauge semi-automatic handles up to 3-inch shotshells and is designed for hunting. Stoeger, Benelli and Franchi are part of Beretta Holding S.p.A., and this Stoeger features the Inertia Driven operating system popular in many Benelli and Franchi semi-autos. Inertia Drivens have fewer moving parts and don't rely on gas to drive the action that cycles the shells. But you may feel more recoil. The M3000 comes with a synthetic stock and either a 26- or 28-inch barrel fitted with a ventilated, stepped rib and fiber-optic front sight. The alloy receiver is drilled and tapped to accommodate a Weaver-style scope base. All M3000s come with three choke tubes (extra-full turkey, modified and improved-cylinder) and a shim kit for drop and cast adjustment. (Suggested $529-$599, available in matte black synthetic, Realtree APG or Advantage Max-4,

Benelli Ultra-Light 28-Gauge

Weighing just 5 pounds, this is the world's lightest auto-loading shotgun, Benelli claims. It features the Inertia Driven system, a featherweight, two-piece blued alloy receiver and a 26-inch, slim Crio barrel topped with a carbon-fiber, raised target vent rib sporting a mid-bead and red bar front sight. Benelli says the rib is crafted from the same material used on Formula 1 race cars. The walnut stock has a "WeatherCoat" sealing and a gel recoil pad. It comes with three choke tubes. (Suggested $1,799,

Franchi Affinity

These Franchi semi-automatics available in both 12- and 20-gauge are Inertia Driven (of course), both handling up to 3-inch magnum shotshells. The receivers are aluminum alloy strengthened with steel inserts. This helps lighten the guns. The 12-gauge weighs 6.4 pounds, and the 20-gauge is 5.6 pounds. The synthetic stock is available in black, Realtree Max-4 and Realtree APG finishes. Barrels are 26 and 28 inches and come with three choke tubes and a red fiber-optic bar sight. Franchis carry a seven-year warranty. (Suggested $849- $949,

Franchi Instinct SL

Completing a big year of new product rollouts for this extended family of products is the Franchi Instinct SL. This lightweight over-and-under has a nice feel and look, available in 12- and 20-gauge, with the 12 weighing 5.7 pounds and the 20 just a hair over 5 pounds. The silver-aluminum alloy receiver is polished and brushed with minimal engraving. The tang-mounted, automatic safety has the barrel selector. Barrels are 26 and 28 inches and come with three choke tubes and a red fiber-optic bead sight. The oil-finished, checkered stock is made from AA-grade satin walnut in a Prince of Wales style. Each comes in a custom-fitted, hard-shell case. (Suggested $1,349,

Winchester Super X Pump (3.5-inch)

This Winchester Repeating Arms line extension is a 12-gauge capable of handling 3.5-inch shotshells. Offered in waterfowl, turkey and "Black Shadow" models, each has camo patterns, textured gripping surfaces and sighting appropriate to the game at hand. The 3.5-inch shells can launch much more lead and deliver a comparable increase in recoil. (Suggested $529-$559,

Traditions Evolution Muzzleloader

This isn't a shotgun but an inexpensive smoke pole that debuted in mid-2011. Acquaintances who tried it liked it. The bolt-action Evolution comes with three ignition styles: No. 11 percussion cap, musket and 209 shotgun primers. The bolt closes over the top of the ignition area to keep the weather out but is designed to allow enough visible exposure to make it legal in some of the more restrictive Northwestern states. The 24-inch fluted, ported barrel has a Premium CeraKote finish that Traditions says is 50 times more corrosion-resistant than stainless steel. The ported barrel reduces muzzle jump and recoil but will increase blast noise. ($219-$269,

Akdal MKA 1919

This Turkish-made Ucyildiz Arms shotgun that looks like an M16 is a conventional gas-operated semi-automatic with the action located around the support tube that runs below the barrel. It's magazine-fed and comes with two five-round metal detachable magazines and three internal chokes. One magazine is sized for 2-inch shells, while the other handles 3-inch. The top of the receiver has a carrying handle and integral Picatinny rail. It comes in black and a camo pattern called BONZ. The shotgun's empty weight is 6.5 pounds. You've got to be able to take it to dish it out with this "black-rifled" 12-gauge. Some shooters noted the hefty recoil. ($699-$799,

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