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The X-Factor
By W. T. Woodard
Page 2

Our test Browning Gold Hunter had a glossy, reddish cast walnut stock that contrasted nicely with the dull black action and gold trigger and highlights very well. The stock had cut checkering that worked well and looked great. The buttstock was fitted with a black rubber ventilated recoil pad.

The Stalker was matte black all over, like the X2 3-1/2-inch gun. The Golds' barrels accepted Invector choke inserts. They had matte-finished 1/2-inch-wide ventilated ribs that stopped at round white front beads. The back-bored barrels reduced barrel weight and contributed to the guns' liveliness. The Gold Hunter/Stalker felt great.

The Gold Hunter's receiver was machined from aluminum alloy, like the X2s. The sides of the receiver were flat-black. Inside the action everything was cleanly cut and nicely finished in matte black. The follower was chrome-plated steel, and it was not necessary to push the bolt-release button to load the magazine. The ejection port had smooth beveled edges that left no sharp edges to hang up ejected shells. The reversible safety was a triangular trigger-blocking button located behind the trigger guard. We'd prefer to see it at the front of the guard, because it was a more natural motion to extend the trigger finger forward to work the safety. That is where the safety is found on the Beretta AL390 Silver Mallard.

Shotguns: Handling Is Everything

The Beretta AL390 Silver Mallard 3-inch gun stood in marked contrast to the black Browning and Winchester guns. The Beretta's walnut stock had cut checkering, a glossy finish and a thin but effective rubber buttpad. The pistol grip was capped with blued steel.

The Beretta's forend is quite long because it incorporates a metal grille and gas vent out front. The gas system requires no oil and is self-cleaning. The Beretta bleeds off a big dose of gas to kick the action open. Extra gas from hot loads that isn't needed to cycle the action exits forward through a spring-loaded valve and out the vent grille under the forend. That is how the Beretta automatically handles all loads from light target to heavy magnum.

The 28-inch barrel was back-bored, and the exterior of the Beretta's highly polished barrel was perfectly smooth. The barrel was threaded for the Mobilchoke SP tubes, three of which came with the gun. The 1/4-inch-wide vent rib begins at the top of the matte-finished aluminum-alloy receiver and ends with a 1/8-inch-diameter front bead.

Overall, we thought this was a light, quick, low-recoiling shotgun. One advantage it enjoyed over the other guns was in its stock. Within limits, the stock cast-off and drop can be customized by the shooter or a gunsmith.

The sides of the receiver were brush-finished and had impressed figures on the side. The matte-black finish of the action set off the gold-colored trigger well. The safety was a cross bolt located at the front of the guard, and it was reversible for lefties. This gun also has a magazine cutoff, which permits safe unloading without the need to cycle rounds through the action. During our shooting sessions, we thought the Beretta kicked less than the Brownings or Winchesters when loaded with 3-inch magnums. Some of that perception likely had something to do with the stock fit as well.

The Remington 11/87 3-inch gun resembled the Beretta and the Field 3-inch Winchester, with a walnut stock that featured cut checkering. But the Remington had a low-luster finish and a half-inch thick soft-rubber buttpad. A plastic plate protected the bottom of the pistol grip.

The Remington's forend was a little short of 12 inches, and had nicely cut checkering on the bottom and well up the sides. The 28-inch barrel was highly polished and smooth. The barrel was threaded for the Rem-choke tubes, three of which came with the gun. The 0.29-inch-wide vent rib begins at the top of the matte-finished aluminum-alloy receiver and ends with a 0.125-inch-wide front bead.

Overall, we thought the Remington was a fast-handling, low-recoiling shotgun. Its stock allowed most of our shooters to bring the gun to the face and see down the rib properly. The sides of the receiver were polished and had impressed model markings on the side. The blued finish blended with the blued trigger. The safety was a cross bolt located behind the trigger. During our shooting sessions, we thought the Remington kicked about as much as the Brownings, Winchesters, and Beretta when shooting a variety of 2 3/4-inch and 3-inch magnums.

Shotguns: Handling Is Everything

What To Buy

When they go to buy a new shotgun, Texas hunters are faced with a daunting variety of models, chamber sizes, finishes, and handling characteristics. Because our needs are so varied - a dove gun shooting 2 3/4-inch low-brass 7-1/2s isn't the right gun for shooting steel BBs for ducks - it's difficult to say one gun is better than the others in its class. However, there are some characteristics of these semi-autos that certain hunters should consider:

  • The flat-black finishes and synthetic stocks of the Winchester Super-X2 and the Browning Stalker lend themselves to waterfowl use, since they won't give away the hunter's location and are wonderfully impervious to water, unlike wood. Camo finishes are also available.
  • The range of chamber lengths gives the hunter great flexibility in matching loads to game. Since these shotguns can handle upland-size shotshells interchangeably with 3- and 3-1/2-inch magnums, there's no reason not to buy a gun that can do a lot of different jobs. We noted no function problems with these guns shooting the lightest target loads up to the stoutest turkey charges.
  • The development of the semi-auto shotgun continues apace. The new Winchester Super X2s offer wildfowlers yet another choice in this already rich category of guns.

Are these new shotguns the right choice for you? Perhaps. To find out for yourself, visit a shooting range that offers a rental-gun program and shoot the X2s side by side with the best that Remington, Beretta, and Browning have to offer. You'll find out that the comparable quality of these products makes choosing between them difficult - which, all things considered - is a great situation for hunters.

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