Preview: Impala Plus 12 gauge, the Best $500 Shotgun Ever?
Istanbul Silah has been around for twenty years by now, so they are not at all new to the firearms industry. In fact, you've likely seen or used Istanbul Arms product whether it was noticed, or not. The Winchester SXP pump shotgun is made by Istanbul Silah and they have been since 2009.
The design work on this inertia gun, the Impala Plus, was completed back in 2016, so it has actually been on the market for six years by now. A few years back, I was asked by a large dealer to check out the Impala Plus while I was at the SHOT Show in Las Vegas. I did, thought that they were good-looking, well-made inertia guns but with excessively heavy triggers. You can only tell so much from inspecting guns in a booth that are all missing firing pins. Over the last several years, there has been an avalanche of inertia guns, some of which are covered here: https://www.chuckhawks.com/theinertiashotgunofdoomandmystery.html .
As it turns out, the Impala Plus does address some of common problems with inertia guns, particularly economy models, and particularly Turkish models, although the heavy triggers remain. Cheaper inertia guns (and some not so cheap models) often have lousy recoil pads, or pads that are very difficult to replace. That is one thing that stands out right away, for the Impala Plus has an excellent factory pad reminiscent of the Browning Inflex pad. It suggests there is something there, related to the Winchester SXP production.
Rare in inertia guns is the Impala Plus oversized bore, called 18.7 mm by Istanbul Silah, or .7362 inches. The Impala Plus takes common Invector Plus chokes which again makes sense as that is what the Winchester SXP is threaded for. It is common for Turkish manufacturers to attempt to copy the Mobilchoke or Crio Plus style of choke tube, only to come up short and accidentally create their own oddball choke thread. That is exactly what happened with Retay, for example, for originally their 12 gauge chokes were claimed to be compatible with Benelli Crio Plus style. That attempt was stuffed up, so now you need a “Marachoke” for a Retay 12 gauge instead.
I'm told that the safety on the Impala Plus can be reversed by a gunsmith for left handed shooters, so that's another plus. There are several innovations present in the Impala Plus, the real benefit of which I cannot say as of yet. Rather than the common two lug bolt head, the Impala Plus has a patented six lug bolt head. Whether this noticeably improves function or not, we will have to see.
The patented charging handle is removed by turning it 90 degrees, rather than having to yank it out with the jaws of life. Rather than having the steel bolt cycling back and forth inside an alloy receiver, the Impala Plus receiver has two stainless steel rails inside the alloy receiver for the stainless steel bolt to ride on, ostensibly providing greater longevity.
The Impala Plus is offered in a incomprehensible array of different finishes, colors, and barrel lengths, up to an eccentric 32 inch barrel length. You can get it in any gauge you like, as a long as that gauge is a 12 gauge with a three inch chamber. The synthetic (in English, plastic) stocked versions I've seen come with a peculiar plastic Monte Carlo cheekpiece called a removable comb riser. Apparently it is removable if you remove the recoil pad and buttstock first, but there is no owners manual online that I can find. There is even a broken Impala Plus on the market in Australia. Called a “straight pull” shotgun, it is an inertia shotgun that doesn't work, forcing the hapless Aussies to yank on a nasty tacked on bolt attachment to eject a spent shell. I'm delighted that those are not available in the United States.
I considered testing a standard-looking walnut / blued Nero model but decided to go with a “Emerald walnut grey Cerakote” model, for a change of pace. Yes, the "Emerald" model is not green, but grey Cerakote. To send out a shotgun for Cerakote can be $150 or so plus shipping or more, so getting it on a factory model seemed like a bargain to me. You do get five choke tubes and adjustment shims included, and for the current five hundred dollar street price, or even a tad less, the Impala Plus seems like the best bang for buck shotgun out there. It very well may be: we will have to see how it patterns, swings, and cycles.
It appears that the Impala Plus addresses several problems endemic to Turkish shotguns and inexpensive shotguns in general: lousy recoil pads, dinky cross-bolt safeties, wacky mystery choke tube threads, and non-reversible safeties. The only thing that remains is the heavy trigger, for every single Impala Plus shotgun I've examined so far has a trigger break weight that exceeds the weight of the entire shotgun. A rep from the importer, Zanders, told me that the warranty is lifetime. However, on the https://impalaplusshotguns.com/warranty/ website, the warranty is published at two years from date of purchase. I'm more comfortablr reporting the two year figure.
HOW SO BLOODY CHEAP?
That really is the elephant in the room. At $400 on up, you might wonder how it is possible to make these things with any semblance of quality, pay for the boat ride across the Atlantic, let the importer make a few pesos, and let your local dealer stay in business as well? Regardless of what some might lead you to believe, inertia shotguns are cheap to make, cheaper than other autos and most pumps. You'll have a really tough time trying to find a Browning BPS or an 870 Wingmaster at this level.
Beyond that, Turkey's economy has tanked, with a shocking 85.51 % inflation rate as of October, 2022: the highest in 24 years. Back in January of 2018, the Turkish lira was worth 27 cents. Today, the Turkish lira is worth 5.4 cents. That is an 80% discount from 2018, if you happen to be paying in U.S. Dollars: a “five for one” sale. It is an incredible tumble, for even in February 2012 the Turkish lira was worth 14 cents. Now you know why so many Beretta's are assembled with Turkish parts.
that, Istanbul Silah is able to use much of the same equipment to
manufacture the Impala Plus as they do the Winchester SXP: same 4140
steel barrels with the same chambers, same bores, and the same chokes.
There is also some additional efficiency when you make one action,
one gauge, one receiver, and one trigger group as the case with the Impala Plus.
Copyright 2022 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.