I Want a Reliable Shotgun!

By Randy Wakeman

The notion of “reliability” has been used and abused in ad-copy and by those happy to “recommend” a shotgun for no other reason than that is the shotgun that they own, although they have never compared to anything else. It is difficult to comment upon baseless recommendations, for they have no substance.

Yes, I want a “reliable” shotgun and I can think of no one who does not. I also want a “good” one. What good is, worth the money is, and various and sundry emotional pleas amount to is confusion more than basis. When you hear “I love my Berazzi or Remchester,” it is very hard to discern what is meant. Comments like “shoots great” and “patterns great” are fundamentally meaningless comments. What “great” may or may not be is a wildly subjective area. Much of the supporting evidence presented is anecdotal. Ozzie has two Remchesters and he swears by them. Fred at the Bluegill Pro shop says Berazzi’s break parts, but Barney at the club says Berazzi’s are jam-o-matics. All in all, there is a weird collection of gossip that the new shotgunner often has to wade though.

Of course, new shooters don’t always help the matter. They want the “best” and of course the cheapest in the same box. They want an “all-around” gun, although there is no such thing. They want to hunt a bit and use it for clays, but there is a big difference between shooting hand-trap thrown targets a couple of times a year and becoming a weekend warrior on a sporting clays course. Then there is the “lifetime gun” and “heirloom gun” doctrine, though no one really defines what lifetime means. Much of what is discussed in shotgun land is focused on measuring the immeasurable. Felt recoil, handling and stylistic considerations (“looks great”) are a few of the qualities, though present, that have not been quantified with any clarity and likely will not be.

For those looking for a reliable, affordable shotgun a pump action should not be overlooked. $500, or less, gets us more reliability and build quality in a shotgun than can be had in other repeating shotguns, by no small margin. Simple is good; there is less stuff that can go wrong.

Some of us worry about stackbarrels and side-by-side guns shooting to the same point of impact, a problem that goes away with a pump-action. We fuss a bit over whether our semi-autos can cycle absurdly light loads, while a pump cycles most everything, of course. It is an action that is as reliable as we are.

The pump does not have as much techno-babble associated with it as other actions and it has been a long time since the days of the famed Winchester Model 12. If we want what we say we want, affordable reliability and build quality, the pump is hard to beat. We do have some good choices, the Browning BPS that is offered in an amazing variety of gauges and styles, the Remington 870, the Benelli Nova and the revitalized Winchester 1300, introduced as the “Speed Pump” for 2008. What handles the best for you, fits you the best, has the least “felt” recoil and looks the best to you remains a matter of personal preference.

However, if we really want what we say we do, the pump-guns cited here will likely fill the bill as well or better than any other actions on the market. If anything, the reliability and value of pump-action shotguns has been overlooked, and they really should not be.




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Copyright 2008 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.


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