First Look: Remington Versamax 3-1/2 inch 12 gauge Autoloading Shotgun
Over the last couple of weeks, Remington has been intentionally leaking bits and pieces about the late 2010 release of the Versamax shotgun, in the form of a few cryptic text teasers and a few 7-10 second YouTube videos to try to create a buzz. At the same time, exhibition shooting specialist Patrick Flanigan has announced a new sponsor and a new gun, rumored to be Remington, but not confirmed.
So what is the Versamax? It is presented as a $1600 MSRP plastic-stocked, gas-actioned autoloader in 12 gauge with a 3-1/2 inch chamber designed to compete against the Beretta Xtrema2 and the Browning Maxus. As a 3-1/2 inch gun, it will also go up against the Benelli Super Black Eagle II American, Benelli SBE-II Camo Comfortech and the Beretta Xplor Unico A400.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, it seems that the folks at Benelli's Urbino, Italy facility should be quite flattered. The stepped raised rib, the shell carrier release, the trigger guard and the knock-off of the ComforTech comb all scream Benelli. The profile of the gun itself strikes me as eerily Super Black Eagle-esque, if there is such as thing.
It is the most expensive 12 gauge hunting autoloader that Remington has ever released, by no small margin. The "any load any time" claim by Remington for the Versamax might seem puzzling, as recently tested Maxus, Super Black Eagle II, Xtrema2 and A400 3-1/2 in. guns all do that. The 11-87 didn't, though, requiring the "barrel seal activator" for 2-3/4 inch shells. Perhaps that is what they are referring to? It would not be considered anything new at this stage of the game, if you consider Beretta, Benelli, Browning models that have featured this for over a decade.
It looks like Remington has added adjustment shims for drop to a shotgun; at least the images seem to suggest that. Shim adjustments have become somewhat common fare since the Beretta 303 and Browning B-80 autoloaders of about thirty years ago. As for detailed information about exact weight, bores, forcing cones, etc., all of that will be forthcoming. Nothing definitive has yet been published by Remington. With an aluminum receiver, lighter weight than the old 1100 and 11-87 models is very likely.
The Versamax appears to be a gas-operated shotgun joining the increasing ranks of 3-1/2 inch chambered, plastic stocked, twelve gauge autoloaders. The 3-1/2 inch Versamax has reportedly been "tested" in Argentina, although the idea of using a 3-1/2 inch chambered twelve gauge to drop a four-ounce dove makes no sense. The Argentina ritual does not make a lot of sense (unless you are headed to Argentina, that is), but it has become a standard ploy these days, regardless of brand. The Turkish-made Weatherby (ATA Arms) and the Benelli Vinci are two shotguns that have had the benefit of Argentina testing. What would be far more newsworthy is if a new shotgun went to Argentina and failed. As far as I know, it has never happened. Remington has claimed that some 250,000 rounds have been fired through just one gun over the last year without failure.
The gas system of the Versamax is a multi-ported barrel array with seven ports in the chamber, ports that are blocked off in concert with the unfolded shell length. Here, of course, the so-called information leak is no leak at all but just a very short series of bits and bytes. While the style of the Versamax is surprisingly Benelli, the gas system sounds like a new approach. It is the gas system itself that is the most interesting part of this shotgun, at least in my view.
Those with the unfortunate propensity to praise or condemn the Versamax do so without basis. There has yet to be an autoloading shotgun of any brand or source of manufacture that has lived up to every jot of its marketing claims. Not one. Whenever a new model is announced in the form of a couple of prototypes, they often have little to do with the actual mass-produced production article. All of this is no news to those who understand initial guns are tool-room guns. The actual retail product is invariably different, sometimes dramatically so, from a hand-fitted prototype. This holds true regardless of brand, regardless of make. At this juncture, the Versamax is neither deserving of praise nor of rebuke, as it does not yet exist as a readily available retail product. Until it hits the stores, it is essentially vaporware. We all know this, but patience is not a virtue shared by many.
The recoil pad of the Versamax appears to be a somewhat thicker version of the "SuperCell" pad. I can almost hear the "fastest cycling, softest shooting, most reliable" mantra coming, joining the many other fastest cycling, softest shooting and most reliable shotguns out there. So can you, if you listen closely.
Several things are interesting about this new Remington shotgun. Dropping steel receivers for aluminum is quite a change from older Remington models. The blocking off of ports, if successful, would suggest that three inch chambered versions of the shotgun are easily accomplished with the elimination of the three ports machined for 3-1/2 inch shells. Remington's "Pro Bore" take on the Browning oversized barrels hasn't been used throughout the Remington line, but it is back on the Versamax. According to the recent Cabela's waterfowl catalogue, the ticket to ride is $1200 for the black, $1350 for the camo version.
Estimated availability is September 2010, for the 28 inch black synthetic models, the camo model scheduled for November 2010, with 26 inch barreled versions estimated to follow in January 2011.
Copyright 2010 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.