Shotgun Marketing Manure, Part Two: Browning, Beretta and Remington
According to Browning, the Browning Maxus is “The softest shooting Autoloader ever.” Browning adds, again a direct quote, that the Maxus is “The most reliable autoloading shotgun the world has ever known.”
Also according to Browning, “The all new Browning A5 is built to be the most reliable, fastest cycling, best performing and softest shooting recoil-operated (yes, recoil-operated) autoloader on the planet.”
According to Benelli, “The superbly balanced Super Vinci shotgun is the world’s most reliable, softest-kicking, fastest-shooting lightweight 3-1/2-inch magnum semi-auto.” The 3 inch Vinci was introduced with, “The most reliable, fastest shooting, softest kicking, lightweight shotgun in the world has arrived.” Also, “Advanced ergonomics assure fluid gun-movement and combined with the ComforTech™ Plus recoil reduction system Benelli offers the world’s softest kicking shotgun. In recent lab test results, the competition was shown to have up to 72-percent more felt recoil than the Vinci.”
Remington says, “VERSA MAX® shatters convention and all previous benchmarks for reliability with an action unlike any that have come before it.” Remington adds, “Most versatile, reliable shotgun on the market.”
Beretta says, “The Kick-Off MEGA reduces recoil 60% more than any shotgun of its kind on the market . . .” Beretta continues, “Blink is the new “engine of the Xtreme, and it is 36% faster than any other shotgun.” Beretta continues, “. . . making the Xtreme the most reliable shotgun available.”
Although certainly manufacturers can be expected to present their products in the most favorable light, if these claims had any validity, then these companies should be suing the daylights out of each other for the damage of stealing their rightful claims by disseminating false and damaging information. There is no libel litigation going on between these entities, though, at least that I know of. How can everyone have the softest shooting and most reliable autoloader in the world at the same time? It is even worse from Remington and Beretta, for the claim is “most reliable shotgun.” Why would anyone want a comparatively unreliable Beretta O/U when they could have a more reliable Beretta autoloader and when did the 870 Wingmaster get unreliable?
The Best Available Version of the Truth
The record for autoloading shotgun reliability was set in was set in 1978 with a Remington Model 1100 LT-20 twenty gauge. Over 24,000 rounds were fired without cleaning with no malfunctions and no parts breakage. No autoloader mentioned above has broken that record that I know of. That's a previous benchmark the Versa Max hasn't shattered.
On May 4, 1998, the United States Army's Armaments Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) issued Solicitation #DAAE30-98-R-0401, requesting submissions for a new 12 gauge, semi-automatic combat shotgun for the U.S. military. The winner was the NAVYSEALS.com, “Navy SEALs use the Benelli M4 Super 90, Mossberg 590 and Remington 870 combat shotguns. The Benelli M4 Super 90, also known as the M1014 Joint Service Shotgun, is generally preferred.” The Remington Versa Max is a take off on the M4 “ARGO” action. That does give some credence to the Remington reliability claim, but at the same time also shreds Remington's claim of having “an action unlike any that have come before it.” The Versa Max clearly is based on the M4 action.
According to Zeke Hays, based on 100 million rounds fired, the most reliable shotguns aren't 12 gauges at all: they are an obsolete Beretta, the A390 20 gauge and the Benelli 20 gauge Montefeltro.
Like the vaporware claims of reliability, the “fastest cycling” claims aren't based on any available information. The fastest cycling autoloader based on actual comparative testing is the Winchester SX-3: 12 shots in 1.442 seconds. For Beretta's whacko claim of "36% faster" to be valid, they will need to show better than 16 shots in 1.442 seconds. I'm not holding my breath and I hope you aren't, either.
Nothing shows that anything touted as being the “fastest” actually is. Nor does it matter in normal clays shooting or hunting. On June 1, 2013, Raniero Testa, equipped with a Winchester Super X3, has just broken 9 clays in the air, thrown himself, in 1.1 seconds. It equaled Tom Knapp's record number of clays, but Mr. Testa did it in a shorter period of time. This new world record has was confirm by the team of witness and officially registered by the InterRecord agency and relayed by the Guinness Book of Records.
Patrick Kelly, writing on the topic of 3-gun back in 2001, wrote “Practical shooters tend to shoot more than the average wingshooter, and they shoot long strings of heavy loads. This is the downfall of the 1100/11-87 platform. The 1100's problems relate to the interceptor latch and magazine tube.” At that time, he found the Winchester SX-2 to be the fastest, running at .11 - .12 seconds shot to shot with a vintage Automatic-Five besting a Benelli and a Remington 1100. Yet, the cyclic rate of the Remington 1100 is very good: 0.14 seconds shot to shot. For hunting and clay-smashing, .14 seconds is not nearly enough time to recover from recoil and acquire a second target.
The whole “fastest-cycling” time set of ad-brags is just silly season. Nevertheless, 12 shots in 1.442 seconds from a Winchester SX-3 has not been bettered and the Vinci cycle time was bad enough to warrant the introduction of the Vinci “SpeedBolt.” The SpeedBolt is a truly embarrassing release, for the Vinci was already supposed to be the fastest cycling and most reliable. The SpeedBolt is supposed to speed up the "fastest shooting" Vinci action and make it reliable with 1 oz. loads, two things which it was originally promised to be.
Everybody seems to want to claim the low-recoil title year after year. Yet again, none of the above ad-brags are completely honest. The softest-shooting autoloader on the market, that I've tested, is the Fabarm XLR5 Velocity. It really is no mystery why, for the Fabarm XLR5 LR weighs in at 8-3/4 lbs. With the factory recoil reducer (5.36 ounce) installed and it comes complete with a series of 1.5 ounce barrel weights you can add if you wish. It is gas-operated, heavy, and a creampuff to shoot. It is no quail gun by any means, but the softest-shooting autoloader on the market isn't even claimed to be the “world's softest kicking” autoloading shotgun. But it is. Another model that is softer-shooting than any of the guns touted to be the "world's softest kicking" is Remington 1100 Competition Synthetic, a recent model that comes with the Ken Rucker "Bumpbuster" hydraulic system. Sure, both are target guns but brags like "The Softest Shooting Autoloader Ever" covers that ground.
Browning is way, way off track by claiming the new A-5 is the softest-shooting anything. It is one of the harshest-shooting autoloaders I've tested in a good long while, the last shotgun that was that nasty of a trick to my shoulder was the Benelli Ultralight.
Of the guns that claim to be the world's softest shooting, the Remington Versa Max is the closest. No real stunner as to why, for it is an eight pound gas-operated gun with a generously thick recoil pad.
Though the Maxus is hardly the “softest shooting autoloader ever,” as advertised, it is as soft-shooting as any 7 lb. class autoloader has been. The whole line of Gold / Silver / SX2 / SX3 Activ valve gas guns have always been comparatively easy on the shoulder. The Maxus is as well, a touch softer due to the excellent InFlex recoil pad.
To be fair, the latest Comfortech stocks on the Vinci and the Benelli M2 do work extremely well. Though not the “softest kicking” as advertised, they do make a big difference, yet no Vinci is the cream-puff of an XLR 5 or a Versa Max.
In my opinion, none of the above is being remotely close to strictly honest with all of their claims, not even close. It isn't a real shocker, though, as they so often claim the very same things again and again, year after year. There is an old saying, “he who asserts must prove.” None of them have been able to show better reliability than the 24,000 round Remington 1100 LT-20, none of them have been shown as faster-cycling than a Winchester SX-3, and none of them have been shown to be softer-shooting than a Fabarm XLR-5.
It doesn't mean that they are bad guns, quite the contrary in several cases. It does mean that, as far as I'm concerned, they are advertised with horribly bad, transparent lies. P. T. Barnum was a celebrated man, who founded a celebrated circus. There was a time and a place for The Feejee Mermaid, General Tom Thumb, and the Swedish Nightingale. I like a good circus as much as anyone; it just isn't where I go to buy a shotgun.
The pity of this is, they are lying for nothing. The Maxus, Vinci, and Versa Max shotguns are all excellent shotguns right now, though there are obviously huge differences in action type, weight, aesthetics and so forth. There is no reason to print a combination of fairy tales and falsehoods, no reason for gun companies to constantly set themselves on fire with goofball claims. Yet, some gun companies still wonder why people don't believe every single thing they print. That's something that isn't hard to understand. The most reliable thing about autoloading shotguns is how reliably and consistently manufacturers take absurd liberties with the truth.
Copyright 2014 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.