Stoeger M3500 Super Magnum Autoloading Shotgun
Once the importer of some very high class firearms (including Luger pistols, J.P. Sauer shotguns/drillings and Mannlicher-Schoenauer rifles), the old Stoeger brand fell on hard times after the Second World War, when the cost of producing such firearms priced them out of the U.S. market. Stoeger was eventually purchased by Benelli and (along with Benelli) is now part of the Beretta family of companies, with a line aimed at the low end of the market.
Stoeger Silah Sanayi A. S. is the name of this Turkish company that began in the 1980s under the name of Vursan. Beretta Holdings acquired them in 2002. They manufacture and distribute under their own name and refer to themselves more simply as “Stoeger Turkey.” The past models you might be most familiar with are the M2000 autoloader and the P350 slide-action.
The general reputation of Stoeger branded product under Benelli/Beretta ownership has been uneven at best. Perhaps because of the “Inertia Driven” buzzword associated with the M2000 autoloader, some folks were looking to get a Benelli-level shotgun at a fraction of the price. The Stoeger M2000 has been called a lot of colorful things, but rarely an excellent shotgun.
The tested gun is product #31810, the all matte black, 28 inch barreled version of the M3500. The external metal surfaces are left unpolished and the stock and forend are black plastic; the result is visually unappealing. Once you open the box, you will be surprised at all the goodies included. You get five choke tubes, a choke tube wrench, a Weaver style base for scope mounting (the receiver is drilled and tapped), three extra stock adjustment shims and a “recoil reducer.” The recoil reducer is more correctly called a “weight increaser.” It is a slug of inert steel that screws into the buttstock, adding about 11 ounces to the gun that already is at about 7-3/4 lbs. With the extra weight installed, you are up to roughly 8-1/2 pounds unloaded weight, with the gun's balance noticeably shifted aft. The published specifications are:
· Magazine Capacity: 4+1
· Chokes: C, IC, M , F, EF-Turkey
· Type of Sights: Red-bar
· Length of Pull: 14-3/8”
· Drop at Heel: 2-1/2”
· Drop at Comb: 1-1/2”
· Minimum recommended load: 3-dram, 1-1/8 ounce
· MSRP: $629 in black plastic, $679 for camo pattern plastic
Though the Stoeger website claims 1-1/8 oz. loads as a minimum, the owners manual states 1 oz. load capability. After doing little more than wipe a substantial glob of grease from the magazine tube, it was off to the field. Right out of the box, the M3500 cycled everything with stuffed into it with zero malfunctions, including 1 oz. lead and 1 oz. steel light target loads. I was impressed by its positive functioning.
The sole gripe I had with the tested gun (aside from its cosmetics) was the trigger: it breaks at essentially the same weight as the whole gun, an excessively heavy 7-3/4 lbs. In a lighter gun, a trigger this heavy would be unusable. With the substantial weight of the M3500 it is barely usable, but hardly satisfactory. I wouldn't expect a target trigger on a value-priced 3-1/2 in. waterfowl gun, but even a trigger in the five pound range would be an improvement over the “as supplied” condition.
I found the M3500 to be a comfortable gun to shoot and you can make it even more comfortable by screwing in the supplied recoil reducer weight. It softens the recoil, commensurate with the increased weight. It also moves the balance of the gun rearward, affecting the way the gun handles and swings; some shooters may find it an improvement.
According to the published Stoeger specs, you lose one tenth of one pound for each two inch decrease in barrel weight. Offered in 24 inch and 26 inch barrel lengths, the 24 inch barrel makes more sense for an all-around type gun. You already have a lengthy receiver, so the 26 inch model approximates the overall length of many 12 gauge autoloaders, equating to about 30 inch barreled O/U or SxS shotgun. That's why they call them choices and all that, but if you want to do any turkey or pheasant hunting with your M3500, I think you'll find the 24 inch model to be the more satisfying choice. Losing two tenths of a pound from a 7-3/4 lb. hunting gun isn't a bad idea. If that somehow seems light to you, the dead weight 11 oz. recoil reducer is right there to get you back to an 8-1/4 lb. weight anytime you wish.
The camo versions retail for only fifty bucks more, so going camo on this gun is an obvious choice, turning a simple, low maintenance gun into an even lower maintenance gun. It is hard not to characterize the M3500 as a lot of autoloader for the money. (Functionally, not aesthetically! -Editor.) Right now you can get a camo version, new in the grease, for about $550. That price level for a camo 3.5 inch autoloader complete with stock adjusting shims, a scope base, five choke tubes (including an extended turkey choke), and an included recoil reducing weight is a lot of autoloader in 2011.
The impressive thing to me is how well the M3500 functions, especially on the low end of the shotshell intensity scale. Based on that and the moderate price, Stoeger should sell these by the boatloads.
Copyright 2011 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.