Remington Model 1100 Premier Sporting 20 Autoloader
Remington has gone through major changes of late. A glance at the business card of some of the management now proclaims "FREEDOM GROUP FAMILY OF COMPANIES: Remington – Marlin – H&R – NEF – Parker Gun – L.C. Smith – Bushmaster," not the old familiar Remington Arms Company. Whatever the preconceived notion of "Remington" might be, the winds of change are blowing hard. The tested gun, the 1100 Premier Sporting 20, is certainly not the shotgun of change, however. It is the current rendition of the 1963 introduced 1100 series, reviewed three years ago in “Sporting 20 (LT)” configuration by Chuck Hawks. This model is an upscale version of the standard Sporting 20, with stated dimensions and weights that are identical.
I have long felt that I’ve suffered from a “Remington Curse.” A grand, familiar name in American lore, the Remington product I have had the displeasure of testing has never failed to disappoint in one way or another. As for this product being different, it is and it isn’t. It is a magnificent mix of the impressive and the adequate, as you will see.
The 1100 Premier is one of the most impressive-looking shotguns I have seen in a long, long while. The metal finish is highly polished. The borderless, cut checkering patterns on pistol grip and forend are attractive, generous and well executed. The exceptionally attractive pistol grip cap fits perfectly. The wood is spectacularly good. It is very close to exhibition quality, feather crotch walnut with a bit of fiddle-back, the type of furniture not seen on production autoloaders of any brand with regularity. It is so good that it prompted a phone call to the factory, where I was told with nonchalance that, "They are all like that." Though Remington calls this “semi-fancy American walnut,” there is no “semi” about it. It is fabulous walnut, so good that some customers will buy the gun for the wood alone.
It is that good, yet the $1359 Premier (retail) versus the $1105 MSRP of the standard Sporting 20 isn’t much more at street price. Add to that the gold-inlayed, nickel receiver and the lockable presentation case it is shipped in, a case nicer than many $200 hard cases, it forces me to say that if you ever wanted an 1100 with great looks and value, you’d better run out and bag one of these while you can.
Now, we turn to some of the “all that glitters” type candid detail. The test gun had a few issues. Although Remington claims it to be a seven-pound gun, it isn’t. It is an 8 pound 20 gauge; in fact, it hits 7-1/4 lbs. with its beefy forearm removed. This discrepency is more than I can attribute to possible differences in the weight of the wood. If you are looking for a light and handy 20 gauge, forget it. This gun weighs as much as many 12 gauge guns.
The weight combines with the factory R-3 Limbsaver pad and its gas action to make the 1100 Premier the softest-shooting shotgun I have tested in years. With 7/8 oz. target loads, it feels like a little pop gun, meaning you cannot feel much kick at all. Even when devouring a half-case of 1 oz. loads, I still did not feel like I had been shooting. If you are at all recoil-sensitive, the extremely mild manners of this shotgun should win you over, if the fancy wood, case and nickel receiver didn’t already do the trick.
The 1100 Premier’s trigger was mushy with an excruciatingly long take up before it finally broke at a heavy six pounds. It is a crude trigger by any standard, even more so for a competition gun. (The Wakeman curse strikes again; our previous 1100 Sporting 20 had a smooth, 4-pound trigger pull. -Ed.) If you want a decent trigger, you might want to factor in a professional trigger job with the cost of this gun, it cries for it. It was not the heavy pull that was most annoying, perhaps due to the gun’s substantial weight. The vast amount of take-up is, though.
Initially, I could not hit a clay with this gun. It did not take long to figure out why. Firing at an unbroken clay on the ground some 45 yards out on an island in the middle of a pond, a geyser of water spewed up 15 yards or so in front of the bird. A trip to the patterning board revealed the problem: this gun shot low, very low, about a foot below point of aim at 40 yards. I finally managed to break a few clays by completely obscuring the target and holding about a foot over where I imagined the target was. Not good. In fact, completely unacceptable. At that point, as far as I was concerned, the gun was a pretty wall-hanger.
After that disappointing adventure, I called Remington. I was happy to discover that (unlike Beretta, for example) Remington actually has a customer service department. A new barrel was promptly shipped. As soon as I received the barrel, it was back to the field for more testing. That solved the problem; the Premier now shot dead on at 40 yards with the pattern well centered.
I sure didn’t appreciate the mis-marked Briley chokes that were supplied. The factory Remington Modified was off a whopping .016 inch. That is more additional constriction than it is published as having (.014 inch) in the first place. Phrased differently, this tube has a ridiculous 115% more constriction than advertised. Though they are apparently Briley chokes, not many people would be happy with the notion of burning up a half dozen boxes of shells to discover what part of the pattern planet their mis-marked out of spec Deluxe choke tubes are on.
Initially surprised at the within .004 in tolerance published by Remington for their screw-tubes, I was more than a bit saddened to find some of the supplied choke tubes exceeding factory tolerance by over 300% of the factory specification. I discarded the supplied tubes for more rational Trulock Precision Hunter tubes. That’s another consideration for new Premier 1100 buyers; if your 1100 is anything like mine, you will likely instantly be in the market for at least a few choke tubes.
I am left with a Chef’s Mix of very good and very bad. Probably just my Remington jinx in action once again. (I think so; the virtually identical Model 1100 Sporting 20 LT I reviewed--and liked well enough to purchase for my own use after the review--weighed a half pound less and had no barrel, trigger or choke problems. -Ed.) As disappointed as I was with the point of impact issue, I were satisfied both that this was not the norm and that Remington Customer Service would promptly correct such issues. I am less confident that you’ll get an 1100 trigger that does not need attention and feel that the Briley chokes you will likely get will puzzle you. Both the trigger and the choke tubes can be quickly addressed, though. I think both should have been a lot better out of the box. It is a lot like driving a new Mercedes off the lot, only to discover that the radio doesn’t work and it has an exhaust leak. When the rest of the gun is so good, it makes issues like these seem all the worse. If this were a Mossberg SA-20, I would expect it. However, it is not and I did not.
It is easy to see why one prospective buyer would want this model and another might not. If you are looking for a light, handy, upland-only shotgun, forget it. This is a heavy, but plush, sporting clays gun, not a lightweight upland gun. The more you need to walk, the less you will like this shotgun. On the other hand, the high volume shooter will love the practically nonexistent recoil. Certainly, it would be suitable for the dove field, but its competition length 2-3/4 inch chamber will disqualify it for use in a duck blind.
However, it is the best-looking 1100I have seen in years, by no small margin. In trying to think of decent semi-auto that ranks anywhere near the Premier, nothing comes to mind. That includes the pricier $1689 Benelli Legacy 20 gauge and the $2050 Beretta AL391 Teknys Gold Sporting 20 gauge. Both of these examples look and feel cheap compared to the 1100 Premier, though the 1100 Premier 20 package retails for $300 - $700 less. You can believe the Remington is quite a bit softer shooting than either of the "B" guns, by a huge amount. Finally, I am convinced that Beretta USA has no customer service department. If all is well, you might be happy. If not, you might be on your own. Remington, at least, has a willing customer service department.
If you want the softest shooting and best looking 20 gauge on the market for breaking clays and doves, you might want to grab an 1100 Premier 20 gauge while you can. It is one of the very few autoloaders that you will likely hang on to for good and take great pride in passing up the family tree.
Copyright 2009 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.