Retay Arms Masai Mara Jet Black 12 Gauge Autoloading Shotgun
When a new shotgun with general appeal is introduced, I try to review different examples. This was the case with the Browning Gold / Silver / Maxus line. It was the case with numerous Benelli guns, Franchi models, Fabarm XLR5 and L4S models, Remington V3 and it is now the case with the Retay Arms Masai Mara. This oiled walnut / polished blue Masai Mara Jet Black model with a 24 inch barrel is the fifth example of the Masai Mara line with which I have spent quality time. (See the Guns and Shooting Online Shotgun Information - Reviews index page to read all of Randy's shotgun reviews.)
The 2018 oil finished Masai Mara walnut stocks are beautifully done by Minelli of Italy, with what they call "extra oil." Extra oil is just a way of saying properly oiled, with no open pores. Many oil finished stocks today are far too dry and that means they are prone to water spotting and so forth. Although the pistol grip has a tight curve and the fore end has a peculiar shape, the Masai Mara oiled walnut and polished blue shotguns are probably the best looking semi-auto shotguns you can get for under a thousand dollars.
A full battery of stock shims is supplied with the Jet Black for adjusting cast and drop:
Other Specifications include:
The ventilated rib is 8mm wide, wider than the standard 6mm hunting rib. The gun has a three inch chamber. Available barrel lengths are 24, 26, 28 and 30 inches. As tested, this Masai Mara Jet Black with a 24 inch barrel weighs 6-3/4 pounds.
The trigger is much too heavy, releasing at six pounds. While the bolt charging handle is oversized, the cross-bolt safety is too small.
WHY AN INERTIA GUN?
The so-called inertia autoloading action is quite old, dating back to the Sjogren Inertia Shotgun. The Sjogren was a 12 gauge semi-automatic shotgun designed by the Swedish inventor Carl Axel Theodor Sjogren. Its patents were awarded in 1900, 1903 and 1905 and the Sjogren was produced from 1908-1909. It saw service in World War I, used by Norway, Norway being known as "The Neutral Ally." With 5,000 or so units produced, it was hardly a resounding success and had essentially no commercial sales.
An inertia shotgun is, of course, a short recoil-operated gun, the name being used in an attempt to differentiate it from the Browning Automatic-Five. The A-5's long recoil action also operates with inertia, the inertia of the barrel moving rearward.
The appeal of the modern inertia gun, the Bruno Civolani action, is one of convenience. It requires no user adjustments to cycle different loads and needs little in the way of cleaning to maintain function. It is also very cheap to make, as there are no gas valves, or gas ports in the barrel, and no linkages or action bars needed to move the breech-block. Benelli's have always been severely over-priced, but the whole point of a patented design is so you can hopefully make some money while the patents are in force.
What is not appealing about an inertia gun is that the action does not reduce felt recoil, as a gas-operated shotgun can. Along with that are the by now well-known issues of the "Benelli Click" and the "Benelli Thumb" that some folks truly hate, but others do not care about.
THE MASAI MARA INERTIA PLUS ACTION
The Masai Mara does not have the Benelli Click, an obvious and clear improvement over the standard Benelli Montefeltro and M2 actions. The Masai Mara is also easier to load than most Benellis, although the real thumb busters have largely been Benelli 20 gauge models.
Although 3-1/2 inch 12 gauge and 20 gauge Masai Mara models were advertised as being available for the 2018 hunting season, they are not yet available. I suspect they will appear in 2019, but Retay has been silent on the issue.
For those who dislike plastic trigger guards, the all-metal trigger group of the Masai Mara is a nice upgrade from standard Benelli fodder. It is also a quick detachable trigger group, as you can remove the entire trigger group with the push of a button. If nothing else, it is convenient, as there are no tools required and no pins to remove to free the trigger group.
The previous Masai Mara models cycled 1 ounce, 1180 fps loads right out of the box, but not this one. 1-1/8 ounce 1200 fps loads worked flawlessly, but this example consistently choked on 1180 fps 1 ounce factory loads.
My guess as to the culprit is an overly stiff mainspring. After storing the gun after a few outings with the action open (and the mainspring compressed) and now it will cycle 1 ounce loads without problems. (This is a bit disconcerting, as a high quality, properly heat treated spring should be able to sit compressed for years without its force noticeably diminishing. -Editor)
It took a little doing with this specific example, but apparently this gun is an outlier, for all of the other examples needed zero break-in. While Retay says, "The Retay Inertia Plus System is capable of cycling lightweight (12 gauge) 7/8 ounce shotgun shell loads, as well as heavy hunting loads."
Well, Randy is not going to confirm. You should expect your Masai Mara to work well with 1 ounce 1200 fps loads, but the 7/8 ounce claim is bogus, all too common hyperbole that has no basis in fact.
IS THERE ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT?
Sure, but not much. I would appreciate a more generous safety. The recoil pad is well-fitted and better than average, but for shooting heavy loads from this 6-3/4 pound gun, a pad along the lines of a Limbsaver would be beneficial. Although some Europeans may want unsightly sling swivel studs on a walnut upland gun, I sure don't. The Masai Mara has them, like it or not; I like them not. If Retay gets around to releasing their 3-1/2 inch gun, a better recoil pad is going to be mandatory.
From the first Masai Mara shotgun I reviewed, which was the first ever to be imported into the United States, there already have been improvements. The big one is the Inertia Plus Action, but the overly large front bead is now smaller and the forearm nut (alloy, not plastic) is a bit easier to remove.
Although Retay has not released any extended choke tubes, Trulock has. They are in stock and they are tougher than the factory tubes, being made from 17-4 stainless steel bar stock. They can be used with steel shot up to the Improved Modified designation.
Retay is a young company, as firearms companies go, founded in 2006 in Konya, Turkey. They have a very modern facility with excellent machining capabilities. Their background has been in making replica blank pistols, air rifles and a speargun, so they are even newer to the real firearms market. The Masai Mara shotgun is apparently their first actual firearm, released after several years of development.
The Masai Mara Jet Black, with a 24 inch barrel, is my favorite model; 26, 28, and 30 inch barrels are also available. There is also the Warden, a home defense / tactical autoloader with the same Inertia Plus action.
Shorter barreled autoloaders are generally better handling, better balanced guns and that is the case with this 24 inch barreled Jet Black shotgun. It is ideal for flushing game.
I have a few quibbles with the Masai Mara, like the sling studs and the smallish safety, but overall there isn't much not to like. Benelli-branded inertia guns have always been pricey and this seems to be getting worse.
Benelli took their Ethos model, put a wider plastic rib on it, ported the barrel and calls it the Ethos Sporting. The 2018 MSRP is $2269! When a company gets greedy to the point they are shafting prospective buyers, it creates an opening for other companies to offer similar products at a more reasonable price.
Another example is the plastic-stocked Benelli "Performance Shop Super Sport" that has a nosebleed $2949 MSRP. This is the type of irrational pricing that is a massive turn-off for me, as it is for many others. If you choose to buy a nut-job level, tragically overpriced piece of plastic with a barrel, split bolt and a few springs, that is what you get.
Retay USA offers a five year warranty with every Masai Mara shotgun. A warranty isn't much good if you do not know who actually handles it, though. Briley Manufacturing, Inc. of Houston, Texas handles the Retay USA warranty work and repair work.
I have confidence in the Masai Mara. It is the best looking, best finished autoloader you can get in its price class. It offers three clear improvements over the basic inertia action and it is available in a wider variety of barrel lengths and finish combinations than any other autoloader on the market. It looks great and works great.
Copyright 2018 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.