We all deal with the off-season in different ways. Some people bum around in a state of depression. Others extend their seasons by building wood duck boxes, erecting duck blinds, giving the bird dog a refresher course and shooting a clay or two. Another coping method is going to a gun store and ogling the new shotguns. Here are but a few examples of new models you'll be checking out in 2013.
Beretta enters the upper-mid priced competition shotgun market this year with the 692. The new gun bridges the gap between its popular predecessor, the 682 (50,000 made since the 1980s) and the top tier DT11. Featuring Beretta’s Steelium barrels, it will have a longer forcing cone than the 682, but not as long as the DT11’s forcing cone, which runs all the way to the choke tubes. The 692 also has a slightly wider receiver than the 682, presumably for added strength and balance. Weights in the stock can be adjusted to further tailor the gun to a shooter’s personal taste in handling. While there is not room here to go into all the specifications, suffice it to say this gun is not just a tweaked 682, but an entirely new shotgun. MSRP: $5,000 to $7,000.
The return of the classic humpbacked Browning was one of the more exciting debuts on gun racks last year. Based on its initial success, the A5 line now includes an option considered essential by many fowlers: a 3 ½-inch chamber. The 3 ½-inch version is available with a 26-, 28- or 30-inch barrel and a black composite, wood/blued or camo dipped finish. As with the 3-inch version, the new A5 model features Browning's recoil-operated "Kinematic Drive" system—not exactly the same as the recoil-operated, sliding-barrel design of yesteryear, but it appears to be winning over a new generation of fans. And I dare say time may prove it holds up better over many years of use. MSRP: $1,600 to $1,700.
CZ’s no-nonsense 612 pump-action is now available in a 3 ½-inch, 12-gauge version for waterfowl and turkey hunting. Dipped in Next camo, it comes standard with two choke tubes: modified and extra-full turkey. Dimensions include a 26-inch barrel, 14.5-inch length of pull and a weight of 6.8 pounds.MSRP: $409.
Franchi’s lovely new round-action, the Aspire, is easily one of the most beautiful introductions of 2013. A round-action shaves weight, easing carry on long jaunts through upland coverts, but mostly, well, it’s all about the look. I have not shot the Aspire yet, but my initial off-the-rack inspection indicated classic lines, great fit and finish, and pleasing ergonomics. At 5.8 pounds, it’s a light, wispy gun, but it’s so well balanced that handling seems to defy its weight. The action is color case-hardened and complemented nicely by an oiled, European walnut stock. Other design specs include a ventilated rib, Prince of Wales stock, beavertail fore-end, mechanical triggers and an automatic safety. Both available bore sizes sport 28-inch barrels and five chokes. MSRP: $2,300.
Whether you prefer the gentlemanly good looks and feel of a double gun, or you just like to play “Nash Buckingham” now and then, there’s something nice about having one in the duck blind. Particularly now that steel shot has so improved that I rarely shoot 3 ½-inch loads, I’m strongly considering trading my autoloader for an over/under. Trouble is, most are of a price range that I wouldn’t dare muddy them in the goose pit, and the more affordable ones never seem to be of a proper waterfowling configuration. Stoeger’s new 12-gauge Longfowler may be just what I need. At $449, even a writer can afford it, and it’s set up specifically for ducks: matte black, extended chokes, a 14.5-inch pull and 30-inch barrels. There’s little I’d change with that basic setup. Over/under and side-by-side versions are available. MSRP: $449.
When Mossberg introduced the Silver Reserve shotgun in 2005, it offered a touch of class to the everyman. The line of double-barrel shotguns defy its price point with nice looks, relatively good fit and finish, and—if my buddy’s hard-used, seldom-cleaned gun is any indication—solid reliability. For 2013 Mossberg adds the Silver Reserve II, which includes a promising sporting version with extended choke tubes and the longer barrels preferred by those with an affinity for clays. There’s essentially a gun in the budget-priced line for any taste, as all gauges from 12 to .410 bore are offered, as well as field-grade over/under and side-by-sides. MSRP: $850 to $1,145.
The slick action of the Winchester Super X Pump has earned it a loyal following, and a new version, the SXP “Waterfowl Hunter” is tailored to the needs of, you guessed it, duck junkies. It features Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Blades camouflage (also brand new) and is available with a 3-inch or 3 1/2-inch 12-gauge chamber. Barrel options include 26 or 28 inches. Four rotary bolt lugs provide a solid lock-up. A $400 “Field” version is also new for 2013. Chambered for 3-inch, 12-gauge shells, it is available with a 26- or 28-inch barrel. The satin hardwood stock is complemented by traditional checkering and a blued barrel/receiver. MSRP: $500.
In an effort to hit a lighter price point with its flagship autoloader, Big Green has unveiled the Versa Max Sportsman. It features the same guts as other versions of the Versa Max, but fewer frills: no adjustable comb, no shim kit and no molded grips. That adds up to a savings of about $400 over the more tricked-out Versa Max. The gun is otherwise identical to the popular original. MSRP: $1,000.