by Adam Heggenstaller - Saturday, March 28, 2015
When Remington introduced its Versa Max semi-auto shotgun five years ago, hunters were impressed with its simple but effective VersaPort operating system that regulated the amount of gas required to cycle the action by using the length of the shotshell. But while some may have considered its price of around $1,600 to be reasonable considering the gun would shoot just about any load, it was hardly everyman’s semi-auto. Now the company has knocked about $400 off the MSRP to offer the more affordable Versa Max Sportsman, including one version made especially for turkey hunters.
Let’s first address what the Sportsman does not have. It’s missing the bells and whistles of the original Versa Max, but most hunters—particularly those looking at the gun as a potential turkey rig—won’t mind. Mainly, Remington switched the buttstock to a standard synthetic version that does not offer the user customizable fit of the initial furniture. Gone are the length-of-pull spacers, interchangeable comb inserts, and shims for changing drop at heel and cast. Molded-in stippling on the stock’s pistol grip and along the length of the fore-end replaces the rubber over-molded panels found on the top-end gun.
The Sportsman does not have Remington’s TriNyte treatment on the barrel but instead wears either a black-oxide finish or a camo dip. It comes with one Pro Bore choke tube—a flush-fitting modified or, in the case of the Turkey version, an extended Wingmaster Turkey-Extra Full—instead of a set of five. A cardboard box takes the place of a custom-fit polymer takedown case.
What makes the Sportsman a good deal is the same VersaPort system as its predecessor. It cycles everything from light, 23/4-inch target loads to 31/2-inch magnums while reducing the felt recoil of the heavier stuff. The operating system uses dual gas pistons positioned in cylinders mounted beneath the chamber area of the barrel to power the bolt carrier. A series of seven ports arranged in three rows in the chamber bleed propellant gases to the pistons.
The genius of the VersaPort system lies in the strategic placement of the ports. A 23/4-inch shell is short enough to allow all seven ports to remain open. The hull of a fired 3-inch shell blocks three of the ports, while a 31/2-inch hull covers four. The system regulates the transfer of gas to the pistons based on the length of the shell for reliable cycling.
A two-lug, rotary bolt head provides lockup with the barrel extension, and a return spring in the buttstock drives the carrier forward to end the cycle. The system is easily disassembled for cleaning. Open the cylinders with an Allen wrench to remove the pistons, and drift out a single pin with a punch to free the trigger plate. With the trigger plate removed, pull the bolt handle from the carrier and slide the carrier out the front of the receiver.
With a 22-inch barrel that’s easy to maneuver and cloaked completely in Mossy Oak Obsession camo, the Versa Max Sportsman Turkey is designed to help you get your gobbler. The included choke tube delivers tight patterns; three of the turkey loads I tested in the gun were effective to 50 yards. The gun’s rifle-style, TruGlo fiber-optic sights will help you keep those patterns on the waddles. If, like me, you want every advantage you can get when matching wits with a wily longbeard, the receiver is drilled and tapped for mounting a rail for optics.
Part of my testing included an afternoon of firing about 40 magnum turkey loads from the bench to compare patterns. While the effects of recoil were cumulative and I felt a bit battered at the end of the session, the gun’s VersaPort operating system and SuperCell recoil pad made it bearable. Most hunters need not cringe at the thought of running a handful of turkey loads, especially 3-inchers, through the gun. My test sample cycled a variety of ammo from 23/4-inch, 1-ounce field loads to 3 1/2-inch, 2-ounce turkey smashers without fail.
Two features I especially appreciate as a turkey hunter are the oversized trigger guard and cross-bolt safety. The large trigger guard provides plenty of clearance when wearing gloves, and its rounded edges won’t snag fabric. Operating the safety by pinching it between thumb and forefinger nearly silences the dreaded click that could send a gobbler running for its life. The trigger breaks at a reasonable pull weight of a bit less than 6 pounds, but there’s a considerable amount of creep.
The fore-end on my test gun had some wobble. Even after really cranking on the magazine cap, the fore-end still rocked under my hand. A bit of electrical tape applied to the front of the receiver where the fore-end overlaps should snug up things.
As with any semi-auto that has a rotary bolt head, riding the bolt handle forward to quiet the chambering process risks leaving the bolt out of battery. With the Sportsman, I could easily ensure proper lockup by pressing the back of the bolt handle with my thumb. Keep this in mind when you load up this spring.
The Versa Max Sportsman Turkey is a cutting-edge shotgun at a no-frills price. I didn’t care a bit about the features Remington left off the gun when I sent 2 ounces of copper-plated lead at an Osceola gobbler last spring. I doubt you will, either.
Type: semi-automatic shotgun
Barrel: 22"; 4140 hammer-forged steel; threaded for Remington Pro Bore choke tubes
Trigger: 5.9-lb. pull weight
Sights: adjustable TruGlo fiber-optic rear notch, ramped TruGlo fiber-optic front bead
Safety: oversized cross-bolt
Stock: synthetic; Mossy Oak Obsession finish; LOP 141/4", drop at comb 11/2", drop at heel 27/16"
Overall Length: 43 15/16"
Weight: 7.75 lbs.
Metal Finish: Mossy Oak Obsession
Accessories: Remington Pro Bore Wingmaster Turkey Extra-Full choke tube
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