by Shawn Skipper - Thursday, September 1, 2016
Some might argue that the heyday of the over/under shotgun is a thing of the past, but given recent industry trends, such a statement would be patently untrue. Numerous manufacturers, large and small, have put new over/under scatterguns on dealers’ shelves within the past few years. What many of those new releases have in common are price tags probably on par with your monthly mortgage payment. While that’s all well and good—a firearm is, after all, an investment—it still leaves some hunters and clay shooters feeling put out. That doesn’t have to be the case, though. Of late, there’s also been a marked increase in the availability of quality entry-level over/under shotguns. Among them: the Setter S/T from TriStar Arms.
TriStar, which has long used the slogan “The Value Experts,” originally announced the Setter S/T line in 2013. Imported from Turkey, 12-gauge and 20-gauge offerings came first, and were more recently joined by 28-gauge and .410-bore offerings. All use steel monobloc construction and are built on scaled frames.
TriStar has been bringing Turkish-made firearms to the U.S. for some time now and believes in their quality enough to offer a five-year warranty on its shotguns. Given what I’ve seen of the Setter S/T, I’ve no reason to question the warranty, nor the company’s grandiose claim regarding its area of expertise. I chose the .410-bore Setter for testing purposes because it’s not often I get the opportunity to put a sub-gauge to work. Plus, I figured the .410 model might make for an ideal rabbit gun, or entry-level offering for not only a young shooter, but anyone curious about the merits of a sub-gauge over/under.
The nuts and bolts you’ve seen before—it’s a boxlock over/under. What makes the Setter S/T stand out is just how much its features and attributes belie its modest price, which some local dealers list in the mid-$400 range. Its lines are sleeker than you might expect to find on a shotgun in its class, and the high-gloss Turkish walnut stock will impress all but the haughtiest of your friends. The long pistol grip’s checkering is clean, albeit perhaps a little more abrasive than some may like—but that’s an easy fix. The receiver eschews a game scene for a laser-engraved, subtle yet attractive, design. The trigger guard and top lever are also adorned with a little artwork, though I’ll note it doesn’t quite match the receiver’s pattern.
Fresh out of the box, the Setter proved a bit stiff to open, but that’s because TriStar sets the factory tolerances a touch tight on principle. Range time sufficiently loosened things up. Though it doesn’t feature ejectors—not practical when you’re building a “value” gun—extractors make it easy enough to remove shells, spent or unspent, upon opening the action.
The barrels feature chrome-lined chambers and bores, which you won’t find on many bargain guns. Chrome lining, of course, can help extend barrel life, reduce wear and generally make cleaning barrels somewhat simpler. All Setter S/T over/unders, except the 20-gauge model, ship with 28-inch barrels, which feature ventilated top and side ribs. You’ll find them fitted with a fiber-optic front bead sight. In an effort to further overall package value, each Setter ships with five Beretta MobilChoke-style screw-in choke tubes.
The gun’s safety is a fairly standard slider mounted on the tang. It blocks the single trigger, hammer lever and hammer when engaged. With the safety engaged, the operator can move it to the left or right to designate which barrel will fire first. Slide it to the right and the top barrel will be the first to fire. Move it to the left and you’ll get the bottom barrel. Nothing out of the ordinary here.
When I put it to use, TriStar’s little over/under performed admirably. With bunny season months away during the evaluation period, I treated the Setter S/T to an afternoon of wobble trap. It did fine work, swinging and busting clays with ease once I adjusted to the weight and feel. As one colleague noted, if you’re used to swinging a 12-gauge over/under, the initial switch feels akin to going from a Louisville Slugger to a Wiffle Ball bat. But I’ll be damned if the .410 Setter didn’t outhit some of its larger competition. Granted, not many folks are looking for a .410-bore for trap, but I had to function-test the gun somewhere, and we held our own.
At the end of the day, the TriStar Setter S/T is what it tries to be and simultaneously is the antithesis of what many will expect it to be. It’s a value-priced, entry-level over/under—but it’s also a reliable, well-built and attractive shotgun. Some hunters will forever look down their noses at Turkish-made scatterguns, and that’s fine. The Setter S/T and shotguns like it aren’t made for such folks, nor are they trying to be. That doesn’t make these over/unders any less viable—or desirable.
When the shooting stopped on the range during my evaluation, half the guys on the stand with me asked to handle the Setter, and inquired about what it cost. They later marveled at both, though they hadn’t before heard the TriStar name. If the Setter S/T is a sign of things to come from “The Value Experts,” that’ll soon change.
• Type: boxlock over-under shotgun
• Gauge/Chamber: 12/3", 20/3", 28/23/4", .410-bore/3" (tested)
• Barrels: 28"; chrome-lined; ventilated top and side ribs; threaded for choke tubes
• Sights: front fiber-optic bead
• Safety: tang-mounted manual w/barrel selector
• Trigger: single, mechanical; 6.5-lb. pull weight
• Stock: Turkish walnut w/high-gloss finish; LOP 141/4"; drop at heel 23/8"; drop at comb 13/8"
• Metal Finish: black-chromed barrels, stainless receiver
• Overall Length: 45.5"
• Weight: 6.2 lbs.
• Accessories: 5 Beretta MobilChoke-style choke tubes (SK, IC, M, IM, F)
• MSRP: $565
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