It’s no secret that firearm options built specifically for women are limited. And while companies are starting to accommodate the needs of female hunters and shooters, I must admit that having used whichever 12-gauge shotgun my father or uncles had on hand over the years, never once did I complain about an ill-fitting firearm or indulge myself in the sentiment that “it must be built for a man.” There’s also the fact that those complaints just wouldn’t fly with my hunting crew. In the past, women were pushed toward using youth models, trimming the stock for a shorter length of pull or simply dealing with what was available. Although we lady hunters are certainly well-practiced in becoming skilled with what we’ve been given, times have changed. Ego aside, I admit that it would be foolish to settle for “that’ll do” when “that fits perfectly” is now an option.
Enter Syren—a new division of Caesar Guerini and Fabarm, and the first brand in the industry to design and produce shotguns exclusively for women. Syren’s mission is to eliminate the need for female hunters and shooters to modify existing products.
“After many years of supplying shotguns to women shooters, it became apparent that we were not doing the customer justice by trying to fit them into a gun designed for men,” said Wesley Lang, president of Caesar Guerini. “With the growth of women in the shooting sports, we recognized that we could not effectively service the segment by providing just one ladies’ model, so we created a comprehensive brand that was dedicated to the unique needs of the female shooter.”
Syren’s slogan—“shotguns for women, no more compromises”—gets the message across rather clearly. Despite the fact that women have made do over the years, shotgun fit is critical in becoming a successful, confident shooter. The Italian brand features a wide variety of over/under and semi-automatic shotguns, setting a whole new standard for what women can expect from a shotgun. Among them is Syren’s gas-operated semi-auto XLR5 Waterfowler, built for the lady bird hunter.
Offered in both right- and left-handed models, the XLR5 has been carefully engineered to the meet the needs of the modern huntress, most notably in stock design. Yes, Syren shortened the length of pull to 13.75 inches to better fit the shorter arm length of most women, but the stock also features a higher Monte Carlo-style comb. Women typically have proportionally longer necks and higher cheekbones than men, meaning there’s a greater distance between the eye and shoulder pocket. The Monte Carlo comb extends almost to the heel of the stock, allowing for a better fit against the cheek.
The resulting cheek weld made an immediate impression on me the first time I took the gun afield, as I didn’t have to strain my neck to get down on the gun. It was a more natural feel, and the fit limited the occasional “punch” my cheek receives from a standard stock.
To accommodate women’s smaller hands, the grip is reduced in size and the distance from the grip to the trigger is shorter. A slight cast prevents the stock from digging into tender areas, making the gun noticeably comfortable to shoulder. The Syren’s 7-pound weight, while lighter than I’m accustomed to, was a welcome adjustment. In fact, its light weight should prove the Waterfowler to be equally at home playing double-duty in South Dakota chasing pheasants.
The gun is only offered in 12-gauge, which can be daunting to some female hunters, especially when using modern high-performance—and occasionally shoulder-abusing—waterfowl ammunition. But fear not ladies, the XLR5’s Pulse Piston gas operating system acts as a progressive brake, bleeding off excess pressure as the gas pushes the piston to cycle the action. The system slows the action with heavy loads and significantly reduces felt recoil. Even so, the XLR5 is far from slow. While I don’t possess the equipment to measure the cycle rate, Syren praises the system as the fastest in the industry and I simply say that it’s no snail on the range. That, combined with the soft recoil pad, made for a day afield without any bruising—a welcome change for me.
It’s also worth noting that the Pulse Piston system is capable of cycling all types of ammo without the need for a second piston. When I think of less parts, I think of simplicity and easier cleaning, so I’m certainly not complaining.
The Waterfowler comes with a 28-inch barrel and features Fabarm’s trademarked Tribore HP system. Deep-drilled from chrome-molybdenum steel, the over-bored barrel has an 8-inch conical section that gradually reduces the bore diameter from .736 to .724 inch, which Fabarm says increases pellet speed and produces better patterns than traditionally over-bored barrels.
A set of five Fabarm Inner HP choke tubes comes with the XLR5, and all can be used with steel shot ammunition. Another feature of the XLR5 that waterfowl hunters are becoming accustomed to, aside from the Realtree Max-5 finish, is a magazine cut-off switch. If you’ve never used one, you’re not alone, but the function is particularly beneficial to a waterfowl hunter who might be loaded with No. 4’s for teal when a flock of Canada geese comes streaming over the horizon. A simple push of the button, located just in front of the trigger guard, allows the shooter to manually cycle the action to eject the chambered shell without feeding another from the magazine tube. This makes it possible to drop a different shell, say a No. 2 or BB better suited for geese, directly into the action to be set for incoming birds. It sounds much more complicated than it is, but practicing the process before going afield isn’t a bad idea—whether male or female. It’s a nice touch, especially in a mixed-bag state.
When a young man at the sporting clays club wanted to shoulder the new gun I was testing, I agreed but didn’t mention that it was a women’s gun. Men have never felt the need to call their guns “men’s guns,” and I felt the same treatment was in order. He did comment on the shorter stock, but seemed to enjoy shooting the Waterfowler, saying it handled well, swung great, and that it might be nice to have a smaller gun in the duck blind. I smiled as he doubled on a particularly difficult right crosser followed by a steep-angled quartering bird. When he asked the specific make and model of the gun, I finally told him that it was, in fact, a ladies’ gun. Though I anticipated his jaw dropping as his head searched for an excuse to now downplay his prior praise, he simply smiled and laughed along with me. “You can borrow my gun anytime,” I said. “Looks like we’ll just have to get a thicker recoil pad and you’ll be good to go.”
• Type: gas-operated semi-automatic shotgun
• Gauge/Chamber: 12/3"
• Barrel: 28"; Tribore HP; ventilated top rib; threaded for Fabarm Inner HP choke tubes
• Sights: red fiber-optic front; green fiber-optic insert at rear of receiver
• Trigger: 6.5-lb. pull weight
• Safety: cross-bolt
• Stock: Soft Touch synthetic; Realtree Max-5 finish; LOP 13.75"; drop at comb 1.5"; drop at heel 2.5"
• Metal Finish: Realtree Max-5
• Overall Length: 47.5"
• Weight: 7.3 lbs.
• Accessories: 5 choke tubes (C, IC, M, IM, F); hard case
• MSRP: $1,795