Year-End Review: Most Notable Shotguns of 2012

posted on December 18, 2012

Time to upgrade your shotgun? 2013 and many manufacturers’ latest wares will soon be upon us, but there were a number of releases from 2012 that could suit your hunting needs. These offerings bring innovation and quality to the table just in time for the peak of this fall and winter's hunting season.

TriStar Hunter EX LT (Lightweight) 20-gauge Over/Under
The modus operandi of TriStar Sporting Arms is designing budget-priced shotguns to fill neglected niches in the shotgun market. The new Hunter EX LT (Lightweight) 20-gauge Over/Under is no exception. TriStar replaced the steel receiver found on the regular Hunter EX shotgun with an aluminum alloy, reducing weight to a svelte 5 pounds, 4 ounces. Steel inserts reinforce the frame. TriStar says it believes the Hunter EX LT is the lightest 20-gauge on the market, perfect for those long jaunts through the grouse coverts. I have yet to test it, but I have been impressed by the other Turkish-made shotguns in the TriStar line, particularly for the money.

Technical Specifications:
Gauge: 20
Action: Over/Under
Chamber: 3”
Barrel Length: 26” or 28”
LOP: 14 ¼”
Weight: 5 lbs., 4 ozs.
Price: $659

CZ-USA partnered with ATI Gunstocks to create the 712 ALS, a semi-auto shotgun with an adjustable stock. The stock is almost like an M4-style adjustable unit within a standard stock’s shell—the three-position comb has 3/8 inches of travel, and the three-position stock extends length of pull from 12 to 14 inches. Given the popularity of adjustable stocks in the tactical market, one wonders if designs such as this are the future of hunting shotguns.

Technical Specifications:
Gauge: 12
Action: Semi-automatic
Chamber: 3”
Barrel Length: 28”
LOP: 12-14”
Weight: 7.8 lbs.
Price: $562

Beretta A400 XPLOR Action
The Action is a field-grade version of Beretta’s A400 XPLOR semi-auto line. Its bronze colored receiver paired with Beretta’s “Xtra” grade wood makes for a distinct look and, if the other XPLOR guns are any indication, the Action will cycle everything from 3-inch shells to the lightest target loads. The Beretta “Grip Pod” in the stock keeps tabs on rounds fired, ambient temperature and the shells’ recoil. Beretta’s excellent Kick-Off recoil reduction system is also available on the gun.

Technical Specifications:
Gauge: 12
Action: Semi-automatic
Chamber: 3”
Barrel Length: 26”, 28”, 30”
LOP: 14.5; 14.25—with Kick-Off
Weight: 6.8 lbs.
Price: $1,620; $1,825—with Kick-Off

Mossberg 500/590 FLEX System (2013 Golden Bullseye Award Winner)
Mossberg’s new FLEX System-equipped 500 and 590 shotguns can be customized to fit the dimensions and needs of practically any shooter. It’s a modular system in which you can quickly swap out the stock, fore-end and barrel—essentially anything but the receiver—within seconds. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the design is its potential for duplicity as a sporting and tactical gun. For instance, I outfitted my FLEX 500 test gun with a six-position M4-style buttstock, 18.5-inch barrel with fixed cylinder choke and railed fore-end by night; and by day, when it was time to go hunting, I swapped those accessories for a 26-inch matte barrel and standard, camo stock/fore-end. Stocks, fore-ends and recoil pads are available in a variety of sizes and finishes.

Technical Specifications:
Gauge: 12
Action: Pump-action
Chamber: 3”
Barrel Length: 18.5”, 20”, 24”, 26” or 28” inches
LOP: 11-14¼ inches
Weight: 5¾, 7, 7¼ or 7½ pounds
Price: $709-$900

Additional Accessories: Ported barrels; recoil pads—¾, 1¼ or 1¾ inches; stocks—pistol grip (no stock), standard (black or camo synthetic, lengths of pull of 12½, 13½ or 14½ inches), adjustable dual comb or 6-position M4-style adjustable; fore-ends—standard (black or camo synthetic) or tactical railed

Benelli Ultra-Light 28 Gauge
Benelli now offers its upland hunting classic, the Ultra-Light, on a true 28-gauge frame. A carbon-fiber rib, petite two-shot capacity magazine and other weight-reducing measures shave the gun’s heft to just under 5 pounds. I’ve shot a few quail with the Ultra-Light 28, and it carries like a dream and points truer than you’d expect for such a light gun. Plus you have to love a 28-gauge. It’s just a fun, efficient shell.

Technical Specifications:
Gauge: 28
Action: Semi-automatic
Chamber: 2 3/4”
Barrel Length: 26”
LOP: 14 3/8”
Weight: 5 lbs.
Price: $1,799 

Weatherby PA-08 Synthetic Slug Gun Combo
Slug-gun only areas are on the rise, and Weatherby now offers a cost-effective option for the suburbanite: the PA-08 Synthetic Slug Gun Combo. For under $500, the package includes a 28-inch field barrel and a 24-inch slug barrel with 1:28 inch twist and Weaver-compatible cantilever scope mount. Not a bad setup.

Technical Specifications:
Gauge: 12
Action: pump-action
Barrel Length: 24” and 28”
LOP: 14”
Weight: 7 lbs.
Price: $549

Browning A5
Retro styling is in, and Browning has taken note with the reintroduction of the A5. No, it isn’t exactly the same gun as the last ones that rolled out of Miroku. Those familiar with the old A5’s sliding-barrel design will note that the new gun’s action is similar to that of a Benelli. However, that’s a proven design, and the new A5 also includes Browning’s Vector Pro forcing cone and a traditional amount of drop at heel (rather than the absurd drop found on old A5’s).

Technical Specifications:
Gauge: 12
Action: semi-automatic
Chamber: 3”
Barrel Length: 26”, 28”, 30”
LOP: 14 ¾”
Weight: 7 lbs., 3 ozs. to 7 lbs., 7 ozs.
Price: $1,400 to 1,560

Franchi Affinity (2013 Golden Bullseye Award Winner)
Franchi’s new semi-auto, the Affinity is a sleek, ergonomic gun. Unlike the gas-operated guns Franchi has rolled out in recent years, the Affinity sports an inertia-action. No, it’s not quite the same as the one employed by sister company Benelli (despite what you may have read on other websites), but it’s proven a reliable one nonetheless. For my taste, no shotgun feels more like an extension of self than one that puts my fingertips close to the barrel. The Affinity does exactly that—this is a gun I can shoot.

Technical Specifications:
Gauge: 20 or 12
Chamber: 3”
Barrel Length: 26” or 28”
LOP: 14 ¼”
Weight: 5 lbs, 10 ozs. to 6 lbs., 8 ozs.
Price: $849 to $949 


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