Thanks to that huge number of babies born after World War II, the average American hunter is now 49 years old, according to a 2008 survey by Responsive Management of Harrisonburg, Va. In the future, baby boomers may clamor for offroad walkers, but for now, they want their shotguns to weigh less.
“The feedback we get from our reps and our consumers is that people want lighter guns,” says Browning’s Scott Grange. “It’s old guys like me who are asking for them. I don’t hear my son complaining that his gun weighs too much.”
Grange made those comments to me in South Dakota last September, where I had a chance to shoot Browning’s new autoloader, the Maxus. For a 31⁄2-inch gun, the Maxus is a wand at 6 pounds 15 ounces. Later in the fall I hunted with another feather-weight, Lanber’s new Grey Stone o/u. These two join some other notable lightweights of recent vintage: Browning’s Citori and Cynergy Feathers, Benelli’s wondrous UltraLight, Franchi’s Renaissance, and Beretta’s Ultralight. The Maxus and Grey Stone should fit right in to the new Light Brigade.
To weigh little and to shoot softly: These are the contradictory goals that the Maxus, which replaces the Gold as Browning’s flagship auto, tries to reconcile. For the most part, it succeeds. An alloy receiver and a slimmed-down steel magazine tube keep the weight below 7 pounds. The gas system, a redesign of the Gold’s, kicks as gently as its predecessor. Lengthened forcing cones and an overbored barrel reduce recoil somewhat. The Inflex recoil pad is designed to compress in such a way that it pulls the comb of the stock down and away from your face.
In South Dakota, I shot lots of heavy 13⁄8-ounce pheasant loads and high-velocity 11⁄8-ounce target loads out of a Maxus. I can’t say I didn’t feel the recoil, but the Maxus is as soft-kicking as a light auto can be.
The forearm attaches with a latch like those found on o/u’s, making disassembly very fast and doing away with the magazine cap. The Turn Key magazine plug goes in and out in seconds, with the aid of any vehicle key. The trigger is crisp and locktime is fast. If I were looking for one gun for everything, I’d definitely consider a Maxus; if I were buying a gun specifically to shoot 31⁄2-inch waterfowl loads, I would choose something heavier.
The first versions will be 12 gauge in 3- and 31⁄2-inch chamberings with 26- or 28-inch barrels, in black or a Mossy Oak Duck Blind finish. List prices range from $1,199 to $1,499 (800-333‑3288; -browning.com).
Lanber Grey Stone
The 12-gauge, 26-inch-barreled Grey Stone o/u weighs just 6 pounds 7 ounces, thanks to an aluminum alloy receiver. Alloy break actions are nothing new; Browning, Beretta, and Franchi offer alloy-framed doubles with strategic points reinforced with steel.
What sets the Grey Stone apart is its price of $1,199. Lanber—located in Zaldibar, in the Basque gunmaking region of Spain—has found its niche as a large maker of inexpensive guns, which are very popular in England and Australia. A few Americans own them, and more might now that the company has a new distributor, Lanber U.S.A. (800-545‑6952; lanberusa.com). One shooter at my club calls his a -“Lanber-ghini.” I’d call it the Cadillac of inexpensive o/u’s.
My sample gun was well fit and finished overall, with deeply blued barrels, nice satin walnut with sharp laser checkering, a single selective trigger, and ejectors. The stock did lack panels on the side and a fluted comb, the only indications that this is a bargain gun. It was easy to carry while hunting, yet surprisingly smooth on the skeet field. I especially liked the safety switch, which is very high profile and easy to find, even with a gloved thumb. Fortunately, the Grey Stone comes with 23⁄4-inch chambers, so no one will be tempted to set off 3-inch magnums in such a light gun.
The Lanber, which has a five-year warranty, comes with a hard case and five choke tubes in a case of their own. It’s a lot of gun for the money, and while I am getting older like everyone else, I’m also growing wise enough to recognize a good deal when I see it.