April 18, 2012
What Makes a Shotgun a Classic?
By Phil Bourjaily
We are filming my parts of Gun Nuts, Season III, even now. One of the segments we’ll be doing again this year is reader questions. I asked for them a while ago and have picked some to answer on the show.
Here’s one that unfortunately didn’t make the cut for the camera, but I thought it would make a great discussion starter. I’m taking the liberty of posting it here. Thanks to frequent contributor Tom-Tom:
“Phil, in your opinion, what characteristics does it take to make a shotgun “A Classic”? Many of today’s models seem to be the “New and improved” version while others are still made virtually the same as they were many years ago. Is there a common denominator across pumps, side by sides, over/unders, autos and single shots?”
The dictionary definition of “classic” reads: “Judged over a period of time to be of the highest quality and outstanding of its kind.”
By that standard, the Remington 1100, which turns 50 next year, was not only revolutionary when it was introduced, it remains a great gun today and is as good an example of “classic” as any.
A gun doesn’t have to be made by the millions to qualify, either. Consider another Remington, the Model 32. An innovative and very strong O/U, it was introduced during the Great Depression and did not sell well. However, the Germans recognized its excellence and bought the design. It was made first as the Kreighoff K-32 and today as the K-80. Its reputation as one of the great target guns validates the Remington 32’s claim to classic status.
It’s also possible for a gun to become an instant classic. Benelli’s 6-pound, 12 gauge UltraLight semiauto was introduced in 2008. In its narrow niche --semiautos for upland brush hunting -- it has already established itself as the best ever (better than the Winchester 59, the Franchi 48 AL, the Browning Sweet 16 and even my favorite, the Browning Double Automatic). It is definitely “new and improved,” useing modern materials like a carbon fiber rib to save weight and a dipped, enhanced woodgrain finish. Performance-wise, however, it’s a classic. It carries easily, points perfectly, kicks less than it ought to, always works, and it already has won a devoted following.
That’s not an answer, but I hope just the beginning of a discussion of what is --and isn’t -- a classic shotgun. Give us your examples of classics and overrated classics, and please back up your choices.