SHOT 2017 was, aside from one huge introduction, not a monster shotgun year. The year’s new guns exemplified several new trends: Turkey is finally the new Spain, and it’s time to stop complaining about (most) Turkish guns and shoot them. There are more guns all the time for the target market, much of which is driven by the massive growth of the Scholastic Clay Target Program. There are more guns for women, and there is also a welcome trend toward semi-autos in the sub-$1,000 price range, of which we have one excellent example this year.
Benelli Super Black Eagle III
After celebrating its 25th anniversary last year, Benelli’s flagship 3½ inch, 12 gauge semi-auto, the Super Black Eagle, is reborn as the SBE III for this year. It’s slimmer and lighter than ever. Meanwhile, the bolt handle, safety, and bolt-release button have been enlarged to make the gun easier to manipulate in cold conditions.
The gun also features a bolt that can’t be bumped out of battery, curing the “Benelli click” misfire that was the gun’s only weakness. An improved version of the ComforTech recoil-reducing stock features a larger, softer cheekpiece to take the sting out of heavy loads. $1,999
Like the SBE, Winchester’s SX3 gets a makeover this year. It, too, has been made lighter and trimmer. At its heart, it is still the same soft-shooting gas semi-auto descended from the Browning Gold and the Winchester Super X2. The pistol grip has been slimmed down and the stock adjusts for length via a spacer system. All the controls have been enlarged: trigger guard, safety, bolt release, and bolt handle to improve ergonomics. The best thing about the SX4 is the price, which is actually lower, owing to new manufacturing efficiencies. It starts at $799 in a 3-inch black synthetic model.
More and more manufacturers are realizing that making a gun pink doesn’t make it a gun for women. Syren, a Caesar Guerini/Fabarm brand, is the industry’s leader in women’s shotguns, and this year’s addition to the line is the excellent L4S gas semi-auto given the Syren treatment. A light (6¾ pound), soft-shooting 12 gauge, the L4S makes a great choice for an upland field gun or a dove gun, which is what I use my own (men’s version) for. The Syren stock features a shorter length of pull, tighter pistol grip radius, monte carlo stock, and cast on at the toe to make it more comfortable to shoulder and shoot. $1385
Mossberg adds a 28-gauge version of its very good imported 20-gauge semi-auto to its lineup this year. The gun is built on a slim, 28-gauge receiver (it’s not just another 20 gauge with 28-gauge barrels) and it should make a great quail, grouse, and dove gun. Mossberg has improved the finish with a satin walnut stock and forend, and polished bluing. The gun has a 28-inch vent-ribbed, choke-tubed barrel, and you get all this for $664.
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The CXS is a crossover version of the Citori that is designed to be one gun for trap, skeet, sporting clays, and hunting. It’s made with the Scholastic Clay Target Program market in mind, and especially for parents (who may or may not be gun people) to buy one gun for a son or daughter to shoot for all three disciplines and to serve as a hunting gun, too. It comes stocked to shoot to a flat 50/50 point of impact, making it especially well-suited for skeet, sporting, and hunting. It comes with a full set of extended choke tubes on either 30- or 32-inch barrels. In all other ways, it’s a Citori, a gun made with care and skill in the Miroku plant, in Japan. $2,139
New from Rizzini USA is an attractively priced Italian O/U field gun that sells for under $2000 (well, a dollar under $2k anyway). It bears a strong family resemblance to many O/Us from Italy’s “gun valley” in Brescia, but that’s not a bad thing at all, for its underlug action is time-tested and proven. You don’t get much—or any—decoration, but it’s a handsome gun, with a walnut stock and blued receiver. You can spend a little more and get an alloy-framed lightweight version as well.
CZ 620 and 628
CZ USA has a pair of small-bore pumps in its 2017 lineup made by the Turkish maker Akar, a relatively new vendor for a company that has always imported Huglu guns heretofore. The guns follow the lines of the 612 target gun, with Monte Carlo stocks and a strange, but not unappealing, tapered forend that allows a firm hold toward the rear of the grip. The stocks can also be lengthened with spacers. Despite the target-ish looks of these guns, they should be right at home in the field. The best part is they have beautiful select walnut stocks, yet sell for a mere $425.
Stevens 555 Enhanced
The 555 O/U from Savage is a Turkish-made gun that is astoundingly cheap, yet I have not yet heard about a single dissatisfied 555 owner. It’s an alloy-framed field gun that is very light and lively and stocked with nicely shaped Turkish (what else for a Turkish gun) walnut. The new enhanced version has a silver receiver decorated with scroll and nicer wood, and ejectors in place of the no-frills 555’s extractors. And, you get all this for $865.