Gunfight Friday: SHOT Show Edition

This week, for a change of a pace, we've got two brand-new shotguns to square off against one another: the Ruger Red Label and the Benelli Ethos. The Ethos debuted at SHOT while the Red Label was actually announced in October. I had a chance to shoot both guns on the range and in the field last year. Here are my thoughts on each:

Ruger Red Label

The original Ruger Red Label O/U was produced from 1977 to 2011. Over the course of its 34-year run the Red Label attracted both a cult following and a cult of rabid haters. Red Label fans loved the gun because it was American made, well designed, and reliable. Haters said it was overweight, ill balanced, and poorly finished compared with Brownings and Berettas. Both sides had valid points.

The new Red Label looks very much like the original, with the same matte-finished, nicely figured walnut, and stainless receiver. The side ribs between the barrels, once removable, are now gone. More important, the barrels themselves are lighter. The gun handles much better than the original Red Labels, as I found out when I shot this gun at pheasants and targets last fall.

Engineers redesigned (and in some cases eliminated) parts, making the gun both better and cheaper to produce. It's still not very well finished, but Ruger has slashed the price from over $1,800 to $1,399, so a few flaws in wood to metal fit are much easier to swallow.

Benelli Ethos

The Benelli Ethos is a light, 6 ½-pound 12-gauge semiauto that has remarkable powers of recoil reduction and it never goes "click." A soft comb insert and a totally new shock absorbing recoil reducer hidden in the stock make this a surprisingly soft-shooting gun--a fact I was able to verify by shooting it side by side with my other Benelli, a Montefeltro of exactly the same weight without the new system.

A new detent spring in the bolt prevents it from hanging open slightly and not firing if you bump it or ease it shut, as sometimes happens with Benellis. I tried my hardest to make this gun misfire and couldn't do it last fall in dove fields around home.

Some nice ergonomic touches include a bigger bolt lock and bolt release buttons and a widened loading port. I would prefer a large triangular safety, like that found on other Benellis, instead of a small round button, but that is the end of the Ethos's shortcomings.

The Ethos sells for $1,999 with a black receiver and $2,199 for a silver, engraved receiver model. The stock of both models is made of nice AA walnut.

Your votes and thoughts on both guns, as always, will prove interesting. Vote, comment, and keep the gun pictures coming to fsgunnuts@gmail.com.