Remington Versa Max Verdict: Still Too Soon To Tell

In my right hand are the results of the last two shots of 2010. I missed the first shot of the fall, at a goose in Canada back in September, so shooting a fat rooster, then a fatter honker twenty minutes later, was an especially great way to end 2010. While I was lucky that a flock of geese happened by in shotgun range during my pheasant hunt, my son John and I were hunting with non-toxic upland loads so as to be completely legal for waterfowl , just in case. As insurance, I had tucked a single Hevishot goose load in one of my shell loops. It came in handy.

In my left hand is a Remington Versa Max semiauto. Ordinarily I would not subject any upland bird to the indignity of being shot with a plastic-stocked, camo-dipped gun, but I had been waiting all fall for a production Versa Max and pheasants were on the schedule when it finally arrived. Versa Maxes were announced early in the fall, delayed, then produced, then recalled.

Now they are in production again and appearing on dealer's shelves. With luck, the bugs are gone. I have put only 31 rounds through this gun so far: three into a dirt bank to check for point of impact and function, 25 at a round of skeet, and three on the hunt. So far it has functioned perfectly but I'll need to shoot it a lot before I'm ready to pronounce judgment.

Here's what I have noticed about it:

The Versa Max, like Italian semiautos, lets you pull back the bolt to clear the round in the chamber without cycling the next one. That feature made it easy to eject the light 2 ¾ inch upland shell and drop in the 3-inch magnum when I heard honking.

I had hoped Remington would have cleaned up the trigger pull, but this trigger has the same squishy feel of the triggers on preproduction Versa Maxes I shot earlier this year.

The included shim kit allows a much wider range of adjustments than do other manufacturer's shims - up to ½ an inch at the heel and an 1/8-inch at the comb. The stock adjusts from 14 ¼ inches to 15 ¼.

Cleaning is very easy, although an allen wrench is required to disassemble the gas system.

The safety button is large and clicks on and off easily, as safeties should. All you have to do to reverse it for left-handed use is punch out a roll pin and turn the button around.

The forearm on mine has a slight wiggle. It can probably be fixed easily, but the wiggle shouldn't be there at all on a gun that lists for $1599.

As of the last hunt of 2010, I'm fond of the Versa Max. I hope Remington has a winner, but it's still too soon to know for sure.