1. Browning A5 Sweet 16
The shotgun hit of the show was definitely Browning’s inertia-operated A5, scaled down to 16 gauge dimensions. The gun is listed at 5 pounds, 13 ounces in Browning’s catalog. I don’t know if it’s that light, but it’s definitely a gun you can carry all day in the field. It comes with a 28-inch barrel, making it long, light and, I thought, easy to hit with. Currently, it comes only in this walnut-stocked model. Finding 16 gauge ammo should be easier now, too, since Browning’s new venture into the ammo market includes 16 shotshells. $1699
2. B. Rizzini Vertex
B. Rizzini O/Us have a well-deserved reputation as good, reliable guns. The Vertex isn’t new, but its pricetag is. Rizzini has managed to lower the price without changing much about the gun at all. It still comes with a high target rib, extended choke tubes, and an adjustable comb—and it’s good looking, too. $2100—a bargain for a sporting O/U.
3. Benelli Ethos 28 Gauge
No, it’s not a misprint on the barrel: Benelli’s latest extension of the ETHOS semiauto line is stamped “28 gauge 3-inch”. Fiocchi will load the ammunition for it, in a line which includes, I am told, a 1 1/16-ounce lead load, and may eventually feature steel shotshells, as well. In all other ways, this new 28 is like a regular ETHOS, but smaller, weighing around 5.3 pounds, thanks in part to its light, carbon-fiber rib. It also features Benelli’s Progressive Comfort recoil-reducing stock. $2199
4. Fabarms XLR Waterfowler
Fabarms adapts its excellent XLR semiauto to the marsh with an oversize safety and a coat of Kryptek camo on its barrel and synthetic stock. The rib is masked off during camo dipping, leaving it black and easy to see. The already soft-shooting gas gun features a hard rubber comb insert that helps the gun slide on your face under recoil instead of grabbing hold. I’ve had a chance to shoot the target versions of the XLR and found them to be reliable with a wide variety of light and heavy loads. In 3-inch 12 gauge with 28-inch barrels, and it comes in a left-handed version too. $1650
**5. Franchi Catalyst Affinity **
Franchi’s new Catalyst line of guns stocked for women includes the Affinity inertia-operated semiauto. Available in 12 gauge, with a 28-inch barrel, the light 6 3/4-pound Catalyst Affinity has a shortened stock designed specifically for women, including a Monte Carlo comb to fit women’s longer necks and a tighter grip radius to accommodate smaller hands. In all other ways, it’s the same Benelli-like semiauto that Franchi offers at an attractive price. In a walnut stocked version only. $999
6. Merkel 40E
The appearance of any new double gun is always a noteworthy event, and the 40E is Merkel’s first new model in 10 years. Inside, it’s the same gun as the 147E, which retails for $6,000–$8,000. On the outside, it features bare-bones decoration to lower the price and to make this a gun you won’t feel bad about dragging through the bushes. In 12 and 20 gauge, with 3-inch chamber, 28-inch barrels, and IC/M chokes. Take your choice of single or double trigger,s and straight or pistol grips. $4,500
7. Mossberg 930 Pro-Series Sporting
Mossberg enters the sporting clays market with the 930 sporting. Like most Mossbergs, the gun is a packed with features to deliver a solid value for the money. This gun has a walnut stock with laser stippling and soft pad; a cerakoted alloy receiver; internal parts polished and coated for durability and smooth operation; interchangeable Hi-Viz sights; ported barrels; and Briley extended chokes and shims to adjust stock fit. In 12 gauge, with a 28-inch barrel, $1,029.
8. Beretta A350
Beretta makes a welcome practice of reintroducing previous models as budget guns. If you don’t need the latest and greatest, they make excellent guns at very good prices. The latest iteration is the new A350—essentially the old Xtrema 3 1/2-inch gas gun renamed the A350. It comes with Beretta Optima chokes, spacers to adjust stock length, and shims to alter drop and cast. Unlike the original Xtrema, this one has a safety that’s easy to reverse to left-handed, too. With a 28-inch barrel in Max-5 camo, $999.99.
**9. Beretta Outlander Turkey Gun **
Beretta’s excellent, versatile A300 Outlander is the gun I recommend to people who want one reasonably priced gun for everything. That said, if all you’re interested in with a shotgun is turkeys, now there’s an A300 for you. This one has a barrel shortened to 24 inches, is fitted with TruGlo fiber-optics, has stock spacers for length adjustment and a receiver grooved for optical mounts, and comes in Realtree XTRA. Oddly, it comes with standard IC, M, and F chokes but no XX-Full. You’ll need to add a turkey choke to it, but it’s still a bargain. $900.
10. Browning Cynergy Turkey Gun
The Cynergy wins this year’s “outside the box” award. An O/U turkey gun with a collection of chokes, it gives you several choking options, including a super-tight choke in one barrel for hung-up birds and a gently rifled spreader choke so you don’t miss the ones that sneak within 10 yards before you see them. A safety-mounted barrel selector lets you choose chokes quickly. The synthetic stocked O/U has 26-inch barrels, and is available in either Mossy Oak or A-TACS camo. Also, it comes with a ghost-ring sight, with a short optics rail on the rib. $2,399. (The gun is a SHOT Show special, meaning it can only be ordered by dealers at the show, so you may have to search for one.)