Bourjaily: A Proper Waterfowl Gun

One of the most revealing posts I read on a waterfowl message boards after the unveiling of the Benelli Vinci expressed the author's disappointment in the gun's 3-inch chamber. "I may not shoot 3.5-inch shells," he wrote, "but my gun had better shoot them."

Now that I think about it, a lot of waterfowllers feel the same way: to them a proper 21st century duck and goose gun has to be synthetic stocked, it has to be camoed, and it has to chamber 3.5-inch shells, even if they never plan to shoot them.

Last week I came across two Browning BPS Stalkers - the black synthetic stock versions -- standing side by side in a used gun rack. They both had 30-inch barrels, which are hard to find on hunting guns and to me very desirable, so they caught my attention right away. And, I've always liked the BPS, which is well-finished, well-made and pretty much trouble free, at least until you take the trigger group out and try to put it back in.

Anyway, I looked at the tags, and the slightly nicer of the two was a 3-inch gun, while the other, with a few more dings, was a 3.5. Both were priced at $350, but the 3-inch gun had been marked down to $299. I can only imagine the price was reduced on the theory that no one would buy a 3-inch gun when they could have a proper 3.5 for the same money.

Decision time: should I pay extra to get a gun in slightly worse condition with an extra half inch of chamber, just in case? Who knows, maybe I'll run out of ammunition on a hunt someday and every one else in the blind will have nothing but 3.5-inch shells to lend me.

Or, should I save $51?

No contest. I grabbed the 3-inch gun. Would you?