by Phil Bourjaily The most exciting "new" shotgun of SHOT 2011 was the Browning A-Bolt, which originally debuted and disappeared in the mid-90s. That said, the aisles weren't completely without interesting new guns, it's just as a whole, the shotgun class of 2011 is more about filling niches and extending product lines than it is about going in new directions. Still, there were several guns I would like to shoot,and here are a dozen of them. Browning A-Bolt Browning brings back the A-Bolt slug gun after a 13-year hiatus. It was a tackdriver then, but ahead of its time. Now that slug-only states Iowa, Illinois and Ohio rank high on every whitetail nut's life list, the A-Bolt's time is here. It comes in 12 gauge in walnut and blued steel, black and camo versions, starting at $1100 for basic black.
Remington 1100 We previewed the new Remington Competition 1100 in “The Gun Nut” last year and now it’s in production. With a fully adjustable, recoil reducing synthetic stock this may be the softest shooting 1100 ever – and that’s saying something. $1200.
Stoeger 3500 The Stoeger 3500 is a beefed up, 3 ½ inch magnum version of the 2000, a gun with a following among value-conscious hunters. The 3500 takes the proven inertia action of parent company Benelli and puts in a very attractively priced 3 ½ inch gun. Since it lists for a mere $649 think of it as a bare-bones Super Black Eagle that leaves $1000 in your pocket for shells and decoys.
Beretta A400 Beretta’s reliable and easy cleaning A400 comes in a target model with a 3-inch chamber this year complete with interchangeable magazine cap weights. The removable Gun Pod in the grip tells you the gun’s temperature, relative pressure of your shells, how many rounds you’ve shot that day and how many the gun has fired in its life. Really. And yes, that is a blue receiver. $1,725
Guerini Ellipse EVO Amid the turkey thuggery, blue receivers and camo stocks there were still some classically beautiful guns to be found. Last year Caesar Guerini’s Ellipse EVO won Field & Stream‘s Best of the Best award. It’s back, handsomely engraved as ever but with a lightweight alloy receiver that suits the Ellipse’s rounded action beautifully and reduces the weight to an ethereal five pounds, six ounces in a 28-inch barreled 20 gauge. $5,605.
Winchester SXP Light, slick and arguably underrated, the Winchester 1300 went out of production when Winchester closed its New Haven plant. After three years of redesign it returned as the SXP last year. It’s made in Turkey, which is no longer a bad thing, as Turkish gunmakers continue to improve their wares. For 2011 it comes in a Mossy Oak Duck Blind waterfowl version at a very reasonable $529.
Benelli Super Vinci Benelli’s Vinci now has a big brother in the 3 ½-inch Super Vinci. Beneath its unconventional looks it is surprisingly soft-shooting and has excellent ergonomics, especially now that Benelli has enlarged the safety button and trigger guard. All of you waterfowlers who complained that the Vinci only came in the 3-inch, here is the gun for you. $1750 camo.
Savage 212 If two new guns equal a trend, then bolt actions slug guns are in this year. Savage’s latest slug gun should give the A-Bolt a run for its money since it too is an accurate turnbolt and it lists for much, much less. Yes, it has a plastic box magazine to cut costs but it will be very shootable thanks to the Accu-Trigger that is new on the gun this year. $660.
Mossberg Turkey Thug Mossberg’s sponsoring of Mossy Oak’s new, and unfortunately named, Turkey Thug TV show has a silver lining: this series of guns. They feature Mossberg’s Lightning trigger, 20-inch barrels (except for the 500 which has a 24-inch) and, like all Mossberg pumps, they are light and handy in the turkey woods. I am no thug but I shot a bunch of turkeys with my old 835. Top of the line is the Turkey Thug 835, in camo, with a red dot and the Lightning trigger, and it lists for only $642.
S&W Governor Does a revolver count as a shotgun? It does here, because the .410/.45 Taurus Judge has been the best thing to happen to .410 ammunition sales in years. People buy these guns and shoot them a lot. Not to be left out, Smith and Wesson introduces its version of the Judge called “The Governor.” It has a lightweight scandium frame and is chambered for .45 Colt and .410 as well as .45 acp if you use moon clips. It also has a Crimson Trace laser in the grip. The watermelons can run, but they can’t hide now. $899.
Blaser F3 Super Sport Blaser’s F3 Super Sport features adjustable everything: the rib can be moved for point of impact; its balance can be altered to your personal preference both via the adjustable balancer in the stock and by adding or subtracting weights between the barrels. The stock is fully adjustable and can be had left-handed for no extra cost. The Blaser is packed with neat engineering features, too, like ejectors that cock when the gun fires and a great trigger. $7800.
Beretta Silver Pigeon I Shooters moving up to an O/U want a gun that looks as good as it shoots. The Silver Pigeon I is built on the same low-profile, high strength action of the 680 series of shotguns, but it features classy oil finished walnut and an engraved silvered receiver while still hitting a $2000 price point, making it affordably elegant.