I have been fascinated with shotguns since I was old enough to hold one to my shoulder. My dad and uncle were shooting hand-launched clay targets, and I begged to try. Reluctantly, they finally set me up with the old 12-gauge pump and showed me how to place my feet. My uncle jokingly knelt behind me, acting like he would catch me when I flew backward from the recoil. My dad launched the clay, and I swung the old smoothbore and jerked the trigger. To everyone’s surprise, including mine, the clay burst into a thousand pieces. The entire family erupted into a roar of excitement.
I didn’t tell anyone that the recoil was a hard punch or that the muzzle lifted, causing the receiver to catch me on the cheek. It really did not matter, as I wanted to shoot again, and I did. If I remember correctly, I shot three more clays, and they took the shotgun away.
I remember shooting ruffed grouse with Dad’s double- barrel 12 gauge when I was old enough to hunt upland game birds. It packed a wallop. On the next outing, Dad brought an old Stevens 20 gauge double barrel, and I shot it well. From my early years as a hunter, I knew I was addicted to all aspects of using a shotgun. I’ve been spoiled to try new shotguns as they were introduced to the market, allowing me to pay careful attention to all details. Becoming a fan of Benelli, Beretta, Browning, and Winchester shotguns was easy. However, other shotguns stand out but do not get the same attention as some big names.
Hunters and shooters tend to be brand loyal, which can usually be traced back to early experience, success, and confidence. The shotgun manufacturers know that if you start with a Browning, you will likely own one for the rest of your life and want more. Many people loved Remington firearms because they had early success with the brand in hand. However, many brands stand out because of performance, value, and reliability. When allowed to try different shotguns, it quickly becomes apparent that some may be overlooked.
Mossberg is a well-known shotgun manufacturer, with early models being bolt-action or pump-action designs. In August 1961, Mossberg launched the 500 Series pump- action shotgun, which is still one of the most-produced sporting firearms in the world, with over ten million shotguns sold. It is an astronomical number, and many people started hunting and shooting with a Mossberg. The company is not as well known for semi-automatic shotguns, which is where the story gets interesting.
Mossberg developed the 940 Pro line of shotguns with advantages for specific shotgun disciplines. The shotgun offers adjustment in drop and cast and the length of pull from 13 to 14.25 inches. Proper fit is one of the reasons this shotgun stands out. Mossberg kept the front of the barrel light, with a slim profile to help shooters maintain point-of-aim and impact. I have used the waterfowl and turkey models and respect and understand the changes.
The advance of the 940 series of shotguns took off when Mossberg teamed up with prominent competitive shooters Jerry and Lena Miculek. The original shotgun in the line was the 940 JM Pro12-gauge autoloading shotgun for competitive shooters. Mossberg quickly realized the system changes were a winner and incorporated the new technologies into shotguns for hunters.
Standout features include an oversized charging handle, making it easy to grasp and open the action. The beveled loading port prevents fingers from getting pinched and makes loading easier. The 940 Pro series shotguns are gas-operated, but the operation and recoil feel like an inertia system. The 940 Pro series has a ported choke tube to reduce recoil further. Waterfowl hunters will appreciate the Cerakote finish, which is dull and non-reflective and adds durability to the shotgun.
The 940 Pro series has a chrome-lined chamber and bore, making it less likely to suffer corrosion and pitting while adding to the performance. Internal parts are also coated for corrosion resistance, including a boron-nitride-coated gas piston, magazine tube, hammer sear, and return spring tube. Mossberg claims you can shoot 1,500 shotshells before cleaning. I ran about 400 rounds through the shotgun without any issues, even in cold temperatures. I also appreciated the HIVIZ TriComp sight to help acquire the target faster.
The biggest advantage for me was less felt recoil. It is the lightest shooting 12 gauge I have used in the field, and I did not realize how sweet it shot until I used another shotgun. The difference was profound.
The 940 Pro Waterfowl has a 28-inch vent rib barrel fitted with an extended, ported choke and is Accu- Choke compatible with an MSRP of $1,050. A 940 Pro Snow Goose is decked out with appropriate camo with an MSRP of $1,120. In 2022, the 940 Pro Field hit the market with an MSRP of $930. The 940 Pro Turkey is a wonderful shotgun I used to take my oscillated turkey in Mexico. It is optic ready, with an X-Factor XX Full Turkey tube, in Mossy Oak Green Leaf. Available with 24 and 18.5-inch barrels with an MSRP of $1,120. For more information on the entire line of 940 Pro Mossberg autoloading shotguns, visit www.mossberg.com
I am privileged to hunt with the crew from Final Approach every year, and they have teamed up with Weatherby and Federal to produce the Final Pass video and television series. I was asked if I’d shoot a Weatherby 18i on our adventures and found the shotgun intuitive and easy to swing.
The 18i is feature-rich and is made in Italy with a proven inertia operating system. The weight and balance are noticeable the first time the shotgun is shouldered. The recoil runs the bolt and eats up some felt kick, making the action run clean with reduced maintenance. The 18i was made for high-volume shooters demanding reliable operation and cycling.
My first memories of the shotgun were that the pattern hit where I pointed the gun. We shot ducks and geese at the Saskatchewan Goose Company for three days and often had limits on the ground by the time the sun was creeping over the horizon. The shotgun loads easily and closes with authority. The recoil was manageable. My 18i takes 3-inch shotshells, as I’m not particularly eager to shoot 3.5-inch options. I cannot speak to the recoil with the notably hard-hitting ammunition. I found pattern placement with the 3-inch loads deadly.
The shotgun was consistent and performed morning and evening under different weather conditions. Industrial strength frost on the last day was a non- issue. Strength and simple design are achieved with a one-piece receiver machined from aluminum, which also reduces weight. The 18i is ideal for any wing shooting and comes with five choke tubes and a choke tube wrench.
The shotgun is fun to shoot with reduced felt recoil with the inertia recoil reloading system and an elastomer recoil and cheek pad. Fit always makes a difference in the comfort and balance. The 18i comes with a shim adjustable polymer stock and ergonomic textured grip.
The barrel is intuitive to look down with a full-length ventilated top rib finished with LPA Fiber sights. The shotgun comes with five Crio plus choke tubes with an included storage case and choke wrench. Snow goose hunters will appreciate that the shotgun is compatible with magazine tube extensions and comes in a 3 or 3.5-inch chamber. Reliablity and low maintenance are achieved with a chrome-lined bore.
The 18i Deluxe has an MSRP of $1,899.00. The 18I Synthetic is $1,149.00. The 18i Waterfowler 3.0 and 3.5 start at $1,239.00. For more information on the Weatherby 18i shotgun, go to weatherby.com
I ordered a Franchi Affinity 3.5 after using one for hunting in the Sandhills of Nebraska. The shotgun was deadly and comfortable to carry. I shot prairie chickens and pheasants out to 60 yards and filled a limit of ducks over water. I topped off the adventure with a pair of fall turkeys. Changing chokes was easy and helped me realize how the lengthened forcing cone improved performance. The shotgun proved valuable for any feathered fowl.
The ergonomics of the shotgun brought it to shoulder quickly and consistently for on-target results downrange. The vented rib helped with fast target acquisition and maintain leads.
The Franchi Affinity line of shotguns handle and perform well because of the fit, feel, and balance. The inertia-driven action operated consistently with a wide range of shotshells without a hiccup. The shotgun sports a Cerokote finish to protect metal parts from corrosion and add strength and durability.
The Franchi Affinity Elite series will appeal to any bird hunter with an oversized and textured bolt handle, making it easy to operate even with gloves. The inertia system eats up recoil, but specialized Twin Shock Absorber (TSA) recoil pads allow length-of-pull adjustment, reduce felt recoil, and ensure proper fit. A shim kit allows for quick drop and cast adjustments within the TSA to ensure a custom fit and feel that is easy to change if you are layering clothes. The perfect fit makes the shotgun shoot where you point it and control the muzzle during recoil for fast follow-up shots.
The semi-auto Affinity Elite shotguns have sling attachments, an oversized loading port, ambidextrous safety, and a ventilated and chrome-lined barrel. The receiver is drilled and tapped for mounting optics and accessories, quickly turning the shotgun into a turkey slayer.
The Franchi inertia-driven action helps keep powder residue out of working parts for easier cleaning and maintenance. There are fewer parts, and the simple design makes the shotgun consistent and reliable. The trigger and action can be removed for cleaning and reassembling easily. Franchi stands behind its design, and the Affinity Elite shotguns have a seven-year warranty.
The Franchi Affinity Elite 3 and 3.5 are available in a 12 gauge with a 28-inch and 20 gauge with a 26-inch barrel and start at $1,249 for 12 or 20 gauge. For more information on the Franchi Affinity Elite Series, go to www.franchiusa.com.
CHECK THEM OUT
New shotgun technologies and design are worth checking out. All new shotguns offer adjustability, and a proper fit will increase success. My first experience with a shotgun did not include a proper fit or feel, which is why recoil and balance are is so notable now. A gun that fits is easier to maintain through the recoil cycle and stay on target.
Nobody likes cleaning guns and special coatings, and improvements to actions reduce time with solvents and cleaning products. Coatings and Cerakote add ruggedness to any shotgun.
It is always special to get a new shotgun, but one that helps you bring home more birds is next level. If you have not tried some new shotguns, it is time to experience the advantages.
ALPS OUTDOORZ UPLAND GAME VEST X
A new shotgun will want you to stretch your legs to find birds. Carrying the right combination of shotshells and chokes and bringing home the fowl is easy with the Upland Game Vest X. The vest design offers plenty of room for necessities like water, food, and a combination of birds. A large game pocket in the back unzips for easy cleaning, and two front shell pockets fit an entire box of 25 each. The adjustable waist belt features two flip-down gun rests when you need to use both hands and the vented back, and the H2O port is a requirement on warm days and long walks. www.alpsbrands.com
WILDLIFE RESEARCH CENTER FIELD WIPES
Scent Killer Gold Field Wipes are essential to keep in your bind bag. Handling dozens or even hundreds of birds means mud, blood, and dirt are always on your hands. Bird calls are then handled and put in your mouth to operate. The wipes ensure you can stay clean without compromising your health. The wipes also work great for cleaning the exterior of your shotgun and are safe to use on synthetic and wood stocks