Is it Possible to Buy a Superlative Autoloading Shotgun?

By Randy Wakeman

When you go to your local pro shop, from a short distance shotguns often all look the same.

It isn't all that easy. At one time, models such as the FN-made Browning Auto-Five were extensively individually pattern-tested and function-tested prior to shipment, with pattern boards from that specific gun included right in the box. The 1960s were the days were hand work still existed, with hand checkering and hand engraving. In order to have craftsmanship, you need craftsmen, and those days are long gone in the mainstream.

Guns need to be manufacturable and competitive, understandably. It is rudimentary to have a shotgun shoot to point of aim. The majority of the guns I've tested do not and there is no fixing it . . . at least manufacturers haven't bothered. It is common for a Benelli SBE3 to shoot 100% high and for a Franchi Affinity to shoot unacceptably low. It is common knowledge, it has been a problem for years. Do they just not care? “But the SBE3 shot 100 percent above point-of-aim on every shot.” – Outdoor Life, Nov. 24, 2022. 

From the same article, “Like the SBE3, the Ethos patterned high, but it was a touch worse in this gun. My best pattern with the Cordoba was 100 percent above point-of-aim. The rest were 120 percent above POA.” This "Outdoor Life" article is also published by Field & Stream, including some of the same errors such as claiming that a 20 gauge Benelli M2 Performance Shop models weighs 6.9 lbs. 

Ironically, the older Benelli's I've tested, specifically the SBE2 and M2, shot beautifully to point-of-aim at 40 yards. Current Benelli's, however, are clearly a brand to avoid.

Having a shotgun that shoots where it is supposed to invariably makes life better.

Those who have followed my tests and evaluations over the last several decades know that, personally, I can be found hunting and shooting with a Benelli M2 20 gauge 24 inch, Browning B-80's in both 12 and 20 gauge, an 870 Wingmaster 20 gauge, a Remington V3, vintage Browning Auto-Fives, and Fabarm L4S 12 gauges. All of these models have been discontinued except for the M2 (which now, suddenly) has some POI issues. The Fabarm which reliably shoots where it is pointed. All of them shoot essentially to point of aim at 40 yards, otherwise they are worthless to me and would have been banished long, long ago. The notion of "Oh, just hold a couple of feet under," or "Cover the bird plus hold over the bird a foot" or so is what I would refer to as a version of insanity. 

Today, as far as current production, if you want to be satisfied, your odds are the best going with a Fabarm L4S or XLR5, a Winchester SX4 (for the relatively low cost of $900 street or so), a Maxus II if it fits you, or a non kick-off Beretta A400 (if you can handle the plasticy construction, forward safety, and non-existent customer service). The Fabarm is 100% Made in Italy, the Winchester and Maxus are assembled in Portugal, and the A400 is assembled in Italy. 

Certainly, there is a bit more to it than a gun throwing patterns where it is pointed, but that is where the usefulness of a shotgun starts. How a shotgun fits you and shoulders is something only you can decide, along with preferences for walnut or plastic, the control layout, ribs, beads, loading  /unloading effort, trigger quality, and so forth.

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Copyright 2022 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.