We think Remington’s 28-inch scattergun is better for the field than Browning’s Gold Hunter and Beretta’s A390 Silver Mallard.
Hunting shotguns have traditionally been seen as unadorned field tools; that is, they don’t need the spit and polish of over/unders that do some duck shooting but also are dressy enough to break clay targets with your banker. Thus, hunters who prefer the semi-auto action for upland bird work, waterfowling, and dove shooting usually want reliable, basic products that are flashy only in their performance, not their cosmetics.
We recently put a trio of such products through their paces, and came to some conclusions regarding which one we would buy for hunting use. The products we tested included the Browning Gold Hunter 12 gauge, which carries an MSRP of $699.95. The gun, which sports 28-inch barrels, ships with three Invector Plus chokes. We also purchased a Beretta A390 Silver Mallard, which like the Browning comes packaged with Improved Cylinder, Modified, and Full chokes fitting its 28-inch barrel. It carries a retail cost of $822. We pitted those two guns against a Remington 11-87 Special Purpose 12 gauge, which sells for $644. Like the others, we tested that model with a 28-inch barrel and a trio of chokes.
We collected data and impressions of the guns on the range and in the field. At the range, we measured their ballistic performance with an Oehler 35P chronograph. We collected the chronograph data by firing 10-shot strings with the muzzle 2 feet from the first sky screen. To collect the patterning and point-of-impact data, we shot the guns at a patterning board, over which we stretched a 48-inch-wide roll of white craft paper. We assessed the gun’s point of impact by having a shooter mount the shotgun and fire a shot at a 1-inch red dot on the paper. We then repeated the process two more times on the same paper to find the center of the pattern and discern where the gun shot. To collect the patterning data, we broke open several shotshells of each brand of ammunition and counted the number of pellets, then averaged the results. We then fired three shots per brand at 40 yards on different stretches of paper. We then counted the pellet holes inside a 30-inch clear plastic disk, averaged the results, and calculated the choke percentages. To arrive at our opinions of how the guns handled, we carried and shot them during a December pheasant hunt and during extensive sporting clays shooting.
After all this head-to-head data collection, we found we liked the Remington model the best, for reasons we detail below.
Remington 11-87 Special Purpose
This $644 shotgun ships with a 28-inch barrel and I/C, Modified, Full chokes. It employs the company’s familiar pistol grip stock found on the Model 1100 style that has been around for decades.
The sand-blasted, blued-steel barrel and receiver make this a very good choice for any type of hunting, in our opinion. It doesn’t shine like the other models. The gun’s rib was also blasted to a dull finish. Ditto that on the woodwork. Our test gun had a satin-finished, straight-grain walnut stock and forend with cut checkering. Its dull appearance is a plus in the field, we think. Also, all of the woodwork execution was crisp and helped control the gun.
One of the best features of this test gun was the ease of loading ammo into the magazine tube. Our other test guns have a bolt release located on the side. Remington’s is located on the shell carrier. This allows the hunter to drop a shell into the open action, and then shove another shotshell into the action, simultaneously releasing the bolt, charging the chamber, and putting a round in the magazine. This is a very fast, safe procedure.
The gun measured 48 inches in overall length and weighed 8.5 pounds, making it the heaviest of our test guns. Its length of pull was 14 inches, with a 1-inch rubber field pad. Most shooters will find this stock length fits them well, particularly when wearing heavy clothing. However, long-armed shooters will find their heads creep up the stock too much when it’s seated properly in the shoulder. These shooters will need to replace the recoil pad to get the right length of pull. (In our experience, a good replacement pad is the Decelerator by Pachmayr.) Stock drop at the comb was 1.5 inches and 2 inches at the heel. The stock had no cast, which meant lefties could also shoot it comfortably.
Another plus with the 11-87 is that the stock and magazine cap are equipped with quick-detachable sling swivel studs. The gun also comes with a sling. This allows the hunter to carry the gun on the shoulder, freeing his hands for decoys, coolers, and the like.
This gun comes with 3-inch chambers and 1-inch forcing cones, which in our opinion need to be lengthened to make the gun shoot a little softer. The gun’s trigger was sloppy and needed work. It broke at 4.5 to 4.75 pounds and had creep on the sear.
The bore on this gun measured 0.728 inches. The Improved Cylinder choke measured 0.719 inch (0.011 inch of constriction), the Modified choke measured 0.710 inch (0.018 inch of constriction), and the Full choke went 0.691 inch (0.037 inch of constriction). Patterns on this gun were similar to the Browning in overall percentage performance. All of the pattern percentages were acceptable, with all three chokes yielding the highest pattern percentages of all three test guns. Point of impact was within factory tolerance.
Browning Gold Hunter
This 12 gauge carries an MSRP of $699.95. The Gold Hunter we tested was 49 inches long with a 28-inch barrel. It weighed 8 pounds. The gun had a 14.75-inch length of pull with a 1-inch field pad that offered some relief when testing the heavy loads. The pistol-grip buttstock drop was 1.5 inches at the comb and 1.75 inches at the heel. Our test gun had no cast, which makes it suitable for the left- or right-hand shooters right out of the box.
In our opinion, the high-gloss polyurethane finish was too shiny on a field gun. We would have preferred a satin finish on the stock and barrels to stop light reflection in the field. The stock was a straight-grain walnut with cut checkering on the pistol grip and forend. The barrel was blued steel with a black-anodized aluminum receiver. The rib is 0.25 inches with no taper. It has a checkered matte finish with a 0.150-inch front bead.
This test gun came with 3-inch chambers to handle a wide range of 2 3/4 inch to 3-inch loads. To help reduce chamber pressure and improve pattern percentage, we would lengthen the 1-inch forcing cones to 2 to 2.5 inches. The trigger pull at 7.25 to 7.5 pounds was too heavy, but it didn’t have any creep. The safety, located behind the trigger, is a large triangle-shaped button. We found it worked very well, even when a hunter was wearing gloves in cold weather.
In our pattern testing we found the I/C choke gave us from 44 percent to 47 percent pattern density with our test ammunition. The Modified choke patterned at 54 percent on average, slightly below what we would have liked, and the Full choke patterned at 65 percent, also slightly below the 70 percent mark we expected. Point of impact for both barrels was within factory tolerance at 4 inches.
When we tested the gun on different target presentations, we found that it mounted very well from the normal down-gun field carry position.
Beretta A390 Silver Mallard
The Beretta A390 Silver Mallard with a 28-inch barrel measured 48 inches in overall length and weighed 7 pounds, the lightest of the test guns. However, this light weight combined with a poorly designed buttpad caused problems with the A390. The gun has a length of pull of 14.25 inches, one-half inch of which is a solid-rubber pad. We found this gun to have slight cast at the toe. The toe of the pad dug into the shooter’s chest during our range testing, and testers said it seemed to recoil more than the other guns. If we were to buy the gun, our first addition to it would be to add a 1-inch Pachmayr Decelerator pad with some pitch in the toe.
The pistol-grip buttstock drop was 1.5 inches at the comb and 2.25 inches at the heel. The finish was a satin gloss on a highly selected walnut stock and forend. The barrel has a satin-blued finish and a black-anodized aluminum receiver. The rib measured 0.25 inch wide with no taper and a checkered matte finish. A 0.120-inch silver front bead and no mid-rib bead is standard.
This test gun came with 3-inch chambers to handle a range of 23/4-inch to 3-inch loads. As in the other guns, we would lengthen the 1-inch forcing cone to help reduce chamber pressure and boost pattern percentages. Bore on this test gun is 0.723 inch. This is considerably tighter than most current barrel bores, which usually run 0.730 to 0.745 inch. We think this bore-size choice led to depressed pattern numbers. The I/C choke printed 42 percent of shotcharges in a 30-inch circle at 40 yards, and 63 percent in the Full choke.
The trigger broke between 4 to 4.25 pounds, not too bad for a field gun. The trigger had a good release with a little creep. In contrast to the other guns, the safety is located in front of the trigger. This allows the hunter’s finger to rest on the bottom of the receiver and on top of the safety button while the gun is down. Before or during the mount, the shooter can grasp the grip properly and still disengage the safety, then slide the trigger finger to the trigger. It’s a more natural motion than on the other guns, we think.
Field Tests Recommends
We found the $644 Remington 11-87 Special Purpose was a pleasure to use, even with the heavy hunting loads. Quick mounting from the down gun position was smooth and comfortable. The sling that came standard with this model made it easy to transport to the field. We would buy it.
The Browning Gold Hunter 12 gauge has a couple of strikes against it: the trigger is too heavy, and the finish isn’t suitable on a hunting gun, in our estimation. However, it has few other bad habits. Though we would buy the Remington, we must say the $699.95 Hunter can handle all your upland birds and waterfowl needs. If the finish doesn’t bother you, it’s worth a look.
Despite the Beretta A390 Silver Mallard being a quick, smooth-mounting gun, its comparably stiff recoil and poorly designed buttpad made it uncomfortable to shoot, in our estimation. Though it has a number of merits, its $822 retail price make it a little too high toned for our tastes.