Top Wa­ter­fowl Shot­guns

Field and Stream - - FIELD TEST -

1 BEST OF THE TEST: Benelli Su­per Black Ea­gle 3

SCORE: 83.75 • $1,899–$1,999 • benel­liusa.com

SPECS: 31⁄2" 12-gauge • In­er­tia semi­auto • 7 lb. • 28" bar­rel (26" avail­able) Benelli’s new­est Su­per Black Ea­gle earned the high­est score of all mod­els tested, in both cat­e­gories. Our test gun func­tioned per­fectly with both tar­get and hunt­ing am­mu­ni­tion. Its en­larged safety, bolt re­lease, and bolt han­dle were easy to ma­nip­u­late, even while wear­ing heavy gloves. All testers found the slimmed, light­ened SBE3 easy to point and shoot well, and its Com­fort Tech 3 stock and soft Combtech comb re­duced felt re­coil no­tice­ably. Per­haps the big­gest im­prove­ment is an Easy-Lock­ing Bolt, which fea­tures a sim­ple de­tent and ends once and for all the “Benelli click” mis­fire that has his­tor­i­cally af­flicted in­er­tia semi­au­tos. You can bang this gun around the blind or ease the bolt shut in the turkey woods; ei­ther way, it will not go out of bat­tery and mis­fire.

2

BEST VALUE: Franchi Affin­ity 3.5

SCORE: 82.25 • $1,029–$1,149 • franchiusa.com

SPECS: 31⁄2" 12-gauge • In­er­tia semi­auto • 7 lb. • 28" bar­rel (26" avail­able) Franchi’s 31⁄2-inch in­er­tia-op­er­ated semi­auto scored within 1.5 points of the SBE3, yet it costs $870 less. Two testers, in fact, called it their fa­vorite gun of all, and there­fore it earned our Best Value award. The Affin­ity notched a per­fect score for func­tion­al­ity. Like the SBE3, it has an en­larged bolt han­dle and re­lease that make it eas­ier to use in bad weather, al­though Franchi should have added a larger safety but­ton, too. The Affin­ity gained points for fea­tur­ing an ac­tion spring on the mag­a­zine tube, where it’s easy to main­tain. Bal­ance wasn’t quite as sub­lime as the SBE3’s, and the gun has a more weight-for­ward feel, but it han­dled well for ev­ery­one. Light­weight for its in­tended pur­pose of shoot­ing mag­num loads, it kicks a bit. The hun­dreds of dol­lars saved should help soothe the pain, though. 3

Winch­ester Su­per X4

SCORE: 81 • $800–$940 • winch­ester­guns.com

SPECS: 3" 12-gauge (31⁄2" avail­able) • Gas semi­auto • 7 lb. 2 oz. • 28" bar­rel (26" avail­able) Winch­ester’s Su­per X4 rep­re­sents a ter­rific deal in a ver­sa­tile shot­gun, fin­ish­ing a nose be­hind the Affin­ity for Best Value. Ba­si­cally, the X4 is Winch­ester’s suc­cess­ful Su­per X3 with a larger safety, bolt han­dle, and mag­a­zine re­lease—plus a smaller price tag. Wisely, Winch­ester didn’t change much from the X3’s in­nards, which are proven to be re­li­able and soft­shoot­ing. In­stead it fo­cused on slim­ming the gun down and low­er­ing the price with “man­u­fac­tur­ing ef­fi­cien­cies” and in­ex­pen­sive parts like the poly­mer trig­ger guard. The trimmed pis­tol grip and fore-end give the gun a sprightly feel. Stock spac­ers let you ad­just length of pull eas­ily. Over­all, our X4 was well be­haved, han­dling all the ammo we fed it. Ev­ery­one shot it well and agreed that it would make a good all-around gun.

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