There are two challenges to finding a great shotgun -- fit and suitability.
The shotguns section of Shotgun Life is dedicated to helping you recognize the perfect shotgun (that you’ll want to keep for the rest of your life, and then hand down to your family for generations to come.)
For some people, finding a great shotgun is simply love at first sight. For others, a great shotgun grows on them -- and they find themselves down in the basement cleaning it for absolutely no other reason than just to be in its company.
But for every shotgun owner who falls in love with their pride-and-joy, there are teams of engineers and craftsmen toiling away behind the scenes to bring your gun to fruition.
As you’ll see, shotguns are generally designed for a particular sport. Some shotguns have composite stocks and fore-ends to withstand the travails of duck hunting. Then there are single-shot trap guns with high ribs that help you intercept rising targets. And skeet shooters find that their beavertail fore-end is particularly adept at bringing about a smooth, quick swing.
So let the search begin. Here is what you’ll find in our shotgun section…
All shotguns have stories and the story has to start somewhere. We all have shotguns that have such a story… my grandfather’s L.C. Smith Ideal Grade 20 gauge conjures a crystal clear vision of Archie in my mind even though he died the year before my birth. The connection of hunting and carrying his old Elsie is truly metaphysical. And with the backdrop of that gun, this story begins not with a vintage double, rather with a vintage hunter and his new Parker Reproduction.
On March 26, 2019 the German-based Blaser Group, manufacturers of the F3 and F16 shotguns, announced that industry veteran Jason Evans had been hired as CEO of Blaser USA in their San Antonio, Texas headquarters. Mr. Evans replaced Christian Socher who returned to Germany to accept his promotion as the new Head of Sales and CEO of Blaser GmbH, after a remarkable seven years of leadership that burnished the Blaser brand in America to a high luster.
As Mr. Kolander correctly comments, artistry and firearms have walked side-by-side for centuries. Kings, noblemen, and great military men of their era have all desired something to set their weapons apart. They required the finest craftsmanship and appreciated the artistry that could match it. Today is no different: embellishments make a gun unique, personal, investment grade and admirable among peers. To satisfy this desire for quality and aesthetics Holland & Holland has a history of working with a number of artisans to create beautiful and elegant firearms. One of those deserving artisans is Belgian Master Engraver Philippe Grifnée.
Kevin Kelly has a knack for cultivating the sweet spot in America’s fine shotgun market. His collection of bespoke Plantation side by sides and over/unders for the field are built to his exact specifications by family-owned Fratelli Poli Armi in Gardone Val Trompia, Italy – replete with the hand-finishing you’d expect from an $80,000 English Best, but starting at $8,995.
Browning’s new A5 Sweet 16 semi-auto revives a classic and creates an upland hunter’s dream gun.
Officially launched in 2016, the latest reincarnation of the Sweet 16 harkens back to a day when the 16 gauge was in its heyday. The original Sweet 16 first hit stores in 1937, and was built on a 20 gauge frame, presenting more firepower than the 20, but in a gun lighter than a 12. Introduced in 1902, the Auto-5, and its cousins manufactured by Remington and Savage, were the first commercially successful autoloading shotguns. These early models worked on the long recoil method, where the barrel moved about three inches backwards to eject the shell and recock the hammer. Upon moving forward, a new shell was reloaded and the action closed.
Now for the unthinkable: from the workshop of English best gunmaker James Purdey & Sons emerges an audacious 12-gauge clays gladiator fit for the Olympics. The idea may not seem so far-fetched after shooting the new Purdey Trigger Plate over/under.
The topic of Team GB competing with a Purdey shotgun at the 2024 Paris summer Olympics arose from a conversation with George Juer, Purdey’s Manager of North American Sales. He was driving a Polaris as we zipped through countryside hills of the sporting clays course at Griffin & Howe’s Hudson Farm in Andover, New Jersey. I was still talking about a few of the remarkable shots I had made with the Purdey Trigger Plate (even surprising myself), despite that the 8-pound/11-ounce demo model came with extra barrel thickness for high driven pheasants. Final production weight should be closer to 8 pounds/3 ounces.
Up until a few weeks ago Rich Cole’s stellar career was 100-percent Italian shotguns. Starting in 1979 he joined Beretta USA as a five-dollar-per-hour apprentice gunsmith. The job included extensive time at the mothership in Gardone, Italy learning the finer points of repairing and enhancing Beretta sporting shotguns.
Sixteen-gauge enthusiasts love shotguns that “hit like a 12 but carry like a 20,” so a 12-gauge that carries like a 20 should be irresistible.
The Winchester Select 101 fits that description, and it has won this 16-gauge devotee’s affection.
From the small town of Thomasville, Georgia, Kevin’s Plantation Collection of exquisite shotguns has amassed an oversized influence on the wingshooting community. And now the collection’s namesake creator, Kevin Kelly, is ready to rock our world again with his remarkably low priced 20-gauge over/under.
Think of the Blaser F16 Intuition as the classic power suit of women’s shotguns. Free of gimmicks and doo-dads, the Blaser F16 Intuition’s plain gun-metal gray receiver is accessorized by only a discreet logo. If you appreciate understated over/unders that exude confidence (and fit well), the Blaser F16 Intuition is your quality off-the-rack choice.
Some people in our sporting universe create beautiful shotguns. Others, like Paul Mihailides, make highly desirable shotguns while also building an all-encompassing upland nirvana in which to enjoy them.
There’s a difference between the gifted craftsmen who build gorgeous shotguns and the renaissance men like Mr. Mihailides, whose entrepreneurial vision shapes the future of our sport. Mr. Mihailides is the American owner of the Italian fine gun firm, Famars. He’s made a fortune in construction and used those resources to build the 3,500-acre residential sporting community and luxury event venue, The Preserve at Boulder Hills – replete with largest and longest underground automated gun range in America – in his home state of Rhode Island.
Not a year goes by that a well-known firearms manufacturer doesn’t come up with a new model that peaks the interest of shotgun enthusiasts worldwide. In late 2017 that manufacturer was Germany’s oldest gunmaker, J.P. Sauer and Sohn (now owned by Blaser), as the company introduced its first semi-automatic shotgun, the Sauer SL5.