Smith & Wesson: great semiauto handguns and revolvers! That’s the knee-jerk reaction made by most anyone who shoots but today, that assumption needs to expanded upon.
When it comes to rifles, they offer what I feel are some of the best semiautos for defense or varmint control, the M&P15 and the M&P15 PC chambered in .223 Remington/5.56 mm NATO. Of course, S&W Holding Corporation (Nasdaq: SWHC) has acquired Thompson/Center Arms, which adds T/C’s superb single shot rifles, handguns, slug guns, black powder arms, semiauto rimfire rifles and the new Icon bolt action rifle to S&W’s burgeoning product line.
But – shotguns? Yes, shotguns. For those of us old enough to have been interested in firearms in the 1970s, from 1972 until 1984 Smith & Wesson marketed pump and semi-auto shotguns that were manufactured by Howa in Japan. I fired one of these in a round of skeet years ago and that was all the experience I had with them.
Then at the 2007 SHOT Show in Orlando, Florida, at the writer shoot-out the day before the show, writers and guests all had the opportunity to fire the three new shotguns that now carry the Smith & Wesson name. Three years of work went into the market research for these shotguns; by not rushing the introduction, Smith & Wesson management did it right and covered all bases with a side-by-side, an over-under and a gas-operated semi-auto shotgun, all geared to the shooting sports and hunting.
Here is what these S&W shotguns are all about.
Elite Gold Side-By-Side
This type of shotgun, in years past, has been referred to as a “double-barrel,” which is a name that stuck long before over-and-under doubles became popular. As a kid, I remember the old Stevens Model 311 or Fox doubles which were working guns that were used and used hard, with little worry about dings and scratches. (One SXS – i.e., side-by-side – that I used for a round of skeet and did worry about scratching was a friend’s Winchester Model 21.)
Then came a market shift which saw affordable bread-and-butter doubles being eliminated and classics being retired. The double seemed to fade from the sporting community. Today, I have a new-found respect for fine guns which was strengthened through my hands-on-experience with the Smith & Wesson Elite Gold 2.75-inch and 3-inch side-by-side. I found this double to be both a work of art as well as quite functional in the field. It is also easy to carry, weighing in at around 6.5 lbs. in 20 gauge.
What also stands out is its hand-cut checkering (at 24 lines per inch) and engraving, which covers about 25% of the receiver. Its barrels are either 26 or 28 inches with the overall length being 43.5 or 45.5 inches, respectively. When the Elite Gold was introduced, the triggers were single, which I prefer. New in 2008 was the option for either of two styles of double triggers for the same price as the single-trigger version. For chokes, you have a IC/Mod bores. For those who appreciate a high-quality, well-figured piece of wood, the Elite Gold is available with an English or Prince of Wales stock of AAA grade Turkish Walnut. What is also obvious on the Elite Gold it is the precise metal to wood fit. This is only possible on firearms that are not run-of-the-mill, since fitting takes time and, as you know, time is money.
This article is an excerpt from Gun Digest 2011. Click here to order your copy.