Benelli, of course, leads the field in light autoloaders. Whether it is the Montefeltro, the M1 or M2, they are all not just light, but balance right with muzzle lightness. The Benelli Montefeltro, M1 and M2 weigh 7 pounds or less and the Ultra Light model weighs closer to 6 pounds. There are other makes that you might find, but the bottom line is to find one that is not just light, but is barrel light. Browning’s Maxus, although built for waterfowling with its 3-1/2 inch chamber and camouflage finish, can still be a very effective upland gun. It is surprisingly light and handles very well.
Among older autoloaders, there were quite a few that were very good if not superb for upland gunning. The old Browning Double Auto was originally designed for boxed pigeon shooting and balances like a double gun. The “Twentyweight” model weighs around 6-1/2 pounds and the “Twelvette” closer to 7 pounds. Both are superb upland guns. There is also the old Winchester Model 59 with its revolutionary fiberglass-wrapped barrel that weighed 6-1/2 pounds in 12 gauge. The Winchester was revolutionary not only because of its unusual barrel, but also because it was the first American made shotgun with screw-in choke tubes. The Franchi 48AL could weigh as little as 6-1/4 pounds in 12 gauge with a plain, short barrel. Perhaps the lightest of all was the futuristic Armalite AR-17 or the “Golden Gun” as it was called. The Armalite was made in 12 gauge only, and like the Browning Double Auto, it was a two-shooter and operated on the short recoil system.
The Armalite tipped the scale at a wispy 5-1/2 pounds in 12 gauge! There were other imported autoloaders that were pretty light in 12 gauge. In the 1950s and 60s there was the Breda, a unique, exceptionally well-made long recoil-operated autoloader. The Breda normally weighed around 7 pounds in 12 gauge but could be had in the Superlight model that weighed 6-3/4 pounds. So there has never been a shortage of light, properly balanced autoloaders for the uplands.
In 16 gauge, the Browning Sweet Sixteen in the old A-5 configuration – and its licensed Remington and Savage humpback knockoffs – is just about all that was and is available. However, it is possible to locate an old Remington 11-48 16 with a receiver that was “shaved” to better suit the smaller gauge. Savage did make a rather bulbous-looking Model 775, a lightened version of the odel 755 that weighed around 7 pounds, but it was an ugly gun and did not sell well. Whatever the case may be, in the older models it is best to avoid ventilated ribbed barrels for upland gunning. Not only does the ventilated rib contribute significantly to overall gun weight (about a quarter of a pound) but it adds weight in a crucial area, up front.
A Browning Sweet Sixteen with a plain 26-inch barrel averages 6-3/4 pounds and handles beautifully. With a ventilated rib, the weight can increase to over 7 pounds. A 7 pound gun should be a 12, not a 16, if it is to be used in the uplands.