Perfect Autoloaders for Upland Game

A Browning Gold Evolve in 12 gauge weighs around 6-3/4 pounds and should make a good upland gun.

A Browning Gold Evolve in 12 gauge weighs around 6-3/4 pounds and should make a good upland gun.

The same thing can be said about the Remington 11-48. With a short plain barrel, the Remington could weigh as little as 6-1/2 pounds, while with a ventilated rib it tends to be closer to 7. The legendary Remington 1100 did come in 16, but as good as the 1100 is for a variety of shotgunning, it is not the best gun for the uplands in 12 or 16 gauges. Besides being somewhat heavy, it was always a bit nose-heavy, not the best thing for an upland gun. Yet, because it points so well, it has served as an upland gun for many a successful upland hunter.

In the 1980s Remington attempted to correct the nose-heavy tendency of the 1100 for the uplands and came out with their Special Field models with 21-inch barrels. But these guns, although lighter with their short barrels and shortened magazines, did not have a very good balance. Merely chopping the barrel shorter, as most manufacturers are prone to do, does not make an “upland” gun, it just makes it a shorter gun! Although there are upland gunners who swear by the Remington Special Field”models with their stubby barrels, they are not ideally suited and tend to have poor balance. The current Remington “contour” barrels are a much better solution, and the new Model 105 CTI made of lightweight materials makes for a dandy upland autoloader at around 7 pounds in 12 gauge.

The Winchester Model 59 was especially designed for the uplands at 6-1/2 pounds in 12 gauge but never really caught on with hunters. The gun was revolutionary in that it used a lightweight barrel that was a steel liner wrapped in fiberglass, and it was the first American-made gun to use screw-in choke tubes, later known as “Winchokes.”

The Winchester Model 59 was especially designed for the uplands at 6-1/2 pounds in 12 gauge but never really caught on with hunters. The gun was revolutionary in that it used a lightweight barrel that was a steel liner wrapped in fiberglass, and it was the first American-made gun to use screw-in choke tubes, later known as “Winchokes.”

In 20 gauge, the picture changes somewhat and even the nose-heavy Remington 1100 Lightweight 20 can make a good upland gun. Just about all the 20 gauge autoloaders are suitable for upland gunning provided that they are properly choked. Some are, of course, better suited for upland gunning than others. Perhaps the best way to separate the 20 gauges is by using three categories. The first category is “standard models” and includes those weighing between 6-1/2 and 7 pounds such as the Remington 1100 LT 20, Browning Gold, etc. These guns make good upland guns if they are choked properly.

The second category, the “lightweights” includes 20 gauge autoloaders such as the Berettas and Benellis, and even the old Browning A-5 “Twenty” (commonly referred to as “Light Twenty”) and the earlier-mentioned Breda. These are 20 gauges that all weigh somewhere between a few ounces under 6 pounds and 6-1/2 pounds. They are all balanced right for the uplands and their light overall weight makes them ideal for carrying over hill and dale.

The third category can be termed as “ultralight” autoloaders. Currently there are only two that qualify as ultralights. Although there are Benelli M-1s, M-2s and Montefeltros that dip under 6 pounds, to qualify as an ultralight the gun has to weigh closer to 5-1/2 pounds in 20 gauge.

The Benelli Ultra Light model in 20 gauge is claimed to weigh 5 pounds, 2 ounces. It is indeed a feathery, delightful autoloader, but not quite as light as claimed. Benelli achieved lighter weight by using a shorter magazine tube, shorter barrel, and a carbon fiber ventilated rib. But despite its shorter barrel, it balances very well because its receiver is longer by about an inch than the average autoloader’s, and the barrel is not seated as deeply, giving it another inch of length. Therefore, the Benelli with a 24-inch barrel is of same overall length as a Browning A-5 with a 26-inch barrel.

A sleeper in this group of ultralight autoloaders is the Franchi 48AL. The Franchi was always considered to be the lightest autoloader one could get. It used to be advertised as the world’s lightest autoloader and I suppose that is still true today.

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