The first shotgun you buy will be unlikely your last. Most of us shooters have come to this realization on our fascinating journey into clay target sports. As we progress, our shooting style and taste in equipment usually change as well, and such change often demands an upgrade. Whether you have been shooting clays for a while or simply have the means to buy into a higher tier of sporting shotguns, the following list of top choices in the mid range pricing category may help you find the right one:
Blaser F16 Sporting
MSRP $4,195 *
Blaser, one of the leading gun manufacturers in Europe well-known for their phenomenal F3 platform, needs no introduction. In 2016, continuing with the model denomination that corresponds to year of release, Blaser has unveiled the F16 - its newest line of game and sporting over-and-under shotguns.
Despite its lower price tag, this gun has inherited many engineering innovations from their flagship F3 model, among which are a very slim action profile that provides an exceptionally low center of gravity, a fast lock time, and a mechanical trigger with Inertia Block System or IBS®, which adds to shooter safety by preventing the ability for the shotgun to fan fire or double. Unlike the F3’s linear strikers however, the F16’s trigger uses conventional hammers with short, vertical coil springs instead of the usual horizontal ones. Also featured is Blaser’s proven Ejection Ball System or EBS® that cocks the ejectors only when the shot is fired, originally introduced on the F3 model as well.
At around 8 pounds - a nearly ideal weight for most clay target sports - the F16 Sporting is available in 12 gauge only with 30” and 32” flat rib barrels, and a set of flush Blaser or extended Briley choke tubes, a mechanical trigger with a crisp 3.5 pound trigger pull and length adjustment, as well as Blaser’s stock and barrels balancing system. A traditional, nicely figured oil finished stock and English style forend collaborate well with the gunmetal-colored receiver for a fresh, modern look. The F16 is still very new to the market, but it might be the sporting shotgun you have been looking for. For more information, visit the Blaser website.
Beretta 692 Sporting
MSRP $4,199 *
The 692 Sporting over-and-under shotgun from Beretta is perfectly positioned in the middle between the entry level 690 series and Beretta’s premium DT11 line. Available in 12 gauge only, with a wider, heavier receiver and replaceable locking shoulders, it was envisioned specifically to meet the needs of competitive shooters. Forged out of Steelium - a proprietary tri-alloy blend, which was originally introduced on DT11, the 692 features Optima-Bore® Steelium Plus flat rib barrels in 30” and 32” with super-long 360mm forcing cones designed for higher durability, accuracy, and lower recoil. A set of 5 OptimaChoke® HP choke tubes is included.
Also, standard on all models is the opening lever with a unique polymer teardrop-end for easy operation, an adjustable B-Fast balance system with weighted wads that can be inserted into stock to change the point of balance without alteration to the overall weight, and an adjustable single-selective trigger intended to customize its length to fit the shooter’s preference and shooting style. All in all, the perfectly weighted 8.4 pound Beretta 692 Sporting is an excellent choice for a serious competitor or a weekend warrior alike. For more information, visit Beretta website.
Caesar Guerini Summit Ascent
MSRP $4,850 *
Formed in 2002, the Caesar Guerini brand took the shotgun market by storm and quickly established itself as a formidable competitor to many well-known companies with decades, even centuries of shotgun making history. Since its inception, this Brescia-based gun maker has been producing affordable, feature-rich, high quality shotguns that can compete even with the most highly regarded premium guns out there. The Summit Ascent Sporting is one of many fine examples of Guerini gun craft.
A step up from its base counterpart Summit Sporting, the 8.4 pound Ascent is offered in 12 gauge only with 30” and 32” 10mm barrels, with a slightly raised ventilated rib, and set of 6 MAXIS competition choke tubes. The understated yet elegant low profile receiver, featuring satin blued finish with Invisalloy™ clear protection and gold accents, is complemented by the hand-rubbed oil finished stock with 26 lines per inch checkering and the rounded forend with Anson-style release button.
The DTS adjustable comb and the DTS trigger system, with two trigger pull weight options and length of pull adjustments, are the additional competition-centric features intended to ensure a precise fit to the shooter’s individual requirements. In sum, the Summit Ascent is everything you may expect from a modern sporting clays shotgun. For more information, visit the Caesar Guerini website.
Zoli Kronos Sporting
MSRP $5,400 *
This manufacturer’s name may not be as familiar to some as the other well-known Italian brands like Beretta or Perazzi, but its high quality over-and-under and side-by-side shotguns have become quite popular among competition shooters and hunters all over the world. Located in the Gordone Valley near town of Brescia (Italy’s most famous gun producing region), the modern day company Antonio Zoli SpA was founded in 1945 but Zoli family gun making history can be traced to the 14th century.
Among the brand’s current products is the entry level Kronos Sporting model, which is truly a hidden gem and the only shotgun in its price category featuring a drop-out trigger group. Made from a solid piece of forged steel and offered in silver coin or black finish with brightly polished internal parts, its low-profile action is of the Boss style bolting system, similar to Perazzi and Kemen, but without drawers in the monoblock and wedges on the interior walls of the action body. To compensate for this, the actual locking bolt is dimensionally larger.
Available in 28”, 30”, and 32” chrome-moly steel barrels with factory fitted flush or extended Zoli choke tubes, the 8 pound Kronos features removable (by means of an Allen key) trigger group with an adjustable length trigger, braking at just over 3 pounds and powered by more durable coil springs. A well-figured, tightly-grained walnut stock and subtle beavertail forend, treated to a semi-oil finish, complete the ensemble. Overall, its excellent mechanical design, easy handling, and great fit and finish make Zoli Kronos one of the best choices in this price range. For more information, visit the Zoli website.
Salvinelli L1 Sporting
MSRP $5,495 *
Armi Salvinelli of Marcheno, Italy, though a relative newcomer to the U.S. shotgun market, is well-known in Europe for producing a variety of hunting guns and replicas of antique arms. Established in 1955 and operated by three Salvinelli brothers, this Italian gun maker boast many years of experience in the firearms sector and is hailed for a high quality workmanship that blends modern technologies with a traditional design.
Enter L1 Sporting. Despite its laconic appearance, this entry level model is mechanically identical to the Salvinelli top Extra and Extra Gold line up. Forged from a solid block of steel, the monolithic receiver is offered in a variety of finishes - high-gloss blued, brushed hard chrome, and case colored. The lock-up, secure as a bank vault, is very typical of the Boss type action, with large mid-breech locks engaging monoblock extensions, but with Browning-style under lugs on the monoblock that engage twin recesses on the bottom rear of the receiver. The inertia-operated trigger is fixed.
The L1 Sporting is available in 12 and 20 gauge with 28-3/8”, 30” and 32” tri-alloy steel barrels with a variety of rib designs and fixed or interchangeable choke tubes. The high quality oil finished stock with the point-style, hand-cut checkering as well as the choice of Schnabel, beavertail, or round forend, can be ordered custom to the shooter’s exact specifications at no additional charge.
Weighted around 8 pounds and often regarded as a “Perazzi clone”, this Salvinelli model may appear remarkably similar to its Italian brethren in fit, feel, and performance, but can be acquired for substantially less. The bottom line is that Salvinelli L1 Sporting is a well-balanced, reliable, and long lasting sporting shotgun that can satisfy the requirements of even the most demanding competitor. For more information, visit Salvinelli website.
* All MSRP prices are as of 2017.