2010 Shotgun and Wingshooting Awards

There are a variety of gun of the year type awards, many beyond meaningless if you take a look back. Whether we care to admit it, outstanding or even good products are not introduced annually. Some of the accoladed products here are new, some are better refined versions of the originals. In order to be considered a product must be a production item, not a tool-room or prototype. It also has to meet the standard of best of breed for some purposes. It has to be a product that I've spent quality time with and would unhesitatingly recommend to my friends, neighbors, and family. Some of you already know how good these things are. If not, you might want to give them a closer look. The most important thing, as far as I'm concerned, it that there has to be basis for mentioning a product. It has to offer something tangible, some advance, something rarely seen. These shotguns do just that.

AUTOLOADER OF THE YEAR: Benelli M2 Twenty Gauge ComforTech

There aren't many six pound guns that are as fun to shoot as they are to carry. There is no autoloader out there that has better handling and balance and there is nothing more maintenance free or reliable. Of the many felt-recoil reducing schemes out there, there is nothing that scales better with load intensity than a ComforTech stock, adding no bulk, springs, weight, or maintenance in the process. There aren't too many autoloaders that are equally at home in the turkey blind, the dove field, chasing pheasants, quail, or in the blind for decoying ducks with no adjustments or modifications.

The Benelli M2 has mesmerizingly good, neutral balance. It is blazingly fast to the shoulder, doing its job without conscious effort. With a six pound gun, you might expect to be blown off the bench with 1-1/2 oz. Federal Heavyweight Turkey loads at the patterning board, but that isn't the case at all. Heavy loads can be hard on actions, but with a stationary bolt body going forward and compressing an inertia spring instead of being immediately crashed into the receiver, the M2 doesn't seem to mind. Thanks to the ComforTech stock, I don't mind, either. It isn't perfect: the M2 is a bit stiff-loading so after a half-dozen boxes of shells you'll have a thumb weary of pushing shells past the shell-stop. The M2 is more perfect than any twenty gauge hunting autoloader out there today, though, by no small measure. It is just too good and too fun not to shoot and that's why it's in front of the gun cabinet.

O/U SHOTGUN OF THE YEAR: Browning Cynergy

The hingelock O/U has been tried before, but not with particularly good results. One example is the smallish hinge found on the TOZ 34. An upscale, rarely seen treatment is the Swedish Caprinus with patents from 1982, later known as the Flodman. The stainless steel Flodman with its lever-cocking action remains a scarcely known, pricey piece of exotica. The Cynergy, formerly code-named “Shiek” was designed by Dwight Potter and introduced in 2004.

The Cynergy was and is a remarkable shotgun. Over and over many folks have come to the same conclusion, that being the Cynergy is either the softest-shooting O/U shotgun they have ever tried, or the first and only O/U they have ever used that they really enjoy shooting. The Cynergy Field has been given upgraded wood and engraving along with Browning's Vector Pro lengthened forcing cones in both twelve and twenty gauge. The distinctive monolock hinge isn't going to look like Grandpa's shotgun, but Browning has softened the blow to the stiffer shotgunners with the Cynergy Classic Field models still offering the Inflex recoil pad versions for those that value function over tradition. The great accomplishment of the Cynergy is its low-profile action, the cornerstone of the stackbarrel premise. It is the quick second shot that sets the O/U apart, as noted by Don Zutz and others. The Cynergy explores this to the greatest degree possible and in so doing sets itself well apart from standard stackbarrel fare. The Browning Cynergy is breath of fresh air in a starchy environment and if you've not pulled the trigger on a Cynergy, you owe it to yourself to do so. The Cynergy has a jewel of an action, making many others look like stale renditions of a tired old theme. It is a wondrously pleasant-shooting shotgun.

SLUG GUN OF THE YEAR: Savage 220F Twenty Gauge

Savage Arms has come up with one of the few slug guns in history that shoots like a rifle, which is the idea when you rifling in the barrel, and the first twenty gauge that is good enough to instantly obsolete the twelve gauge slug-slingers. It's built like a rifle, not a shotgun, on a rifle action with the pillar-bedded stock, floated barrel, silent three-position safety, and Accu-Trigger that changed the standard in the center-fire world. It is the exact opposite of what slug guns have been historically. It is relatively light weight, great handling, soft-shooting, and more than capable of shooting one inch hundred yard groups with the sabots it likes. It is a center of the body hold big game rifle to 165 yards or so and under ideal conditions a 200 yard deer rifle. With good shells, like the Federal Barnes Expanders or Winchester Partition Gold rounds, it is more than capable of taking any deer family game or black bear at typical hunting ranges.

The Savage 220F is a whole new class of hunting rifle. For decades, hunters in shotgun states have has to put up with clumsy guns, two piece stocks, lousy triggers, slow-locktime actions, heavy recoil, and lackluster accuracy. With more velocity and energy at 200 yards than a .44 Magnum out of a handgun has at its muzzle with a Federal Barnes Tipped Expander, clean, quick humane kills from the Savage 220F are no surprise. It is wondrously affordable and an ideal way to take the kids hunting, or at least that's what a few wives are likely to hear. Savage Arms has a new and far better way of defining the hunting slug gun, one that the whole family can enjoy.

Copyright 2010 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.


Legendary Whitetails

Copyright 2011 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.

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