New Stoeger M3500 Super Magnum Autoloader:

Stoeger Shoots at the “Do Everything Super Value Super Auto


Stoeger brand is part of the Beretta family of companies, with a line that has been aimed at the “bang for the buck” market. Stoeger Silah Sanayi A. S. is the name of this Turkish company that began in the 1980s under the name of Vursan. Beretta Holdings acquired them in 2002. They manufacture and distribute under their own name and refer to themselves more simply as “Stoeger Turkey.” The past models you might be most familiar with are the M2000 autoloader and the P350 slide-action. The general reputation of Stoeger branded product to this point has been “uneven” at best. Perhaps because of the “Inertia Driven” buzzword associated with the M2000 autoloader, some folks were looking to get a Benelli-level shotgun at a fraction of the price. Perhaps people expected too much for the low cost of entry, I'm not certain. Rightly or wrongly, the Stoeger M2000 has been called a lot of colorful things, but rarely an excellent shotgun.

The tested gun is #31810, the all-matte 28 inch barreled version of the M3500. Once you open the box, you'll be surprised at all the goodies included. You get five choke tubes, a choke tube wrench, a Weaver style base for scope mounting (the receiver is drilled and tapped), three extra stock adjustment shims, and a “recoil reducer.” Naturally, the recoil reducer is more correctly called a “weight increaser.” It is a slug of steel that screws into the buttstock, adding about 11 ounces to the gun which already is at about 7-3/4 lbs. With the recoil reducer installed, you're up to roughly 8-1/2 pounds unloaded weight. The published specifications are:

Magazine Capacity: 4+1
Chokes: C, IC, M , F, EF-Turkey
Type of Sights: Red-bar
Length of Pull: 14-3/8”
Drop at Heel: 2-1/2”
Drop at Comb: 1-1/2”
Minimum recommended load: 3-dram, 1-1/8 ounce
MSRP: $629 as tested, $679 for camo models

Though the Stoeger website claims 1-1/8 oz. loads as a minimum, the owners manual states 1 oz. load capability. After doing little more than wipe off a substantial glob of grease from the magazine tube, it was off to the field. Right out of the box, the M3500 cycled everything with stuffed into it with zero malfunctions, including 1 oz. lead and 1 oz. steel light target loads. We were all impressed by its positive functioning without even the suspicion of a jam or hang-up of any kind.

The main gripe we had with the tested gun was the trigger: it breaks at essentially the same weight as the whole gun, an excessively heavy 7-3/4 lbs. In a lighter gun, a trigger this heavy would be unusable. With the substantial weight of the M3500 it is usable, but hardly satisfactory. I wouldn't expect a target trigger on a value-priced 3-1/2 in. waterfowl gun by any means, but even a trigger in the six pound range would be an improvement over the “as supplied” condition.

Above, you can see how the supplied approx. 11 oz. "recoil reducer" attaches inside the buttstock of the M3500.

We found the M3500 to be a comfortable gun to shoot and you can make it even more comfortable by screwing on the supplied recoil reducer. That will further soften things up commensurate with the increased weight. According to the published Stoeger specs, you lose one tenth of one pound for each two inch decrease in barrel weight. Offered in 24 inch and 26 inch barrel lengths, the 24 inch barrel makes more sense for an all-around type gun. You already have a lengthy receiver, so the 26 inch model approximates the overall length of many 12 gauge autoloaders, equating to 29 – 30 inch barreled O/U models. That's why they call them choices and all that, but if you want to do any turkey or pheasant hunting at all with your M3500, I think you'll find the 24 inch model to be a more satisfying choice. Losing two tenths of a pound from a 7-3/4 lb. hunting gun isn't a bad idea. If that somehow seems light to you, the 11 oz. recoil reducer is right there to get you back to the 8-1/4 lb. weight bracket anytime you wish.

The camo versions retail for only fifty bucks more, so going camo on this gun is an obvious choice turning a simple, low maintenance gun to an ever lower maintenance gun. It is hard not to characterize the M3500 as a huge amount of gun for the money as right now you can get a camo version new in the grease for about $550. That price level for a camo 3.5 inch autoloader complete with stock adjusting shims, a scope base, five choke tubes including an extended turkey choke, and an included recoil reducer is a lot of gun in 2011.

All of this is said in the context of what the M3500 is: an inexpensive, entry-level, price-point gun. For those looking for the "free lunch," be aware going in that this shotgun isn't a natural beauty, and its pudgy weight makes it a very long ways away from being an ideal upland or fun to carry shotgun. It is a workhorse-level shotgun, visibly crude compared to many, but appropriate at its low price point.

The impressive thing to me is how well the M3500 functions in general and specifically, on the low end of the shotshell intensity scale. Based on that and the very attractive price, Stoeger should sell these by the boatloads. Yes, it is cheap in materials, machining, and finish: but . . . it works.

Copyright 2011 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.

UPDATE December, 2014

At the time of the review, with a few caveats, the M3500 was fairly priced for an entry-level Turkish autoloader. However, it was just one year later the Franchi line was revitalized, with far superior build quality. Added to that, the Girsan MC312 has proved to be a very competent inertia gun, also a big jump up in quality from the M3500 that now sells for $700 or so.

No longer is the M3500 the value it was in 2011, for you can do far, far better in the same or even a bit lower price bracket from Girsan, Mossberg, and several others. Or. for a few dollars more you can take a large step up in quality and performance with various Franchi Affinity models and the just-announced Remington V3 is only $750 in black synthetic. For these reasons, the M3500 is no longer an attractive option.

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