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The Best Shotguns of 2012

These are not necessarily the best shotguns in the history of the world, or the softest-shooting, most reliable, fastest-cycling, best patterning shotguns ever made. Everyone makes those, it is very difficult today to buy something that isn't the softest-shooting, most reliable, and the fastest-cycling . . . according to prophecy. This little list is far more modest than that. These are the stand-out shotguns that I've personally tested in the last year, and I'll briefly state why. Full reviews are included elsewhere on this site. They are in alphabetical order by brand.

Browning 725 Citori

The 725 Citori is the best O/U shotgun ever offered by the Browning brand. It is the best-balanced, has the best triggers, is the best-handling, and is now the best vertical double shotgun on the market in its class, either in Field configuration or Sporting configuration. Citori 12 gauges have always been built like a tank. Unfortunately, they tend to carry like a tank and handle like a tank as well. I remember hunting pheasants for a couple of years with a 26 inch barreled Citori fixed choke Grade II. It was a beautiful gun, but what I remember most is every bloody stinking mile I walked lugging it around.

Those days are gone. With the 725 Citori, Browning has done a lot more than just a cosmetic variation. They've introduced the best 12 gauge O/U in its class on the market today, as far as I'm concerned, by no small margin.

Fabarm XLR5 Velocity

The dedicated clays autoloader has been ignored for far too long. Often, a “clays autoloader” is little more than a field gun with a wider rib, ported choke tubes, and a different paint job. With a target trigger, rib adjustable for point of impact, adjustable comb, and choke tubes that actually work as marked, Fabarm has redefined if not re-invented the quality 12 gauge target autoloading shotgun.

Franchi Affinity

Entry-level price point autoloading shotguns usually mean unfortunate build quality compromises, heavy triggers, heavy guns in general, and the gun that you can't wait to upgrade from. With the Affinity in 12 and 20 gauge, Franchi offers a pair of autoloading shotguns that are built as well as any autoloaders on the market today and perform as well as any autoloaders on the market today, that sell for roughly half the price of “premium” autoloaders: a tremendous accomplishment.

Copyright 2012 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.

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