Three Excellent Pheasant Guns

Over the last forty-five years of wild pheasant hunting, I've naturally acquired a few favorite shotguns for the purpose. Though the A-5 Sweet Sixteen, A-5 Mag Twenty, and B-80 / A302 / A303 twenty gauges are no longer around, they have not been greatly improved upon.


Of current production shotguns, here are three that are ideal for instinctive shooting. One is made in anti-gun Japan, labeled a Browning, another is made with a Beretta barrel by a company that is part of Beretta, and called a “Benelli.” The last is an ATA, made in Turkey, but labeled a Weatherby. With firearms, things are seldom what they appear to be.

The Citori 725 28 inch 20 gauge field is the best O/U for pheasants to ever carry the Browning sticker. The “Invector DS” barrels are lighter and more responsive than previous barrel sets, the trigger is superb, as is the balance of the gun. The ridiculous constriction problems of the 12 gauge Invector DS chokes have been solved, for this 20 gauge has more constriction in “MOD” and “IMPROVED MOD” than the factory 12 gauge DS tubes have. To no great surprise, constriction works just like it always has. Browning's latest recoil pads do a fine job as well.

The Benelli Comfortech 24 inch M2 twenty gauge is a fun, reliable six pound gun that is quite shootable with 1-1/4 oz. (or heavier) payloads. The Comfortech stock is no gimmick and it makes it softer-shooting than the slightly heavier Citori.

The Weatherby SA-08 is the most economical choice of the three, and in walnut trim is a lot easier on the eyes than the Benelli as well. It is a gas gun and also is the softest-shooting of these three as well. It takes just minutes to clean the gas piston, but if you want reliability (and who doesn't?) it needs a bit more attention than the Citori or the Benelli, but naturally all guns should be properly maintained.

As far as patterns go, people seem to appreciate the truth, sooner or later. The Citori 725 has over-sized inside diameter barrels, misnamed “back-bored.” It also has long forcing cones. It patterns no better than any other 20 gauge.

The Benelli has the “Crio” system, a cryogenically treated barrel and cryogenically treated factory choke tubes. It patterns no better than any other 20 gauge. In fact, my Benelli M2 wears a Trulock Precision Hunter extended choke tube that is more consistent than the factory chokes . . . but the Trulock is not cryogenically treated.

The better-patterning shotgun is the one using the better shell and the better choke. Buffered lead #5 loads handily outperform non-buffered 12 gauge loads as well as non-buffered 20 gauge loads. It isn't even close.

The Browning 725 Citori has a nice, solid feel that some hunters prefer. Having two barrels (and two chokes) for pheasant hunting is no advantage, for pheasants don't hit the air at known distances. Barrel selection is a non-starter on flushing birds unless you have two triggers to work with.

The best shell on the market for the money is the Remington Nitro Turkey #NT20M5, 1-1/4 oz. #5 shot, 1185 fps, buffered. The Kent “Ultimate Diamond Shot Turkey, 1-1/4 oz. #5 shot, 1300 fps is also outstanding.

The best shell, period, is the Federal Heavyweight #7, 2-3/4 inch, 1-1/8 oz. The Kent Tungsten-Matrix Waterfowl 1-1/8 oz. #5 @ 1360 fps is also an excellent shell that you can use in “no-lead” zones as well.


Copyright 2014 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.



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