Yet Another Perfect Sporter

Dear Technoid,

I am in the process of seeking out another perfect sporting clays shotgun,(12 ga.) I have been using a Beretta 626 SXS with 26 in . Barrels, actually I have one in 20 ga. also, these are great guns as they have ventilated ribs and screw in chokes,but, I am finding a bit of difficulty in hitting some targets, the people in my immediate crowd of shooting friends are telling me that the SXS is not the optimum configuration for Clays Target shooting, I am starting to believe them.

I have looked at a lot of guns in the past year, the ones that strike my interest are the Beretta 682 Gold, and the Browning XS. I am leaning more towards the Beretta because the Beretta I have shot in the past seem to just “feel” good to me. I do realize, however, that fit is a very important factor . So, my question to you is;

Is the SXS really a handicap? if so , how much of one? What about Barrel length? Many people I know like 32 inch Barrels, as I am only 5 foot 7 inches tall I have been told that I would be better off with a 30 inch gun, but now I am even hearing that I should strongly consider a 28 inch Barrel.

What is your opinion on these matters.

Thank you,


Dear Bruce,

I like that phrase “another perfect sporting clays gun”. You might even try “yet another perfect…” I have a cabinet full of perfect sporting clays gun. They must be perfect for someone, but they aren’t always perfect for me. Could it be the indian and not the arrow? Nah. Not a chance.

It sounds as though you have been getting some good advice and also have all the right instincts as to what you like. In the Beretta 682 and Browning XS (or 425), you have certainly picked the two most popular O/U sporting clays guns. You can’t go wrong with either one. I know, I know. Saying that is like the waitress in the restaurant telling you that everything on the menu is good. Still it’s the truth. The 425 (or the virtually identical XS) is the most popular sporting clays shotgun sold in the US. The more expensive 682 is second.

Personally, the Browning feels a little bit less “clunky” to me and I like the Browning pistol grip and stock better. The Browning seems to initially fit more people, but the people who like the Berettas really like them. A good 682 is a real work horse and virtually indestructible. I’ve seen some real high mileage ones. The Brownings may need a rebuild a bit earlier, but they can be rebuilt indefinitely. With proper attention either gun will outlast the shooter.

The Browning 425s and XS’s do come with long stock, so you may wish to cut it back a bit to suit your needs. Just in case it ends up not being quite the “perfect” gun, it would make sense to save the piece of cut-off stock in case you wish to sell it at a later date.

As to SxS target guns, I just finished testing a Poli 30″ SxS sporting clays model for The Clay Pigeon. I shoot SxS a fair amount and this Poli has the size and weight (7.25#) to be a good target gun, but I do think that the broad sighting plane costs some precision on the long birds. In the uplands where shots are fairly close, I prefer the SxS, but on clay targets I think that a single sighting plane is best. The handicap system I drew up for our local sporting clays club gives pumps and SxS guns a 5 bird handicap and we still haven’t had a SxS win a shoot against the O/Us and gas guns. That Poli would be a contender though, as would a nice 30″ Model 21.

Although I have a bunch of 30″ O/Us, my favorite clays gun is an older gas operated semi-auto Beretta 303. I like the low recoil and precise single barrel pointing. I can shoot my O/Us as well when I am having a good day, but find that when I am average or worse, it is easier to shoot the gas gun.

About 15% of the sporting clays shooters agree with me in preferring a gas gun and about 85% feel that the O/U is best. Your preference for the O/U is certainly in the majority and definitely a valid one. No, I’m not trying to switch you to a gas gun. They aren’t for everyone, but they are a viable alternative if you can’t find an O/U that you like. Somehow, coming from SxS guns, I don’ think that gas is for you. But I’ve been wrong before- it was in ’63 I think.

The most popular O/U barrel length by far is 30″. There isn’t anything magical about that length, but it seems to be a good compromise between long barrel precision and manageable weight. The new screw choke guns can be heavy up front, though not all of them are. There is nothing at all wrong with a 32″ or 28″ though. Few modern O/Us balance well at 32″. None of the current USA imported Browning or Beretta O/Us that I have tried were manageable for me in a 31.5″ or 32″ length. A factory stock screw-choke Marocchi Conquista 32″ that I tried two years ago balanced well enough. However, most of the successful 32″ sporters I have used have originally been solid choke guns, so their barrels were lighter. The British grey market Miroku 3800s and 38s are a good example.

28″ or 30″? That’s up to you. Ballistically there really isn’t any difference. It is a sensible trade to sacrifice a little bit of sighting plane for a better weight and swing. If you like the feel of the 28″, there is no reason not to go that way. There is nothing magic about any particular length. Still, I would look at the 30″ guns first to see if any suit you. Which ever you get, it is going to swing a lot differently than that 26″ SxS you have been used to.

Best regards,
Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid

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