Best Duck Gun


Hello, I might have the chance to purchase a new waterfowl gun. I am considering the 391 and have read several articles, including a comparison you did with Benelli. My question, how tough do you think the 391 is? Will I have to clean it all the time? How about compared to Benelli or other top waterfowl guns??

THANKS very much for any info you can give me. Iâm not the brightest bulb on the string when it comes to this stuff, but I will be making a BIG $$$ purchase and would like to feel comfortable with that decision.



Dear Ross,

Waterfowl guns are all a matter of personal preference. To me, the greatest waterfowl gun ever made is the Remington 870. It works dirty or clean, wet or dry and the price is right. In the semi-automatics, the recoil operated Benelli is excellent if its stock fits you. I always found them smaller than other stocks, probably due to the placement of the pistol grip. The big advantage to the Benelli is that due to their recoil operation, they work well when soaking,dripping wet. On the downside, they kick more than gas operated autos due.

The 391 is to me the most “shootable” of the autos. It’s VERY popular in sporting clays and other clay sports because it handles well, is low in recoil due to the gas action and is very, very reliable over many thousands of targets. It’s certainly the strongest of the gas operated autos. You can get away with out a major cleaning for an entire season. It’s not at all unusual for clay target shooters to run several thousand rounds through the 391 before a major cleaning. A major cleaning can take half an hour. A minor cleaning is just a quick wipe down of the piston and guide rod, a 30 second procedure. You’ll want to do that each time you shoot. You won’t have to worry about cleaning the Benelli or 870. Just keep the rust off them. The insides will be fine until the end of hunting season.

If there is a problem with the gas operated guns, it’s when they get totally, completely soaked with water. Like when you drop them overboard or have to shoot all day in absolutely pouring rain. I don’t mean showers. I mean rain hard enough to soak the gun completely. Then they can turn into a single shot. Not all the time, but sometimes. The Benelli can keep going after ingesting any amount of water. Of course, the 870 could care less too.

I don’t think that any of the three would be a mistake. Other than my personal favorite, the 870, I find the 391 easier and softer to shoot, while the Benelli is cleaner and will keep shooting in weather I really don’t want to hunt in. Up to you.

There’s also the 3-1/2″ shell thing. The 391 will only take 3″ shells, but it will function reliably with the lightest target loads up to the heaviest 3″ shells. Benelli makes both 3″ and 3-1/2″ guns. The Benelli Super Black Eagle will take 3-1/2″. If you want to duplicate the performance of the classic 1-1/4 oz load of lead #5s, you’ll need one of the new high velocity 3-1/2″ steel #2s. That means the Benelli SBE, Beretta Xtrema or other 3-1/2″ guns. The downside to the 3-1/2″ Benelli is that they really aren’t completely comfortable shooting target loads, though most work OK with the heaviest 3 dram 1-1/8 oz Handicap target loads. Personally, considering the small limits these days, I’m more than happy to pay the extra and use the superlative new Remington Hevi-Shot in 2-3/4″ or 3″. It’s more than the equal of lead and also more than the equal of any 3-1/2″ steel load ever made. The cost will also keep down on the skybusting.

I think that the ability to shoot target loads with one’s duck gun is important. That way you can practice between seasons with your waterfowler. If you learn to shoot you duck gun well on clays, you will be more effective during duck season. To me, ANY hunting gun also has to double as an occasional clay target gun for practice purposes. I kill more birds cleanly when I practice in the off season with the guns I hunt with. You don’t have to make a career of shooting clays with your field guns, but the guy who practices clays in the off season is going to be a much better shot on the real thing than the fellow who just wipes the dust off of big Bertha when the season opens. Of the three guns, the 391 has the clear edge when shooting those practice targets. Remember, the biggest, meanest duck shell in the world doesn’t matter worth beans if you can’t hit with it. The ability to shoot is waaaay more important than what you shoot with. Too many shooters blame their wounded birds on “not enough power”, when they should put the blame on not enough practice.

As always, the choice is up to you. All three guns will work well, as will any number of other guns. But remember the bottom line: whichever gun you pick, practice with it enough so that you can hit what you aim at. That’s the key.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)

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