Starter Shotgun For A Lady

Dear Technoid:

I’m working with a new female shooter, 5′ 4″, about 115 lbs.. She is presently shooting my 12 gauge Beretta 391 RL target parallel with strictly one ounce loads. I’ve let her shoot some of my O/U shotguns in different gauges, and while all too large for her, she does OK. I’ve always felt however that a 12 gauge gas operated semi-auto might be the best for one all around shotgun, although I do have reservations about the cleaning chores associated with a gas operated semi. Her interest will be trap singles and sporting clays, perhaps 3,000 shells annually. Eventually she’ll need her first (and perhaps only) shotgun, but to complicate matters, on about an 800.00 budget.

It was suggested by a shooting companion that an O/U was a better choice due to the cleaning and maintaining of a gas operated semi (and I agree), but for a quality mainstream used O/U like a Citori or Beretta 686 variant, a check on shows that prices aren’t what they were 20 years ago. Factor in stock cutting at a minimum, and the price climbs even more.

Back to the semi-autos. My major criteria (besides recoil) is gun fit, once her stance and form are established better. Comfort and the ability to adjust. The Remington 11-87 sportsman field meets my criteria perfectly because of the Jack West youth stock which can be purchased. Four way adjustable parallel comb, tighter grip radius, and it would be possible to replace the 1″ thick recoil pad with something thinner combined with a thin adjustable butt-plate for pad height and toe adjustments. Plus there is a T&S shellcatcher for it.

Perfect — except for one major concern. Quality and durability. It’s reported that they break. Not the O-rings, but magazine latches, magazine tubes come out, valve cracks, ventilated ribs separate, etc.. All gas semi-autos need maintenance, but reportedly the 11-87 is excessive.

I’ve read some of your older experiences with 1100’s and 11-87’s, along with others. Some call them workhorses, some advise looking elsewhere. I ask if a Remington 11-87 would be a good choice to suggest as a “one and only” shotgun combined with the Jack West Youth stock, or if due to potential mechanical issues, we should look elsewhere? Are they potentially that bad mechanically?

Your experience and insights would be highly valued, and thanks very much in advance.


Dear Bill,

I think that you are on the right track with the 11-87 Remington gas auto for the petite lady.

In the shotgun world, as everywhere else, nothing is perfect. Low maintenance O/Us kick much more than soft shooting gas guns like the Remingtons. For a new shooter, high recoil is a true turn-off. And Remingtons really are among the softest shooting gas guns.

Then there is the adjustability. With the Jack West stock you mention for the 11-87 auto, you can easily adjust the gun to fit the lady. Usually a lady’s smaller face requires a higher stock. On an O/U that would mean significant alteration or the installation of an adjustable stock comb.

And as to cost, Remington gas guns will cost less than most O/Us, often significantly less.

But Remington gas gun to require more cleaning and do break parts more often than O/Us. As to cleaning, I’d advise that you use Break Free CLP as a cleaner and lubricant. Make sure to leave a moist coating on the magazine tube and the pistol rings. Break Free CLP seems to hold up better than other lubes. It doesn’t dry out as quickly as some and does a pretty good job of keeping the carbon from caking on.

As to parts breakage, much of the usual self-destruction can be avoided if the mainspring in the 11-87’s stock is replaced every 5,000 or so rounds. When that mainspring gets weak over time, it permits the heavy metal collar which holds the action rods, to slam back into the receiver front and that causes problems. You can tell that the mainspring is getting weak when it starts to toss the ejected hulls further than usual. Some see that as a sign that the gun is well broken in, but it really means that the mainspring is weakening. I had quite a number of 1100s and they were always eating parts until I wised up and began to replace the mainspring. It is a cheap part and easily swapped out. That cut down on breakage a great deal.

And remember, you say that she is only going to shoot about 3,000 per year. That’s nothing, so the gun isn’t likely to wear out any time soon.

I think that for the situation and shooter you describe, an 11-87 with the correct stock would be a good gun. It may not be ideal for everyone, but that doesn’t matter. All it has to do is work for her specific needs.

Best regards,
Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid

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3 Responses to Starter Shotgun For A Lady

  1. Stan Koehne says:

    The Beretta A 300 Outlander would be a great gun for her and right now Beretta is offering $150 in free gear if you buy one!
    It’s also inexpensive for a Beretta.


  2. Tim DeVries says:

    We have a Syren XLR5. Double your budget, but it truly works for gals. Seems to me a better choice than buy something that doesn’t work, hack glue sand and screw til it’s kinda ok.


  3. Doug kubosh says:

    Bill, how about this. Give her the Beretta. Then you will have to replace it with a new gun. Win win!


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