I am looking for a 12 ga. left-handed semi-auto to be used primarily for duck and goose hunting (although I might try to take a turkey with it in the spring season). Because I am looking for a lefty, I understand my choices are fairly limited. All I have found so far are various models of Benelli shotguns and the Remington 11-87. Among the Benellis, I lean toward the Super Black Eagle, primarily because it takes shell lengths from 2 3/4 out to 3 1/2, whereas the 11-87 will not take 3 1/2. I don’t know that I will ever use a 3 1/2, but I like the idea of having that option. Another thing I like about the Benellis is that I can get them in a black synthetic stock, whereas I believe the lefty 11-87 only comes in a wood stock.
From all of this I have several questions. First, what are the practical differences between a recoil operated semi-auto and a gas operated gun? Performance differences? Maintenance differences?
Second, I saw something on some web site that mentioned “friction rings” and it seemed to suggest that with a recoil operated gun, you will have to adjust the “friction rings” to change shell sizes. What are “friction rings?” If I get the SBE, will I have to adjust them each time I change shell size? Why are these not an issue for gas operated guns?
As for the range of shell sizes, under what circumstances would I even want to use a 3 1/2″ shell?
As for barrel length, it is my understanding that a longer barrel will give you greater accuracy at longer ranges. Is that correct? On the basis of that assumption, I have been leaning toward 28″ because as I mentioned above, I anticipate using the gun primarily for duck and goose hunting. Am I going in the right direction by going with a 28″ barrel?
Finally, I have a Beretta 686 Onyx that I use for dove and upland birds, and I love it. Based on my experiences with that gun, I initially wanted to find a Beretta semi-auto. I understand the AL391 is an excellent gun, and it does come in a black synthetic stock. However, it apparently does NOT come in a lefty model. Is that correct? And if so, are there any other lefty semi-autos out there you would recommend considering?
Any help of advice you can offer will be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.
I think that you have just about covered the lefty auto market with Benelli and Remington. I know of lots of lefties who use righty guns and don’t mind the hull whipping across their snoot. But that’s up to you. Just make sure that you try a right hand ejecting gas gun once to see how you feel about it.
Between the Benelli and the Remington, for hunting I’d pick the Benelli. For targets I’d pick the Remington. The Benelli is basically an inertia or short recoil action. It works marvelously when soaking wet and caked in mud. It shoots very clean and requires a minimum of maintenance. The downside is that it has about as much recoil as a pump gun or O/U. The short recoil action does little to absorb recoil.
The 11-87 is gas operated. It is less reliable when wet, gets dirty after shooting, but is soft in recoil. Very soft.
While the Benelli sounds like a slam dunk for a waterfowler pursuing ducks and geese, you will want to note that the 3-1/2″ Benellis can be very fussy about shooting light loads. Don’t expect reliable cycling performance out of anything much less than a 3 dram 1-1/8 oz target load. If you just use the gun for hunting, you won’t care. If you use the gun for clay targets to practice for hunting so that you can actually hit something, then you are going to care a whole lot. The 3″ Remington isn’t great on target loads either, but it will cycle a lighter load than the 3-1/2″ Benelli.
The Benelli will work reliably with hot 2-3/4″ shells, all 3″ and all 3-1/2″ shells. The latter will be a thrill to shoot in a relatively light gun with little recoil absorption. The gun will shoot them all day, but you won’t want to. A few won’t kill you though. Besides, it’s great incentive to hit what you aim at the first time. 3-1/2″ shells are used mainly by people who want to heave the most steel shot possible. Steel is so miserable ballistically that you have to shoot huge pellets at very high velocity to have any effect on geese. That means you need a bigger case to hold all the huge pellets. The reason that people go through this is that steel shot is cheaper than the much, much more efficient new non-toxics like Federal’s Tungsten-Iron and the amazing new Hevi-Shot. These latter two work great in 3″ shells.
28″ barrels would be ideal for a nice combo duck/goose gun. That’s what I’d get.
Don’t worry about friction rings and such. Those come from the old A-5 Browning auto design. The Benelli doesn’t use them. I’m not aware of Beretta producing the 391 in a lefty model, though I don’t spend a lot of time in Italy swirling spaghetti with the designers and marketing guys. Beretta’s 391 and previous 390 do come in synthetic stocked models. All the Beretta gas guns are 3″, but they will absolutely shoot anything from the lightest practical target load to the heaviest 3″.
Benelli also makes a Montefeltro model which is not a 3-1/2″ gun. It just takes 2-3/4″ and 3″, but it does a little better with medium strength target loads. That might also be a consideration. I really think that it is important to practice on clays a little with your waterfowl gun before the season starts. Take that into consideration.
Benelli is a good gun and is an excellent choice for the rigors of waterfowling. Just give some thought to whether you need that 3-1/2″ capability. Some guys do, some don’t.
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)