Realizing your predisposition, I’ll ask anyway… I’ve been shooting a Beretta 686 for about 1 1/2 years now, primarily for sporting clays. I like the gun, it fits me well, and I may do nothing, but I have the bug to get an autoloader.
I find I rarely use two different chokes and having to change both gets me lazy and I tend to shoot IC/IC at everything. I like the idea of less felt recoil and 1 choke to change. I realize on two trap stations I’ll have to choke to the “tightest” target.
My wife shoots a 20ga. AL390, and it’s a nice gun (I will take your advise and try Break Free CLP).
I don’t like how wide the fore end is and all the parts that need to be cleaned. I’ve narrowed my search down to the AL390 (12 ga) or Benelli Sport. The Sport has the slimmer fore end and simpler internals since it’s recoil operated. Reading through your and others stuff my concerns are felt recoil and reliability. I’m guessing that felt recoil will be closer to the 390 vs. the 686 but don’t know since the gun is light and inertially operated. Benelli claims that the gun handles target loads, but don’t know what their definition of a “target load” is (that could mean 3 dram 1 1/8).
Your wisdom would be appreciated on both the change from O/U to auto and the choices.
Since you asked me my opinion, here it is. Remember, consider the source. Wiser, saner people might well draw different conclusions. Of course, they’re wrong and I’m right. There it is in the world belonging to the Technoid.
I don’t think that any Benelli semi-auto makes a suitable dedicated clay target gun. Period. They make great hunting guns once you get past the dwarf sized stock. I have spent some time recently shooting one of their dedicated clay target models (the one with the 3″ chambers and fancy silver receiver). I thought that it kicked like a mule with target loads, FAR more than my FN Browning O/U. This was probably due to the fact that the Benelli weighs at least half to 3/4 pound less than my FN target gun and also due to the stock fit. I shoot a long stock, but even so I have always found the Benellis ridiculously short. It may have more to do with the placement of the pistol grip than the standard LOP measurement, but the result is the same. Short, light guns always kick more than long, heavy ones.
The Benelli short recoil action does virtually nothing to dampen recoil in my experience. The long recoil operated Browning A-5s always seemed to me to be heavy recoilers too, but again there is a short stock involved. Recoil operated guns do NOT reduce recoil the way gas guns do. Don’t make that mistake.
That’s why I don’t like the Benellis strictly for clays. Recoil can be a major factor in any heavy clay shooting regime. The occasional shooter may not notice it, but the 25,000 round per year guy sure will. I do not personally know of ANY competitive clay target shooter who has stuck with the Benelli, though I know of several who have tried them. I am sure that there are exceptions, but I just haven’t met them in my travels. On the other hand, hunters flock to them and seem to be very pleased. In Argentina dove and duck hunting, the durable Benellis are often the “house” guns for visiting hunters, though I wouldn’t want to shoot three or four cases of shells at dove with one.
To my not-overly-sensitive shoulder, the softest box-stock gas gun out right now is the Remington SC sporting clays model with the silver receiver. Second softest is the Browning Gold, but its recoil pulse is a bit like a pogo stick with a wide space between the “sproinging” of the springs. Beretta’s 390 is in third place in the recoil derby. The difference between all three isn’t very great, but you can notice it. The Benellis are more in league with a fixed breech gun in my perception.
While I am not a fan of the Benelli stock or their recoil, the 3″ ones that I have shot functioned quite well with 1-1/8 oz 2-3/4 dram target loads. I never used anything less. Actually, I never shoot anything less on clays because I use a recoil reducing gas gun. I would never let the recoil of the gun dictate the type of shell I had to use if I was serious about my score. I would pick the best shell available to give me the most effective killing pattern and then find a gun that would permit me to shoot it. Not the other way around the way many people do after they buy a gun and find out that they don’t like the recoil with standard loads.
I highly recommend the tough Benellis for hunting because most hunting situations (other than volume South American dove) don’t have you shooting a whole bunch of shells. The Benellis are extraordinarily reliable and have durable parts. They rarely break. Where the Benellis really shine in when hunting under adverse conditions. No gas gun likes total immersion baptism. The Benellis can take a real soaking and keep running. Of course, if you shoot them with a barrel full of water or mud, they will blow up like anything else, but you’d deserve it.
Changing from two barrels to one in sporting clays really isn’t much of a disadvantage. Most up-to-date courses don’t still go in for the mickey mouse presentations of a 40 yarder backed up by a ten yarder. Things have gotten much more sophisticated in well designed courses. Two chokes is not that much of an advantage as it might seem to a new shooter. Polywad Spred-R (maker’s number is 912-477-0669) make two spreader inserts. The most open one will spread your reload’s pattern by two complete chokes (full to IC, for example). It works remarkably well. The other will spread the pattern by one choke as will the factory loaded Victory Dispenser shells. Careful shell selection will go a long way towards overcoming the lack of two chokes. Also, always choke for the long bird and use a special shell to open up for the short bird.
The Technoid at <www.ShotgunReport.com>
(Often in error, never in doubt.)