Pheasants Forever reviews 6 shotguns for the female shooter and uplander
By Erin Holmes
The Pheasants Forever 2018 Shotgun Showcase at the Northbrook Sports Club in Hainesville, Illinois, was a much-anticipated event for me. The prospect of having a cadre of ladies join me to test women’s shotguns was exciting indeed.
In our group were several Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) wingshooting instructors, an Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) Learn To Hunt Coordinator, an NRA shooting instructor, and me — a constantly-learning, aspiring hunter and markswoman. I learned much as we went from station to station, discussed each gun at length, and talked about how each gun would fit into our lives.
Learning to think of a shotgun as an extension of one’s arm and something that moves with you fluidly was certainly a new way for me to think of a gun, and I fine-tuned my shooting approach with help from my knowledgeable partners. I’m a better shooter now for it. I’m also a better shooter for having had all these shotguns in hand, and experiencing firearms specifically designed for women.
Watch the video, then take a look at what we thought about each of the showcase shotguns.
SYREN ELOS VENTI LIGHT 28-GAUGE OVER-UNDER
This gun is just beautiful! That’s the case for all Syren’s guns, and there is nothing wrong with an aesthetically pleasing shotgun.
The women that reviewed this gun came to the conclusion that the Syren Elos Venti Light 28-Gauge Over-Under might have been the best gun out on the course. Everyone agreed that it was an attractive gun with its Turkish walnut stock, nickel action and engraved inlays.
But the Venti Light didn’t just look good. At only 5 pounds 11 ounces, it was light and felt just-right as you shouldered it. The recoil was minimal, and its 28-inch barrel fit well for smaller-framed shooters, as well as some with taller frames.
Kristen Black, INHS Learn To Hunt coordinator, stated: “Fancy. Perfect fit for a shorter person. Light and wieldy. AWESOME!”
Terry Doyle, a wingshooting instructor, raved: “Just needs a couple of tweaks to fit me and I could stand here all day.”
With an MSRP of $3,275, this gun is no small investment. But then again, it could be the gun of a lifetime.
Syren’s Elos Venti Light also comes in 20-gauge with a 28-inch barrel. Stocks for lefties are available.
SYREN MAGNUS SPORTING 20-GAUGE OVER-UNDER
The Syren Magnus Sporting 20-Gauge Over-Under is another beautiful, sleek-looking gun with a Turkish walnut stock and a one-of-a-kind engraving motif on the action. This shotgun shouldered like a dream, swings like a dream too, and has minimal recoil.
My own summary for this gun was: “Great swing, I would definitely hunt with this gun! Love it!”
Mary Ellen Stites, IDNR volunteer wingshooting instructor, remarked: “Nice barrel length. Beautiful gun. Nice shooting gun, barrel length helps with swing.”
Claudia Boothe, INHS Learn To Hunt graduate, said: “Beautiful. Light. Great balance. Nice swing and barrel length.”
The Magnus retails for $4,995, another “lifer” gun, yes. The Magnus is also available in 28-gauge with a 28-inch barrel, as well as a 20/28-gauge combo gun with a 28-inch barrel. A left-handed stock option is also available.
CZ UPLAND STERLING 12-GAUGE OVER-UNDER
The CZ-USA Upland Sterling 12-Gauge Over-Under seemed a little heavy at 7.5 pounds, but it is a 12 after all. While swinging a 28-inch barrel, this gun has a raised comb and a handed palm swell that are perfect for women shooters.
The stock is made of Turkish walnut, and a much lighter finish on the gun we shot made it particularly attractive. The Sterling features laser stippling on the stock to give it a slightly different feel and grip. There is a noticeable recoil with this gun, and that was a slight turn-off for some shooters, but overall both our experienced and beginner shooters liked this gun.
Claudia Boothe stated: “A beautiful gun! Love the wood color and design. Love the handed palm swell and comb extension. Very well balanced. Easy to sight and easy to shoot. CZ obviously put a lot of thought and planning into what women shooters are looking for in a 12-gauge and nailed it.”
Our new shooters, such as Deborah Nelson from the Schaumburg Convention Center, even appreciated this gun. “Very good for a beginner like me,” Nelson commented.
Mary Ellen Stites remarked: “I like the checkering. Love the high adjustable comb!”
We were fortunate enough to have a left-handed version of this gun to test out, the CZ-USA Southpaw Sterling 12-Gauge. I currently own a CZ and am used to their style of gun. But trying a version tailored to women, and to a lefty at that, was completely different. It addressed shooting issues I didn’t even know I had. This really made me appreciate the concept of finding the gun you never want to stop shooting.
Between the palm swell and stippling on the stock, this gun stood out to everyone. MSRP is $999.
FRANCHI AFFINITY 3 CATALYST 20-GAUGE SEMI-AUTOMATIC
The Franchi Affinity 3 Catalyst 20-Gauge Semiauto is a classic semi-automatic that has been redesigned to better fit women. The 20-gauge weighs in at only 5.7 pounds with a 26-inch barrel, while the 12-gauge in at a still-nice 6.6 pounds with a 28-inch barrel.
The Affinity Catalyst has a high comb and hardly any recoil — perfect for women shooters. The satin finish walnut stock gives it a high-end look, but given the weight, fit and swing, this is still a great field gun.
While this gun received good marks overall, it was noted by the majority of shooters that loading the second shell into the magazine was tricky and it had a tendency to snap your thumb. The action seemed a little choppy or slow to move early on, but later shooters didn’t notice that. This gun is priced reasonably at a MSRP of $969.
My notes emphasized: “Recoil is negligible for such a light gun!”
Claudia Boothe commented: “Nicely weighted, a little heavier than the others. A great light field gun. Nice to shoot. Little recoil for the size.”
BERETTA 690 VITTORIA FIELD 20-GAUGE OVER-UNDER
The Beretta 691 Vittoria Field 20-Gauge Over-Under is a classic looking gun with a dark walnut finish, checkered stock, and floral type Rinascimentale engraving. It is available in 26-, 28- and 30-inch barrels.
Shooters all remarked that this gun was light, shouldered well, and was easy to swing. Recoil noted was average to minimal. This model comes with an auto safety feature that was noted by all shooters and a highlight for most.
“Nice high comb and grip. This gun would be a prize in anyone’s cabinet. The 20-gauge is perfect for this gun. I want to use it to shoot doves!” stated one experienced shooter. “Good clean design. Comes up nicely,” said another.
While the gun shouldered easily, not everyone felt the gun lined up as well as they’d like when they sighted. But overall this gun received high marks and several shooters stated they would carry it in the field. MSRP is $3000.
SYREN XLR5 SPORTING
Although it wasn’t on our official gun list for review, I found the gun I never want to put down: The Syren XLR5 Sporting (and there was a left-handed version there I might add).
Every woman who shot this gun — righty or lefty — loved it. It’s designed to be a target gun for women, and is engineered to cycle well with light ammunition, but it could make a good woman’s close-range pheasant gun on bluebird days, too, if you’re brave enough to take its beauty into the field.
In fact, Mary Ellen Stites and I agreed this is our favorite gun. Ever.
This 12-gauge semi-automatic has a 28-inch barrel. MSRP is $2,100 (right-handed) and $2,285 (left-handed).