I've been out shooting this O/U several times now and have really grown to like it! I originally went to purchase a used Winchester 24 SxS, but that piece was extremely well enjoyed and a little too expensive for the condition. Besides, I need a gun that can shoot steel shot anyway.
I did some internet research first on the field combo... not that there is a lot out there. The most is probably on the Benelli DVD catalog. “See! Look at our gun. Isn’t it nice?” That’s about it, really. There are a number of mixed reviews to read, though.
For the price, a matte finished stock, a 12g and 20g barrel set with improved cylinder and modified choke tubes and choke wrenches was good for me to start with! One thing I did notice is that Dick’s Sporting Good stores are not listed with Stoeger as an authorized dealer. I decided to go to an authorized dealer instead. The gun shop was very willing to repair any problems or send it to Stoeger for any repair work. This gun was on display, but had no blemishes or visible problems and still doesn’t.At home inspection
One question I do have is, what on earth do they coat these things with before shipping? It took a while to clean whatever it was off before shooting. If it is designed to protect against rust and corrosion, it worked well. The only spot that was missed was on one of the 12g choke tube threads. I soon fixed that little oversight; THANK YOU Hoppes and Rem oil!At the range
Now the fun begins! I brought along my favorite, a ‘58 Ithaca Model 37 pump with a 26“ barrel and a fixed modified choke, and the Stoeger with a 28“ barrel. I shoot clays at a local hunters practice range; often alone so I’m not too embarrassed… We all have those kind of days, right? On this day I was very pleased NO ONE ELSE was there. I stopped counting after 30 missed out of 140. A few days later, I was able to watch Tom Knapp shoot on TV. I then realized that my one eye was closed; a very uncharacteristic thing for me to do. Good! Now I know I’m not shooting blanks.
The next week I went out again. This time was MUCH better. I missed overall less than 10% and this is a more fair impression of the O/U. I took no chances this time. I brought along the pump, a SxS, and the Stoeger O/U . I practiced shooting both single and double targets with 2 ¾, 1oz, 7 ½ shells as well as shot size 6 shells. The pump, for sentimental reasons, is my favored piece, but it can not match the speed of a double barrel. It also is a little lighter than the others so I get a bit more recoil/muzzle lift. This makes the second target more of a challenge. Well, that and having to load the next shell…
The SxS is so cool to shoot and also the longest range of all. A Savage/Stevens 311 with a 30” barrel and modified and full fixed chokes. I am the quickest on doubles with this piece. I think maybe I have been watching too many John Wayne movies because I just love the feel and look of this one.
The Stoeger is next and I shoot as well with it as the others. It shoulders well and my eyes are where they need to be; looking right down the rib. Of course, I normally focus on the target. It moves well and hits what I point it at… whether that is a clay or just air. I patterned it and found a rectangular spread, longer on the sides than on the top and bottom. Reload. WOW! It takes a little muscle to open this fella. I lubricated the hammers and the action and it moved very easily. But cocking those hammers takes some effort. I read it takes a little time to work those, so I’ll be testing that opinion… a lot.
The single trigger is convenient. The SxS has two triggers. Honestly, I like the duel triggers. If I have a misfire, I fall back to the second trigger. On the single trigger Stoeger, I have to cycle the safety switch to select the second barrel; pretty standard, I guess. I did have a few misfires, but they were with both double barrel guns. I figure I didn’t close the action properly… less finesse and more force equals no problem. For me though, by the time I cycle the safety the target is out of range, like on the ground out of range. That initiates the second of two “Wha da!” I just need more practice. It is important to mention that the Stoeger barrel does not get as hot as quickly as the other two older pieces. This is a good thing, because I can shoot 10-15 shots with the Stoeger compared to 6-10. Listen, I know how I would feel being asked to run a marathon at 52 years of age in summer heat. “oh, yeah, sure thing, ah…. NOT!” Winter is another story altogether. I shot about 50 rounds with the 12g so now it was time to try the 20g.
I have never shot 20g and only expected a lighter recoil. I was right on that, but I found a whole new gun when the 20g 26” barrel is on. It feels more balanced. I assume that more of the weight is towards the stock, but it’s a winner. I found the forearm sits more securely to the 20 than the 12. I only had one incident when opening the 12g to reload. The forearm came loose as well as the barrel, hitting chokes first into the sandy soil below. Not a problem, no body saw me and nobody can prove anything! It was funny and I do wish I had it on camera; leaning forward and groping the air with the action in one hand and the forearm in the other. Oh, whew! both barrels were unloaded.
All in all, the Stoeger is fun to shoot and is something that I can afford. I can only guess, but I believe the 12g will be better for skeet. It feels more muzzle heavy and may have a better swing-through. For birding, I’d love to have the Ithaca. It is lighter and has a three shell magazine (five without the dowel), but it is not recommended for use with steel shot. Unfortunately, our state DOES require steel shot in wetlands and other areas. When I go birding, the Stoeger will go with me. Given its excellent shouldering, maneuverability, and choice of 12g or 20g, I’ll overlook the added weight and just enjoy. If I could request one thing, though, it would be a stock that I can grip like the Ithaca. One I can, very comfortably, hold and maneuver behind the trigger single handed without fatigue or straining anything. I don’t think I ever want to SHOOT one handed… sounds a little too Hollywood Terminator-ish for my tastes.