Brought my brand new Stoeger M 3500 out to the trap range today and thought everyone would like a quick review. First of all, I got the 28" black version from Bud's for $519. After FFL and CA DROS, I was out the door for $604. I installed the steel recoil reducer and ran it wide open with the "Improved Cylinder" choke.
All of my prior trap experience has been with over unders, so the first thing I noticed was the weight of the 3500 from the forend to the end of the barrel. I wouldn't say the gun is unbalanced, but it's going to take a while to get used to swinging that extra weight around. At the range, one of my friends had his Benelli Montefeltro and the other rented a pump action for the day. the 3500 was heavier than the other two by about 0.5 lbs.
We swapped guns back and forth to get a feel for each gun. Recoil was least-felt on the 3500 (probably due to the installed reducer); it certainly was miles better than any over under I've ever shot.
For sighting, both the Stoeger and the Benelli share the same red bar front sight, which was fantastic compared to a bead sight.
As far as swinging the barrel around goes, the Montefeltro was probably best, due it being a bit lighter. It wasn't twice as good as the Stoeger, but it is twice as expensive. I suppose there's something about diminishing returns...
We were shooting the range's cheapest, lightest ammunition. The Stoeger cleared three boxes without a hitch (unlike the pump). I did notice that sometimes the bolt would finished locked open and other times, it would return to the closed position. That probably had something to do with how light a load we were shooting, but it didn't cause any failure to ejects.
Even though the Montefeltro felt a little better, overall, I'm very happy with my purchase. I like that the 3500 is more versatile; it can shoot 2-1/4-inch up to 3-1/2-inch without any adjustments. Plus, the recoil reducer is a great feature, it came with five chokes, and I suppose the shims and scope rail may come in handy someday. I'm sure there are better trap guns, better waterfowl guns, and better turkey guns, but the 3500 can do all three very well. Put it another way: it's a can-do-everything-master-of-none-type gun, which is exactly what I wanted.
A note on dependability: the Benelli and the Stoeger are based on the same inertia system and share nearly identical internals. My friend has had his Benelli for years and claims he's never cleaned the gun and has never had a malfunction. That probably has something to do with how the gas, dirt, etc. only goes out the barrel (e.g., nothing comes back into the gun like in a gas-operated system). That's one of reasons why I picked the Stoeger over comparable gas-operated systems.
With that being said, I completely stripped and cleaned the 3500 when I first received it. Dis-assembly was as easy as unscrewing the magazine cap and wiggling the bolt handle loose. After that, everything just slides apart for easy access save the inertia bolt internals and the trigger group. However, I don't imagine those need any work done to them, at least on a regular basis. In short, I imagine maintenance will be a breeze.
There you go. I hope this helps others in the hunt for a new shotgun!