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 Post subject: Comparing the Versa Max Sportsman to the SX4
PostPosted: Mon Mar 08, 2021 8:14 pm 
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I thought I’d do an unbiased comparison between the Versa Max Sportsman and the SX4. Some of you may have read the one I did between the A300 Outlander and the SX4. For those who haven’t, I try to stick with facts for the most part. I will give my impressions of each gun, but I try to stay away from subjective comments about my own personal preferences.

I have owned the VM since the final weekend of duck season. My daughter’s bf purchased his SX4 used a few days after. I got the 28” VM Sportsman from Gander for $832. $931 after tax and background check. A new SX4 in bottom land camo runs 899.99 at gander before tax, however, there are no SX4s in stock at the local gander here. There are a few at my lgs for $995.99.

I bagged a duck with the first shot from my VM, and had a successful final weekend of Duck season with it. We snow goose hunted after duck season was over. The SX4 did have cycling issues on the coldest day of our hunt. It just didn’t want to feed another round.

He mentioned using Rem oil to clean the gun after he purchased it, so I suspect the oil thickened up in the cold temps. I took the SX4 home, cleaned it, and lubed it with CLP and hoppes gun oil. It cycled fine after that. The temps were still below freezing, but nowhere near as cold as it was when the SX4 wouldn’t cycle. The VM cycled without issue.

We cleaned our guns after goose season. I did not remove the pistons from the sleeves in the VM, however. We shot clays yesterday. He left the patternmaster anaconda in the SX4, and I decided to make it challenging for me as well. I put the Carlson Long beard choke in the Versa Max.

We had to wait for my daughter to get tired of shooting clays with the Outlander, before she would allow us to shoot, but she finally decided to let us have a few rounds. He brought a 2 gallon bucket of miscellaneous shells for us to shoot.

Everything from 2 3/4” 1oz #8, to 3.5” shells. We picked out the low brass 2 3/4” shells. The shells were old, the brass was rusty on most of them, and they were extremely dirty. We didn’t clean them before shoving them in the mag tubes. We wanted to see if both guns would cycle them. Both guns functioned without any issues.

When I compared the other SX4 to my Outlander, I noted how difficult it was to load shells into the magazine. I had to manipulate them to get them started into the mag tube. I did not experience the same issue with this SX4. It loaded as smoothly as the Outlander. The shells entered the mag tube with little effort.

Loading the VM wasn’t as easy. The shells started into the mag tube smoothly, but there was much more resistance from the spring. It took much more effort to push the shells in. I’m assuming it will get easier to do over time. The SX4 is a couple of years old and has had more rounds through it.

I took the guns home to check the weight of them, check trigger pull weight, and clean the mag tubes. The shells we used were EXTREMELY dirty. I didn’t clean anything but the mag tubes. We want to run them a few hundred rounds to see if there are any cycling issues, before cleaning them again.

I started with the VM. I used a Lyman trigger scale to get the measurements. The VM without a sling weighed 8.06 lbs. The weight of gun is balanced more towards the center. I checked the trigger pull weight 10 times to get a good average. The average trigger pull weight of the VM is 5.6 lbs.

I removed the forearm nut, forearm, barrel, charging handle, bolt assembly, trigger group pin, and trigger group. I inserted my finger into the mag spring retainer and turned it 1/4 turn clockwise. I removed the retainer, and mag spring. I turned the receiver over and the shell follower slid out of the tube. I cleaned the mag tube, shell follower, and mag spring. Once done, I reassembled the gun. The VM is very easy to clean and the magazine tube is very easy to disassemble, insert/remove the plug, and clean as well.

Next up was the SX4. The gun weighed 7.1 lbs without a sling. The average trigger pull was 6.15 lbs. the weight of the gun is balanced towards the front of the gun. I removed the forearm nut, forearm, barrel, piston, sleeve, sleeve spring, charging handle, bolt assembly, punched out 2 trigger group pins and removed the trigger group. A few more parts to it than disassembling the VM for a cleaning, but still not difficult.

Removing the mag spring retainer was the tricky part. There is a slot about 1/2” from the end of the mag tube, and the retainer catches on the slot. I pushed in on the catch with a flathead screw driver, while holding my other hand over the mag spring retainer. When it finally gave way, the spring popped out like a jack in the box and got tangled up. It took me a few minutes to untangle the spring, before sliding the shell follower out.

I cleaned the mag tube, follower, and spring. I had some difficulty putting the spring back into the tube. It slipped a couple of times and got tangled. I did finally get it back together and reassembled the gun.

I noticed that the SX4 was much dirtier than the VM when I disassembled them. We had only had about 75 rounds through each of them. I was a bit surprised at the amount of build up in the gas system of the SX4 so soon after a good cleaning. I also noticed that the rib at the top of the barrel didn’t align precisely with the rib at the top of the receiver of the SX4. It did not negatively affect the performance of the gun at all, however it was noticeable.

We shot both guns well. Both of us were able to disintegrate clays with the tight chokes in them. It was clear both guns shot at poa well. They are balanced very differently, and there is nearly a lb of difference in the weight, but neither gun appeared to offer an advantage or disadvantage to us when shooting. The VM does offer significantly less recoil than the SX4, but the SX4 wasn’t uncomfortable to shoot either. I will continue to update as we get more time with the guns. If anyone out there is looking for a 3.5” gas gun priced under $1,000 I would easily recommend either of them.




Last edited by SHughes on Fri Mar 12, 2021 7:58 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Comparing the Versa Max Sportsman to the SX4
PostPosted: Mon Mar 08, 2021 8:18 pm 
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Joined: Thu Dec 27, 2018 10:16 am
Posts: 181
Here’s a photo of the guns


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 Post subject: Re: Comparing the Versa Max Sportsman to the SX4
PostPosted: Mon Mar 08, 2021 9:50 pm 
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Nice writeup SHughes. I always thought about getting a V-Max, but never got around to taking the plunge. Missed that boat :!: :!: :!:



cdb

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 Post subject: Re: Comparing the Versa Max Sportsman to the SX4
PostPosted: Tue Mar 09, 2021 7:03 am 
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Joined: Thu Dec 27, 2018 10:16 am
Posts: 181
cdb1097 wrote:
Nice writeup SHughes. I always thought about getting a V-Max, but never got around to taking the plunge. Missed that boat :!: :!: :!:



cdb

There are still some on the shelves. I felt the same way about a V3. My concern about the V3 is availability of parts.


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 Post subject: Re: Comparing the Versa Max Sportsman to the SX4
PostPosted: Tue Mar 09, 2021 8:17 am 
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Joined: Sun Dec 17, 2017 9:04 am
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SHughes wrote:
cdb1097 wrote:
Nice writeup SHughes. I always thought about getting a V-Max, but never got around to taking the plunge. Missed that boat :!: :!: :!:



cdb

There are still some on the shelves. I felt the same way about a V3. My concern about the V3 is availability of parts.


A legit concern and a pity. They are excellent guns. I did pick up what was probably one of the very last bolt carrier assemblies available to serve as a spare on the chance that I have the reported cam pin issue. Naturally, because I did, I`ve probably ensured that my original cam pin will never shear! Unless something else breaks, I figure I`m set for the rest of my shooting days as far as my V3 is concerned. Of course, not shooting anything as much as I used to in an effort to conserve ammo for the field.


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 Post subject: Re: Comparing the Versa Max Sportsman to the SX4
PostPosted: Tue Mar 09, 2021 9:49 am 
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Joined: Thu Dec 27, 2018 10:16 am
Posts: 181
Tidefanatic wrote:
SHughes wrote:
cdb1097 wrote:
Nice writeup SHughes. I always thought about getting a V-Max, but never got around to taking the plunge. Missed that boat :!: :!: :!:



cdb

There are still some on the shelves. I felt the same way about a V3. My concern about the V3 is availability of parts.


A legit concern and a pity. They are excellent guns. I did pick up what was probably one of the very last bolt carrier assemblies available to serve as a spare on the chance that I have the reported cam pin issue. Naturally, because I did, I`ve probably ensured that my original cam pin will never shear! Unless something else breaks, I figure I`m set for the rest of my shooting days as far as my V3 is concerned. Of course, not shooting anything as much as I used to in an effort to conserve ammo for the field.


I still want one. I’ve wondered how much it would cost to get a spare cam pin machined.


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 Post subject: Re: Comparing the Versa Max Sportsman to the SX4
PostPosted: Tue Mar 09, 2021 3:01 pm 
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Joined: Thu Dec 27, 2018 10:16 am
Posts: 181
So far we’ve only got about 200 rounds through our guns. Ammo shortage has slowed us down a bit. Hopefully we can find some low brass rounds and get more trigger time soon. I forgot to mention the things I did and didn’t particularly like about each gun. I’m not gonna talk about “feel” of the guns or anything like that. That information helps no one. Weight isn’t a big concern for me either. I hike frequently with a backpack on my back for several miles through mountain trails. No gun is really gonna give me much issue if I have to carry it during an upland game hunt. Those choices are for the individual to decide.

Things I like about the VM:
1) lack of felt recoil. This gun is a very soft shooter! I shot 2 boxes of 3.5” BBs in 2 days during my snow goose hunting, and my shoulder never hurt at all. Not even any bruising. The softest shooting gun I had ever shouldered prior to the VM would either be my brother’s Browning Gold, or my buddy’s A400 Extreme plus. The VM shoots softer than both of them.

2) it’s really easy to clean. It doesn’t get dirty as quickly as my A300 Outlander, or the SX4. When it does need to be cleaned, it’s very simple. Very similar to cleaning an Inertia gun. The only extra step is removing the pistons and soaking them, however that isn’t required every time.

3) availability of parts should I need them. I have been fascinated by the versa port design and its simplicity. The one thing that scared me away from a V3 is lack of available parts, should something break. That isn’t an issue with the VM. Most of the moving parts and parts that will wear are interchangeable with Benelli. I’m not concerned about having to purchase another shotgun if something breaks.

4) price. If you want a gas gun for less than $1,000, your options are limited. Unless you want to get a Huglu gun that is. Basically there’s the Mossberg 935, SX4, or a VM Sportsman. There are still a few sportsman guns on the shelf at stores and the black synthetic versions are priced in the $800 to $900 price range.

5) the ease in which the shell limiter (plug) can be installed or removed. It’s very easy to do compared most auto loaders. There are some that are even easier, but it only takes a minute or so to twist the retainer out, drop the plug in, and twist it back on

6) A shell can be “ghost” loaded (aka floated) giving an extra round on the first volley when shooting game such as Crow, or Snow Geese.

7) the large safety. The Sportsman doesn’t have oversize controls, but the safety is large. It’s easily disengaged with the inside of my trigger finger, as I put my finger inside the trigger guard.

8) It cycles everything from 1oz loads to 3.5” rounds. It has cycled everything I’ve put in it, no matter the weather conditions. I even dropped it in the snow while snow goose hunting. Picked it up, pulled the trigger, and it didn’t miss a beat.

Things I don’t like about the VM Sportsman.
1) the bolt release is very small. This wasn’t a huge issue. I was able to press it with gloves on when Duck hunting, but my daughter couldn’t work the bolt release. I remedied it by getting the gunsmith at my lgs to drill, and tap it and install an oversize bolt release.

2) the oxidized barrel will rust easily. I didn’t give mine the opportunity to get rusty, but there were 3 sportsman shotguns at the store where I got mine. 2 26” and the 28” I purchased. One of the 26” guns showed some signs of slight surface rust. I knew this could be an issue for me, seeing as how I hunt in flooded river bottoms. I got mine cerakoted and dipped. Given proper care and cleaning, I’m sure this wouldn’t be a big deal, but this is my waterfowl gun. It’s gonna get wet.

3) it’s just a 3 plus 1 gun. The mag only holds 3 rounds. Yes, a round can be ghost loaded, but It would be nice to have an actual extra round when Goose or Crow hunting.

4) the mag spring is a little stiff. Loading shells into the mag tube takes force. They start smoothly, but it does take some effort to push them into the tube. I hope this will get easier over time.

So far those are really the only gripes I’ve got about the gun.

What I like about the SX4:
1) the oversize controls. The SX4 was definitely designed to be a waterfowl gun. The large charging handle, large bolt release, and large safety at no added cost are great features. My daughter could easily lock the bolt back. And release it.

2) price. As far as 3.5” gas auto loaders go, there probably isn’t a better value than the SX4. Its a lot of gun for the money.

3) it’s a 4 plus 1 gun. The magazine holds 4 rounds instead of just 3.

4) it’s a fairly soft recoiling gun. It isn’t as soft as the VM, but it’s nearly one lb lighter. It won’t beat the shooter to death like inertia guns, or pump guns can. Some people aren’t recoil sensitive, but for those of us who have shoulder injuries, gas guns are a blessing.

5)it also handled every shell we put in it without issue. Even the 1oz #8 shot 2 3/4 loads. It did have an issue one day during snow goose season, but I attribute that to the oil that was used during cleaning. I cleaned it, and lubed it with CLP, and it didn’t have an issue after that.

6) the ease in which shells go into the mag tube. I used a friends SX4 in the past, and it was not very smooth to load. The shells had to be manipulated to start them into the tube. This one, however, is smooth! The shells glide in as easily as they do in the A300 Outlander.

What I don’t like about the SX4

1) the SX4 is a good shotgun, but the biggest complaint I have about it is when the mag tube spring has to be released for whatever reason. Be it for cleaning, or installing the shell limiter. It is not a simple task and could put your eye out if you’re not careful lol.

2) it gets dirty pretty fast. Gas guns are gonna get dirty much quicker than an inertia gun. The SX4 is no exception. It definitely requires regular cleaning to have trouble free operation. That isn’t an issue, unless you’re in the middle of a snow goose hunt, and you’ve suddenly got a single shot.

3) the rib apparently bends easily. This isn’t something that has been experienced with the gun we are using, but it’s pretty common. I’ve seen a couple of them with bent ribs. Waterfowl guns aren’t treated very well. They get tossed in the bottom of the boat, dropped in the water, and banged against tree limbs and the duck blind. The high rib on the SX4 is great for allowing a fast sight plane, but caution has to be used with it.

4) can’t ghost load a shell. It is a 4 plus 1, so it isn’t a big deal, but as I said with the VM Sportsman, it would be nice to have that extra round when Crow or Snow Goose hunting.

That’s pretty much all I’ve got about the guns so far. I’m still impressed with both of them. I didn’t mention anything about the ability to remove a round from the chamber without loading another, because both can be unloaded without loading another round. Simply pull the charging handle back on the VM and the shell comes out. The other shells will remain in the magazine, unless the trigger is pulled, or the shell release is pressed. To remove a round from the SX4 without loading another from the magazine, just press the shell lifter up, until it blocks the shell in the magazine, and pull the charging handle back. The chambered shell will come out, and the remaining shells will stay in the magazine.


Last edited by SHughes on Sat Mar 13, 2021 6:59 am, edited 8 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Comparing the Versa Max Sportsman to the SX4
PostPosted: Wed Mar 10, 2021 5:55 pm 
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Joined: Mon Mar 09, 2020 1:42 pm
Posts: 21
Location: Eastern shore, Maryland
Good read, thanks for posting your experiences {hs#

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 Post subject: Re: Comparing the Versa Max Sportsman to the SX4
PostPosted: Thu Mar 11, 2021 8:47 pm 
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Joined: Thu Dec 27, 2018 10:16 am
Posts: 181
Merganser wrote:
Good read, thanks for posting your experiences {hs#


Thanks! I know how frustrating it can be when someone is seeking unbiased information about shotguns. I try to stay away from subjective comments about personal preferences. Just factual information.


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 Post subject: Re: Comparing the Versa Max Sportsman to the SX4
PostPosted: Fri Mar 12, 2021 8:34 am 
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Thanks for the report,SHughes.A you stated in your report, in the other test with the SX4 and the Outlander,you had some failures to load with the SX4 in cold weather.As you say ,it appeared the type of oil was the problem.

The SX4 you used in this test worked prefect ,even with rusty ammunition.Also you had no problem with the third shell not firing as it should.

Do you think it was something with the other SX4 itself,needed cleaning,wrong oil or the operator ,that caused the problem with the third shell in the other SX4? :)

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 Post subject: Re: Comparing the Versa Max Sportsman to the SX4
PostPosted: Fri Mar 12, 2021 1:29 pm 
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Joined: Thu Dec 27, 2018 10:16 am
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28 gauge wrote:
Thanks for the report,SHughes.A you stated in your report, in the other test with the SX4 and the Outlander,you had some failures to load with the SX4 in cold weather.As you say ,it appeared the type of oil was the problem.

The SX4 you used in this test worked prefect ,even with rusty ammunition.Also you had no problem with the third shell not firing as it should.

Do you think it was something with the other SX4 itself,needed cleaning,wrong oil or the operator ,that caused the problem with the third shell in the other SX4? :)

I cleaned the other SX4 before I started using it. It is an older version than the one we are currently using. Loading the magazine was not smooth at all in the first SX4. The one we are using now loads very smoothly. I’m guessing the issue I had with the older SX4 not firing the third round when I was testing it was likely due to me not allowing the trigger to travel far enough to reset. I am in law enforcement and we train with Glock handguns. Ive trained myself to have muscle memory on easing off the trigger far enough for it to reset and fire another round. I can’t blame the gun for something that may very well have been something that was the result of my training. The newer SX4 does have a better trigger, however. It also has less travel in it. I have not experienced any issues with it not firing the third round.


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 Post subject: Re: Comparing the Versa Max Sportsman to the SX4
PostPosted: Sat Mar 20, 2021 10:23 pm 
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Joined: Fri Dec 21, 2007 7:15 pm
Posts: 117
Location: Alma, NE
Rem Oil has turned many semi auto's into single shots when the temp drops. That's my first question when someone tells me their gun isn't cycling. You using Rem Oil? That stuff is terrible in cold weather. No offense to those that like it.


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 Post subject: Re: Comparing the Versa Max Sportsman to the SX4
PostPosted: Sun Mar 21, 2021 6:49 am 
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Joined: Thu Dec 27, 2018 10:16 am
Posts: 181
I agree. I know there are some in here who swear by it, but the SX2 my buddy hunts with was also having cycling issues in the cold weather. I’m pretty sure it was also cleaned with Rem oil. I cleaned it, lubed it with CLP, and solved the cold weather cycling issues with it as well. I have a bottle of Rem oil in the bottom of my cleaning kit, but after experiencing two shotguns having cold weather cycling issues after having been cleaned with it, I think I’ll just throw it away.


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 Post subject: Re: Comparing the Versa Max Sportsman to the SX4
PostPosted: Mon Apr 12, 2021 10:10 am 
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Joined: Thu Dec 27, 2018 10:16 am
Posts: 181
I took my Versa Max and V3 to my best friend’s house to shoot some clays this weekend. I left the A300 in the truck. I know all I need to know about it, and since my daughter has claimed it, I doubt I’ll hunt with it much from here on out.

my buddy brought out his A400 Extreme plus. We shot all three guns, and hit well with them. He noted how light the V3 was, and commented how much it felt like shooting an 870. I tend to agree with him there. It is a very comfortable gun to shoot, other than the blow back, which we both experienced. It was a windy day, however, and we were shooting into the wind.

The blow back is mild and doesn’t affect our ability to shoot the gun. I will likely apply some black tape to the inside of the forearm where it meets the receiver to see if that eliminates the blowback. If not, it’s not bad enough to deter me from shooting the gun.

we fired about 40 more target loads through it today. Mostly 2 3/4” 7.5 1oz shot Aguilla shells. It cycled them all. I have been keeping a close eye on the cam pin after shooting each time, and the scoring doesn’t appear to be worsening. I did talk with the gunsmith at my LGS concerning the cam pin. There was a used V3 at the store, so I took it apart and showed him the areas of concern. He informed me that he doubts I’ll have a failure, but it’s not a difficult repair if I do. That eased my mind quite a bit.

I have the same impression of it as I did the first time I took it out. It is a fairly soft recoiling gun. Slightly softer than the A300. The shell catch is stiff and it’s much more difficult to load the magazine than my Beretta. Points naturally for me and handles like an 870. There’s some blow back, and I wish the safety was larger. I may get a larger safety button for it in the future. All in all, it’s a good gun, but the nod still goes to the A300. The A300 just doesn’t have any issues.

the Versa Max is still my favorite of the 3. It never fails, and it’s comfortable to shoot. I’ve got near 400 trouble free rounds of all size and payload shells through it. I did wipe the bolt, trigger assembly, and receiver down and oil it after snow goose season, but I still haven’t removed the pistons.

I shot it back to back with my buddy’s A400 Extreme Plus. They are both very soft shooting guns. Honestly, there was no way to determine which shot softer with target ammo. We will put steel through both of them later this year and see if there’s a difference.

The only advantage the A400 offered over the VM was how much easier it is to load rounds in the magazine. Just like my A300, loading shells into the A400 was smooth and easy. The VM isn’t quite as stiff as the V3, but it’s not nearly as smooth as the Berettas. Other than that, the A400 offered no advantage over the VM for me. Even with the dip, cerakote, and the added oversized bolt release and charging handle, I’ve got $500 less invested in my gun than he does his black synthetic A400.




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