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For a shotgun used for hunting, the inertia system is best. It makes for a lighter, simpler gun, that in theory, at least, should be more reliable in the field. Shoot a dozen or two shells at birds a day, and recoil is not a factor at all.

But for a target gun, and only because of the felt recoil reduction, then a gas gun is the best. They are often hard to clean (not a Super X One, but most of the rest of them are), and they need cleaning more often, they are heavier (not a disadvantage for a target gun), and they aren't supposed to be as "flexible" as an inertia gun in shooting different loads and shell lengths. But, when you are shooting exactly one load, all day long, hundreds of times, with little or no penalty for gun malfunctions, that recoil reduction of the gas auto is very, very nice, and it's the reason they rule the target sports over the inertia guns.

But, if you have to pick one system to do everything, then my vote is for a gas auto. Why? Because a gas auto makes a reliable hunting gun, too, but an inertia gun kicks more every time you shoot it at targets and there's no getting around it.
 

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Inertia is better.

Gas is cheaper.

In the long run go with Fit before thinking about gas or inertia. Would it matter if gas was better if whenever you fired it you missed because the gun didn't fit you?
 

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Neither is better than the other as long as each is a good design and well made. That would also effect the reliability of gun regardless of operation type. The cycling speed between them all is faster than what 99% of shooters can take advantage of. For the record though the Browning/Winchester current models cycle the quickest.

http://www.winchesterguns.com/prodinfo/ ... .asp?ID=72

The Long Recoil operating system is used in the famous Browning Auto-5. The design was introduced in 1902 and is still being produced today (2007). In 1970 the two millionth Auto-5 rolled off the assembly line. In 1999 the last Auto-5's called The Finial Tribute came off the line. Franchi took the torch for the long recoil design. They are still producing the AL48 that started in 1948.

When this design is loaded and the chambered shell is fired. The bolt and barrel are locked together with the fired shell between them and moves backwards from the recoil of the fired shell. Once the bolt and barrel reach the most rearward position the hammer is cocked and the barrel is pulled forward from the heavy spring around the magazine tube. The fired shell stays hooked to the bolt by the extractor that holds the rim of the shell base. When the barrel is almost to it's forward position the ejector mounted on the barrel extension towards the back, slides forward hitting the bottom of the shell base. The fired shell is then thrown out of the eject port in the receiver. While the bolt and barrel are moving backwards a round is being released from the magazine onto the carrier. The fresh round then engages the bolt latch and the bolt is pushed forward from the action spring mounted in the stock. As the bolt moves forward the carrier lifts the shell and the bolt pushes the round in the chamber for the next shot.

Long Recoil guns are a fairly simple design, making them easy to clean. Some models are more time consuming than others. The Browning Auto-5 would be one of them with all of its screws, counter screws, and pins that need to be removed for complete teardowns. The Franchi AL48 models have drop out trigger groups like other modern shotguns. Being the oldest semi auto design, it has a proven track record for reliability.
The Long Recoil design is not known for its load versatility. The friction ring needs to placed in the proper setting for the gun to cycle correctly. With magnum guns that handle 3" shells. They have two sets of rings that must be set correctly. They are not the best operating system for lighter loads.

The Short Recoil system was first used on the Browning Double Automatic released around 1955. It was later found on the short lived Browning A-500R that ran from 1987-1993.

When the gun is loaded and fired the barrel and bolt stay connected and moves back from the recoil. After the barrel moves back about 1/2'" it is stopped by a stack of buffers around the magazine tube and then pushed forward by a short heavy spring between the buffers and barrel band. The backwards momentum continues with the bolt which unlocks the rotary bolt face. The extractor pulls the fired shell out of the chamber by the rim of the base. The bottom of the base then hits the ejector and the fired shell it ejected out of the receiver. When the bolt is moving backwards, a shell is released from the magazine onto the carrier and contacts the bolt latch. The bolt is then pushed forward by the action springs that are between the bolt and receiver. Once the bolt starts moving forward the carrier lifts the shell up and the bolt pushes the round into the chamber for the next shot.

The Short Recoil system was an improvement over the Long Recoil system for load versatility. It could shoot both 2 ¾" and 3" loads interchangeably due to a heavy spring contained within the bolt. The system was a little more complicated than the Long Recoil design. The Short Recoil system was used on only a few models. It's the least popular of all the operating systems for the semi auto shotgun.

It was Remington who made gas operation a mainstay with semi auto shotguns when they released their model 1100 in 1963. The model is still being produced today. The Gas design went virtually unchanged for the most part until 1990. Beretta was the first manufacturer to take full advantage of the Gas designs potential when they released the model 390. Browning followed suite when they released the Gold in 1994. These newer designs made the older Gas designs antiquated as they have less load versatile and became dirtier faster. There are two types of Gas operations. The first was the long stroke like on the Remington 1100/11-87. The piston travels the full length of the action to cycle it. The second is the short stroke found on the Browning Gold and Winchester SX2. The piston only travels a fraction of the action length.

When the gun is loaded and the shell in the chamber is fired. The expanding gas behind the shot charge is funneled through a small hole/s that are in the bottom of the barrel at the barrel band. The gas pressure then is redirected backwards against the piston. The piston will usually sit in the barrel band creating a chamber where pressure can build. Once enough pressure is exerted, the piston will move backwards. This backwards motion then pushes the bolt back. The extractor that is attached to the bolt hooks the rim of the shell base and pulls it back with the bolt. Once the bolt reaches its almost backwards position. The trigger is re-cocked and the shell's base comes in contact with the ejector, which is usually a metal peg on the left side of the receiver. The shell is then thrown out the ejection port on the receiver. When the bolt is moving backwards, the cartridge stop is being moved and a fresh round is pushed out onto the carrier. The fresh round then trips the bolt latch and the bolt is pushed or pulled forward by the action spring. Some models have the action spring behind the bolt mounted in the stock and pushes it. Other models have the action spring around the magazine tube. Because it is in front of the bolt it pulls the bolt closed. The carrier now lifts the fresh shell up and the bolt pushes it into the chamber ready for the next shot.

One benefit of the newer gas designs is they have better load versatility over the other designs. Meaning that some will cycle a wider range of shells from light 2 ¾" to heavy 3 ½" loads in the same gun without changing barrels or rings.

The disadvantages to the Gas design in general is they will get dirty faster and will take longer to clean than other operating systems. Not all Gas designs are created equally. The Beretta 390, AL391 and Browning Gold (to name a few) will stay clean almost as long as other designs because they vent additional gas bleed off through their forearms. Gas designs like Franchi's, Beretta Xtrema's (derived from Franchi), and Weatherby SAS are almost as fast and easy to clean as the other operating systems. The Beretta AL391 is at the other end of the spectrum as it's a more complicated design and takes longer to do complete teardowns.

Inertia operated semi autos are the new kid on the block. They were first introduced in 1969 by Benelli. Unlike the older Long Recoil and Short Recoil actions. The barrel on an Inertia operated gun does not move backwards. There several other brands that use this action besides Benelli. Companies like Beretta, Franchi, and Stoeger use this design. Granted they are all owned by Beretta including Benelli.

When the gun is loaded and the shell in the chamber is fired. The whole gun moves backwards from the recoil. The bolt its self stays in place. This in turn pushes back the bolt face to compress the Inertia spring contained within the bolt. Once recoil tapers off, the compressed Inertia spring unloads its tension and pushes the bolt reward unlocking the bolt face from the barrel. The extractor that is attached to the bolt face pulls the fired shell backwards by the base of the shell. When the bolt is almost to its most reward position the shell base hits the ejector and the fired shell is ejected out of the receiver. While the bolt is moving backwards the hammer is cocked and a round is being released from the magazine tube onto the carrier and trips the bolt latch. When the bolt is moving forward the carrier lifts the unfired shell up and the bolt pushes it into the chamber ready for the next shot.

Inertia operated guns are very easy to clean as they usually have less parts than other designs. Models like the Franchi I-12 and Stoeger 2000 may be the easiest semi auto models to clean. They both have their action springs around the magazine tubes instead of in their stocks. This operation also gets a little less fouling in their actions like some gas guns. This makes them go a little longer between cleanings if needed in some cases. Inertia guns do need to move backwards from the recoil so the Inertia spring can be loaded. Too much resistance and the system will fail to cycle, so they are more sensetive to added weight. Inertia operated guns also tend to accidentally come out of battery easier than other operating systems. This is amplified if the gun has a rotary bolt face. In this case when the trigger is pulled the hammer will strike the bottom of the bolt instead of the firing pin. Load versatility is improved over the Long Recoil design, but not as good as the better Gas designs.

There are two different bolt designs for the semi auto shotgun. The first design is the top locking lug. This design is found on models like the Browning Auto-5 & Gold and the Beretta AL391. The Beretta Pintail/ES100 locks in a similar manner but, locks at the bottom of the bolt. When the bolt is closed on this design a lug protrudes from the center of the bolt body. It locks into the barrel extension that has either a hole or a dent machined in it. The other design is a rotary bolt. With this design only the face of the bolt rotates instead of the whole bolt body. This design does not require a barrel extension as the face locks into the end of the barrel near the chamber. This helps reduce weight because it eliminates a large piece of steel. It also provides a little more lug surface as there are usually multiple lugs. The design is easier to come out of battery accidentally if the gun is set down hard on its stock. Rotary bolt guns also tend to be longer as the bolts themselves are longer.

Semi autos in general take longer to clean than other action types. With complete teardowns they range from the very easy like the Franchi I-12 and Stoeger 2000 to the more difficult like the Beretta AL391 and Browning Auto-5. All semi autos need to have their barrels, actions, receivers, trigger groups, bolts, recoil tube and assemblies (if applicable), and magazine tube (inside and out) and assemblies cleaned and on a regular basis. Gas guns need to have their ports and pistons cleaned as well. Long Recoil guns need their friction rings and barrel spring cleaned.
The recoil spring mounted in the stock (if applicable) is the most neglected area on semi autos and cause a large percentage of failures. Semi autos operate on a precise sequence of events. Having one or more areas that are slowed because maintenance is needed will throw off the timing.

I often shoot back to back to back a Gas, Inertia, and Long Recol operated models that have the same fit, weight, and the same loads. I don't think there is any difference in felt recoil between them.
 

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The "speed" of a semi auto shotgun is sort of like the top speed of a passenger car or truck. It's not relevant at all to normal use, although we all like to own one that can go really fast.

The "slowest" semi auto functions a lot faster than anybody but a "trick shooter" requires.

For target use, a Winchester Super X Model One, with it's short stroke piston, and superlative design, balance, craftsmanship, and materials, is the finest quality regular production semi ever offered to the American public. It's heavy, it came with fixed chokes only, it's not a three inch gun, but for target use it's absolutely the best.

The Beretta 391 is probably the best brand new gas semit offered today. It's receiver is made of aluminum, it has a plastic trigger guard, it's the devil to clean (although it rarely needs cleaning), but it rightfully rules the clay target games today, to the point where if a semi is being used at Sporting Clays, I'd say it's a 95 per cent chance it's a 391. It's no Super X, but it's well made, reliable, durable, and lots of folks seem to be able to hit targets with them.
 

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Well...both....

Two types of auto's have earned space in my gun safes.

My A-5's and the Beretta's (both 390's and 391's).

I'm pretty sure the century of service that A-5's have put in to date speak for itself. We'll have to wait several more decades to see if there are as many fuctional, 50 year old Benelli's on the used gun racks as there are 50+ yr. old A-5's today. I've never had issues with an A-5.

The 390 (391's) have the best gas system ever stuffed in a firearm...period. Copied by many but rarely duplicated. My sporting 390 is over 100,000 rounds in it's life. I've broken one spring...one bolt guide, and rebuilt the trigger over this volume of shells. BUT...it's never jammed...ever.

I cannot share the same feelings as the man above for the Super X one. I found one still NIB (guy selling off his collection) back in the 90's. I have to say I was not impressed. It was junk. Two trips to Nu-Line and it's reliability was rasied to "OK". It was inovative for it's time, to be sure. But all that I've read on the gun tells me that it was anything BUT the cat's meow. A buddy of mine owned one as well and called it the Winchester "jam-o-matic". When he and his wife divorced she said she was taking the Super X with her. He said "Ok". She seemed confused why he wasn't more hurt over the matter.

Glad I was too young to buy them when they first were offered.
 

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The 390 (391's) have the best gas system ever stuffed in a firearm...period. Copied by many but rarely duplicated.
The 390 and AL391 are both good designs. They are not the same as parts from the gas are not the same. I don't know of anyone making a copy of either design. There have been a few with the older 301-304 designs though.
 

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Of course...they are "different". But the essence of the system is pretty much identical.

You, of course, reference the integral spring on the mag. tube on the 391 as apposed to the 390...perhaps the little 'buffer' in the rear of the receiver...etc.

Not enough difference to warrant much distinction. I've always felt that Beretta made the change simply to be able to say they had changed something in 10 years...but not enough to draw away from the systems inherent reliability.

While I understand your comments…it's really splitting hairs...they are the 'same'.

As far as copies…some knock off brands of Turkish manufacture have come pretty close IMHO to copying this system.
 

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The spring, gas tube, jam nuts, the whole magazine cap. Enough to be different. The AL391 also has a much thinner forearm as well. I agree that they are not huge changes but, enough to be different designs.

The Turkish knock off's like the Stoeger Luger/Traditions ALS2100 would be one after the 301-304 design. Which knock off brand/model has the 390 or AL391 design?
 
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