I want to be the first to list all you will see listed here. Benelli,Beretta Xtrema or Xplor 400,Winchester Super X3.I still hunt with the Beretta 390 and shoot 3" shells. I have seen all those i listed get good reviews on here. Just depends who you talk to. Ihave personally seen the Berettas to be the most reliable and most durable.
This was beat to death on a thread a few months ago. Seems like it was an arm wrestling match between the Benelli SBE and the Extrema.
I had both and kept the Extrema because of recoil. I'll shoot steel 3.5" T's on Geese if I'm out of Tungsten Matrix or Bismuth. My son shoots the 3" Black cloud and says it's great.
There's not enough information, Doug, to give a real great answer.
'It depends' ... what are you shooting? Teal & Woodies on a slough? Decoyed Mallards on a riverbend or cove? Pass shooting big ducks and the occasional goose?
Bullets matter more than the gun. I surely like Bismuth, but I handload, and I shoot wood and blue-steel, fixed-choke SxS guns.
If you're going to shoot Steel, any pump or auto that will handle 3" will do you for 95%+ of waterfowl shooting.
3½" 12ga is an answer to a question that should never have been asked.
You probably have the ONE gun you need in your closet already: an 870. ONE load for 85-90% of what you'll shoot: 3" 1oz of #2 steel that starts off at 1400fps or faster. The remaining 10-15% are passing geese, and 3" 1¼oz of Hevi- is sovereign medicine for them.
Mapper, if you can find your old Elsie again, I can help you with some Bismith loads that will make you remember the old days as yesterday ... 'cause that's what they are: Bismuth (and Nice Shot and ITX) are <i>GOOD</i> stuff.
Setterman: While I think I might get a pretty bad case of the shakes, shooting a round or 4 of trap with duck bullets, who notices recoil when their wings are cupped and their little webbed feets are reaching for the water?
Manglum-itis is what hurts and that's both: mental AND cumulative.
Waterfowl are harder to hit than they are to kill, and I shoot a LOT of ducks and geese with 'grandpa' loads - actually a little lighter than my pigeon bullets, and I've never felt the need for a gas auto to shoot a day of boxbirds.
I quit with the black guns and steel a couple of years ago, and I sure enjoy all facets of duck & goose hunting more now.
I hunt with a 11-87 supermag. 3" shells for ducks in #4 steel and run 3 1/2" #2 steel for geese. I still havent seen the sense in spending 4-5 dollars per shell when steel will work just fine if you do your part.
I can remember back before steel shot many people (including me) using 16 gauge guns, a few people were even using 3" 20's. 2 3/4" 12's were popular as well. All this changed when steel shot use became mandatory. It seemed as though the 3" 12 became the only steel load that would kill ducks. With the introduction of the modern non-toxic steel substitutes like bismuth, hevi-shot, tungsten alloys, etc. this has been changed again.
My point is that there are now loads that perform nearly as well as our old lead loads and if you're willing to either handload it or pay the higher price for the shells then you can use any gun you wish. I handload 2 3/4" ITX #2 and it performs very well out of an Invector+ choked BPS or a fixed choke Model 12. To me, it's all about the shell. Use whatever gun you like (or love) to deliver it to the ducks.
By the way, I agree with Goatskin about the 3 1/2" 12 gauge. I also remember meeting somebody once who was shooting a 10 gauge BPS at wood ducks in early October when they're still lightly feathered. Talk about over gunning.
If you are buying a deadicated waterfowl gun I highly reccomend an autolaoder with a minimum 3" chamber or 3 1/2" preferably. Most guys will tell you that it is uneeded but you can shoot 2 3/4" or 3" shells in that gun and if you do need it a 3 1/2" when needed. Most people will say they never feel the recoil when hunting, I'm here to tell you those people don't hunt or shoot much. Waterfowl almost always involves shooting sitting and often at odd positions and angles, this causes your lower back to absorb the recoil and after a long day you will feel that recoil. The other reccomendation I have is to buy a camo gun as waterfowl hunting is usually around water and mud and a synthetic gun will not be affected by the wet like a wood stock. The camo guns can also be washed off with the garden hose after the hunt to get rid of the mud. I usually shoot a couple hundred birds a year with a mix of geese and ducks in a variety of conditions from corn fields to lake Erie and everything in between. I presently shoot a Extrema 2 and a Super X2 interchangeably but have shot nearly everything under the sun, so far neither gun has had even a hiccup and I would reccomend them both. Regardless of make I would also only pick a gun with a shim adjustable stock so you can make it fit you.
Old Humpy now your talking!. A-5, Win.M-12, we'll never see quality like that again. When that A-5 is open and you put the first shell in the magazine and it whisks into the chamber closing the gun. Well, it's hard to describe but if you do or have owned one you know!.
We have a lot of hunting pressure in our area. Pressure = Skybusting and educating the waterfowl. We have to do everything right, especially scouting the feeding fields.
For a killing shot at 50 yards you got have a tight pattern and quality loads. I'll use Bismuth, Tungsten, Hevi-shot etc if I can find them, but the price is out of line for some of the younger guys, so they still use steel. We found 3" BB and BBB's with the right choke works fine if you're on the bird and it's w/i 40-45 yards.
We have done extensive patterning and the Steel BBB's threw the best pattern w/ steel at 40 yards with an IC choked Benelli. It was close to a Bismuth load out of full choke 391 and Sup X-2. I have the pattern results on a PDF if you want them. It is very extensive. Took 2 days to pattern 5 guns with bismuth, steel, and tungsten. We based it on the total weight of shot in a 30 circle at 40 yards thru various guns and chokes.