By Jeff Johnston, FE Hunting & Shooting Editor
I was at a buddy’s house the other day when he showed me an old, discontinued Smith & Wesson semi-auto shotgun. Underneath it was a Smith pistol; beside it was his new M&P AR-15. It got me thinking: what mass firearm manufacturer currently offers the best combination of a shotgun, rifle, and pistol? This question is as meaningless as it is subjective, of course, but it’s interesting. What follows are my choices for the best three-gun combo from a single gun company.
Springfield Armory would probably win this contest in my eyes because I love its Hellcat pistols (despite the terrible name), and its 1911s are possibly the finest in the biz for the money, as are the firm’s Saint Victor AR-15s. If you’re the type who’d opt for a bolt-action for big game and long range rather than an AR, its 2020 Waypoint with its custom stock and carbon fiber barrel simply can’t be beaten. But Springfield doesn’t make shotguns, so sorry Springfield. You’re out.
For me it doesn’t get much better than Browning Arms company because over the years I’ve only had outstanding experiences with all of its guns. For rifles, its X-Bolt line is one of the great all-around modern bolt guns available, hands down. I’ve never shot one that wasn’t sub-MOA, and they’re just so slick and conducive to slipping around the woods. But right now my go-to everything rifle, now that I suppressed it, is its war-winning but sporterized BAR MK 3 DBM semi auto. For handguns, it’s got a solid line of .22 LRs and it’s 1911-pattern .22 LRs are ridiculously cool. Then there are Browning’s shotguns. As a versatile shotgun for waterfowling, turkey hunting, home defense and all around shooting feathery shit out of the air, it’s impossible to beat the Maxus II. Other guys go ape over the new-age intertia-action A5. But of course it also makes the venerable Citori over/under shotguns for upland hunting and target games. Damn, I’m going to have to think about this.
Smith & Wesson
Smith’s M&P lines of ARs and handguns are dependable, and its revolvers have been the gold standard since Dirty Harry blew away a scumbag with a Model 29 in 1971. But it has no current shotguns in its roster, so the company that once sold out to Bill Clinton’s gun control scheme will not be winning any medals from this free man.
I’m a Remington guy for life because that’s what I shot throughout my childhood and they all just killed things dead. Its venerable Model 700 may be a little outdated now compared to the X-Bolts and Sakos of the world, but it’s still a strong contender and possesses the action that gunsmiths most covet. And its shotguns are great; in fact I think its Versamax Competition is the best semi auto ever made, bar none. But their handguns were way behind—in fact most of them are modern abominations—but it looks like they’ve all been discontinued. Who knows what state the company is in at this time, and if you can even get a gun from them. Big Green is out.
The largest firearms company in the world in terms of sales is solid in everything, so why it can’t build a top-notch striker fired defensive handgun is puzzling. But it’s Mark II .22 is the standard for target .22s, and if you integrally suppress one, I guarantee you’ll shoot it more than anything else in your safe. I love its bolt action Mark IIs though they need better triggers, and its PRS is the best long range chassis gun in the game for the money; Its ARs aren’t shabby, either. In the old days it produced scores of its fantastic Red Label shotgun, and if it still did, Ruger would probably be No. 1 or 2 on my list. But it doesn’t, so it’s dead to me.
With fabulous, high-end shotguns and tons of products, the 500-year-old Beretta company is a powerhouse. And although I’ve heard it sells a veritable shit-pile of handguns to people and militaries all over the world, its handguns really aren’t my cup of tea—although the PX-4 is underrated by Americans. But back to shotguns: Its over/under 686, 687, DT 11s and Silver Pigeons are the standard for o/u target guns, and its 1301 series make a good claim for the world’s best semi autos for everything from defense to competition and hunting. But it only offers three carbines for its rifle choices (I’m not sure what happened to its high-end double rifles?) so it’s lacking there, and that’s too bad. However, it does own Sako rifles, so maybe I fudge my own contest rules and include Beretta.
If we lined up all the guns from all the companies and actually shot them Pepsi-Challenge style, I believe most of us would be surprised how well Mossberg stacks up, performance-wise, against everyone. Mossberg just doesn’t have the high-end name as other companies like Beretta and Browning when it comes to aesthetics (and price), but I feel that is changing. Their perceived position in the firearm hierarchy is due to the fact that throughout most of its lengthy history the blue collar shotgun company chose to focus on its blue collar shotguns that go bang everytime and don’t break a man’s bank. But its catalog is growing, and all of its stuff is functionally excellent. I carry its polymer MC2C 9mm handgun almost daily despite having copious Glocks laying around. I’ve hunted with its Patriot rifles plenty, and I’ve never shot one that wasn’t right around 1 MOA, with all the features of much more expensive rifles. And of course its shotguns are legendary, including its 500 and 590A1 Retrograde that we’ve written about extensively. But I like the semi auto 940 JM Pro for its versatility, mainly because I’m a semi auto shotgun guy. The more I think about it, the more I think Mossberg will make my list for the best three-gun battery.
So, here are my winners: Obviously my picks are more hunting oriented, as I live in the country and believe I can more easily defend myself and my home with hunting-style guns easier than I can hunt with tactical-style guns. Although damn, I would miss my AR-15. I suspect your choices are different.
- Browning BAR MK 3 DBM – I love this do-all rifle with the 18-inch barrel because at 1.25 MOA, I can shoot out to 500 yards, but with its 10 round magazine of .308 rounds, it’s also a formidable defensive firearm if the shit truly hits the blower. Runner Up: X Bolt Stalker Suppressor Ready in .308
- Maxus II 12-Gauge – It’s a tossup between the Maxus and Beretta’s A400 Xcel for the title of the world’s lightest recoiling 12-gauge, but the Maxus II has every feature a hunting man could ever want, and it can also be used in the home.
- Buckmark Micro Bull Suppressor Ready .22 LR pistol – Because every man, woman and child needs a quality .22 pistol. Suppressed, it’s the gun I’d shoot most.
2nd Place: Mossberg
- Patriot Synthetic Cerakote in .308, or it I’m feeling western, 7 Mag – This thing is accurate, threaded for a suppressor and will do everything you need it to do, all for just $500.
- 590 A1 Retrograde – After thinking about it a bit, how could I choose a Mossberg shotgun and not let it be the ass-kicking, spine-shivering 590A1, complete with a bayonet lug? Runner Up: 940 JM Pro because it’s the best semi auto for $1,000
- MC2c – A terrific, very thin, reliable, 15-round 9mm for concealed carry. Although Glock, S&W and Springfield have the name, this handgun surprises people, and I carry it often.
3rd Place: Beretta
- Sako 90 Adventure – I’m bending the rules of my own game and counting Sako here (Beretta owns Sako) and I think Sako’s 90 Adventure bolt action may be the best pure hunting rifle ever made. (If it were $1,500 and not $2,800 I suspect it would be vastly more popular.)
- Beretta 1301 Comp Pro – How do I pick a favorite Beretta shotgun when I like them all? I’d probably go with the 1301 Comp Pro, however, due to its versatility for clays and hunting. With an extended mag it would be perfect in the home. Runner Up: DT 11 over/under.
- 92X RDO – People are going to give me shit for this, but I’m actually a fan of the legendary 92, although I think the Glock variants are better. But the all steel 92 shoots great, and the company’s new 92X RDO is compact enough to carry and owns an optic rail.