This feature appears in the October ‘16 issue of NRA America’s 1st Freedom, one of the official journals of the National Rifle Association.
We’ve been living high on the metaphorical review “hog” lately, with some mighty good gear crossing our bench. This month’s Stoeger P3000 pump-action shotgun is no departure, so don’t let the modest price tag fool you into thinking otherwise.
The first firearm we ever fiddled with was a vintage Winchester Model 12. It was of the Cutts-compensated variety—super cool to my brother and me but surprisingly common, we later learned—and a formidable armful for teenagers. Rightly concluding that supervised knowledge was better than clandestine experimentation, Grandpa would (rarely) acquiesce to letting us break it out and run that no-nonsense pump a few times. Ka-chunk, ka-chunk, ka-chunk. The price was “no funny business” under his very watchful eye, and an oily-rag wipe down when we were done. Sadly, we never got to shoot it with him—he had a reputation as a formidable wingshot—and the old Model 12 is long gone; whither, we know not.
Ease of dis/reassembly and outstanding access to the nooks and crannies make excuses unnecessary: The P3000 is a breeze to maintain. Photo by Darren Parker.
But the joy and allure of the pump gun is enduring, and in many ways pump-actions are still our favorites: They provide more shots than over-unders or side-by-sides, however elegant, and offer sun-up, sun-down reliability even when shockingly dirty, especially when compared to semi-automatics. All have their charms and undeniable long suits, but in a pinch we’ll pick a mechanically simple, reliable and versatile pump-action every time.
The only easy improvement in a general sense, then, becomes cost, and that brings us to the relatively remarkable Stoeger P3000.But the joy and allure of the pump gun is enduring, and in many ways pump-actions are still our favorites …
P3000 basics can avoid thoughts of Ford, as in Henry, only with difficulty: It’s available in any color, so long as it’s black, with synthetic furniture complimenting a matte finish. Forward, a red fiber sight tops the smooth vented rib on the 28-inch, improved cylinder-choked barrel (swaps are available from Stoeger, and a wrench is supplied). Rear configuration is about as close to an “industry standard” as can easily be set: semi pistol grip (integral to the stock), length of pull at 14 inches including a middling pad, and drops at comb and heel of 1.5 inches and 2.625 inches respectively. The safety is trigger guard-mounted (as opposed to the tang), with the bolt release just above the trigger guard on the right side. Outsides are as you’d expect, then—a nice-looking, utility-oriented 6.9-pounder, but nothing fancy. Chambered for 2.75- or 3-inch shells, it is made for the field, and perhaps decidedly ungentle treatment.
With apologies to Stoeger, “ungentle” is precisely what we gave our sample. We’d call ourselves regrettably unexceptional wingshots, but did better than normal on every sort of clay we could arrange (wrong time of year, so no real birds), averaging about 10 percent above our normal scores (with the biggest improvement in trap, the least in sporting clays). We attribute this to three things that we think are better than average, and especially for a sub-$300 shotty.
First was better out-of-the-box fit. We saw no rib going out, just the bead (so not shooting over due to insufficient drop, as is our normal tendency), yet no hint of a secant cut on the bottom of that biggish red fiber bead, so “unders” weren’t a problem either. Next was the bead itself. It doesn’t measure any bigger than our others, but somehow looks bigger (compared to more of those slightly unfamiliar little pieces behind it, perchance?). Whatever the reason, it hit very well for us.
Stoeger added zero complexity to choke swaps while keeping cost down–well done. A bright bead makes hits easy too, if you do your part. Photo by Darren Parker.
Last was the trigger. For shotguns, especially in this class, adjustability is rare as a standard feature, and most manufacturers put press weights between 6 and 7 pounds. That’s certainly fair enough for safety in the field, but hardly the tickle that is so easy to prefer on the 27-yard line, or chasing that bounding sporting clay rabbit.
While press in the P3000 was an unremarkable 6.25 pounds, we especially approve of the almost pistol-like reset. We wouldn’t claim this as unique on behalf of the Stoeger, but what we can observe is that it’s far more positive than anything else we’ve shot. If you’re into a bunch of birds, we can’t see how it wouldn’t help. There will never be the slightest doubt in your mind when cycling is complete and another volley set.
We wrung this out for sure by shooting a Steel Challenge match with the P3000, routinely keeping five hits on varying target configurations well under 5 seconds. Even running very hot (ambient temp over 95, and 15 shots in about 90 seconds, repeatedly), functioning was perfect when we did our part. Big plates shot at 35 yards also served an added, worthwhile purpose: Inconsistent patterns—the frequent bugaboo of inexpensive shotguns—were nowhere to be found.Inconsistent patterns—the frequent bugaboo of inexpensive shotguns—were nowhere to be found.
The Stoeger is a versatile dandy—pure and simple—and sure makes Grandpa Wally’s old Model 12 less missed. As charming as that gun was, it seems unlikely it could keep any sort of pace with the execution, reliability and unexpected quality of the budget P3000. It’s a pump gun with a host of purposes, and a great value to boot.
NUTS AND BOLTS:
Inexpensive shotguns are available from many fine manufacturers, and we’d have to say the ones we’ve shot are all surprisingly good. With that nod, however, we’re still particularly impressed with the ultra-affordable Stoeger. At a “street” price closer to $250 than $300, it’s hard to imagine there aren’t lots of roles it won’t be filling soon.
One role it won’t fill is the part of being so annoying to disassemble that it becomes poorly maintained. Read and follow the particularly clear manual, and this will be a no-brainer. Improvise even a little—unloaded and double-checked, of course—and you’ll still get it easily.
Inside, you’ll find the P3000 delightfully void of gunk-grabbing, fingertip-ripping sharp spots. So while it ran just fine for us while deliberately uncleaned, you won’t need to do that test. Another plus is that if there’s a substantive way to foul up the bolt/action arm configuration, it eluded us. Cleaning, lubrication and reassembly are thus trivially easy.
Two details remain. One is a small thing: The loading gate/shell carrier is a clever joy, but with a trick. Unlike what the manual suggests, we recommend turning the thumbnail straight down into the receiver as you finish your loading stroke. You’ll find the painful, even alarming injury that competing models can inflict becomes impossible when doing this. Nice.
We also have to concede that there was some minor break-in required for our P3000, though we can’t say with certainty whether it was us or the shotgun. Your takeaway is simple—be sensible with your expectations, and you’ll discover what we did. Somewhere between 60 and 100 shells, our hesitations transmuted into pure confidence.