Hardcore waterfowlers want a distinctive shotgun with capabilities unimagined 50 years ago. This year, the newest Browning Maxus delivers.
Several years ago, I traveled up to Wyanet, Illinois, for a big gun auction. This was not a high-class affair as might be presented by James D. Julia or Rock Island Auction, but rather a local sale that featured hundreds of economical to medium-grade firearms.
I have forgotten what I went to for, but what I did see were endless tables of modestly priced hunting shotguns. There were Remington Model 11s and Winchester Model 50s by the dozen, but what struck my imagination was the panoply of private-branded scatterguns — J.C. Higgins, Revelation, Foremost, Ted Williams, and Western Field, for example.
These were relics of a time when retailers that are on shaky ground but still with us, like J.C. Penney and Sears, competed with long-gone names like Coast to Coast, Gamble’s, Montgomery Ward and Western Auto. These were generic guns, produced in the millions by makers everyone knows, like Savage and Winchester, or others remembered only by those eligible for social security, like High Standard or Noble.
The Maxus is quite a long gun, measuring 50 inches overall with an extended choke tube installed. Despite that, it is remarkably light at just 7.1 pounds. It fires 23/4-, 3- and 31/2-inch ammo interchangeably.
The years before the Gun Control Act of 1968 were a time when every rural home, and most suburban ones, too, had a plain-barreled repeating shotgun with a Modified or Full choke. Combine it with a pocketful of lead No. 5s, a surplus field jacket and a few decoys, and you were fully outfitted for duck hunting.
While those dear days are gone, and with fewer people hunting waterfowl, the ones who are