Wednesday, September 8, 2010

We Talk To Sheriff Jim Wilson About Remington’s New Versa Max

When Remington calls you and asks if you’d like to go down to Argentina to test out their newest autoloading shotgun while hunting dove, there’s only one answer: Yes! Singer and gun writer Sheriff Jim Wilson got just that opportunity, and when he got back we got the chance to talk to him about his experience with Remington’s newest long gun, the 12 gauge Versa Max.

Let’s talk about your experience in Argentina with the Versa Max, we’ve heard a lot about how soft shooting it is. Well, I thought it was very comfortable to shoot. I did not weigh the gun, but they list it as a 7.7 pound shotgun. That’s not nearly as heavy as some of the autoloaders in the past. Yet, it shot very nicely. I probably shot in the neighborhood of 2,000 rounds while I was down there.

You really put it through it’s paces then. Did you have any issues with feeding or ejection? No, save for a time or two. I hate to say this, but the Australian shotgun shells use the dirtiest powder you’ve ever seen. The powder just burns really dirty. Late in the day I would have a couple of malfunctions, but it was not serious at all.

One of the problems that we had was that under Argentine law, at the end of the day the guns had to be kept at the lodge or wherever. I think one of the problems was that some of the bird boys were cleaning the guns for us and they really didn’t know how to clean the ports. Once the Remington guys figured that out, well the guns worked just fine.

The Versa Max has a pretty unique ported chamber design. What type of special attention do you need to give that when cleaning? You know, I really don’t think you would. I think with our American ammo it would just run, run, run. In those torture tests when they were first developing the gun they would just run gobs of ammo through it.

What size shells were you using? They were 2-3/4″ shells and as best as I could tell 1-1/8 ounce loads and #7, #7.5, and some #8. We did have some of the new Remington Hypersonic 3″ ammunition down there. That’s got the new accelerator wad. Those things send a load of #2 out at 1700 feet per second. It’s pretty cool ammo, I’ll tell you that.

I shot some of that, and gosh it was comfortable to shoot. Remington did a lot of research before they ever released this gun, and one of the specific things they wanted to work on was to have something that’s comfortable to shoot and I think they really did accomplish that. I’m not a real technician on this but I think the double recoil pistons that are used help smooth the gun up, help smooth out the recoil. The felt recoil is just not much at all.

Tell me a bit about the ergonomics of the gun. Remington has added an adjustable comb and shims to change the length of pull. That’s one of the coolest thing about it. It’s part of the package, you don’t buy it extra. In the package when the gun comes are several combs of different heights, and you can just grab them with your fingers and pop them out, you don’t need any tools or anything. You could just literally take them out to the range while you’re shooting clay birds and switch combs out.

The shims that go on the back for length of pull are almost as easy to change as that. The length of pull as the gun comes out of the box is 14-1/4″ and you can go to 15-1/4″. The shims would be a little harder to adjust, you have to screw them out.

Still, I imagine it couldn’t take more than a couple of minutes to install or remove them if I had a multi-tool handy. Exactly. Speaking of that sort of thing, the action of the shotgun, when you take it apart, breaks down into five pieces. You can do all of that with your hands, there are no tools necessary. There are a couple of pins in the bolt area, once you get that far, but you take out the firing pin and you can use that to punch those pins out. That’s it. You can disassemble the gun into five major parts with no tools.

Now, when I’m duck hunting or goose hunting, the weather can get pretty bad. How does the Versa Max hold up? When you’re duck hunting, if it’s sleeting or raining on you or something like that, the gun is just going to get absolutely wet. It snowed on us the first day we were down in Argentina. It snowed all afternoon, and the birds were flying great. It would have been a terrible day to be out working, but it wasn’t bad to go hunting.

I’m not sure the weather is ever quite bad enough to call off a hunting trip. Still, the ice and rain didn’t affect the Versa Max did it? No, and that’s what I was saying about how easy it is to take down the action. If you’re in a duck blind and you’re getting wet all day, you can go in in just a few minutes and strip that action down, wipe it off and lubricate it. You don’t need any special tools. You don’t even need a screwdriver to do that.

Was it picky about lubrication at all? No, it’s not. All the internal parts are nickel-teflon coated. It really doesn’t take a lot of lubrication.

Is that the same as Remington’s TriNyte coating? No, that’s a separate coating. The barrel is TriNyte coated, but all the internal parts are nickel-teflon coated. The TriNyte is similar to what I would call a baked-on finish.

The waterfowl model is also completely camo’d including the barrel. I didn’t hunt with one, but there were several down there that I got to handle.

Did you have the opportunity to try shooting any skeet or trap with the gun? No, but I think that’s where the “Versa” comes into the name is it’s versatility. I think for dove, pheasant, quail, ducks, geese, turkey, I think the gun will work for all of those, and certainly for skeet and trap.

In January they’ll come out with the 26″ barrel model which some people prefer for skeet. I don’t happen to, my biggest problem in shotgunning is stopping my swing, so I prefer at least a 28″ barrel. When I get tired, that’s the mistake I make is stop my swing. When I start missing targets, I guarantee you I’m shooting behind them.

What are the sights like on the Versa Max? It’s got a Hi-Viz front sight. The one that was on my gun was a lime green, which worked just fine. I think that you can also change it to what ever color you prefer.

Did you get to use the Hi-Viz under any low-light shooting conditions? You know, just late in the afternoon a couple of times, but not real low light. Of course I do my best to focus on the bird and not even look at the shotgun. Generally when I look at the shotgun I miss.

As I mentioned in the article I wrote on the American Hunter blog, it shot where I looked.

That’s really important, having an instinctive shotgun. You can really see how much effort Remington put into designing the ergonomics of the gun to be adjustable for just about every shooter and every situation. Being able to shoulder it naturally is incredibly important. Well exactly, I stand about 5′10 and weigh about 170 pounds. The shotgun that fits me is not going to fit some guy that’s 6′5″ and 250. The beauty of that Versa Max is that with the shims and the combs and all of that he can make it fit him.

You’re saying you could essentially order this gun, sight unseen, from our online firearm sales, and be able to adjust it to fit you perfectly? Absolutely, because everything is in there. I didn’t mention this yet, but once you take the comb out, you can see down into a compartment in the buttstock and there’s a metal plate in there. The instruction manual tells you how to adjust that metal plate and it changes the drop at heel and it changes the cast. You can make it cast off or cast on. You just buy the gun, and everything is in there that’s necessary that you need to fit the gun to yourself personally.

Here’s another point too: You get the gun fit to yourself, but now next week you’re going to be hunting doves in a T-shirt, while come January you’ll be hunting ducks in everything you own. That’s when you get your shims out and lengthen it or shorten it as you need it.

I can’t wait to get my hands on one, I don’t mind saying I’m a bit jealous that you got to try one out. I certainly enjoyed it and I think it’s a great shotgun. You can tell that these guys at Remington have spent a lot of time and put a lot of thought into this.

Click here to purchase your own Remington Versa Max.

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