I love to hunt. I also love guns and have a crusade to show that the look of the gun does not dictate the use. Whether it is whitetail in the fall or turkey in the spring, hunting gives me a chance to put my love of guns with the desire to challenge myself and adds some wholesome meat for my family. This past April, I had the opportunity to put this love and crusade to the test. Opening morning of turkey season was exciting, and my buddy tagged a nice 20-pound tom. Three weeks later, I finally had an opportunity to tag my first longbeard ever.
I started in the morning with the birds talking at sunrise, which had me moving. I slipped around to a spot, down the hill from my neighbor’s land, where the birds were hanging out. I tried to call one in for about an hour, to no avail. By 8:30, all was quiet. I got up to leave and decided to take the long way home. I went up the hill to the field edge and looked at what I missed. I looked around the field and saw no turkeys. I did see some crows going nuts at the end of the field and decided to try calling one more time. To my surprise, the quiet erupted with the thunder of a gobbling tom. Since I can’t hunt this field, I made my way down to the end, I heard the gobbles and moved back to my side of the property. I got the toms fired up and gobbling strong, but they just wouldn’t make their way past the thick row of trees surrounding the field.
Separating the ridges, the one I was on, and the one I needed to get too, is a straight rock face and a pile of granite boulders. Usually, I go down to my ATV trail and make my way back up. However, this time I decided that the harder way would be shorter. Carrying a pack, pop up blind, chair, and shotgun, I climbed the granite boulders to a spot I could hopefully ambush the wary birds. By this time, I heard a group of hens join the toms, and the competition heated up. I called harder and got the hens pretty pissed off. I could imagine them hollering at me, “That’s my man.”
After some luck and tough calling, a couple of birds finally showed up. Once I saw the back bird fanning out a bit, I knew it was a good tom and took the 65-yard shot. I had to chase him into the field to finish him off, and that’s when the excitement truly hit. Not only did I get my first bird (a double bearded tom as luck would have it), but I also finally achieved a goal I had been after for six seasons. My trophy weighed 22″ and had a 10″ plus an 8″ beard along with 1″ spurs. Even more of an accomplishment to me, I used my “Tactical” Remington Versa Max successfully to hunt a big game animal.
The Remington Versa Max is marketed as one of the most versatile shotguns in the industry. I bought my first one eight years ago and told myself that with screw-in choke tubes, it would double as a great turkey gun. This gun truly shoots everything you feed it. I have shot everything from light loaded 2¾” to 3½” magnum turkey loads. It feeds them all without a problem. It does so clean or not, oiled or not, and has never given me a problem. I bought a Carlson turkey choke and decided to add a cheap Sightmark red dot to help me pattern and aim in low light. I noticed that the pattern with the turkey choke shifted the center point of impact high and left. Like most turkey hunters, I also added the red dot to use as an accurate point of aim. Initially, I got the shotgun for competition shooting. I had shot a few three gun matches and wanted to get back into it. I needed a new tactical shotgun that was fast and reliable. I also needed a turkey gun to work with my latest hobby. I researched many different companies and decided on the Versa Max because of all the good I had seen.
This is not a cheap shotgun by any means, but it is worth every penny. It is set up with a 22″ barrel and an extended magazine tube that will hold 8+1 of 2¾” 12-gauge shells or 7, 3″ shells. It uses the ProBore Choke system and includes a length of pull kit, three different interchangeable sights, a Picatinny rail receiver mount, and two choke tubes. The gun is made for versatility by adding an oversized bolt release, bolt release button, and trigger guard to be used with gloves. Basically, it comes ready to rock.
The heart of the gun is Remington’s Versa Port system. The shell in the chamber will cover the number of holes necessary to cycle the action. A 2¾” shell will have all eight holes uncovered, using the full amount of the gases to cycle the self-cleaning piston. A 3½” shell covers all but three holes, allowing the gun to self-regulate the amount of gas pressure going into the piston chamber to keep the cyclic rate under control. Think about it like an adjustable gas block on an AR. When you add a suppressor, it adds more pressure making the gun run too fast. You add an adjustable gas block to turn the gas pressure down in order to bring the cyclic rate back to the normal speed.
The Versa Max is self-regulating, doing it all internally. The weight on this shotgun is the biggest complaint I hear until they shoot it. The gun weighs in at 7 ¾ pounds, which is slightly lighter than the Benelli M4 or the FN SLP. The weight isn’t high, but rather deceiving. The balance is a bit off, making the gun feel like it weighs more than it does. The weight is there for a reason. The 12 gauge is a hard-hitting round, especially in the magnum loads, and that weight helps tame it. The gas system also mitigates the recoil to the point that Remington claims it compares to a 20 gauge. I’ve had the fun of running 2¾” birdshot with 2¾” slugs mixed in and can barely tell the difference. The magnum loads are tamed to the point it feels like a 12-gauge pump with 2 ¾” buckshot.
Range Time, Performance and Maintenance
This gun is one of my range regulars. Everyone that shoots it wants to steal it. It flat out runs. I tested it out one day, loading eight rounds in to see how fast it would shoot. All eight rounds cycled through in just under 3 seconds. It shoots as fast as you can pull the trigger. Now I’m not Jerry Miculek, but that’s plenty fast enough to impress me. Speed is only one part of the equation. Accuracy and staying on target are necessary too. It does no good to run fast if you only hit the target once. I like recycled targets, like milk jugs, that move when you shoot them. No matter the target or the day, I can always walk my shots downrange, no matter where it bounces, and never miss a shot or sacrifice speed. This shotgun doesn’t walk up or bounce around while shooting. Whether it’s a competition, a deer drive, or just a day at the range, this tame shotgun is pure joy to shoot and never misses a step.
Because it is a joy to shoot patterning, this gun is a breeze. With the ability to change the chokes, this gun can go from shooting a match to the turkey woods with ease. The load and the choke are what determine the shot pattern. No two shotguns are the same, which is why there are so many loads and choke tubes out there for the same purpose. For busting clays and steel in a match, I like the open tactical choke or modified choke (depending on match rules). The spread is good, and I’ve been able to stretch a slug out to a 12″ piece of steel at 75 yards without fail. For the turkey woods, I use a Carlson choke tube and Heavy Shot Magnum Blend. With this load, I can get 10 to 15 pellets in the turkey kill zone out to 80 yards. No matter the use, this gun does what I ask. The looks of the gun don’t determine the use.
If you took my Versa Max out of the safe, you’d see it is well used. I’m not one to torture a gun to the point of failure. That seems to me like seeing how long you can drive a vehicle without oil. However, my guns are not safe queens, either. I don’t always clean it after a day at the range, many of my hunting guns will go the whole season in the woods without any love unless I drop it in the mud or it gets rained on. This shotgun is no exception. I will admit that there is a lot more to cleaning this gun than my old Mossberg 500. There are more moving parts, so when it comes time to clean, it takes over my entire workbench. Remington claims the Versa Max to be self-cleaning, but don’t take that literally. It still needs cleaning and oil every once in a while.
I can’t tell you when or even if it would fail, but I can tell you it is dirty after shooting. The self-cleaning aspect means it doesn’t allow build-up. The piston is scraped every time it cycles so that the carbon build-up is minimal. After a few hundred rounds, you see a light dusting of carbon on the forearm where the gases are vented near the front of the receiver. Nothing a wipe down with a cleaning cloth won’t fix. Overall I wouldn’t say never clean this gun, but if you only get to it once a year, you won’t have to worry about failure.
The Remington Versa Max Tactical retails for $1484.63. It comes with a ton of extras and features you would have to add aftermarket to similar class shotguns, making it a great buy. Best of all, it is as versatile as it claims. This gun was designed for competition, home defense, and tactical uses in mind. Most people look at it and think of just another “evil black gun.” It inspires visions of clearing your house, hearing a bump in the night or breaching a door with the rest of SWAT. Jobs it is well suited for I might add. The choke screwed into the barrel when shipped is their Tactical Extended Choke, which is ported and serrated at the end. You’d expect to use it for the reasons inspired. However, it’s also an open choke, which means a widespread. Hard to miss a clay hand-thrown into the air with that spread. It’s all black and looks aggressive. However, that doesn’t have to limit its capabilities. Just because a gun isn’t camo doesn’t mean it won’t work in the turkey woods.
There are plenty of things in the woods that are black, so the color doesn’t stand out. The standard barrel length on a turkey gun is 24″. The Versa Max with a 22″ barrel is only 2″ shorter, which doesn’t limit the capabilities of this gun (which I proved this season). I found that with the Carlson turkey choke and Heavy Shot Magnum blend, this shotgun patterns great out to 80 yards. The turkey I shot was over 60 yards away, and the first shot was mortal. The receiver comes drilled and tapped for the Picatinny rail, which makes it easy to add an optic. These features change the use of this gun from a tactical beast to a turkey slayer with ease.
This evil black shotgun, which has been banned in some states, is a tool like any other and absolutely can be used to hunt with. One challenge with this particular Versa Max is the long spring that comes with it can’t hold more than 3, 3½” shells without causing failure to the long magazine tube spring. When it comes to turkey hunting, this isn’t an issue since no one normally carries more than three shells in the gun to turkey hunt (some states even require this). I’ve been told there are aftermarket springs that match the length and are heavier duty to handle a full six rounds in the tube. I haven’t used one of these springs, so I can’t tell you first-hand how well it works. The stock magazine spring will hold and run 7, 3″ shells without issue if you choose to do so. The ability to run reliably, quickly, and stay on target is a real plus for hunters. It’s not just for a citizen looking to protect his or her family or exercise their second amendment rights. It will work the woodsmen too. Shotguns by nature are versatile, and this particular gun truly wins the prize. I love it so much I bought a second Versa Max with a 28″ barrel for high flying doves and waterfowl hunts. While I have 2, one meant more for hunting, and one meant for tactical application, the tactical is always the first to come out and be used. It is a one size fits all versatile tool that protects and feeds my family. Why wouldn’t I love to use it!
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