Sporter Review

Sporter Review -All You Need to Know

There are two distinct types of semi automatic shotguns on the market today. The more common sort have a traditional tube magazine, and outside of a few specialized models, are almost exclusively used for sport shooting and hunting.

We also have removable magazine semi auto shotguns, many of which are based off the AK-47 style action, or designed to resemble combat rifles.  As with any firearm there is overlap between tactical and sporting use, and some shotguns blur the boundary, making actual use the final deciding factor as to their purpose.

When preparing this article I struggled on what shotguns to look at and consider and settled on looking at more traditional sporting arms.  Dedicated tactical semi auto shotguns are often expensive, and depending on what sort you settle on, may also be restricted in some US states or jurisdictions.

Now companies like Benelli make some very exciting semi auto shotguns that have a distinct combat heritage about them, but their higher price and sometimes high demand for them limits their utility for the purpose of this article.

The lovely sporting shotguns coming from China and Russia that are based on the rugged Kalashnikov action are also sadly out, as these are all too readily banned in misguided states that freak out over anything with a removable magazine, so not all of our readers can enjoy those fantastic shotguns.  This leaves us looking strictly at dedicated fixed magazine sporting shotguns.

Since the first autoloading shotguns appeared on the market, they have often been built as high grade sporting guns, and due to mechanical complexity, their cost will exceed a similar pump action shotgun. However, thanks to modern manufacturing methods, it is now possible to get a semi auto shotgun of a quality that might normally approach four figures for about $500, and this exciting gun is the topic of our article today.

The Stevens S1200 is a rare treat of a fine semi auto shotgun at a blue collar price.  Normally an  inertia driven shotgun is an expensive affair, and strictly in the purview of those who like to spend a grand or more on shotguns, but with an MSRP of $571, the S1200 is within the reach of most any sport shooter.

Available with polymer or walnut stocks, 26” or 28” barrels, and designed to use commonly available Beretta choke tubes, there is precious little not to like about this fine shotgun.

Inertia driven shotguns differ from gas operated in that it is a sort of recoil driven function, as opposed to cycling the action with tapped gas.

The practical upside to all this is that an inertia driven gun like the S1200 has fewer moving parts, and is a bit heavier than most gas guns; making it a bit more manageable with strong loads.

This is Savage’s first semi auto shotgun, and they pulled out all the stops to make this fit the quality and price points Savage is well known for.

Designed strictly with sporting purposes in mind, the S1200 has a 3” chamber, 5 shot tube magazine (which can be plugged to reduce capacity when required by law), and a money saving matte black finish on the metal.  Overall, this is an ideal semi auto shotgun for sport, hunting and budget.

Having settled on this fine specimen of a shotgun, the next question is how to best accessorize it?  The first thing I do with a new gun is to get snap caps  which allow you to safely dry fire and test cycle the action without damaging any parts.  I find a good set of snap caps to be critical in learning the function of any new gun, as well as acclimating myself to the trigger, or simply aiding in “breaking in” a new gun. 

I hate cleaning a shotgun with a traditional cleaning rod and brush, and find a quality bore snake does the job much better.  This particular bore snake is well suited for shotguns and makes cleaning a breeze.  Personally though, my favorite shotgun accessory is a bandoleer sling.

While not suitable for clay shooting where fast handling is a must, it has it’s place in other settings, and is a great way to carry extra ammo in an easy to reach fashion.

To me, the Savage S1200 is about an ideal semi auto shotgun in every way imaginable. When buying guns, it is easy to look for an all in one sort of gun that is as good for home defense use as it is for sport shooting and then to hunting.

Or we want a fancy looking gun that winds up never leaving the gun case because it is too nice. Or perhaps we want a purely tactical gun, but also to use it for shooting clays.  The reality is there is no one perfect, universal shotgun that does all things well. Everything is a compromise, although with shotguns, sometimes the lines really blur.

Savage managed to bring us an everyday, knockabout, working man’s semi auto shotgun that is suitable for pretty much anything short of tactical purposes (and I suppose you could rebuild it for combat if you were so inclined, but there are better choices).  From it’s easy handling design, to it’s sensible operating controls, traditional styling, bundled set of five chokes and multiple stock, barrel and finish options, the S1200 should be the new standard by which inertia operated shotguns are judged by.

I feel every gun owner who does not already have a semi auto shotgun should get an S1200 for their collection. The price is nigh unbeatable, and Savage has a long reputation for quality and customer service.

Right now, there is perhaps no better semi auto shotgun on the market for the money, and to do better than this, you’ll have to start shelling out some serious coin that could be better spent on ammo and funding your next hunting trip.  Do yourself a favor and take a long, hard look at the S1200,