For the vast majority of my life I’ve hunted with hand-me-down weapons that were steeped in history of one type or another; having had them gifted to me by elderly neighbors, or handed down from my Dad to me. The first guns I ever fired were my old man’s, one of them being a Savage 333 which is actually made by Valmet. That particular shotgun is a 12 gauge O/U (over/under) shotgun with fixed chokes in a full/modified configuration. A completely rock-solid field shotgun that is still in use today; in fact, I bagged a partridge (ruffed grouse) with it the day after Thanksgiving this year. In looking forward to handing my own collection down to my son one day, I’ve become more interested in acquiring a shotgun that is in (in my opinion) heirloom quality. That’s a subjective, and potentially divisive term to apply to a shotgun, and I wanted to dive into that topic in this article. Having always used what I will dare to call an average shotgun (even though it’s never given me or my old man a single problem in decades of hunting) I’ve always wondered what it would be like to swing a higher grade gun that looks as great as it feels. This curiosity lead me down half a hundred rabbit holes. I checked out some Remington options as well as Franchi and CZ. I was [obviously] drawn to products by Beretta, Caesar Guerini, Blaser, etc. but I didn’t think I was ready to jump up to that level of shotgun quite yet–even though the Beretta Silver Pigeon has been on my “must have” list since I was a teenager. I researched and scoured the Internet until I narrowed my focus on the Mossberg Silver Reserve.
Having eyeballed the first iteration of the Silver Reserve, I was curious to see how the successor to Mossberg’s first foray into styled-and-dialed O/U scatter-guns was being received. To anyone who has poked around with a SRI or researched them, you’re aware that the reception was less than stellar. There were a lot of complaints about receivers and barrels not mating up quite right (especially with the combo kits that included 20ga. and 28ga. barrels with one receiver). Other engineering or design issues were also present, but for the price-point I didn’t really believe it could really be all that bad–and I put it on my “gun to get” list.
As time does–it got away from me–with the busy lives we all lead these days it’s totally understandable to not buy that extra shotgun you didn’t really need right? Well, sure. For a while. But the itch came back as I started hitting local shotgun clubs and [working on] busting up clay targets with my in-laws. The fixed-choke (mod/full) of my Old Man’s hand-me-down Savage rarely cut on the 5-stand or sporting clays course, so I made the decision to focus on a Mossberg considering my previous Mossberg shotguns have been extremely reliable without breaking the bank. As luck would have it the Silver Reserve II had since released, bringing with it positives reviews and a fairly refined look. The particular rig I was looking for would be to check off the boxes for both a gun I could enjoy carrying in the field as well as use to dust some clays–in my estimation that required the 30″ barrel, raised comb, and extended choke version of the SRII (aka the Super Sport).
As you can guess, ordering at the end of September can lead to some hurry up and wait seeing as how small game seasons are opening across the country. A few weeks later I got the message from Peter letting me know the new rig had arrived and “it’s a beauty!”. I was pretty excited, seeing as how Tom and I had arranged a trip to the North Maine Woods that coming weekend. I made the trip to Peter’s and got my paws on the new rig as fast as I could. Now, one thing that raised a small (but real) red flag, was that the fore-end came with a ding in it. I don’t mean a scuff in the finish either. A full on dent in the wood. Peter does some woodworking and other artsy stuff with wood that is above my pay-grade, but he assured me that the damage had occurred after the wood was finished. To me that meant it had been dropped or otherwise smacked in the process of getting packaged up–which didn’t seem to speak volumes about quality assurance on the behalf of Khan (who manufactures the shotgun for Mossberg) or about Mossberg themselves for allowing their products to be shipped like this. None of it mattered at the moment because I needed to get that shotgun in the woods!
a factory-damaged fore end (photo)
Pictured left is the fore-end of the Mossberg Silver Reserve II and the condition it came in from the factory. Excuse the iPhone photo, but you can get the gist of what’s going on there. Not what you’d expect in a factory-sealed shotgun with an MSRP of $1,163.00. Needless to say, we got into the NMW (North Maine Woods) and had a hell of a time. We brought along another buddy who had never been on a successful partridge hunt, and after a handful of opportunities [and a couple jokes] we ended that streak for him. Overall the 8.5lbs Mossberg handled nicely and helped fill our plates with some partridge fajitas that night. All things considered I was slightly annoyed with the ding in the fore-end but at the time I was willing to live with it.
Fast forward three weeks and my annoyance began to shift into full-blown disappointment. The finish on the stock seemed to be transferring onto my gloves and hunting gear. Anyone in the Northeast can attest to the uncharacteristic autumn we experienced with early snow, then prolonged periods of rain, and then more snow. To put it simply: I hunted in terrible weather most of the season. It would be important to note, though, that (as with all of my guns) I wiped down the SRII after each use and transported it to/from the field in either an LL Bean gun sock or in an SKB shotgun case. When I get home I do a full cleaning and store my rigs in the gun safe that has quite a good amount of desiccant in it–I even added a rechargeable desiccant to the safe at the end of summer. I am confident that I took fine care of the Mossberg, but it didn’t do me any good.
the buttstock after a few days in the woods (photo)
Pictured right is the buttstock of my Mossberg Silver Reserve II after roughly six trips into the Maine woods. As you can clearly see in the photo, the finish took a beating. The first signs of wear were disappointing to see. I have shotguns that are far older than my 34 years on this Earth, none of which show even the slightest bit of this type of wear. I decided enough was enough, and opened a support case with Mossberg to see what my options were. After a handful of email correspondence I was told by Mossberg’s representative:
“…we have used the Silver Reserve here on the field and in the rain, and if not properly wiped down, due to the nature of the wood attached there will be water damage.” –
While their response time to my emails was absolutely acceptable, I found that answer to be a little disturbing. I believe that “properly wiped down” would include wiping the shotgun with a dry cloth and transporting the shotgun in a gun sock that’s impregnated with–well…whatever LL Bean has their gun socks impregnated with–would be sufficient until the shotgun was home and received a full cleaning. As you can see, that was not enough.
I don’t know if Mossberg’s particular use of their own shotgun included 6+ hours of hunting in rain and snow, but I know my use sure did! I hunted with both Tom and my Old Man and [un]surprisingly, their shotguns were just fine. No damage whatsoever. My Old Man swung the same old Savage 333 I mentioned earlier while Tom carried his Beretta Onyx–we’re talking about shotguns that truly run the gamut of prices here–with my Mossberg being basically right in the middle of the two aforementioned double barreled shot-slingers. So what does all of this complaining lead to? Good question. As of this moment, I’m not exactly sure what the outcome will be. Mossberg issued me a FedEx label and asked me to ship the shotgun back to them for inspection.
“Generally the wear on the stock is not a warranty issue, on this firearm this wear can happen if used in the field quite often. However due to the imperfection from the dealer in the fore end we may be able to assist with the stock as well. This will be deemed after inspection in this instance as well. We would need to get the firearm into us for further inspection and to possible fit new furniture to it.”
What I can say, at this point, is that although the process to have the furniture replaced on my Silver Reserve II was a lengthy (and quiet) one, Mossberg did right by me in replacing it all. While I have a pair of their pump-action shotguns that I’ve always been extremely happy with–this experience has certainly changed my view on their break-action shotguns, as well as what I would like in an O/U shotgun in general.
My SRII is back in my safe for the short term, I haven’t quite nailed down what is the gun for me for the future. I’ve been back to the drawing board on this one. This process has lead me to a lot of discussions with Tom about what are my best options, and it only seems that I should have taken the advice that I often give to friends: “buy once cry once”. Meaning, I should have saved the extra quid to buy a true high grade shotgun from the beginning. I’ve always wanted a Beretta Silver Pigeon, and perhaps I should have just saved a few more bucks to pick one up. I have officially begun the search for my next shotgun, and it will be a shotgun that ends up in my son’s hands someday along with the Savage 333 that will eventually be his as well–which is why I am calling this diatribe “The Road to an Heirloom Shotgun”.
While I look forward to the day when I can hand off my collection to my son, and pass the torch so to speak, I’m also looking forward to future hunting seasons and trips to the range. To that end, I’ll be shopping for a new shotgun this summer, and I look forward to sharing the process with you.
Update: Mossberg has replaced the furniture on my Silver Reserve II and it appears they opted to grab some of the better looking wood they had on-hand to do so. I’m still actively looking for a replacement shotgun; however, it was nice to see Mossberg do the right thing and replace (what I believe was) a defective set of furniture on one of their more expensive models.
Stay tuned for Road to an Heirloom Shotgun: Part 2
Featured image: hollandandholland.com