Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Stevens M320 12 Gauge Shotgun - First Impressions

There I was yesterday afternoon, all eager and ready to pick up a Sight Mark Ultra Shot QD Digital Switch reflex scope for Hunter's Essentials and then slap it on the Stevens M320 12 gauge shotgun and head to the range for a blast. The gun store's website said they were in stock but when I got there - no such luck. So, I ordered one and will probably pick it up next week. Not to be deterred, I decided to head to the range regardless of not having the sight figuring I could do a test fire using the guns bead front sight well enough. I also brought along one of my Beretta 92FS pistols that I had done a minor repair on since I wanted to make sure it was functioning properly after the repair. In truth, I already knew the repair had taken properly, it was just the replacement of a grip screw washer but any excuse to do some shooting is a good thing so I brought along the Beretta too. (Note to self: Be more careful when disassembling guns for cleaning, losing that washer meant when the screw was put back in and tightened it interfered with insertion and removal of the magazines. Luckily, I found that out at the range instead of during shootout.)

Once at the range, I set up and decided to shoot the Beretta first. I did not want an aching right shoulder to hamper me in any way and I was certain that once I had fired several rounds though the shotgun, my shoulder would be aching pretty badly, especially since I had not fired a shotgun in probably at least a few months prior to yesterday. I shot the Beretta at close in ranges from 3 to 15 yards. I only fired about 150 rounds total but I was pretty happy with my shooting. Of course , I was at the range and I was only shooting at paper that was not shooting back at me and that makes it a lot easier but I was happy with it nonetheless. Here are some of my targets:

My 3 yard 'group' has the widest spread on all my targets
even though at the shortest range. That's because I did
not use the sights or top of the gun, I simply point shot
over the top and as fast as I could squeeze the trigger.
At 5 yards, I used the sights for slow fire but aimed
down the top of the gun for rapid fire without lining
 up the sights.
At 7 yards, using sights. It seems there always
has to be at least one party pooper in he group.
Rapid fire using sights.
Not quite as good as at 7 yards but none too shabby.
Almost as good as my slow fire at 7 yards.
10 shots rapid fire and 10 slow fire. I did better
at 15 yards than I would have thought possible but
my rapid fire was nowhere nearly as rapid and
 my slow fire was slower than at shorter ranges.
Once I fired up all the 9mm ammo I had along, it was time to break out the 12 gauge. I had 40 rounds with me but as I said above, I was not looking forward to an aching shoulder so whether or not I shot that much depended on how much my right shoulder could take. The Stevens model M320 that I have is the version with pistol grip, rail and heat shield. For some reason, it is the most expensive version offered of this model but I would have thought the one with ghost ring sights would cost more. Wrong again. Anyway, I removed the rail so that I could sight down the groove atop the receiver using the bead front sight. I was going to put the screws, that hold the rail in place, back into the holes in the receiver but realized if I did that they would protrude above the receiver and interfere with sighting. Oh well, I left the screws out.
The model M320 has a 3" chamber but I did not have any 3" shells and went with 2 3/4" shells holding 1 ounce slugs. I set the target at 15 yards, loaded up five rounds for the test fire and started to blast away. While the loading mechanism on the M320 is similar to a Remington 870, I noticed right away that the lifter has much less resistance than those on 870s. As soon as I fired the first shot, I also discovered that the slide also has a lot less resistance on the Stevens than on the Remingtons, a few times it flew back almost from the recoil alone. The operation of the shotgun was pretty straight forward and everything functioned as it should have done. As far as accuracy goes though, I was not all that impressed but I am not sure if I can blame it on the gun or if  should blame it on myself. I shot the first 5 rounds about 3 inches to the left of center and somewhat high. I tried again with the same exact result. Then I moved the target out from 15 to 25 yards and shot another 5 rounds. While the shots were a bit lower they will still a tad high. They also were to the left the same distance from center as when I shot at 15 yards. The group was a little smaller than my open hand size lengthwise or in other words about 7 inches high but only about 2.5 inches across.
I could live with shooting a shotgun like that but sure would like to improve on it; I don't mind it shooting a bit high but the l So, it would be good to know if it was me or the gun causing the shots to go high to the left. I'll have to bring my Remington 870 and my son's Mossberg (?500 or 550?) along with the M320 next time to do a comparison. If I shoot all three like that, then it's me - if I only shoot the Stevens like that, then it's the gun. The way I usually shoot slug guns, I tend to think it's the gun. If that's the case, then the addition of the Sight Mark Ultra Shot QD Digital Switch reflex sight would help correct for that. If it doesn't help, I'll find another use for the sight and sell the gun. Hopefully, it won't come to that and this will be a fun gun for the range and a decent one for home defense if ever needed.
Did you notice, I wimped out after only 15 rounds. The snap crackle and pop sound that came from my right shoulder blade was more than enough of a hinted warning to cease fire. Today, my shoulder feels pretty good so I guess I did right by calling it quits.
All the best,
Glenn B

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