Out of my element

I’ll be honest, I am not a shotgun expert. When shooting the sporting clays course, I feel good if I can break more than half of my targets. Outside of maybe one trip to the range a year, and of course turkey season and the occasional dove shoot, I am rarely seen toting a scatter gun. So, some folks might say I am not the best person to review a shotgun. On the other hand, I am in the market to upgrade from my hand-me-down pump shotgun, so maybe that makes me a great candidate to test out a firearm designed for the budget-minded hunter searching for a high quality, all-purpose gun.

Bring on the fairly new (debuted in 2016) Weatherby Element Synthetic — an inertia-driven, semi-auto shotgun that won’t break the bank.

Straight out of the box, the Element assembled with ease and included improved, modified and full chokes (long-range steel choke also is included with the 12 ga.) as well as shims to help adjust the fit. I was comfortable shouldering the gun as is, and its 14.5-inch length of pull seemed to fit me quite well. The shotgun felt thinner and lighter than most gas-operated semi-autos I’ve shot, but the Element still was well balanced. The trigger pull rang in at just more than six pounds; so about standard for a factory shotgun.

Not happy to simply “test” in the office, I hit the trap and skeet overlays at the NWTF Palmetto Shooting Complex to cycle a few rounds. Starting at station one; I broke my first few high-house birds starting from both a resting and shouldered position. Even with light 1-ounce loads, the gun cycled well. The recoil, on the other hand, was more noticeable than a gas-powered semi-auto. Moving around the range, I continued breaking more clays than not, and the gun, in the most simplistic terms, just felt good.

Stepping up to one and an eighth-ounce loads, the recoil was a bit more intense, but the gun still cycled rapidly, and clays continued to break. Two boxes in, and successfully breaking the high- and low-house birds from all stations, with some misses, of course, I gave the gun a rest.

I gave several of the range staff, who gathered around while I was testing, a go. One woman said the gun felt a bit big for her, and she commented on the recoil, but she broke clays nonetheless. Our range director ran through half a box of shells, shooting the gun right and left handed, as well as upside down, breaking clays each time. He too mentioned the gun’s recoil, but he quickly followed with praise about the speed of the action as well as the comfort in hand.

At the end of the day, the Element truly is a nice, multi-purpose shotgun. Because of its cleaner inertia-driven action, it will require very little maintenance, though the tradeoff is more recoil. So, even if you don’t plan to shoot clays every weekend or dominate the dove field, the Element’s light weight, great balance and affordable price will surely make it a great gun for the turkey woods and beyond.

For more information, visit weatherby.com

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