It is safe to say the Versa Max semiautomatic shotgun has secured a place in the pantheon of storied auto-loaders from Remington. For the past three years, the shotgun has redefined how auto-loaders should operate: reliably, no matter what kind of shells you stuff in the magazine. Now that its success is cemented, Remington is expanding the line, including this new Waterfowl Pro edition, which I had the opportunity to put through the paces during a snow goose at Habitat Flats last spring.
First, I will recap the action in case you are not familiar with it. There are not a lot of autoloading shotguns – either gas operated or inertia – on the market capable of shooting 3½-inch shells that will also reliably cycle a low-brass 2¾-inch load. The physics just do not work. The Versa Max overcomes this by incorporating the shell itself into the operation of the Versaport gas-powered system. The chamber is vented with seven ports, which allows gases ahead of the charge to escape into the dual piston located on either side of the chamber. When the shotgun is loaded with a 2¾-inch shell, all seven ports remain open, utilizing all of the gas to cycle the bolt. Larger shells produce larger amounts of gas, so a 3-inch shell blocks off three of the seven ports; a 3½-inch shell shuts off four, thus allowing only the necessary amount of gas into the piston chambers, which then drive the pistons back into the bolt face, kick-starting the cycling action.
Another benefit of the Versaport system is the reduced recoil. By venting the gas in such a way, much of the energy is directed out and away from the shoulder. The Versa Max is one of the lightest recoiling shotguns I have ever had the pleasure of shooting. Only the new Benelli Ethos competes, in both reliability and recoil reduction, but at a much steeper price. Even hard-kicking 3½-inch magnum shells, while not exactly pleasurable, are at least tolerable when shot from the Versa Max, something I can’t say for any other 3½-inch capable shotgun I have tested.
As with any successful gun introduction, Remington is now in the process of building out the line. We have tactical and price-point versions and I would not be surprised to see a 20-gauge Versa Max come down the line in the future.
What the new Waterfowl Pro offers are features duck and goose hunters will appreciate. First are the oversize controls. Both the bolt handle and release button are oversized for easy operation with insulated gloves. Same goes for the safety, which has been enlarged.
The feeding port has been opened to make reloading faster, allowing savvy hunters to drop a fourth shell in quickly. A competition-grade carrier also speeds up reloading. Last spring, that speed-loading feature came in handy as Tony Vandemore had snow geese piling in on top of us for the three days I spent there. Of course, I also screwed on an extended mag, which are finally available as an accessory thanks to the request of 3-gun shooters. (Not coincidentally, the Versa Max has become a favorite on the competition circuit thanks to its easy shooting and reliability.)
I was one of the first people in the fields to test a Versa Max way back in 2010, and I instantly fell in love with the gun. It pointed so naturally and I loved being able to empty the magazine into a flock of ducks or geese quickly without getting bounced off target by stiff recoil. I sent that gun back to Remington, but quickly bought a Sportsman model when it became available and added a second tactical model to the collection last year. Both will be joined in the gun safe by this new Waterfowl Pro, but only after waterfowl season ends.