“Unless you spend thousands, they just don’t make shotguns that balance like they used to,” I said, snapping the walnut stock to my cheek and shoulder as the bead magically aligned with my intended point of aim. The satin glow of the thinning 1930s bluing was as pleasing to me as the perfect balance of the pump shotgun I held. It’s so much better than modern semi-auto guns like Remington’s V3 Waterfowl Pro, right?
I picked up the aging pump at a local gun store for $175. It was a reward for my sons, better than a pat on the back for a year of good grades. The boys were experiencing the limits that safe practices impose on hunting grouse with a .22; easy shots that must be passed up when a grouse is in a tree, impossible shots in flight, so they were anxious to go afield with a shotgun.
“This wasn’t an expensive shotgun,” I told them, “it was branded by the manufacturer for an auto parts store. But look at the quality and balance. You don’t get that today in an affordable shotgun.”
I was about to find out how wrong my prejudice was.
Saskatchewan Waterfowl Hunt Experiment
My boys and I took that old shotgun out to shoot some clays. I was anxious to get some practice, too, because I had tickets to Saskatchewan, Canada for a waterfowl hunt at the invitation of Remington and Sure Shot Game Calls.
I have shot many types of shotguns: pumps, single-shots, and double barrels, semi-autos, even lever action. Many popular modern pumps and semi-autos feel bulky and poorly balanced to me. I don’t care for fiddly gas systems that have to be tuned to specific shells, or inertia-type systems that have their own issues. So I cautiously looked forward to seeing what guns I would be shooting in Canada.
Working in a remote area of Western Alaska, my journey to Canada began several days before I was due to arrive at the duck hunt camp. I had only a short weather window to get out on a chartered flight before flying became impossible. Several days of flights, prep, and more flights, and I arrived in Saskatchewan the day before other hunters.
The next morning a truckload of new shotguns arrived at the hotel and I jumped in to help the Remington reps assemble them.
I opened the first box. There lay the quite pleasing combination of Burnt Bronze Cerakote complimenting Realtree Max 5 Camo on a Remington V3 Waterfowl Pro shotgun. Ah… A semiauto… The experiment began.
My First Hands-On Look at the V3 Waterfowl Pro
Assembly took just a moment and then I shouldered it. My first impression proved accurate throughout the hunt. For me the Remington V3 leaped to my shoulder, perfectly balanced and steady, the fiber optic bead on the 28” barrel intuitively aligned with whatever target I intended.
This I had not expected. I had planned to arrive and have a good time hunting with whatever shotgun it was my lot to hunt with while secretly wishing for a gun built in a bygone era.
This V3 shotgun balanced and pointed as well as (or better than) any shotgun I’ve ever held. The box contained shims to adjust drop and cant, but the gun fit me wonderfully in factory configuration.
I didn’t want to put this shotgun down, but there was a stack of unopened boxes, so I reluctantly leaned it against the hotel wall and opened another box. I assembled V3 shotgun after shotgun, installing included duck plugs and switched the extended chokes. The boxes included three chokes (IC, Mod, and Full), and a sling. My preference was to leave the slings in the box, but several other hunters installed slings before hunting.
The Remington Waterfowl Pro V3 shotguns were finished in three variations: Burnt Bronze Cerakote barrel and receiver with either Realtree Max 5 or Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Blades camo on the furniture, or Patriot Brown Cerakote on the metal and Realtree Timber camo on the stock and forend.
Hard-pressed to choose which I liked best, I decided I like them all. Cop out? Maybe.
I noticed the enlarged controls and trigger guard of the Waterfowl Pro immediately, but what really caught my attention was the geometry of the loading port. It was faceted and smooth, without any of the thin or sharp edges and corners, all too familiar on repeating shotguns. Clearly, the V3 Waterfowl Pro was designed to be loaded and fired while wearing gloves, and later I would test that thoroughly. Hang with me…
That evening I met our Northway Outfitter guides and prepared for the hunt.
Game On! Waterfowl Hunting with the V3
The next morning I pulled a Realtree Timber finished V3 Waterfowl Pro shotgun from the stack. Remington provided several types of shells, including their resurrected Peters brand, and I was pleased to see that they had also resurrected the vintage artwork that made the old Peters packaging so attractive. I chose a couple of boxes of Remington Hypersonic and a box of Peters shells.
Out in the darkness the temperature stubbornly held below freezing with the wind whipping. I jumped in a truck with Junior, a Northway Outfitter guide, and we hit the road to the hunt area. Junior and I talked about hunting and culture. Given his upbringing where First Nations traditions handed down by his family, we had similar philosophies and morals concerning hunting, conservation, and respect for nature. I felt an instant kinship that exists among subsistence hunters even across cultures and distances.
Arriving in a wide field, we set up blinds and decoys in the predawn cold, took our positions and waited for the birds to arrive. As daylight grew, it brought the distant honking of thousands of geese, and soon the first flocks wheeled and floated into land. As the first flock approached and I fired the first shot, I knew that my initial impressions of the V3 shotgun were as accurate as the gun itself, only the experience of shooting it was even better.
All I had to do was chose a target and the beads seemed to align without conscious thought. When the gun came to my shoulder, it was on target. Balance was superb, unlike any semi-auto shotgun I have held before.
Firing the 3” Hypersonic shells in this 12 gauge shotgun felt like shooting a 20 gauge, with its extremely mild recoil. The weight, balance, fit, trigger, speed; all combined to make the Waterfowl Pro V3 feel like the perfect extension of my mind and body. I had only to become aware of a target and the barrel was aligned and a goose folded up and fell from the sky.
Suddenly, the whole world was a tornado of geese and ducks from horizon to horizon. I have seen birds in these numbers only on the Alaskan tundra, but never with a shotgun in my hands. As we shot birds from one flock, other flocks were already lining up to land, brought in by the decoys and the expertise of guides and hunters on the Sure Shot calls. My shotgun pushed rhythmically against my shoulder, my box of shells began to empty, and still, the birds came in while I shot as fast as I could reload.
Gloves and the Waterfowl Pro V3
The Remington V3 Waterfowl Pro was designed to be loaded and fired while wearing gloves. Having fired a lot of guns while wearing gloves, I figured that while the manipulation of controls should be easy, loading would likely be problematic.
While wearing a pair of thin gloves in the cold wind I loaded shells smoothly and quickly. I took them off and put on a heavier pair of gloves. Loading was still just as easy. I took the heavier ones off, then put on both pairs, one over the other. Still no problems loading.
I was still determined not to give this shotgun too much credit, so I loaded with my thumb. No problems. I loaded with my index finger. Easy. I loaded with my middle finger. Obscenely smooth. I loaded a shell with my ring finger. That put my hands at such an awkward angle that I managed to hit the bolt release. The finger of my glove got bloody. I didn’t try it with my pinky. I was convinced. This gun is a dream to reload with gloves.
I noticed the shooter next to me struggling with his shotgun. He fired one shot, then the gun did not fire on his second trigger pull. This was an interesting development, and I handed him my gun and took his. I had no malfunctions. He experienced the same malfunction with the gun I just shot flawlessly. But then another hunter experienced the same malfunction. Again I traded guns. Again, I could not replicate the malfunction. It seemed crazy: Three guns experiencing the same malfunction, but never in my hands.
A quick mental rundown of possible factors revealed the solution. Unaccustomed to shooting with insulated gloves, the shooters did not allow the trigger to fully reset before pulling it again. They then manually cycled the gun to eject the shell before trying again to fire it.
Once I brought this to their attention, they made sure to allow a full reset and the problem disappeared. It was never a problem with the function of the gun, but shooter error induced by the fact that these guns can be more easily fired with thicker gloves than most.
I did not shoot quite as much as some of the others, choosing instead to pick particular birds, or waiting and picking off any that were wounded but still flying. I was close to hunters on both sides, so I avoided even safe shots that might be uncomfortable for them.
I averaged about one shell to every three or four fired by some other shooters, as sometimes I did not shoot at all, though often I fired at two or three birds quickly. Many times it was clear that another hunter and I shot the same bird simultaneously. On other occasions, I could not be sure whether the birdshot was hit by another hunter as well.
Still, I soon ran through a box of the hot Hypersonic shells and switched to a box of Peters Premier Blue shells. The already mild recoil was lower, but the function remained the same. Switching shells again to a third type of load, I found the function no different.
Duck Camp Play Time
I planned to shoot for a while, and then switch to my camera to capture the sheer overwhelming numbers of ducks and geese in the sky and on the fields, and also film some of the shooting. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t put the shotgun down and suddenly we had reached our limit and my opportunity for photography passed.
We returned to the hotel for lunch, and the rest of the day we spent trying out some of the new Polaris side-by-sides on a trail ride. I spent some time talking to Charlie Holder about the Sure Shot calls that had impressed me during the morning’s hunt.
Sure Shot Calls Bring in the Birds
The next day we rolled out to hunt again before daylight. I was with a different group of Northway Outfitter guides, and a different group of hunters. Happily, that included Remington and Sure Shot personnel, all highly-skilled waterfowl hunters. I could learn much from them! The weather was cold, but the wind was mild, making a far more comfortable hunt.
We set up blinds in a different location with an open field on three sides and a long pond behind. We placed decoys on the ground and in the water and prepared for daylight. The guides informed us that hunting would be a little slower in this location, and though the flocks came in a little more spaced out than the previous morning, we were by no means disappointed.
Due to a shift in wind direction, the geese circled directly over our blinds and then often lined up to land directly toward us. Ducks came in on the other side to land in the pond. Shooting was slow at first and then quickly increased in pace as more flocks of geese and ducks, turned from their distant routes at the sound of the Sure Shot calls, came in to land.
This morning I was able to truly appreciate these calls, as most formations of geese were passing in the far distance, and only turned to approach our position in response to the calls.
Dropping Geese and Ducks
As the first geese came in against the bright blue sky, the now familiar feel of the Remington V3 gave me a sense of calm confidence. I admired the birds and they grew large and low in front of me. Then the shotguns exploded on both sides, wings folded, and the big Canadians fell from the sky.
The remaining geese passed over my head and I turned 180 degrees, the shotgun intuitively snapping to my shoulder and beads effortlessly aligning just in front of the beak of a large goose that flew heavily and stiffly, wounded in the fusillade.
The buttpad shoved against my shoulder, the wad sailed in its curving path against the blue of the sky and brown, distant hills, and the suddenly limp goose half-folded its wings in its final heedless descent into the pond.
Reload and reset, another flock curved their wings in a slow final approach. Three shots and two geese were spinning down (the third shot was fired just as the shot from another gun struck the target, and my shot neatly patterned the air the falling goose had occupied a split second before).
Then flock after flock, or sometimes a single goose peeled out of a passing formation at the sound of the calls. Ducks came in fast over the pond behind us, and not a few splashed down, never to fly again.
A flock of geese came in low, wings curved to provide lift as they slowed to land, heading straight at the blind. Closer and closer they approached, until they were just above us, spread out in a shallow echelon. I gave a slight lead to a big dark bird in the center and pulled the trigger.
“Heads up!” I yelled, “This one’s landing in our laps!” I prepared to deflect the dropping bird, but my trajectory calculations were off, and it hit the top of the blind in front of me, rolled off, and dropped to the wheat stubble in front of the blind.
The geese came in waves and soon another formation circled directly above. Our guide called from the cattails to the right of my blind. I shot one goose, then another, swinging between targets so effortlessly that the two shots were almost as fast as I could pull the trigger. The first goose fell, then the second was whistling through the air, a dead weight missile aimed for our guide. Again I called out a warning, and the guide scarcely avoided the full impact as the wing slapped his thigh.
Waterfowl Hunting with Northway Outfitters
Too soon, we had reached our limit and I realized I neglected my camera again. Lacking photographic evidence, I cannot convey the full impact of what waterfowl hunting is like in Saskatchewan. Picture honking geese in huge whirling flocks and formations covering the sky from horizon to horizon, with other flocks alighting on fields for miles around.
Flight after flight drop in on the decoys, one after another, allowing little time even to reload. This is not a scene that is foreign to me as it is common in Alaska. But I have never seen anything like it in any other place I have visited in the mainland United States.
If you have never hunted waterfowl in northern latitudes, I recommend a call to Northway Outfitters to set up a hunt. If you are looking for trophy whitetail, you may consider combining a deer hunt, as this area of Canada is responsible for most of the trophy whitetail and mule deer taken. Notably, a majority of those were taken by Northway Outfitters clients on the 1 million acres plus of provincial and First Nations wilderness land that they hunt.
The hunting over for the day, we gathered the harvested birds and gave them to First Nations families. After packing up the decoys we headed in for lunch.
9 Remington V3s, 350 Rounds
We spent the afternoon shooting skeet. Breaking clays was effortless with the Remington V3, and I mixed loads of light trap loads, standard hunting loads, and the heavy HyperSonic shells. With its Versaport auto-adjusting gas system, it cycled through the various pressure loads without issue.
By the time it was too dark to shoot, I had fired around 350 12 gage shells in two days. The majority were the high-velocity Remington Hypersonic Steel. My shoulder was not sore, and I could easily have gone on shooting at this rate. I fired loads of varied lengths and pressures, with no need to adjust gas systems between loads. I fired shells through 9 different V3 shotguns, and I was sold.
I shoot a lot of different guns and have a lot come through my hands every year. Some I like, some I don’t, but it is rare for a gun to impress me so much that I really don’t want to give it back. It appears I’m not alone. I talked to industry members who were given free shotguns by Benelli, yet purchased Remington V3s as their preferred shotguns.
What Impressed me About the Remington V3 Waterfowl Pro?
It is a fine-looking gun. I like the camo patterns complimented by the Cerakote. It gives a touch of class that a full-camo gun seems to lack while retaining the practicality of a durable, rustproof finish.
But the balance and natural “pointability” that really caught my attention. I expected an unwieldy gun with a balance that offended me but instead held a gun that balanced and pointed naturally for me. The V3 seemed an extension of my body, effortlessly pointed wherever I willed it, as it if simply complied with my thoughts.
Designed by engineers who are passionate hunters and shooters, this was not a gun built just to sell, but to be used.
Unlike other semi-auto shotguns, the V3 action bars and springs are located in the receiver, not in the stock. This keeps the weight balanced between the hands, and the result is immediately noticeable in what for me proved the perfect balance of the gun.
I never cared for inertia-driven semi-auto shotguns with their heavy recoil impulse and sensitivity to the shooter’s stance and other factors. But on the other hand, I have not been a fan of most gas-driven semi-auto shotguns because of their sensitivity to different loads. Examples of both do not impress me with either feel or balance.
But the Remington V3 has changed that for me. The Versaport gas system makes it dead reliable, even in an age where shells have become much heavier on the heavy end and much lighter on the light end.
It adjusts for varied pressures on the fly; the shell length itself automatically regulates the gas system. When I loaded a 2 3/4” skeet load in the magazine, followed by a 3” HyperSonic, followed by another target load, I could be sure of perfect reliability.
Literally, it went like this: The 2 3/4” shell opened 8 gas ports. The action cycled when fired, chambering the powerful 3” Hypersonic that closed 4 of the ports to restrict gas flowing out of the action. Then the next 2 3/4” shell loaded, and the open ports increased from 4 to 8 again.
The other advantage to the design of the Remington V3’s gas system and action is the low level of felt recoil. Many a 20 gauge shotgun has a heavier felt recoil than the 12 gauge V3. Compared to other gas-powered shotguns, the V3 begins converting energy to work sooner, by driving the gas system earlier and then continues to use the gas over a longer duration, extending the recoil impulse. A slower, longer recoil impulse is much milder than a fast sharp hit to your shoulder; the difference between a push and a punch.
The surprisingly low felt recoil immediately had me considering the shooting interests of my wife and daughter.
Finally, all of the details combined to make me wish I could take one of these guns home. The V3 has a steel mid bead and a fiber optic front bead that always seem to find the intended point of aim.
The controls on the Waterfowl Pro are refined from the original V3. The charging handle, safety, and bolt release are all enlarged for manipulation with gloves, while the trigger guard is enlarged to provide room for a gloved finger.
The loading port is flared, smoothed, and faceted to allow smooth, snag-free loading while wearing gloves. Or while not wearing gloves. No pinching, either way.
Assembly is fast and easy, and there are no fiddly gas system adjustments or parts that can be lost.
The V3 Shotgun ships from Remington with three extended chokes that can be changed without tools, a sling, a neutral stock shim installed, and additional shims for cast in, out, up or down.
It has been some time since any gun impressed me like the Remington V3. I will keep my bulletproof Remington 870 for problem bear hazing. I still have a love for fine side-by-side shotguns that far exceeds my budget. I continue to admire and shoot vintage pumps. But my next shotgun will be my new (maybe final) go-to hunting shotgun, and it will be a Remington V3.