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Not too long ago 3-gun shooters who wanted to run a semi-auto shotgun needed to buy a “tactical” or hunting shotgun, tear it apart, and build it back up to get the right configuration. That’s what I did with my Mossberg 930 to get it into competition shape, but even then there are plenty of things I’d like to improve. Remington, though, has recently released a version of their relatively new (for a centuries-old company) Versa Max smoothbore that’s designed specifically for the 3-gun crowd — the Competition Tactical.

What’s the first hint that this is a competition-ready shotgun? Well, there the receiver that’s turned out in a smart shade of British racing Remington green. While that might be a hindrance for those who take the “tactical” in the title literally, paint scheme certainly stands out on the range.

Starting at the business end the Versa Max shotgun uses Remington’s ProBore extended choke tube system. Under the barrel is the carbon fiber wrapped magazine tube which holds eight rounds — the maximum legal number in most “Tac Optics” division competitions. Magazine extension tubes are available for those shoots where the rules allow for more capacity.

Sighting systems on shotguns are almost as varied as the proverbial snowflakes in a blizzard. In this case Remington has gone with a “lollipop” design much like the XS Sights “big dot” system. The idea is that it’s much easier to just put a big bright dot on the top of a single index point rather than lining up a traditional pair of beads. And they’re right. I find it much faster to line up non-precision shots using this system, out to 50 yards or so on a plate rack. The issue is when you start trying to make more accurate shots. The system doesn’t really have the precision to take a 200-yard shot.

Using a fiber optic front sight here is a solid choice. There’s a vent rib running along the top of the barrel to keep everything aligned with etched grooves to reduce glare and make the sights stand out more effectively.

Don’t like the sighting system Remington’s chosen? You can swap it out! The rear sight is dovetailed and the receiver comes drilled and tapped for a Picatinny rail and the optic system of your choice. The sighting world is your oyster.

Covering the forward operating bits is a light weight polymer handguard. Grippy and easy on the hands, it does the job admirably. Embedded into the side is a QD cup mating the other one on the rear of the stock for the sling of your choice. The rear buttstock is similarly comfortable, covered in a grippy rubber material and contoured to make holding and shooting the gun seem effortless.

What’s most remarkable about the shotgun is what happens in the receiver. The Versa Max shotgun is a gas piston design that functions in a shockingly similar — but litigiously distinguishable — manner as the Benelli M4. That means you can load the tube and rack the action all you want, but you won’t be able to actually fire the gun until you hit the release button near the right front of the trigger guard, dropping a shell onto the lifter. Many competition shooters prefer this system over the more traditional version which auto-loads a shell whenever the action is racked.

Speaking of the gas system, the VersaMax uses a nifty auto-regulating design that varies the pressure in the gas system based on the length of the shotgun shell. In other designs like the FN SLP you’d need to tear down the entire shotgun and replace the gas piston to tune the gun and reduce the recoil as much as possible (which improves follow-up shot performance). With the Remington VersaMax the gun regulates that gas pressure for you automatically ensuring the softest recoil possible even when swapping from tiny “clown car” 1 3/4 inch shells to full size 3 inch slug shells.

The Versa Max’s loading port is, as my friend Larry would say, “wallered out.” It’s been extended to make it easier to use some of the more modern shotgun loading techniques, such as the “load two” and “load four” methods, much easier than in a traditionally sized port. In the world of 3-gun competition, bigger loading ports make it easier and faster to reload under pressure. That’s a good thing.

With the Versa Max Competition’s enlarged port, I found that I was able to consistently get the “load two” motion down quicker than with my existing bone stock Mossberg 930. It’s clearly an improved design.

Out on the range I threw everything I could at the gun and I couldn’t make it so much as cough. Sleeve after sleeve of slugs, box after box of the cheapest birdshot I could find, and the gun kept functioning in the Texas dirt. Unquestioned reliability in a competition is a primary requirement and the Versa Max performed admirably. As for accuracy, slugs at 50 yards consistently landed on a chest plate.

The biggest hurdle to adding a Versa Max Competition to your competition complement may be the cost. Mossberg’s stock 930 SPX runs about $880, or roughly a grand less than the Versa Max. But you’ll have to do some work to it to get it to the same performance level as the Versa Max (and it still won’t feel as nice). The FN SLP is also cheaper in its traditional version, roughly $1,200 on the street or $1,450 for the competition version.

On the other hand the Benelli competition guns are decidedly more than the Remington Versa Max. But all things considered, I think I like the Remington the best of the four shotguns, even considering its price tag.

Specifications: Remington Versa Max Competition Tactical Shotgun

Caliber: 12 Gauge
Barrel Length: 22 inches
Weight: 8.1 lbs
Length: 44 inches
Price: $1,733 MSRP

Ratings (out of five stars): 

Style and Appearance * * * * 
The green receiver might not be for everyone, but otherwise the styling is spot on.

Accuracy * * * * *
At the distances you’d expect to use a shotgun in competition, the sighting just system works. You’ll put round after round on target.

Reliability * * * * *
The Versa Max’s Versaport gas system lets it eat anything you feed it without fail. Zero issues of any kind.

Overall * * * *
Price is the only issue here. The ability to get a significantly cheaper shotgun and a Dremel to do the work yourself for less than the purchase price of the Remington Versa Max Competition may put some people off the gun. But for those who want an ideally equipped competition-ready shotgun out of the box, the Versa Max is worth every penny.

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  1. Honestly, there are two things that keep me away from big green these days.

    1. Reliability issues all across their modern line. (I mean seriously, it’s easier to name the guns they made in the past 5 years that haven’t been mechanical dumpster fires.)

    2. The position of the safety is counter intuitive to me. The Mossberg safety and the 700 safety are in the “right” place for me to work it with my thumb. Their scatter guns… not so much.

    The real disappointment is the price point. A JM Pro mossberg comes in at ~half the pice and has most of the same features. While I don’t shoot competitive three gun anymore due to the absurd gamesmanship involved, the gun performed like a champ when I did. Given that benchmark, I just don’t see the real benefit of spending more that $1k on a scatter gun. Even my long fascination with the M1014 has more or less died due to my experience with the functionality of Mossberg’s guns. Right now, I’m at the point where if I wanted a combat pump gun, I’d reach for my ~$500 magpulled out Mossy over more or less anything on the market.

    • I have at work a thirty year old 870 wingmaster with an 18.5 inch barrel with an action as smooth as butter. I love it to death. I bought an 870 of my own two years ago and it was complete junk. I would have to smash the buttstock down on the ground while opening the action to get the spent shells to eject. I polished the chamber with some steel wool and a drill, which fixed the issue, but it pissed me off to the point that I sold it and bought a Mossberg.

      If they can jack up a pump gun, who knows what the more complicated actions hold.

      • I’ve got my grandfathers ’61 model 870 wingmaster. And I have never found an action that is as smooth and crisp as that. I have a 3 year old 870 as well, I never had the problems yours did but the quality is definitely left wanting compared to that 56 year old beaut

        Works plenty good for the occasional skeet shooting I do so I don’t complain, especially not what I paid for it

        • love it. but no more big green for me. Anti American begins with bad guns. simple as that.

    • “The Mossberg safety and the 700 safety are in the “right” place for me to work it with my thumb.”

      I agree completely, until… you put a pistol grip on a Mossberg. Now I’m not sure what I like better.

  2. while im not a 3 gunner, i just can’t imagine using any other SG than a mossy. Everything is exactly where it should be.

  3. In competition circles, the JM pro, is, justly or unjustly, known as the “jam pro”.

    The hot ticket these days is the Browning A5 with it’s auto load, which is especially valuable if you quad load. The low cost shotty is proving to be the Steoger M3k.

  4. Or you could buy a Linberta SA01LSTAC20 or Tristar Raptor for $400 or less, add a magazine extension, and shoot the crap out of it. Just as reliable as the Remington, for less than a third of the price. Definitely more reliable than the 930.

    • ^This. I bought a Linberta a couple of years ago for pocket change and it has been flawless with every load I’ve run through it. Does anyone have a recommendation for a magazine extension? I’d like to find one that wouldn’t require me to Bubba the gun with a Dremel and a prayer to sort of make it fit.

  5. “…extension tubes are available…”
    how much longer can you go before the departing pellets begin to erode the magazine tube?

    • Quite a bit. I’ve seen half foot tubes on some competition guns extending past the muzzle. The issue is muzzle blast, not the pellets. Realistically speaking, your pattern doesn’t really open up beyond bore diameter until quite a way from the muzzle.

    • I get that it’s a serious game with serious competitors, but the pictures of the guys with the mag tubes extending 6″ beyond the end of the barrel crack me up.

      When your sport has jacked around with something as no-nonsense and deadly as a firearm to the point where (gun guy) outsiders point and laugh, it’s time to reevaluate your parameters.

      • You can crack up and guffaw all you want (I’m not going to argue that it looks weird at first), but when you’re shooting at 40+ targets in under a minute, taking time to reload 3 or 4 times vs. 6 or 7 makes a big difference. And quad-loading is straight up the fastest way to load a shotgun, with the exception of magazine fed guns.

  6. Aside from the fact that I don’t do 3-gun, I’d be unlikely to spend that kind of money on anything Remington makes.

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