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.