When Remington introduced its Versa Max semi-auto shotgun five years ago, hunters were impressed with its simple but effective VersaPort operating system that regulated the amount of gas required to cycle the action by using the length of the shotshell. But while some may have considered its price of around $1,600 to be reasonable considering the gun would shoot just about any load, it was hardly everyman’s semi-auto. Now the company has knocked about $400 off the MSRP to offer the more affordable Versa Max Sportsman, including one version made especially for turkey hunters.
Let’s first address what the Sportsman does not have. It’s missing the bells and whistles of the original Versa Max, but most hunters—particularly those looking at the gun as a potential turkey rig—won’t mind. Mainly, Remington switched the buttstock to a standard synthetic version that does not offer the user customizable fit of the initial furniture. Gone are the length-of-pull spacers, interchangeable comb inserts, and shims for changing drop at heel and cast. Molded-in stippling on the stock’s pistol grip and along the length of the fore-end replaces the rubber over-molded panels found on the top-end gun.
The Sportsman does not have Remington’s TriNyte treatment on the barrel but instead wears either a black-oxide finish or a camo dip. It comes with one Pro Bore choke tube—a flush-fitting modified or, in the case of the Turkey version, an extended Wingmaster Turkey-Extra Full—instead of a set of five. A cardboard box takes the place of a custom-fit polymer takedown case.
What makes the Sportsman a good deal is the same VersaPort system as its predecessor. It cycles everything from light, 23/4-inch target loads to 31/2-inch magnums while reducing the felt recoil of the heavier stuff. The operating system uses dual gas pistons positioned in cylinders mounted beneath the chamber area of the barrel to power the bolt carrier. A series of seven ports arranged in three rows in the chamber bleed propellant gases to the pistons.