A semi-auto that thinks and cleans itself even after hundreds of rounds… Mark Stone’s found one in the shape of Remington’s revolutionary new Versamax
At times you have to give Remington full marks for trying, even if the end results aren’t a roaring success, their 105CTi a prime example. However, it now seems that their gas powered semi-auto enthused boffins have created the ultimate single-barrelled shotgun; one that works out each individual load size and adjust itself accordingly whilst dealing with the resultant detritus in the process. The interesting aspect is there does seem to be some serious Italian influences from a well-known inertia specialist although that’s just my take on matters. That said, it’s certainly no bad thing and if the resulting performance of the gun on test was anything to go by, the end product is something well worth shouting about.
The bright green case alone screams you’re holding a Remington, the custom moulded plastic container precisely tailored to gently hold and securely transport the Versamax and its array of accessories. Unusually and guaranteed to become a Remington collectable, the stock also comes with a removable cover that talks to you… In the same vain as the modern greeting card, a macho American drawl congratulates you on your purchase before going on to outline the Versamax benefits. A unique promotional gimmick and well worth carefully removing before keeping safe if only for reasons of nostalgia.
Elsewhere in the case a full set of flush-it Probore chokes, choke and hex key, three stock spacers and four-way adjustable stock head shim, trigger lock and alternative Hi-iz beads compliment the gun and provide the shooter with everything they could conceivably need in the first instance. It’s on opening the case that the unusual design of the Versamax also comes immediately to light, Remington’s take on the self-regulating gas valve like nothing else you’ll have seen.
Available only with synthetic furniture the Versamax design has been able to capitalise on the latest advancements, the Black Synthetic as tested being the exact same as the camo variants. The long beaver-tail style forend is nicely sculpted to accommodate both bare and gloved hands, the three soft rubber textured panels providing instant and positive purchase and a mag cap that is held in place by one of the strongest ratchets I’ve yet encountered. Moving towards the stock past the matte black alloy receiver, the supplied head shim allowing the stock to be moved up or down as well as to either side. The well contoured grip as per the forend utilises the same soft textured inlays whilst the comb’s gel insert and deep sponge – like SuperCell recoil pad cushion the gun into the shoulder and against the cheek.
Other external features are in many ways those that have gone before. The bolt release sits beneath a large ejection port, the long loading gate of sufficient size to accommodate the easy ingress of 3½” ammo whilst the now oversized cross-bolt safety and bolt lock sit to the rear and the right-hand side of the enlarged trigger-guard and non-adjustable blade. The only other mechanical component that remains visible is the two-piece rotating bolt that, like other external features does highlight the rather Italianate influences.
Best of seven
Surprisingly easy and trouble free to assemble, the first aspect you notice is that the ring of the 28” TriNyte coated, steel proofed up to full choke barrel doesn’t house a valve or venting ports, and that no return spring encapsulates the magazine tube. Instead what looks like a twin pontoon sits directly beneath the 3½” chamber that together houses a series of seven conical ports that form the intelligent valve system. This is activated by the length of the cartridge chambered, the physical extent of each covering or leaving exposed between three, four and seven of the small vents that are housed within the two outer chambers that also the waste gas outlets. When the shot is fired the gas vented then drives two small rods rearwards via an Archimedean style screw into two corresponding slots within the receiver either side of the breech that house part of the return spring mechanism.
What this all means is that the more of what Remington call their Versaports are exposed the less effort the gun will need to complete the cycle. Correspondingly, a long cartridge will cover all of them thereby telling the Versamax it’ll have to do more work to eject and chamber the next round. In other words it’s the equivalent of pushing a toy car compared to your family saloon; one requires more effort than the other, something you’ll have been able to work out for yourself even before you’ve laid a hand on either. It’s also down to this intelligent system that the Versamax is able to maintain its cleanliness. Since the gasses exhaust more or less next to the ejection port along with any small pieces of detritus, there’s hardly anywhere for residue to form, only small traces to be found where the mag tube attaches to the receiver.
Technology is all well and good but if ‘on paper’ claims don’t translate into practical capabilities then all the development in the world counts for nothing. However, boastful as they might be, Remington’s pre-publicity propaganda actually translates into physical being, the Versamax actually surpassing the sales brochure hype. Equally interesting is that the gun as delivered is more than likely to suit most shooters irrespective of the fact that the stock dimensions can be significantly altered be adding the ½”, ¾” or 1” butt extension plates. In basic ‘out of the box’ form the Versamax tips the scales at 8lbs 6oz with drops at comb and heel of 1 3/8” and 2¼” with a passable length of pull measuring 14 ¼”.
One measurement Remington could do with addressing though is the 7lbs 4oz average trigger weight. The Versamax has been designed to reduce virtually everything so applying the premise to the trigger mechanism wouldn’t go amiss on such an advanced semi.
An aspect that did impress immediately was the feel of the Versamax, the seemingly instant familiarity, the balance and the fact the Arrow Laser Shot highlighted just how flat the gun’s attitude was, my eye, beads and laser beam converging exactly on the predetermined point forty feet away, the twin beads on the 7mm vented rib forming the perfect inverted ‘8’.
Heading over to Bond & Bywater’s fifty birder and maintaining my single-barrel edict of shooting everything with ½” choke, the ammo selected for the test was suitably eclectic. In 2 ¾” it was 28g Express World Cups and Supremes moving up to 34g Supreme Game. From there it was Remington’s 3” 50g Heavy Magnums filled with 6’s and their 3½” Sportsman Hi-Speed Steel that discharge a hefty, shoulder dislocating 1 3/8 oz load of 2’s at over 1,550 fps velocity. So yes, nothing too extreme.
Starting with the smaller cartridges the assertion that the Versamax translates the sensation of most 12 bore loads into 20’s is actually correct, to a degree the gun hardly reacts. Moving up the scale, as you’d expect the heavier rounds do produce a more noticeable effect when discharged. However, whilst the 3½” steel loads produced the expected increase in muzzle flip the gun still remained comfortable to shoot, even when three were fired in rapid sequence - something that would rarely if ever happen under normal shooting circumstances.
Balancing directly beneath the ejection port, even when utilising the big loads the Versamax remains composed, the handling refined with the physical dynamics virtually unchanged. Another interesting point is that even with magnum loads you have no particular sensation of the cyclic system at work, no bangs and clangs, flexing or other physical distractions, just a semi-auto that’s seems instantly ready to discharge it’s second or third round the moment you are. Whilst not quick to shoot in snap shooting terms the Versamax’s attitude is one of cool and calm, transfer between opposing targets more akin to controlled agility, a sensation that automatically slows down the shooter giving them more time to access rather than stab haphazardly in the general direction.
There’s no denying that with the Versamax, Remington have given the current semi-auto shooters a considerable insight into the way forward. Unlike others who claim to have a gas operated shotgun that tames even the mightiest loads, the Versamax has actually performed the task, the gun’s ability to reduce the felt recoil of even their own 3½” Sportsman Hi-Speed Steel, fifty consecutive shots of these seriously potent magnum rounds remaining well within this shotgunner’s comfort zone.
Add into the equation the fact that the Versamax, even after three hundred rounds had passed through it, never once failed, stove piped or gave any hint of a problem irrespective of load type or size, exhibited hardly any fouling, once again confirming Remington’s claims that the attentions of the cleaning process will only be required at the end of each season.
Similarly, the Versamax is as adept at clays as it is at live quarry confirming that it is genuinely an all-round 12 bore, is easily modified to suit the stature of nearly every shooter that picks it up and is equally capable whatever the job in hand. And if you’re keen enough you can even specify a Duckblind camouflage version although that one costs a stupefying £2,112. Basically, what more could you ask for? What you need to ask for is some discount. At £1,850 for the black synthetic version, Remington enthusiasts will consider the Versamax an absolute essential to add to their collection but for others the price could potentially be somewhat daunting.
What I will say is that if you’re on the market for a modern semi – automatic that indisputably lives up to it’s maker’s claims, is impressive and comfortable to shoot, will shrug off the worst conditions you’re ever likely to throw at it, can be quickly altered to accommodate summer or winter clothing yet requires hardly any attention whatsoever, then bit the bullet and buy a Versamax. Remington used to have the reputation for building some of the best semi – automatics in the world and with the Versamax; they’ve proved they’re back up there.
• Lyalvale Express; www.lyavaleexpress.com
• Bond & Bywater; 01772 258980
• Arrow Laser Shot; www.arrowlasershot.com
|Calibre||12 – bore / 3½” Chamber|
|Action||Gas cycled semi – auto|
|Capacity||3 x 12 – bore cartridges|
|Barrels||28 – inch Probore multi – choke|
|Contact||Edgar Brother, 01625 – 613177, www.edgarbrothers.com
All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates