I fell in love at the 2014 shooting hunting and outdoor trade show media day at the range. The object of my affection is highly attractive, trim, slim and dainty little thing, has beautiful curves, and sends a charge through me the moment after she brushes my cheek, but don’t worry—my wife is already well aware of my affair. You see, I have an affinity for beautiful shotguns. I also have a particular affinity for the 28 gauge. Normally, that means something with two barrels, a fancy stock, and the departing of several thousand dollars from my bank account. Thanks to Tristar, that may no longer be the case.
The 28 gauge has a rabid and loyal following, mainly due to its unique combination of light weight, extreme pointability, almost no recoil, and superb patterning for both the field and the range. Introduced by Parker Brothers in 1903 in one of its venerable side-by-sides, it has a bore size of .550 inches. Compare that to the bore of a 12 gauge at .729 (and some even larger), and the 20 gauge at .615, and you may feel a bit under-gunned.
While the .410 is often used as a youth gun due to it’s lack of recoil, it is actually a shooter’s gun that takes dedicated practice to be proficient due to the low pattern density and tendency to “string out” a bit—not so with the 28. As a matter of fact, there are those that would argue the 28 gauge is the best blend of shot amount, mild recoil, and pattern density. I fall into that camp.
There are many different options available in 28 gauge, but many are simply guns built on a 20 gauge platform and chambered for 28 gauge. The best 28 gauges are built “true to frame.” That means they are built on a platform designed specifically for the 28 gauge. As one can imagine, this can add significantly to the cost of a gun as machinery has to be calibrated specifically for that new frame and caliber.
TriStar has stepped up once again to prove their motto of “The Value Experts” in making a semi-automatic 28 gauge that is built on a true 28 gauge frame. On a test range where I was able to shoot literally hundreds of different shotguns over the course of the day, the TriStar Viper G2 was the one I kept returning to because I enjoyed it that much. Several boxes of ammo, and many crushed clay targets, convinced me that this will be one of my next purchases. (Plus, at an average price of 14.99 per box of range ammunition, it was nice to have someone foot the ammo bill for a while!) Tri-Star more than makes up for this by bringing the price of this new entry to the 28 gauge market at an MSRP of $689. Realistically, you should be able to pick one up for under $600. That alone is tremendous. It’s also hard enough these days to find a bargain-priced firearm that looks and performs well that can also hold up to years of shooting in a 12 or 20 gauge configuration, let alone a 28 gauge. Tristar has certainly accomplished that. Couple that with the company’s standard five-year unlimited warranty, and you have all the excuses you could ever need to add another gun to the cabinet.