TriStar Sporting Arms TSA Camo 3 ½ Inch 12 gauge Shotgun


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

August 27th, 2009




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Back in January of 2008, I reviewed a shotgun from TriStar Sporting Arms. The gun and the company were new to me at that time, and I gave the shotgun a pretty harsh test, freezing it in a coat of ice, among other things, to see if it would function properly under adverse conditions. It passed with flying colors, proving itself the equal to or better than shotguns costing three times as much. Now, TriStar has introduced this new camo model that has a three and one-half inch chamber, built to function with any and all twelve gauge shotgun shells, from the lightest target loads to the big 3 ½ inch magnum. To be more precise, the TriStar instruction manual specifies that the 3 ½ inch shotgun can shoot heavy 2 ¾ inch, 3 inch, and 3 ½ inch shells, but I found that this gun functions well with even the light Remington SPS Light Target loads as well. While on the subject of the owner’s manual, the test gun did not have one in the box. However, you can download the owner’s manual in PDF form at Anyway, a gas gun that will function with all three sizes of twelve gauge shotgun shells is quite a versatile shotgun.

The TSA Camo shotgun has a synthetic stock, that is finished in a very effective camouflage pattern. Of course, the effectiveness of any camo pattern depends upon the environment in which it is presented, but the TriStar camo is a very versatile design, and blends in very well in the Tennessee hardwoods and river bottoms, having a good pattern to break up the lines of the gun against the background of a tree or in a marsh.

For a 3 ½ inch gas gun, the TriStar is pretty light weight, weighing in at only seven pounds, six ounces on my scale. This is with the twenty-eight inch barrel. The barrel wears a ventilated rib, and has a fiber optic front bead. The top of the receiver is grooved for the mounting of an optical sight. I suggest one that is not too heavy, to prevent movement of the sight under the recoil of the heavy magnum shells. The stock is very well designed, with a full pistol grip, much like those on a sporting clays shotgun. It provides a good hold for controlling the gun under recoil.

The TSA camo has a couple of features which are really convenient to the user. First is the design of the magazine plug. There is no need to remove the magazine tube cap, like on some shotguns, freeing the magazine spring to fly across the room. On this TriStar, simply unscrew the magazine outer cap, and remove the plug, allowing full use of the magazine tube’s capacity. Of course, the plug should be left in place when hunting migratory birds. The other feature that is really thoughtful, is that a storage place is provided in the forearm to hold the extra gas piston. Two gas pistons are provided; one for heavy loads and another for light loads. These are easy to switch, takes about a minute, and cannot be assembled incorrectly. Very simple design, and having that extra piston on the gun at all times prevents it from being lost in a parts box.

The internal parts of the action are robust, and are made out of metal instead of plastic as they are on some high-dollar gas guns. The trigger pull on the test gun is one of the best-feeling shotgun triggers that I have ever felt; very crisp, and measuring four pounds, ten ounces on my scale, but feeling much lighter. Loading the TSA Camo shotgun is also very simple. The bolt locks open on the empty magazine. Drop a shell into the open port, and hit the bolt release. Then load the magazine tube. The safety is the familiar crossbolt type at the rear of the trigger. For shooting comfort, the TriStar wears a very good ventilated recoil pad. Screw in chokes are standard, and three are provided in full, modified, and improved cylinder constrictions, labeled for the use of lead shot. TriStar recommends using the improved cylinder choke for larger sizes of steel shot. The TriStar uses chokes of the Beretta/Benelli pattern, and specialty chokes can be had from to fit.

For shooting the TriStar, I gathered a variety of shotgun shells, including all of the three popular lengths of twelve gauge shells, from light target loads to the heaviest lead turkey loads available. The TriStar functioned well with all of them, balking only on the first super light target load, but then functioning one hundred percent thereafter with all of the light, medium, and heavy loads fed to it. Temperatures hovered around the ninety-five degree mark during most of the testing, so I couldn’t cover the shotgun in ice as I did on the earlier TriStar, but I have no doubt that this shotgun would function every bit as reliably as did that first gun. The internals are pretty much the same, with the extra versatility of this newest TriStar being able to handle the big 3 /12 inch shells preferred by some water-fowlers and turkey hunters. Patterns at forty yards were very good with the heavy turkey loads using the full choke tube provided, and no special turkey choke would be needed out to at least fifty yards. The TriStar also comes with a set of stock shims, to allow a perfect fit to the shooter by adjusting the pitch and cast of the buttstock. The length of pull measures 14.25 inches.

The TriStar TSA Camo is an excellent shotgun, and an excellent value, priced well below the competition. It feels good, looks good, handles well, and functions perfectly with all lengths of twelve gauge shotgun shells. It would be an ideal choice for waterfowl hunters, turkey hunters, and even handles quickly enough for use on doves and clay targets. It is a very good, all-around shotgun, and I highly recommend it.

Check out the TriStar shotguns and rifles online at

Jeff Quinn


Forty-yard group with full choke and 3-1/2" turkey load.





Magazine plug is easy to remove and re-install.





Stock shims adjust pitch and cast of buttstock for a perfect fit.





Sling studs.

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Click pictures for a larger version.


TriStar TSA Camo 12-gauge shotgun.





Camo pattern is very effective.



Receiver is grooved for mounting an optical sight.



Bolt release.



Crossbolt safety.





Effective recoil pad.



Shotgun comes with three choke tubes and wrench.



Extra piston stores in forearm.