TriStar Sporting Arms 12 Gauge Semi-Auto Shotgun

 

by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

January 21st, 2008

 

 

 

Click for video! (WMV format, 3.96 MB)

Hunters today demand a lot from a shotgun. Compared to the shotguns of our fathers and grandfathers, today’s shotguns deliver more power, heavier payloads, faster velocities, and better patterns, all with less recoil. The gas-operated semi-auto shotgun has been with us for many decades now, and the designs keep getting better. I remember when many gas guns were pretty finicky about the ammunition that they would reliably cycle. Today, we have semi-auto shotguns that will reliably function with a wide variety of ammunition types within the same gauge. Most of these twenty-first century gas guns are also pretty pricey. Some of today’s imported gas guns sell for well over 1200 bucks, and a lot of them sell for upwards of $1500. That is just fine if one has the money. However, many shooters come equipped with something called a “family”, which usually carries around necessary expenses for things like groceries, clothes, schooling, and a warm place to sleep. Paying out three weeks pay for a new shotgun just isn’t possible for some hunters.

Now we are getting to the meat of this review; the TriStar semi-auto shotgun. Up until now, I had ignored the TriStar brand. Not intentionally, it’s just that I didn’t think much about it. That was my mistake. Also, I am not much of a shotgunner. I prefer the rifle and handgun, and look at the shotgun as merely a tool. A necessary tool, but a tool that gets the job done without a lot of fuss and tweaking, as is sometimes necessary to achieve the potential of a rifle or handgun. Readers sometimes gripe that I tend to ignore the shotgun, and their accusations are true. I keep a couple of shotguns around for hunting, and I also own a good fighting shotgun. Still, I shoot a lot more bullets than shot. 

Like most of the shotguns sold in the USA, the TriStar is imported, and like many shotguns sold in the USA, the TriStar is imported from Turkey. The Turks have a long history of gun-making, and many importers are going to that country to supply the market here in the US. I admit to a once-held prejudice against Turkish shotguns, but that has changed over the last several years. Some fine shotguns now come into the US from Turkey. Some are high-dollar doubles, but some are also built and priced to sell to a hard-working family man. Again, there is nothing wrong with spending a handful of hundreds on a shotgun if that is your thing, but these days, it is no longer necessary, and spending a lot of cash on a shotgun does not guarantee reliability. More on that later.

The shotgun tested here is as good of a design for a gas-operated shotgun as I have seen. The gas system is machined from steel and aluminum alloys. No small plastic parts in this TriStar as there are in some shotguns of similar design. The only plastic part under the forearm is the part called the “connection rubber”, and it is a substantial piece that serves as an action buffer. The TriStar has twin action bars, and the bolt locks into the barrel extension. The shell carrier is slotted, which makes life much easier if you ever manage to get a shell under the carrier. In some designs, it means that you have to remove the trigger group. In the TriStar, and others with a slotted carrier, a screwdriver or pocket knife makes it simple to push the offending shotshell forward into the magazine tube. Like other semi-auto shotguns, the TriStar magazine tube is loaded from the bottom. With the plug in the tube, it holds two shells, for a total loaded capacity of three, which is necessary for legally hunting migratory birds in the US. For rabbits, squirrels, and quail and such, the plug is easily removed, allowing a capacity of five. The TriStar comes supplied with three screw-in choke tubes; improved cylinder, modified, and full. The chokes are notched, as is customary on European choke tubes, with notches representing the choke constriction, and the manual contains a chart translating the notches into relative choke constriction. Also supplied is a good, easy-to-use choke wrench. The stock on the sample TriStar is made of a tough synthetic, as many hunters prefer these days, but wood is also available for those who prefer the more traditional look. Also available are a few different camouflage patterns, suitable for most any hunting situation where there is a need to lay low and hide, as in water fowling. The stock is shaped well, and has molded-in checkering for a secure grip. The TriStar is also equipped with sling studs, which is a welcome addition for turkey hunters. The ventilated rib barrel and receiver are finished in a matte black. The rib measures .274 inch wide, and wears a brass bead at the muzzle. The aluminum alloy receiver is machined atop for scope rings, making this shotgun more suitable for turkey hunters who like an optical sight. The push button safety is located to the rear of the trigger, and pushes to the left to fire. I do not know whether or not the safety is reversible for left-handed shooters, as I have become accustomed to reaching under and pulling it to the left on other shotguns for many years. I prefer a top tang safety, as is found on most double guns, but that is just a personal preference. Loading the TriStar is simple. With the bolt locked open, drop one in the ejection port and push the bolt latch. Then, just load the mag tube to capacity. The trigger pull measures five and one-quarter pounds on this TriStar, which is about right for a foul weather hunting shotgun. The TriStar is easy to operate, even when wearing gloves. The test gun, in twelve gauge with a twenty-eight inch barrel weighed, in at six pounds, nine ounces. The butt pad is slick around the edges for easy shouldering without hanging up on clothing, and has a soft rubber insert in the middle.

The three inch magnum TriStar tested here is advertised to shoot any two and three-quarters or three inch shells, interchangeably without adjustment. Testing proved this to be true. I fired the TriStar with light handloads, factory Winchester AA target loads, AA Handicap loads, Federal Field Loads, Remington high brass 2 ¾ inch loads, and Remington and Winchester heavy three inch magnum turkey loads. All functioned perfectly. Patterning with the turkey loads using the full choke indicated that out to around forty-five yards, maybe fifty, the supplied full choke would work just fine on turkey. Past that, an extra-full specialty turkey choke would be preferred. For that, George Trulock of Trulock Chokes (1-800-293-9402) can supply any specialty choke constriction needed. He makes good stuff.

For busting clays, the modified choke worked well for me, and I expect that most quail hunters will find the improved cylinder choke to be just perfect.

Now, for a bit more on the reliability of this shotgun. As stated earlier, it worked perfectly with all ammo tested. One complaint that I hear a lot about gas shotguns is that they do not always work well in cold, damp weather. Around here, duck and goose hunting is a big thing. Some of these water fowlers drive a long way and spend a lot of money to hunt around the Dover Bottoms, and some of them bring high-dollar European and Japanese shotguns along. Some also bring quality American made shotguns to the blinds. I often hear complaints of some of these guns not working well in freezing weather, with many hunters going back to the pump shotgun or recoil-operated autos for better reliability, preferring to feel the extra recoil of these guns over the softer shooting but less reliable gas guns. I wanted to see if the TriStar would or would not function in wet, freezing conditions, so I decided to freeze it and see for myself. No matter what the price, a shotgun is worthless if it doesn’t work. I left the shotgun outside for two days, with the overnight temperature dipping to only six degrees. To me, that is cold. Too cold. I periodically sprayed the frozen gun down with water, forming a sheet of ice over the entire shotgun. The forearm does a pretty good job of sealing the gas system from the elements. As can be seen in the video, even frozen, the TriStar still keeps shooting. I wasn’t sure if it would or would not, but the shotgun fired as designed. The ammo had also been left out in the cold, loaded inside the shotgun, with one in the chamber and two in the tube, just as it would be in a hunting situation. The safety pressed off easily, breaking away a little ice in the process. The trigger pulled, and the gun fired and cycled as designed. I like that.

This TriStar has proven itself reliable, well-balanced, soft-shooting, and easy to operate. Now for the best part; the TriStar is also affordable to almost everyone. The MSRP on the test gun, at the time of this writing, is just under 400 bucks. Real world gun shop prices are usually even less. This shotgun costs about one-third the price of some famous-name imported gas guns, and is more reliable than many of them, and just as reliable as the best. Admittedly, this is the first TriStar shotgun that I have ever tested, but hopefully, it won’t be my last. I am anxious to try out their shorter-barreled camo turkey gun, as Spring will be here soon.

Look at the entire line of TriStar firearms online at www.tristarsportingarms.com.

For the location of a TriStar dealer near you, click on the DEALER FINDER button at www.lipseys.com.

Jeff Quinn

For a list of dealers where you can buy this gun, go to:

 

 

 

 

The TriStar functioned perfectly with a variety of loads, from light target through 3 inch magnum turkey loads.

 

 

The TriStar would be an affective turkey gun out to 50 yards.

 

 

Author tested the TriStar in freezing cold conditions, coated in a layer of ice. Functioning was perfect, as can be seen in the video.

 

 

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Click pictures for a larger version.

 

TriStar Sporting Arms 12 Gauge Semi-Auto Shotgun.

 

 

The TriStar is nicely made, with beautifully machined metal gas system parts.

 

 

Swivel studs are factory installed.

 

 

Bolt release latch is easy to operate.

 

 

Slotted shell carrier.

 

 

Safety is a crossbolt type, mounted behind the trigger.

 

 

Receiver is machined for scope rings.

 

 

Screw-in choke tubes.

 

 

Beefy machined steel extractor helps assure positive function.

 

 

Magazine loads through the bottom of the receiver.