by Sam Hoober
Alien Gear Holsters' Sam Hoober reviews the TriStar Viper Max Shotgun, in the 3-½” semi-auto model in Reatree Max-5HD Camo.
USA – -(Ammoland.com)-The TriStar Viper Max Shotgun is new for 2017, and is a gas-operated semi-auto 12 gauge, but instead of the normal dry review, I thought I'd try something a little different.
You see, the TriStar Viper Max model I received is the Realtree Max-5HD camo model. Naturally, that means it's intended use is as a hunting shotgun.
Since I received it close to the opener of the spring turkey season, I thought I'd use it to do just that.
TriStar Viper Max Shotgun Specifications
- Magazine Cut-off Action
- Vent Rib w/ Matted Sight Plane
- Fiber Optic Sight
- 5 Round Magazine – Shot Plug Included
- Quick Shot Plug Removal
- Chrome-lined Chamber and Barrel
- Swivel Studs
- 4 Beretta Mobil Chokes (SK, IC, M, F)
- Reatree Max-5HD Camo Pattern
The Viper Max is actually manufactured in Turkey by Armsan, who calls it the Paragon Grande, but it's imported into the U.S. by TriStar and sold as the Viper Max. As mentioned, it's a gas-operated semi-automatic 12-gauge with a 3.5-inch chamber.
Like other gas shotguns, it has swappable piston rings depending on what kind of load you're running. The barrel and chamber are chrome-lined, which should ensure longevity. You can get it dipped in Realtree Max5 or black synthetic if you choose, and you get the choice of 26-inch, 28-inch or 30-inch barrel lengths.
The sight bead is green fiber optic. Indoors, the optic looks pathetically small but lights up like Christmas once afield, so it is – rest assured – more than adequate.
The gun comes with 4 chokes – Skeet, Improved Cylinder, Modified and Full – and is compatible with Beretta Mobil chokes in case you wish to upgrade or replace as needed.
TriStar also includes an extra recoil shim in case you need it – which you might. The stock is definitely on the thin side, which suggested to me when I unboxed it that I might be in for some lively times.
If there was a criticism I could make on the TriStar Viper Max Shotgun, the stock would be it as I generally prefer a big butt on a shotgun. Because that's what we're talking about here.
Break-in is a box of 3-½”, so I grabbed a box of Federal 3-½” #2 waterfowl and hit the range. I neglected to bring a tape measure to measure the patterns, but pellets were hitting at point-of-aim at 20 yards with no choke with roughly a 20-inch spread, give or take an inch or two. Shooting such loads is painful but tolerable in small doses. Trigger pull is light, at no more than 6 pounds and short, traveling roughly one-third of an inch.
However, it's a hunting gun…and that is exactly where I took it.
TriStar Viper Max, Turkish Gun, Turkey Hunting
To give the TriStar Viper Max Shotgun (it's actually manufactured by Armsan in Turkey; they call it the Paragon Grande Realtree Max5) a proper test, I took it turkey hunting. My friend and hunting partner – we'll call him M. – and his family have land and a cabin in the northeast corner of my home state, and they generously allowed me to hunt the property and rid them of one of the turkeys plaguing their deer feeders. However, I switched to a 3-inch Kent #5 1-¾ oz turkey load in lieu of the full-house loads.
After a number of pursuits of other birds and painfully close calls over the previous day, M. and I parked ourselves in an improvised blind underneath a downed tree at the base of a hill. The weather and hunting pressure (from us) had rendered the local turkey population immune to calls or uncommunicative, so we had to rely on lying in wait.
We heard several toms gobbling just up the hill from us but weren't moving, until M. alerted me to a tom that had walked out in the field behind me.
I made like a hole in the air and waited for him to walk by us, which he did, at one point being a mere 10 feet away from me. As he passed by clucking, I slowly inched my way into shooting position. Had I moved any faster or more violently, he would have been gone, but I was able to get the Viper Max up by the time he had gotten to about 20 yards in front of us and started to turn broadside to get a better look.
I set the bead on his head and pulled the trigger.
In the rush of the moment, I struggled to my knees while trying to bring the gun up for a potential follow up shot, which turned out to be unnecessary.
In the end, my prize was a gorgeous mature tom, weighing roughly 20 pounds with a fat beard and good spurs. His meat is in my freezer, and his fan and beard will go on the wall as a memento of a hunt where nothing went right until it finally did and by slim margins.
For this hunt, the TriStar Viper Max acquitted itself astoundingly well. The 7.4 pounds unloaded weight never felt heavy when carried in the crook of my arm or in the hand, even when sprinting uphill or trudging up and down the trails. It handles very well, easily acquires the target and recoil when shooting lighter loads than 3-½” shells was easily managed.
I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it as a hunting shotgun for someone looking to get a semi-auto that can handle both migratory fowl and upland birds, which it will do without breaking a sweat. MSRP is $730, but I've found a number of online retailers asking $100 less. For the features you get, it's close to the bargain of the century, as it's comparable in features to guns costing twice that amount or more.
I would have been hunting that weekend whether I used the pump gun I already own or this TriStar. Since it was the gun I brought, it played a part in what was – for me – a very memorable experience, and in that regard I will be a bit sad to see it go back. However, I can only hope that it will eventually find its way into the hands of someone who will be able to put it to use and have a few of their own.