When the Guns America editor handed me a youth shotgun in Muddy Girl, that’s the pink camo stuff that girls are supposed to like, and asked me if I would review it, I thought he was joking. He wasn’t. So I turned in my man card and put this little scatter gun through the paces. Have you seen the Muddy Girl Camo? It’s mostly pink. But other than looking like something a Disney Princess threw up on, the TriStar was a surprisingly nice shotgun. I mentioned it was pink, right?
After getting over—well I didn’t really get over it—the pink camo, the next part that puzzled me was the brand name. TriStar. This is the first TriStar I’ve reviewed. I’d heard something about them once at a big box sporting goods retailer. As I recall the guy behind the counter was showing one to another customer and commented that they were nice gas operated shotguns that were made in Turkey. He was showing him a Turkey gun, as in one for killing Turkey birds. I remember laughing in my head at the dumb joke. Other than that, I knew nothing about this company until I found myself holding on to a pink shotgun and saying some off color remarks to the editor. It is ok, we are friends, and I got to reclaim my man card later on a big 45-70 lever action for another review.
Anyways, think pink.
TriStar makes/imports a wide variety of shotguns. They have some very nice looking over under with gloss blued steel and walnut stocks. They also make some more utilitarian pump guns. And lots of in-betweens. I can’t vouch for their other guns, but if the Raptor model is any indication of the quality of their other lines, then these are some very well built and reliable shotguns.
The review shotgun is a Raptor model. The Raptors are gas operated semi auto shotguns. They make them in 20 and 12 gauge and with different barrel lengths. They also use the Berretta/ Bennilli style choke tubes so getting new tubes shouldn’t be a problem. The Raptor ships with the 3 most common chokes: improved cylinder, modified and full. They are chambered for 3 inch shells. Like most shotguns, the Raptor comes with a magazine plug for waterfowl hunting.
The pink shotgun in this review is one of the youth model Raptors. It is offered in a regular camo pattern, black and the Muddy Girl like this one. They are only made in 20 gauge. The stock on the youth model (at 13 inches) is just over an inch shorter than the standard ones. This is not a huge difference in size–I’d assume it would be appropriate for teenagers who are growing into full sized guns, or smaller framed men and women. And it only weighs 6.5 pounds.
I could shoot it comfortably, although I was a little cramped and had to make sure to get my head down more than normal to keep from “peeking” over the barrel. But I am 6 feet tall. This is a youth shotgun and would fit a smaller person a lot better than me. It would be a bit big for most kids under 10, but then again–most 20 and 12 gauges are. It is a good middle ground, though, between the .410 and the 12, and much more effective for kids who will actually be hunting.
Fit and Finish
The fit and finish on the TriStar Raptor is good. It is not great but it is good. That is a price point thing. This shotgun has an MSRP of around $450 and the street price looks to be around the $300-350 mark. The Muddy Girl is a 40-50 buck up-charge. There are a few tool marks and small blemishes in the finish but nothing too bad. The stock and forend fit nice and tight with no wobble or rattle. There isn’t much else to say about this, it is a heck of a lot of shotgun for $300-350. And remember the market. If something catastrophic happens to the gun, or if lessons of car and maintenance are slow to sink in, you aren’t going to mourn its loss the way you would with a gun with better fit and finish.
I have a distinct philosophy on this matter, and it begs a simple comparison. I’m a guitar player. The instruments I play aren’t the most expensive guitars made, but all of them are American made. They’re great working class guitars. I wouldn’t necessarily give one of these to a kids who was just learning how to play a guitar. For that there are much cheaper guitars made in Japan, Korea, and Mexico that are fully functional–functionally identical, and (thanks to CNC machines and good skilled workers) great guitars.
That middle ground is now made up of amazing instruments. Hard to believe, sometimes, but true. I’m not talking about the press board crap you can buy for $100 in a big box retailer that also sells groceries and tires. Sadly, that’s where a lot of people think they are supposed to start. So they pay $100 for a guitar and more for lessons, and the kids give up because it hurts to play the pieces of crap and they can’t figure out how to tune a guitar that won’t stay in tune, and all of that money is flushed down the proverbial drain. The kids get discouraged because they think what they had was a guitar. It wasn’t. It was crap.
TriStar is making that middle ground. This gun works incredibly well, and it doesn’t break the bank. The fit and finish may be in-line with what you’d expect form this price range, but the gun shoots as well as a lot of shotguns that cost four or five times as much.
I must say that I was very pleasantly surprised by how this shotgun ran. The recoil is very mild for a 20 gauge and a shotgun that only weighs 6.5 lbs. But that is what a gas operated shotgun is supposed to shoot like. However, a lot of gas guns have some trouble with different loads. This TriStar fed, cycled and ejected everything I fed it without troubles. From cheap light target loads to 3 inch Winchester buckshot it kept on chugging. This is what I’m talking about above. If a youthful shooter has any talent for shooting, this gun will meet those abilities.
I used the Raptor youth to shoot some clays. Once I adjusted to the stock being shorter than I am used to, I was able to dust clays without fail. If I did my part, the Raptor did its. That is all I ask for in a shotgun like this. I mean other than being a youth model, this is not a special purpose shotgun. In this set up it is very utilitarian. I would have no problem using this gun to shoot clays, ducks, squirrels, doves or any other critter that was laughing at the fat bearded man with a little pink shotgun. And the wide variety of chokes available mean that new shooters can really hone their abilities and begin working on more advanced skills and hunting.
I happened to have the Raptor Youth with me when my wife and I took a trip down to our cabin. When I pulled it out of the truck, she was confused. At first she thought I had bought her a pink shotgun. My wife doesn’t hate pink, but it is far from her favorite. She is a blued steel and walnut girl—yet another reason why I love her . But after her relief that I hadn’t lost my mind, and after she pulled herself off the floor from laughing at the thought of me reviewing a pink shotgun, we took it out and ran a couple of boxes of shells through it.
I asked her what she thought of it. “Ehhh, other than the stupid camo that no self-respecting girl will actually like, it is a shotgun.” I asked for clarification. “It shoots well, fells pretty good and it works,” she said. There you have it folks–the whole review in 9 words.
I think she summed it up perfectly. This is not a fancy shotgun. But it works very well. I want to check out some of the other shotguns from TriStar now. If they work as well as this one, they are a great bargain gas operated shotgun.