Most reviews take a gun out of the box, take a few pictures, shoot maybe 25 or 50 rounds out of it and then write it up. I could have done the same thing last year when I bought the Stoeger Condor with 12 and 20 gauge barrel set, but I decided to put several thousand rounds through it so we could see how it held up.
Deciding to Buy a New Shotgun
When I was deciding whether or not to purchase the Condor, I was actually trying to find an inexpensive over-and-under shotgun to use for upland birds and sporting clays. I expected to only shoot maybe 200 shells per month and figured that a budget gun would be fine. There were many reviews out there that said the Condor was a solid, well-built gun and others that said that it fell apart in their hands after only 50 shots. For the price, $475.00 off of GunBroker.com, the 12 and 20 gauge combo model made sense. That would allow me to shoot sub-gauge events in Sporting Clays and use a lighter gauge to hunt with if I choose. So I “pulled the trigger” <<- see what I did there?
Chokes: IC & M (12- and 20-gauge)
Type of Sights: Brass Bead
Length of Pull: 14-1/2”
Drop at Comb: 1-1/2”
Drop at Heel: 2-1/2”
Weight: 7.4 pounds
Barrel Length 12/20: 28″/26″
Overall Length: 44″/42″
Opening the New Shotgun
When it arrived, it was as-promised, new-in-box, no marks or defects. The first time I put it together, I noticed that it was very hard to open. Most new breech guns are, so I didn’t worry about it too much. I just took the stock off, cleaned up the mechanicals real good and re-lubed them.
I am not a fan of the forearm release mechanism on the Steoger. As you see in the picture below, it is a serrated, half-moon, wheel-style release. Unfortunately the wheel is near where my left hand is while shooting. I had to get a heavier spring put in it as occasionally the kick of the gun and my hand being near the wheel would cause the forearm release to move towards the open position. It never fully released, but it was annoying. Easy and cheap to fix, but certainly not well thought-out. The level style release mechanisms found on most breach guns is far better. If you tend to hold the gun near the front part of the forearm, this won’t bother you at all.
Other than a trivial annoyance with the release, the gun seemed well put together for a gun in this price range. The pivot points are extrusions of the receiver that are about 1/8″ in depth. This is similar to how Mossberg does it on their Silver Reserve over-and-unders. It doesn’t have a ton of surface contact and isn’t replaceable so great car should be taken to clean and grease up the pivot points at the start of each shooting session.
The block is jeweled which should give it some longevity and is certainly more pleasant to look at than a simple blued block. The extractor is a simple one piece mechanism that will push both shells out far enough to make pulling them out easy. Both shells will always come up, regardless of which barrel has or has not fired.
The bead is a typical field gold bead on the muzzle with no mid-bead. The barrels are 28″ long for the 12 gauge and 26″ for the 20 gauge. The trigger has a little play in it, but nothing too disturbing for non-competitive shooting.
Shooting the Stoeger
I took it to the patterning board and put 3 shots on the board at 20 yards with an improved cylinder, extended choke from Briley.com (not the ones that come with the gun). Due to the cast, it was shooting about 1″ left and due to the drop at comb, dead-flat. This gun showed a 50/50 pattern which is just fine for upland game, but not so great for clay games like Sporting Clays or Skeet. A cheek pad would raise the point-of-impact (POI) if I really got too concerned about it. The cast.. I’ll just have to live with it as I am not going to spend money on a custom adjustable stock on an inexpensive gun.
The next trial for the Stoeger Condor Combo, was a trip to a Sporting Clays range to see how it would act in the field. The first day it saw action, it saw 100 targets. The stiff-opening action was a slight pain, but manageable – I knew it would loosen up after a few hundred rounds.
There were no failures to fire, the gun pointed and shot great. I was shooting 12 gauge, 1-1/8 oz, 1300 FPS loads and after 100 shells, wasn’t feeling overly beat-up by the gun. It is just under 7 and a half pounds and has a decent recoil pad.
The gun was easy to take apart and clean that night. No weird wear marks or anything to tell me that the gun was going to fall-apart at any minute.
The Stoeger Under High-Use
I joined a gun club last year where Skeet and Sporting clays fields existed. I decided to try my hand an skeet and got addicted – so much so that I decided to prepare for competition. I knew I was going to have to upgrade to a B-Gun (browning, Beretta, Benelli) for a competition class gun, but until then I would just work with the Stoeger.
Starting in December, I averaged 3,000 shells a month in practice. December and January were shot only with the 12 gauge barrels, a 1oz 1150 FPS load, and February and on have been with the 20 gauge barrels – 7/8oz 1155FPS load.
Towards the end of January I noticed two things. The breech release lever was closer to centerline (to be expected after roughly 5,000 rounds through an inexpensive gun) and the piece of metal that covers the space between the barrels had started to come up near the receiver. The metal piece is entirely cosmetic and would be easy to re-solder, but release lever indicated that the gun would be shooting loose in another 5,000 or so rounds. This gun wasn’t going to hold up under competition load. The 12 gauge barrels still lock-up tight, but those barrels have been relegated to the occasional round of clays.
I have been shooting 20 gauge for the last month and have put about 2,000 rounds through those barrels. The lock-up is tight and the release lever is right-of-centerline, pretty much where it started. No other major defects have appeared on the barrels.
In all of this shooting, 7,000+ shells, the gun has only failed-to-fire (FTF) twice. Both failures were out of the same set of reloads and were caused by the primers being seated too deeply. Since fixing that issue on the loader, (4,000 or so targets ago), not one fail-to-fire. The gun has been shot in temperatures from 18 to to 90 degrees Fahrenheit with no difference in reliability.
Performance as a Skeet Gun
The Stoeger Condor has done pretty good as a skeet gun while my Browning is off getting sub-gauge tubes. I regularly shoot 23’s and 24’s out of the 20 gauge barrels which are really too short for the sport. The gun is a little light and whip-y for my tastes and the trigger has a bit of play in it.
The “So-What” of it all
Stoeger Industries has put together a good budget shotgun for field use. Under standard hunting use, this gun would probably have a 15-30 year serviceable life. The gun is also very capable for light use on clays fields, but will not hold up to extensive shooting. If you are looking for a gun to put 10,000 rounds per year through, this one isn’t it. Then again, you won’t find a gun for $500 that will.
The Stoeger Condor Combo is a great upland bird hunting shotgun that will always go bang if you take care of it. As soon as the Browning gets back, the Stoeger will be cleaned, serviced and put away until the next bird hunt – and it will be going on that trip as my primary gun.