Stoeger has built a reputation among hardcore duck hunters as a budget-priced shotgun that goes bang no matter the hardness of the ice that encrusts it, the viscosity of the sludge that fills its ports or the blood that coats its grips. And that’s precisely what home defenders want in a shotgun. (Oh, and they also want it to hold a bunch of shells, and not cost a fortune, but we’ll get to that.) Stoeger’s new P3000 Freedom Series Defense Pump is all that.
You may not know it, but Beretta owns Stoeger, and while Beretta’s namesake guns claim the upper echelon of shotgun price range and embellishments (with sister brands Benelli next and Franchi in the middle) Stoeger holds down the far end of the price-point/embellishment spectrum. Unlike the Italian-made Berettas, the Stoeger is made in Turkey, a skilled-labor country that has quickly become the go-to destination for inexpensive, third-party gun building.
The Stoeger P3000 Freedom Series Defense Pump’s action is as solid as any pump-gun—as least as far as one can tell from running a couple hundred shells through it and not a lifetime, and that is why I referenced hardcore duck hunters earlier—those guys quickly find out if a gun won’t cut it. In my tests, this action that borrows a rotating bolt head that locks onto the barrel extension as it rotates—a steal right out of Benelli’s playbook—proved supremely reliable. Of course, the bolt has no inertial spring hidden within it because it's not necessary, thanks to the shooter’s elbow power—but it’s awful similar in many other ways, and that’s a good thing. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this gun’s extractor and ejector.
The bolt rides on a U-shaped carrier that forms the action bars. This dual-action bar carrier is then nested into the molded-polymer foregrip and locked into place by a half-moon clip. Rounded raceways that are CNC-machined into the aluminum receiver ensure smooth bolt travel, and instead of the Benelli-like release button releasing a shell onto the carrier of automatics, the Defense Pump’s was re-purposed to unlock the bolt for initial charging and unloading.
I like the loading gate on the Stoeger P3000 Freedom Series Defense Pump, which is rather firm under spring tension but has a cutout so it resists pinching the thumb when loading. The trigger and cross-bolt safety are standard, safe and effective, but nothing special. Both are mounted on plastic trigger housing that’s secured by one pin and a tail flange.
While Stoeger has offered a P3000 Defense Pump in the past, what is special is the way this "Freedom Series" P3000 was made to accept seven shells in the integral tube magazine. It is not merely an add-on tube extension but rather an 18-inch tube that's threaded into the receiver and has additional threading in two positions; one, three-quarters of the way up, accepts the shotgun’s standard magazine cap that's been drilled all the way through so the mag tube can continue on. The other threads accept the final end cap that retains the mag spring. Cleaners of the P3000 should be warned though; the mag tube has no separate spring retaining device, so when the endcap is unscrewed, the spring does an impression of a jack in the box. It is the little things like that that allow this shotgun to have such a low cost yet still function just fine. Another example of cost-savings is its lack of screw-in chokes—that concerns me none. This 12-gauge, 3-inch house howitzer is choked cylinder for life as it ought to be.
Externally, the shotgun is a handy 40.5 inches in total length, thanks to its 18.5-inch barrel. To me, that’s the perfect shotgun barrel length, as it’s handy to corner walls and sling on the back if one must. The molded-polymer buttstock and fore-end grip are, in a word, cheap. They do have decent checkering, but they’re not going to win any awards, not that this shotgun would ever be entered in a beauty contest. The gun is trim, looks mean and handles well.
It should be noted, however, that this particular shotgun has ferocious recoil—and how could it not? Its stock is hard plastic, and its so-called buttpad isn’t much better. It’s relatively flat and hard. It’s a pump, so the gun recoils inherently more than a semi-automatic, and also, although it's tough to pinpoint, the buttstock design fits me in a way that pounds my shoulder. Most of this, however can be attributed to the fact that the gun weighs only 6.3 pounds, which is silly light, especially considering the extended metal mag tube. The good news is, recoil will be the least of your worries if ever you had to use the gun in a defensive situation. But as it is now, this is hardly the shotty I’d want to shoot for an afternoon of drills with 00 buckshot.
Integral sling studs and an all-steel blade front sight rounds out the package on the Stoeger P3000 Freedom Series Defense Pump. I give Stoeger credit for the steel sight, because it would have been tempting to stick a fragile, high-visibility front bead on this shotgun that would have only cheapened it further. As it is, the P3000 is a workhorse that’s light, handy, reliable—I had not a single jam—and so low-priced at around $300 that you could buy one for the boat and the garage in addition to the bedroom. Besides, if you want a light-recoiling gun, you can buy a fancy 8-pound Beretta for $1,500.