With a motto like “instinctive speed, timeless elegance,” Sauer's SL-5 semi-automatic hunting shotgun has our attention. While some companies master reliability and others focus on aesthetics, Sauer draws from their history of building firearms since 1751 to do both. What’s not to like? Guns.com pulls the trigger – over and over – on the J.P. Sauer & Sohn SL-5.
The J.P. Sauer & Sohn SL-5
The SL-5 is built in cooperation with Italian gunmaker Breda, who perfected the inertia-reloading system in cooperation with Bruno Civolani. Sauer’s own engineers built the balanced system around these proven internals. The walnut stocks are laser enhanced for both elegance and camouflage appearance.
All the SL-5’s are 12 gauge and come with either a 28- or 30-inch barrel. The SL-5 weighs in from 6.61 to 6.83 pounds, depending on barrel length. The shotgun is built to hunt with a 3-inch chamber and hard-chromed bore. The rig ships with five chokes (CYL, IC, M, IM, F) and comes packed in a nice ABS hard case. The MSRP of $1,895 may sound steep, but I’ve seen them available for much less from the Guns.com Vault.
Who Should Buy the SL-5?
The Sauer SL-5 was built to bridge the gap between double-barrel shooters and the semi-automatic market. This inertia-driven repeater blends ergonomics with a striking appearance. Ever wished while shooting a classy double that you had a third shot? The company’s flier claims the SL-5’s superior balance, impressive shootability, perfect swing, and elegant design are the perfect choice for anyone looking for a change from an over-under or side-by-side shotgun. The German company even claims in their tagline that after “indulging into the benefits of the new Sauer, you will for sure not want to give it back!”
Our test 12 gauge wears a 30-inch barrel with a 3-inch chamber and hard-chromed bore. The magazine tube holds four rounds of 2-3/4-inch shells or three rounds of 3-inch shells. The aluminum frame lends itself to slender, elegant lines and a lightweight gun. Our SL-5 tipped the scales just a few ounces over 6.5 pounds. The red front sight stands out on the 7mm ventilated rib. A semi-beavertail forend is slim enough for smaller hands yet works well for all hunters. Handsomely cut checkering stands apart from the pressed checkering found on many lower-end scatterguns.
The matte satin metalwork finish is intended to both prevent glare and protect the gun in the field. Though the SL-5 looks like a dandy safe queen or clay gun, it is indeed built as a hunting shotgun. To that end, it is proof tested for magnum steel shot, though one of the three more open chokes should be used. Trigger pull on our test gun measures a pleasant 5.6 pounds on a Lyman digital pull gauge. That further helps the SL-5 hit dead on to our point of aim, swinging with ease and balance.
Whoever said sling swivels couldn’t be sexy never met the SL-5. Sauer’s Quick-Fit sling swivels remove with the push of a button, which is great because sometimes they’re in the way and other times a hunter wants to add a sling. The gun fits well, with included shims to adjust drop and cast to allow shooters to tailor the shotgun.
An Appetite for Ammunition
We ran a mix of ammunition through the SL-5, daring it to fail, yet it never skipped a beat. It fired the lightest loads, like Kent Elite Low Recoil and Winchester AA Light Target, to the heaviest 3-inch hunting high brass, like Winchester Snow Goose and Hevi Shot Hevi-Hammer, and everything in between. The SL-5 runs with neither hesitation nor adjustment. Feed it, pull the trigger, and move on for more. We loaded multiple loads into the magazine tube and the SL-5 gobbled them up.
Recoil is present in this fairly lightweight gun but is surprisingly manageable with a quality buttpad. You can account that to the stock design, internal inertia components, or a well-fitting shotgun. But the end result is pellets on target with accuracy, good looks, and reliability. The Sauer SL-5 is imported and distributed by Blaser USA in San Antonio, Texas, and we have always found those folks helpful and well-informed.
The Sauer SL-5 is likely the nicest inertia-driven semi-automatic shotgun that few have had the pleasure of shouldering and firing. Though built for birding, the gun also excels on clays. One thing is certain, with the current price difference between MSRP and real-world prices, grabbing an SL-5 is a no-brainer for hunters in the market for a fine shotgun at a budget cost.