August 03, 2022
For years hunters and shooters turned their noses up at Turkish-made shotguns, assuming the quality of these firearms couldn’t match guns from the United States, Japan and Western Europe. It's true, that many Turkish guns didn't and still don’t compare to their US and European counterparts. But over the last few years, the concept that all Turkish guns are inferior to other shotguns has been quietly changing, and that’s thanks in large part to RETAY and the work of RETAY USA. Here’s a look at how and why this previously little-known Turkish manufacturer and their US partner have made believers out of many of the most notable American hunters and redefined what customers should expect from a performance shotgun.
The Genesis of RETAY Shotguns
In 2006, Turkish firearms engineer Hasan Kepez, like his father and grandfather before him, was working in his family’s workshop under the employ of a very large and well-known global firearms manufacturer. He was tasked with designing and producing shotgun actions and parts to the specifications of the group that employed him. A creative by nature, Kepez grew frustrated with the lack of innovation going into the designs he was assisting with. He often would approach his employer with his own ideas for how they could improve their designs, but most, if not all of his efforts to influence his employer were not taken seriously.
Frustrated that his ideas for new systems and components weren’t being incorporated into the guns his employer was making, he did what so many other industry engineers have done; he took a leap of faith, resigned from his position, and began designing his own guns and filing for his own patents. RETAY (pronounced REE-tay) was born.
For the better part of a decade, RETAY was restricted to only building starter pistols and air guns because of Kepez’s non-compete clause with his former employer. By 2016, however, he was free to build any gun he chose under the RETAY name, and he started by producing a shotgun with all the features he’d wanted to incorporate into the guns his former employer was manufacturing.
That same year, Sem Guray, RETAY’s then Head of Global Sales, had a chance meeting with Christian Handy in the United States. Handy was importing a handful of high-end custom Italian and Spanish shotguns into the United States at the time, and selling them under his Thomas Ferney brand. Guray invited Handy to visit RETAY’s first-ever exhibit booth at the new vendor section of SHOT Show in early 2017.
“RETAY had a tiny table hidden in the corner in a very out of the way part of the show, maybe two feet by four feet with a cloth draped over it, and two shotguns sitting in a display stand on top,” Handy says. “The shotguns on display were prototypes of the Masai Mara, and while I wasn’t looking for a Turkish shotgun to import, when I examined the RETAYS closely, I realized they weren't like other
shotguns, especially not any other Turkish shotguns I knew of. They were really something special and I knew then I had to bring these shotguns into the United States”
Handy’s lifelong love of shotguns (he grew up shooting clay targets with his father and had an interest in all things mechanical before he began importing shotguns to the United States) told him that RETAY shotguns had the potential to perform well in the North American market, but the road ahead for this “would-be importer” would not be an easy one. He’d first have to convince Kepez that he was the man that could be trusted to build the RETAY brand in the States.
“I presented what I wanted to try to accomplish as RETAY’s U.S. distributor. My proposal was competing with proposals from some very large, very well-known, and established brands. We were all presenting our business plans and we were all vying for the right to import RETAY shotguns” Handy said. Though he didn’t have the capital or resources that his competitors could offer, Handy did have one thing they didn’t: a clear vision of how a Turkish-made shotgun with a Turkish brand name could compete in the American market. Kepez liked the idea. In 2017 Handy, with the support of his wife Kelly, formed RETAY USA to import and promote the new RETAY Shotguns. RETAY USA would handle marketing, distribution, service, and all the logistics associated with a large-scale firearms operation.
Handy was clear that he wanted complete control over all things customer-facing in North America including RETAY’s marketing and distribution strategies and most importantly the customer service department, and Kepez agreed.
“Hasan said, “You know your market and I trust you”. Because Hasan has left these very important aspects to us, we have had this wonderful opportunity to create a uniquely American hunter-centric brand with RETAY,” Handy said. “One thing that I’m most proud of is the passion for the outdoor lifestyle that RETAY USA’s core team brings to the table. We are all hunters and shooters first! My first five employees didn’t come from the gun industry at all, they were customers who had purchased the gun and saw what I had seen in the design. They sought me out and joined my start-up because they wanted to be involved with a great product and have the opportunity to put their stamp on the outdoor industry. My team has grown a lot since then, but everyone is still so full of passion for what we are doing and I’m so proud of every one of them”.
Why RETAY Guns Stand Apart
Shortly after RETAY USA was formed, Kepez obtained his first U.S. patent for the “Inertia Plus” bolt. Unlike other inertia systems that can be jarred out of battery, the Inertia Plus system couples the classic “inline Inertia buffer spring design” popularized by Bruno Civilani with Kapez’s active rotational bolt design that incorporates a unique rollover internal torsion spring that virtually eliminates the risk of out-of-battery failures to fire. The system can be closed quietly and virtually eliminates noise resulting from “bolt rattle” inherent to some other “inertia action” designs. The Inertia Plus bolt was incorporated into all of RETAY Semi-Automatic shotguns sold in North America in early 2018, and it has helped those firearms earn an enviable reputation for reliability.
Another of Kepez’s early design elements that was incorporated into RETAY’s Masai Mara and Antalya shotguns is an all-aluminum trigger housing and integrated trigger guard assembly that is removable with the push of a button. Not only is the design extremely durable, the entire assembly can also be fully removed from the firearm in 2 seconds without tools for routine maintenance or field repair.
But for me, at least, the most significant and impressive feature found on Retay guns is their drilled barrels. While most high-end competition guns have drilled barrels, most mass-produced factory field guns feature hammer-forged barrels. The reason is simple: though drilling produces very concentric, precise barrels,
which is important for Olympic-level shotgun shooters, they are difficult to mass produce and expensive to make at high speed.
RETAY had the advantage of starting with a fresh design sheet and, initially, lower demand. The company was under no pressure to have to produce hundreds of thousands of barrels a year, so they began with a couple of drilling machines that produced barrels the way Kepez had always believed was best. The result is a straight, strong barrel with a factory-cut optimized length forcing cone on all RETAY shotguns.
“We went from two drilling machines to a fleet of robotic drilling machines as demand grew,” Handy says. “The fact that we drill all of our barrels sets us apart from the competition and the performance of our barrels is the number one reason we are seeing more and more well-known hunting personalities, lodges, and guides fielding RETAY shotguns. The guns are just so good that the best of the best want to shoot them, and moreover, they want to spread the word about them. You can’t buy that type of publicity”.
What can hunters and shooters expect when they buy a RETAY shotgun with a drilled barrel? Simply put, a straighter-shooting shotgun and an improved pattern density.
“One of the first things we did was hire a lab near Aberdeen Proving Ground that does contract work for the military. We asked them to pattern test our barrels against competing barrels,” Handy says. The result was that RETAY barrels put a minimum of 20 percent more pellets into a 20-inch target zone at 30 yards than competing shotguns. What’s more, as the barrels are heated by repeated shots, they maintained the same point of impact—something not all hammer-forged guns do.
“We’ve focused on the two most basic and fundamental things every shotgun must do to satisfy the most demanding hunters and shooters, number one, having it go bang every time and number two, delivering the densest possible shot pattern right where you point it”. says Handy.
But what if your gun doesn’t go bang every time? RETAY shotguns are robust and refined by any standard, but one criticism of Turkish guns has been that getting parts and finding service in the States or in Canada can be a chore.
“We back our guns with great customer service and an ample supply of on-hand replacement parts,” Handy says. Because RETAY is building guns under their own name and not manufacturing firearms for another brand ( as is currently the common practice in Turkey ), there is a sense of pride and increased personal investment in the finished product.
RETAY USA Firearms
The Masai Mara has been RETAY USA’s flagship shotgun since the company was founded, and it’s quickly become a best selling favorite of dedicated waterfowl hunters who have their choice of the 3.5” version which comes in matte black or popular camo patterns by Mossy Oak and Realtree.
In addition to the camo options, the 20ga versions offer walnut options for the traditionalist and are stocked with Grade II oiled Turkish walnut with a choice of Satin or Bronze Cerakote, coin finish, matte black or polished black lower receivers.
Both the 12ga 3.5” and 20ga 3” Masai Mara are offered with a Cerakote option. The Cerakote Masai Mara models blend synthetic stocks with Cerakote metal finishes for a distinct look and all-weather durability. All Masai Mara shotguns come with five interchangeable choke tubes, a stock shim kit for a custom fit, the reliable Inertia Plus bolt and much more. MSRPs range from $1,199 to $2,149 depending on which options you choose, making the Masai Mara an exceptional value.
A recent addition to the RETAY line is the Antalya SS, an elegant semi-auto field/competition gun that’s extremely reliable and beautifully constructed. I tested the Antalya SS while it was still very new on the market, and I was impressed by this gun’s ability to function with a wide range of 12-gauge ammunition, but I was even more impressed by this shotgun’s consistent point of impact. Over time, I’ve pattern tested several shotguns, and the Antalya SS was among the most straight-shooting gun I’ve tested, producing consistent, patterns at a variety of ranges even after long shooting sessions. This is a beautiful shotgun, but most importantly, it hits where you are aiming. I tested the Elegant version of the Antalya SS which came with five Marapro flush-fit chokes, an 8mm ventilated rib with fiber optic sight, and a gorgeous oil-finished Turkish walnut stock. MSRP was $2,999.
If you’re looking for a very versatile, all purpose semi-auto inertia shotgun, RETAY’s Gordion line is an excellent choice that can take you from the duck blind to the upland woods and then to the clays field without missing a beat. It’s very lightweight and is offered in 12ga 3” and 20ga 3’. Like the Masai Mara, the Gordion uses
the Inertia Plus system and comes complete with drilled barrel and a choice of walnut or synthetic stocks (either camo or black) The price should also make you happy, with a starting MSRP of $799.
If you’re a traditionalist or just enjoy shooting a pump shotgun and you still want all the benefits of RETAY’s drilled barrel, look no further than RETAY’s very durable GPS Pump Shotguns. RETAY’s GPS Line up, is, to my knowledge, the only pump on the market to offer a standard drilled barrel and lengthened forcing cone. The 12ga 3.5 GPS-XL is a stout and solid waterfowl workhorse and comes in matte black or Camo and the GPS is a 12ga 3” option that comes with an 18.5” barrel or in “security & filed combo pack with 18.5” ribless and 28” ribbed barrel. Prices start at: $419 for the 3.5” GPS-XL and $349.00 for the 3” GPS.
In 2021 while hunting on Tennessee’s famed Reelfoot Lake, one of the guides told me that a friend had traded in his semiauto shotgun for a RETAY, and based on his friend’s initial impressions of the gun, my guide was considering trading his own shotgun for a RETAY as well. He’s not alone; RETAY has quickly earned a respectable position in the U.S. shotgun market, which is quite impressive for a company that was displaying a single gun on a small table at SHOT Show 2017. But, RETAY’s rise to prominence has just begun, and they’re proof that a Turkish firearms manufacturer can build guns capable of competing with larger, older, and more established brands.
For more information, please visit RETAY USA’s website: retayusa.com
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