Semi-auto shotguns are becoming more and more popular every day for hunting, skeet shooting, and collecting. Today the technology and machining behind these guns is better than ever, meaning there's a reliable option to fit a variety of budgets. They're different from the pump-action or break-action shotguns that came first, and they're great for executing quick, consecutive follow-up shots when wing shooting or busting clays. With so many options on the market today, we reviewed the top semi-autos for turkey, waterfowl, and other hunting styles ahead of the year's biggest season. Here's the complete shopping guide that will satisfy everyone's needs including a budget option straight from our editors.
What is a Semi-Auto Shotgun?
There are some significant differences in how a semi-auto shotgun works when compared to the other types, and explaining them can help understand what to look for and what makes some better than others. While a break-action shotgun might eject spent shotgun shells upon opening the action, it needs to be manually reloaded with another shell by the shooter. With a pump-action, extra rounds can be stored in the gun, but it still needs a manual pump to eject a spent shell and reload the next. With a semi-auto, this cycling process is automatic, and happens one of two ways: gas-powered, or inertia-powered (via the gun's recoil).
The advantages over pump- or break-action shotguns become pretty apparent right away. The significantly-faster rate of fire over manual models is huge, and there's even the likelihood of a semi-auto producing less recoil than its older counterparts.
The overall ease of operation is higher with semi-autos, which makes it a nice option for beginner shooters and hunters. Semi-autos have become the overwhelming go-to for most bird hunters, especially those pursuing waterfowl and turkey, as well as some big game such as hogs and deer.
Best Semi-Auto Shotguns
1. The Originator
Browning A5 Hunter
We'll start off with a take on John Moses Browning's proven original design. Just about any sportsman will recognize that iconic humpback receiver almost immediately, which gives the A5 a longer sight plane, and as a result, more accuracy. Modern updates have kept the A5 at the top of most gun lovers' lists, and each new model seems a little better than the last. This gun uses a recoil-operated Kinematic Drive system to cycle rounds quickly, and a generous recoil pad helps soak up the kick and keep you on target longer with the fiber optic front sight. Browning offers the A5 with several different stock materials, from a classic wood walnut finish to camo-wrapped finishes including Mossy Oak Break-Up Country, Shadow Grass and more. It's even offered in a 16-gauge shotgun known as the "Sweet Sixteen." But truth be told, we're partial to the classic look of the A5 Hunter. Browning backs these guns with a 100,000 round or five-year guarantee of operation.
2. The Practical Choice
Beretta A300 Outlander
This gas-operated gun has built up a sterling reputation for cycling quickly and reliably. Beretta designed this shotgun to disassemble and reassemble quickly by breaking it down into just four major parts. This can be done without any tools, which is another big bonus. It can handle both 2 ¾ and 3-inch shells, and a shim system lets you adjust the length-of-pull to your own preferences. Beretta also includes an improved cylinder, full, and modified choke tube with this gun. They offer several stock/receiver/barrel combos including a classic blued/wood, matte black, and a total camo finish of Realtree MAX-5 for waterfowl hunters. The safety can also be quickly swapped from right to left for even more versatility. The A300 is also a lot more affordable than some other higher-end autoloaders on the market.
3. The New Kid on the Block
This one was first revealed to us personally by Savage during the 2019 season and we came away an instant fan of the gun, having used one on several hunts since. Savage designed this gun with a dual-valve gas system called D.R.I.V. It vents excess gas before driving back the bolt. The result is less recoil and smoother cycling. The length of pull and comb height are easily adjustable thanks to multiple inserts. Savage is offering the Renegauge in models tailored to specific types of hunting too. The waterfowl model has either a 26 or 28-inch barrel length and is finished in Mossy Oak Shadow Grass, and the turkey model features a 24-inch vented barrel and comes in Mossy Oak Obsession. Red fiber optic sights help get you on target quickly.
5. The Versatile Pick
Remington Versa Max
The Versa Max continues to be a solid option for the hunter who wants a shotgun to use for a variety of bird hunting scenarios. Remington's VersaPort gas system uses staggered ports to regulate release and tame the recoil of a 12 gauge shotgun down to something comparable with a 20 gauge. They also claim the reduced recoil allows you to shoot this gun faster than any pump-action on the market. This shotgun can cycle 2 ¾ to 3 1/2 -inch ammo with ease. The synthetic stock is available in a variety of finishes from a simple black to the latest in Realtree and Mossy Oak camo patterns depending on your preferred style of hunting.
6. The Competition Gun
Mossberg 940 JM Pro
While Mossberg is well-known for their pump-action guns, the 940 JM Pro takes things into modern competitive shooting wonderland. It was designed in conjunction with the world's fastest shooter Jerry Miculek and has a 9+1 capacity. It is designed for quad loading straight out of the box, and isn't exactly a great option for a beginner's gun. It's beautiful, packed with amazing features, but might be slightly over the head of a newbie. It has an adjustable stock and streamlined forend, and the inner parts are nickel boron-coated for silky smooth operation.
7. The Workhorse
The SX4 uses an active valve gas system to allocate and direct energy to reliably cycle up to 3 ½-inch shells. This gun features Winchester's patented Quadra-Vents near the front to channel excess gasses and cut down on the recoil even more. This is a solid option for anyone looking for a gun that will bring down a spring turkey and fall geese with equal ease. Winchester made the gun ambidextrous with a reversible safety. They also sized up the bolt handle and release buttons to be easier to use while wearing gloves. The SX4 features length of pull spacers to adjust the fit. While Winchester does make a 12-gauge, they also recently added a 20-gauge semi auto version to the line for anyone looking for slightly less recoil.
8. The Glamorous Choice
Benelli Super Black Eagle 3
Benelli redesigned this shotgun several years ago to give it even more modern features. It uses an inertia driven system to cycle up to 3 ½-inch Magnum shells. Benelli says this system keeps all the burnt powder and other messy residue in the barrel and out of the gun's internal systems, which translates to more time hunting and less time cleaning. A series of Comfortech shock absorbers, buffers in the stock and a cheek comb pad, add to the comfort factor. The Super Black Eagle 3 comes with a variety of stock finishes from a black synthetic to a classic satin walnut stock. Of course, they also offer finishes in camo patterns from Realtree, Mossy Oak, and more. Benelli is not a cheap brand by any means, but like most things in life, you get what you pay for. This is an ultra-reliable gun that will stand up to years of use in the field chasing waterfowl and longbeards.
9. The Form-Meets-Function Gun
Franchi Affinity 3
When you start looking closely, you'll see this gun is nearly identical to the Benelli we just mentioned, but that's not surprising since they're coming from the same parent company. The big difference is that theItalian-influenced Franchi Affinity 3 costs half as much. Catch a sale on the right day and this shotgun can be had for under $700. This gun also uses an inertia driven system to operate, and it can cycle up to 3 ½-inch magnum loads. The system is purposely designed with as few parts as necessary for ease of cleaning and maintenance. Franchi offers this gun with either a 26 or 28-inch vented barrel. Stock and forend finishes include a classic satin walnut look as well as black synthetic and Realtree and Mossy Oak camo patterns. The receiver is also drilled and tapped if you want to add an optic.
10. The Budget Option
Stoeger Model 3500
Another shotgun that utilizes an inertia drive system to cycle, The Stoeger 3500 is a great option for waterfowl or turkey hunters. Stoeger offers a specialty turkey model with a steady handgun-style grip for even more accuracy. The vented and stepped rib barrels feature fiber optic front sights. Stoeger includes three different choke tubes and the receiver is tapped and drilled for a weaver-style scope base right out of the box. The stock is available in a matte black synthetic finish or one of several popular camo patterns. The Stoeger is highly affordable, too. The matte black version is just $600, making it a solid option for the hunter on a budget.
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