Over-unders and side-by-sides are by no means outdated shotgun designs.
Double-barreled shotguns come in two varieties, over-under or side-by-side, which denotes the arrangement of the gun's two barrels. Both types are break-action shotguns, typically with a reliable and rugged boxlock mechanism.
Currently, over-under shotguns are more common, but a good side-by-side shotgun (SXS) still has its place and fans. Double guns today are available with either a single trigger that always fires the barrels in the same order, or a single trigger with a barrel selector switch that allows the shooter to choose which barrel is fired.
Others have the more classic configuration with double triggers, each controlling a barrel. Typically, the forward trigger fires the right barrel and the rear trigger the left. These types of guns are essentially two single-shot shotguns married together.
Today, almost all double guns feature extractors, which lift the shells out of the chambers enough so they can be easily grabbed. Other will include ejectors, which forcefully eject spent hulls from the chambers when the action is opened. You will typically find ejectors on competition shotguns.
Hunters still favor double guns because they offer extremely quick second shots. Even though semi-automatic shotguns offer fast follow-up shots along as well, but with a with greater capacity, they can be finicky about the ammunition they cycle and always have the possibility of jamming. Some will say a double barrel is less prone to such issues.
Though they've been around for a couple centuries, a double barrel shotgun is still the go-to gun for skeet shooters and other competitive shotgunners. The first double-barrel shotguns were black powder muzzeloaders with exposed hammers until the advent of paper-hulled shotgun ammo and later shotgun shells with plastic hulls.
Why are they still popular? Because shotguns are incredibly versatile guns, and double guns are extremely simple, and even elegant. Here are some of the best guns in each category: self and home defense, hunting, and competitive shooting.
The simple double barrel shotgun has been a relied upon home defense gun for generations, and today there are some on the market with features that make them even more effective for this purpose. While pump action shotguns may have a greater capacity, they can't match a double-barrel when it comes to speed for follow-up shots.
Stoeger makes a number of solid hammerless "coach guns," which are double barrel shotguns with barrels of about 20 inches--too long to be a "sawed-off" or an ATF-defined short barreled shotgun, but too short to be a field gun. Typically, a coach gun has an open or cylinder choke, which offers the most spread at close range.
However, the Stoeger Double Defense side-by-side offers the practicality of a double gun with features like a rugged, black synthetic buttstock, a top Picatinny rail for a red dot optic, and another accessory rail on the underside of the barrels for a gun light or a laser sight, enhancing its defensive capabilities. It's available as a 12- or 20-gauge shotgun and takes 2.75- or 3-inch shells. Its 20-inch barrels are ported to combat felt recoil and muzzle rise.
Combined with a single trigger design, this shotgun will offer lightning fast on-target follow-up shots. The Double Defense is also offered in an over-under configuration with similar features.
This over-under shotgun is easy on the eyes and includes pretty much every feature a clays shooter could want. Based on John M. Browning's legendary B25 Superposed shotgun, the Citori 725 has a low receiver, a FireLite mechanical trigger, a Graco adjustable comb, a Vrad V/VI walnut stock with a palm swell, gold engravings, an Inflex recoil pad, a triple trigger system with three trigger shoes, an included HiViz Pro Comp sight and ivory mid-bead, and five included extended choke tubes--all ideal for sporting clays and skeet shooting.
Another great and more affordable option is the CZ-USA All American. Despite the name, this over-under double gun is made in Turkey and sold by a Czech Republic gun company, but that doesn't make it any less of a great double gun.
The completed CNC machined shotgun features drop-in replacement parts, a four-way adjustable comb, and a stock that is adjustable for length of pull, cast, and toe. All-American shotguns are a single-trigger design that fires the bottom barrel first to help reduce recoil and muzzle rise for the second shot.
When it comes to choosing a rock solid double gun for the field, you can't do much better than the affordable Stevens 555 from Savage Arms. This over-under is light and handles well thanks to an aluminum receiver, which makes it a smooth swinger that's easy to carry all day.
It comes with a ton of features for the price, including a Turkish walnut stock and chrome-lined, 28-inch carbon steel barrels that will stand up to a lot of rounds. The shotgun comes with five choke tubes and has a single selective mechanical trigger.
For gobbler slayers, the CZ Reaper Magnum is an excellent double gun choice. It's tricked out for turkey hunting, with 3.5-inch chambers and a top optics rail on the rib above the monobloc for a red dot or reflex sight.
Two barrels mean a different choke tube can be installed in each bore, allowing a hunter to have a dedicated long-range and close range turkey barrel on one gun. Plus, the 26-inch barrel allows the gun to take full advantage of highter velocity magnum turkey loads meant for longer range shots.