Over-under shotguns are an iconic weapon that has been around for centuries. These double-barrel shotguns have become a staple, and not only for just upland hunting. They have also developed what some would consider a trendy and antique image, which as a result has caused prices to soar for particular models. Don't get me wrong--I can appreciate the aesthetics and craftsmanship that go into a Browning Citori or a Beretta 686 Silver Pigeon. Those guns are incredible pieces of art and perform fantastically in the field. But let's face it--not everyone has $2,500-plus to spend on a single gun, especially with inflation being what it is now. And even if you do, it feels almost wrong to put a gun like that through the wear and tear that comes with a lot of bird hunts.
Despite the popular belief that you need to spend at least $2,000 to get a good over-under or side-by-side shotgun for hunting or clays, there are still reliable, accurate, and even beautiful guns on the market for much less. These guns have been manufactured and priced with the budget and, dare I say, the practical hunter in mind.
I have been lucky enough to field-test several over-under shotguns on countless bird hunts over the years. Some of these hunts have taken place in grueling subzero temperatures, while others have taken place in incredibly wet conditions where it was impossible to stay dry. Here are five of my favorite over-under shotguns that won't break the bank and will live up to the standard you would expect of a gun in a much higher price range. All five shotguns on this list have proved themselves to be high-quality, accurate, and reliable guns that will perform incredibly regardless of whether you're in the hills of Wyoming looking for grouse or at the range shooting trap!
1. The Nicest-Looking Budget Option
Stevens Model 555
The Savage name is automatically associated with high-quality firearms at a more-affordable price, and as a division of Savage, Stevens has made sure that legacy holds true with its Model 555. The aesthetics of an affordable over-under shotgun are sometimes sacrificed to provide a durable and accurate gun. However, the 555 by Stevens retains that sleek and classic design that we all love, with its oil-finished walnut stock, ventilated rib and, of course, the carbon steel barrel.
This gun is offered in .410, 12-, 16-, 20- and even 28-gauge caliber. The 555 offers a somewhat unique mechanical trigger system, where the second barrel trigger is set immediately following the trigger pull of the first barrel. Whereas some over-unders operate on an inertia system--which works by use of the gun's recoil--I tend to prefer the consistency of Stevens' mechanical operation. With a retail price of $729, this gun sits on the higher end of the list. But give it a try and you'll see why it's worth every penny.
2. The Most Versatile Option
This gun was designed by CZ-USA to be able to shoulder flawlessly and swing quickly on fast birds such as teal and grouse. While this gun performed extremely well on early-season teal as well as a quick trip to Michigan for grouse, I was impressed with how versatile and comfortable it was on South Dakota pheasants. I also found it performed extremely well on larger, open-water birds in Arkansas such as mallards and canvasbacks.
The solid mid rib on this gun was a nice touch that gives this gun a nostalgic feel, which I respect. The tang safety is something you would expect to see on a wider variety of guns, as it allows this model to be ambidextrous. You won't find a ton of extra bells and whistles on this gun. The big selling point here is that it is usually being offered at under $600 from most retailers, so it's hard to find anything wrong with it.
3. The Best Budget Option
Tristar Upland Hunter
The Tristar is quite possibly the biggest "steal" on the market right now for over-under shotguns. The Upland Hunter by CZ is a super lightweight model that swings extremely easy and shoulders rather well for its price point. It uses ejectors instead of extractors, which I prefer greatly when on a hunt, but not quite as much when I am at the range. Your mileage on that may vary.
This break-action gun features a chrome-lined chamber and barrel, which allows for tighter and more consistent patterns. With its vent top and mid rib, fiber-optic sight, and an acid-etched receiver, you can immediately tell that Tristar went above and beyond to make sure this gun was of the highest quality for the price range. This gun currently retails for $479 and, in my opinion, could easily be sold for over $700.
4. The Best Option for Beginners
Charles Daly 202
Charles Daly described this gun by using only two words: "Unbeatable Value." After taking this gun into the field, I would have to agree with them. This gun can be found at several retailers for around $420, making it an excellent option for beginners but also providing the quality and feel that even an avid bird hunter would appreciate.
This gun features a checkered walnut stock and forend, a fixed fiber-optic sight, and a single-selective mechanical trigger system. The 202 20-gauge model weighs only 6.4 pounds, making it extremely light while also shouldering very well. It's also just going to be easier to carry for long days in the field. While this gun might not turn heads, it feels great and shoots just as well as an over-under at a higher price point.
5. The Most Variants Available
Mossberg Silver Reserve
Mossberg launched the Silver Reserve to lead the market in over-under shotguns that are affordable yet highly durable and reliable. Available in both black walnut and synthetic stocks, this shotgun is offered in .410 bore, 12-, 20-, and 28-gauge models.
This gun features shell extractors, corrosion-resistant chrome-lined barrels and chambers, tang safety selector, and dual locking lugs. Both 26- and 28-inch barrel lengths are available. There's a lot of extra value here, as Mossberg includes a set of five chokes standard with each purchase. The details on this gun are something you would expect from brands such as Browning and Beretta, but at a much better price point of $777. This is a gun that should be in every avid sportsman and woman's gun safe!
The over-under shotgun truly is a piece of hunting history. The many convenient applications it can be used for make it one of the most common guns for bird hunting still to this day. I firmly believe every hunter should own an over-under--and with the prices of these guns continuously rising, it can seem as if you would need to take out a loan just to buy one.
READ MORE: OVER-UNDER VS. SEMI-AUTO FOR DOVE HUNTING: PROS AND CONS OF BOTH
Enjoy the outdoors?
Don't miss a story! Sign up for daily stories delivered to your inbox.