semi auto shotguns

Semi-Auto Shotguns That You Don't Have To Shell Out Too Much For

Just as with rifles, many people have come to prefer semi-auto shotguns to their double-barrel and pump-action counterparts. There's lots to like, of course; the automatic cycling, the extra weight in the receiver soaking up some recoil and so on add up to a powerful yet easy-to-operate firearm.

That's made semi-auto shotguns a fantastic choice for many different purposes, including competitive shooting, hunting, and of course personal defense. Law enforcement and militaries have likewise pressed semi-auto scatterguns into service, often with spectacular results in close-range encounters.

But what if you don't have a lot to spend?! You might be tempted to think a used gun is your only way to get a quality example. The truth is you don't have to spend as much as you'd think. While it's true that the apex models of the format, such as the Browning Auto 5, Remington 1100 and Benelli Super Black Eagle will set you back a staggering amount, there are some fantastic semi-auto shotguns that you don't have to part with too much for.

Mossberg 930 Semi-Auto Shotgun

Mossberg 930

Mossberg is known for tough working class guns, and the Mossberg 930 semi-auto shotgun series is no exception. It has a lot to like, including Mossberg's safety system (a sliding button on the tang of the receiver) and sight system. Basically, everything people love about their pump guns in a semi-auto package.

The 930 is a gas-driven system, available only as a 12-gauge with a 3-inch chamber. From there, you have a lot of options. Any variation you can think of is available, from wood and steel field guns, synthetic stock models for the duck blind, turkey and tactical models - even a Thunder Ranch signature edition! - for home defense. MSRP starts under $600, which is incredible.

Mossberg shotguns are common military and police-issue, so if a Mossy is good enough for people who actually use tactical gear...it's a great place to start.

Stoeger M3000 Semi-Auto Shotgun

stoeger M3000

The Stoeger M3000 doesn't get the kind of press or cachet that some other semi-autos do, but a heck of a lot of waterfowlers and 3-gunners have quietly been singing their praises for years. If there was a king of the budget semi-auto shotguns...it makes a strong case for itself.

The M3000 series is a 12-gauge with a 3-inch chamber. However, it differs from every other gun on this list by virtue of using an inertia-driven firing system, which cycles the bolt without exhaust gases. This helps tame recoil, taking a bit more sting out of heavy turkey and waterfowl loads, and making light target or pheasant loads unbelievably soft-shooting. Normally, an inertia system will cost you upwards of $2,000 for the privilege (such as Benelli's much-vaunted Super Black Eagle) but Stoeger lets them go for just under $600 MSRP, and a $500 M3000 is not hard to find in stores.

In fact, Stoeger's copies of Benelli's system were getting so close that Benelli actually bought the company, bringing Stoeger into the Beretta/Benelli family. The M3000 and the SBE aren't carbon copies; the M3000 has a more simplified system, but people who have shot both will - to a man - attest that the Stoeger is worth far more than its price suggests in performance.

Multiple versions, from tactical models to waterfowl, turkey, field and even cantilevered rifle slug models, are available. For $600 or less...frankly it's a steal.

Winchester SX4 Semi-Auto Shotgun

While the Winchester SX4 semi-auto shotgun isn't the most budget friendly - MSRP starts at $799, but street prices get closer to $700 - but it's more like a premium brand's affordable model. Winchester's SX3 is highly regarded, but commands much more in sticker; the SX4 is a more streamlined version of the SX3's gas system.

Here, tactical gun fans will find less to like, as the SX4 is a waterfowler and wingshooter's gun rather than a black plastic implement of BIG PEW! However, if you wanted an accurate, rugged and reliable semi-auto that will defend the homestead and put birds on the deck, that also comes with pedigree and heritage, the SX4 is a way to do that without getting scalped.

TriStar Raptor Semi-Auto Shotgun

TriStar Raptor

Another Turkish budget scattergun offering serious value for money is the TriStar Raptor semi-auto shotgun. It's a gas-operated 3-inch gun, and in your choice of 12- or 20-gauge.

You get a synthetic stock no matter what, and your choice of black or camo finish. However, you can choose from either a field gun with a 28-inch barrel, or the Raptor ATAC tactical shotgun, which features a ghost ring rear sight and pistol grip stock for fast operation in close quarters and a Picatinny rail atop the receiver.

There are fewer choices of finish, bore and so on relative to TriStar's excellent Viper G2 series, but we're mentioning it for two reasons. First, TriStar doesn't source lemons; they find excellent firearms being manufactured to high standards and import them to provide performance for serious value to the consumer.

The second? You aren't going to find a new semi-auto shotgun this good the same price, which is about $400 on the street. That's what a big-name pump costs.

Beretta A300 Outlander Semi-Auto Shotgun

Beretta A300 Outlander

The Beretta A300 Outlander is the least-expensive semi-auto shotgun from one of the traditionally big names in scatterguns. Typically, thoughts of Beretta shotguns tends to conjure the Silver Pigeon, widely considered one of the best O/Us available short of a handmade English double, but they make some darn fine semi-autos. Their A400 and 1301 series are both very well-regarded, but are pricey; about on par with Benellis.

The A300 Outlander, just like the Winchester SX4, lacks a tactical model so it's strictly a sportsman's affair. There are compact models with a 24-inch barrel if you were still so inclined. There are a variety of stocks and finishes, but in all instances it's a 3-inch gas-operated semi-auto shotgun.

Street prices start around $650, which is a bit stiff for an entry-level gun but you're buying into quality. Beretta's shotguns are typically more the province of yuppie sport shooters (skeet and trap are classically not a working man's sport and some people in its ranks like it that way) and upland bird hunters, not so much the average Joe or Jane. However, the A300 gets you one at a reasonable price of entry.

Not a bad place to start.

Sam Hoober  

About The Author


Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.

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