January 18, 2023
By Brad Fitzpatrick
The shotgun is one of the oldest firearm designs, but that doesn’t mean that shotguns haven’t changed over time. Today’s scatterguns are as refined and technologically advanced as their centerfire rifle counterparts. They’re made with high-tech machined parts, offer adjustable stocks, are equipped for optics and boast cutting-edge finishes that provide unparalleled corrosion resistance in the harshest elements.
One thing that shotgun still offer is unparalleled versatility. They are one gun that you can use to shoot clay targets, hunt a variety of game, and even use to defend your home. A good shotgun in your safe is like a firearms multitool, capable of handling a variety of tasks.
The good news is that this year there are a lot of very good new shotgun designs. We break down the guns that have been released recently and tell you why each of them is worth considering. Here’s a look at the best new scatterguns for the new year.
Mossberg International SA-20/SA-28 Turkey Guns
Trouble for Toms
Mossberg International is offering three turkey-centric semiauto shotguns for ’23. The SA-20 Turkey comes with a 14.25-inch length of pull, matte black non-glare metal finish, and a camo stock and forearm. Mossberg is also offering two Turkey Pistol Grip models, one in 20 gauge (SA-20) and one in 28 gauge (SA-28). All three guns come with ghost ring sights, 22-inch barrels with interchangeable Extended Turkey chokes, and top rails that make optic mounting easy.
The Mossy oak Greenleaf camo pattern offers functional retro styling and these gas-operated shotguns help reduce felt recoil. The full camo SA-28 Pistol Grip is the most eyebrow-raising of the bunch, representing one of the few dedicated 28-gauge gobbler guns on the market. But at just 6 pounds and 39-inches overall the SA-28 Turkey Pistol Grip will be light-recoiling and fun to carry, and even though the SA-28 has a 2 ¾-inch chamber (the 20-gauge versions offer a 3-inch) that isn’t much of a hindrance when hunting with today’s ultra-dense TSS loads from companies like Federal and Apex. Everyone enjoys a lightweight, low-recoiling turkey gun—except turkeys.
MSRP: $902 (SA-20 and SA-28 Turkey Pistol Grip), $816 (SA-20 turkey) | Mossberg.com
Franchi Instinct Sideplate 16 Gauge/28 gauge
Unbelievable Beauty and an Unbeatable Price
Many modern shotguns (like the ones listed above) offer features like camo coatings, rails, fiber optic sights, and unconventional stock designs. But there’s something about a classically-styled shotgun that’s simply stunning. Case in point: Franchi’s new Instinct Sideplate 16-gauge and 28-gauge shotguns. Like other Instinct models these guns utilize a boxlock action but come with false sideplates that mimic sideplate guns. Boxlock guns with false sideplates don’t cost gads of money like a true sidelock, but they offer the extra metal on the side of the gun that allows manufacturers to expand their engraving and improves the overall look of the firearm.
But despite all that coilor case-hardening and gold game scene inlay these are very much working field and clay guns that come with five extended choke tubes (C, IC, M, IM, F) and wrench, red fiber optic front bar sight, and ventilated top and mid ribs. A stylish shotgun needs a good-looking stock, and the Instinct Sideplate’s AA Walnut stock features a Schnabel fore end and a round Prince-of-Wales pistol grip. Interestingly, both guns come with 3-inch chambers, which isn’t always the case with these two gauges. The Instinct Sideplate guns are stunners, and at $2,399 they’re also exceptional values for a gun of this..aheam..caliber.
MSRP: $2,399 | Franchiusa.com
Weatherby 18i Waterfowler 3”
A Lighter, Handier Goose Gun
The Italian-made, inertia-operated 18i has been with us a for a few years and it’s a very good gun. However, for the longest time the only option was a 3 ½-inch 12-gauge model. That’s not a problem per se, but there are a lot of hunters and shooters who do not shoot 3 ½-inch shells and do not want the added gun that accompanies a 3 ½-inch gun. Enter the Waterfowler 3-inch.
These guns weigh in at seven pounds, a quarter-pound lighter than the 3 ½-inch 18i, and that makes them better suited for sporting clays and upland hunting where you’ll walk a great deal and don’t need 3 ½-inch punch. Like other 18i shotguns the Waterfowler 3-inch uses a simple, reliable inertia system that’s easy to maintain and ultra reliable. Shim kits allow you to adjust the stock of this gun for a perfect fit, and the LPA fiber optic front sight is highly visible even in low light, a real boon for anyone who expects their waterfowl gun to double as a turkey slayer. An Elastomer recoil pad helps reduce shoulder crunch and these guns all come with five interchangeable choke tubes in your choice of First Lite Cipher, Mossy oak habitat, or Realtree MAX-7 camo.
MSRP: $1,249 | Weatherby.com
Benelli M2 Field
M2, Take Two
Benelli has been expanding their Super Black Eagle III lineup, and I was secretly worried that the company would do away with their venerable M2. Wrong. Instead, Benelli revised this almost 20-year-old shotgun so that it offered the features hunters and shooters wanted. One major difference from the outgoing M2 model is the revised forearm design that is trim and comfortable. It’s also longer than the relatively short forearm of the previous-gen M2, which left long-armed hunters wanting more real estate. The M2’s new bolt release, which looks similar to the release on the Ethos guns, is now longer and easier to operate.
There’s an extended AirTouch surface behind the pistol grip which helps hold onto the gun with wet, gloved hands and the Micro Cell recoil pad helps reduce felt recoil. The bolt has also been redesigned and updated to be even smoother, quieter, and more robust than the one found on the previous version. The previous M2 was a great gun, and many of the features you loved about that gun remain like the Crio barrel and choke tubes, camo or black color options, stepped rib, and the never-say-die Inertia-Driven system. The M2 was a great gun that was ready for a makeover, and somehow despite all its new-fangled goodness this M2 comes in priced slightly lower than the outgoing gun.
MSRP: $1,399 to $1,499 | Benelliusa.com
Browning High Grade Citori 50th Anniversary
The gun with a funny name celebrates five decades of over/under dominance
When production of Browning over/under was moved from Belgium to Japan many die-hards thought that spelled the end of Browning’s ownership of the American over/under shotgun segment. Even more jarring to the purists was the gun’s new name—Citori—which Browning admitted to pulling out of thin air. Fast forward fifty years and Citori is a household name, and the Miroku-made Browning over/unders remain extraordinarily popular and extremely reliable.
To celebrate the Citori’s continued success, Browning is offering a High Grade Citori 50th Anniversary gun that is loaded with top end features including a silver nitride receiver with full scroll engraving, a grade IV gloss finish walnut stock with 20 LPI checkering, a gold-plated trigger and hand-engraved trigger guard. Despite all this shotgun goodness the 50th anniversary Citori is still very capable of field work and comes with a chrome-plated chamber, fives Invector-Plus Midas extended choke tubes, and 30 or 32-inch barrels with rich bluing that compliments the other aspects of this gorgeous gun. You can bet that Browning collectors will be bowling one another over to lay hands on this gun.
MSRP: $8,399.99 | Browning.com
Retay Gordion Youth Stock
Everything you love about the inertia-operated Gordion in a more compact package
Women and youth are the fastest growing subsegment of the shooting and hunting market, and Retay is now offerings a compact version of its durable Gordion semiauto to better fit small-statured shooters. Like the larger Gordion, this gun utilizes the Inertia-Plus operating system that is reliable and easy to maintain. Available with 24 or 26-inch barrels, these 20-gauge semiautos come in either all black (priced under $900) or wrapped in Mossy Oak or Realtree camo (priced under $1,000).
As with all Retay shotguns, the Gordion Compact feature a deep bore drilled barrel. Though it’s an expensive process, Retay’s deep bore drilling ensures perfect concentricity and a dead-straight bore for a consistent point of impact. These guns also come with lengthened forcing cones and interchangeable choke tubes. Since it's built on their standard 20-gauge frame, the Gordion Compact will also accept full-sized stocks, so if the young shooter in your household outgrows the included 12.5-inch stock it’s easier to swap for a larger size.
Price: $900 to $1,000 | Retayusa.com
Stoeger M3000/M3020/M3500 Update
The durable, reliable inertia-operated semiauto gets a facelift
It promises to be a big year for Stoeger as the brand is updating and expanding their impressive product line. The M3000 series shotguns are part of that revamp, including the M3020 20-gauge, the M3000 12-gauge, 3-inch and the M3500 12 gauge 3 ½-inch. The new guns come with a lower-profile receiver and trimmed-down forearms as well as oversized controls (including a new larger safety) and removable cheekpiece on select models.
But unlike many redesigns where there are only one or two versions of the new gun offered Stoeger is releasing over two-dozen versions of their guns for just about any discipline or hunting application. The walnut/bronze model is a perfect upland and sporting gun, and there’s a short-barreled version of these guns with Mossy Oak Obsession camo and ghost ring sights for turkey hunters. The M3000 series of shotguns have always been ultra-reliable (thanks in no small part to the proven Inertia-Driven action design), but these new upgrades make these guns even more desirable. Plus, they remain an exceptional value.
MSRP: $559-$659 (M3020/M3000), $649-$849 (M3500) | Stoegerindustries.com