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Top 15 Shotguns for Hunting in the Last 50 Years

The Top 15 Shotguns for Hunting is one of a three-part series of the Top 50 Guns for Hunting in the Last 50 Years.

Top 15 Shotguns for Hunting in the Last 50 Years

Savage Renegauge Field

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Savage Renegauge Field

Dependable and comfortable is the perfect way to describe Savage’s Reneguage Field. With Savage’s D.R.I.V. (Dual Regulating Inline Valve) gas system, this shotgun can handle any load you put in it and still eject efficiently. Not only does this system allow for efficient bolt cycling but it also reduces the felt recoil by venting the excess gas before it can drive the bolt. Along with adjustable comb height, length of pull and drop and cast, this shotgun is a perfect choice for anyone who wants to hit the field. — Joe Ferronato

Browning BPS

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Browning BPS

In production since 1970, the Browning Pump Shotgun (BPS) is based on a 1917 John Moses Browning patent, originally used for the M17 Remington and later for the Ithaca M37 shotguns. Twin action bars make the BPS a smooth-shucking pump gun, with bottom-loading and ejection. The BPS has a tang safety at the rear of the action, thus is the most ambidextrous of all repeating shotguns. Browning has offered a wide range of configurations, including blued metal and walnut, and rustproof with composite and camouflage. Primary availability has been 20 and 12-gauge, but the BPS is one of very few slide-actions to be offered in 10 gauge. — Craig Boddington

Franchi Affinity

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Franchi Affinity

Introduced in 2017, the Affinity is an inertia-driven semiautomatic shotgun. Between the inertia system and Franchi’s TSA recoil pad, recoil reduction is as much as 50 percent, but the Affinity’s real strength is its ability to digest a wide range of loads without hiccups, from light field or target loads all the way up to heavy waterfowl and turkey loads. The Affinity was introduced in 20 and 12-gauge with 3-inch chambers; and in 12 gauge with 3.5-inch chamber, all with interchangeable choke tubes. Models include blue/walnut, black synthetic, and camouflage and, most uniquely, initial offerings included a mirror-image left-hand version. — Craig Boddington

Mossberg Model 835

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Mossberg Model 835

In production since 1988, the Mossberg M835 Ulti-Mag was the first slide-action shotgun designed for the 3.5-inh 12-gauge shell. The 835 is based on Mossberg’s proven M500 action with dual extractors and twin action bars, expanded to accept the longer 3.5-inch 12 gauge…as well as 2.75 and 3-inch shells. Barrels are overbored to 10-gauge dimension to reduce recoil. Models include wood/blue, synthetic, and camouflage, purpose-driven from field to waterfowl to turkey…and deer shotguns with fully rifled barrels. Depending on purpose, the Ulti-Mag includes interchangeable chokes, fiber optic bead or sights, and a cantilever scope base on the “Combo Turkey/Deer” shotgun. — Craig Boddington


TARHUNT RSG

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TARHUNT RSG

Lifelong benchrest shooter, hunter, and riflesmith Randy Fritz was horrified by the dismal accuracy common when shooting slugs in smoothbore shotgun barrels. By law, millions of American deer hunters were obligated to use these inefficient tools…and Fritz decided to do something about it. After several years of experimenting, at the 1992 SHOT Show he introduced his 12-gauge Rifled Slug Gun (RSG), a bolt-action, fully rifled slug gun that, within a couple of years and some tweaks, routinely produced one-inch groups at 100 yards! Later innovations included 16 and 20-gauge bolt-actions; and the Designated Slug Gun (DSG), a much less costly slide-action with fully rifled barrel. — Craig Boddington


Benelli Super Black Eagle

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Benelli Super Black Eagle

It is hard to believe that Benelli’s flagship shotgun has been around for 30 years. Released in 1990, it quickly became the semi-auto shotgun by which others are judged. The SBE was one of the first available shotguns to chamber the then-new 3 1/2” 12 gauge load, which was a big selling point. What owners quickly realized was the utility, durability and reliability offered by this Italian design. Though release for the waterfowl market, these guns soon found themselves in dove fields, turkey blinds and pheasant grass due to their versatility. The SBE is probably the closest you will find for “one gun to do it all”. — Keith Wood

Remington 11-87

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Remington 11-87

In 1905, Remington released the first U.S.-made semi-auto shotgun called the Model 11. The 11 eventually evolved into the 1100, which later transitioned to the 11-87 in 1987. Millions of guns were produced, making the 11-series one of the most prolific shotguns of all time. The 11-87 and its antecedents proved to be soft-shooting and tough as nails. Due to the self-adjusting gas system on the 11-87, it can be used with everything from light target loads to heavy waterfowl shells. 1187s were built in both 12 and 20 gauge chamberings and Super Magnum 3 ½” guns were available as well. — Keith Wood

Ruger Red Label

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Ruger Red Label

My first real hunting shotgun was a 20ga. Red Label made back in the 1970s. The gun has been after quail, dove, pheasant, snipe and Huns, and my misses have never been the gun’s fault. The Red Label represents one of just a few American-made double guns made in recent times. In typical Ruger fashion, these guns are very strong and can be found with very attractive wood. 150,000 examples were built before they were discontinued in 2014 so they are accessible on the used market. The appropriately scaled and straight-gripped 28ga. models are especially attractive to quail hunters. — Keith Wood

Beretta 390/391

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Beretta 390

If you make the trip to Argentina to hunt dove by the thousands, the outfitter is likely to hand you a Beretta of this design. The reasons are simple: these guns are extremely reliable and, thanks to their gas system, have minimal recoil. The 391 replaced the older 390 in 1999 and is lighter and more trim. 391s are offered in both 12 and 20 gauge, with barrel lengths ranging from 24 to 32 inches. For an all-around bird gun or a reduced-recoil sporting clays shotgun, the 391 is a top choice. — Keith Wood




Benelli Ethos

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Benelli Ethos

The first time I pulled the trigger on Benelli’s revolutionary Ethos I was standing in a South African sunflower field swinging the shotgun on a speeding rock pigeon. Though I missed that bird, and many, many more, I came to love the Ethos’s superb balance, minimal recoil and unflinching reliability. An upgrade of the popular, proven inertia system made famous by Benelli’s Super Black Eagle, consider the Ethos a classier cousin to that workhorse. It looks good, and goes off every time you pull the trigger, even when the action is packed full of red African sand. After carrying the Ethos in those foreign uplands, and adding guinea fowl, yellow-billed ducks, and, finally, a rock pigeon to my life list, I brought the gun home and it’s now my go-to shotgun during Nebraska’s pheasant season. — David Draper

Beretta 686

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Beretta 686

Produced for more than a quarter century now, the 686 line is one of Beretta’s most successful double-barrel guns. Conceptually, the 686 was and is an entry-level shotgun that provides premium-gun characteristics. Designed to be compact and low in vertical profile, the 686 makes for a very sleek field piece. Like most modern O/U guns, it has a single, selectable trigger; interchangeable choke tubes compatible with steel shot; and ejectors rather than extractors. Three different action sizes provide dimension-appropriate guns in four different gauges: 12, 20, 28, and 410 bore. The $2,350 Silver Pigeon 1 shown here is a beautiful iteration with classic styling and tasteful engraving. — Joseph von Benedikt

Browning Citori

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Browning Citori

Introduced nearly a half-century ago, the Citori was designed as a base model of the excellent (but expensive) Browning Superposed. Because of the Citori’s Superposed roots, the fundamental design is actually 90 years old. Also significant is the fact that the Superposed was John Browning’s last design. Of top-lever operation, all Citoris have single, selectable triggers, ejectors, interchangeable chokes, and of course Browning’s signature gold plating on the trigger. Various configurations are offered for everything from serious competitive clay shooting to roaming vast public lands in pursuit of upland game birds. True-to-scale 410-bore and 20-guage models are available in several iterations, including my personal favorite; the $2,740 White Lightning. — Joseph von Benedikt


Winchester SX3

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Winchester SX3

Billed as the fastest cycling, most reliable, and best patterning autoloader you’ll ever own, the SX3 is indeed an extraordinary shotgun. It’s younger than all the rest spotlighted here, but in its short years has gained an admirable repute for shootability and reliability. It feels and shoots like a gun of twice its cost. The first time I shot a round of clays with an SX3, it seemed I couldn’t miss—and I’m good at missing with a shotgun. Available in iterations ranging from the superb walnut-stocked Ultimate Sporting gun to gobbler-rolling turkey guns to the do-all $1,240 Universal Hunter shown here, the SX3 covers all bases. You can have one in your choice of gauges, as long as your choice is either 12 or 20. Every gun comes with stock shims and spacers, so you can finesse length of pull, drop, and cast to gun-pointing perfection. — Joseph von Benedikt

Remington Versamax

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Remington Versamax

It’s hard to beat the design of the legendary Remington 1100, but Big Green did it with the Versamax, a gas-driven autoloader built to handle nearly any load, from light target to heavy magnums. It does so thanks to a dual-piston design that self-adjusts to utilize the proper amount of force to operate the bolt, venting excess gasses through ports on piston housing. Though many modern Remington’s suffered from reliability issues, my V-Max Waterfowl Pro has gone through thousands of rounds without a hiccup. I also like the oversized controls, including a bigger bolt handle and safety button, make shooting it with gloves easier. — David Draper

Rigby Rising Bite

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Rigby Rising Bite

Though the patent dates to 1879, we’re including the recently re-introduced Rising Bite mostly just to class up this otherwise workman-like list. However, the double-gun’s beauty belies a vertical locking bolt design that is tough and reliable. Fine walnut stock features a classic English straight grip, and traditional scrolling on the receiver. Of course you can get it custom fitted and upgraded as far as your budget allows, but even the standard version is fit to carry, no matter whose estate where you find yourself on the Glorious 12th. — David Draper

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