Whenever I post about semiauto shotguns, the subject of recoil reduction and which gun shoots the softest comes up.
Strictly speaking, semiautos don't reduce recoil. Recoil is a function of the weight of the ejecta (shot, wad and powder) weight, the velocity of the ejecta and the weight of the gun. You can reduce recoil by shooting a heavier gun, or choosing lighter shot charges and/or lower velocity ammunition.
However, semiautos reduce felt recoil (aka "kick") by spreading the recoil impulse out over a longer period of time. Generally speaking, gas operated semiautos offer the most recoil reduction although not all reduce felt recoil equally. Here's my list of the softest shooters. Your shoulder may disagree with mine. For instance, I shoot Beretta 391s a lot and like them, but I don't think they reduce recoil as much as do other gas guns. I also think Benelli's inertia guns get a bad rap for recoil and aren't that painful to shoot unless you insist on firing 3 ½-inch shells out of them at which point they hurt, because they are light guns. Anyway, here are my picks:
Honorable Mention: Benelli M4 Not a sporting gun, Benelli's gas operated combat shotgun is very soft kicking. I have only fired one once but when I did I emptied an extended magazine-full of high velocity buckshot and was surprised how little it kicked and how easy it was to keep on target.
5. Winchester Super X2: the whole Browning and Winchester Gold/Silver/Maxus/Super X2/Super X3 family are almost as soft-shooting as Remington 1100/11-87s. The X2 always felt the mildest to me because it weighed more than any of the others.
4. Beretta A400: With the optional Kick-Off recoil reduction system, the A400 (especially the heavier Extreme waterfowl gun) comes close to being the softest shooter. Without Kick-Off, no so much.
3. Remington 1100/11-87:** The 1100/11-87 series are heavy guns with a gas system that reduces recoil noticeably more than almost any other. The 1100 is the original soft-shooting gas gun. Almost 50 years after its introduction it's still among the most pleasant of semiautos to shoot.
2. (tie) 10 Gauge Gas Guns: The Browning Gold 10 and Remington SP 10 weigh 10-11 ½ recoil-soaking pounds, feature gas operation, and don't hurt in the least to shoot. Pull the trigger, and you feel a gentle but powerful push, as if a giant has laid a finger on your shoulder while asking you to take a step backward. When my younger son was 12 I let him shoot a bunch of clays with an SP 10 and hunting loads. He giggled at the way the targets disintegrated but the gun didn't hurt.
And the winner is:
1.Remington Versa Max: perhaps because it is a heavier (near eight pounds) gun, and because its gas ports are located in the chamber (the system is inspired by Benelli's M4, see above) where they bleed off a lot of expanding gases quickly, and because it has a very thick recoil pad on the butt and in the comb, the Versa Max is the softest-shooting semiauto I have ever tried. It's a homely gun, but its powers of felt recoil reduction are astonishing.