Six Dream Shotguns You Can Actually Afford

Our shotguns editor goes shopping for your ultimate upland gun

Even in my dreams I can’t afford my dream guns, so I have always wondered about the guns that normal people yearn for. When I took a poll on ­field​and​stream.com to ask how much you would spend on your ultimate upland gun out of six categories from “Under $1,000” to “The Farm,” more than a thousand of you responded. Almost half the votes (48 percent) fell into one of two brackets: “$1,500–$2,000” and “$2,000–$3,000.” Here are the shotguns I would dream of in these ranges, three for each: a top choice, a runner-up, and a used gun.

of six categories from “Under $1,000” to “The Farm.” More than a thousand of you responded, and almost half (48 percent) fell into one of two brackets: “$1,500–$2,000” and “$2,000–$3,000.” Here are the shotguns I would dream of in these ranges, three for each: a top choice, a runner-up, and a used gun.

Affordable Shotguns: $1,500–$2,000

Top  Choice: CZ Project Upland G2 Bobwhite

CZ Bobwhite G2 Project Upland shotgun.
CZ Bobwhite G2 Project Upland shotgun is a good deal at $1,429. CZ USA

This year, CZ-USA collaborated with Project Upland on a pair of crowd-designed bird guns. Hunters chose the gun’s features and finish on social media surveys, and CZ built them accordingly. I have to hand it to Project Upland readers: they’ve got good taste in double guns. The side by side they collectively asked for is a classic straight-gripped, splinter-forend double-triggered beauty, with upgraded wood and sideplates lightly decorated so they don’t detract from the glorious bone charcoal case colors of the receiver.

This Turkish shotgun has extractors, a manual safety and comes with five steel shot-proof choke tubes so you can take it anywhere. And, at $1429, it comes in $71 under our $1500-$2000 price range. Check availability here.

Runner Up: O/U Franchi Instinct LX

Franchi Instinct LX
The Franchi Instinct LX retails for $1,699. Franchi

Franchi’s O/U comes in a standard and deluxe version with your choice of either steel or alloy receiver. Since we’re talking about dream guns, let’s assume you want some decoration on yours, meaning you’ll choose either the LX (steel) or the very lightweight SLX. You can be practical and pick a 12, 20 or 28 in either, or pick the SLX in 16 gauge, which gives you a good-looking, easy-carrying, hard-hitting upland gun, and if that’s not the stuff dreams are made of, I don’t know what is. In fact, my pheasant hunting partner bought one last fall as (one of) his dream guns, and from what I saw of it, it’s an excellent choice for upland hunting.

The LX has a case-colored receiver with gold accents, the SLX has a silvered receiver and both guns feature AA walnut stocks. The come with extended choke tubes, which I think detracts a little from a field gun’s looks, but I’m stuffy that way. They are certainly practical. The LX costs 1699 (1799 in 28), the SLX lists for $1999. Check availability here.

Used: Browning Superposed

Despite being made in Belgium, the Superposed is an American classic. John Browning was working on its design at the time of his death in 1926, and his son Val finished it. You can nitpick the Superposed—it’s a bit heavy, the fore-end latch is too complicated, the action a little too tall—but it is far greater than the sum of those parts. It’s a beautifully crafted gun, and in the 1960s it became the aspirational shotgun for U.S. shooters. You can find a near pristine Superposed Lightning for $1,500–​$2,000 with one catch: It has to be a 12-gauge. Prices on smallbores run quite a lot higher. Check availability here.

Affordable Shotguns: $2,000–$3,000

Top choice: Beretta 687 Silver Pigeon III

Beretta 687 Silver Pigeon III
The Silver Pigeon III starts at $2,699. Beretta

When some of us dream of guns, we dream in Italian. I lucked into a deal on a well-used Beretta 687 Silver Pigeon III some years ago and have hunted with it a lot. It’s rugged, it’s good-looking, it fits and it shoots straight. The 680 series haven’t changed much over the years, because Beretta got them right the first time and the guns have become incredibly popular the world over. They have low-profile, trim receivers, they last forever, and they are easy on the eyes, too. The silvered receiver bears gamebird engravings and the gun has gloss finished class 2.5 walnut. The guns come 12, 20, 28 and .410 and start for $2,699. Check availability here.

Runner-up: Browning Citori Superlight Feather

Browning Citori 725 Feather Superlight shotgun.
Browning Citori 725 Feather Superlight sells for $2,390. Browning

The Superlight Feather combines classic good looks and a straight grip with the solution to the original ­Citori’s weight problem: The receiver is made of aluminum alloy, making this 12-gauge weigh the same as many 20s. The Citori was born when rising Belgian labor costs prompted Browning to move its o/u production to Japan in the 1970s. The Miroku factory has been turning out about 130 a day ever since. Visiting Miroku and seeing the skill with which these guns are built made me even more of a Citori fan. If you believe, as many people do, that the barrels are the heart of a shotgun, then you want a Miroku Browning. This one goes for $2,390 in 12 gauge only, with 26-inch barrels. Check availability here.

Used: AyA 4/53

You can buy a whole lot of used shotgun for $2,000–$3,000. If you want to buy an American double, think about an L.C. Smith, or a Fox Sterlingworth, although many of those guns are stocked with a great deal of drop that makes them difficult for us to shoot today. Or, you could probably find a 20 gauge Superposed in the $2000-$3000 range, too.

Great as those would be, my pick would be an AyA Model 4/53 from Spain. These guns are made the old-fashioned way, with chopper lump barrels and disk-set strikers, and patterned after Westley Richards boxlocks based on the 1875 Anson and Deeley action. Shotguns don’t get much more traditional than that. A ton of hand craftsmanship goes into them, even though a few CNC and laser-engraving machines have found their way into Spanish factories. You can find a 4/53 at the high end of this price range although they are beginning to creep out of it. Some of the newer models are rated for steel shot, meaning nontoxic zones can’t stop this dream gun from becoming every gamebird’s nightmare everywhere. Check availability here.

BONUS TIP: Be a Good Closer

There are two schools of thought when it comes to closing break-­action shotguns. Some people keep things simple and just close them; others put their thumb on the lever so they can ease the gun shut to save wear. New guns are typically tight and can simply be closed; if anything, they may need an extra push on the lever to fully seat. If a gun’s lever wants to snap shut—my dad’s Beretta is this way—I’ll ease it shut with my thumb, as do the owners of Foxes and L.C. Smiths, whose guns have rotary bolts that shut like mousetraps. To be on the safe side, I always ease the lever shut, then snug it closed, when I’m handling someone else’s dream gun. —P.B

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