Shotguns digest more shells in a season than most rifles will in a lifetime. They get knocked around in the uplands, splattered with mud in the marsh, and shot and shot and shot at the range. A lot of people don’t like the idea of spending any more than necessary on a gun that has to take such abuse. This list of the best affordable shotguns for them, the practical among us, who will skip a frill here or an engraved pheasant there in order get the most bang for the buck. Here are ten shotguns—plus a bonus gun—that represent extremely good values in their categories. One of them is most likely the best budget shotgun you can buy for the type of hunting you do.
How to Buy a Used Gun Safely
Used models are the best budget shotguns going. The original buyer takes the depreciation hit, you get a deal, and as a bonus, someone else puts the first ding in the stock, saving you the anguish of worrying about it. If it weren’t for used guns, I’d hardly have any guns at all.Still, you have to be careful. Do your homework. The Blue Book of Gun Values is your guide to how much you should pay. It lists virtually every gun made and its price across a range of conditions.
Buy from a dealer who stands behind what they sell. Be sure you know what the return policy is before you buy. If you buy from an online seller, use only those with good ratings, and be sure there’s an inspection period, which is typically three days. Find out if inspection includes test-firing.
Check the gun carefully for function. I recently bought a Model 12 Winchester with a slide release that was very difficult to press (it’s a thing with Model 12s), and I negotiated the necessary repairs as part of the price of the gun. See if the choke tubes come out. I picked up a Mossberg 835 turkey gun, and in checking it out I found the choke tube was rusted in place. The gun was already dirt-cheap, but the store knocked another big chunk off the price when I pointed out the stuck tube.
Look for signs like marred screws that shows someone who didn’t know what they were doing has been poking around inside. Be sure neither barrels nor stock have been cut down, and look for signs of refinishing. If you need to, have a gunsmith look the gun over, just as you might take a used car to your mechanic. He can spot any problems and keep you from buying what looks to you like a great budget shotgun but is actually a lemon.
Finally, consider resale value. Someday you may want to move on from the gun even though right now you’re smitten with it. I’m terrible about this, but I’m learning. A little while ago, I passed up a terrific deal on an older Browning Citori skeet gun with great wood and a full set of sub-gauge tubes. But, it had 26-inch barrels and the current trend is to longer ones. I knew if and when I soured on the gun, the short barrels would make it tough to sell, so I let it go.
Whether you are buying new or used, a budget means you have a limited amount to spend. And whether thats a few hundred dollars or a couple thousand, you want to get most for you money. So, to that end, here are 11 bargain shotguns that represent the best values in four different budget ranges.
Best Budget Shotguns Under $500
The Maverick 88 starts for under $250. Mossberg
Made in Mexico, the Maverick 88 is a budget Mossberg 500, which seems like a redundancy. It’s essentially the same gun but with a crossbolt safety in place of the 500′s top safety. The 88 is also the least-expensive pump gun I could find (undercutting the Chinese-made Savage 320 by $7). For just a little over $200, you get a lock, stock, and barrel, plus one choke tube and a middle bead. It comes in black plastic, 3-inch, 12-gauge only, and weighs about 7 pounds. I have shot 25 straight on the skeet field with a Model 88, which suggests they shoot where you point them, and I’ve seen them work reliably in the field, too. The Maverick 88 starts at $245.
Used 870 Express models make exceptional bargains. Bass Pro Shops
The most popular shotgun of all time, the 870 pump, was introduced in a budget Express version in 1987 with a plainer finish and a hardwood stock. It has a steel receiver and twin action bars to keep its stroke smooth. It was sold in both hardwood or synthetic in 3-inch 12 or 20, as well as a few in .410. Again, you get no frills here, and the finish is quick to rust and requires care, but inside it is the same reliable gun shooters have relied on since 1950. Update: Note that since this story was first published, Remington has been acquired by the Round Hill Group, and it’s not clear yet if the new owner will continue to offer the Express. But I’ve chosen to keep this gun in the roundup because there are plenty of used ones out there can be had for as little as a couple hundred bucks.
The M3000 is a reliable intertia gun for half the price of a Benelli. Bass Pro Shops
If you yearn for an intertia semiauto but don’t have the cash for a Benelli or an A5, the Stoeger M3000 may be for you. Owned by Benelli, Turkish gunmaker Stoeger turns out eerily similar semiautos at a much lower price. Although you do give up something in fit and finish, the M3000 has the same light weight and slim lines of a Benelli, and the same reliable action that’s known for running in the worst weather conditions. As Turkish semiautos improve, the Stoeger becomes a better and better option, and with an affordable street price it’s less than half the price of a Benelli.
The Weatherby SA-08 in black synthetic retails for $499. Bass Pro Shops
Friends don’t let friends shoot cheap gas semiautos. They are a headache—unless the one in question is the Stoeger above are a Weatherby SA-08. This plain Turkish-made gas gun is slim and lightweight, and it does nothing but work, without a fuss. A lot of people own these, and I have yet to hear a complaint. The design is outdated; you have to switch between two different pistons depending on whether you’re shooting light or heavy loads, but outside of that minor inconvenience, the SA-08 delivers reliable performance. Perhaps because it’s so light—6 ½ pounds in 3-inch 12 gauge—it doesn’t offer the same reduced-recoil sensation of other semiautos, but for the price, a lot of hunters don’t mind a little extra punch.
Best Budget Shotguns for Under $750
5. CZ Drake
A bare-bones O/U that works, the Drake goes for $675. CZ USA
The CZ Drake’s price tag reads like a typo. No O/U should cost as little as it does, yet it’s a solid gun that gives you all the advantages of a break action (two chokes, compact balance) at a low-end semiauto cost. Made in Turkey, the Drake comes in 12, 20, 28, and .410. It doesn’t have much in the way of engraving or fancy wood, and its extractors lift spent shells instead of kicking them out like ejectors. In short, it’s a bare-bones O/U that works, and that’s no small thing at under $700, complete with hard case and five choke tubes.
Best Budget Shotguns Under $1,000
Beretta A300 Outlander
The Beretta A300 Outlander runs from between $680 and $800 depending on finish. Bass Pro Shops
When people ask me what they should buy for a first shotgun, I point them to the A300. Like the SA-08, it’s based on second-generation technology, but in this case, it’s a budget version of the excellent Beretta 391, simplified, changed a little, and made in the United States. The least expensive model is the synthetic version, which features spacers that let you change the stock length up to an inch to fit smaller shooters. The gas system is famously reliable, and the gun shoots all loads without adjustment. Really, this is a tough gun to beat at any price.
The Super X4 is a budget gun with lots of features. Bass Pro Shops
A recent member in the family of Browning/Winchester semiautos spawned by the Browning Gold back in the 90s, the X4 is made to be a budget gun, but it still comes packed with features. A redesign of the X3, it features a larger square safety, as well as a larger bolt handle and bolt release button for easier use in cold weather. It has a bright, TruGlo bead, too, for those who like them. Inside, it has the same excellent, reliable, easy-to-maintain, soft-shooting gas system of the Gold/X2/X3 family. The 3-inch, 12-gauge, black-synthetic model can be had for as low as $800, and a 3 ½ inch version is about $100 more.
8. Remington V3
The Remington V3 can be had for right around $800. Bass Pro Shops
Remington’s V3 uses the ingeniously simple VersaPort system, which was developed for the 3½-inch VersaMax so it could shoot everything from the lightest to the heaviest loads with reliability and low recoil. Not all gas guns can make that claim, even models that cost much more than the humble V3. It’s not a good-looking gun, but it is loaded with inner beauty. It’s lightweight, has a great trigger, and it’s very easy to maintain. I have hunted and shot with a few, including the one I own, and they have all been perfect, even in extreme cold. Available in 12 gauge only, you can find them new for around $800. Update: As with the 870 Express above, it’s not clear if Remington’s new owner will continue to produce the V3, but it is still offered new by some retailers.
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Best Budget Shotguns Over $1,000
9. Beretta A400 Xcel
The excellent Beretta A400 Xcel is known as the ‘blue gun.’ Bass Pro Shops
Beretta’s A400 Xcel is practically the only semiauto you’ll see in the hands of serious sporting clays shooters. Known as the “blue gun,” it’s somewhat pricey for a semiauto at over $1,500 (a little more with the highly worthwhile Kick-Off recoil reducer). On the other hand, it can go head to head with the far more expensive (up to $12K) Krieghoff, Kolar, Perazzi, and Beretta O/Us in top-level sporting competition. And that makes it a real bargain. Diane Sorantino, who is a dominant shooter in women’s events, will shoot nothing else. Berettas are famous for working practically forever without cleaning (not that you wouldn’t, but you could) and rarely malfunctioning. They are a snap to maintain when you do have to take them apart, too. With 3-inch chambers, the Xcel could double as a duck or dove gun, although the blue receiver might offend gamebirds.
The Browning Cynergy CX is a great choice for targets and hunting. Bass Pro Shops
Originally intended to replace the venerable Citori O/U, the Cynergy is a futuristically styled ugly duckling that never caught on as it should have. It’s an excellent design, with a very low-profile receiver and an action built to last practically forever and a very crisp mechanical trigger. Repositioned in the market as a lower-priced alternative to the Citori, it comes in target and field versions in 12, 20, 28, and .410 for around $1,900. But the real bargain in the Cynergy lineup is the CX field-and-target model, which comes in 12 gauge with 30 or 32 inch barrels. Choose 32 inch for targets, or 30 if you want a gun for targets and hunting, and you’ll never look back. Yes, the matte finish is cheap and shows any ding as a white scar, but the CX can be found for only $1,600, and it will see you through summer targets, September doves, and fall waterfowl seasons.
Bonus Bargain Shotgun: Beretta SL3
Even at $25,000, the Beretta SL3 is a lot of gun for the money. Beretta
For a certain class of people—say, about 1% of us—the Beretta SL3, with its $25,000 price tag, is in fact a bargain. In the world of premium O/Us, where guns cost as much as modest homes, the SL3 sells for comparative peanuts. Despite its good looks, it’s made to be a serious hunting gun, too, designed and built to endure the high round count of those who travel the world shooting driven pheasants and Argentine doves. The SL3 features a new action that makes it a very low-profile, natural pointer, as I found out when I shot it last spring in Italy. Made in equal parts by high-tech machines and old-world craftspeople, the SL3 takes a month to build, even with the aid of sophisticated robot labor. It comes in a beautiful leather case hand-made right there at the Beretta factory.
6 Tips on How to Sell a Used Gun
“Never sell a gun” some sage told me years ago. While it seemed like sound advice at the time, it’s not practical. Guns pile up. You have to thin the herd occasionally. Sometimes you need money right away for emergencies, other times you want to make room for something new. There are several ways to sell a gun, from taking it to a gun store or pawn shop to auctions and private sales.
1. How to Gauge the Value of Your Gun
The Blue Book of Gun Values is updated annually. It’s the standard on which most buyers and sellers rely. You can also search online auction sites to see how much guns like yours have sold for.
2. How to Sell Your Rifle or to a Gun Store
If you sell a gun to gun shop, you get money right away—but you might receive only half the gun’s value or even less. Stores have overhead, and they can’t give you the full value of the gun if they want to make any money on the resale. Scopes and other accessories rarely add much to the price of a gun. If you think you might need them in the future, take them off and sell the gun by itself.
You’ll generally get a better deal if you trade the gun toward something at the shop that you want. If you need money right away, sell the gun, take your lumps graciously on the price, and walk out the door with cash in hand.
3. How to Sell a Gun on Consignment
Ask if your gun shop sells on consignment. They’ll work with you to set the price, display the gun, sell it, and take a commission when the gun sells. Some guns go right away, while I’ve seen others sit on the rack for a year or more until someone meets the seller’s price.
4. How to Sell a Firearm on Gunbroker
You’ll reach the widest possible market if you sell online through Gunbroker.com or a similar site. Take lots of pictures, including pictures of any scratches, dents, and dings, and be scrupulously honest in your descriptions of the gun to minimize the chance of returns. You’ll be responsible for shipping the gun, and the auction site will take a commission when the gun sells.
5. How to Sell a Gun Privately
Private sales (where legal; see below) will get you the most money for your gun. Ideally, you’ll sell it to a friend who wants it, and you’re done with no hassle. Failing that, advertise the gun locally – the bulletin boards at shooting ranges are good places – and sell it. Only ask top dollar if you’re willing to wait a long time for your money. Again, let the Blue Book be your guide.
6. How to Sell a Gun Legally
Be sure you know your state’s laws. A growing number of states require private sales to be conducted through a Federal Firearms License (FFL) holder that can perform background checks. Laws for selling handguns are often stricter than laws governing long gun sales. Be careful and know the law.
Read Next: How to Buy a Used Rifle—at a Bargain Price
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