We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn more ›

Smallbores are in right now, and 20 gauge shotguns are having another moment. This current trend should last for a long time, too. New ammo for 20 gauges makes them almost as capable as a 12 gauge. As more hunters turn to the 20 gauge as their main gun, gunmakers are offering more choices, including dedicated models for waterfowling, turkey hunting, upland hunting, and clay shooting

There’s a lot to like about a 20 gauge. Twenties are light and easy to carry. They’re trimmer, too. For some, the lesser bulk of a 20 makes it easier to shoot. The smaller payloads of 20 gauge shotgun shells produce lower recoil so long as the guns aren’t too light. Some people even believe the 20’s small size and lower recoil make them a better choice for home defense. For tactical use, however, where ranges may be longer, a 20 gauge isn’t as good as a 12 gauge.

As with all shotgun gauges (except the .410), the 20 gets its name from the number of lead balls of bore diameter that add up to one pound. That equals a bore diameter of .615 inches, which, combined with the 3-inch chambers found on most 20s, means shells can hold up to 1 5/16 ounces of lead or dense TSS shot, 1 ounce of steel, and 1 ⅛  ounces of bismuth. And the 20 can still shoot the mild ⅞-ounce target and dove loads. Here are the best break-action, pump, and semi-auto 20 gauge shotguns you can buy right now.

How We Picked the Best 20 Gauge Shotugns

The popularity of the 20 gauge means there are lots of twenties on the market to choose from. I stayed away from dedicated turkey, deer, and home defense guns and kept this list more general. All of the guns here are made for wing shooting, and most can go from the dove field to the duck blind to the uplands without missing a beat. I’ve had a chance to shoot these guns, with one exception, and judge them by the following criteria:

  • Reliability: Does the gun go bang three (or two for two barreled guns) times?
  • Quality of construction: Is the gun well-built? How is the fit, finish, and, if applicable, decoration?
  • Weight and balance: If a 20 gauge is too heavy, you might as well shoot a 12. If it’s too light, it can be hard to shoot and kick too much. How a gun’s weight is distributed matters, too.
  • Ergonomics: A shotgun has to fit, and it has to feel good in hand. Its controls should be easy to use as well.
  • Recoil: Felt recoil is a matter of gun weight, fit, and factors like gas operation, recoil reducers, and the quality of the recoil pad.
  • Price/Value: Some of the guns here are cheap, and some are pricey, but all were scrutinized to make sure you’re getting a good return for your money, no matter how much or how little you’re spending.
pheasant hunter walking through field
The new Browning A5 20 gauge is ideal for all types of upland hunting. Browning

Best Overall: Beretta A400


  • Chamber: 3-inch
  • Action: Gas semiauto
  • Weight: 6 ¾ pounds
  • Length: 51 inches
  • Barrels: 26 or 28 inches, front and mid-bead, Beretta Optima HP chokes
  • Stock: Black synthetic (camo available)


  • Versatile
  • Reliable, recoil-reducing gas operation
  • Kick-Off recoil reducer in stock cuts the kick even further
  • Enlarged bolt handle and release button are an advantage at the range


  • Expensive
  • Safety at the front of the trigger guard

If you want one 20 gauge gun for all types of wing and clay shooting, the A400 fits the bill. It combines the already soft recoil of its gas operation with a stock-mounted “Kick-Off” recoil reducer to make it the softest-kicking 20 gauge you can buy. At 6 ¾ pounds, it’s on the heavy side for a 20 gauge, although not too heavy to carry in the field. And that weight makes it easy to swing and further reduces recoil. The heavier weight combined with a mid-bead, enlarged bolt handle, and bolt closer make this gun at home at the gun club as well as in the field.

Some shooters with smaller hands struggle with the safety mounted at the front of the trigger guard, and there are better choices for guns that will only be used for upland hunting. But for ducks, doves, and clays, the A400 is ideal, and it would perform just as well in the tall grass for pheasant hunting, too.

Best New 20 Gauge: Browning A5


  • Chamber: 3-inch
  • Action: Inertia semiauto
  • Weight: 5 ¾ pounds
  • Length: 49 ⅝:
  • Barrels: 26 or 28 inches, Fiber-optic front sight, mid-bead, Invector DS chokes 
  • Stock: Gloss Walnut


  • Lightweight for easy carrying
  • Classic profile
  • Reliable inertia action


  • Heavier recoil due to the lightweight design and inertia action
  • Expensive

Browning revived the classic humpback profile of the original Auto 5 in a brand-new package when it first introduced the 12 gauge, then the 16 gauge A5. While it resembled John Browning’s original Auto 5, the new gun is a completely different design, operating on the inertia principle made famous by Benelli. Besides bad-weather reliability and clean operation, inertia guns are also quite light and trim, as they have no gas system parts up front.

The new 20 gauge A5 weighs just 5 pounds, 11 ounces, making it a great carrying gun for quail, grouse, and woodcock. With its 3-inch chamber, it can handle heavier magnum pheasant and non-toxic loads as well. For now, the A5 comes only in a glossy walnut version, making it better suited to upland hunting, which is the gun’s true niche. Although it does wear Browning’s excellent, effective Inflex recoil pad, it will recoil harder than many 20s because it is so light and because inertia systems don’t reduce recoil as well as gas systems. For the walking bird hunter who wants the firepower of a semiauto, however, this gun should be ideal.

Best Side by Side: Fabarm Autumn


  • Action: Break-action side by side
  • Chamber: 3-inch
  • Weight: 5 ¾-6 pounds
  • Length: 42.25 with 28-inch barrels
  • Barrels: 28 or 30 inches, swamped rib, silver bead, choke tubes
  • Stock: Oil-finished walnut, straight and pistol grip available


  • Lightweight
  • Classic lines and excellent fit and finish
  • Steel-shot friendly


  • Expensive (but you get what you pay for)
  • Twin triggers cost extra

The Fabarm Autumn is only made in 20 gauge, but that’s okay because the 20 gauge frame is perfect for this light, trim bird gun with classic lines. The Autumn is built on Fabarm’s sturdy four-lug (most side by sides have two) action, originally designed for the rigors of live pigeon shooting. It will hold up throughout your lifetime, your kid’s lifetime, and your grandchildren’s lifetime.

The gun has oil-finished walnut, a case-colored frame, and beautiful, if non-traditional, art-nouveau deep-relief engraving. It has choke tubes and, despite its old-school looks, will shoot modern steel without a problem. A single selective trigger comes standard. Purists have to pay extra for double triggers.

Best Budget Break-Action: CZ Drake


  • Action: Break-action O/U
  • Chamber: 3-inch
  • Weight: 6 ½ pounds or more
  • Barrels: 28-inch chrome black, white bead, choke tubes
  • Stock: Satin walnut


  • Inexpensive reliability
  • Deleted mid-rib for improved balance
  • Selective trigger


  • Extractors that lift fired shells in place of ejectors that pop them out
  • Plain wood
  • No choice of barrel length

If you want a break-action gun that won’t break the bank, take a look at the CZ Drake. You can spend less on an O/U, but if you do, you’re getting a cheap 20 gauge shotgun that may give you trouble. CZ guns work reliably, and in those rare times they don’t, they are backed by excellent customer service. You get dependability with the Drake, not the frills. It has plain walnut with a satin finish and black-chrome metal parts that give it an overall subdued appearance. 

CZ left the mid-rib between the barrels out to lighten them and improve the gun’s balance, which is still a bit barrel-heavy. It has extractors that lift shells for hand removal in place of ejectors that pop them out. You also get 28-inch barrels whether you want them or not; that’s the only choice offered. The Drake is a versatile gun, too, heavy enough for doves, duck loads, and some clays, but not so heavy it’s a burden. The gun does come with five choke tubes and retails for $699. It’s a great value.

Best Pump: Remington 870 Wingmaster


  • Action: Slide action
  • Chamber: 3-inch
  • Weight: 6 ½ pounds
  • Length: 48 ½ inches with 28-inch barrel
  • Barrels: 26- or 28-inch gloss blue, white front, silver mid-bead, choke tubes
  • Stock: High-gloss American walnut


  • Smooth action
  • Classic good looks
  • Reliable


  • Gloss wood and shiny blue isn’t ideal for some types of hunting
  • Expensive for a pump gun

The Remington 870 returns to its former glory under new owners, RemArms, after the private equity group that owned the old Remington did its best to ruin the gun and tarnish the brand. The new Wingmasters have a high degree of polish on the wood and metal, as well as on internal parts. These guns look just like the Wingmasters from the early 90s before the old Remington started cutting costs.

The 870 became famous for its lightning-fast, reliable function, and this gun features twin action bars that prevent twisting and binding, and the receiver is still solid steel, as it always has been. It also has very slender lines for a pump gun, and it will be carried easily in the field, whether it be for pheasants, doves, grouse, or even ducks. It has the traditional grip cap and Remington’s very good proprietary R3 recoil pad.

Best O/U: Beretta 686 Silver Pigeon


  • Action: Break-action O/U
  • Chamber: 3-inch
  • Weight: 6 ¼ pounds
  • Length: 45 ½ inches with 28-inch barrels
  • Barrels: 26, 28, and 30 inches, gloss blued, brass bead, choke tubes
  • Wood: Satin-finished walnut


  • Lightweight
  • Trim profile
  • Strong, proven action


  • Safeties can be sticky (but easily fixable)

Popular just about everywhere, the 686 Silver Pigeon is built around an action that is both very strong and low and trim. The low profile helps the gun point naturally for many people. The ingenious locking system, which consists of conical pins projecting out of the breech that fit into holes on either side of the breech, actually set deeper with use. This is a very hard gun to wear out.

The basic Silver Pigeon has a satin-finished walnut stock and silver receiver decorated in a traditional scroll and grape leaf, with blued barrels. It has a single selective trigger and ejectors, and the stock has a pistol grip and Schnabel forend. At just 6 ¼ pounds, it sits right in the sweet spot of being light enough to carry, but heavy enough to shoot. Beretta Silver Pigeon safeties are often sticky, but it’s an easy job for a gunsmith to make them work easily.

Best Semiauto: Benelli Montefeltro


  • Action: Inertia semiauto
  • Chamber: 3-inch
  • Weight: 6 pounds, with 28-inch barrel
  • Length: 49 inches with 28-inch barrel
  • Barrels: 24-, 26- or 28-inches, gloss-blued, fiber-optic bead, choke tubes
  • Wood: Satin-finished walnut


  • Reliable
  • Flat shooting
  • Easy loading


  • Not as much recoil reduction as with gas guns

If you go to a South American dove lodge where the rental guns might fire 1500-2000 rounds a day, chances are good they will be Montefeltros. Benelli’s inertia action is very reliable, and it stays cleaner longer than gas guns will, ensuring that Montefeltros will keep on shooting after other guns fail or even break down.

You may not need that level of reliability here, but it’s nice to have it on your side, just in case. Last year, Montefeltros received a makeover. They were restyled to look more contemporary. More importantly, they were made easier to load than the old models. The new guns have softer mag and shell-latch springs, and unlike older Montefeltors, they load like butter. Even better, they are now made with Benelli’s Easy-Locking bolt, which cannot be bumped out of battery and cause a misfire, as can happen with many inertia guns (including older Montefeltros).

Best Youth: Mossberg 500 Super Bantam All-Purpose


  • Action: Slide Action
  • Chamber: 3-inch
  • Barrel: 22 inches, matt finish, front and mid-bead
  • Weight: 5.25 pounds
  • Length: 39.75 inches
  • Stock: Black synthetic with spacers to adjust length from 12 to 13 inches


  • Lightweight
  • Stock adjusts so it can grow with the shooter
  • Reliable


  • Light weight means more recoil
  • Safety can be stiff

Mossberg’s venerable 500 pump scales down into a whole line of Bantam and Super Bantam guns for young shooters. They have the same proven action as full-size model 500s and the same top safety that makes them a favorite of left-handers. The Super Bantam All-Purpose guns have 22-inch barrels that make it easier for a small shooter to support and stock spacers that let you adjust the gun as the child grows. The overall weight of just 5.25 pounds makes them easy for young hunters to carry and handle.

With a 3-inch chamber and choke tubes (two barrel sets including slug barrels are also available), the Bantam can serve a young person’s needs for hunting and an intro to clay shooting. Light guns do kick, and you’ll have to choose ammunition carefully so the heavy recoil doesn’t turn your protege off of the shooting sports. I would recommend spending a few dollars on an aftermarket tactical safety that will be much easier to use than the plastic factory piece.

Even with the adjustable stock, a child will outgrow this gun fast, especially because it has such a short barrel. Fortunately, the price is low enough that you can get them a new gun, and you can make this one your turkey or even home defense gun. It’s a win-win.

Things to Consider When Buying 20 Gauge Shotguns

These days, you’ll read and hear a lot about how the 20 gauge can do it all and that no one needs a 12 gauge any more. People said the same thing in the 1950s when the 3-inch 20 gauge magnums first appeared. They were wrong then, and they’re wrong now. In almost any head-to-head comparison, the 12 gauge wins. Period. However, 20 gauges absolutely have their charms and their uses, and you can use a 20 for all your hunting if you choose. You’ll be a bit more limited in range if you do. Or, you can confine a 20 to its real place: the uplands and the dove field, where it excels.

Another factor to consider is weight. Light guns feel great when you pick them up, and they are easy to carry if your hunts take you miles across hard country. Super-light guns are fine for birds that flush in your face or ducks hanging over decoys. Any time you have to swing the gun, however, more weight is your friend, and that goes double on the clays course, where weight not only helps your scores, it saves your shoulder. Think carefully about what you’ll use your 20 gauge for, and choose accordingly. But, definitely pick one. Or more than one. No one should do without a 20.


Q: How far will a 20 gauge shotgun shoot?

A pellet from a single shot from a 20 gauge will fly just as far as the same pellet fired from a single shot at the same velocity from any other gauge. The limiting factor on the 20 gauge’s range is pattern density. As patterns spread downrange, the more pellets in the payload, the longer the pattern remains dense enough to put enough shot on target to make a clean kill or solid break. A 12 gauge, which can shoot heavier payloads, will be more effective at long range.

Q: What is a 20 gauge shotgun best for?

A 20 gauge shotgun is best for upland and dove shooting. An upland 20 gauge can be lighter than most 12s for easier carrying and still shoot heavy enough loads for any game bird. In the dove field, a 20 gauge gun has enough reach for most reasonable chances, and recoil will be less, provided the gun isn’t super-light. The 20 is also a great gun for skeet and sporting clays.

Q: What is the difference between a 20 gauge and a 12 gauge?

The difference between the 12 gauge and the 20 gauge is the bore diameter. A 12 measures .729 inches at the muzzle, while the 20 has a .615-inch diameter. That means the bigger 12 gauge can hold more shot, although there is overlap between the two. A 12 gauge can shoot payloads as light ¾ ounce all the up to 2 ¼ ounces of lead or 1 ½ ounces of steel. The larger bore of the 12 gauge tends to shoot better patterns as well.

Best 20 Gauge Shotguns: Final Thoughts

A 20 gauge belongs in every hunter’s and shooter’s collection, and any of the guns here would make a fine choice. Some of these are more versatile, like the A400, which was chosen best overall. It is light enough to carry, heavy enough to shoot, and has a gas system and a recoil reducer to cut the kick. Others, like the A5 or the Autumn, are best used on upland hunts where they will be carried far more than they will be shot.

Why Trust Us

For more than 125 years, Field & Stream has been providing readers with honest and authentic coverage of outdoor gear. Our writers and editors eat, sleep, and breathe the outdoors, and that passion comes through in our product reviews. You can count on F&S to keep you up to date on the best new gear. And when we write about a product—whether it’s a bass lure or a backpack—we cover the good and the bad, so you know exactly what to expect before you decide to make a purchase.