Written By
Published Oct. 24, 2021

People stuck at home last year went hunting, causing waterfowl hunter numbers to buck their downward trend and increase. That means 50,000 or more new or reactivated hunters went afield last year, and many of those may be looking for a new duck hunting shotgun for this fall. We’re here to help—especially if helping means taking 17 shotguns to Texas for a September teal hunt that doubled as a test for the best duck hunting shotguns of 2021.  

Our test team—F&S editor-in-chief Colin Kearns, Outdoor Life editor-in-chief Alex Robinson, OL editor Joe Genzel, and myself—has hunted all over the U.S., and in a few other countries. We know that waterfowl guns have to be versatile enough to tackle birds from 10-ounce teal up to giant Canada geese and 20-pound tundra swans. We know they have to be tough enough to withstand the elements and reliable, too. And we know they have to be shootable. It doesn’t matter how rugged or reliable your gun is if you can’t hit what you’re shooting at with it. Here’s what we found after putting the best duck hunting shotguns through their paces.

How We Tested the Best Duck Hunting Shotguns

Our four testers traveled to Pintail Hunting Club in Garwood, Texas, for a three-day September teal hunt. Teal swarmed the club’s wetlands, rice fields, and moist soil units in such numbers that we shot limits in 30 to 40 minutes each morning, even as we paused the hunt to swap shotguns so we could try each on in the field and note their performance in the blind. Those short hunts left plenty of time for gun testing throughout the rest of the day.

We patterned each gun from a bench, in a Lead Sled, to test its point of impact. Using the Modified choke that came with each gun (except for the Benelli M2 Waterfowl, which comes with custom Light Modified). We used 3-inch 1 ¼-ounce loads of 2 shot and shot at least three patterns at 35 yards with every gun to see how it performed with a typical all-around waterfowl load.

Weight is an important factor in how a gun carries and how it recoils. We weighed each gun. We also checked trigger pulls,  because, although shotgun triggers are slapped, some hunters appreciate a lighter pull—and some extremely heavy triggers can be hard even to slap. Finally, we made extensive use of the 5-stand at Pintail Hunting Club, where we got more trigger time with every gun and could evaluate its function, handling, and felt recoil.

We selected the best duck hunting shotguns for the following:

  • Handling and Ergonoics: Shotguns are best used instinctively: How a gun handles, how it points and swings, how its weight is distributed, and how comfortable it is to hold all have an effect on how easy the gun is to shoot. It’s also important that the gun’s controls, its safety, bolt, or slide release and, for semiautos, bolt handle, be easy to use—even in cold, wet conditions.
  • Workmanship and Aesthetics: Even in this era of synthetic stocks and camo metal, fit and finish still matter when it comes to pride of ownership. And if a gun isn’t put together well, it can have annoying rattles and wiggles. A gun’s lines matter, too, when it comes to looks.
  • Versatility: A waterfowl gun not only needs to be adaptable to different hunting methods and waterfowl species, it might also need to serve as an upland, dove, turkey, or target gun.
  • Reliability: Nothing else matters if a gun doesn’t shoot when you need it to. That’s especially true of waterfowl guns that need to deliver in cold, mud, ice, and snow.
  • Value: You can spend $2,000 or more on a top-of-the-line gun, or as little as $300 for some bare-bones pumps. The question is not how much to spend, but how to get the most out of whatever money is in your waterfowl gun budget. We looked at what you get for the money with every one of the guns we tested, and we picked a Great Value award, too.

Best Duck Hunting Shotguns: Tested and Reviewed

Editors’ Choice: Beretta A400 Xtreme Plus

Key Features

  • Gauge: 12
  • Chamber: 3.5-inch
  • Length: 49.5 inches
  • LOP: 14.3 inches
  • Trigger weight: 5.1 pounds
  • Overall weight: 7.8 pounds

Pros

  • Soft recoil
  • Very shootable
  • Reliable and handles almost any load

Cons

  • A bit heavy for all-day carry
  • Some shooters with small hands dislike a safety at the front of the trigger guard.

Shotgun Overview

The Editors’ Choice for the best duck hunting shotgun came down to a shoot-off between two of the premier semiauto duck guns: the Benelli Super Black Eagle 3 and the Beretta A400 Xtreme Plus. When the smoke cleared, the Beretta had won over all four testers, including Robinson, who had provided his own personal SBE 3 for the test.

Recoil, or rather lack of felt recoil, tilted the scales in the Beretta’s favor. As a gas-operated semiautomatic, it already has an edge over an inertia-operated gun in terms of recoil reduction, and the Kick-Off Mega recoil reducer cuts the kick even more. It was also a heavier gun than the Benelli and several others in the test, weighing close to 8 pounds. And while the trend is toward light duck guns these days, heavy guns soak up recoil and, I believe, they are easier to shoot well. 

The A400 Xtreme Plus is more than just a soft-shooter. While some testers didn’t like the weight and bulk of the hand-filling forend, the gun was undeniably easy to point and shoot, perhaps even because it was difficult to grip that big forend too tightly and over-control the gun. In my experience with these guns, they will shoot and cycle any load—from very light, 7/8-ounce reloads up to 3 ½-inch magnums—with impressive reliability. They will also go a long way between cleanings. The wide range of ammunition the A400 cycles makes it a versatile gun, too. You can hunt anything with it, from doves and clay targets on up to turkeys and geese. Although, it’s on the heavy side for an all-day upland hunt or serious running and gunning for turkeys. The gun patterned well for us at the range, and it shot dead-on to slightly (like 60-40) high for us on the bench.

The Xtreme Plus differs from the earlier Xtreme in that it has an enlarged bolt handle and release button—both features waterfowl hunters appreciate in cold, wet weather. Also, although it’s a small thing, I also like the magazine cap, which comes off with just a half-turn after you depress it (like it’s childproof) and is high-visibility green on the inside. This feature will come in handy should you ever drop a magazine cap in the marsh, which, not surprisingly, I have.

Great Buy: Winchester Super X4

Key Features

  • Gauge: 12
  • Chamber: 3.5-inch
  • Length: 49.5 inches
  • LOP: 14.25 inches
  • Trigger weight: 5.9 pounds
  • Overall weight: 7.1 pounds

Pros

  • Versatile
  • Soft-shooting
  • Patterns well

Cons

  • Poor styling
  • Finish not quite up to usual Winchester standards

Shotgun Overview

The Winchester SX4 beat out a crowded field of semiautos in the sub-$1000 range, establishing itself in the eyes of the test team as the best value in a waterfowl gun. Can spend less on a duck gun? Of course. But it’s worth stretching even the tightest budget to move up to the X4, which can hold its own in the blind among the Benellis, Beretta, and Brownings.

Why did we love the Winchester Super X4? Well, I loved it because when it was my turn to shoot it, I bagged my six teal with seven shots, which has never happened before and may never happen again. All of us shot the gun well at ducks and at clays. As a gas gun, it’s very soft-shooting, and the Browning/Winchester Inflex recoil pad works, too, cutting the kick even more. Everyone shoots straighter when they’re not getting beaten up, and the stock comes with spacers so you can adjust the fit, too.

The X4 is the evolution (or devolution, if you ask cranks like me who prefer heftier guns and traditional styling) of the Super X2, which was derived from the Browning Gold, and which begat the SX3. The point is, the X4 uses a proven gas system, and all the X series have been reliable, easy-to-maintain performers. The X4 has been slimmed down and lightened up to fit current tastes and it has the enlarged bolt handle and bolt release that waterfowlers want. I do like the bolt-release button, which is big enough to be easy to push, but nearly flush so you don’t bump it accidentally as you do with so many of the enlarged bolt releases on the market. It also has a big, square safety button that’s easy to find with numb fingers and simple to reverse if you’re left-handed.

To my eye, the Winchester Super X4 is not as well fit and finished as its predecessors and it looks cheaper, but if Winchester has cut some costs with this gun, it doesn’t come at the expense of performance. A fairly light gun that will cycle 2¾-, 3-, and 3 ½-inch loads without complaint, the SX4 is a versatile semiauto that can handle almost any wingshooting assignment. It lists for $959, about half the price of anyone’s flagship semiauto. And if you don’t need 3 ½-inch capability, the 3-inch model is just $829.

Best Pump Gun: Remington 870 Express

Key Features

  • Gauge: 12
  • Chamber: 3-inch
  • Length: 48.5 inches
  • LOP: 14 inches
  • Trigger weight: 5.3 pounds
  • Overall weight: 7.6 pounds

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Slick and reliable action

Cons

  • Hard recoil pad
  • Metal parts prone to rust

Shotgun Overview

Pumps will always have a place in the duck blind. They’re the bottom-of-the-boat gun. The gun you don’t mind banging against the steel frame of a pit blind. The gun you bring when rain, ice, snow, or grit turns semiautos into single shots. And, for years, the main reader question I answered was: Should I buy a Remington 870 or a Mossberg 500? Both have their strong points and have been made by the millions, but I always came down on the side of the Remington 870.

Made since 1950—and a triumph of mass production methods—the 870 was both affordable and reliable and it became an American classic almost immediately upon its introduction. As a solid, heavier, well-made gun with a steel receiver and fewer plastic parts than the Mossberg, it got my nod as the better choice of the two. Then, Remington quality took a nose-dive, and 870s, once the most reliable of pump guns, stopped working so well. And I began telling readers to buy the 500.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying that the 870 won the pump-gun category of our test, and I am delighted that it did. The new owners of Remington—now RemArms—seem to have solved some of the quality-control problems that plagued the guns over the past 15 or so years and the one we tested. Guns leaving the plant undergo much more rigorous inspections than they did under the former ownership.

This 870 was slick out of the box. It cycled shells without a bobble and, despite visible tooling rings in the barrel, it patterned well, too. RemArms has a way to go before this is the equal of the old Express shotguns—the hardwood stock looks even cheaper than old Express stocks, for instance, and this gun has a plastic trigger guard—but it also represents a huge step in the right direction. A  7 ½-pound, 3-inch 12 gauge with a 28-inch barrel, the gun comes with one Modified choke tube, which will see you through dove, pheasant, and waterfowl hunts plus 16-yard trap, and its matte-finished wood and metal won’t shine and spook birds. The 870 Express as we knew it is back, and we’re delighted to include this in our list of the best duck hunting shotguns.

Teal hunting at Pintail Hunting Club in Garwood, Texas
Pintail Hunting Club truly is special. We couldn’t have asked for a better place for our duck gun test. Stephen Maturen

Standout Duck Hunting Shotguns

1) Benelli Ethos Cordoba BE.S.T.

Key Features

  • Gauge: 12
  • Chamber: 3-inch
  • Length: 49 inches
  • LOP: 14 inches
  • Trigger weight: 6.1 pounds
  • Overall weight: 6.5 pounds

Pros

  • BE.S.T. protection
  • Easy Lock bolt eliminates misfires

Cons

  • High point of impact
  • Price

Shotgun Overview

A sort of field/competition gun hybrid, the Ethos Cordoba BE.S.T. is designed to withstand high volume shooting, and it fits well into the duck blind, too. Coated with Benelli Surface Treatment, a high-tech, rust-proof, and scratch-resistant finish, and upgraded with the Easy Lock bolt that eliminates out-of-battery misfires, the Cordoba also has the porting and wide rib of a clays gun and can be had with a 30-inch barrel. It’s a light gun at about 7 pounds, and it features the ComforTech stock to reduce recoil. It’s an easy gun to shoot well, and I liked everything about it except for the very high point of impact our test gun exhibited—and the $2,300 price tag.

2) Benelli M2 Performance Shop

Key Features

  • Gauge: 20
  • Chamber: 3-inch
  • Length: 48.5 inches
  • LOP: 13.7 inches
  • Trigger weight: 6.5 pounds
  • Overall weight: 6.9 pounds

Pros

  • Light weight
  • Modest recoil
  • Reliable performance

Cons

  • The price

Shotgun Overview

One of Benelli’s Performance Shop tricked-out semiautos, the M2 starts as a stock M2 semiauto and gets custom chokes, enlarged bolt release and handle, and a nice paracord sling. I recognized it at our test gun immediately as the same one I had on loan for most of last year’s waterfowl season and can attest to its reliability—so long as you don’t knock the bolt out of battery as you can with most inertia guns. The ComforTech recoil reduction system works, too. It’s light and handy and the gun patterned extremely well with the bismuth ammunition I shot through it last fall. Given that a basic black M2 lists for $1,449, the $2,500 price tag for the enhanced Performance Shop version seems like way too much for the extras you do get.

3) Benelli Nova

Key Features

  • Gauge: 12
  • Chamber: 3.5-inch
  • Length: 49 inches
  • LOP: 13.7 inches
  • Trigger weight: 7.14 pounds
  • Overall weight: 7.7 pounds

Pros

  • Low price
  • Slick action

Cons

  • Heavy trigger
  • Fit can’t be adjusted

Shotgun Overview

When the 3 ½-inch 12-gauge Nova was introduced twenty-some years ago, it looked like no other gun, with its futuristic styling and a one-piece reinforced polymer receiver and stock. The guns are durable and their rotary action makes them among the slickest pumps on the market. Nova forearms rattle, which bothers some and never bothered me at all.

The Nova we tested reminded me of the one I used to own and hunt with. It was tough. I abused mine by dropping it on riprap and in gravel parking lots with nothing more than cosmetic damage to an already ugly gun. Like my gun, this one had a trigger pull so heavy even I noticed it. It has a tiny safety button at the front of the trigger guard, which some people might not like, and the one-piece stock means it can’t be adjusted at all for drop and cast.

4) Benelli Super Black Eagle 3

Key Features

  • Gauge: 12
  • Chamber: 3.5-inch
  • Length: 49. 5 inches
  • LOP: 14 inches
  • Trigger weight: 6.2 pounds
  • Overall weight: 7 pounds

Pros

  • Handles well
  • Good controls
  • Inertia click-proof

Cons

  • Shoots high

Shotgun Overview

Benelli’s Super Black Eagle is now in its third iteration, having become lighter and trimmer with each makeover, and it now comes in 3-inch 12 and 20 gauges, as well as the original 3 ½-inch 12. We tested an older SBE3 that belonged to Robinson. There is a lot to like about the SBE3, which I have hunted with in the past. It handles and points well. And despite being a light inertia gun, it doesn’t kick painfully due to the ComforTech recoil reduction system. The controls are easy to use, even with cold fingers, and the Easy Lock bolt does away with the out-of-battery misfire common to inertia guns.

It did shoot quite high, as is the case with many SBE3s—especially early ones. And while that bothered us on the pattern board, we had no problem hitting clays or teal with the gun, but I wouldn’t want to hunt turkeys with it.

5) Beretta A300 Ultima

Key Features

  • Gauge: 12
  • Chamber: 3-inch
  • Length: 47.5 inches
  • LOP: 13.8 inches
  • Trigger weight: 5.14 pounds
  • Overall weight: 7.7 pounds

Pros

  • Proven reliable design
  • Enlarged Control
  • Great value

Cons

  • Recoil

Shotgun Overview

As a big fan of the A300 Outlander, which I believe to be the best semiauto under $1,000, I had high hopes for the Ultima, which adds waterfowler-friendly features to a great value gun and comes in both 12 and 20 gauge. Unfortunately one of those features, the Ultima’s version of the Kick-Off recoil reducer, worked more like a recoil amplifier. Even shooting the gun from a Lead Sled, I could feel the comb rising up to hit me in the cheek. Maybe we got a bad one, but the recoil overshadowed the gun’s many good points. It’s basically a Beretta 391, one of the greatest semiautos ever, made in the U.S.A., with a restyled receiver and enlarged controls. The Kick-Off reducer can be removed, so if it hits you the way it hit us, you can shoot this gun without it.

6) Browning Auto-5

Key Features

  • Gauge: 12
  • Chamber: 3.5-inch
  • Length: 49 inches
  • LOP: 14.25 inches
  • Trigger weight: 6.9 pounds
  • Overall weight: 6.8 pounds

Pros

  • Points well, shoots 50/50 patterns
  • Reliable in bad weather

Cons

  • Recoils hard with 3 ½-inch ammo
  • Bolt can be bumped out of battery

Shotgun Overview

Browning’s A5 puts an inertia design inside a receiver styled to recall the classic long recoil Auto 5. A lightweight 12 gauge, it comes in 3- and 3 ½-inch models. Our test gun was my own 3 ½-inch Wicked Wing model, which features cerakote metal and camo furniture and has performed well for me. It’s a reliable gun that shoots a dead-on 50/50 point of impact, which is what I prefer. A light gun, it has Browning’s effective recoil pad to cut the kick, but be aware that any light inertia gun will kick painfully with 3 ½-inch shells, although this gun is quite manageable with 3-inch ammo. And like many inertia guns, it can be bumped out of battery so it won’t fire, too.

Read Next: Classic Guns – The Browning A5 Will Never Go Out of Style

7) Browning BPS

Key Features

  • Gauge: 12
  • Chamber: 3.5-inch
  • Length: 49.5 inches
  • LOP: 14.4 inches
  • Trigger weight: 7 pounds
  • Overall weight: 9 pounds

Pros

  • Well-made
  • Left-hander friendly

Cons

  • Long pump stroke
  • Awkward loading for target shooting

Shotgun Overview

Introduced in 1977, the BPS has long been the class of the pump gun market—a well-made, high-quality gun available in every gauge, including 10. With its top safety and bottom ejection, the BPS is a favorite among left-handed shooters. It’s also a gun that takes long arms to pump. My arms aren’t short, and I’ve owned several BPSs and never gotten as comfortable cycling them as I am with an 870. The bottom eject makes them a pain to load if you want to use this gun for targets.

Outdoor Life’s Joe Genzel brought his father’s BPS to the test, a very heavy, older 3 ½-inch 12-gauge model made back when the 3 ½s were built on 10-gauge frames. They’re now built on 12-gauge frames. The BPS still has some welcome heft to it, with the new models weighing around 7 ¾ pounds in 3- and 3 ½-inch 12, and around 7 pounds in 20 gauge.

8) Browning Maxus II

Key Features

  • Gauge: 12
  • Chamber: 3.5-inch
  • Length: 47.25 inches
  • LOP: 14.4 inches
  • Trigger weight: 6.4 pounds
  • Overall weight: 7 pounds

Pros

  • Soft recoil
  • Stock is easy to length and shorten
  • Magazine cap

Cons

  • Expensive (but worth it)

Shotgun Overview

Browning’s makeover of the Maxus gas gun does away with the original’s one annoying feature—a magazine latch in place of the traditional cap—and softens recoil, while retaining the same proven operating system and the Browning semiauto standbys of speed loading and a magazine cutoff button. A redesigned synthetic stock makes the gun much easier to adjust for length and a soft comb insert reduces felt recoil dramatically, although not as much as the Beretta A400 did. Available in 3- and 3 ½-inch 12 gauge, the Maxus II cycled everything we ran through it. All in all, it would make a great choice in a gas gun for any waterfowler, and the easily-alterable stock means it’s a gun that could grow with a younger shooter into adulthood.

9) Franchi Affinity 3

Key Features

  • Gauge: 12
  • Chamber: 3-inch
  • Length: 49.5 inches
  • LOP: 14.2 inches
  • Trigger weight: 5.14 pounds
  • Overall weight: 6.8 pounds

Pros

  • Reliable
  • Affordable
  • Light and trim

Cons

  • Shape of TSA pad makes precise length adjustment difficult

Shotgun Overview

A top contender for the best-value semiauto award and a great choice if you want the weatherproof, bulletproof advantages of an inertia gun, the Affinity 3 impressed us with its trim lines and sure function. I’ve had occasion to shoot Franchi inertia guns, and the people I know who own them are universally satisfied. What’s not to like? You get Benelli-like lines, light weight, and reliability in a package costing hundreds of dollars less. And while light inertia guns recoil stoutly, the soft Franchi TSA pad does a good job of cutting the kick.

10) Mossberg 500 Hunting

Key Features

  • Gauge: 12
  • Chamber: 3-inch
  • Length: 47.5 inches
  • LOP: 14 inches
  • Trigger weight: 6.8 pounds
  • Overall weight: 6.5 pounds

Pros

  • Always works
  • Very affordable

Cons

  • Stiff plastic safety
  • Kicks

Shotgun Overview

A budget classic, the Model 500 has been cycling shells since 1960. It ran neck-and-neck with the 870 Express among our testers. Our test gun shucked smoothly, shot straight, and patterned well. We chose the bare-bones black synthetic stocked version as our gun, and it sells at a low enough price that almost anyone can afford it. With its alloy receiver, the 500 is a very lightweight gun—our 3-inch 12 gauge weighed 6 ½ pounds—so while it’s not a burden to carry, it is definitely a gun you will feel when you shoot it, especially with heavy loads.

11) Mossberg 930 Pro

Key Features

  • Gauge: 12
  • Chamber: 3-inch
  • Length: 48.5 inches
  • LOP: 13.5 inches
  • Trigger weight: 6.4 pounds
  • Overall weight: 7.7 pounds

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Top Safety
  • Soft recoil

Cons

  • Bulky forend

Shotgun Overview

An inexpensive gas semiauto, the Mossberg 930 Pro is a gun of few frills with a price to match. That makes it a good choice for hunters on a budget who want the reduced recoil of gas gun. It feels inexpensive when you pick it up, and fit and finish don’t match the standards of pricier guns. It never malfunctioned, and it patterned well during the gun test, though. Between its gas operation and a robust 7 ¾-pound weight, it doesn’t kick much either. A bulky forend and slim buttstock do give it an odd feeling in hand, and while I didn’t like the way it felt, it was easy to hit with.

12) Mossberg 940 Pro Waterfowl

Key Features

  • Gauge: 12
  • Chamber: 3-inch
  • Length: 48.5 inches
  • LOP: 13.5 inches
  • Trigger weight: 6.4 pounds
  • Overall weight: 7.7 pounds

Pros

  • Soft shooting
  • Very adjustable stock
  • Top safety for left and right-handed shooters

Cons

  • Poorly fit forend feels flimsy

Shotgun Overview

An upgraded version of the 930, the 3-inch, 12-gauge 940 Pro Waterfowl includes features from the 940 JM 3-gun shotgun designed to make it more reliable and improve its ergonomics. It has a redesigned buffer tube, boron-nitride coated internals, and a stainless recoil spring as well as cerakoted metal surfaces. It also features an enlarged bolt handle and bolt release and a cutaway loading port for fast, easy reloads. The gun does have an inexpensive look and feel to it. Its performance was quite good. The gas system worked well and did an admirable job of reducing recoil. And the gun cycled everything including light 7/8-ounce reloads.

13) Remington Model 1100

Key Features

  • Gauge: 12
  • Chamber: 2¾-inch
  • Length: 47.75
  • LOP: 14-inch
  • Trigger weight: 4.9 pounds
  • Overall weight: 8.1 pounds

Pros

  • Soft shooting
  • Fits many people

Cons

  • Lack of load interchangeability makes it less versatile

Shotgun Overview

With the 1100 currently in hiatus as the new owners of RemArms get back up to speed, we tested an older model, one of the classic blued and gloss walnut, fleur-de-lis checkered guns from the 70s. All the testers swooned over it. At the range and in the field, as always, the 1100 was one of the softest shooting gas guns. Its stock fits a wide range of people and, if you keep it clean, it works very reliably. Designed before 2 ¾- and 3-inch load interchangeability, the 1100 comes in standard and 3-inch magnum versions, and either one will still do a fine job in the duck blind 58 years after it was introduced.

14) Stoeger M3000

Key Features

  • Gauge: 12
  • Chamber: 3-inch
  • Length: 48 inches
  • LOP: 14 3/8 inches
  • Trigger weight: 8.15 pounds
  • Overall weight: 7.3 pounds

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Inertia action

Cons

  • Quality can vary from gun to gun
  • Heavy trigger

Shotgun Overview

A bargain-priced gun, the Model 3000 puts an inertia-operated semiauto into a price range anyone can afford. And, some people shoot their 3000s forever without a lick of trouble. Others aren’t so lucky. We weren’t. Our gun shot straight and patterned well, but we had a couple of failures to cycle 3-inch loads, and the grip cap fell out. Like any fairly light inertia gun, the 3000 wasn’t a super-soft shooter and it was burdened by a heavy, 8-plus-pound trigger that might not bother you in the blind, but would be a drag in the turkey woods. And, it is a bit bulkier up front than other inertia guns because the forend has to be big enough to accommodate a recoil spring that goes around the magazine tube and not in the stock.

Field and Stream and Outdoor Life duck gun test crew
Our duck-gun test crew after our final teal hunt at Pintail Hunting Club. From left to right: Joe Genzel, Lance Stancik, Alex Robinson, Tucker Stancik, Colin Kearns, and Phil Bourjaily. Stephen Maturen

FAQs

Q: Is a 12 or 20 gauge better for duck hunting?

The 12-gauge remains the best choice for duck hunting. Not only do they handle heavier loads that can save the day when birds don’t decoy well, the added heft of a 12 makes it an easier gun to shoot well. The wide range of ammunition available for 12 gauges means you can load it down with very soft-recoiling 2 ¾-inch shells or target loads, but also shoot heavy magnums when the situation demands. And, if gun weight is a concern, there are several light 12s on the market.

Q: Is a pump gun good for duck hunting?

Pumps have several advantages as waterfowl guns. First and foremost, they are reliable. Where grit, mud, ice, and moisture can cause a semiauto to fail, pump guns will keep on working in miserable conditions. Second, they aren’t finicky about ammunition. Because the action is powered by the shooter—not expanding gases or recoil—a pump will cycle any load no matter how light. Third, pumps are tough and inexpensive, and if you want a gun that you don’t have to baby or worry about, a pump might be the best duck hunting shotgun for you.

Q: Can you duck hunt with a 20 gauge?

Twenty gauges have become popular among waterfowlers in recent years due to their light weight and lower recoil. A 20 gauge is more than enough gun if you shoot your birds at close range over decoys as most people prefer to do. And, if you load it with bismuth or HeviShot, it will reach out as far as many 12s loaded with steel. A 20 gauge is not as versatile as 12, but within its limitations it makes a great choice.

Final Thoughts on the Best Duck Hunting Shotguns

The takeaway from our gun test is that there’s a waterfowl gun out there for almost any need or budget. We did our best to sort through them and come up with the very best choices at different price points. We paid special attention to how the guns patterned, how well they functioned in the field and on the range, how much they kicked, how they handled, and how well they would serve as all-around guns. But, there is only so much of this work we can do for you. Ultimately the best duck hunting shotgun for you is a personal choice. You have to pick a gun that suits the type of hunting you do, that fits you best, and has the right weight and balance for your shooting style.

To book at duck hunt at Pintail Hunting Club, visit Pintailhuntingclub.com.

MORE TO READ