Best Semi Auto Shotgun – A 2020 Review

The legacy of semi-automatic shotguns dates back to 1898 when John Browning designed the first such shotgun, known as the Browning Auto-5. Semi-auto shotguns have since been used widely by civilians, law enforcement agencies and militaries.  The market has become more and more crowded with options.

Finding a good pick can be brain teasing. So we’ve come up with the best picks and reviewed them to help understand what works best for you. 

Comparison Chart of the Best Semi-Auto Shotguns

PRODUCTDETAILS
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Benelli USA M2 12 GAUGE

  • Inertia driven bolt mechansim works prefectly with light and magnum loads
  • 24 inch barrel and medium length helps with maneuverability
  • Checkered synthetic stock and 5 cryogenically treated choke tubes
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Winchester SX3 Black Field 26"

  • Active valve system for consistent handling of a variety of loads
  • Innovative recoil pad reduces push-back to a minimum and improves follow-up
  • Thin grip and forearm with large textured checkering for good grip
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SRM Arms M1228 12 Gauge 28+1 FDE

  • Unique rotary magazine design can hold 28 12-gauge shortened shotshells
  • Includes a pistol grip, tactical rail, ideal stock and a threaded barrel
  • Quick to reload and great for tactical and home defense applications
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Stoeger Industries M3500

  • Fiber optic sight on a vent rib barrel for quick acquisition even in low light
  • Stock integrated recoil reducer and includes shim kit for adjustment
  • Works flawlessly with magnum loads and great for hunting birds
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Beretta A300 Outlander

  • Long barrel with wide rib and micro-core pad makes it perfect for sports
  • Lightweight, reliable and low-maintenance design easily diassembles when needed
  • Reversible safety and cycles 2.75" & 3" shells interchangeably without adjustment
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How Does a Semi-Auto Shotgun Work?

A semi-auto shotgun can either be gas-operated or recoil-operated (a.k.a inertia driven). The gas operation is exactly similar to semi-auto/full-auto rifles like an AR. The expanding gasses created from the shot are directed rearwards to cycle the bolt backward and chamber a new round. Such shotguns have a light recoil since the pressure of the gasses is also distributed towards the bolt. 

Whereas the recoil operation mechanism relies upon the rearward recoil force exerted by the shotshell on the bolt. This is a historically more favored operation in semi-auto shotguns since it requires less maintenance and is more reliable.

Can You Really Find a Quality Semi-Auto Shotgun That’s Affordable?

Yes, you can definitely find an affordable semi-auto shotgun. We have quite a few reviewed further in this article. A semi-automatic shotgun will always have a price tag more expensive than a pump-action shotgun. But with quite a few good reasons. 

A semi-auto shotgun has a self-cycling operation. Due to which, its components are a bit more engineered than pump actions. More expensive semi-auto shotguns may have features like active valve self-adjusting gas system which conforms with every load and type of ammo you feed. Plus features like vent rib barrel, recoil mitigation, sights, stock material, and finish also put an impact on the price. 

Characteristics of Our Favorite Semi-Auto Shotguns

Popularity

All the semi-automatic shotguns included and reviewed on our list are extremely popular and renowned. Which is in fact the basis for their selection in most cases. All these shotguns have wide social acceptance and are known to perform as expected.

Versatility

The shotguns in our list are quite versatile, apart from being application-specific in their respective sub-category. For example, our top pick, the Benelli M2 is a good all-purpose semi-auto shotgun that can be used for tactical applications, hunting, and competitions. 

Flawless Operation

All the shotguns mentioned in our list are extremely reliable, accurate, and maneuverable. Both budget and top of the line pick deliver exceptional overall performance and deliver the best value for money. 

Affordability

While semi-auto shotguns can soar up to a very big price tag. We have tried to keep it affordable and make sure it doesn’t burn a hole through your wallet. That said, almost every shotgun on our list has a very appropriate price tag. Even the ones with a higher tag justify themselves with their unique and impressive features. 

Quick Take - The Best Semi-Auto Shotguns

These are our recommendations for the best semi-auto shotguns:

  1. Benelli USA M2 12 GAUGE
  2. Winchester SX3 Black Field 26"
  3. Beretta A300 Outlander

Review of the Best Semi-Auto Shotguns

We tried to pick out the best and most appreciated semi-auto shotguns on the civilian market and hence came up with this comprehensive list. All the guns reviewed further is among the best options in their category. Feel free to comment below if you think it needs any updates!

Pros

  • Versatile all-purpose semi-auto shotgun
  • Chrome lined barrel and easy to maintain design
  • Inertia driven bolt mechanism works with all loads and ammo
  • Reliable and lightweight design with customizable ergonomics
  • Low recoil, comfortable design and optimal size for easy handling

Cons

  • Priced on the higher end
  • Magazine requires special tools to be removed

What Recent Buyers Report

Users seem impressed with the reliable performance and versatility of this shotgun. The pointability and accuracy are just perfect and the sight is very easy to pick up. It cycles both magnum and light loads flawlessly and is quite lightweight to be carried with ease on hunting trips.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The reliability and versatile operation of this gun is its best feature. The shotgun is quite ergonomic and allows the user to adjust the stock settings using spacers and shims. This model has a compact 24-inch barrel which is perfect for upland bird hunting and even home defense. Plus, other variations are also available to suit your taste. 

Who Will Use This Most

As already mentioned, this gun is perfect for hunting. You can use the 12 ga model for hunting ducks, pheasants, turkey and other big game like deer and hogs. This model is very compact is also a suitable choice for home defense. A longer barrel model will also suit sporting applications. 

Bottom Line

The Benelli M2 is a widely appreciated, reliable, and versatile semi-automatic shotgun. The inertia operated gas system is utterly reliable and doesn’t get impacted under gritty conditions, unlike gas-operated guns. Although priced in the upper range, this gun is an amazing and lasting investment for your money.

Best Budget Semi-Auto Shotgun:
Winchester SX3 Black Field 26"

Pros

  • Lightweight design and quite a manageable recoil
  • Offers a good mix of affordability and performance
  • Active valve gas system self-adjusts according to load
  • Grip and forearm are thin to support small-sized shooters

Cons

  • Not meant for 3.5” shells
  • Gas system needs regular cleaning

What Recent Buyers Report

Users love their SX3 shotguns. Especially because of the prompt handling, low recoil, and fast action capabilities. The gun has no appreciable recoil and seldom jams. Plus it cycles every load fed to it flawlessly. The gun is also very accurate and can be used for long-range hunting

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Winchester SX3 is an ergonomic and fast loading shotgun which is a budget option. The gun has a self-adjusting gas system that allows you to quickly switch between different loads without any disassembly, adjustments, or doubts. The shotgun is also very lightweight and has a natural swing. 

Who Will Use This Most

The gun is marketed for people who want to have a good gun within a restrictive budget. This shotgun is extensively and successfully used for waterfowl hunting. The 20 gauge caliber is suitable for new learners and people sensitive to recoil. It can also be used as a viable home defense shotgun if the need arises. 

Bottom Line

The SX3 is an affordable, versatile, and reliable shotgun that is perfect for waterfowl and upland bird hunting. The gun has an active valve system which is quite useful but requires proper cleaning and maintenance. The ergonomics of this gun are similar to other Winchester pump actions and very comfortable. 

Best Semi-Auto Shotgun Under $1000:
Beretta A300 Outlander

Pros

  • Simple design. Easy to maintain and clean
  • Reliable Beretta bolt with falling block bolt
  • Perfect for beginners and clay shooting sports
  • Elegant design and ergonomic, lightweight profile
  • Gas operated with self-cleaning piston and cylinder
  • Coated with corrosion-resistant reinforced fiberglass

Cons

  • Safety requires some time getting used to 

What Recent Buyers Report

The A300 is a very appreciated and trusted gun by its users. It features good pointability, mild recoil, and cycles well. It is a respectable entry-level gun and features a plausible price tag. Some users did mention the location of the safety took time getting used to.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The A300 has been designed in the image of the famous Beretta A390, which was itself a very respectable shotgun. This shotgun shoots well, costs well, and features a self-cleaning gas system to reduce overall maintenance and improve the performance. The corrosion-resistant finish is also a good feature, especially for sloppy-handlers. 

Who Will Use This Most

The A300 Outlander is the ideal semi-automatic shotgun for new shooters. It suits the budget of newbie shooters and carries the legendary quality and performance of a Beretta. The gun is perfect for clay shooting sports given its pointability and long barrel.

Bottom Line

The A300 outlander is a great entry-level semi-auto shotgun with a self-cleaning gas system. The gun is adjustable to suit young shooters for years to come and has quality machined parts to ensure durability. The gun shoots without a hiccup and is covered by Beretta’s excellent customer service. 

Pros

  • Lightweight design and handles very well
  • Comes with 5 years/100,000 round guarantee
  • Kinematic drive action and speed load feature
  • World’s first semi-auto shotgun now in a revised design
  • Fiber optic front sight, ivory mid-bead, and vent rib barrel 
  • High-quality components, impeccable finish, and reliable performance

Cons

  • Finish requires care
  • Not very suitable recoil with magnum 3.5” shells

What Recent Buyers Report

Users report this shotgun to be very accurate right out of the box. The inertia operated system runs flawlessly and the gun handles recoil perfectly. The slim profile is quite easy to handle and the humped receiver helps with aiming. The unique warranty is also a plus factor for many.  

Why it Stands Out to Us

The A5 has always been a reliable shotgun and this new series is no different. The shotgun precedes its reputation and has a beautiful design with meticulous scrollwork and engraving. The light recoil, fast acquisition, and quick loading capabilities make it a good all-around shotgun. 

Who Will Use This Most

The gun is perfect for upland bird hunting and has been used extensively for such purposes since it’s introduction. The narrow grip and lightweight design are suitable for female and young shooters. This is a renowned bird killer and has earned its reputation.

Bottom Line

The Browning A5 is unarguably the only semi-auto shotgun that won’t ever be excluded out of a semi-auto shotgun list. This is a lightweight, reliable, and ergonomic choice with low recoil and fast loading capability. The gun is perfect for upland bird hunting and can be carried as a backup weapon.  

Best 410 Semi-Auto Shotgun: 
 Tristar Sporting Arms Viper G2

Pros

  • Gas operated action with LRBHO
  • Comes with 3 Beretta/Benelli Mobil choke tubes
  • Soft-touch stock and shim kit included for adjustments
  • 5 round magazine with plug and cut-off for easy storage
  • Vent rib barrel with matted sight plane and fiber optic sight

Cons

  • Limited applications due to the caliber
  • Requires getting-used-to for bigger physiques

What Recent Buyers Report

The G2 is a very impressive shotgun among its users. The gun enjoys a limited but loyal fan base because it has recently hit the market. But buyers report the gun to be functioning perfectly with all loads. Its apt pricing is also an appreciable factor for many. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Viper G2 feels very compact and has a very slim profile. Thus offering exceptional control over it. The recoil is negligible and the gun has each and every quality to be called a reliable competition gun. The 5 round capacity is optimal and the soft touch stock coupled with a vent rib barrel is amazing. 

Who Will Use This Most

The gun offers good pointability and swing making it suitable for sports or range use. The long 26” barrel combined with fiber optics and vent rib does justice with competitive shooters and hunters. This shotgun is perfect for hunting vermin and small game. 

Bottom Line

The Viper G2 410 gauge is an amazing semi-auto shotgun for young shooters and people who like to use a shotgun for vermin eradication. The perfect price point and a myriad of features make it a complete win-win. Plus the gun is covered by a 5-year guarantee to counter skepticism over quality. 

Best 20 Gauge Semi-Auto Shotgun:
Mossberg SA-20

Pros

  • Comes with 5 piece sports choke set
  • Suitable for younger and small-framed shooters
  • Lightweight gun with low-recoil gas operated system
  • Tough and durable construction. Mossberg’s reliability

Cons

  • Doesn’t have sling swivels 
  • Gas operated system required regular cleaning

What Recent Buyers Report

This gun is very popular among women and small-framed shooters. Especially the ones who want a durable gun at a lucratively affordable price. The function, finish, and pointability of the gun were widely appreciated. However, the lack of customization options such as swivels and tapped receivers were reported. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Mossberg SA-20 features a synthetic stock, an all-load-cycling gas-operated system, and a slim design to be perfect for a 20 gauge. The gun cycles low recoil loads perfectly and allow the user to make stock fit changes. It offers good value for money and is an all-purpose field gun. 

Who Will Use This Most

Anybody who wants a semi-automatic 20 gauge shotgun can choose this weapon, regardless of application. However, the gun is perfect for hunting birds and small game. The capacity also makes it suitable for home defense. Especially for small-framed shooters. 

Bottom Line

The Mossberg SA-20 is a value-for-money 20 gauge semi-auto shotgun which is an all-purpose field weapon. The synthetic stock doesn’t need much care, and the gun itself is quite durable and rugged. The gas operation reduced recoil further, making it ideal for 20 gauge users.  

Best Semi-Auto Shotgun Under $700:
Stoeger Industries M3500

Pros

  • Best versatile budget shotgun 
  • Vent rib barrel and fiber optic bead sight
  • Precise POI and perfect for turkey hunting
  • Inertia driven system reliably cycles low and magnum shells
  • Drilled and tapped receiver. Shims included for stock adjustment

Cons

  • Requires breaking-in for lighter rounds
  • Rough loading gate requires getting used to

What Recent Buyers Report

Buyers appreciate the M3500 as a value for money, affordable shotgun which shoots reliably and close in performance to those high-end guns. The shotgun cycles magnum loads flawlessly. However, there’s a break-in period for reliably shooting light loads. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

This is an affordable shotgun with absolutely no compromise on quality or performance. The gun is designed to shoot magnum loads and allows the user to customize accordingly. The ideal recoil mitigation system handles most of the pushback. Plus the gun offers amazing swing and pointability. 

Who Will Use This Most

While the best use for this shotgun is turkey shooting and upland bird hunting. It can also be used for small/big game hunting as far as magnum loads are concerned. The gun can be easily complemented with accessories and is compact enough to be used as a home defense weapon. 

Bottom Line

The Stoeger M3500 holds up in quality with the high-end shotguns and costs far less. The price is an exception as far as a semi-auto shotgun is concerned. Additionally, it is a versatile all-purpose shotgun that will withstand even the harshest treatment and still function flawlessly. 

Best Semi-Auto Shotgun for Home Defense:
Mossberg 930 SPX

Pros

  • Dual vent gas system for smooth cycling
  • M-16 style front sights offer quick target acquisition
  • Accessory ready and has ghost rings for better aiming
  • Compact, lightweight and highly maneuverable design
  • Trusted and reliable design covered by a 2-year warranty

Cons

  • Not threaded to accept choke tubes
  • Trigger has some noticeable creep (doesn’t matter much for home defense)

What Recent Buyers Report

The Mossberg 930 SPX is the best shotgun for defense and tactical CQB as mentioned by almost every user. The shotgun cycles perfectly and is dead-on accurate within its effective range of 40 yards. The compact size and customizability were most liked by users. Followed by the price. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

This shotgun is compact, maneuverable, reliable, and carries enough rounds to last shooting for some time. The gun has a pistol grip and synthetic stock. Plus a top rail and ghost ring sights to add optics and use them interchangeably. The overall shot design makes it suitable for tight spaces, and the durable design withstands the worst conditions.

Who Will Use This Most

The Mossberg 930 SPX was purposely designed to be a tactical shotgun for close quarter battles. This gun is perfect for home defense given its size, capacity, and customizability. The short 18.5” barrel isn’t very suitable for bird hunting or competitions. But it can fare well with small/medium game hunting. 

Bottom Line

The Mossberg 930 is very easy to handle and has a flawless gas system to cycle all loads properly. You can substitute it with a red dot or scope to attain better target acquisition. The recoil is certainly manageable and the gun packs up enough rounds to handle multiple targets at once. 

Best Semi-Auto Tactical Shotgun:
JTS M12AR 12 Gauge Semi-Auto Shotgun

Pros

  • AR-15 design transformed into a shotgun
  • Full-length top Picatinny rail and M-lok handguard
  • Chrome lined barrel and accepts Rem choke tubes
  • 4 position adjustable gas system for different loads
  • M4 style buttstock, pistol grip and detachable 5 round magazine

Cons

  • Long break-in period
  • Limited availability of aftermarket parts

What Recent Buyers Report

While this gun itself is not very popular as of now - users shared some good reviews with useful suggestions. The gun runs flawlessly on gas setting #2 and feels ammo-picky in other settings (#1, 3 & 4). The fit and function are good but many wish the 5 round magazine to be upgraded with a higher capacity. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

The gun features the AR-15 design most Americans are in love with. The gun handles exactly like an AR and lets you quickly load new rounds with the detachable mag. The four-position gas adjustable system is a plus and the top rail and M-lok handguard offer numerous accessorization possibilities. 

Who Will Use This Most

As mentioned in this list, this weapon is an amazing tactical shotgun. The gas system, ergonomics, and maneuverability makes it suitable for hunting, tactical applications, and even competitions. This gun is quite affordable and will impress shotgun collectors and plinkers.

Bottom Line

The JTS M12AR features an AR-based platform that offers modularity, ease-of-movement, customizability, and quick reloading. The gun eats up to 3” shells and is adjustable to accommodate different loads. A great choice for “everything-AR” people. 

A notable mention for an alternative to this tactical style semi-auto is the SRM Arms M1228. It's very pricey, and very badass.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Semi-Auto Shotguns 

Advantages

The following are some pros of this kind of semi-auto shotguns:

Fast Rate of Fire

A semi-automatic will have a faster rate of fire compared to a pump action. Which means you can spew more rounds towards the target in less time. This can come in handy with upland bird hunting or while dealing with multiple hostiles when SHTF. 

Easy Operation 

These shotguns allow for easy operation even in cramped corners and prone positions. Since there’s no pump to rack. Plus these also allow single-handed operation if needed.

Low Recoil and Better Control

The cycling bolt absorbs a part of the recoil energy which eventually translates to lower recoil. This improves the overall handling and accuracy and makes the gun great for beginners and home defense situations. 

Inconspicuous

These guns do not create the popular racking sound made by pump shotguns. Helping with silent operation in home defense situations. This can both be an advantage and disadvantage depending upon the situation. 

Beretta A300 Outlander

Disadvantages

However, it comes with some drawbacks, including:

Ammo Sensitive

Since semi-auto shotguns rely on gas pressure or recoil for cycling. They are quite sensitive to the quality and type of ammunition. As some ammo shall not deliver enough punch to fully cycle the action. Although high-end models have self-adjusting gas systems to counter this. 

Reliability and Price

As already mentioned, the ammo sensitivity makes these guns somewhat less reliable compared to pump-action shotguns. Additionally, these shotguns are a bit more expensive than pump actions. 

Require Maintenance

Since many semi-auto shotguns are gas-operated, they require regular cleaning and maintenance for proper operation. The assembly and disassembly are a bit more complex than pump actions. 

How to Clean a Semi-Auto Shotgun

Cleaning a semi-auto shotgun is a bit different and a lot more necessary when compared with pump-action shotguns. The obvious reason is that most semi-auto shotguns are gas-operated, resulting in a lot of grime.

However, the process is fairly simple and can be learned perfectly in the first attempt. Gas-operated shotguns will have a tad bit different process than recoil-operated guns. Plus different guns can have different designs. So keep an eye out for that.

Let’s take a step by step overview of the process. 

Empty the shotgun from any live cartridges and make sure the chamber and mag tube are empty. Keep the ammunition and any unnecessary parts aside. 

  1. Unscrew the mag tube cap, slight the bolt a teeny bit back and slide out the forend and barrel. Both these can be combined in some shotguns so no need to detach them.

  2. Adjust the bolt and push out the charging handle, followed the pulling out the bolt(check the video below for detailed instructions).

  3. Now slide out the spacer tube, busher assembly(for gas-operated guns), the return spring, and the handguard retainer from the magazine tube.

  4. Now place the gun over an elevated surface and push out the two retainer pins holding the trigger group in place. This should bring out the trigger group.

  5. Clean all the components thoroughly with good solvents and lube all moving parts. 

  6. Reassemble the shotgun following the exact above steps in the winding order.

Here’s a detailed video to help you out: 

Conclusion

Semi-auto shotguns have been around for more than a century and are a great substitute for pump actions. These shotguns offer a higher rate of fire and eliminate the need for manual pumping. Thus helping with handling. Semi-auto’s generally cost twice or thrice more than pumps, but there are quite a few affordable and value-for-money options. Each of them has its own benefits. But eventually, it comes down to your personal taste.

People Also Ask

After learning about the best semi-automatic shotguns and before buying one for yourself. There might be a few very-common and obvious questions lingering on your mind. So let’s answer them and close your doubt-book once and for all. 

Are Beretta Shotguns Good?

Beretta shotguns have been dominating the sporting market for a long time now. They stand among the most reliable and well-made shotguns. While rightfully justifying their high price tags. These are high-end shotguns trusted by the pros. Are Benelli Shotguns Any Good?Benelli shotguns are among the most reliable, durable, and affordable shotguns on the market. Benelli is owned by the renowned Beretta Holdings and has produced some very renowned shotguns like the Benelli M2, M4, SBE and Nova

At What Distance is a Shotgun Lethal?

It certainly depends on what caliber and type of ammunition you use along with the choke. For example, the lethal range of a 12 gauge birdshot is 40 yards. That of a 12 gauge buckshot is around 60 yards, and a rifle slug can be lethal as far as a 100. Sabot slugs have a more extended lethal range of about 125+ yards. 

Should I Get a Pump or Semi-Auto Shotgun?

If you want an all-purpose, reliable, cheap, and effective weapon that can cycle through everything you feed. A pump-action should be your choice. However, if you need a faster rate of fire with less recoil and don’t mind spending a few dollars more. Go for a semi-automatic shotgun. 

Do Semi-Auto Shotguns Have Less Recoil?

Yes, a semi-auto will have less recoil than a pump-action shotgun. That’s because a part of the recoil energy is used to cycle the bolt which reduces the rearward push. Additionally, a gas-operated semi-auto will have a lower recoil than an inertia operated semi-auto. Are Semi-Auto Shotguns Good For Home Defense?

It eventually comes down to what suits you the best. Semi-auto shotguns have less recoil and offer a faster rate of fire. But on the other hand, it is important to use the right and tested kind of ammunition to avoid reliability issues. These guns can be operated single-handed if needed, which is a plus. Are All Shotguns Semi-Automatic?

No. A shotgun can either be pump-action operated, semi-automatic, or fully automatic(rare). A semi-automatic shotgun fires a shell after every trigger pull. Whereas a pump-action requires the user to work the action manually. How Long Will a Semi-Auto Shotgun Last?

Any weapon will last a lifetime, even generations if it gets the right treatment and maintenance. Semi-automatic shotguns require diligent maintenance and will require a major or minor replacement of parts about 60,000+ rounds depending upon their quality.