Best Side By Side Shotguns of 2020 – Complete Review

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Since their invention in the 18th century by gunmaker Joseph Manton, side by side shotguns have been an undisputed emblem of class and opulence. Used for everything from sports and hunting to wild west gunfights, these shotguns are still loved and haven’t lost relevance.

Here we will understand these shotguns in-depth, while also reviewing the best side by sides available on the market today. So keep your eyes peeled, and keep scrolling.

Comparison of the Best Side By Side Shotguns

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Fixed engraved wooden stock with pistol style grip
  • Long 30" barrel for accuracy and 5 interchangeable chokes
  • Dual trigger mechanism for more versatility while shooting
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  • Beautifully finished and rare Browning SXS shotgun
  • 2.75" chamber and a 26 barrel for versatile applications
  • Coin finished receiver featuring detailed scrollwork improves appearance
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  • 20/28 gauge shotgun with brass bead front and impeccable aesthetics
  • 24 lines per inches hand checkering on stock and forend
  • Double trigger, automatic ejectors and a long and slim design
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  • Mechanical selectable trigger and box lock frame design
  • Independent floating firing pins and coil spring hammers
  • Raised rib chrome line barrel with fixed IC/Mod choke
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What is a Side By Side Shotgun? 

As the name indicates, a side by side is a shotgun with two barrels aligned horizontally parallel to each other. A big advantage of having two barrels is that each of the barrels can have a different choke for close or ranged shots. These shotguns have a maximum capacity of two shells and have a very simple and reliable operating mechanism due to the lesser number of internal parts. 

Side by side shotguns became extremely popular in the wild west as coach guns and were used for guarding train coaches and wagons against bandits, due to their wide patterning capabilities on a short-range. These guns have also been used widely for hunting. Some high-end models featuring a meticulous design are a great collectible these days and can cost around hundreds of thousands of dollars in price.

How Does a Side By Side Shotgun Work?

The mechanism of a side by side shotgun is pretty simple. You grab two shotgun shells and push them manually inside each barrel. Locking the barrel back in place automatically cocks the action (if it’s a non-exposed hammer design). Some of these shotguns feature double triggers (one of each barrel), whereas some have a single selective trigger to choose which barrel fires first. The shot from the two barrels usually converges at 40 yards, which is the range up to which these guns are very accurate. 

Each of these barrels can have a different choke if needed. Plus, double trigger models also allow you to fire both barrels at once by pulling both the triggers at the same time. The gun can have an extractor or ejector for pulling out spent shells. 

What to Look For When Buying a Side By Side Shotgun

Side by side shotguns are a long term investment. So there are certain factors you should keep an eye out for when buying such a weapon. Let’s discuss them in detail. 

Trigger

SxS shotguns can either have a double trigger or a single selective trigger. While specially designed SS triggers can automatically switch to the next round even if the first one is a dud. However, double triggers offer more versatility on choosing the barrel, but at the cost of crisp pull. 

Barrel Length

Barrel length for sxs shotguns can range anywhere between 20 to 30 inches, or even more. It is better to decide what use you’ll be putting the shotgun up to and what barrel length will work best for you. 

Aesthetics and Wood

These shotguns are renowned for their aesthetics and scrollwork. While models with deliberate and meticulous craftsmanship definitely cost more, they are a worthwhile investment in the long term if you are ready to pay their price.

Hammer

You can choose between a classic exposed hammer or the latest concealed hammer design. Each of them has its own benefits and emotional factors. While the former is safer, the latter protects the weapon from snagging. 

Ejector/Extractor

An extractor pulls up the spent cases a bit to help you extract them manually. Whereas an ejector throws out the spent cases for faster reloading. The latter is more preferred by competitive shooters for quicker follow-up shots. 

Gauge

SxS shotguns come in all gauges. It can be a 12 gauge, 20/28 gauge, or even 410 bore. 12 gauge versions are good for overall applications whereas 20 and 410 are good for youngsters and hunting birds. 

Quick Take - The Best Side By Side Shotguns

Review of the Best Side By Side Shotguns 

Compiling the best side by side shotguns on a small list is nearly impossible. There are models that have attained excellence in craftsmanship and class and can cost more than a Tesla in price. Our list includes some of the most popular, easily available, and affordable models that can be bought practically. 

Pros

  • Long barrel and wide flat rib
  • Case hardened sidelock receiver
  • Detailed hand scrollwork and engraving
  • Chrome lined bores and durable construction
  • Classic exposed hammer design for retro feel and safety

Cons

  • Hammer is prone to snagging
  • Needs a buttpad as the rear is steel

What Recent Buyers Report

This gun is hands down the best bang for your buck. The finish and fit of the gun are just perfect, and it works great as a field and target gun. The gun shoots well and is very easy to handle. However, almost every user recommended getting a good recoil pad since the buttpad is steel and the recoil will start hurting after a few shots.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The CZ-USA Hammer classic side by side shotgun is an amazingly affordable sidelock action shotgun (without debating about sidelocks guns being expensive) you can find on the market today. The long 30” inch barrel is sufficient for taking down birds and clays at the field. Which is certainly what this shotgun is used for the most. The eloquent scrollwork is what you find on expensive shotguns, and the stock wood is at least grade III.

The gun comes with 5 screw-in interchangeable choke tubes and has a very good swing. It has dual triggers and exposed hammers to give you that classic feel and function.

Bottom Line

The Hammer Classic is an affordable sxs shotgun with an impeccably reliable action and mechanism. There’s no shotgun that can surpass its quality in its class. If cared for properly, you can rest assured about passing it down to your grandchildren.

Pros

  • Excellent upland and turkey gun
  • Stout gun with a very sturdy construction
  • Detailed scrollwork and amazing aesthetics
  • Sidelock action and concealed hammer design
  • Widely appraised and collectible shotgun today
  • Good length (26”) barrel for multiple applications

Cons

  • Pricey for some buyers
  • Kick hard due to light weight

What Recent Buyers Report

The Browning BSS went out of production in 1983, and what can be bought today are the ones on resale. This gun is built like a tank and will seldom jam if it has been cared for properly. The gun is just 6.4 lbs in weight and very easy to carry and maintain. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Browning BSS is a very rare find these days. Even the one included in this list is a used shotgun but in a very good condition. These are great pheasant and upland bird hunting shotguns with a 26-inch barrel to provide optimal swing and accuracy. The BSS is super tough and will withstand even the most unforgiving conditions. 

This specific model can also be used for sporting clays if needed. Being a resale weapon, the gun has some very minor cosmetic drawbacks. But it is still a very rare and collectible gun to last for generations. 

Bottom Line

The BSS, now not in production, is still a very sought after side by side shotgun. It offers the quality and shooting experience of a very high-end expensive shotgun while bearing a reasonable price tag for serious buyers. Additionally, the gun was made in Japan, so build quality is not a question here. 

Best 20 Gauge Side by Side Shotgun:
Dickinson Arms ST Estate 28"" 20/28 Gauge

Pros

  • Covered by a lifetime guarantee
  • Comes with a faux-suede soft case
  • Chrome lined barrels safe for steel shot
  • Automatic ejectors for quicker reloading
  • Short and flush-mounted screw-in chokes
  • Clean and crisp trigger break. Single selective trigger

Cons

  • Mounting/dismounting chokes takes effort

What Recent Buyers Report

Handling this 28” long shotgun is very easy and quick. The gun itself is very light and the recoil is minimal. The shotgun features an ergonomic stock which often requires coating with linseed oil for longevity. The trigger is crisp and the gun performs perfectly in all mechanical respects.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Dickinson Estate sxs shotgun is a masterpiece. With detailed scrollwork, an ergonomic English stock, long barrel, and single selective trigger. This shotgun is perfect for brushing quail, pheasant, chukar and other upland game with lead. The barrel is chromed to allow using steel shots. Plus the gun is covered by a lifetime warranty for any defects.

The 3” chamber eats up all loads fed and the automatic ejectors allow for quick reloading of shells. The rounded receiver is easy to handle and the gun is very lightweight.

Bottom Line

The Dickinson Estate is an extremely attractive and accurate 20 gauge sxs shotgun, covered by a lifetime warranty by the manufacturer. It will be a delight to own this shotgun, especially while hunting birds or shooting clays in the sky.

Best 410 Side by Side Shotgun:
CZ-USA Sharp-Tail 28" 410 Gauge

Pros

  • Ergonomic and lightweight design
  • Raised rib barrel for better acquisition
  • Sharp shooting action for instant effect
  • Coil springs for longer life and consistency
  • Longer barrel for better swing and accuracy

Cons

  • Fixed chokes

What Recent Buyers Report

This is a sharp-looking shotgun with outstanding aesthetics, impressive fit, and flawless action. Shouldering the gun feels very well and it breaks open without effort. The trigger pull is hard initially but will loosen up with time. The single trigger does cause a delay in the second shot, but that can be overcome with practice.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The CZ-USA Sharp Tail has everything you can ask from a side by side 410 bore shotgun. It is lightweight, accurate, swings perfectly, and doesn’t require maintenance. The gun has a 14.5-inch pull and doesn’t fall short on aesthetics than similarly priced 12 or 20 gauge shotguns. The chrome-lined bores accept steel shots and the raised rib improves target acquisition.

Being a .410 bore, this shotgun is suitable for varmints and small birds. The long barrel does help with accuracy and swing, but the power of a .410 is still limited. The gun is very easy to carry around and requires little maintenance than other expensive models.

Bottom Line

With a good reputation in the 20 gauge, the Sharp-tail is the best .410 bore side by side shotgun you can find on the market. The single selective trigger may require some adherence, but the gun will be a useful weapon overall. 

Pros

  • Very accurate. Even with slugs
  • Compact design for easy handling and movement
  • Victorian-era rebounding mule-ear external hammers
  • Beautiful and sturdy construction with double triggers

Cons

  • Automatic safety can be annoying initially
  • Doesn’t accept choke tubes (but it’s a coach gun anyways)

What Recent Buyers Report

The fit and finish of the gun are excellent. Making many people experience the class of Victorian-era guns. The packaging of this gun is very impressive and the gun itself shoots perfectly at a close range. The chambers are thick to handle hot loads. Plus, the gun will loosen up after a few sessions.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The CZ 1878 is a replica of the Victorian era coach guns. The classy mule-ear rebounding hammers and double triggers with detailed engravings and a shiny walnut stock make the gun look exceedingly admirable. With a short 20 inch barrel, this shotgun is great for sporting clays and hunting small game and birds.

The gun features inertia firing pins and handles any 12 gauge loads up to 3” in shell length. While the non-acceptance of choke tubes will limit the applications of this shotgun to some extent. It is a perfect gun for purposes it can serve.

Bottom Line

The CZ 1878 is a great sxs shotgun for casual hunting, cowboy shooting, small game, and even home defense. The compact design is easily maneuverable and the gun has a classy feel to it. 

Best Side by Side Shotgun under $500:
Stoeger Coach Side-by-Side Shotgun

Pros

  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Compact and lightweight design
  • Great shotgun for hunting and defense
  • Affordable and reliable budget sxs shotgun
  • Traditional double trigger design for quick action

Cons

  • Short effective range
  • Substantial kick due to length, weight, and gauge

What Recent Buyers Report 

A well built, compact, sturdy, and reliable shotgun that is perfect for hunting and close-quarter encounters. Consider adding a limbsaver pad to mitigate the heavy recoil. The gun can withstand a lot of beating and still continue to function perfectly. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

The first factor for including this gun on our list is its low price. It is very rare to find a good sxs as this gun at such a price. The shotgun is very well built and compact enough to maneuver in close quarters. This is a great versatile shotgun that can be used for almost every shotgun application except for dedicated clay shooting and waterfowl. 

The gun is very easy to clean and you won’t fret if it catches a scratch on the stock. It has fixed IC/Modified chokes which do limit its application. But the gun is still very deadly and accurate for about 30-35 yards. You can also consider using it as a home defense shotgun.

Bottom Line

The Stoeger Coach gun is a compact and versatile shotgun capable of being used as a hunting and home defense weapon. The gun is very affordable and easy to maintain. It can be a great first-gun for people who are just starting with sxs shotguns. 

Perks of Getting a New Side By Side Shotgun 

Side by side shotguns are often not very cheap. Plus, they are among those guns that aren’t dusted and shot regularly. So before you plan on buying one, let's check out some perks of getting one. 

Ambidextrous

Side by side shotguns are ambidextrous. Some might be cast for right or left-hand shooters, but overall they can be used by anyone without a problem. This ensures that multiple members of your family or your friends can use one. 

Improve Skills

SxS shotguns have a capacity of only two shots. Which means you only have two attempts to get things done. Whether it be bagging a kill, or hitting a clay pigeon. Working with these guns helps you improve your accuracy and shotgun handling skills in the long term.

Classic Experience

These shotguns are classic weapons and bear a taste of luxury and craftsmanship with them. Shooting one of these is a very satisfying experience and has an emotional factor attached to it. 

Resale Value

Investing in a valued sxs shotgun will turn out to be a valuable possession in the future. For example, the Browning BSS reviewed above is now out of production, but still sought after by many enthusiasts. These shotguns are known to hold their value, and often increase it. 

Side By Side vs. Over Under Shotgun - Comparison Overview 

Let’s understand this by looking at the similarities and differences between the two:

Barrels

An O/U shotgun has both barrels stacked on top of each other which keeps the sight plane common for both. A side by side shotgun has barrels aligned horizontally and their shots usually converge at 40 yards. 

Trigger

Most O/U shotguns use a single selective barrel which can be set for the order in which the barrels fire. On the other hand sxs shotguns generally have two triggers that operate each barrel individually and also allows you to shoot them simultaneously. 

Chokes

Both these shotguns allow you to use two chokes at once. So you may have one for close shots and another one for distant shots. 

Balance

O/U shotguns are better at balance since barrels are stacked one on top of the other. That’s why you mostly see these shotguns at trap and skeet ranges. Side by sides are wider and require much skill. 

Eventually, either of these is good in its own wake. It’s the skill of the shooter that really counts.

Conclusion 

Side by side shotguns are classy, meticulously designed, and high-end shotguns that have an expert bearing. Specific models of these guns are used for hunting, competitions, and even home defense. The shotgun that fits and feels the best is what you should eventually go for. 

People Also Ask

Here's some common questions asked about shotguns, especially SxS and O/U

How to Increase Drop on a SxS Shotgun With an Adjustable Butt Plate?

Drop refers to the displacement on the stock with respect to the rear end of the receiver through a vertical plane. An adjustable buttplate with a vertical displacement can be shifted up to counter low drop and low to counter high drop/ 

How to Tighten The Action on a Side by Side Shotgun?

It can be achieved by adjusting the rear bite of the shotgun. Peen the steel on the rear bite using a hammer to move the metal surface upwards, raising the surface on which the bolt bites. You may also refer to this video below.

What Are Automatic Ejectors in Side by Side Shotgun?

Automatic ejectors are only activated if the shell in the barrel is fired. These ejectors won’t throw out both the shells on opening the action, but only the shell has been fired. This happens due to the small spring mechanism that is only activated by the pressure of the rebounding shell. 

Which is Better Over Under or Side by Side Shotgun?

Each of them is a great weapon in its own place. SxS shotguns have a wider sight plane, are easier to reload, and can allow you to fire both barrels at once. Whereas o/u’s are more compact, better balanced, and have stiffer barrels for quicker follow-up shots. However, it eventually comes down to what suits you the best. 

How Can You Tell the Difference Between a Sidelock and a Boxlock?

Sidelocks are more complicated systems compared to a boxlock. A sidelock action can be noticed having extra screws, tumblers, or small plates along with exquisite scrollwork to cover the cosmetic factor. Whereas boxlock actions look simple and plain and won’t have any protruding screws or metal on the exterior. 

What Are the Different Types of Shotguns?

The different types of shotguns can be classified as break action (single barrel, double barrel[side by side and over/under]), lever action (ex. Winchester 1887), pump-action (ex. Remington 870), semi-automatic (ex. Browning BPS) and full-automatic (ex. AA-12). Shotguns will also differ in the type of ammo they use, commonly known as a gauge. The available gauges today are 8, 10, 12, 16, 20, 28 and .410.

About Ankit

Ankit has been a writer for almost a decade now and has developed a diverse portfolio. His love for writing led him to turn down his lavish and lucrative career as a software engineer, twisting the reins of his life towards being a full-time writing. He only does what he loves. His hobbies include gardening, reading, shooting, and most of all - learning new things in every context (hence why he chose to be a writer). His whimsical nature and love for writing fosters creativity in all of his work

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