As a fan of shotguns, I started my shotgun journey with a pump gun. The more I shoot and train, the more I began to appreciate semi-auto shotguns. They’ve grown by leaps and bounds, and the prices have lowered as quality improved. Semi-auto shotguns are currently the best representation of the modern shotgun.
Why Go Semi-Auto
A semi-auto shotgun offers numerous benefits over a pump action design. Chiefly, the ability to fire very quick follow-up shots. Outside of throwing a round for every pull of the trigger, the repeating claymore eats a chunk of the felt recoil, making the gun much easier to control and much easier to shoot for smaller shooters. Semi-auto shotguns don’t require two hands to operate either.
So, with that in mind, what’s the current crop of semi-autos that deserve your attention? I’ve gathered five semi-auto shotguns that represent the best semi-auto shotguns on the market. These guns are in no particular order, and you’d be well served by any of them.
The Beretta 1301 is probably the most famous semi-auto shotgun on the market. Beretta hit the market hard with the 1301 and delivered a fast cycling 12 gauge shotgun. The famed BLINK gas system cycles the shotguns 33% faster than other semi-autos, according to Beretta. The BLINK system also offers excellent reliability and the capability of cycling a multitude of rounds.
The Beretta 1301’s gas system is the real star of the show. It helps keep the gun lightweight, makes cycling quick, and cuts recoil, all the while using a self-cleaning system. A good gas system is great to have, but so are good ergonomics. The Beretta 1301 has nice, large controls, especially with the bolt release. The 1301 also comes in a few different configurations, including a standard stock, pistol grip, and stock setup.
The Beretta 1301 comes optics-ready and has a set of ghost ring iron sights. It’s begging for a red dot, though, and red dots on shotguns are a fantastic combination. The Beretta 1301 is a fantastic setup, and a trip to Aridus Industries allows you to equip the Magpul SGA stock and the Zhukov handguard with M-LOK slots. With the 1301, you get that Beretta quality and reliability you expect, and you know what, you deserve it.
Mossberg 940 Series
America isn’t far beyond the land of spaghetti blasters. Mossberg previously had the Mossberg 930 series, which was a fine shotgun but was far from perfect. The new 940 series revamped the 930 series into more reliable, more modern, and genuinely better guns. The Mossberg 940 series comes in hard with not only a great price but no fear of dealing with 922R.
The Mossberg 940 Pro series covers everything you can use a shotgun for. They have bird guns, snow goose models, 3-gun options, turkey and deer hunting guns, and, of course, the 940 Tactical. The newer Tactical and Turkey models offer you red dot compatibility not with a rail but with a direct mounting platform. It’s identical to a pistol-style mount, which brings the optic low enough to co-witness with your front high-visibility bead.
The 940 design utilizes a stock with an adjustable LOP that allows you to use various inserts for adjustments. This lets you tailor the LOP from 12.5 to 14.25 inches. We also get massive controls that are quick and easy to use, a huge loading port, and more. The 940 series is a feature-filled, reliable, and very capable gun that makes me proud to be an American!
Back to the Spaghetti blasters with the king of combat shotguns. It might be almost 25 years old at this point, but as far as semi-automatic shotguns go, it’s the most proven gun. In faraway places like Fallujah, it made terrorists into plant food. The Benelli M4 delivers gas-operated goodness in one of the most reliable shotgun systems in the world through the ARGO system.
Benelli produced a very capable autoloader that can run dirty, clean, and anywhere in between. They will run until they break, and 25 years ago, that was a huge deal. It was a semi-auto shotgun shooters could trust and appreciate. The ARGO system reduces recoil and makes the gun super easy to control and use. It’s got solid iron sights and comes optics ready with a nice rail system.
The Benelli M4 gives us a system that can handle a wide swath of rounds, induing low recoil buckshot and even the oddball 2.5-inch loads from Nobel Sport. The Benelli M4 has solid ergonomics but is dated compared to today’s modern shotguns. It’s also fairly expensive and comes from Pizza-land with a neutered five-round tube and fixed stock.
Poor Savage doesn’t get the respect they deserve. People always associate them with budget-priced bolt action rifles, but they’ve expanded far beyond the Axis. The Renegauge, for example, offers a fantastic, premium-grade semi-auto shotgun series. The Renegauge’s D.R.I.V system helps reduce recoil from powerful rounds, and the rotating bolt system ensures awesome extraction in any environment.
The Renegauge started life as a hunting shotgun aimed at sportsmen. It succeeded and slowly developed into a 3-gun shotgun and now into a tactical model. The Renegauge guns are featured filled and come with task-appropriate sights, light high viz beads, or ghost rings, depending on the model. They can be optic’s ready with the addition of a rail.
The Security and 3-Gun models come with huge controls that bring it into the modern era. The Renegauge features an adjustable LOP via inserts, a huge handguard, and an aggressive stock design. You can do things like add cheek risers, and the M-LOK magazine clamp makes it easy to add a light and sling. The Renegauge is one of the most underrated guns on this list!
Beretta A300 Ultima Patrol
Another semi-auto tactical shotgun, another Beretta. The goal of the Beretta A300 Ultima Patrol was to provide shotgun enthusiasts with a sub-1000-dollar shotgun in the form of the A300 Ultima Patrol. This isn’t just a crappy alternative to the 1301, but dang near a competitor.
It might lack the BLINK system, but it keeps a proven gas-operated system that will handle everything from reduced recoil Flitecontrol to full-powered magnum loads. The A300 Ultima Patrol comes with a ton of features. Up front, we get an M-LOK magazine clamp and M-LOK slots on the handguard. This takes us to the nice oversized controls that are well-placed and easy to access.
Across the top, we have an optic rail, as well as low-profile ghost ring iron sights. Beretta even pre-installed a section of hook to add your own elastic side saddle. Oh, and the stock can be adjusted via spacers to adjust the LOP for your needs. The Ultima Patrol is soft shooting, easy handling, and perfect for both home defense and duty use on a budget.
I like to think we have a great mix on this list. We’ve got two Italian stallions and two American workhorses. Then we have an Italian design but an American-made mutt that’s proven to be quite capable. The semi-auto shotgun market has never been better, and if you want a good gun, you have plenty of choices. Hopefully, we’ve helped narrow your options down!