3-Gun competitions have taken the shooting world by storm. This is an article that talks about the best 3-Gun Shotgun options on the market. The market has evolved on the subject and we've been seeing a lot of specialty guns with a price tag to match that are touted as the ONLY option. But what's realistic?
What is 3-Gun and why would I need some specialty shotgun to shoot in the competition?
Multi-gun or 3-Gun is a competition that prioritizes speed, engagement and strategy. It requires specific gun types to meet specific challenges and allows for a lot of leeway in the construction of the courses and stages.
Participants will utilize a pistol, a modern sporting rifle (generally an AR-15) and a shotgun. Different divisional specifications will dictate extreme spreads on acceptable guns and equipment.
Each stage will generally be a combination of obstacles which will test a shooter unlike any other shooting sport format. There are often times where more than one type of gun will be used during a single stage, making 3-gun, unpredictable, engaging and in a league of its own.
Because of this unpredictability, special value is given to shotguns which offer speedy follow up shots, extended capacity and fine-tuned actions, as well as superior overall balance. The shotgun can easily be the distinguishing factor in a tight 3-gun stage, and therefore is often considered a lynchpin to a competitor's overall tactical plan.
Can I compete in 3-Gun Competitions realistically without a specialty shotgun?
After we highlight the guns in this article individually, we touch on this in-depth, and help you understand our thoughts. For now: know this: in a legitimately run competition in a larger market area (like a metropolitan area) you will not compete without a specialty gun in most cases; but you can still participate.
Participation is enough for a beginner. It's not enough for someone who already knows they want to commit to 3-gun. Read on for more discussion about this concept to get the best 3 gun shotgun for your next competitions.
Best 3-Gun Shotguns
Benelli - John Wick Benelli M2 Ultimate 3 Gun Shotgun
The name brand, Hollywood version of the 3-gun scattergun, this is a fine choice for those who are willing to drop 3k USD on a shotgun for one of their three guns required to compete in any division of the competition.
Not only does it have Hollywood cred, it has a finely tuned mechanical buildout that utilizes all of the best modifications and high end technology that Benelli has been famous for – stuff you don't find on lesser guns that can shave seconds and muzzle rise off of your stages.
This is a Taran Tactical Innovations build collaboration with Benelli, and Taran Butler, a well-known trainer and competitor in several competitions is the person who was actually hired by producers to train Keanu Reeves to "be John Wick".
The modifications aren’t just novelty though, as some of the changes have been regarded as highly sought after and meaningful, including a trigger job aided by lighter parts and new geometry that improves significantly, on an already excellent trigger from factory.
The tuned interior of the receiver and the polishing and cut modifications to the loading areas means you are getting faster hand reloads than just about any other gun. Sure, it will take practice, but the option is there to improve significantly.
Pair those reloading options and smooth operational changes with some tuning to extraction and ejection, and you get a higher reliability shotgun, which is a hard line to ride when you are modifying weights and surface contact points.
Many would scoff at the notion that a Benelli would need so many "fixes", but Benelli backs this custom gun from the factory and it's been selling and shooting well for competition shooters.
Oversized controls; a dialed-in vent rib and barrel alignment; extended capacity mag-tube and a bulletproof choke tube system combines with great sights and good balance for a nearly 8-lb. gun to give shooters something novel and competent at the same time. Something that pundits have been searching for, for ages. This is really the best 3 gun shotgun you should have for your next competition.
- High end polishing and tuning with high end fit and finish
- Amazing balance
- Good pedigree on both sides of the build aisle
- Can be seen as something of a novelty
Remington Versa Max Competition Tactical Semi-Automatic Shotgun
If you overlook the polishing and hand fitting of the Taran Butler shotgun above, the Remington Versamax Competition model has probably the most "hardcore" competition angle of any gun on this list and it is almost perverse in it's straightforward attitude towards shooting in competition, with its extreme variant options.
These options abound, from the almost grotesquely (but awesome) extended magazine tube which holds 10 rounds, to the Forest Green Cerakote-covered receiver that proudly displays the Remington heritage colors.
The vent rib by comparison seems mild, though it's aggressive in its own right. The extended choke tubes come in handy for fast between-stage changes. This is an important factor because with some course guidelines, choke tubes can be the difference between even hitting the target and missing everything on the stage.
Some stages will require slugs; some will require tighter patters to avoid extraneous hits. Being able to quickly dial in the choke system and calm your nerves before you run the stage makes sense.
The sometimes-aggressive styling and the sometimes-demure build of the Remington Versamax only heightens its intimidation factor. You know, and your competition knows that you are running with 11 rounds and that you don't have some of the recoil they have to contend with. This can be a demoralizing factor when it comes down to tight stages.
Oversized controls round out the obvious competition additions/modifications and allow you to operate quicker under adrenaline and utilizing muscle memory. Spectacular sighting that is still unobtrusive is supplied through a shallow rear XS Express with a fiber optic front bead system.
- Great "from-factory" competition model that doesn't get into the wildly expensive top end of the market
- Intimidating looks
- Significant recoil and capacity advantages over many competitors
- Still a bit pricey when compared to some of the other models on this list that sacrifice only a little comparatively but cost significantly less money
Beretta 1301 Tactical Semi-Automatic Shotgun
A gun that makes sense for a shooter who is multi-discipline or who wants to use their chosen field gun in competition. The Beretta rides the line pretty well, even if you will give up some inherent benefits when compared to a true competition gun.
This is the best 3-gun shotgun you choose when you want to feel good about not investing in a strictly competition gun, but still have a chance at competing, and also take birds next weekend in the upland.
Not made at factory for this kind of shooting, the Beretta 1301 is a truly 3 or 4 discipline shotgun that continues to surprise shooters who put it through its paces on different terrains or in different situations.
Billed as a tactical shotgun, it has the ghost ring sights and the oversized charging handle as well as the smooth action Beretta is known for and the fast semi-automatic functionality. It also happens to be well designed for moving in brush; can accept an optic easily and has field credibility on game of all types.
Tuning on the gas system yields repeatable and high-quality experiences with all types of loads, and despite being a 6-round gun, it is still viable in so many spots, including mid-range competitions in 3-gun.
- Good price point for such a versatile gun
- Beretta legacy quality
- Understated, but fully capable of delivering performance in many different scenarios
- Lacks the competition slant most shooters reading this article are looking for
Stoeger - M3K 3-Gun
Another very aggressively built competition shotgun, which this time, delivers big-time competition features for half the cost. The Stoeger design team is disrupting the industry by pushing the limitations of what a factory custom can be from a pricing perspective.
Aside from the Mossberg Miculek on this list, no other shotgun in the entire market space offers the feature for feature capabilities of this gun for the price point.
10+1 rounds in a seriously oversized mag-tube; a legitimate vent-rib and oversized everything makes this a new shooter's dream gun, or an obvious choice for the budget conscious that are ready to invest in a gun to take them to the next level in competition shooting.
At just over 7 lbs. this is a very nice swinging shotgun and has an overall length of 48 inches with a barrel length of 24", which puts you on target on anything in the competition for 3-gun. At least relative to most off-the-shelf shotguns you'll see fielded in the local competitions, you are going to be on target more of the time than most.
Adjustability is a luxury, and the Stoeger has it in spades, for the extended easy change choke system to the shim setup for the recoil pad to the adjustment on the gas system. You can effectively fine tune in the field from stage to stage, without overpaying for the privilege.
Very similar in appearance to the Versamax, and perhaps directly built as a taunt to Remington to show what can be had for half the price, the Stoeger M3K is a real competition 3-gun shotgun on a budget.
- Great adjustability without adding frivolous accessorizing
- Superior pricing
- Tons of capacity
- Fast to use and fast to reload
- Not quite at the level of fit and finish some competitive shooters will demand for their shotgun
FN SLP MK I Semi-Automatic Shot
Another gun that has legitimate crossover from discipline to discipline, the FN SLP offers the tactical credibility and the smooth competition capability without being overtly built into a specific scenario.
Yes, it's meant to be used as a tactical shotgun, but at its core, 3-Gun is a "tactical" competition if ever there was one. You need to be able to react, expect reliability and forego frivolity to come out ahead in a competition like 3-gun.
The most subdued by way of aesthetics of any of the shotguns on this list, the SLP is a gun that weighs more than most on this best 3-gun shotgun list, and yet, is more easily handled than just about all on this list, thanks to the way the balanced is designed into the gun and the subdued, anti-snag detailing.
9 rounds total on board gives this similar capacity to all the competition guns without the hardcore extensions and the total overall length you are getting with dedicated competition rigs. At 43" overall it makes more sense for the shooter who likes the run-and-gun aspects more than the failsafe of an extra round of ammo.
You will have to sacrifice some of the accuracy over the longer distance stages however, as the chokes provided are limited to IC and CYL and the barrel is 22", but for the most part you'll still be in the game, and the extra savings in length and improvement in handling and balance might get you a few extra feet closer to the target anyways depending on the course run.
For the unlimited classes, if you prefer to run a mostly stock rig, this will take an optic well and the build quality and durability is second to none for the no-frills segment of the market.
- Exceptional balance and shorter overall length
- Proven reliable
- Still not made directly for competition, and not as multi-disciplinarian as some others on the list
Mossberg 930 JM Pro Series Shotgun
Built with input from a storied shooter that still holds speed records after decades of exceptional challengers knowing what he can do, this is a gun that's made to a set of standards that far outvalues it's price tag.
Perennially touted as a best in class from a price perspective, this is a pound for pound and dollar for dollar winner for any shooter who wants high capacity, fast follow up and can't be bothered to overpay.
It's the original factory competition gun for the semi-auto high-capacity folks, and it continues to outsell most of the competition year over year easily. Mossberg is happy they went through with this buildout and Jerry Miculek has been a shockingly good fit for their needs as a corporate sponsor, despite heavy competition in the field. The relationship has been a huge win for both parties
High capacity (10 rounds); oversized controls across the board; polished and lightened load ramps and underside controls and a great overall design means you get value every step of the way if you are looking for a low-priced competition specific shotgun.
It is literally the standard for new shooters looking to upgrade their shotguns for competition. It is in the hands of more shooters nation ally than just about any other single model, and for good reason, it just plain works.
- Proven competition performance
- Exceedingly high sales volumes and proven historically as shooting sports grow exponentially
- Good looking
- Still leaves a bit to be desired from a fit/finish perspective, even if it is reliable and fast shooting
Benelli - M3 Tactical Shotgun
The obvious outlier, this is the quirky gun that matches 3-gun in all its own quirkiness. The Benelli m-3 is a favorite of this author because of the versatility and proven historical performance, but it is admittedly, not a competition gun, not even a hunting gun, and some might argue, only a semi-well utilized tactical gun.
That isn't because it cannot excel in these functionalities, in fact it often outshines the competition, but because it is still such an oddity, given the standards in the marketplace. But Benelli knows that this gun is one of the most legitimate guns it has ever produced and proudly makes it each year in its continued factory rotation.
The reason it's on this list of best 3-gun shotgun is because it can literally get you out of jams better than any other shotgun on the market, and when seconds count, being able to rectify a failure to feed or an extraction problem on the fly can mean the stage goes to you.
The M-3 can do just that – in a fraction of a second you can clear a jam or force home a failure to feed, safely and manually, because it is both a fast semi-auto shotgun AND a pump shotgun that will feed anything you can put in the mag tube.
Not only can you manually clear bad rounds or fix shooter errors, but you can adjust stage to stage as you need to shoot different loads and that's something that many dedicated semi-autos cannot do.
The M3 is also one of the few guns that can shoot in all divisions. Sure, you lack the oversized mag-tube, but third party aftermarket options exist; and you can utilize a full set of choke tubes too.
In a word, it's a "multi-disciplinarian beast" (OK that's three words).
- A shotgun, every shotgun owner should want
- So versatile it's almost scary
- Tactical, but capable of so much more than just home defense or duty work
- Best failsafe in the case of failures to feed or extraction/ejection issues
- Not meant specifically for this competition, though, many would argue it's got a lot of great characteristics for the ever-changing landscape of the local 3-gun venue
How about a bargain option for those who might not be sure they want to commit to 3-gun?
Any shotgun will do – even a pump shotgun, when it comes to three-gun competitions, but in order to be competitive on a time basis, you'll want to take notes of the following.
It's in your better interest to minimize reloading (by having larger capacity magazine tubes); minimize time between shots (by using a semi-auto shotgun); minimize hiccups (by having a customized setup on your shotgun that caters to your strengths).
It's hard to do these things when you are running a stock pump shotgun in the 3-Gun game, and while it can be done, if you are AT ALL competitive, you aren't going to like being handicapped by a gun that can't cater to you as a shooter and the competition style.
So, do you need a specialized shotgun for 3-Gun? No, you don't. But it's a lot more fun than if you run something off the shelf.
If you have to choose something budget, run with what you already have, or run with a friend's gun, and see what you like about the competition; and what you don't like about the shotgun. If you have a bone-stock Remington 870 or Mossberg 500, run it. You'll still have fun, and you'll still be learning about how to shoot in the competition.
If you don't have a shotgun, find a friend who already shoots in 3-Gun and ask if you can tag along, and use their shotgun while they aren't on the stage. You're likely to find that the friend will do what it takes to get you into the competition.
At that point, you won't want to run a budget rig, mostly because you're probably competitive if you're considering 3-gun anyways.
Even still, the Mossberg and Stoeger models listed above are legitimately competitive shotguns at half the price of the nearest competitors on a feature for feature basis. Quite a bargain if you're starting to take 3-gun seriously and want an upgraded rig from a factory stock gun.
NOTE: some stages/competitions REQUIRE pump shotguns to compete e.g. the He-Man or Heavy Metal Divisions.
What you have probably seen in this article is that preference is given to shotguns that offer speed and capacity; two points that are crucial for top 3-gunners. It's not a hard and fast must-have, but it's almost across the board when it comes to what the factories are putting out for the people interested in the sport.
There isn't a "One Gun" option for competitions like 3-gun, but the above, and in turn, the options coming out of factory, are truly optimized for the sport. There is a set of trending design components that gets adopted almost wholesale in the industry – because it just makes sense.
You can rest assured: if a major factory is calling a specific model variant a "3-Gun" specific tool, there is a good chance that it fits for the vast majority of users interested in the sport – the gun companies are shooting straight on this market segment.
Thanks for reading and I hope you found this list of best 3-gun shotgun helpful. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.