It'd be ridiculous to try to explain the myriad reasons why someone might choose a double barrel shotgun, so we are not going to try. Suffice it to say, if you are exploring double barrel shotguns, this is the list you want to look through to find the top candidates for the title of best double barrel shotgun.
Best Double Barrel Shotguns
CZ All-American Trap Combo, Over/Under Shotgun
Destined to be a long-term American classic, this Euro-styled, European heritage offering is more than enough gun for those who prize the nuances of sport shotguns at the highest level. The CZ All-American is a gorgeous, capable shotgun that offers a single or double barrel setup depending on what you want to accomplish that day.
You are getting the incredibly high-end machining and fit and finish that the CZ factory is capable of and you get it at a price point, that, while steep, is still reasonable compared to other guns in the segment. Sure, the CZ isn't as proven as the Citori in the double barrel sporting shotgun game over the years, but the similarities are uncanny.
The amazing swing and balance; the superior furniture grade selection; the massive shot corrected vent ribs that allow all day shooting if you desire; and the sporty good looks are just the beginning. The accuracy and precision of the build and how it delivers shots on target prove that this gun is built for true competitors.
CZ offers a fully adjustable stock and choke system, so you get the same kind of from-factory custom options that come on a semi-custom, without the 40 week wait of a true custom and at a third of the price or less.
Modularity in the action allows for price conscious rebuild options once you put 75,000+ rounds down range and you are starting to feel the gun loosen up a bit. A simple but effective tang safety that allows manual operation and the reinforced, bushing mounted firing pins means you have legitimate hardware driving shots.
Both barrel sets are top notch, with the massive adjustable vent ribs providing much needed heat dissipation and quick target acquisition. In conjunction with the tailored vent rib placement, the adjustable comb makes shot placement issues a thing of the past.
- Stunning looks
- Value for money in the niche segment relative to peers
- Proven brand heritage
- Exceptional fit and finish and attention to detail for the money
- Still has a considerable price tag
Winchester Model 101 Sporting, Over/Under Shotgun
Quite possibly the first drool worthy shotgun out of the Winchester Factory in years, this is actually one of the best looking shotguns that Winchester has produced in the modern era. Aesthetics aside, this is also perhaps, the most capable sporting model O/U that Winchester has ever produced.
The Model 101 is easily the most versatile O/U that Winchester has ever envisioned and they delivered on engineering plans when they produced this firearm because it has all the classic aspects of a true sporting O/U shotgun It incorporates also, all of the important modern amenities a shooter or hunter could ask for at a price point that makes most of the competition jealous.
The full gloss is a nice touch at a time when most producers have shied away from full gloss in favor of the more durable semi-gloss finishes and "satins". When you place the 101 alongside older classic lever guns and shotguns in the Winchester portfolio from a time gone by, this gun stacks up nicely from a "looks" perspective. It is also quite a bit better at performing under difficult circumstances too.
The recoil mitigation is in a class of its own for the price point – a Pachmayr decelerator pad and porting on both barrels improve felt recoil tremendously; while back boring to a specified size of .742 improves load tailoring options for the ultimate in shoulder saving recoil minimization.
The improved shot pattern as a result of the back boring increases shots on target when combined with the full choke accessory system (Invector plus 5-piece set) and the quick sighting tru-glo sights.
It's a brilliant mashup by a company who had been lackluster on shotguns for years, of the modern necessities from sporting shotguns, and the classic lines of traditional bird and sport guns. With the deep bluing and the chrome barrels telling a story of how important good looks AS WELL AS easy maintenance is on a gun in this price range.
Winchester hits it out of the park with the 101 for the money.
- Good adjustability for a mostly fixed shotgun
- Exceptional recoil mitigation
- Beautiful; traditional; sporty
- Perhaps the only great shotgun the company has produced in many years
Franchi - Instinct SL, Over/Under Shotgun
A spectacular light weight option for the avid upland enthusiast, the Franchi Instinct is a powerful contender for the crowd who hates lugging 8 lbs. around the bushes are briar patches on 16-hour days. This is a 28-inch-long barrel shotgun that weighs in at a brisk 5.6 lbs. Light enough to feel sporty during long days in the field.
Note: the recoil isn't heavy, but it is heavier than competing guns in the segment because of the light weight and the material composition.
It's hard not to consider this shotgun for sporting and competition shooting though, with the light profile and the tiny footprint, given the big-league precision and accuracy. But there will be some additional shoulder battering compared to other 20 gauge guns in the market.
It's also less durable if you plan to shoot 75k rounds through it, as it's made on an aluminum alloy receiver and with a lighter overall build profile. But don't mistake this gun for being dainty or underbuilt – Franchi has a very good reputation for building legacy shotguns and this one is no exception.
It's best however to understand what you're getting. This is a gun meant for lightweight, quick target acquisition shooting and is best in the field with dogs chasing birds as a standard motif.
In full disclosure: this author owns a predecessor to the Instinct and it's served him well for two decades of more than occasional use and looks brand new. While the author has shot most of the guns extensively int his list, owning a substantially similar gun for the better part of 25 years is a different thing.
The speed at which this shotgun operates should not be understated or overlooked either: it's slick and fast; easy to find the target and it swings like a dream. The full choke system and the approachable stock design and finish make it pretty, if not a bit utilitarian, and functional.
- Good looking; traditionally designed
- Super lightweight for an O/U shotgun
- Not as durable as some of the all steel competitors with modular replacement parts systems on this list
Beretta USA - 686 Silver Pigeon I Combo Shotgun
One of the best pure upland shotgun designs in history is this Beretta shotgun. It ticks all the boxes for discerning upland hunters. It's lightweight; good looking; easy to get on target, offers a perfect set of calibers and it's built to last for multiple generations with hard use.
It is also one of the most thoughtfully designed O/U shotguns ever made. The straightforward feel of the swing and balance; the easy to reach controls and small profile and footprint, including the 42 inch overall length means this is a great field gun that you will prefer to carry over the larger, heavier guns on the market.
All this while offering the accuracy and precision shooting that comes from the 28 inch barrel and the Beretta choke system. Beretta is also a company that is known for its commitment to hunting and sporting uses of shotguns and channels a significant amount of money towards innovation and improvement of processes to help hunters and shooters take advantage of one of the best R&D teams in the industry.
Beretta hasn't had to change much on the Silver Pigeon over the years, but it has implemented subtle design and safety changes as needed to maintain one of the top spots in the market.
That's both a testament to their record as a brand (one of the oldest companies in the world in continual operation – not just among gun companies, but all companies); and to their foresight and engineering prowess as a producer, who has had to make few changes to this legacy product offering.
It's a costly pickup to some hunters, but to others it's a small price to pay for peace of mind, comfort and reliability. At just under 3500, this is a gun that straddles the market in a high value arena and can keep pace with some shotguns that are 2-3 times the price. Straightforward and utilitarian, but also strikingly good looking for a utility hunting gun, this shotgun is definitely worthy of consideration for the seasoned upland hunter.
- Unbelievably good reputation
- Simple but elegant
- Perfect combination of calibers for an upland shotgun
- Could be considered by some to be expensive, even though it offers uncommon value at the price point given its track record
Savage Arms Fox A Grade Shotgun
The juxtaposition of approachability and opulence on the Fox A-grade Shotgun by Savage Arms is staggering.
On the one hand it's just a side by side shotgun by a well-known American maker famous for offering outstanding value in lower priced guns. On the other hand, it is a standout piece of craftsmanship in an increasingly automated world, that showcases hand finishing and attention to detail.
The simplicity of the SxS is obvious. What it perhaps less obvious until you hold this shotgun in your hands, is the depth of the bluing and the figure of the color case hardening and sharp peaks on the hand cut checkering. It's a testament to the importance of making something by hand in a world that let's machines do most of the work.
The furniture, too, is astounding in its hand finished gloss and depth of character. The smooth, subtle lines offering a slim, comfortable neck grip behind a robust and precision fitted receiver. The skinny fore end is reminiscent of your Grandpa's gun, and the Euro-influenced SxS's of yesteryear, but the tight, strong Holland and Holland ejectors remind you that this is a gun built for smoothness.
The lockup is unlike anything you've held in this market full of sub $1000 dollar side by side shotguns. It truly has to be used to be appreciated. Like a fine Swiss watch, the lockup is mechanical and satisfying, and exercises the limits of finely fitted tolerances. This Savage is as good as you are going to get from an American type Side by Side shotgun, period.
- Classic. Simple. Yet, refined.
- Perfectionist attitude towards fit and finish by the company
- Expensive to most who see it
Pedersoli Wyatt Earp Shotgun
A perfect Cowboy Action style shotgun, with a bit more sophistication than the mostly straight grained furniture would indicate, and certainly more style and precision than most low-priced alternatives can offer. This is a great offering from a company that is famous for producing replicas and mostly, black powder guns.
The nuanced styling gives way to a robustly built action and barrels that prove Pedersoli can deliver in the modern smokeless cartridge driven world.
It's simple and yet, it’s supremely stylish, from the butt plate to the rounded stock grip to the fore end that ever so slightly favors the European slant. The gorgeous finishes and the two-tone looks force conversation and double takes wherever you shoot it.
But it is also as at-home on your saddle in a scabbard as it is in two hands on the range. Make no mistake, this is a utility shotgun that offers great performance for ranch duties and beyond.
A perfect coyote and predator deterrent and also a great option for time-period appropriate competitions, the Wyatt Earp shotgun by Pedersoli with its timeless Colt-Style hammers means business.
- Short and sweet
- Brilliant aesthetics
- Overbuilt from a strength perspective
- Classic Colt hammers
- Maybe too niche?
Browning Citori 725 Trap Over/Under Shotgun
The standard by which all other over/under shotguns are judged, the Browning Citori is a perfect litmus test for high performance, high delivery shotguns.
Firstly, it has arguably the best factory standard recoil reduction schemes in the industry. The recoil reduction starts with strategic porting and a recoil pad. A lower center point for barrels also reduces felt recoil. Further, the back-bored barrel and forcing cone reduce recoil felt at the shoulder and through the full recoil plane.
Browning pioneered the back-boring technology in the shotgun world. That's not all that Browning has pioneered. The company is fully invested in the innovation-end of the producer spectrum. Browning routinely spends millions per year in setting trends, incorporation of new technologies and machine updates.
The adjustability may not be as high some Citori's, but the 725 can still be custom tailored to the shooter quite easily for LOP and other basic needs.
Triple trigger might not seem so fantastic, until you need to fire a shot after a misfire, then it's innovations like this or the FireLite trigger that come in handy as you can shorten LOP and are ensure you have a mechanical hammer release on each shot. This means follow-ups after misfires are near instantaneous with practice.
With one of the biggest vent ribs on the market, the Citori 725 offers all day uninterrupted shooting. The HiViz sights with mid-bead make this a fast option on far-distant targets. The balance is basically unparalleled, and together these characteristics offer significantly faster on-target behavior.
Did we mention this is one of the most beautifully finished shotguns in history for the price point? It's tight, the tolerances are borderline ridiculous, and the beauty of the gun is substantial.
- Beautiful and proven
- Amazing trigger
- Robust build quality for extensive round counts
- The de facto standard in the price range for years
- Still a high price tag for most shooters
Browning Citori Gran Lightning Over/Under Shotgun
A fantastic shotgun at this price point (sub $3K USD), the Citori Gran Lightning is a quick, beautiful shotgun, that utilizes most of the Citori major characteristics to provide a happy medium between the top and bottom end of the line by Browning.
The looks are obvious, with the gun being better appointed than most O/U's at the $3K price point. The accuracy and capability are undisputed. In fact, Browning doesn't skimp on machinery and process in order the cut the price point on this sub brand option.
It keeps the traditional transverse action design that keep the action tight over the years, and "tight" is an understatement – the action of a Citori is like a Swiss watch. You won't complain about how smooth the break of the action is, or the satisfaction of the click.
The stock is gorgeous, and the slightly rounded design is interesting and comfortable to shoot. The balance is good and while there may be some amenities not provided (think recoil reduction introduced to more expensive Citori options), there are the essentials: 3 chokes; a great recoil pad and surgical precision on the build.
- The Citori name without the high price tag
- Gorgeous even if slightly understated for Browning's premium line offering
- Super well balanced,
- Doesn't have some of the creature comforts of the other Citori offerings
Barrett Albany Over/Under Shotgun
The Barrett Albany over and under shotgun is a modern gun built to historically premium standards that gets it right and doesn’t skimp on technology simply for the sake of being traditional.
Of particular interest is the beautiful and very comfortable to shoot 28 gauge, 28" barrel variant of the Albany, as it is about as good a field shotgun as you can find on the market. Yes, it's a gun that costs more than $6,000USD, but it's built to pass down through multiple generations. You won't regret the expense once you use it in the field and recognize the quality of the build.
Of course, this is not a shotgun most of the market is interested in, or considering buying, so those that would regret such a purchase price point, this is already not the gun for you.
You are paying for tried and true technologies that are rare, proven and timeless, like the single selective trigger and the rounded box lock styling and the hand engraving that is pristine and intricate.
You're paying for the automatic ejectors and the hand cut checkering and the metal finishing that is top tier. You're paying for the unbelievably figure-heavy furniture.
The barrels are rated for steel shot and chrome lined. The vent rib on the 28 gauge model is a 6mm vent rib and doesn't overpower the barrel set, but it is sufficient for normal hunting and sporting use. The forcing cone helps to keep pellet deformation low (the cone length is 1.2") and shot speed high.
The Barrett Albany is as traditional as you will find in today's market, and yet, it doesn't feel outdated – quite the opposite – it feels like a whole new experience. In that regard, Barrett has created a showstopper.
- Feels like a different type of O/U – looks classic
- Fine-tuned barrels and great internal finishing
- Another serious builder in the market makes sense for enthusiasts of O/U shotguns
- Expensive, without offering groundbreaking technology
Benelli 828U Sport Over/Under Shotgun
The Benelli 828U is the least classic looking O/U on this list and is probably the most innovative gun released in the past 5 years in the niche part of the market.
Benelli is the company that specializes in innovation though, and this type of groundbreaking shotgun should be what is coming out of the Benelli factory with some fanfare. It's almost too futuristic for some shooters from an aesthetics perspective, but the innovation is of substantial benefit, and therefore, the looks can suffer a bit for some traditionalists, because the value is so great under operation.
Starting with the adjustability (because the 828U has few competitors at this level of adjustability), there are a bunch of combinations of adjustment – 40 with the included shims for drop and cast. Length of pull and the comb height are adjustable quickly too, with all adjustments able to be done easily in minutes – the comb and LOP in seconds.
With the Benelli 828U you are getting custom and semi-custom level fit for a double barrel shotgun that costs half or less than one of these types of shotguns from factory.
Recoil reduction gets specialty treatment too, with what is probably the most innovative internal recoil reduction technology in shotgun history – the Progressive Comfort system. It utilizes ribbed segments to slow and smooth out backwards moving recoil through sending it out into a larger portion of the buttstock. That's a description that doesn’t even do the system justice.
Rounding out the most innovative features are the modularity of the gun, and the ability to service each component easily, with things like a steel locking system and a removable trigger group. There is also a brilliant, heat shedding vent rib made of carbon fiber and housing top quality high visibility fiber optic sights.
The Crio barrel and choke tubes are legitimate helps in barrel life and shot consistency upon firing.
Overall, this is among the most innovative shotguns in years.
- Relatively lightweight
- Super innovations that actually make a difference for competition and hunting customers
- Still a relative bargain given all of the feature set
- Bargain in relative terms does not mean it's inexpensive
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