Best Semi Auto Shotgun: 2019 Buyer’s Guide & Review

We’ve got a list for semi-auto shotgun enthusiasts that we think segments the market well, to help you find your next favorite semi-auto shotgun based on your specific needs. This is that list. We are showcasing the best semi-automatic shotguns on the market.

Because these types of shotguns are so prevalent and because each type of activity is so different, we are separating the use cases and picking a single mainstream market option for each activity. This isn’t a list of “the pretty good semi-auto shotguns” it’s a “BEST OF” list. You don’t need more than one gun per market segment for the most part.

The concept of “BEST” denotes relative value compared to others available. In the case of shotguns, we believe there are a lot of pretenders. It doesn’t mean they aren’t good, but to be the best, a shotgun needs to be on a different level. We think we have created the definitive list of near-perfect shotguns for their given specialty.

Sure, you can probably find a few shotguns that cost a lot more that will perform better on a case by case basis. We believe that for most shooters, these are the best mainstream variants that are within normal access to them.

So, take a look at how we judged these shotguns and tell us what you think.

Best Semi Auto Shotgun

Benelli M4 Tactical Semiautomatic Shotguns

Best semi auto TACTICAL shotgun

Benelli M4 Tactical Semiautomatic Shotguns

Benelli shotguns are made to a different standard than most mainstream options; the way the semi-auto shotguns cycle is so smooth it’s hard not to want one after just holding it in a shop or seeing one in action. The benefit the M4 has over other Benelli’s or other semi-auto shotguns is the reliability and history; as well as the step-up in finish and accessorizing.

The M4 by Benelli is tactical looking and features a cerakote finish or NP3 finish depending on the variant. This gives great durability and low glare. It is a USMC approved shotgun and is only slightly different from the actual shotgun in service (which we would also recommend if you prefer the stock configuration - the Benelli M1014).

The intuitive features of the M4 are obvious when you look at the gun. A pistol grip shotgun stock keeps the head low; just over the bore axis and is comfortable to shoulder. The ghost ring sights are easy to focus on for target acquisition; they are also super durable. There is a 1913 rail to connect lights or lasers or optics.

The ARGO system helps to achieve excellent reliability across loads, and indeed the historical performance of the M4 proves that standard power loads will cycle flawlessly, generally speaking. The magnum chamber will accommodate 3” shells, but the gun will function with standard and magnum loads easily.

The smoothness of the action makes the operation fast and easy; most shooters can shoot all 6 rounds in rapid succession before the first empty shell hits the ground. That type of quick shooting is the concept that the Benelli semi-auto was built around.

Pros

  • Spectacular fit and finish quality on the shotgun
  • Very fast action and very smooth operation
  • Good recoil mitigation despite being relatively lightweight
  • Proven performance

Cons

  • Could be considered expensive

Kalashnikov USA - KS-12T Shotgun

Best semi auto shotgun for home defense


KALASHNIKOV USA - KS-12T 12 GAUGE 10+1 BLACK

There are two absolute defining features to the KS12T that make it the obvious choice for the home defense category of this BEST OF article.

  • The reliability of the platform is exceptional and can be counted on at the highest level in difficult scenarios. Having a gun that shoots every single time is a priority for defensive purposes.
  • The short overall length of the shotgun is small enough to make mobility very easy and is able to be wielded like a battle rifle (it’s 38 inches OAL).

These are defining characteristics, but they are merely the tip of the iceberg. Another major consideration is the removable magazine capability. Not only can you place whole sets of loads in different ten round magazines to allow you to shoot however you want in a given situation, but you can also use a readily available 50-round drum magazine as needed.

It is a very good choice for shooters who have used the AK extensively because it is built on the same concept and has similarly placed controls and a very similar operation from a use and maintenance perspective. The ability to stay in the fight for a longer period of time and to have systematic load selection capabilities makes it an obvious choice for the tactically minded.

Because it is so small and svelte, the home defense space makes sense; the weight is balanced even if it seems a bit heavy at nearly 9 pounds.

The gun is durable and very easy to maintain. It is perhaps the most durable and easy to maintain shotgun on this list. For a home defense scenario; having the accessories that Saiga shotguns can adopt make it easy to custom tailor to your needs. A very controllable pistol grip and shoulder stock combination makes this a wonderful gun for those who need to count on their gun in the heat of the moment.

Pros

  • Excellent price point for the combination of components you are getting and the overall integration of these components
  • Very durable design; especially on the bolt to barrel fitment
  • Reliable and consistent
  • High capacity magazines and sustained fire capabilities

Cons

  • No cons

FN SLP Semi-Automatic Shotgun

Best semi auto shotgun for the money

FN SLP Semi-Automatic Shotgun

Considering the moderate to high price tag of the FN SLP, it says something important about the gun that we chose it as the best semi-auto shogun for the money. For comparative purposes: the impeccable AK model above is more than $200 USD less than the SLP; one of the best shotguns in history (the Remington 870) can be had for less than half of the price tag of the SLP. What’s the point? Value is delivered at the highest level on all facets of this shotgun.

Co-witness ghost ring sights and a 1913 rail allow you to easily get on target and make fast follow-up shots. There is a protective wing around the central mass of the sights. As a result, the durability of the optic mount and the sights is super high, even though they stick out a bit. They are just about the only thing that sticks out on this shotgun, though. One of the best features of the FN SLP is that it’s smooth and simple and inconspicuous.

It’s a shotgun, so the accuracy isn’t affected negatively by having a chrome bore. But the durability and maintenance are dramatically positively affected by the bore lining. The barrel is an 18 inch long variant and fits very well with the extended magazine tube that offers 6+1 shots in a very easily handled and mobile platform. The overall length is only 38.75 inches. The less than 8 pound weight specification makes this super-fast to shoulder and swing and therefore accurate and fast to action.

Fast to action might be an understatement: the claim from FN is that the cyclic rate allows 8 shots to be fired in less than a second. That’s faster than any shooter can accurately shoot. But it speaks to the design and capability of this shotgun. It shaves seconds from the second and third shot – it puts you into a position to have the upper hand. Preinstalled, simple but well-placed sling swivels and grip checkering makes this a very good gun for those who need stability.

Pros

  • One of the fastest shotguns on the market
  • Durable and reliable while being traditionally styled and simple to use
  • Short and well balanced from a weight perspective
  • Performs on every level without being over the top

Cons

  • No cons

Beretta A400 Xcel Multi-Target Shotgun

Best semi auto shotgun for sporting clays

Beretta A400 Xcel Multi-Target Shotgun

The most expensive gun on this list, and arguably the most beautiful and most accurate, the Beretta A400 Xcel Multi-Target is a true “factory custom”; from a mainstream perspective it practically defines the category. More than that, it is a gun that won’t be wasted on a couple of trips a year. It is the type of shotgun that will help you bring your game to the next level whether in the field (where many will not be interested in using this gun) or at the range in a competition.

The excellent adjustability of the gun includes a comb that can help get you directly over the huge vent rib but does so at a complex angle that allows natural feeling alignment and helps to make the swing needed to excel at shooting sports, faster and more natural feeling.

The sporting uses of the shotgun are enhanced by the different design elements like the massive ventilated rib and oversized bolt handle. The bolt handle helps to charge the gun faster for better responsiveness in competition and the vent rib allows a dissipation of heat to help avoid clouding the sight picture and creating a bad experience when trying to get on target.

The beauty of this firearm is still somewhat understated (compared to many other competitors in the niche) and it is still quite spectacular, with the two-tone finishes and the engraving and checkering which help to embellish the firearm and the grade 2.5 wood.

In general, compared to most guns in the segment, this is a huge value from a price point; it sacrifices very little to reduce costs by sometimes more than 35% to direct high-end competitors.

Pros

  • Gorgeous, but quite functional
  • 4 shot capacity allows you to use it for a multitude of purposes, even if you won’t because it is so pretty
  • Very comfortable to shoot
  • Super accurate

Cons

  • Expensive, even if it offers better value compared to competitors in its tight niche market segment

Browning A5 Stalker Semi-Automatic Shotgun

Best semi auto shotgun for duck hunting

Browning A5 Stalker Semi-Automatic Shotgun

Probably the most classic looking hunting shotgun on any best-of list, the Browning A-5 stalker is a simple shotgun aesthetically and offers some magnificent performance history and a user interface that is hard to match. The fine lines and subtle aesthetics are just part of the benefits of the shotgun though.

The fit and finish is among the best in the industry, and while it may not be the first thing you look for in a duck gun, this is not a bad thing. You can expect to have one of the best looking all-black guns anywhere.

What makes a lot of sense too, though, is the way that the design helps with recoil mitigation. The strategic balance of the build allows for better perceived recoil and muzzle flip because of the way that the weight is centered over the most controllable part of the gun at the right time in the cycling of the very heavy bolt mass. This mass combined with the way the receiver is built allows you to follow up fractions of a second faster and helps to smooth out the loading of a new round.

This concept as it is written seems a bit vague and maybe even a bit of a stretch), but when you feel the slow, rolling perceived recoil of the A5 compared to the other guns in the segment, you will understand what that kind of balance and bolt mass can do to keep the gun functioning quickly and smoothly.

A two-bead sight system takes a bit of a curve to learn it, but the benefits in the field for fast waterfowl are spectacular. The sight plane is enhanced by the slight dip in the receiver that helps to push the eye to the bead alignment. The stock is manually adjustable too, for alignment, comb and length of pull.

An easy to use magazine plug system helps in the field from season to season and with maintenance. The integrated choke system is refined and well-proven. The vent rib helps with sight alignment and handling. The balance and a good weight specification for a 26” barrel (about 7.2 lbs.) makes the swing to shoulder and putting shot on the target very easy and swift.

Pros

  • Super classy looks and refinement without unnecessary embellishment
  • Great sight system
  • Superior balance.

Cons

  • May seem expensive on the surface, and may seem to be not specialized enough for some hunters

Honorable mention (Best Semi-auto shotgun)

CZ USA - 920

CZ USA - 920 SEMI-AUTO Shotgun

You can describe the CZ 920 in a moderately sized compound sentence, but you won’t get all of its value expressed properly. There is too much added value for the money. The lightweight, comfortable to shoot and beautifully finished shotgun offers simple, reliable operation for about half the cost of comparable guns on this list.

A super-traditional design and the expected level of quality from the famous CZ factories; this is the type of shotgun you get when you just don’t know yet what you need in the shotgunning world. It’s a perfect beginner gun. It is also a viable option for veteran shotgun shooters who want a traditionally designed, value option for hunting, range use or training new shooters on shotguns.

It’s a 20 gauge shotgun with a mild recoil and a great balance considering it’s a bit under 6 and a half pounds. That lightweight build is what makes it so new-user friendly. Having 5 shots in the tube magazine and a longer (28”) vent rib barrel makes it perfectly suitable for field use; especially on fast moving ground-based birds like pheasant and quail. With the right loads, it can easily service accomplished hunters.

Pros

  • Straightforward and yet, subtly elegant
  • Great value for the money
  • Low price point relative to legitimate peers

Cons

  • May be considered too mainstream for some shooters

Remington Versa Max Tactical Shotgun

Remington Versa Max Tactical Shotgun

Exceptionally tactical by design, this is an interesting shotgun for this list. It’s good enough to be a contender for several categories, but it doesn’t shoehorn itself into any specific category so as to set itself apart from the well-integrated build that it is from factory.

We give it an honorable mention with the disclosure that it could have been the top shotgun in at least 3 of the above categories. As a shotgun it is supremely versatile, and the Versa Max name fits it well. It is also a decidedly black and tactical gun. So, it’s at home in any duty or defensive situation; even if it can also be used well in the field and is a great choice for high volume shooting on clays or paper targets.

The attributes do push it towards defensive and duty uses though, with the super high capacity with a traditional tube magazine build. This semi-automatic shotgun takes the best of the older designs and adds new modifications into the mix from factory. Things like a larger, trapezoidal trigger guard that gives a gloved finger a better chance to engage the trigger properly; the vent rib that marries well with a 1913 rail and the 8+1 capacity.

A muzzle brake and integrated choke system (ProBore) on the end of a 22 inch barrel balances the easy handling with a little bit more accuracy; so you’ll get good interior dwelling handling, but not excellent, while you will get a little more flash in a dark room and better overall balance in swing. It’s worth the small compromise in overall length.

There are no legitimate compromises though – the Versa Max is a jack of all trades. You are getting a special semi-auto shotgun here, with many options for day to day usage.

Pros

  • Lightweight for such a robust shotgun
  • Very accessorized from factory
  • High capacity

Cons

  • Slightly bigger than most of the guns on this list

Mossberg - Jerry Miculek Pro Series 930 Shotgun

Best Semi-auto shotgun for multiple uses

MOSSBERG - JERRY MICULEK PRO SERIES 930 Shotgun

This semi auto shotgun has probably the best set of features and the best price point for the masses. You lose very little (mostly there is a finish difference between this and the top priced models) to get this mashup of features and value, and that is what Mossberg has been delivering for decades. 

You don’t lose the accuracy or the speed, the 930 is built in cooperation with Jerry Miculek on the design side, and he shoots swiftly and accurately; this will deliver on those promises. It’s an excellent gun for competition for newcomers to the sport, or those who prefer to have a high-volume gun that feels good from factory without the pretense of having to baby it on the range.

The overall length and great swing of the gun makes it usable for hunting or home defense too, which it excels at. It’s accessorized well from factory, especially considering the price point, with the high capacity mag tube and the oversized bolt handle. This is a gun made for speed. That was probably evident with the nod to Jerry Miculek. It is significantly fast in competition and well-built for reliability.

The ability to take a Magnum load and the fiber optic front sight makes it a perfect multi-use option. 10 rounds in the tube and another in the chamber means you won’t have to worry about reloading when your next shot counts.

Pros

  • A legitimate competition track record
  • Good DNA
  • High capacity magazine
  • Almost comically low price point for the value you are getting in the overall gun

Cons

  • Some finish issues occasionally from factory

Conclusion

This is the best of list that we were looking forward to making for a very long time because it let’s us go all-out on recommendations. We don’t have to pull punches or be inclusive, we can simply pick the best of the best and every single one of the items on this list is a spectacular semi-auto shotgun.

The idea here is that each of these guns is, in its own right, a top tier gun. But for enthusiasts of the semi-auto, this list could represent a good portion of your gun safe.

If you want a single gun, fit your favorite use case with our pick for that category. If you are looking for one to add to the collection, rest assured, any of these shotguns could be considered the best in class semi-automatic shotgun.

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