You don’t buy a single shot shotgun for the practicality of it.
You buy a single shot shotgun for the beauty, sophistication and the love of the sport.
They aren’t even that practical for the most part in a lot of “typical” hunting scenarios. But they are a beloved format. What follows should serve as a very good list of the best single shot shotguns available on the broad market for those who are looking at buying one.
The single shot shotgun certainly isn’t practical in a home defense scenario, except maybe as a last ditch option.
As you can see, the single shot shotgun isn’t about what you can’t do with the platform, however, they are about how you can achieve a specific feeling or nuance in the use of a shotgun.
Most of the guns in this market segment are ultra-specific in their scope and we won’t try to redefine what the scope of those options are. Simply, we will define the best shotguns anywhere in the single shot specification, and then tell you why they make sense.
If you are already reading this article having landed here through any number of methods (searching for a keyword, or otherwise), you are already aware of the draw of the single shot shotgun. This is a list of the best single shot shotguns on the market.
Best Single Shot Shotguns
Rossi Single Shot Shotgun
The perfect gun to take with you under the rear seat of the truck for an impromptu shot at game on the side of the road during the season. It’s also a great option for a survivalist or prepper to feel confident that they have bases covered when SHTF!
True, it is not a sophisticated option, or a particularly interesting gun from an innovation perspective, but it does do something really well: deliver a shot on target without a bunch of drama.
This curious shotgun highlights the interesting design choices that have been delivering for users for decades. There is a definite quirkiness that intertwines with practicality in a way that makes this a legitimate choice for any discerning user. But how discerning do you have to be to find absolute value in a gun that’s built from top quality steel and polymer for less than $200 USD?
The stock is loaded with features, like the pistol-grip-ish thumbhole stock that helps you wield the gun one handed if need be, or the extra cartridge storage in the butt stock that stores several extra rounds of .410 ammo for whatever comes your way. The break open design is easy to understand, and it is dead simple to use.
The robust safeties (like a hammer transfer bar mechanism) are perfect for beginners. They are on or they are off. The overall length and weight are sized for many beginners, too. The overall length is 34”: easily used by youth and small shooters alike. The .410 shell it shoots makes it easy to control for skittish shooters and the hunting capabilities of the round are still significant.
This isn’t necessarily a hunting gun though. More of a great general-purpose beginner’s shotgun that can also be used for hunting. Don’t expect a ton of range though, especially with shotshells. This is a gun that is light on sights and not necessarily made for ranges more than 25 feet.
What it does really well though, is stand at the ready, as a lightweight all-purpose hiking or snake gun that can take care of serious problems in a pinch without a lot of drama and cost.
It is also completely suitable as a short-range deer gun for small and moderately sized deer you might encounter off-road on an ATV or while on a horse; where a .410 rifled slug would be more than enough to dispatch the animal at 25 yards.
Simple, proven, durable, fun, inexpensive and capable. These are descriptors that are not only fitting for the Rossi Single shot but are also quite desirable characteristics for this interesting sub platform of shotguns. They’ve been around as long as most current shooters have been shooting, and they have barely changed from a design perspective. Furthermore, at the price point (which has also barely changed), it’s easy to find a task that can be handled adeptly by the gun.
- Simple and easy to understand
- Built with steel and high-quality polymer
- Surprisingly versatile
- Small enough for any shooter to handle – a great first gun
- At the price point, there are few obvious things to nag about
This is best for
Every. Single. Shooter. There are a surprising number of things you can find to use this gun for. And as cheap as it is, it really delivers value for money. Particularly for those who want a high-powered backup gun to stash in a variety of places.
CVA Hunter Compact Single-Shot Shotgun
Maybe not as “Jack-of all-trades” as the more time-tested Rossi above, this is still an obvious winner, and is so similar to the first gun on this list, but has some definite advantages over it.
Similar in price point, this shotgun also delivers excellent value for the miniscule price point. The more driven push towards hunting that is achieved by the CVA is in-line with the black powder roots of the company. This gun is absolutely geared towards hunting and not just in name-only.
The two caliber options and the longer barrels (24 inches on both the 20 gauge and the .410) make this an easy choice for hunters who have predictable surroundings and low risk encounters in the field. It also works well for those who carry a high powered sidearm, as the benefits of the lightweight and simple platform are obvious in that situation.
Both guns can take a magnum cartridge length and both weigh a scant 5 and a half pounds. The overall length and the length of pull are suitable for smaller shooters but are still manageable by larger frames as well. The 13-14 inch length of pull is a good size for a wide range of shooters, especially since it is likely to be infrequently used by all thanks to the dedicated single shot design.
40 inches of overall length gives balance needed by bigger shooters and allows smaller shooters some distinct advantages as well; especially when you factor in the chokes that come standard which pair the right chock with the gauge offerings (full for .410 and modified for the 20 gauge).
A bead sight makes target acquisition easier. The hammer block safety is no-nonsense and easy to understand; not to mention super safe in implementation. The whole gun is built to be ambidextrous and caters well to left handed shooters.
The looks are unassuming and the CVA quality is well-known in the black powder market. A recoil pad mitigates some of the recoil concerns and the whole package is protected by a very good factory lifetime warranty - something that is lacking on many, much more expensive models.
Simply knowing a sub-$250-dollar shotgun can deliver so many benefits makes this a winner on the list. It’s not the perfect gun, but it does execute on promises and it delivers bang for the buck. You could legitimately take out a wide range of game with the caliber options and the design allows for significantly more accuracy than comparable models. All things considered it’s very difficult to find anything wrong with the guns in this line of products.
- A nice foray into the mainstream shotgun market by a black powder market leader
- Simple, robust and easy to understand
- Great accuracy for the money
- Great for beginners – especially good for those who want to learn to hunt but don’t want added distractions
- No Cons
This is best for
Hunters moving from the black powder scene to centerfire shotguns. Youth and smaller framed shooters who like the idea of a no-nonsense, easy to understand shotgun offering and don’t want to give up too much for the experience.
Pointer Single Shot 12 Gauge Shotgun
Very similar to the first two guns on this list, the Pointer offers something both of the previous entrants to this category do not: 12 gauge firepower. Furthermore, this shotgun also offers a 28 inch barrel and a hunting experience that accommodates for a larger game population than either of the first two guns.
These added benefits take the single shot shotgun from the realm of the under seat, backup gun to a legitimate option in the field for a range of game. Made from steel and clad in polymer furniture, this is a tough gun and the break open design is essentially foolproof. Paired with an exposed hammer and three safeties (manual cross; hammer and transfer bar safeties) this is a great field option for a wide variety of shooter types.
Geared often to youth shooters learning the ins-and-outs of shotgunning, the single shot shotgun is often relegated to a lesser status when you look at the low end of the pricing spectrum. The Pointer seeks to bring it back into the realm of reason. It’s a 12 gauge shotgun with a lot to offer considering it’s priced below $200 USD.
The longer barrel and the integrated fixed modified choke give good accuracy without added frivolity. Sure, it weighs 5 pounds but that doesn’t mean it’s a “lightweight”. The overall length of nearly 44 inches helps the gun to swing well in the field for longer shots. If you do use it for teaching youth how to hunt, that extra spread containment on shotshells will prove to be invaluable.
The length of pull is 14 inches – suitable for a large subset of the shooting population, without being so large as to dis-include youth shooters or smaller framed female users. The nice touch of color case hardening hearkens back to a time when certain details weren’t overlooked, even on the less expensive market offerings.
Despite being well made, it’s still not much to look at for some users who are used to a market full of innovative offerings. But innovation takes a backseat here to simplicity and delivery of value at the expense of fancy aesthetics and innovative product additions. That’s ok for proponents of the single shot shotgun platform though – they are here for a reason.
- Great firepower compared to peers
- Inexpensive and solid
- Still easily used by smaller females and youth shooters
- Not super pretty despite some nice touches
This is best for
A dedicated hunter who doesn’t need more than a single round in the chamber and wants simplicity and light weight in the field without paying over the odds for the privilege.
Browning BT-99 Golden Clays Adjustable Comb Single Shot
Fifteen times more expensive than any of the first three shotguns on this best-of list, this is the pinnacle of the mainstream market guns for the single shot shotgun platform. It’s worth every penny you pay for it too, regardless of how overpriced it seems compared to others on this list. It’s in a totally different ballpark from the others on this list and it excels at its given tasks.
This is the gold standard for trap guns and there is no mainstream equal in the field. For a factory shotgun in the spectrum, this is as close to custom as you can get without paying twice as much or having to be individually fitted for a shotgun. There is no need for all that, though, with the options and fitment you can achieve with the Browning BT99.
By the way, this is a gun that is largely unchanged since its debut in 1969. It has been the standard bearer for premium trap shotguns since its inception.
What do you actually get for the price point though?
A fully adjustable fitment, including comb, recoil pad, length of pull and drop. Additionally, you get very strong recoil mitigation tools built into the gun including that recoil pad, that feels magical from a “felt recoil” perspective. You also get the GraCoil system and a ported barrel for less felt recoil. The back bored barrel improves errant pellets and softens kickback on the bore exit.
All of these things are important, if not to improve second shot capabilities (after all, this is a single shot shotgun), but because long range sessions are the only way to make incremental improvements on the trap scene; and no one likes a sore shoulder or heavy recoil.
The super high vent rib allows a great sight picture even with a hot barrel and hot loads, though you’re likely to take advantage of the recoil mitigation aspects of the Browning trap gun by using a lower recoil round. The gun is unrealistically smooth when compared to other market options for the most part.
The aesthetics of the BT-99 are a brilliant addition to the gun, revealing the superior attention to detail that the Browning flagship product offers. The beautiful scene engraved on the side of the receiver, oozes classiness and the highly detailed; stippled and checkered top grade walnut stock is finished to a gorgeous glossy sheen.
This is a top-tier offering that offers pure class to the shooter who decides to drop the money on it. It’s a legacy single shot shotgun that any owner would be proud to pass on generationally.
- Superior fit, finish and aesthetics
- Ridiculously low felt recoil and great adjustability
- The most proven gun on this list
- Very accurate
- Purpose-built for trap
- Expensive for casual shooters
This is best for
Competition shooters who have outgrown their mainstream shotguns and need to move into the next tier of performance.
Stoeger The Grand Single-Shot Shotgun
Touted as an entry level trap gun, it’s not as simple a quantification as it seems. Perhaps it is better stated as an affordable single shot trap shotgun that still evokes top quality heritage and innovative features. The Stoeger “The Grand” does come from a value line manufacturer from America, but with the reemergence of Stoeger as an industry powerhouse, the feature set is worth taking a look at, especially given the price point.
Stoeger was once the target of critics who said the fit and finish and creativity of the company was lacking. That viewpoint has largely disappeared as the company has gone out of its way to improve on multiple fronts. Leveraging legacy machinery and infrastructure the producer has managed to produce an impressively in-depth portfolio of product offerings.
Every shooter who has shot more than a single firearm knows too, that each gun should be judged on its own merits rather than lumped into the company’s overall image. This is where “The Grand” shines. It’s got the standalone credibility and finish qualities that makes for a very good option for the budget minded trap addict.
At first look, this is a handsome shotgun. The adjustability is right out in front, too. The quality of the furniture and the classic looks of wood on blued steel goes a long way towards inspiring confidence in range competitions. The adjustable comb allows the shooter to fine tune the balance and perch of the shotgun for fast on target shots.
Further enhanced by a stepped high vent rib, this sight plane is easy to swing onto target; the red fiber optic front sight gives you a chance during bright days, to hit fast targets. There are also features that one would expect only to be present on much more expensive guns, like a spring assisted ejector for fast, easy reloads and clear visuals upon each competition stage finish.
The satiny finish and the deep attention to detail for the price point are game changers for a sub-$600USD competition shotgun. The included 3 choke tube system gives easy accommodation for longer courses of fire. It can also be used quite easily as a hunting shotgun for purists.
A 30 inch barrel is the crown of a very well balanced, but obviously hefty shotgun. Its over 9 pounds, but it does swing quite well over its total length of 46 inches so it feels a bit nicer than the spec sheets showcase. Nevertheless, it is a heavy gun for sustained shooting – one of the very few drawbacks from the Stoeger offering.
The break open action is smooth, refined and offers sufficient value for money from a ~$600 competition shotgun.
- Low price point
- Adjustable comb and included high end choke tube system
- Swings well for a heavy gun
- A flagship design for a well-known company that offers more than its price point dictates
- At over nine pounds it is a behemoth for all day shooting
This is best for
Competition trap dabblers looking to improve their odds, on competition days, without feeling ridiculous about dropping too much money for something that they aren’t sure can improve their overall performance.
There are myriad reasons why someone might decide to go after a single shot shotgun. The most important is that as a shooter you have arrived to a point of understanding what is absolutely necessary, and highlighting the minimalist angle is supportive of finding the perfect focal point for your individual needs.
Whether you want a top tier trap gun, or a bunker backup, the single shot shotgun is about reliability, simplicity and usability. The only differentiation in the market segment is the level of refinement and embellishment. Nowhere is this concept clearer than through the comparison of choices on this list of best single shot shotguns which shows the obvious stratification between classes of shotguns in the mainstream market.
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