what is the best bird hunting shotgun

Ask a duck hunter what company makes the best duck hunting shotguns and the three most likely responses will be Beretta, Benelli, or Remington. So, it wasn’t too surprising that those gun manufacturers—along with Winchester—stood above the rest in our waterfowl shotgun test.

Best Shotguns for Bird Hunting: Reviews & Recommendations

  • Break-action O/U
  • Gauge: 12, 20, 28, .410
  • Finish: Blued
  • Weight: 8 pounds (12-gauge)
  • Well balanced
  • Easily interchangeable chokes
  • Comfortable rounded pistol grip and forearm
  • Steep price tag
  • The 12-gauge is a heavy field gun

The Gran Lightning Citori wins best pick for its performance and upland aesthetics because it is both aesthetically pleasing and lethal in the field. For decades, Browning’s Citori shotgun lineup has been the best choice for shotgun enthusiasts. Taking the Gran Lightning Citori on a classic southern bobwhite quail hunt gave me the opportunity to appreciate it as one of the best shotguns I have ever had the pleasure of handling. I used a little 28-gauge Gran Lightning gun for my hunting, and boy did it mess with buzzing quail coveys. It is difficult to match the knock-down power and nearly nonexistent recoil of the 28-gauge for most upland hunting, particularly when hunting over pointers.

what is the best bird hunting shotgun

With a high-polish blued barrel and an engraved receiver, the Gran Lightning boasts an impressive oil-finished grade V/VI walnut lightning-style stock. This shotgun practically seems too beautiful to be in the hills, but that’s exactly where it belongs. It also has a rounded forearm and pistol grip for a traditional and reliable feel when held in the shoulder. —C. H.

Best Pump Shotguns for Duck Hunting

Key Features

  • Gauge: 12
  • Chamber: 3-inch
  • Length: 49.5 inches
  • LOP: 14 inches
  • Trigger weight: 2 pounds, 12 ounces (measured)
  • Overall weight: 7.7 pounds (measured)
  • MSRP: $500

Early in 2022, RemArms introduced the new 870 Fieldmaster to replace the venerable 870 Express. This was a significant development in the realm of reasonably priced duck guns, as over 11 million 870s have been sold since 1950 and have successfully taken numerous waterfowl over the years.

Happily, the Fieldmaster is a better shotgun than the Express. Simple improvements on the new model include softer recoil pads, a drilled and tapped receiver, smoother action bar finishes, rust-resistant coatings on metal parts, and swivel studs for a sling. The gun comes with IC, M, and F chokes. It features flare ducks and a dark walnut stock that isn’t too bright in the sun.

what is the best bird hunting shotgun

Notable is also the fact that the Fieldmaster is made in Illion, New York, whereas many inexpensive pump shotguns are produced in Turkey. Don’t mistake this for a fancy shotgun, though. The new Fieldmaster won’t appear or operate like the previous Wingmasters. In our 2023 shotgun test, we examined the Fieldmaster among the top pump shotguns, and Shooting Editor John B. Snow called our sample’s wood checkering “quite dreary.” ” There are noticeable gaps in the wood-to-metal fit. The front ivory bead sits annoyingly high upon the rib.

But most duck hunters won’t care about these quibbles. The fact that the Fieldmaster functions dependably in filthy and muddy conditions—as faced by duck hunters—is what matters most (see our detailed torture test review of the 870 Fieldmaster here). If all you use your duck gun for is as a tool, the 870 Fieldmaster is the best hammer available among reasonably priced pump guns. —A. R.

Key Features

  • Gauge: 12
  • Chamber: 3.5-inch
  • Length: 49.5 inches
  • LOP: 14.4 inches
  • Trigger weight: 7 pounds
  • Overall weight: 9 pounds
  • MSRP: $760

Browning BPS Overview

Browning is one of only a few shotgun makers that is still producing a high-end sporting pump gun (Ithaca being the other). The Browning BPS is a walnut and steel beast—it’s also available in composite and camo-finish models—that’s nearly indestructible. It’s a bottom-eject shotgun, the only pump, along with the Ithaca Model 37, still being built this way. You also load the shotgun through the ejection port, which is slightly easier than the side-gate pumps. The safety is tang-mounted, which makes it appealing to both left- and right-handed shooters.

what is the best bird hunting shotgun

The weight of the 3. The 5-inch BPS (8 to 9 pounds) enables it to absorb recoil exceptionally well; however, if you are a smaller shooter, the 3-inch BPS (3 inches) is a better choice because it is lighter and still manages to absorb recoil quite well. The travel on the pump for the 3. Shooters with shorter arms find it more difficult to operate the gun because the 5-inch model is almost 4 inches long. Being six feet four, I occasionally short-stroke this gun after firing the first round in an attempt to eject it and charge the second shell. Still, Browning doesn’t skimp on quality; the BPS is among the greatest pumps ever made. Therefore, if you’re looking for a long-lasting, well-made pump shotgun, this is it. —J. G.

Key Features

  • Gauge: 12
  • Chamber: 3-inch
  • Length: 47.5 inches
  • LOP: 14 inches
  • Trigger weight: 6.8 pounds
  • Overall weight: 6.5 pounds
  • MSRP: $459

Mossberg 500 Hunting Overview

Almost as iconic as the Remington 870, the Mossberg 500 and the Express were in a tight battle for the best pump shotgun up until the final day of the test. A side-by-side comparison (and a shoot-off at the sporting clays range) gave the 870 the edge. But not by much. Mossberg’s 500, which is available in an almost endless number of configurations—particularly if you buy the Flex series—patterned the best out of the four pumps we tested. Its best pattern put 119 of 140 No. 2 pellets inside a 30-inch circle at 35 yards, an 85 percent pattern percentage. The BPS and 870, were only a few pellets behind, but the 500 did win out.

what is the best bird hunting shotgun

Shotshells can be pumped through the 500 using twin-action bars, just like the majority of contemporary pump guns. It operated flawlessly, with no hanger problems or short strokes on the 500. While it doesn’t shoot quite as well as the 870 or BPS, this gun has a slightly better feel. Compared to most pumps, the fore-end has a little bit more bulk, but that allows you to grasp onto it more and better control the gun. Additionally, a channel for your thumb and forefinger has been created by scooping out each side of the fore-end. Your fingers won’t fit into those carved-out notches if you have larger hands, but it’s not a deal-breaker. The gun’s tang-mounted safety was sluggish and stiff, but an aftermarket safety can be installed for as little as $20 to replace it. —J. G.

Key Features

  • Gauge: 12
  • Chamber: 3.5-inch
  • Length: 49 inches
  • LOP: 13.7 inches
  • Trigger weight: 7.14
  • Overall weight: 7.7 pounds
  • MSRP: $449

Benelli Nova Overview

Benelli’s Nova is an extremely tough gun; it’s stock and receiver are built on a single steel frame with a polymer overmold. I know plenty of duck hunters that have had this gun since it came out in the late 1990s, and it still runs as good as the day they bought it. The Nova’s best pattern was 66 percent, 93 of 140 pellets inside the 30-inch circle at 30 yards through a modified choke. But there were several shots on the pattern board that were high (70 to 80 percent above point-of-aim) and uneven—the Federal No. 2s were spread thin over the target with not much core density.

what is the best bird hunting shotgun

I do love the feel of the Nova. Since it’s a Benelli, it carries light and has the slender foreend that makes swinging these guns so simple. However, the Nova’s front end differs slightly from the SBE3’s. It’s almost a triangle. It makes using the Nova simple and provides you with an excellent grip on the gun. There were no mechanical flaws with the Benelli at all. Furthermore, although this is a solidly constructed firearm, neither I nor the other test team members have ever shot it very well. For me, I think it’s the fit. This is almost a 50-inch-long gun with only a 13. Pull length is 7 inches (shim kit not included). The LOP on this gun is listed by Benelli as 14 3/8 inches, however our tape measured much shorter than that. —J. G.

Best Light Semi-Auto: Benelli Montefeltro

  • 6.63 pounds (12 gauge, 26-inch barrel)
  • Available in 12 and 20 gauge
  • 3-inch chamber
  • Inertia driven
  • Included shim kit
  • Light and handy
  • Comes to the shoulder quickly and naturally
  • The finish will be damaged by heavy use in bad weather.

Sometimes when upland bird hunting, you just need that third shot. Similar to when you are going to triple on a group of quail Alternatively, and perhaps more frequently, after you’ve fired hastily at a slow-moving rooster twice and have now calmed down enough to kill him on your third attempt. For these scenarios, a semi-auto is tough to beat. But in the uplands, most 12-gauge semi-auto shotgun platforms are a little too big and heavy to carry around all day. Nevertheless, the Benelli Montefeltro, which weighs six The lightest semi-auto 12-gauge on our list weighs 63 pounds. With a price of $1,299 it’s a solid value.

what is the best bird hunting shotgun

On the clays range, the Montefeltro was a favorite during our 2023 shotgun test. A 70/30 pattern was printed on the patterning board, which is about ideal for upland hunters shooting birds that are flushing away. This fall, I discovered that the Montefeltro handled easily and rapidly when I was carrying it for wild pheasants. I frequently use Benelli duck guns, and as I swung past a rooster and folded him at around 40 yards, the Montefeltro felt familiar and at ease in my hands. Thankfully, carrying the Montefeltro back to the truck was much more pleasant than carrying any of those heavy duck guns. —A. R.

  • Action: Semi-Auto (Inertia)
  • Gauge: 28
  • Weight: 5.6 pounds
  • Barrel Length: 26 or 28 inches

The best sub-gauge semi-auto I have ever shot is the Benelli SBE3 28-gauge shotgun. Additionally, it is chambered to fire 3-inch shells, which enables payloads comparable to those of a 20-gauge but with a smaller frame and less recoil than a 28-gauge.

There are not many trends that have become as well-known recently as sub-gauge shotguns. Producers have acknowledged this, and Benelli was among the first to respond by introducing their Super Black Eagle 3 28-gauge shotgun. Needless to say, they set the bar high. This gun is designed for hunting chukar and quail in flighty coveys where staggered coveys and multiple shots are guaranteed. Although a 28-gauge has very little recoil, the Comfort Tech stock reduces it even more, especially when taking follow-up shots.

what is the best bird hunting shotgun

Most upland species can be reached out to 50 yards with a well-patterned lead load, and you can knock them out of the air with a good 28-gauge payload. Additionally, the 28-gauge can perform similarly to a 20-gauge without the recoil and extra weight, depending on the load and choke combination. After firing a 28-gauge, you might fall in love. You have been warned.


What gauge shotgun is best for bird hunting?

It’s obvious that the 12-gauge shotgun is the most popular choice, and many consider this the best all-around option for pheasant hunting. Ammunition is readily available and less expensive than for other gauges.

What is the best 12-gauge shell for birds?

In 12 gauge, the Federal Game Load Upland Heavy Field #7.5 is an ideal choice. These shells employ the #7.5 brass-plated lead shot, a size between #7 and #8 with a pellet diameter of approximately 0.095 inches.

How many rounds of shotgun do you need for bird hunting?

A: Wildlife regulations require that shotguns used for the take of game mammals and birds be restricted to a maximum capacity of three shotgun shells. This means that the total capacity of the shotgun, including the magazine and chamber, cannot exceed three shells.