Of the 150 or so articles I write each year, choosing the top new shotguns is one of my favorite assignments. That’s due in part to how much I love these firearms—I grew up in Ohio where we hunted everything from waterfowl to whitetails with shotguns—but it’s also partly because of the variety of guns you’ll encounter on this list. Some of these guns cost a couple hundred bucks, while one carries a five-figure price tag. A few have fine walnut stocks while others are slathered butt to muzzle in camo. They range from .410-bore to 3½-inch 12-gauges, and they’re designed for an array of shotgun sports, everything from dove hunting to clay competitions.
No matter if you carry a shotgun a couple times a year in search of cottontails and squirrels or you shoot 10,000 shells at the range, this list has a gun for you. Welcome to the fantastically diverse world of shotguns in 2019.
1. Browning Citori White Lightning • What It Is: A revamped version of Browning’s classic stackbarrel.
• Why We Love It: Browning over/unders have been the standard-bearer in the market since the 1930s, and the shotgun world sighed in collective disbelief when the Citori White Lightning was dropped from the line a few years ago. Never fear, though, because the White Lightning is back and better than ever. It still utilizes the proven Citori boxlock action but gets a refreshed and updated engraving pattern and new checkering on the Grade III/IV black walnut stock. The “white” receiver contrasts beautifully with the stock, and the metal is nitride treated for extreme durability. Three extended Invector-Plus chokes and an Inflex 2 recoil pad round out this durable all-purpose over/under shotgun. MSRP: $2,669.99; browning.com.
2. Mossberg 500 Turkey .410 • What It Is: A light-kicking gobbler gun that makes the most of new shotshell technology.
• Why We Love It: Federal’s Heavyweight TSS loads revolutionized turkey hunting, and Mossberg’s new 500 Turkey .410 allows you to take advantage of that new technology. This 6.5-pound pump gun is dipped in Mossy Oak Bottomland camo and it incorporates Mossberg’s never-say-die 500 action. It’s light enough to carry all day long, offers user-friendly features like a tang-mounted safety and a fiber-optic front sight, and it doesn’t cost a lot of money. Nor is it a gun that’s built just for recoil-sensitive shooters: with TSS loads, the Mossberg 500 Turkey .410 is a functional alternative to harsh-recoiling 12-gauge gobbler guns. MSRP: $515; mossberg.com.
3. Franchi Affinity Elite • What It Is: Franchi’s superb semi-auto shotgun with upgraded looks and features.
• Why We Love It: The Affinity is on the short list of best semi-auto shotguns in its price range, and the Elite family of guns offer that same Inertia-Driven reliability with some aesthetic and functional upgrades. The new, oversized bolt handle and release buttons are easy to operate while wearing heavy gloves, and the Cerakote receiver and barrel finish is attractive and tough. The synthetic stock comes with your choice of two modern camo patterns—Optifade Waterfowl Marsh or Optifade Waterfowl Timber. Three extended choke tubes are included (Close-range, Mid-Range and Long-Range), and these guns come with TSA recoil pads and shim kits. The Affinity Elite is available in 12- and 20-gauge (either 3 or 3 ½-inch models) and they’re modestly priced considering their extensive list of features. MSRP: $1,249-$1,419; franchiusa.com.
4. TriStar TT-15 Field • What It Is: A durable, well-appointed over/under at a bargain price.
• Why We Love It: Last year, TriStar’s Viper G2 made this list, in part because the company found a way to create an affordable .410-bore semi-auto that reliably cycled both 2½- and 3-inch loads. This year, it’s the TT-15 Field that is earning the company accolades, and that’s because these over/unders are built to a very high standard considering the price point. For $885 you get a durable stackbarrel with a Turkish walnut stock and laser engraved receiver, chrome-lined barrels, five extended choke tubes, and it even offers ejectors—a feature rarely found on guns in this price range. The TT-15 Field is available in 12-, 20- and 28-gauge as well as .410-bore all of which come with 28-inch barrels. MSRP: $855-$885; tristararms.com.
5. Fabarm XLR5 Composite Hunter • What It Is: A dark horse in the semi-auto shotgun wars, but a gun worthy of praise and consideration.
• Why We Love It: The XLR5 Composite Hunter is a durable gas-operated Italian semi-auto that reduces recoil from heavy loads and is durable enough for just about any hunting or target application. At its heart is Fabarm’s clever Pulse Piston system which eliminates the need for valves. Pressure from light loads cycles the piston efficiently, and when you step up to heavier 3-inch magnums, pressure compresses an elastomer band on the piston that actually acts as a brake, making this one of the lightest-recoiling semi-auto 12-gauges on the market. The XLR5 Composite Hunter also comes with 5 Inner HP chokes, a Tribore HP barrel, and a soft-touch black synthetic stock. MSRP: $1,695; fabarmusa.com.
6. Weatherby 18i • What It Is: Weatherby’s first Italian inertia shotgun.
• Why We Love It: Weatherby is best known for offering fine rifles and blistering-fast magnum cartridges, but the company knows a thing or two about shotguns, too. Weatherby has been selling scatterguns for almost 60 years, and the new 18i is poised to be a serious competitor in the inertia gun market. The base 18i Synthetic version comes with a 3½-inch chamber, five chokes, an elastomer stock insert, LPA front sight and the reliability of an inertia-operated action for an MSRP that’s just over$1,000. There are two Waterfowler models with camo synthetic stocks (Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Blades and Realtree Max-5), and an 18i Deluxe model that offers a matte finish walnut stock and a silver LaserTech engraved aluminum receiver. Regardless of which model you select, you’re getting a solid gun that’s competitively priced. MSRP: $1,099-$1,899; weatherby.com.
7. Stevens 320 Field Grade • What It Is: A reliable scattergun for those who don’t want to spend a lot of cash.
• Why We Love It: You don’t have to spend a lot of money to own a workaday shotgun, and the Stevens 320 Field Grade proves that. It’s devoid of all but the most basic features—a single modified choke, a synthetic stock (black or Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Blades camo), bead front sight, tube magazine and a crossbolt safety. But if you’re looking for a really inexpensive gun that gets the job done, this is it. It offers dual action bars for smoother cycling and a newly-redesigned stock that’s comfortable to grip. And while the 320 Field Grade won’t impress the haughty elitists at the shooting range, it will break clays and drop birds just the same guns costing much more. MSRP: $239-$274; savagearms.com.
8. CZ-USA CZ 1012 • What It Is: A modestly-priced, well-appointed inertia shotgun.
• Why We Love It: CZ-USA is also stepping into the inertia shotgun market, and the CZ 1012 is an admirable place to start. The company put these guns through an extensive 5,000 round torture test without cleaning or lubricating, and the 1012 ran without a malfunction or any parts breakage, which is an impressive feat. There are three wood-stocked models available (with black, gray or bronze receivers) and there’s also a synthetic version with your choice of a black or camo stock. All 1012 shotguns come with 5 chokes, 3-inch chambers and easy-to-operate controls. The 1012 that I tested ran flawlessly with target loads and 3-inch magnums, and it was very well-balanced. This 6.5-pound gun is suitable for just about any hunting application. MSRP: $659; cz-usa.com.
9. Caesar Guerini Revenant • What It Is: A masterpiece in steel and walnut.
• Why We Love It: What’s not to love? The Revenant is a stunning showpiece, the pinnacle of gunmaking art. It features a round-body action with radiused sideplates that fit seamlessly with the hand-oiled walnut stock. The engraving pattern was designed by the famed Italian engraver Dario Cortini, and the wood is the same quality you’ll find on the world’s most expensive rifles and shotguns. But at its heart, this gun is all Guerini, and even though it looks as though it belongs in a climate-controlled museum display case with an alarm system, the Revenant is durable enough to endure years and years of hard use. Is it beyond the price range of most shooters? Yes, of course, but it’s impossible not to appreciate this shotgun’s stunning beauty and unmatched build quality. Who knows, perhaps someday you’re lottery numbers will finally line up. MSRP: $12,995; gueriniusa.com.
10. Benelli 828U Sport • What It Is: An 828U for the serious competitive shooter.
•Why We Love It: Benelli didn’t just piece together the 828U in an effort to lay claim to a portion of the over/under market. These guns are innovative and provide performance that’s on-par with more expensive models, and dedicated competition shooters are embracing the new 828U Sport. The key feature on this gun is Benelli’s Steel Locking System design that directs pressure away from the receiver and hinge pins, greatly reducing wear—even the most ardent sport shooters aren’t going to be able to grind this gun to mechanical halt. The 40-position adjustable stock can be customized for a perfect fit, and the Progressive Comfort recoil reduction system greatly reduces shooter fatigue—a real advantage when you’re shooting high-stakes 100-round tournaments. In addition, the Progressive Balancing system allows you to adjust the gun’s center of balance fore and aft as desired. The 828U Sport isn’t inexpensive, but it competes with elite competition guns from companies like Krieghoff and Perazzi at a much lower price point. MSRP: $4,399; benelliusa.com.