I grew up in a place where deer hunting—and most hunting for that matter—was limited to the use of shotguns, where the old scattergun was a staple and most hunters owned and used only one for virtually all of their hunting needs. Shotguns were tools that got beat around and used hard. They had to be durable, perform well and for the majority of us, they had to be affordable. Somewhere along the line, shotguns became like cars and trucks, with more high-performance features that, while certainly making for awesome results, also ran up the cost.
Not all of us need or want a King Ranch package F-350, when a good ole basic F-150 will get us where we need to go. Brand new, these shotguns will run you less than $500. Best of all, when the moment of truth arrives and the ducks, deer, turkeys or whatever slip into range, they’ll deliver the same results as a gun three times the cost.
Mossberg Model 500
Mossberg defines affordability with its shotguns and delivers workhorse performance for the budget-conscious sportsman. While looking to shave costs off of most shotguns, a buyer will often have to forego the camo (licensing costs for camo patterns typically run the price of a gun up between $40 and $70).
But not with Mossberg. Even in Mossy Oak New Break-Up or Advantage Max-4, the Model 500 cruises in just above the $400 mark. Capable of handling 3-inch shells, these pump-guns also boast ported barrels, synthetic stocks, an ambidextrous safety and six shot (5 + 1) capacity. The Model 500 is available in nearly 40 different configurations, running the gamut from as low as $375 up to $521. ($435)
The Stoeger Model 2000
Want Benelli performance for less? Look no further than Stoeger, which doesn’t force the buyer to choose a pump-action just to keep the price in the $500 ballpark. In fact, Stoeger’s matte black Model 2000 semi-auto cruises in just under that mark. The 2000 employs the high-performing, yet simplistic Inertia Driven operating system perfected by sister company Benelli, which allows a slimmer fore-end for optimal grip and balance.
Because gases don’t power the action, it tends to stay cleaner for those who cycle a lot of rounds. The gun accommodates loads up to 3 inches. I’ve had friends who have bought these guns, and I’ve used them myself, and for what they spent on their Stoegers, these guys are all smiles, particularly when posing in pictures with their game. ($499)
Remington Model 870
With more than 10 million sold since its introduction nearly a half century ago, the Remington Model 870 is arguably the best selling shotgun in history. And for good reason. It works and shoots with unfailing dependability, yet it is still priced right. The 870 Express in a classic satin and walnut finish utilizes twin action bars for smooth cycling and is available in both 12 and 20 gauges.
Barrel options include either a 26- or 28-inch vent rib barrel with a Modified Rem Choke and single bead sight. While the suggested retail price for this shotgun comes in at just over $400, stroll through a Wal-Mart or other retailer during sale time and you can find this top-performer well into the low $300 range. I’ve even seen synthetic models for under that amount. Other 870 variations, including models tailored for turkeys, waterfowl and even slugsters for deer, all cruise below the $500 radar. ($411)
Benelli Nova Pump
Who says you can’t get genuine Benelli quality as well as the name at a cost that doesn’t range into four figures? The Benelli Nova in matte black boasts the same lightweight, slender styling of the company’s high-dollar, highly sought semi-auto offerings by incorporating a polymer stock and light receiver into a single unit.
Dual-action bars and rotary head locking lugs ensure reliable performance with load capability running the gamut from light target shot shells to 3 ½-inch magnum shoulder breakers. Twenty-gauge models tip the scales at a mere 6 ½ pounds, while 12 gauges weigh in at a pound and a half more. The shotgun comes with three chokes: improved cylinder, modified and full. ($439)
H&R Tracker II Slug Gun
Not every shotgun hunter is looking to spray and pray. For those deer hunting diehards that know the first shot is truly the one that counts, Harrington & Richardson is known for its single-shot tack drivers. The Tracker II, like all H&Rs, is built stout with a strong break-action lock-up and heavy barrel with Utragon Rifling that is created using six oval lands and grooves minus the sharp corners common to traditional rifling.
The end result is accuracy out to the farthest performance limits of modern slug loads. The Tracker II comes with a hardwood stock in walnut finish, adjustable rifle sights and prefixed sling swivel studs. It is without peer in the affordability department. ($223)