Despite my typical focus on tactical shooting here on the Lounge, I‘ve actually got a very special place on my heart for shotgunning. I’ve always loved shotgun sports, and if I could shoot just one type of gun for the rest of my life, it would be a shotgun. There’s really nothing like the thrill of tracking that fast-moving target knowing you’ve got just a second or two to hit it. The rush that comes with firing and seeing that target break is absolutely euphoric, and one of the best things about shotgun sports is that it offers one of the most level playing fields of any shooting sport.

Over-Under Shotguns
O/U shotguns like this excellent Browning 725 Sporting are ideal for busting clays, but the $2,700 price tag is just not affordable for many shooters

While high-end shotguns are some of the most extravagant and expensive guns made, it certainly doesn’t mean you need to shell out several thousand dollars to be able to succeed on a skeet or trap field. Unlike rifles and pistols where more money means objectively better accuracy or clearer and more precise optics, shotguns are limited by the somewhat primitive nature of their ammunition. Pushing a bunch of tiny pellets through a smooth tube just isn’t that complicated, and because of that there are great shotguns that can fit nearly any budget. If you’ve never shot clays with a shotgun, you really owe it to yourself to try it. To that end, here are some great low-cost guns to get you started breaking clays.

Pump-Action Shotguns

For many, the pump-action is the quintessential shotgun, and for good reason too. Pump actions have gained a legendary reputation for durability and reliability. They’re able to cycle everything from the lightest target loads all the way to the heaviest shoulder-breaking magnum shells that the chamber can accommodate. An added bonus is that this durability and versatility is pretty cheap, with many options available for less than $300.

While all of that is certainly nice to have, pump-actions generally lag behind as target guns due to their light weight and somewhat poor balance, which can cause fatigue over time. The manual action also poses its own set of problems whenever two targets are thrown simultaneously as in skeet or sporting clays. Still, as long as you can be quick and consistent with cycling the action, these pump-guns will break clays as hard as any other.

Remington 870

Remington 870

The Remington 870 is the king of the pump-action shotguns. With an outstanding track record for reliability and quality, it is one of the best and most widely-used shotguns of all time. They can be found new for under $300 at big-box retailers, and you can easily spot used models in gun shops and pawn shops all over the United States. Buyer beware however, as recent factory guns have a reputation for rough chambers causing shells to resist extraction.

Mossberg 500

Mossberg 500

If the Remington 870 is king, then the Mossberg 500 is the queen of the pump-shotgun world. Mossberg 500’s can be found just about anywhere a Remington 870 can. While just as rugged and simple as the 870, the Mossberg 500 typically does not have quite as nice fit and finish as its Remington counterpart but many shooters (myself included) find the controls to be a little better. Field models typically retail for less than $300 and bare-bones models can be found for under $200 branded as the Maverick 88.

Winchester SXP

Winchester SXP

The SXP doesn’t have quite the reputation of the other two pumps on our list, but Winchester is hardly new to the world of quality pump-action shotguns. Designed with an inertia-assisted action, the SXP should provide all the speed you need to get break those double targets with time to spare. SXP models can be found starting at $300. Because this design is much newer than the other two, the SXP doesn’t have the aftermarket support enjoyed by the Remington or Mossberg.

Semi-Auto Shotguns

semi-auto shotguns
Semiautomatic shotguns offer a great balance between build quality and price.

One step up from pump actions in the world of clay target shooting is the semi-auto. While the layout and overall form is usually similar to a pump-action, the semi-auto removes the need to manually cycle the action to extract a spent shell and load a new one. This allows the shooter to focus more on the target instead of operating the gun. An added bonus is a reduction of recoil due to the moving parts distributing energy over a longer period of time instead of all at once.

The downside to autoloaders is that they’re typically a little more expensive than pumps, and the ejected shells can be a nuisance to other shooters as well as a pain to pick up afterwards. While usually not as reliable as pump-actions, quality semi-autos should typically be able to endure hundreds of rounds between cleanings and not present issues under most operating conditions. In my experience semi-autos offer the best balance of build quality and price.

Stoeger M3000

Stoeger M3000Starting right around $500 you wouldn’t think the Stoeger M3000 had much to offer. Despite its rather conventional appearance and humble pricing, the Stoeger M3000 has been making waves as a surprising value in the semi-auto shotgun market, particularly among 3-gun shooters and waterfowl hunters. It uses the same inertia-driven action as the high-end Benelli guns, which is famous for being not only extremely reliable, but extremely clean as well. The only caveat here is that recoil will be stiffer than gas-operated shotguns and you may need heavier loads for consistent cycling.

Remington 1100

Remington 1100Just as the model 870 set the standard for pump-shotguns, the model 1100 did so for semiautomatics. The Remington 1100 has been around for over 50 years, and if that isn’t a testament to quality then I don’t know what is. While brand new models will come in at north of $1,000 there are tons of perfectly functional used models available at nearly every establishment that sells used firearms. The typical price range for used 1100’s is $400-$600 and it’s even possible to locate specialty models suited to particular sports like skeet or trap.

Beretta A300

Beretta A300It’s not uncommon for me to see semiautomatic shotguns at collegiate shooting competitions, but it is uncommon for me to see one that isn’t a Beretta.

Beretta is the oldest gun maker on the planet and they dominate the shotgun market for good reason. Their shotguns are elegant, well-made, and reliable. The A300 is Beretta’s basic auto but it doesn’t skimp on fit and finish or reliability. The A300 Outlander is the evolution of the wildly popular model 391 and uses a self-compensating valve system to ensure reliability with a wide range of loads. The A300 costs more than the other auto’s listed, typically about $650 new, but the quality more than justifies the price tag.

Over/Under Shotguns

Over/Under double-barrels are the premier type of target shotguns today. They are the gun of choice among the world’s top competitors and thousands upon thousands of others. Nothing swings as smoothly as an O/U shotgun, and that’s crucial when the difference between victory and defeat is one target out of 500.

Unfortunately, O/U shotguns vary considerably in quality and features offered, and budget guns won’t begin to approach the glory of the high-end guns with five-figure price tags. Still, even the entry-level O/U shotgun has some appealing advantages like the ability to use two different chokes for target pairs at varied distances. Cleanup is easy too, since spent shells can be plucked straight from the chambers without having to bend down and pick them up afterwards. While most seasoned shooters will frown on the idea of using a sub-$2,000 over/under for high-volume shooting, they can be great for an occasional day on the range or as a starter gun to learn and grow with.

Yildiz SPZ ME/12

Yildiz SPZ ME/12The Yildiz line of shotguns are imported from Turkey along with many other shotguns including CZ models and some Stoeger guns. Unfortunately, these great budget O/U’s are only available from a very limited number of retailers in the United States. The Yildiz guns exhibit a level of fit and finish that is characteristic of guns well above their price range, which starts at about $500. Having seen many of these in action, my only gripe about them would be their light weight. While they’re a joy to carry, extended range sessions may become bothersome to recoil-sensitive shooters.

Mossberg Silver Reserve II

Mossberg Silver Reserve IIMossberg’s Silver Reserve guns are another Turkish import that caters to budget-conscious shooters. These guns start at about $500 and can be had in various gauges and barrel lengths. They even offer a special sporting model with high-end features like extended chokes and an adjustable stock. The Silver Reserve II is certainly one of the better looking guns found in this price range and the 7.5 pound weight ensures that recoil won’t become a major issue.

Stoeger Condor

Stoeger CondorThe Stoeger Condor is probably the most widely available of the three budget O/U shotguns, and is imported from Brazil. Retailing around $400 the Condor certainly fits into budget shotgun territory but the aesthetics do leave a bit to be desired. The plain black receiver and boring dark walnut stocks won’t turn heads on the range, but the sturdy pin-locking action should last for years under moderate use. With 12 gauge models weighing in at more than 7 pounds they won’t beat you up should you decide to shoot a hundred or more shells at one time.

Parting Shots

This list is certainly not exhaustive and there may be many more quality guns that fit the bill for an up and coming clays shooter, but the models listed here are some of the most widely available scatterguns around and I’ve managed to get my hands on just about all of them throughout my ten years of clay shooting. While pumps are sturdy workhorses and O/U’s have that classic old-world styling I’ve found that semi-autos offer far and away the most value per dollar when it comes to shotgun sports. Still, the most important consideration to remember is how a shotgun feels to you, no matter what type it may be. Be sure to lets us know that you’re busting clays with in the comments!

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  • louiis

    I got a Remington 870. After the second round couldn’t extract the shell it was so bad I had to field strip the shotgun. Called Remington took it in for service they polished the chamber went back out after five rounds same issue. Sent the gun to the factory the charged me 40 bucks now only every 10 rounds or so it jams but if I let it cool off I can extract the shell. It’s a piece of junk I’m soured on Remington

    • LG Kyle

      I don’t blame you, I’ve seen similar issues myself. Remington fell under new management some years ago and they seem to have cut some quality control measures in order to save on costs. Vote with your wallet and hopefully things will improve, but there are plenty of used 870’s around and of course not all current factory guns have this issue.

    • Max

      I have heard a lot about the problems the new remington 870’s have. Luckily I inherited a mint one from my grandpa he bought new in 1968 and it’s not only beautiful but pumps amazingly! I’d sell your new one and look for an older example. You won’t be sorry

    • Larrya444

      Same thing happened to me this weekend with my 870. Newer gun, first time shooting trap, and I endured several FTE. Out of 75 shots, there were about 5 FTE’s. When the chamber finally cooled down, I could rack the forend and the spent shell came out.

  • Mike N.

    Yildiz is Academy’s house brand but I think the guns are also sold elsewhere under different names.

  • Jim

    I am recently intrigued to get into skeet/trap shooting.What about the mid tier $1-1.5k mark offering in the market say Winchester 101? Does it offer some operation or design advantage compare to the entry level O/U aesthetically aside? Thanks for sharing.

    • Donna Spencer

      One of my dad’s favorite trap guns was a 101. He won a lot shooting it. (Utah Trapshooting Hall of Fame) I have it now. The felt recoil for me (major neck issues) is less than my Perazzi. Don’t get me wrong I do love my Perazzi but am enjoying my dad’s 101. I may start using the 101 for singles and caps and use the Perazzi for doubles. I can’t answer your question re: design but when I started I shot a semi auto then moved to a BT99. (Actually the first was a pump. I would not recommend especially for a beginning female shooter. It beat me up bad) I prefer the Winchester 101 over those. It has less recoil for me which translates to keeping me in and on my gun for better scores. I’m not an expert by any means just my observations

    • LG Kyle

      I actually think the Winchester 101 is one of the sleeper values in the O/U market today. I personally shoot a Winchester 101 derivative called the FN SC1 in competitions and it has been really nice. At your budget you may also want to look at used Berettas and Browning Citori’s. Browning also just lowered the price on their Cynergy line so that may be worth looking into as well if you like the looks of them. The main benefit of buying a more expensive O/U shotgun is durability. They’ll go much much longer before you see any sort of parts breakage or need skilled maintenance, typically 10’s of thousands of rounds, which is why they’re preferred by competitors and serious clay enthusiasts.

      • Kenneth Williams

        I am the proud owner of the FN 101 I sold my 682 Beretta . I could have bought any brand but if you put the 101 Winchester next to all the high cost O/U it’s a no brainier its 500 dollars less , I heard its to lite and it is . I pulled the but plate and added lead to the stock . I shoot all shotgun sports it will shoot trap well but if you want to go to pro you will need a dedicated trap gun . So if you are looking to buy a shotgun and still want make your house payment . The FN 101 Winchester competition is the shotgun for you . New price $ 1500 at Bass Pro . I got lucky and found a used 101 at Gene Sears in Elreno Ok.

  • Kyle

    I have a camo Stoeger M3000 and it is an awesome gun for the price. For someone that isn’t a hardcore shotgun shooter and just uses it to take duck, clays and dove (dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge) a few times a year, you can’t beat it. I compare it to a Toyota and Lexus or VW and Audi….for what it is and what you pay, there isn’t anything that beats it. Yes you can pay $1,500+ for a Benelli but unless you’re a hardcore shooter or someone who has money to burn, go with the Stoeger.

    Took it clay hunting first and used target loads, including some 20 year old shells (wish I had pictures, thick shells and faded red) and every round went off, every round fired and every round cycled. I went to inspect it after the range time and found a styrofoam block behind the hammer (my fault, should have found it before shooting) but it didn’t fail once…my friend was using an old 1100 and it wouldn’t cycle the low power, 20 year old bird shot (not the gun’s fault).

    You won’t be disappointed, found it at gander mountain for $500 shipped.

    • Charles

      I’ve had the same success with my M3500. Your comparison to luxury sister-brand cars is on point! My roommate in college had Benelli which made comparing the two easy. The Stoeger is heavier than a Benelli (steel vs alloy receiver), machining on the internals isn’t as pretty, and theres less polished surfaces. But the engineering, trigger pull and handling are the same. And M3000 is some 1/2lb lighter than my M3500 which is, admittedly, a heavy monster.

      These things are stupid reliable. I’ll clean mine sometime after 1,500 rounds and its never skipped a beat once.

      The Mossberg 930 JM Pro probably deserves a shoutout here as well even though its intended for 3 Gun. My dad’s was sub $600 but has factory custom touches that make it a hell of a deal.

  • Chris

    I have a Winchester SXP and love it. I highly recommend it for a first shotgun purchase. I got the camp/field combo with a 28″ vent rib and 18.5″ cylinder bore barrel, also came with IC, modified, and full choke tubes for under $400. Quite a deal for getting a home defense gun and a sporting gun. The inertia assist action takes a little getting used to but once you do, man is it fast. Basically, slight pressure towards you from your support hand and it’s as if the spent shell ejects automatically after you fire, then just pushing forward to chamber another round. No speed issues on double thrown clays. Barrel change can be done in 30 seconds, easy. The stock shape is a little different from the Mossberg and Remington and I actually like the way it shoulders/fits me better. It also seems to handle recoil slightly differently as well, more straight back into your shoulder and not as much muzzle rise for what it’s worth.

    Compared to the Mossbergs and Remingtons of similar price in the store, the SXP actually felt constructed a little better, not as much slop and rattle in the forearm. I have easily over 1500 rounds through mine so far, birdshot, buckshot, and slugs, and no hiccups other than a couple that were my fault getting used to the inertia assist. I like the placement of the controls, safety is a crossbolt in front of the trigger like on a 10/22, much more natural to me than the Remington safety, and the forearm release is behind the trigger guard, both are easy to hit without shifting my shooting grip which is nice.

    The main drawback is the capacity of 5+1, with no ideal aftermarket mod for more, more of an issue if used for defense than sporting, but bears mentioning. Also the lack of aftermarket accessories but I put on a sling and a cheap elastic ammo butt cuff with a hole cut for the sling attachment and it works just fine, doesn’t slip down at all. For sporting purposes, you really wouldn’t need much else. Defensive purposes would be nice to have a place to mount a light.

    It’s a great gun for the price, especially if you’re looking for an entry level shotgun for sport that can also double as a home defense gun. I recommend taking a look at one if you are in the market for a pump gun. I would also recommend the Trius one-step trap for practice shooting clays, very handy for going out and shooting without needing another person to throw for you.

  • Jack Fisher

    Except for very casual shooting, none of these guns are suitable for an entry level trap gun. A trap gun should have a parallel comb (and ideally have enough wood to be made adjustable if its not already so), a barrel longer than 28 inches, and be heavier than these field guns. A shooter might have to pull the trigger 200 times to 600 times or more in a match, depending on the events, and an 870 or any gun in that general class coming in around 7 lbs is going to be very unpleasant to shoot after the 50th shot.

    Also, the gun can’t be a flat shooter and has to able to be set up to shoot high, sometimes up to 90/10 over the point of aim, because the birds are always taken when they’re rising.

    While some of the guns listed come in trap models, the best entry level trap gun is probably Browning BT 99 (a single barrel) for singles and handicap (distance). These guns weigh up to 8.5 lbs and have up to 34 inch barrels. You could shoot a pump for doubles, but don’t. Check out the Beretta or Browning competition doubles. Anyone in the market has got to try out as many different models and makes as possible before buying.

  • Dan C

    That pic of NRA Whittington Center makes me homesick…my home was literally on the other side of Red River peak.

  • Max

    I have a mossberg international silver reserve 2 in the 12 gauge field model 28″ barrel and I’m using Carlson’s sporting clay ported choke tubes in the skt .720 variety and it’s absolutely awesome! Shot all day on Jan 2nd and only missed 4 clays the whole day. I highly recommend this shotgun to anybody new or veteran of the sport.

    • Ryan

      I’m looking at the Mossberg SR 2 but I’ve heard many people bash on it. No one has said any specifics as to why it is bad, but no one else seems to like it and I’m wondering why.

  • BearNeckSexTities

    Just picked up the Winchester SXP its a great entry level pump for clays. look forward to putting many more rounds down range

  • Brad Watt

    What barrel length do you recommend for an all around O/U that will be used for sporting clays, skeet, and trap?

    • Tyler Nichols

      26in the 28in is tempting but it may not be as good for swinging or overall weight of the gun while the 26in is