The 6 Best Shotguns for New Hunters

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The 6 Best Shotguns for New Hunters

For new hunters, buying the right shotgun can be a challenge. There are so many platforms to choose from—gas- and inertia-driven semi-autos, pumps, over/unders, side-by-sides, and single-shots. Then, once you decide on a platform, there are an endless number of models.

The reality is, it can take years to find a shotgun that fits your body type and shooting style (unless you have the money to purchase a bespoke shotgun). It’s a lengthy process we all go through as hunters, so don’t get frustrated by it. For beginners, the key is to start with a shotgun that you can shoot well. Some models are simply a better fit for a wider swath of shooters. So, we assembled a list of six shotguns that many new hunters will be able to shoot accurately right out of the box.


Before you buy a shotgun, think about what you are going to use it for. If you’re a waterfowl hunter, semi-autos and pumps are an ideal choice because they are easier to load and unload in a blind and they also give you the option of having a third shot. Upland hunters traditionally shoot side-by-sides or over/unders. If you pursue whitetails and turkeys, a single-shot can be the ideal platform.

The gauge of the shotgun is also important. The largest legal bore diameter is the 10-gauge, followed by the 12, 16, 20, 28, and .410-bore (the equivalent of a 67-gauge). Typically, waterfowl and turkey hunters are the only folks still shooting the 10-gauge. Most hunters opt for the 12 because it’s more versatile. You can hunt just about anything with a 12-gauge; plus, it makes a fine home-defense gun. But shotshell technology—the advancement of bismuth and tungsten— has made the sub-gauges (anything below a 12) much more capable. You just have to set stricter limits on effective shooting distances.

You also need to consider the quality of the shotgun relative to its cost. There are many serviceable shotguns on the market with a price tag below $1,000 (which is what we recommend spending for a first shotgun). But there are also some lemons lurking on gun store shelves. The easiest way to tell if a shotgun is worth the money is by examining its fit and finish. Do the stock, action, and fore-end seamlessly transition into one another? If it’s a break-action shotgun, do the barrels slide with ease into the receiver and provide a tight lock-up? If not, it’s a safe bet you’re holding a clunker that won’t shoot for long… if at all.



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