What Is the Best Semi-Auto Shotgun of 2021?

A pump-action shotgun next to a semi-auto one.

Fond of two-handed sluggers that leave your targets looking like they’ve been pelted by demonic hail? Enjoy the sight and smell of a hot, smoking barrel? Want to express your inner Terminator by liberally showering your favorite firing range in a slew of bullets? Then, it’s time to find out which is the best semi-auto shotgun on the market this year.

You’ve come to the right place. We’ve put together a comprehensive list of the best semi-auto shotguns you can get your hands on this side of the Pacific. If the kickback of a tremendously powerful scattergun is the stuff of your dreams, then buckle up for a wild ride. You’ve found your own personal bible.

How Does a Semi-Auto Shotgun Work?

Imagine, if you will, a rifle. It has one long barrel, a trigger, and a loading mechanism that prepares the next bullet for firing. A shotgun is relatively similar, also featuring a long barrel, a trigger, and a loading mechanism.

The main difference between a rifle and a shotgun is that they’re both designed for two different scenarios. A rifle is intended to be used at long ranges on stationary targets, while a shotgun is meant to deal devastating close-range damage to a moving target.

The most common type of shotguns is pump-action shotguns. They have an iconic forend (fore-end) that you slide back in order to kick in the spring-loaded mechanism that ejects a spent cartridge and replaces it with a fresh one.

Shotguns are a blast, but the main downside to using one is that their ammo capacity isn’t as high as other weapons. Having to slide back the forend after each shot can also get tedious, which is why military professionals often upgrade to a semi-automatic shotgun.

Semi-automatic shotguns are able to load ammo cartridges by themselves, removing the need to manually slide back the forend. They don’t even have a forend! This is a blessing for people who frequently find themselves in highly stressful and dangerous situations.

Another reason why a semi-automatic shotgun is better than a pump-action one in terms of combat viability is that you can botch reloading a traditional shotgun by not sliding back the forend powerfully enough. If you use the shotgun for more than just recreation, then a mistake like that could spell your end.

Are Semi-Auto Shotguns Any Good?

Yes, they are. The pump-action shotgun used to be considered as being traditional, although as of recent years the world has slowly taken to semi-auto shotguns instead. They are much easier to use when compared to a pump-action on account of their versatility and automatic ammo cycling.

A novice shotgunner will find it difficult to keep manually reloading the weapon, cocking back the forend, and sliding in rounds after every couple of shots. Most excited shooters new to the hobby or profession and that have the necessary capital generally tend to purchase a semi-auto as their first shotgun.

Semi-auto shotguns are especially great for competitions, as you can focus on shooting and less on reloading. They’re also extraordinary when considering genuine combat situations, as reloading in the middle of a fight can be a seriously nerve-wracking experience.

Another primary advantage a semi-auto shotty has over a pump-action one is that its recoil is significantly lower. Pump-action shotguns can be difficult to get used to for novice shooters, often bringing about bruised shoulders, which is another reason why the inexperienced aim for automatization.

The rate of fire of a semi-automatic when compared to a pump-action shotgun is much, much higher, being able to completely devastate a target at close range within a matter of seconds. This is very advantageous during tactical life-or-death scenarios.

The cherry on top? A semi-auto can be fired with one hand. We don’t recommend doing this, but if you want to really channel your inner Terminator and feel like an unmatched badass, then in theory, this is something you can do. Don’t expect it to be easy, however, as it requires a lot of training and practice.

Five of the Best Semi-Auto Shotguns of 2021

The shotguns outlined in this article have been ordered by price, ranging from lowest to highest. They’re all made by manufacturers that have a proven track record of producing solid weapons and would be a great addition to a gun aficionado’s collection. This list is not expansive and additional research would be recommended if you’re planning to buy any of the models presented.

Stoeger M3500

KEY FEATURES:

The first shotgun we’d like to inspect is a very affordable semi-automatic hunting weapon designed for catching waterfowl, wild turkey, or upland game birds. While most autoloaders tend to be expensive, the Stoeger M3500 is thoroughly solid without going too crazy with the pricing.

The Stoeger M3500 12 gauge weighs about 7.8 lbs depending on the model and has a capacity of 5+1. Being inertia-powered means that it tends to have a stronger recoil than most gas-operated semi-autos, although this is necessary in order to ensure the weapon works in all weather conditions without cleaning or maintenance.

PROS:

  • Classic design. Not difficult to get used to especially if experienced.
  • Extremely reliable. Does not require intensive upkeep at all.
  • Versatile. Can flawlessly use and cycle most manner of ammo.
  • Cheap. Very solid and affordable. Good for home defense.

CONS:

  • Magazine capacity. 5+1 rounds are not fit for combat scenarios.
  • High recoil. Will leave you feeling battered after prolonged use.
  • Loading gate. Might eventually hurt your thumb. Badly designed.

PRICE: $749.99

Mossberg 930 SPX Tactical

KEY FEATURES:

Mossberg has been a big name in shotgun manufacturing ever since the famous Mossberg 500. This heavily improved version of the classic Mossberg design is a 12-gauge semi-auto shotgun weighing about 7.5 pounds and is known for its reliability and ease of use.

The Mossberg 930 Tactical features an ammo capacity of 7+1 and weighs about 7.5 pounds. Being a gas-powered weapon means you will have to keep the shotgun clean and well-maintained for uninterrupted efficiency. A ghost ring sight and an optics rail make it highly customizable.

PROS:

  • Simplistic design. Easy to use and master.
  • Highly reliable. Will rarely jam if kept maintained, if ever.
  • Low recoil. Does not bruise your shoulder after prolonged use.
  • Quick loading. Reloading the weapon is effortless.
  • Cheap. Very solid and affordable. Good for home defense.

CONS:

  • Magazine capacity. 7+1 rounds are not great for combat scenarios.
  • Long break-in. Can take a while to come into its own.
  • Tiny charging handle. Does not work well with big hands.

PRICE: $749.99

Kalashnikov KS-12T

Who knew that Kalashnikov produces more than just assault rifles? Finding this weapon in the US used to be difficult, though this has since changed. The KS-12T is a 12 gauge semi-auto shotgun that follows the classic Kalashnikov weapon design and weighs about 8.8 pounds.

The prodigy child of the USA branch of the Kalashnikov company, the KS-12T is a very solid shotgun with a decently large capacity of 10+1 rounds that will keep you in the thick of it even after prolonged use. Features a highly customizable Picatinny rail and many options for changing the stock.

PROS:

  • Very customizable. Accepts most modern accessories.
  • Highly reliable. Will rarely jam if kept maintained, if ever.
  • High-capacity magazine. Can hold up to 10+1 rounds.
  • Picatinny rail. Full-length and compatible with most sights.
  • Low recoil. Packs a punch but not as much as a pump-action.

CONS:

  • Ammo picky. 3-inch shells are known to damage the magazine.
  • Long reload. Much slower than other modern tactical semi-auto options.
  • Birdshot. Cannot be used with lighter or smaller loads without difficulty.

PRICE: $1,099.99

Beretta 1301 Tactical

The Beretta company is known for manufacturing top-of-the-line handguns, although their shotguns are just as reliable and high-quality. The gas-operated 12 gauge Beretta 1301 Tactical is the perfect choice for home defense or law enforcement agencies looking for a decisive showstopper.

The shotgun is sleek and lightweight, weighing a lithe 6.3 lbs, which is a far cry from other heavier models. It is able to carry 4+1 rounds and is quite affordable if you’re looking for a solid combat weapon that does not go overboard with pricing. John Tamborino, a product manager at Beretta, claims you can fire up to four rounds in one second.

PROS:

  • Precise. Has a high degree of accuracy. Favored by dedicated marksmen.
  • Highly reliable. Will rarely jam if kept maintained, if ever.
  • Lightweight. Very easy to hold and use.
  • Picatinny rail. Full-length and compatible with most sights.
  • Quick loading. Reloading the weapon is effortless.

CONS:

  • Magazine capacity. 4+1 rounds is very lacking compared to other models.
  • Recoil. Roughly the same kickback as a pump-action shotgun.
  • Shell release. Can jam the gun if not used with care.

PRICE: $1,159.99

Tavor TS-12

KEY FEATURES:

What a gun! The Tavor TS-12 from Israel Weapon Industries is a futuristic 12-gauge bullpup shotgun that looks like it belongs to a movie villain or a ruthless corporate enforcer. It is huge in size and features a rotating three-tube magazine that carries up to 15+1 rounds.

This weapon of the future weighs about 8 pounds when unloaded and appears bulky and unwieldy, although IWI has gone to great lengths to ensure maximum comfort during high-stress, high-intensity situations. Using the Tavor TS-12 is surprisingly easy.

PROS:

  • Bullpup design. Almost half the size of a traditional shotgun.
  • High-capacity rotating magazine. Can hold up to 15+1 rounds.
  • Picatinny rail. Full-length and compatible with most sights.
  • Low recoil. Packs a punch but not as much as a pump-action.

CONS:

  • Clunky bolt release. Requires a lot of force to draw back.
  • Can malfunction. Loading and ejection failures happen.
  • Ammo picky. Does not work with all 12 gauge types.

PRICE: $1,399.00

Benelli M4

KEY FEATURES:

The close-range weapon of choice of the US Marine Corps. Made popular by action movies such as John Wick 2, the Benelli M4 is the juggernaut of the shotgun industry, being favored by military professionals from across the globe.

This high-quality gas-operated 12-gauge shotgun is primarily appreciated for its ruggedness and durability, able to withstand long periods of prolonged use. Going back to an average shotgun after using a Benelli M4 is going to be difficult. Weighs about 8 pounds and feels lightweight when carrying or shooting.

PROS:

  • Comfortable design. Has a large pistol grip.
  • Good trigger. Perfect weapon ergonomics.
  • Highly reliable. Will rarely jam if kept maintained, if ever.
  • Picatinny rail. Full-length and compatible with most sights.
  • Low recoil. Does not bruise your shoulder after prolonged use.
  • Quick loading. Reloading the weapon is effortless.

CONS:

  • Magazine capacity. 5+1 rounds are very little for a tactical shotgun.
  • Very expensive. Pricy for home defense but worth every penny.
  • Tiny charging handle. Can be hard to pull back.

PRICE: $1,999.99

Importance of Maintenance

The most important factor you have to consider when deciding to purchase a semi-auto shotgun is your willingness and ability to keep it well-maintained. A badly-kept semi-auto is very likely to malfunction, whether through jamming or even having the stock fly off during use.

Gas-operated autoloaders are less likely to malfunction due to their design. While the time when your semi-auto shotgun could botch due to not being properly maintained is long gone, the fact remains that all autoloaders need a degree of upkeep to function at max potential.

If you’re aiming for an inertia-based shotgun, then odds are you won’t need to clean it as often as otherwise. We highly recommend you do your own research on whether or not you’d prefer a gas-operated weapon or one that is based on inertia, however, as they tend to function differently.

Cleaning your scattergun is usually done so with a weapon maintenance kit. You can find one at every gun store in the US or order one online. The loadout of weapon maintenance kits depends on the type of weapon used and is rarely interchangeable.

A Blast to Use

The feeling of power a semi-automatic shotgun can bring is hard to describe. There are few things more satisfying after a hard and stressful day at work than by completely tearing apart a cardboard silhouette with bass-laden shotgun shells that scream when fired.

With great power comes great responsibility, however, and so we’d like to remind you that you should take it upon yourself to ensure your weapon is well-maintained and in good hands. There’s no reason to put yourself in a tragic scenario if it can be avoided.

The best semi-automatic shotgun of 2021 is the one you like the most. Use it wisely, use it safely, and use it with glee. Have fun!

The Out sider

See Also


Related Reads

Recent Posts