Times are changing my friend, and your grandpa’s shotgun just got a whole lot cooler. The truth is, not too long ago the shotgun world had very limited options. But today, the options and add-ons are almost endless, with the semi-automatic shotgun becoming one of the best home defense solutions on the market.
With all of the added options out there for you to choose from, the selection process can be confusing. One thing you have narrowed down (if you’re reading this article) is that you most likely want a semi-automatic shotgun instead of the pump action. And, thanks to high demand, the number of semi-auto shotguns offered by manufacturers has increased, which gives you a better chance at finding exactly what you want without wasting time or money.
Some things you want to consider before jumping the gun in the purchasing department would be when and where you want to use the semi-automatic shotgun, the power you want/need it to have, and how much you’re wanting to spend. Keep in mind that the simpler semi-automatic shotgun you go with, the more likely it is that you will want to add accessories and add-ons to it later down the line. I personally prefer simplicity with a good barrel when it comes to certain situations and more accessories for other situations.
At a Glance: Our 6 Best Semi-Automatic Shotgun
- Mossberg 930 SPX
- Benelli M2
- Remington Versa Max Sportsman
- Weatherby SA-08 Deluxe
- Browning A5
- Stoeger 3500
A Few Buying Guidelines
When to Add on the Goods
There is probably not going to be one semi-auto shotgun out there that meets every single need you could possibly want. If that was the case, shotgun manufacturers would mind readers, and we all know that’s not ever going to happen. So, how do you make the shotgun you buy perfect for you? Add on accessories to customize it exactly how you want it.
For simple scenarios like home defense, you don’t need a lot of accessories. The simpler the better. But for other hunting scenarios such as duck hunting or deer hunting, scopes, flashlights or added round magazines might be useful. It’s not necessary to add accessories to a shotgun in order for it to work properly. But, from my experience, finding the right accessories could give you a more enjoyable experience out in the field.
Just don’t overdo it. The shotgun might look awesome, but the functionality may not be so great.
Reduce Your Recoil
One of the top complaints when shooting a shotgun is the recoil that the shooter experiences. That powerful kickback some shotguns give off can injure shoulders, cause sore muscles, or just be outright obnoxious. A lot of people don’t purchase shotguns for the recoil factor. Without knowing the different options available, people discard shotguns as options for their shooting needs.
Semi-auto shotguns actually do a good job at reducing the recoil any shooter experiences. This is due to the gas or recoil operating system in a semi-auto. Pump-action shotguns have a lot of power and can shoot much larger loads. This creates that recoil so many most likely want to avoid. But semi-auto shotguns shooter faster, with less shooter movement required and less kickback on the return.
Save your shoulder and muscles with a semi-auto shotgun. If the situation calls for a shotgun, you might benefit from considering a semi-auto.
Ease of Use
Smaller framed bodies or people with less upper body strength are probably not looking for a shotgun that requires work. Shooting a shotgun (especially in specific situations like home defense) should be easy and seamless, right? Semi-auto shotguns allow for that type of shooting to take place. Beginners also like semi-autos because they don’t require reloading, manual labor with the pump-action, and can be shot with one hand (although that’s probably not recommended for most people if any).
Getting a semi-auto shotgun means you most likely have a need in mind. Knowing that need and understanding the requirements from a shotgun will help you figure out if ease of use is a top priority of yours. No one wants to buy a shotgun that is hard to use, but getting a semi-auto that doesn’t require a lot of work to shoot could be more useful in specific situations.
More Money Doesn’t Always Equal Better Quality
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times—just because something costs more money doesn’t mean it is actually the best quality. Manufacturers would like you to think that’s the case because it’s more money in their pockets. But, let’s get real. Spending more money doesn’t guarantee you’ll get the perfect specimen you were hoping for.
There are some really great options on the market today that are not going to kill your wallet. Your spouse will not come barreling in with 1,000 questions about why you needed that shotgun. You know what exactly what I’m talking about. Luckily, for all of us, some of the best semi-auto shotguns are actually reasonably priced. Talk about getting the best value for your dollar. And, of course, knowing which ones are worth spending a little extra money save you headaches and frustration, too.
Why Semi-Auto vs. Pump-Action
This is the age-old question for avid shotgun users as well as beginners. And, honestly, the truth comes down to one simple fact: preference. Whatever situation you find yourself in will determine whether a semi-auto or pump-action shotgun is best for you. You can’t buy a shotgun based on what your buddy is using for a completely different situation. Protecting your home? Pump-action will work just fine. Duck hunting? Semi-auto is probably the better option. Competition shooting? Semi-auto wins almost every time.
Before going out to the store or searching online, take note of what you really need the shotgun for. Then ask yourself questions like:
- Do I need to be able to shoot in a more rapid-fire way?
- Is recoil a big factor for me?
- What size shotgun do I need?
- Where am I shooting this bad boy?
Without asking yourself some of those questions first, shopping for a shotgun could quite possibly be painful (hopefully, not literally). Both styles of shotguns meet very specific needs—sometimes they overlap and work in the same situations.
Our Reviews for the Top Rated Products
Mossberg 930 SPX (Best Product Overall)
Mossberg has been one of the top shotgun names for almost 100 years. Known for its top-quality construction and durability, Mossberg gives gun owners some of the best shotguns to use in the field. If you want something that has been trusted over time and has features that aren’t found in other semi-automatic shotguns, this might be the gun for you.
Shotguns are shied away from because of the massive recoil they can give off. But the Mossberg is different. It actually has a recoil-reducing dual gas-vent that not only saves your shoulders and muscles but also keeps you on target. With fiber-optic sights, low-light situations are simply not a problem. And, you can even mount your scope on this semi-auto to give you a better view of your target. The price of this semi-auto is one of the lowest on the market, which means you’re getting a quality gun for a very reasonable price. In this case, more money does not equal better quality.
- Reduced recoil with a dual gas-vent system
- fiber-optic sights for low-light situations
- Ability to mount a scope
- Quick release button for simple unloading
- Extremely durable
- Rubber recoil pad
- Cable lock for added safety
- Great for left-handed and right-handed use
- 5 inches at full length
- 8-round capacity
- Under $500
What Everyone is Saying about the Mossberg 930 SPX?
Most Mossberg 930 SPX owners agree that even though the typical pump-action shotguns are usually preferred, this is semi-auto does the job just as well (if not better). This may not be a necessary purchase for a home defense shotgun, but if you buy one for that reason, you won’t be sorry. The price tag is just right and the reliability of this semi-auto is right up there with the reliability. Mossberg 930 SPX owners can’t say enough good things about this gun.
- 8-round capacity
- Smooth cycle
- Easy to use
- Lighter than other options
- Reasonable price tag
- Inability to have a Sling Swivel Loop on the Fore End or Magazine Tube
Honestly, as you can see from the reviews and pros and cons, people don’t have many complaints about the Mossberg 930 SPX. It’s pretty obvious that when you go with the Mossberg 930, you are going with a quality choice. I can tell you from experience that if everyone says it’s a good choice, it most likely is a good choice for you, too. For those more interested in home defense this is not a bad choice, but it may be better to go for something shorter like the Mossberg 590.
Overall Rating: 4.9 out of 5 Stars
Smooth, light, and rugged—three words that describe the Benelli M2 well. One of the advantages of having a semi-auto shotgun is the reduced recoil the operator experiences. Benelli boasts a 48% reduction rate in recoil due to the innovative ComforTech system.
With this recoil reduction system, you will get a gel recoil and combo pad duo working to give you less kickback than most other shotguns. The Benelli M2 comes in 12 or 20 gauge options, which allows you to choose which one you prefer. If you want a lightweight, easy to use, and highly reliable semi-auto shotgun, this could be exactly what you’ve been searching for. The length is a bit longer than other shotguns out there. Maybe you want something with a little extra length and, if so, Benelli M2 is a great option. For those that want a shorter and more defense focused option, the Benelli Nova is probably a better pick.
- Lightweight (7.3lbs.)
- 5’’ full length
- 12 or 20gauge options available
- 4+1 round magazine
- Versatile with light and heavy loads
- Left-handed and right-handed models available
- Can be used for trap shooting
What Others are Saying About the Benelli M2
Those who have bought the Benelli M2 have said they really like this semi-auto shotgun for many reasons. Left-handers have a hard time finding a shotgun that works for them, but Benelli offers a left-handed and right-handed model to accommodate everyone. Those who’ve used this shotgun agree that this a great feature. Very little reviews show any jamming issues, so that’s comforting. There may be some issues along the way (as to be expected), but for the most part, no one has reported a repeated jamming issue. For the money, users say that it is definitely worth it.
- Left-handed and right-handed models available
- Little to no jamming issues
- Very accurate shot
- Easy to use
- Easy to balance
- Magazine round capacity doesn’t match what’s advertised
- Occasional issues with loading gate
- Price is $1300+
You really can’t go wrong with any Benelli shotgun. But this particular semi-auto shotgun is one of the best on the market. If you’re looking for something that’s easy to shoot, extremely accurate and versatile, the Benelli M2 could be a good choice. You’re going to spend a little extra money on this model, though, so be careful. After adding all of the customizations you want, you may end up spending more than you anticipated. But, if you keep it simple, you could justify spending $1300+ on this semi-auto shotgun that will last you for a lot of years.
Overall Rating: 4.7 out of 5 Stars
Are you liking the M2? Read our review on the Benelli M4 here.
Remington Versa Max Sportsman
One of the most trusted names in all things guns is Remington. They make exceptional, high-quality guns that have proven themselves over and over again. The Remington Versa Max Sportsman is no different. This is one of the best semi-auto shotguns for many reasons, but the simple system is one of the reasons this shotgun outperforms the rest. Without too many moving pieces during its operation, the Remington Versa Max Sportsman is able to keep things moving easily, leaving you without a worry that something will get jammed. Let me show you a few key features that will help you see the incredible scope of this shotgun.
- Very versatile (go from turkey hunting to dove shooting)
- Takes light and heavy loads
- Gas-operated system
- A super simple system (fewer moving parts mean less chance for problems)
- Reduced recoil
- Sleek design
- 5 full length
- 3+1 magazine capacity
- $900–$1,100 price tag
What Others are Saying about the Remington Versa Max Sportsman
Remington Versa Max owners really like a lot of features this shotgun has to offer. One of those features is the oversized safety on the Versa Max. With safety, a top concern in the world today, having oversized safety features ensures that the feature will be used correctly more frequently. The recoil of this shotgun is also extremely smooth, which many customers have reported being one of their top favorite features. Some even compared the shot of the Versa Max to be comparable to a .22. Quick ejects and smooth transitions are two other things customers reported liking about this semi-auto shotgun.
- Smooth operation + very little recoil
- Takes heavy and light loads
- Extremely reliable
- Heavy trigger
- Longer overall length
- Does not have the same cheek protection as the original Versa Max model
Let’s just say that the Remington Versa Max Sportsman Semi-Automatic Shotgun is probably one of the most versatile and attainable shotguns on the market. Knowing why you want a semi-automatic shotgun will most definitely help you decide if this is the right choice for you. Take a few for a test spin and ask around the gun range to see if the Versa Max Sportsman is the right fit for your needs.
Overall Rating: 4.9 out of 5 Stars
Weatherby SA-08 Deluxe (Best Value)
Stop missing those shots that you should be making. Wasting time, money and ammunition is frustrating, but having the right shotgun in your hand can get rid of all of that. The Weatherby SA-08 Deluxe is an incredible specimen of a shotgun that gives you power, reliability, and accuracy in one package. You can choose from either a 12-gauge or 20-gauge depending on what your focus is for using this shotgun. Both models weigh in around a little over six pounds, which makes it super easy to use and functional. You can even use it for your home defense needs if you wanted.
The overall length is a bit on the lengthier side coming in at just over 48” in overall length, so it might not be the best option for smaller frames. But, until you try, you’ll never know. The Weatherby SA-08 Deluxe semi-automatic shotgun is one that will give you great shots and keep your bank account from being drained.
- Aluminum receiver
- Chrome and brass features
- Push button safety
- Accurate shot
- Easy cleaning with a drop-out trigger system
- A dual gas system to reduce recoil
- 5+1 magazine capacity
- Under 7lbs.
- Under 49.5” in overall length
- $850 for the base model
What Other Weatherby SA-08 Deluxe Users are Saying in the Field
Users of the Weatherby SA-08 couldn’t be much happier than they are with this shotgun. Almost all of the users have stated that the accuracy of the shot is on the top of their list of compliments. They do not miss shots in the field, which means they don’t waste time or ammo. The trim design also makes it easier to use, which is a top priority for so many shotgun users. One thing that customers did comment on was that the trigger pull was too heavy, which made it a little harder to use. That was really the only downside Weatherby SA-08 users commented on.
- Easy to shoot
- Great construction
- Reasonable price
- Various options available
- Great price for the quality
- Trigger pull is heavy
Overall, you really can’t go wrong with the Weatherby SA-08 Deluxe Semi-Automatic Shotgun. I like it for the fact that it’s simple and reliable. When I’m using a semi-auto shotgun, I want it to be the best. And Weatherby has achieved close to perfection with this semi-automatic shotgun.
Overall Rating: 4.9 out of 5 Stars
Since the late 1800s, Browning has been making exceptional firearms, shotguns included. But the Browning shotgun your grandpa (and even your dad) remembers is totally different than your options today. Technology has really stepped up the shotgun game, and Browning has followed suit in using that new technology to give you a shotgun that meets all your needs and expectations.
- 16gauge firearm
- 100,000 round, 5-year guarantee
- Takes on all loads with modifications
- Aluminum construction
- Humpback receiver
- Inflex II recoil pads reduce kickback
- Adjustable parts for a customizable fit
- Beautiful walnut finish
- 25”overall length
- Extremely lightweight at only 5.8lbs.
- 3+1 capacity
- Kinematic drive system
- $1500 for the base model
What Browning A5 “Sweet Sixteen” Users are Saying
Everyone knows that Browning is a trusted gun manufacturer since the late 1800s. One of the biggest reasons people like Browning firearms so much is their simple designs. Nothing too fancy to distract from the real purpose. Even though new technology has allowed Browning to give gun users exactly what they want in the latest designs, they also use their original designs and construction.
Customers like that the Browning A5 Sweet Sixteen is a mix between a 12 gauge and 20 gauge with the same throwback design as the original Browning. Users also commented on the lightweight construction, which made it easy to use. One thing that users did say was to clean the gun before you use it! If you don’t, it won’t cycle properly. Learn from their mistakes and don’t make the same one.
- Extremely lightweight
- Reliable construction
- Great power
- Reasonable recoil
- Must clean before use
- Hefty price tag
- Cheek slap still noticeable
If you want something that has been tested over time, Browning is a very good choice. Choosing the best semi-auto shotgun depends on your specific needs, which you already were aware of if you’d made this far on our list. Going on an all-day hunt for pheasant, quail, grouse, and partridge? The Browning A5 Sweet Sixteen Semi-Auto could be a good addition to your hunt.
Overall Rating: 4.6 out of 5 Stars
Shooting for fun or food? It doesn’t matter because the Stoeger 3500 can be easily used for both. It seems to have exceptional reliability when it comes to cycling 2¾’’, 3’’, and 3½’’ shells, but you could possibly try out other loads. Those specific loads are going to be the most reliable coming out, though.
You can easily find and hit your target with the Stoeger 3500, which is it was every shotgun owner wants from their metal friend. There is a stock-integrated recoil reducer that will keep you from experiencing the dreaded recoil so many shotguns give off. It’s relatively lightweight, but not the lightest in weight that we’ve found.
- High reliability
- Inertia-driven operating system
- Customizable fit for drop and cast
- Weighs in a little over 7.5lbs.
- Overall length at 50”
- Easy target to find
What Stoeger 3500 Users are Saying
Taking a shotgun out of the box shouldn’t be hard, right? Stoeger makes sure that’s the case for their shotgun owners. Customers reported that taking the shotgun out of the box and assembling it was easy, which they liked. If rust is a concern, customers reported that the camo finish doesn’t rust like the other finishes. If you’d rather not go with the camo finish, you can get your Stoeger 3500 dipped to keep it from rusting so easily. That’s a nice tip to know, for sure. And, of course, loading the ammo is extremely important for reliable function.
Users noted that when the ammo is loaded correctly, it fires every time, especially when using good ammo. Sounds like a no-brainer, but there were actually quite a few people who said this exact thing! Overall, people were extremely pleased with this semi-auto and found that their fears were eased once they got it shooting.
- Finding and shooting the target is easy
- Extremely reliable
- Unique inertia-driven operating system
- Customizable fit options
- Reasonable price
- No left-handed fit
- Not great for all loads
Stoeger has proven itself time and time again in the shotgun arena, and the 3500 is no different. Even though it’s not extremely versatile like other semi-automatic shotguns, when you use it where it’s supposed to be used with the right load, it works like a dream. For the price and the recommended use, the Stoeger 3500 could be your next semi-auto to add to your collection.
Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
If you like this Stoeger, you might just love the M3000 and the Condor.
The best semi-automatic shotgun for you is definitely out there, but there’s a clear winner from the top six choices listed here that beats the rest. The Mossberg 930 SPX might not be the lightest in weight or the shortest in length, but the power and reliability that this semi-automatic holds are unbeatable. This semi-auto has a reduced recoil system that so many wish for. It’s the winner on this list because it has a very reasonable price tag without limiting its effectiveness. This is the kind of semi-auto that should be in everyone’s gun cabinets.
You can’t go wrong with any of the choices on this list, though. Depending on your needs, the semi-auto that you choose should be the best for you and not necessarily anyone else. You’ve got a great list to start narrowing down even further from. Take a few of these semi-autos for a spin to see which one you think will give you what you’re looking for in the field or the range.