Keanu Reeves playing John Wick holding a shotgun

The Battle of the Best Semi-Auto Shotguns for 2022 – The Winner Is….

Semi-auto shotguns are the upgraded version of the pump-action shotguns we all know and love. They are prized for their quick firepower and reduction in recoil.

For anyone who has shot a semi-auto shotgun, you’ll know why.

They feel great to shoot. Emptying out a few cartridges in quick succession is a great way to unwind after a long day.

Semi-automatic shotguns aren’t necessarily as reliable as pump-action shotguns, however, their main advantage is reduced recoil and a very fast rate of fire. If you’re not a big person, a semi-auto shotgun is also a lot easier to shoot.

A lot of us have probably used a shotgun before, being it’s one of the first firearms that new shooters get familiar with. They are extremely simple to use, they’re relatively cheap, and shotgun shells are also fairly cheap.

Arnold Schwarzenegger on a motorcycle firing a shotgun in the move The Terminator
Lever-action shotguns are great, but we don’t advise this

We discussed personal defense shotguns before and recommended a few powerful shotgun scopes, but in today’s piece, we’re going to dive into some of our favorite semi-automatic shotguns.

If you’re in a big rush to see our top picks, here they are:

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BEST SEMI AUTO SHOTGUN SUMMARY TABLE

 ProductWhat We LikePriceWhere To Buy
image of Benelli M4
Benelli M4
Best Tactical Shotgun$$$$Check Price
image of Browning A5
Browning A5
Top Pick for Hunting$$$Check Price
image of Beretta 1301 Tactical
Beretta 1301 Tactical
Best Semi Auto For the Money$$$Check Price
image of FNH SLP Mark 1
FNH SLP Mark 1
Shotgun of the Year$$Check Price
image of Weatherby SA-08 Deluxe
Weatherby SA-08 Deluxe
Best Value$$Check Price
image of Mossberg 930
Mossberg 930
Second Best Semi Auto For the Money$$Check Price
image of Remington Versa Max
Remington Versa Max
Top Pick for Shooting Competition$$$Check Price
image of Stoeger M3500
Stoeger M3500
Top Budget$Check Price

History of The Semi-auto Shotgun

Before I share my top picks with you, we need to discuss the Browning Auto 5. We need to start with this epic boomstick to know how the modern semi-auto shotgun industry started.

The Browning Auto 5 was originally created in the 1800s with a patent finally put on it in the 1900s after about 100 years of use. From 1903 onward it was mass produced in the US. Despite its popularity, the original Browning Auto 5 was notoriously unreliable.

It would jam, break and explode. After about ten years of production, the Auto 5 was revamped by the legendary Browning company. The newer “fixed” model solved all the issues that plagued the older Browning Auto 5 version.

A new shotgun was born.

It was so reliable and powerful that military forces all over the world started purchasing it in bulk.

Shotgun in War

The Browning Auto 5’s history is almost as old as the 1911 pistol.

Army soldiers using a semi-automatic shotgun

Pump-action shotgun

It was a favored weapon of tactical units throughout the world and paratroopers dropped into close proximity fighting.  The Auto 5 packed some serious firepower utilizing a 12 gauge buckshot to obliterate anyone unluckily enough to get hit.

 

Different shotgun shells with different loads

Clockwise from top left: 00 buckshot, birdshot, and sabot slug

During both of the World Wars, especially in World War II, the Browning Auto 5 became a standard issue weapon. The unit itself is a recoil-operated gun.

The idea is that the energy produced from the recoil is used to seamlessly shoot out the shell and pull a new one into the chamber.

The Rise of Tactical Semi-Automatic Shotguns

Semi-auto shotguns have enjoyed a huge upswing in popularity over the last few years. We suspect that this is largely due to Hollywood where they’ve been featured in more and more action movies.

Movies like John Wick. Stop and watch this for a second.

Awesome right?

The increased demand has allowed smaller companies and larger companies like Browning and Mossberg to rethink their designs. Competition breeds innovation and that’s exactly what we’ve seen in the last few years.

A lot of new models coming out with tons of features and some really impressive designs.

The Mechanics of Semi-Automatic Shotguns

A pump-action shotgun requires the user to pull its fore-end to eject the spent cartridge, then push the fore-end to load a new shell from the magazine to the chamber. The push-and-pull movement to cycle shells makes it look like the user is “pumping” the shotgun, hence the label “pump-action”.

With a semi-automatic shotgun, whenever you shoot the shotgun, the internal spring-loaded mechanism shoots out the old cartridge and brings in a new one.

A semi-auto shotgun does the work for you. Instead of hearing the “chuck chuck” when you pull the fore-end to eject a spent cartridge and then push it to load a new one in, it does it for you. Using either the recoil or the high-pressure gases from the shells fired, the used cartridge is ejected and a new one is loaded in.

Semi-Automatic shotgun with drum firing at the range
A full-auto Atchisson Assault Shotgun, or AA-12

Auto-loading shotguns do it in two ways:

  1. Recoil-based reloading
  2. Gas Systems, like the AR-15

The end result of both systems is the same. This quick reloading and ejecting allow for the rapid-fire ability of semi-automatic shotguns.

This is how shotguns reload

Reloading mechanism in a pump-action shotgun

Gas-powered semi-auto shotguns use gas under high pressure while the traditional pump action uses good ol’ human muscle.

The first Auto 5’s were recoil-based and it wasn’t under later tactical shotguns emerged on the market that manufacturers started to favor the more robust gas-powered design.

Which is Better to Shoot A Semi-Auto Shotgun or A Pump Action?

Well, that’s up to you really. I like both. 🙂

If you want the fast powerful feeling of shooting multiple slugs quickly, then the semi-auto shotgun is for you.

If you want to be a bit more methodical and take your time feeling the mechanism of the gun in your hands, then a traditional pump-action shotgun is what you want.

There are still some other differences between a pump action shotgun and semi-auto shotgun:

PUMP-ACTION SHOTGUNS

  • Relatively lower-priced
  • Great for beginners
  • Okay if you’re a bigger person
  • Super simple to clean, disassemble and maintain
  • It takes any type of ammo
  • Relatively more durable because of its more simple utilitarian design

Things to Consider:

  • Won’t fire as quickly as a semi-auto shotgun (unless the user is highly trained)
  • Has more “kick” to it (depending on the particular shotgun’s weight and the loads you use)
  • If you have a shoulder or hand injury, shooting a pump-action shotgun will hurt

SEMI-AUTOMATIC SHOTGUNS

  • Great for tactical situations or competitive shooting
  • Great for beginners
  • Relatively better for smaller people
  • In general, has less felt recoil (i.e. compared to a pump-action with similar weight and using the same loads)
  • Less recoil leads to significantly faster target acquisition and slightly better accuracy
  • Feels great to shoot

Things to Consider:

  • A lot more parts can lead to potentially more problems
  • Harder to clean
  • May have issues with certain ammo loads

Semi-auto Shotguns and New Shooters

The shotgun isn’t a complicated weapon, to begin with. Using an semi-auto shotgun is even easier than a traditional pump action shotgun.

One of the advantages of using a semi-automatic version is that once all the cartridges are cleared the gun will lock to the rear.  This gives newer shooters a very clearly visible and auditory cue that the gun is indeed empty and safe.

Not to mention traditional pump-action shotguns have a hell of a lot of kick. 

Funny picture of woman firing a shogun and dropping it

Contrast this with the pump-action shotgun which doesn’t give any sort of cue that it’s empty. The only reliable method is to count the number of shots you made and make sure they are all done.

What Do I Recommend?

If you have the money and want something that is easier to operate I’d recommend a semi-auto shotgun. The only issue that might come up is cleaning but if you aren’t sure about that you can always take it to your gunsmith to get it cleaned.

Top 8 Semi-Auto Shotguns for the Money

As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, these are my top picks. That is also because these are the shotguns I’m familiar with and I even own a few of these.

I’ve tried to blend price with quality here to give you the best of both worlds.

If anyone has another shotgun they’d like to add to the list, drop it in a comment below. Thanks!

TOP SEMI-AUTOMATIC SHOTGUNS FOR HUNTING

These are a great choice for bird hunting or pig hunting. Anything that is fast-moving, big, or requires lots of shots is easier to hunt with an automatic shotgun.

For elk hunting I still recommend a hunting rifle

WEATHERBY SA-08 DELUXE (BEST VALUE SEMI-AUTO SHOTGUN )

 

The Weatherby SA-08 Deluxe provides some great power for bird hunting or pig hunting

 

image of a button check this price

 

The SA-08 Deluxe is originally manufactured by a Turkish company and is a gas-operated model. Available gauge sizes are 12, 20, and 28.

This is a great weapon to shoot and provides some great power for bird hunting or pig hunting.  I would say it’s a good combination of value and price.  It’s a little bit pricier than some of the super discount options.

The SA-08 is super lightweight and looks great. The base model weighs 5 ½ to 6 ¼ pounds.  Also a great choice for clay shooting or any kind of waterfowl.

If you have a gun lover in your family, this is a really good choice and probably the best price you’ll get at the mid-range level. Walnut stock, engraved logo, and polished steel – it looks and feels great.

STOEGER M3500 – THE TOP BUDGET SEMI-AUTO SHOTGUN

 

The Stoeger M3500 is a reliable shotgun with great power minus all the bells and whistles

 

image of a button check this price

 

Don’t get fooled by the price. The Stoeger is a great choice for a reliable shotgun with great power minus all the bells and whistles of some of the more fancy tactical choices.

The Stoeger runs via inertia meaning that cartridges are pulled into the shell and old ones ejected via recoil.

Comes with interchangeable chokes and a couple of different lengths of barrels. Shells range from 2 ¾ to 3 ½ for the bigger slugs. You can easily fit a shotgun sight onto this.

You can shop around and find the Stoeger for pretty cheap.

BROWNING A5 – TOP PICK FOR HUNTING SEMI-AUTO SHOTGUN

The Browning A5 utilizes a patented recoil system known as “Kinematic Drive”

 

image of a button check this price

 

Anyone who has shot this, they’ll know why we picked it as our top choice.

If you’re thinking isn’t this the A5 from World War 2? Don’t worry, I’m not recommending you use some antique weapon for your hunting trips.

The A5 is a new and improved version of the old vintage model. It comes with all the old functionality plus a very expanded design. The new A5 is lighter and utilizes a patented recoil system known as “Kinematic Drive”, this feature lets you pick between lighter or heavier loads.

This is a great gift for a gun lover and also makes one of those timeless pieces that you can keep in your family for years.

Best Semi Auto Shotguns for Self Defense

Right off the bat, I’ll mention that I’m not a fan of traditional shotguns for home defense.

The reasons are simple. They fire slower and have a higher possibility of jamming which is not something you can afford in a home invasion.

Semi-auto shotguns provide serious power, increased ability to shoot multiple rounds, and a very small likelihood of jamming.

We all know that in self-defense situations reaction time is vital. Even a few seconds can mean the difference between life and death.  Using a traditional shotgun isn’t something you can really afford when the stakes are that high.

BERETTA 1301 TACTICAL – BEST SEMI-AUTOMATIC SHOTGUN FOR THE MONEY

 

 

The beretta 1301 tactical is a gas powered 12 gauge semi-auto that fires extremely powerful and slightly reduced loads

 

image of a button check this price

 

Beretta has been making quality pistols for a long time. They are one of the world’s top gun manufacturers.  The 1301 Tactical is no exception to that.

It is a gas-powered 12 gauge semi-auto that fires extremely powerful and slightly reduced loads. 1301 Tactical is one of the most recommended and used tactical auto shotguns out there. It’s a favorite of tactical teams and special forces units worldwide.

I wouldn’t recommend this as a shotgun for shooting competitions — the slightly more expensive variant, the 1301 Comp, is the better choice for that purpose. However, if personal defense or home protection is what you’re concerned about, then 1301 is a VERY good choice.

MOSSBERG 930 – SECOND BEST SEMI-AUTO FOR THE MONEY

 

The Remington Versa Max is a functional, reliable and easy to use semi auto shotgun

 

image of a button check this price

 

Another great choice for home defense. I didn’t put this as number one just because I’m biased towards the Beretta 1301, (which superseded the TX4 that I’ve had for a few years).

The Mossberg is like a Ford 150 – functional, reliable, and easy to use. There is nothing fancy about it but it’s pretty cheap considering the build.

Great for a backup gun for home defense or even a backup gun for hunting. For shells, I’d recommend the Hornady Critical Defense shell. You can read about it in our shotgun ammo article.

Money is No Object Semi-Auto Shotgun Picks

FNH SLP Mark 1

 

The FNH SLP Mark 1 is built specifically for military units so its design allows for a lot of damage

 

image of a button check this price

 

If you want durability then the FNH is what you want.

It’s built specifically for military units so its design allows for a lot of damage. It still has the same autoloading functionality as all the other semi-auto shotguns. The FNH is also the recipient of the Shotgun of the Year Award.

BENELLI M4

 

The Benelli M4 is the top pick for the US Marine’s special forces units.

You know I wasn’t going to leave this out.

image of a button check this price

 

I got one of these three years ago as a Christmas present from my wife. I’ve never looked back since and I recommend it to anyone looking to spend a bit more money on a VERY solid and reliable semi-automatic shotgun for home defense.

The M4 is the top pick for the US Marine’s special forces units. The M4 is also not inertia operated rather it runs on a gas-powered system.

Since the M4 is so well designed it rarely gets jammed and requires a lot less cleaning than some of its cheapest counterparts. It comes with a platform to add an adjustable scope and works well with a few different models of gun slings.

If you’re looking for the top-notch, king of all shotguns then the M4 Benelli is your choice. The only downside is the price.

What are the Best Semi Auto Shotguns for Competition?

Anyone who has been skeet shooting knows that using a semi-automatic shotgun is a lot more fun than a pump action piece.

Faster shots equal a lot higher chance to hit your target and avoid dealing with jams.

REMINGTON VERSA MAX – OUR TOP SEMI AUTO SHOTGUN PICK

 

The Remington Versa Max handles gas pressure and modifies pressure based on the size of the shotgun shell.

The Versa Max was designed with competition in mind.

image of a button check this price

 

It’s a 12 gauge auto-loader that was built with competition in mind. This is a great choice for 3-gun shooting comps.

The Versaport system handles gas pressure and modifies pressure based on the size of the shotgun shell. The idea behind the Versaport was that shooters should be able to have recoil that is consistent and not affected by the load.

Priced a little higher than some of the other models. It’s a great choice for anyone who is serious about competitive shooting and wants a shotgun that they can use reliably for the next twenty years.

BENELLI M2 TACTICAL

 

The Benelli M2 Tactical has patented ComforTech which reduces recoil by a massive degree allowing for enhanced control.

 

image of a button check this price

 

If you read my previous review of the M4, you’ll know that I love Benelli.

This one is no exception to the rule. It comes in a few different designs: Standard, Pistol Grip, and specially designed and patented ComforTech which reduces recoil by a massive degree allowing for enhanced control.

The M2 is also surprisingly light and built using high-quality finishes and metal.

I won’t pigeonhole the M2 and say it’s only good for competitive shooting. It’s a great semi-automatic shotgun choice for hunting, self-defense, and competition.

Best Semi Automatic Shotguns – Conclusion

Since the days of the Browning A5, the semi-auto shotgun has come a long way. Originally produced as a military weapon, it has now transitioned into competitive shooting and self-defense.

The biggest advantage of the semi-auto shotgun is that it’s just easier to use. While shotgun “purists” swears by the reliability, simplicity, and aesthetics of the classic pump-action shotgun, and given enough time in the range it can be fired as fast as any semi-auto, the features of semi-autos make it the better choice for novice users.

Semi-auto shotguns don’t kick as hard. You’ll avoid the huge recoil that you get with a regular shotgun. Less recoil equates to a marked improvement in your ability to aim and shoot your boomstick.

I would recommend any of the shotguns we discussed for new shooters, people looking for tactical firearms for home defense or competitive shooters.

If you have anything you’d like to add to the list, just drop a comment below.

Recommended Reading

Best Shotgun For Beginners

Shotguns For Home Defense

Shotgun Shell

Best Shotgun Ammo

Shotgun Scabbards

Shotgun Scopes

Shotgun Silencer

Chris Browning

Hey everyone I'm Chris. Founder and editor at Gun News Daily. This site was originally started by my father who passed it on to me. Gun News Daily has been reporting on gun news and conservative politics since 2001. We are the original gun news source. Life-long Second Amendment Supporter.

8 thoughts on “The Battle of the Best Semi-Auto Shotguns for 2022 – The Winner Is….

  1. So 2017’s third best semi-auto overall and “best semi-auto for the money” shotgun is a shotgun that was discontinued several years ago? Doesn’t say much for the current selection of SA shotguns huh. That’s a head scratcher for sure.

    1. Thanks for pointing that out, Brandi. Indeed, it’s time to update our list. I’ll follow up once we’ve done a thorough review of the market, and share our top choices as of today.

      Best,
      Chris

  2. In my opinion, the Remington V-3 should have been on the list, and replacing the Versa Max. Similar to the Versa Max, It is much lighter, better balanced, less costly to purchase, and probably the best all around semi-auto shotgun for the money (see Randy Wakeman’s comments after extensive testing and comparison to other models.) It is likely the softest shooting gun in it’s class, and likely the most reliable – Truly designed to cycle all light to heavy 12 Ga loads, up to 3″. Remington hit a home run with the V-3. Something they needed to do. I love mine, and it costs half as much as some other semi-autos. Made in the USA!

  3. Im purchasing a used Benelli super 90 m2 from a reputable FFL for $700 out the door. He says nobody knows what it is an im the only person who inquired about it. Would you say thats a good deal?

  4. Franchi Affinity very popular very reliable points straight feels right very easy to clean less parts I bought all the newest waterfowl guns out there and the Franchi Affinity is my go to gun every time.

  5. I like the list but Ill be honest. People leave CZ out of the picture the CZ 712g2 ( gen 2 ) is a great gun I own one and yes the 1st CZ 712 did have some flaws but the gen 2 feels and fires like a Benelli M4 ( no lies I have fired one and its great) and for the price I feel this gun should have been on this list bla bla bla bla bla ranting ranting and Im done.

  6. You also forgot to mention two durable shotguns that will do any task on hand from $700 – $1000. One is the discontinued FN SLP Mark 1. It’s essentially the exact same gun as a Win. SX2 or SX3 ( also discontinued ). I use a FN SLP 22″ barrel as a Turkey set-up or social situations. When I want to trapshoot the 26″ barrel goes back on. Awesome!
    The second I will give kudos to is the Tristar Viper G2 in a 26 or 28″ bbl or a dedicated 24″ turkey camo dipped pistol grip shotgun. 5 + 1 capacity, Ber-Ben. Mobil chokes in both, extra barrel in 24″ if you ask service/parts, and Fantastic customer service from America’s heartland. It does blow the gas around more than the active valve on a SX3, but for $400 less, what’s a bit more clean-up? Besides the SA-08 has been relegated to a 20 ga only.

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