Double-barrel Shotguns – 4 of the Best Affordable Classics
Over the years, many types of firearms have come and gone, but not have ever been as popular as the double barreled shotgun. These weapons are in a league of their own, and even though they are one of the oldest types of firearms, they are still very popular.
Uses of the Double Barrel Shotgun
Though pump action and semi-automatic shotguns are obviously better from a tactical standpoint, double-barreled shotguns are more commonly used for sports shooting and hunting as well. Moreover, these shotguns are in many ways a statement piece. There are several premium double-barreled shotguns available on the market that are handmade with the highest levels of craftsmanship.
So, in this article, we are going to talk about the different types of double barreled shotguns, why they are still so popular, and what you should look for when you are buying them. We are also going to review some of the best double-barreled shotguns available on the market.
You have your over/under double-barreled shotguns and side-by-side shotguns. over/under (O/U) shotguns have one barrel stacked vertically on the other, and hence they have a narrow sight plane; however, they can be a little more complicated to make.
Side by Side Double Barrel Shotguns
Side by side (SxS) shotguns have two barrels horizontally next to each other. Unlike the over under, the sight plane is a little different obviously. That said, when shooting a shotgun the side by side version aspect doesn’t impact accuracy as much as you might think.
Why buy a double-barreled shotgun?
There is no doubt that semi-auto and pump-action shotguns are more effective than double-barreled shotguns. They have higher capacity, are lighter, faster, and even more affordable in some cases, however, there are certain advantages to owning a double-barreled shotgun.
And despite their tactical shortcomings, high-end double-barreled shotguns are much more than firearms. They are a piece of art, a status symbol, and a must-have for upland fowl hunting, clay shooting, and many other activities.
Double Barreled Shotgun Reliability
Double-barreled shotguns are considerably simple firearms. They don’t have many moving parts, and because of their simple design, they are inherently more reliable. Misfires and malfunctions are almost non-existent with these guns, especially if you are using quality ammunition. Doubles are very easy to maintain, and with a little bit of care, even inexpensive ones can last for generations.
Double Barrel Shotgun Versatility
With two barrels you can have a much more versatile shotgun. You can install a wider choke on one barrel for closed shots, and a narrower choke on the other for longer shots. This is one of the reasons double-barreled shotguns are used for fowl hunting.
The first barrel has a wider choke to shoot the birds up close, and as they start to fly away the shot from the narrower choke gets more kills. A similar setup can also be used for clay shooting.
Moreover, double-barreled shotguns can be used for all kinds of hunting, and even home defense. They are especially popular for home defense in countries with strict firearm laws, where it can be difficult to purchase other firearms.
Double Barrel Shotgun Safety
Almost all double-barreled shotguns are break-action. This means that the breach is opened to eject and add new shells. Break-action firearms are known to be very safe because once the action is opened, the firearm is completely safe. This makes hunting, and sport shooting with double-barreled shotguns a lot safer.
Why are Double-Barreled Shotguns so Expensive?
Though there are affordable double-barreled shotguns available on the market, any double that you would be proud to own will be a little pricey. double-barreled shotguns can cost anywhere from $500 dollars, to over $10,000 dollars for some high-end auctioning guns. Typically, you should expect to spend about a couple of thousand dollars on a good double-barreled shotgun.
So, why are doubles this expensive? Well, most double-barreled shotguns have to be handcrafted. A lot of precision craftsmanship and time goes into making a high-end double-barreled shotgun, and that reflects in the price. Moreover, double-barreled shotguns are quite expensive to manufacturer.
Twice the Barrel, Twice the Cost
In any firearm, the barrel is easily the most expensive part of the rifle, and double-barreled shotguns have two barrels that are usually around 28 or 30 inches long. Add the expensive wooden furniture, and artistic precision craftsmanship to it, and it seems understandable why these firearms are so expensive.
The 4 Best Double Barrel Shotguns
As we have discussed there are double barrel shotguns that are custom made. The shotguns we reviewed don’t fall into that category, so before we get a bunch of comments about “better double barrels” know we are talking about those that are mass produced and won’t cost you a kidney to purchase.
First, on the list, we have the Stevens Model 555 Silver Over/Under Shotgun, which is the most affordable option on this list. Like most budget shotguns, the Stevens 555 is also made in Turkey, and it offers excellent value for money.
Now, you obviously wouldn’t compare a Stevens 555, which can be found for about $700 dollars, to a more expensive shotgun. However, considering its price, it is a great shotgun, with some amazing features and advantages.
Stevens Model 555 Features
The model 555 is primarily a 12-gauge shotgun, but it is also available in several other calibers including 410, 20 gauge, and 28 gauge. One of the best things about this gun is that it is very light.
Weighing only 6.5 pounds, this shotgun is very easy to carry on long hunts and maneuverable. It has an aluminum receiver, which does decrease the weight quite significantly, and results in a lower manufacturing cost, however, it is definitely not going to be as durable as a steel receiver.
Being a lightweight shotgun, the Stevens Model 555 is very fast, however, as is common with most super light shotguns, the recoil is quite concussive. The model 555 isn’t ideal if you are going to be shooting a lot. However, if you don’t use it regularly, it does allow you to own a well-made over/under for a very reasonable price.
Stevens Model 555 Dimensions, Trigger
The length of pull on this shotgun is about 14.5 inches. It is reasonably comfortable to shoulder with its rubber butt pad, which does make the recoil a bit more bearable. The trigger on the Model 555 isn’t the best. It isn’t crisp and can be a little on the heavy side, having a pull weight near 6.5 lbs. However, considering the price, it is understandable.
As far as the ergonomics are concerned, the Model 555 is quite decent. The grip is comfortable, with a little bit of checkering. The balance point is a little further than the hinges, and therefore, the gun might be a little front-heavy, but it is still very controllable and maneuverable.
Stevens Model 555 Con
The Model 555 does not have auto-ejectors either.
Overall, the Stevens Model 555 is a very solid and well-made shotgun for its price bracket and is ideal if you are looking for an entry-level shotgun.
According to Winchester, the Model 101 is a thing of balance, design, and beauty. To be honest, they are quite right. The legendary Winchester Model 101 Over/Under is one of the best, and most reasonably priced over/under double-barreled shotguns on the market.
Winchester, the Model 101 Legendary Status
The original Winchester 101 holds legendary status in the firearms world. It was made in Japan by Olin Kodensha from 1963-87, and the Select Model 101 is its modern incarnation, which can be bought today. These days, the Winchester 101 is made in Belgium, by Fabrique Nationale. It has the same design, and dimensions as the original 101, but is lighter and better balanced for an enhanced shooting experience.
Winchester, the Model 101 Barrel Options
The 101 is available in two different barrel lengths. The 26-inch variant weighs about 6 pounds, 12 ounces, whereas, with the 28-inch barrel it weighs only 7 pounds. The length of pull on the 101 is about 14 ¼ inches, which fits most shooters quite comfortably.
It comes with beautiful wooden furniture and has a rubber but pad, which can decrease felt recoil. The rubber but pad, combined with its excellent balance, makes the Winchester 101 a very smooth shooting shotgun, despite its low weight. Still, for some shooters, the recoil might be a little stronger compared to some higher-end shotguns.
Winchester, the Model 101 Ergonomics
The 101 is a very ergonomic shotgun. It has a nice and slender grip and the forend has a nice texture and contour. Like most well-built over/under, the balance point is very close to the hinge, being slightly heavier in the back, which makes this shotgun very quick to whip around and shoot. Aiming these shotguns is quite easy and intuitive, it has two sights, an Ivory mid-bead, and a brass front bead, which make it very easy to aim and shoot.
Winchester, the Model 101 Safety
The safety is located behind the hinge lever, and is very easy to engage as mount the shotgun and get ready to shoot. The 101 does not have an autosave, which means that it won’t automatically be pushed back to safety when you open the hinge. The Winchester 101 does feature auto ejectors, which is an excellent feature, and makes reloading a lot quicker and easier, as you don’t have to remove the hot-fired shells with your hands.
Overall, the Winchester 101 is an excellent shotgun. It comes in various variants, with different qualities of wood furniture and engravings on the receiver. However, the quality and reliability are the same. All current production models are only 12 gauge, however, you may find some sub gauge older models, which are equally rare and expensive.
Benelli is one of the biggest names when it comes to high-end shotguns, and the 828U is one of their best Over/under offerings. It is fairly expensive, and high-end over under, and it has loads of features that make it worth the price tag.
Benelli 828U Over/Under Shotgun Barrel Options
The 828U is available in three barrel configurations, 26, 28, and 30-inches long. These high-quality steel barrels are chrome plated and Cryogenically treated to -300 degrees for extreme strength. You also get 5 Benelli-pattern, screw-in flush-fit choke tubes with the gun, which makes it very versatile.
The receiver on the Benelli 828U is what really sets it apart. This shogun has an aluminum receiver, which is one of the reasons it is so light. However, the aluminum receiver does not diminish the durability of this gun in any way. This is because the 828U uses a unique locking system, which uses a steel plate to lock into four points on the chamber. When the gun is fired, there is absolutely zero stress on the receiver of the hinge trunnions. All the pressure generated from the shooting shells is contained completely in the barrel.
Benelli 828U Over/Under Shotgun Auto Ejectors
The 828U also used innovative auto ejectors, that have fewer moving parts, and allow the gun to be slimmer. Moreover, this shotgun has a carbon-fiber ventilated rib, which features a fiber optic front sight.
The construction and woodwork on this shotgun are absolutely amazing. It uses a very comfortable stock, which has a rubber but pad, and a rubberized area for you to get a cheek weld. Benelli calls this their “Progressive Comfort Stock ” It has a system of interlocking leaf springs on the inside, which compress according to the recoil and absorb the recoil impulse. Therefore, unlike other light shotguns, the recoil on the 828 is very smooth, even if you are firing heavy loads.
Benelli 828U Over/Under Shotgun Adjustable Stock
This is one of the very few shotguns on the market, which have an adjustable stock. The rise and cant of the stock can be adjusted. This is done by installing different rubber shims between the receiver and the stock. These rubber shims come with this shotgun and allow you to customize the stock to your body for a very comfortable shooting experience.
This gun has an excellent trigger pull, falling in at about 5.5 lbs. The entire trigger group is also removable for easier cleaning and maintenance.
Benelli 828U Over/Under Shotgun Fit and Finish
Lastly, the fit and finish are incredible, as you can expect from Benelli. You have different sections of wood and finish or engravings on the receiver. With all these innovative features, it is easy to understand why these shotguns carry a hefty price tag.
Stoeger is one of the oldest and most trusted firearms manufacturers in the US. If you are looking for a very affordable double barrel shotgun, their Coach Gun is an excellent option. It is called the Coach Gun because it has an identical design to the double-barreled shotguns used on stagecoaches in the American Old West.
This simple and affordable, yet effective shotgun has a side-by-side design. It features 20-inch long barrels and is available in multiple sub-gauges, including .410 and 20-gauge. However, 12-gauge is the most common variant.
Basic Side by Side Double Barrel Shotgun
As you can expect from a double-barreled shotgun at this price range, the Stoeger Coach Gun does not have any extra features. It is in many ways a minimalist double-barreled shotgun. The Stoeger Coach focuses on function a lot more than shooter comfort and aesthetics. Still, because of its connection to Western movies, many people do like the simple and rugged appearance of the Stoeger coach gun. It is very popular in cowboy shooting competitions.
This shotgun does not have auto ejectors. However, the extractor does push the rounds out slightly so that they can easily be removed by hand. The stock does not have a rubber butt pad. Also, the chokes are also fixed and can’t be changed.
Multi-Choke Side by Side Double Barrel Shotgun
The right barrel which fires first has an improved cylinder choke, and the left has a modified choke. However, the supreme model of the coach gun offers removable chokes. It also has better finishes on the receiver and barrel and better wooden furniture.
Overall, the Stoeger Coach gun is an excellent option if you are looking for a super affordable double-barreled shotgun.