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Best Semi-Auto Shotguns [2022 Buyer’s Guide]

FOR THE MOST AMOUNT OF LEAD FIRED IN THE SHORTEST AMOUNT OF TIME POSSIBLE, SEMI-AUTO SHOTGUNS ARE HERE FOR YOU

Finding the right shotgun for you might not be a quick or easy task, but it can be a lot of fun! If you’ve already sold yourself on a semi-auto shotgun or you just need to learn more about them, you’ve come to the right article.

First some quick education, then on to the best semi-auto shotguns.

WHY SEMI-AUTO?

While a pump-action shotgun might be the gold standard in reliability, semi-auto shotguns have come a long way over the years and offer really close to the same level of reliability while also providing a few benefits.

First off, no pumping the action. This eliminates the possibility of induced malfunctions like short-stroking. 

Second, semi-autos soak up more recoil — most of this is simply because they are generally heavier than a pump-action, but it can also be from a gas system taping some of the energy away to work the action.

Fire-rate is also dramatically increased when using a semi-auto shotgun. While some people can get wicked fast with their pumps, a semi-auto takes zero effort for insane speed.

Lastly, because they’re awesome. They just are.

INERTIA VS. GAS

Two basic systems for semi-auto shotgun actions are inertia-based and gas-based.

Gas systems can come in several forms but the different forms aren’t really all that important, what is important is that a gas shotgun uses some of the gas from the cartridge to power the movement of the action.

This tends to reduce recoil more but can also mean the shotgun will be picky about ammo. Many gas shotguns come with the ability to change their gas system a little for bird shot or for buck shot. This can be annoying if you switch between them often, but thats the nature of the beast.

Inertia is basically using the recoil of the gun itself to power the system. It’s basic physics really, but it seems weird to some people, myself included. 

Effectively, the recoil and motion of the shotgun are transferred to the bolt body, with the help of a spring the bolt stays locked for a few milliseconds before inertia overcomes the spring. The energy stored in the spring from resisting the inertia is then used to power the movement of unlocking the bolt and ejecting the shell. 

A return spring pushes the bolt back into place and loads a new shell.

It might sound strange, but it is actually super simple and crazy reliable.

The major gain to inertia is that because it is so simple, it’s very robust and hard to break. It is also much less sensitive as to what shot load it fires, from bird to buck to slug it just works.

Downside to inertia is that it’s normally expensive and not offered on many shotguns.

Both systems are great systems and what is perfectly best for you just kind of depends on the style of shooting you want to do.

BEST SEMI-AUTO SHOTGUNS

Kalashnikov USA Komrad

Is the Komrad the best semi-auto shotgun ever made? Probably not, but I would put it in the running as one of the coolest.

Basically, this is a Saiga but made in the United States by Americans and using American raw goods.

Using the same proven long-stroke gas piston system as the AK-47, the KUSA Komrad is effectively an AK-47 pistol chambered for 12ga with a 12.5” smooth bore barrel and a pistol brace.

Kalashnikov USA Komrad

Shipping standard with 2 5-round magazines, the Komrad also accepts 10-round magazines as well as most Saiga accessories. 

Tactically, this gun would be pretty awesome as a home defense gun. Saigas are legendary for their reliability and the Komrad seems to hit that hard as well. 10+ 12ga shells in a semi-auto magazine-fed shotgun with an overall length of only 29.25” makes for a hell of a home defender.

On the range, this gun is just a blast to shoot.

State laws will apply and this won’t be legal in all 50-states, but if you’re allowed to have a shotgun pistol, this is pretty badass.

Beretta 1301

The biggest king on the block lately is the Beretta 1301. Beretta’s latest update to this line of shotguns has catapulted it into superstardom and for entirely good reason — this shotgun kicks ass.

Using Beretta’s BLINK gas system allows the 1301 to cycle a crazy 36% faster than other semi-auto shotguns without increasing felt recoil to the shooter. This means not only faster shots, but shots that are easier to keep on target.

Beretta 1301 home defense tactical shotgun
Beretta 1301 Competition

Hugely oversized controls and bolt handle make operation very easy plus the loading port is enlarged and optimized for shucking in shells super quick.

Offered in tactical and sporting configurations with barrels from 18.5” to 24” this is a beast of a shotgun for home defense, 3-gun, trap, skeet, or hunting.

MSRP of $1,630ish make it a not-cheap gun, but not crazy either.

Take a look at our full review of the Followup On The Beretta 1301 Competition Shotgun.

Benelli Super Black Eagle 3

No one does inertia shotguns like Benelli does, kind of. For practical people who don’t own private jets, no one does inertia shotguns like Benelli does!

While Benelli didn’t invent the inertia shotgun system, even if some people wrongly credit them for it, Benelli did popularize it and perfect it with their Black Eagle line starting in the very late 1980’s.

The Super Black Eagle 3 is the culmination of decades of development and improvements to that outstanding system. 

Benelli Super Black Eagle 3

Starting with an MSRP of around $2,000+ this isn’t your budget weekend shotgun, but it is one of the best shotguns on the market — period.

Available in a huge range of optics from tactical grips to sporting grips, 24” to 28” barrels, rib sights, bead sights, or red dot mounts, anything you want to do with a shotgun can be done with the right model of Super Black Eagle.

Don’t let the long list of options scare you, every Super Black Eagle is a great shotgun. Narrow down what your goals are and look for the gun that fits.

All Super Black Eagle 3 shotguns come with Benelli’s inertia drive system, oversized bolt handle and safety, Comtech and Comfort tech to improve handling and recoil, and their hammer-forged barrels with Crio treatment.

CZ 1012

I’m a huge fan of CZ products and while their pistols are very well known to people, I feel like their shotguns kind of go under the radar for most.

The truth is, CZ shotguns are pretty great — especially for their price. If you want an inertia shotgun but don’t want to spend your rent money on it, the CZ 1012 is perfect for you.

Starting around $680 the 1012 line comes in either 26” or 28” barrel flavors, comes with 5 chokes (F, IM, M, IC, and C), is adorned in Turkish Walnut furniture, and makes for some outstanding hunting or sporting shotguns.

CZ 1012
CZ 1012

While you have a lot fewer options when it comes to the 1012 Vs. the Super Black Eagle 3, the CZ is less than half the cost.

If you’re looking for a great shotgun to get started with or you’re just not fully sold on the inertia system, this is a perfect starting point.

It’s a good shotgun that works, and that’s what counts the most.

Benelli M4

While Benelli might have perfected the inertia design, it’s actually not used in the gun that they’re probably best known for — the Benelli M4.

The first gas-operated shotgun Benelli ever made, the M4 was adopted by agencies and militaries around the world — including the United States Marine Corps.

Using a proprietary Auto-Regulating Gas-Operated (ARGO) system, the M4 does actually what it sounds like, it uses gas but self-regulates it.

Benelli M4 H2O

This design basically solves the gas problem that most other gas shotguns suffer from and allows the M4 to shoot almost any load with zero modifications between ammo types.

Fed this shotty a mixed bag of whatever you want and it will run no problem.

This is great if you have a ton of ammo to burn through or you’re always chasing whatever is cheap, but it’s also great from a reliability point also.

From tactical home defense to clays to hunting, there is an M4 for you. My favorite are the Benelli M4 H20 for the improved coating and how great they look.

Mossberg 940 Pro

Mossberg has a long and legendary history of making some of the best shotguns you can find, but their semi-auto line has reached new levels with the introduction of the Mossberg 940 Pros.

These shotguns are smooth shooting, ultra-reliable, and won’t totally break your bank account. With an MSRP of around $1,150 every 940 Pro comes optic read, drilled and tapped receiver, clean-running gas-vent system, adjustable stock, and a fiber-optic sight.

Mossberg 940 JM Pro

Available in tactical, hunting, and competition models the 940 line has a lot to offer anyone who needs a shotgun.

From turkey hunting to home defense, 18.5”-28” barrels, Mossberg has you covered.

Oversized controls, reliable system, and a great feel — if you ask us, this is about 95% the performance of a Beretta 1301 but will save you several hundred dollars at least.

There is more to say about the 940 Pros, so take a look at our complete Mossberg 940 Pro Tactical Review.

IWI Tavor TS12

Bullpup, semi-auto, 3 shell tubes for a total of 15 shells on tap — there is a lot to love with the IWI Tavor TS12.

From the same people that brought you the Tavor rifle, the TS12 is a fresh take on the bullpup idea by giving you a semi-auto shotgun that actually works in a very compact package.

While the system is reliable and durable, it’s also a little weird… in a good way, kind of.

IWI Tavor TS12

One of the features that sets the TS12 apart from others is the 3 magazine tubes that each hold 5 shells of 2-3/4” 12ga.

As one tube goes dry, the shooter must manually turn the tri-tube assembly to rotate the next tube into place and allow it to feed.

Practically, this is very easy and doesn’t really interrupt shooting — but it is a training point that needs to be drilled if you want to use this as a home defense gun.

One semi-hidden benefit of this system is the ability to load different shot loads in the same gun and choose what you want to shoot.

One tube of slugs, one of buckshot, one of… bird shot? Salt rock? Rat shot? There are options to be had if you so choose.

For a home defense set up I think I would go 2 tubes of #4 buckshot and 1 tube of slugs. But shenanigans like this take a lot of training to operate effectively under stress. If that doesn’t sound like you, 3 tubes of 1 ammo is a great option also.

Beretta A300

One of the shotguns that Beretta is best known for, the A300 is a legend in the shotgun world. There are over a dozen models of the A300 that come in every flavor you can think of for sporting guns. 

Barrels from 24” to 30”, rib sights, beads, drilled and tapped, wood stocks, plastic stocks, cerakote, the options are basically endless.

Why? Because this is hands down one of the best semi-auto shotguns on the market and Beretta knows it.

Beretta A300

Priced very reasonably with an MSRP of $600+, the A300 is one of the perfect shotguns for hunting or clay shooting.

Especially loved by duck and upland bird hunters, A300s have a reputation for being unstoppable and incredibly easy to care for.

There is nothing super fancy about the A300. No sexy high-tech gas system, no expensive inertia system, no ultra-proprietary top-secret materials used with a space age coating or treatment.

What you see is what you get. A great shotgun, well made, incredibly respected for its durability and reliability.

And all of it for a very reasonable price.

Browning Auto 5

There are basically two versions of the Browning A5 out in the world — the OG one made by John Browning and some goofy one made by the modern brand Browning.

The A5 I’m talking about is the first one, the system actually designed by John Browning and was the first commercially successful semi-auto shotgun on the market way back in the early 1900s.

Browning with Auto 5
John Browning with his Auto 5

Why is this decades-old model one of the best semi-auto shotguns? Well, first it’s just really cool from a historical standpoint, but also because these are still outstanding guns that are pretty widely available for not a bad price.

Designed in 1898 the A5 was produced until 1998. The A5 held many different names but was produced by Remington, Savage, Franchi, Fabrique Nationale de Herstal (FN), and Miroku.

Over 3 million Auto 5 shotguns were produced worldwide with about a million of those being produced in the USA by Remington alone.

Because this was such a popular shotgun for such a long time, a lot of them are still out there today. Priced around $500-800 on sites like Gunbroker for most models and grades, this is a surprisingly affordable piece of history.

1903-FN-Auto-5
1903 FN Browning Auto 5, image via C&Rsenal

The Auto 5 is a long-recoil system that is dead on reliable and is able to shoot most types of shells.

Available in 12, 16, and 20 gauge with barrels from 18.5” to 32”, bead sights to ventilated ribs, there are loads of options out there.

Repairing them is even fairly easy since there are tons of spare parts in the wild and even several parts still in production by a few aftermarket brands.

This isn’t the most modern shotgun, and while dozens of styles were made it might be hard to find the perfect one you’re looking for, and even if you do find it it might need a little TLC to get running perfectly.

But hey, if you’re open to a little bit of a project, these make one hell of a hunting gun and come with a classic flair that you just can’t beat.

LOOSE ROUNDS

Semi-auto shotguns are a crazy ton of fun and are very practical tools for a wide range of jobs. From hunting to home defense, shotguns can do a lot.

If it was my money and my home, I would pick the Mossberg 940 or the Beretta 1301 for home defense.

Hunting, my top pick is the Beretta A300 or Browning Auto 5.

Fun on the range? The KUSA Komrad beats everything by a mile.

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