We continue our series of best gunmakers by asking the question: Who’s the best gunmaker in the world? We started the series with centerfire caliber semiautomatic pistols, now we move on to shotgun makers.
Once again, in order to minimize biases as much as possible – and to follow the spirit of journalistic objectivity – instead of making a claim for a single manufacturer, I’m going to list several finalists/contestants/candidates and make a case for each of them.
Admittedly, I don’t have nearly as much hands-on experience with shotguns as I do with handguns, submachine guns, and so-called “assault rifles,” so, to fill in my personal knowledge gaps, I’ll rely on heavily on the article on the Sportsman’s Warehouse website simply titled “Best Shotgun Brands.”
Exhibit A: The Case for Benelli
Might as well start with the brand that the Sportsman’s Warehouse article ranks as #1. In their words: “Benelli is an Italian gunmaker, and they are best known for their high-quality shotguns. These firearms are used by military, law enforcement, hunters, and home defenders alike. If you’re looking for a semi-automatic shotgun, the Benelli Super Black Eagle was one of the first that was able to fire shotgun shells from 2.75” to 3.5” … Benelli has a wide range of semi-automatic shotguns, but you can also find over/under and pump action shotguns. Benelli even offers convertible shotguns, which allow you to swap out the action. The Benelli M3 is a particularly popular convertible shotgun.”
Exhibit B: The Case for Beretta
Of course, this list wouldn’t be complete without including the world’s longest-existing gunmaker, not to mention the world’s oldest existing industrial firm of any kind (and for good measure, one of my all-time personal favorite handgun manufacturers), which traces its roots all the way back to the year 1526. Believe it or not, I have yet to fire any of Beretta’s shotguns, but from all reports I’ve read online or heard in person from fellow gun owners, I have absolutely zero doubt that the same level of quality and workmanship of Beretta’s handguns, rifles, and submachine guns also carries over to their shotguns.
Beretta gets Sportsman’s Warehouse’s silver medal (so to speak) of shotgun manufacturers. They state that “The Beretta Xtrema2 is a popular choice for waterfowlers thanks to its simplicity and light recoil. Their selection includes semi-automatic, over/under, and side by side shotguns.”
Exhibit C: The Case for Remington
Now, this is a brand I *can* personally vouch for from a personal experience standpoint, as I’ve owned a Remington Model 870 12-gauge “scattergun” since 2008. More specifically, I own the saltwater-resistant Model 870 Synthetic Tactical version, which features a single front bead sight, a non-glare matte finish, and a 5-shot capacity. To reiterate what I said during my standalone review of this gun, “I have wielded her only against paper targets so far, at indoor and outdoor ranges alike, using rifled slugs, birdshot, and buckshot … The gun has functioned flawlessly throughout, and though a shotgun will never be as accurate as a rifle, the 870’s ability to put slug loads on target at ranges up to 25 yards has not disappointed.”
Sportsman’s Warehouse notes that the 870 is Remington’s “best-selling gun of all time.” They rank Remington as #3 on their list.
Exhibit D: The Case for Winchester
This is another brand with which I have hands-on experience, although granted it’s been over a dozen years since I gained that experience. Indeed, the very first pump-action shotgun I ever fired – at A Place To Shoot (yes, that’s the actual name) in Santa Clarita, Calif, back around the time of my 15th birthday in August 1990 – was a Winchester-brand “shotty,” though the exact model number escapes my senile old coot’s memory at the moment. Even though I was a mere 5’6” and roughly 120 lbs. soaking wet at the time I fired it, it enabled me to attain proficiency in busting clay pigeons in a very short space of time.
Sportsman’s Warehouse awards the Winchester brand 4th place, granting specific recognition to their Super X4 Autoloading Shotguns, Super X Pump Pump-Action Shotguns, Super X3 Autoloading Shotguns, and Model 101 Over and Under Shotguns.
Exhibit E: The Case for Browning
Just like the world’s oldest existing gunmaker, i.e. Beretta, Browning would’ve been conspicuous by its absence from this list, so too would’ve been the brand name bearing the namesake of the greatest gun designer and inventor of all-time, the late great Mr. John Moses Browning. After all, among other things, Mr. Browning invented the Auto 5 aka A-5, which was the first successful semi-automatic shotgun design, doing so back in 1898 (thus predating his legendary M1911 .45 ACP autopistol by 13 years).
The present-day Browning brand name rounds out Sportsman’s Warehouse’s 5 Best List. In addition to acknowledging the A-5, they note that Browning was also the brains behind the modern version of the over/under shotgun.
Exhibits F & G: The Cases for Charles Daly and Mossberg
In my experience and that of quite a few others I’ve talked to – including reputable gunsmiths – Charles Daly’s M1911 pistols flat-out suck, but their shotguns are a different story (and once again, I gleam this from reliable online sources and face-to-face conversations with “in-the-know” types). While Sportsman’s Warehouse doesn’t include Daly in their Top 5 List, they do give them an Honorable Mention of sorts, with specific shoutouts to the Model 601, Model 500 series, “and the unique Triple Crown 3 Barrel shotgun.”
And then there’s O.F. Mossberg & Sons. Mossberg’s products have never been quite as refined or upscale as the other brands mentioned in this article. What they *are* known for is an excellent value-for-price ratio, i.e., the literal and proverbial “bang for the buck.” In their own words: “It began in 1919 with a simple dream to manufacture durable and reliable firearms that the working class could afford.”
My wonderful girlfriend Lisa is quite fond of her Mossberg Maverick 88.
Christian D. Orr is a Senior Defense Editor for 19FortyFive. He has 34 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011.