Choosing a shotgun for 3-gun competition can be intimidating, but it doesn’t need to be. Generally, an autoloader is ideal when you are starting out in the sport, but you can also use a pump-action, which offers slightly improved reliability from dirt and the elements without a complicated gas system to worry about. Do yourself a favor, buy magazine extension tubes, and with some shotguns it’s a good idea to invest in new sights. Also, keep in mind that at a 3-gun match, you may need shotshells and slugs.
Below, in no particular order, are five great shotgun choices for beginning 3-gunners. They're 12-gauge semi-automatic or pump-action models chosen from a variety of price points.
Browning A5 Stalker
The black composite version of the A5 has become popular for 3-gun in recent years with a rabid fan base. This is due to the advantage the speed loading feature gives competitors. When the bolt locks back on an empty chamber, a round sent into the tube will go back onto the lifter and send the bolt, charging the chamber. The humpback receiver blends in with the rib, extending the sight plane and aiding sight alignment. The front sight is fiber optic. Additionally, this autoloader boasts Browning’s Kinematic Drive System, which the company says is “the most reliable, fastest cycling, [and] best balanced.” They back it up with a five-year, 100,000 shot warranty. Note: American Hunter has an in-depth review of the A5 Stalker. $1,500-$1,630, depending on model. Browning.com
Remington Versa Max Competition Tactical
The Versa Max series of shotguns debuted in 2010. You’ll see many shooters rocking the Competition Tactical model at 3-gun matches, and for good reason. It’s a great deal for all the features included with it—like a beefy eight-shot magazine (expandable to 10 rounds with included carbon fiber extension), large features that can be manipulated with gloved hands, and a plus-sized loading port for quick reloads. The receiver is anodized aluminum in a handsome green cerakote. Also, this shogun comes with a set of Pro Bore choke tubes. Starts at $1,733. Remington.com
Mossberg 930 JM Pro
The “JM” in this shotgun stands for Jerry Miculek, who is quite simply, one of the best shooters of all time. He had a hand in the design of the shotgun, working closely with Mossberg engineers until the final product was up to his rigorous standards. Built on the venerable 930 platform already known for light recoil, this shotgun’s receiver is drilled and tapped for a scope base; a highly regarded four-lb. trigger, and Mossberg’s famous tang-mounted safety. A tapered loading port allows for rapid reloads, especially important for 3-gun competition. In addition, Mr. Miculek’s namesake Mossberg shotgun lives up to his competitive legacy with special pro series engraving, corrosion-resistance on internal parts for easy cleaning and improved reliability, fiber optic front sight, and an Accu-Set choke tube set. Note: read the Shooting Illustrated review of the Mossberg 930 JM Pro. $1,840. Mossberg.com
Winchester SXP Defender
The lone pump-action model in our list, the SXP defender represents a tremendous value to prospective 3-gun competitors. It comes standard with a textured synthetic stock; rotary bolt; and the barrel, chamber and bore are hard chrome plated. The 18-inch fixed cylinder choked barrel can handle buckshot or slugs, and is wide open with no constrictions for bigger patterns. A brass bead front sight makes it easy to distinguish targets from blue sky, green grass, and darkly-colored clay and dirt. The SXP Defender has a five-shot magazine, crossbolt safety, and drop-out trigger assembly for easy cleaning. It’s also lightweight, coming in at a svelte six lbs. eight ozs. $350. WinchesterGuns.com
Benelli M2 3-Gun
Updated in 2016, the M2 is a competitors dream, with Benelli’s Performance Shop pulling out all the stops. Notably for 3-gun, the M2 has an efficient loading port for fast quad loading, a rear dovetail sight for accuracy when using slugs, and Benelli’s trademark inertia driven system for reliable operation with a variety of loads. A grippy bolt knob makes it easy to rack and cycle, and the shell caddy is a nice bonus giving extra capacity. The choke tubes are Crio. Five are included: cylinder, improved cylinder, modified, improved modified and full. Fitting for the quality of the firearm, a custom-fitted hard case is also included. $2,500. BenelliUSA.com