We all need a workhorse, an affordable gun that performs well and looks good doing so. Here The Field highlights the top 12 most affordable shotguns for less than £2,500
There is always room for a workhorse in the gun safe, and a stringent budget makes the addition easy. After some consideration, ours was drawn at £2,500. Some of the guns mentioned are base models where their more decorated, but mechanically similar, stablemates may stray above the stated ceiling. Most of the guns have been shot on several occasions by the writer or are included because of multiple recommendations. Sadly, space limitations mean some perfectly serviceable guns have been left out. For ease, the guns are presented in alphabetical order, while there is no comparative scoring as we feel they all offer value. So without further ado, here are the top 12 most affordable shotguns available.
The SP is a gun many dealers have enthused about recently that seems to be selling in large numbers. An obvious clone of the 68 series Beretta, it is priced between £625 and £1,499, and is available in 12- or 20-bore with 28in or 30in, 10mm-ribbed barrels. There is also a side-plated gun at £850, and a Supersport 30in or 32in competition gun with extended chokes and engraved receiver at £799. An adjustable-stock version is £899, while a gold-embellished ‘bells and whistles’ model is £999.
The Silverline II side-plate, possibly inspired by the Beretta EELL, is £1,199 and the Avantgarde, with engraving picked out in gold similar to a Guerini, is £1,299. Finally, the SP Deluxe side-plate is £1,499. The guns are offered with a ‘common sense warranty’, which may extend beyond the normal year at the supplier’s discretion. My call would be the basic black action (£625) or the smart, medium scroll engraved, Silverline (£899).
Sportsman Gun Centre, sportsmanguncentre.co.uk
The M1 is Benelli’s most competitively priced, no-frills, workhorse semi-automatic. It’s a rotary-bolt, inertia-action gun with a recommended retail price of £1,100. It’s a clever design (as was the earlier Benelli, which did not have the rotary bolt now also added to some Berettas after Beretta bought Benelli). There are a wide range of Benellis now. The M2 (£1,550), Montefeltro Beccaccia Supreme (£1,750), and Raffaello Black (£1,775) all offer value. Benelli also makes a radically styled, ribless, aluminium-actioned over-and-under – the 828U Field in black – with prices beginning at £2,450. My preference would be the 30in guns as the model is very light. All Benellis are proofed for steel shot.
For many years, the Beretta 686 Silver Pigeon has been a bestseller – and for good reason. Developed from the old 55 and 56E (the ejector version) models, it is a gun that has proven almost indestructible in use, with tough chrome-moly steel barrels. It has been favoured by shooting schools, as well as the shooting public, since its introduction as the 686 in the 1970s (Silver Pigeon was added in 1995). It benefits from a low action profile made possible by bifurcated barrel lumps, stud-pin hinging and a clever conical bolting system. Recent guns are multi-choked and fleur-de-lys steel shot proofed. Bearing surfaces are easily replaceable. The Silver Pigeons start with the 686 Silver Pigeon I Field at £1,950. I am especially fond of the 30in 20-bores, but the 30in 12-bore remains a ‘do anything’ gun. The 686 continues to be an industry standard and comes with a three-year guarantee (which may be extended to 10 years at a cost of £60). The 68 series is now supplemented by the 69 series guns. Most of these are outside our scope, but the recently launched Ultraleggero lightweight, at £2,550, is just close enough to consider. We should also mention Beretta’s superb semi-autos, which begin with the A300, based on the older but excellent 300 series gas-operated action, at £1,150, and move on to the rotary-bolt, gas-operated A400s from £1,500.
The 525 is the latest evolution of a well-proven series of Japanese-made Brownings built at the BC Miroku factory at Kochi. The basic design is that of John Moses Browning from the 1920s. Notable features include a full-width cross pin and a wide locking bolt beneath the bottom chamber mouth. B525s now begin with the Game I at £1,799 (the excellent 20-bore version is £1,950). There are laminate stock models: the B525 Game Laminate (£1,899) and the Sporter Laminate (£2,390). There are also the 725 models, with a slightly lower profile and a double-seal choke, to consider – the 725 Hunter Premium at £2,540 and the 725 Sport at £2,500. Despite the designation as a clay-buster, the latter is a first-class game gun and I’ve done some of my best shooting with one in 30in form. The 725 also now offers a choice of fore-ends at no additional cost – an improved schnabel or a Trap type. The Browning 525 and 725, like the Beretta Silver Pigeon, set an industry standard.
BWM Arms, browning.eu
The EGE Arms 350 is an inertia system semi-automatic made in Turkey and imported by ASI of Snape, better known for AyA and Rizzini guns. It was tested in these pages and impressed with remarkable performance considering its price point. It’s too early to comment on longterm reliability, but the operating system is similar to a Benelli. It certainly appears to offer strength and outstanding value. A basic black-stocked version is £499, with a camo model at £585. It comes with three chokes, 28in or 30in barrels and a 10mm ventilated sighting rib. There is a gas-operated model too, but for hide or marsh I would pick the recoil/inertia-operated semi-auto because the mechanical system is particularly efficient and easy to clean. Steel shot proofed.
Fabarm makes well-engineered guns at reasonable prices, often with most interesting specifications. Its guns are all steel shot proofed and, unusually, due to their hyperbolic, internally curved choke profile (which is longer than the norm, too), they can use steel shot with full choke – not that there is any advantage to doing this, of course. Its Elos BII Field is available at £1,350 with 28in or 30in barrels equipped with a 6mm sighting rib. The gun is a good weight for a machine-made over-and-under (7¼lb with 30in tubes) and boasts Fabarm’s Tribore taper-bored barrels and Inner HP flush-fitting chokes. This Elos has understated but smart styling with a semi-rounded black action. The grip shape is good as well. There is a new Elos II Elite ‘colour case hardened’ version at £1,950 with gold bird inlays, but the BII offers especially good value and pleasing conservative looks. Fabarm also makes some excellent, particularly strong, side-by-sides (notable for having four barrel lumps rather than the usual Purdey-inspired two). The multi-choked, 28in or 30in, pigeon-ribbed Classis starts at £2,080. It produces semi-autos, too – its soft-recoiling, gas-operated XLR5 semi-auto was superceded last year by the L4S (from £999) with a redesigned fore-end and a slimmer overall feel. My value calls are the BII and Classis.
Anglo Italian Arms, caesargueriniuk.com
Hatsan is a well-established Turkish firm best known for budget repeaters. Its gas-operated semi-autos begin at a remarkable £289 in 12- or 20-bore. They are not refined but functionally reliable with 28g loads and above. Barrel options include 24in (FAC), 26in, 28in and 30in, and right- and left-handed stocks are available. The standard model is 3in chambered, but the 3½in-chambered gun is well priced too at £357.99. There are camo versions from £459 and a new .410 model at £369.
Sportsman Gun Centre, sportsmanguncentre.co.uk
KOFS is a relatively new player whose offerings are popular with the gun trade because of their low price point. The KOFS Sceptre alloy action over-and-under starts at £535 and is available in .410, 28-, 20- and 12-bore. There are many configurations too, including juniors, ladies and left-hand models (with the junior versions available in 26in-barrel form). A new steel-actioned Zenith arrived this year with a price of £599. It is only available as a 12-bore, but with 26in to 30in barrel options and, again, multiple configurations. The action combines stud-pin hinging with a Browning-style rear bolt. Five multi-chokes are supplied and it is British fleur-de-lys proofed.
Sportsman Gun Centre, sportsmanguncentre.co.uk
The only sub-£2,000 Miroku now is the MK60 Universal Grade I at £1,799. Sadly, this is only available as a 12-bore; you have to go to a Grade V – around the £3,500 mark – to get a 20-bore (it is an excellent and pretty gun, though). At £2,090, however, there is the MK38 Sporter Grade I – an outstanding ‘no bells and whistles’ gun for clays or game (and well suited to high birds in 30in or 32in form). Some fabulous bargains exist on the second-hand market with late-model Mirokus. Check the barrels inside for rust and make sure they are still tight on the action face with the fore-end removed if you are tempted.
BWM Arms, miroku.eu
Rizzini’s budget model is notable for its (smart) plain black action. At £1,800, it is offered in .410, 12-,16-, 20- and 28-bore, all with five chokes and the fleur-de-lys proof mark. The stock is made of Grade 2 walnut and has a fairly open pistol grip. The single trigger is selective, and barrels are 28in or 30in. I would go for a 30in 20-bore, but the 16-bore might also be tempting. The Rizzini action, which combines Beretta-style hinging with Browning-style bolting, is ideally scaled as a 20-bore, the profile allowing for almost perfect grip proportions.
These .410s are ideal for instructional or general use. They are lightweight but strong and durable. There is a youth model with a 13½in stock, an intermediate 14in stock and an adjustable-comb version for £150 extra. The base model non-ejector starts at £525, with the ejector £100 more. Barrel options are 26in, 28in and 30in – I would opt for 28in or 30in. All guns are fleur-de-lys proofed. There are 12- and 20-bores too but my favourite is the .410. The Perazzi-inspired Yildiz Pro 12- and 20-bore impressed in both bore sizes and offer remarkable value for money – perhaps the best buy on the UK market in the case of the 20-bore. In essence, the Pro is a clone of a Perazzi, with trunnion hinging and Boss-style bolting supplemented by draws and wedges amidships as on the MX8 and MX12. They are well made from good materials and finely finished with well-figured stocks. The 32in 20-bore is particularly good, as noted, and handles exceptionally well. Prices start at £1,502 for the Grade 3 Pro Black 12-bore. The Grade 4 20-bore (the entry point in 20-bore) begins at £1,945. There is a newly offered colour case hardened CCH model, too, and an adjustable-comb gun. Anyone who buys the 32in 20-bore won’t be disappointed.
Winchester over-and-unders are no longer offered in the UK, but its excellent semi-autos are. The fast-cycling SX3 has always been a favourite and this is now superseded by the similar SX4 (starting at £843), offered with 26in, 28in and 30in barrels in three-shot or five-shot (FAC) form. The new model, still made in Portugal, has lost the useful shims previously provided for gunfit adjustment but gains a bigger trigger-guard for use with gloves, a larger bolt release and a bigger cocking handle as well as a new recoil pad. Wood and plastic stock versions are available. From the neighbouring stable (but also made in Portugal) is the Browning Maxus II, starting at £1,435 for a composite-stocked gun. A new fore-end allows for a magazine extension if required on an FAC gun, and there are rubberised surfaces on grip and fore-end. The Maxus is an excellent gun and does offer a shim kit for height and cast as well as length spacers.
BWM Arms, winchester.eu