Shop on

Affordable and Reliable Shotguns

Table of Contents

It’s hard to beat the utility and practicality of a good shotgun. Semi-auto rifles like the AR-15 might be more popular, but nothing compares to the versatility of a pump-action or semi-auto shotgun. 

The beauty of a good shotgun is that it can function in multiple roles: protecting your home, hunting both deer and birds, and even recreational sports like trap or skeet shooting. 

Perhaps best of all, shotguns tend to be among the most affordable firearms you can buy, making them a perfect choice to maximize bang for your buck. 

COM Benelli Shotgun

Types of Shotguns 

Shotguns can be broken down neatly into categories based on action type, of which there are four main options. Each comes with its own pros and cons and is best suited to a different application. 

Semi-Auto Shotguns 

Semi-automatic shotguns are self-loading, meaning that after every round fired they automatically eject the spent shell and load a new one. These can be driven by either piston or inertia systems, although piston-driven shotguns are by far the most common. 

These shotguns are best for any application that requires rapid fire, including competition, home defense, and certain types of hunting. It’s worth noting, though, that semi-autos may be restricted or prohibited for hunting in some jurisdictions, so be sure to check your local laws before buying one for turkey season. 

Semi-autos also tend to be more expensive than most other types of shotguns, and can in some cases be less reliable than manually operated versions. Mossberg, Beretta, and Benelli all offer highly popular semi-automatic shotguns.  

Pump-Action Shotguns 

By far the most common type of shotgun, pump-actions use a manually operated pump to cycle the action. This pump must be actuated after every round fired in order to load a new one, slowing down the rate of fire somewhat compared to semi-autos, although skilled users can still achieve impressive rates of fire. 

Pump-actions are largely considered to be mechanically more reliable than semi-autos, but are more prone to user error, particularly when used in high-stress situations such as competition or self-defense. 

Pump-action shotguns tend to be among the most cost-effective shotguns to own. Brands like Remington and Mossberg offer top-quality pump-action shotguns at all price points.  

Lever-Action Shotguns 

Lever-action shotguns have essentially the same pros and cons as pump-actions. They are manually operated, using a lever rather than a pump, but are otherwise very functionally similar. 

Lever-action shotguns tend to be slightly more expensive than the average pump-action, although affordable models do exist. Many lever-action shotguns currently on the market are replicas of older models, making them very popular with cowboy action and SASS competitors. 

Break-Action Shotguns 

Also known as Over/Under or Side-by-Side shotguns depending on the configuration of the barrels, break-action shotguns are also manually operated, requiring the user to “break” open the action to eject the spent shells and then manually place new ones. 

The utility of this style of shotgun is primarily limited to hunting and recreation due to its limited capacity; because each round is loaded directly into the chamber of the barrel by hand, the total number of rounds that can be fired before reloading is always equal to the number of barrels on the shotgun. This makes it less than ideal for self-defense. 

Break-action shotguns run the gamut from highly affordable single-barrel models to elite, custom-made competition guns, meaning you can spend essentially as much or as little as you want. 

MD25 g2 ACSS Benelli M4 01

Choosing the Right Shotgun 

The single most important attribute when selecting a new shotgun is reliability. You can buy the smoothest, most accurate, feature-laden shotgun on the market, but if it doesn’t go bang every time you pull the trigger, you’ll be back looking for a new one before long. Whether your new shotgun is intended for bird hunting or home protection, you need to be able to trust it to get the job done without fail. 

Luckily, reliability in a shotgun is not hard to find or particularly expensive to acquire, especially in pump- and break-action firearms. The market is replete with quality shotguns, even in the affordable category, so as long as you stick to major manufacturers with a good track record for ruggedness and reliability. Winchester, Remington, Browning, Mossberg, Beretta, and more all meet this criterion. 

Next, consider how your new shotgun will be used; it’s essential that you match your intended use case to the features of your firearm. For instance, a home defense shotgun may benefit from a pistol grip and shortened length of pull to make it more maneuverable indoors, but those features would be counterproductive in a bird hunting gun. The same goes for action type, barrel length, choke type, chamber size, and more. 

When it comes to gauge, we recommend choosing the smallest one that meets the needs of your use case to minimize weight and recoil. In most cases, that will be 12-gauge, but not all. Home defense is one category in which savvy buyers frequently choose a smaller gauge, often 20 gauge, to minimize recoil while still utilizing loads that offer sufficient terminal ballistics for the task. 

For particularly price-conscious buyers, though, 12-gauge is usually the best option, being the most common and often the cheapest shotgun shell available at most brick-and-mortar stores. 

Lastly, when selecting a shotgun, you’ll want to consider your budget. As we covered above, certain types of shotguns tend to be more expensive than others, so it’s important to consider how much you’re willing to spend before getting your heart set on one particular model. 

Often pump-action models will offer better value for money when it comes to features and build quality, particularly if your use case doesn’t especially need the increased rate of fire provided by semi-autos. 

COM Remington Shotgun

Shotguns for Home Defense 

The idea of using a shotgun for home defense has become something of a controversial one, despite its long history of being used for that very purpose. Still, they remain a popular choice for the same reason they have been for the last hundred years or more; simply, they work. 

Shotguns are effective tools at defending the home, and dollar for dollar, there’s often no more cost-efficient option. This is not to say that a shotgun is the ultimate home defense firearm, only that it is an adequate one, and for most people, adequate is more than enough. 

When it comes to selecting a tactical shotgun for home defense, you’ll want to stick to pump-action or semi-auto models. Break-actions offer far too modest capacities and slow recoil times to be practical, and while lever-actions offer much of the same function as pumps, you won’t find very many tactical or defensively oriented models. 

Home defense shotguns should ideally feature the largest magazine capacity practical, as well as a fairly short barrel, typically around 18.5-20″. While longer barrels do offer higher velocities and superior ballistics, they also become unwieldy in tight spaces—such as inside a home. 

Many tactical shotguns sport adjustable pistol-grip stocks, but they aren’t truly necessary for a defensive shotgun. Any stock with which you are comfortable and proficient is fine. 

You’ll also frequently see these types of shotguns with fixed cylinder chokes, although some models will offer removable chokes. Chokes aren’t generally necessary for defensive shotguns—if used inside an average-sized home, the shot won’t travel far enough for the choke to have any significant effect—but they also won’t usually hurt, either. Some users do feel that a removable choke adds an additional potential failure point, though, since it is theoretically possible for the choke to come loose during operation. 

As far as gauge is concerned, either 12- or 20-gauge is generally sufficient for home defense with proper loads. Recoil-sensitive users will often prefer 20-gauge, although finding high-quality defensive ammo in that size can be challenging at times. 

Some popular home defense shotgun models include the Mossberg 940 Pro Tactical, the Remington 870 Tactical, and the Benelli Supernova. 

AKF7941 2

Best Hunting Shotguns 

Hunting shotguns are essentially the inverse of tactical shotguns. They are best served by long barrels capable of maximizing velocity, and almost universally offer removable chokes. Being able to change out your choke to accommodate different loads and applications is essential for a versatile hunting shotgun. 

While thumbhole or pistol-grip stocks are not unheard of on hunting shotguns, the vast majority will feature traditional rifle stocks, as they tend to be easier to swing up from a resting position for bird hunting or skeet competition. 

Magazine capacity can essentially be ignored, as most jurisdictions will limit the maximum capacity allowed for hunting; many forms of competition similarly set maximum shell capacity at a fairly low number, making a large magazine in this type of shotgun counterproductive. 

12 gauge is overwhelmingly the most common choice for hunting shotguns, although hunters who are only after smaller types of fowl might sometimes choose 20 gauge or even a smaller caliber. 

Unlike tactical shotguns, nearly all types of shotgun actions can be practical for hunting, and so the choice of action largely comes down to preference. 

Popular hunting shotguns include the Remington 870 Wingmaster, the Mossberg 500, and the Winchester SXP. 

SLX MD25 G2 M590A1 Shotgun 2


When it comes to reliability, versatility, and sheer cost-effectiveness, it’s hard to beat a good shotgun. Shotguns offer exceptional bang-for-your-buck and can be pressed into service in a wide range of applications, from home defense to hunting and more. 

When choosing a shotgun, start by considering what your intended use for it will be, then match the features of available models to your use case. If you’re still in the weeds on what some terms mean or which parts they refer to, check out our guide to pump-action shotgun parts