I Don't Want to Pay a Lot for an Autoloading Shotgun!

By Randy Wakeman

A lot of people don't. As a matter of fact, the most popular shotgun action in the United States has long been a pump. That hasn't changed one bit over the years, in fact its margin has increased steadily. Side by side models grow scarcer every year; although there is a lot of talk about O/Us, the most popular O/U in history, the Browning Citori, finally sold one million back in 2010.


In the past few years, autoloading shotguns have hit new levels of higher prices, if not discernible quality. It isn't hard to find an autoloader, made of more plastic than anything else, that retails for $1800, $2000, or more. Whether they meet the notion of “worth it” is not the issue for a lot of folks; it just isn't what they are willing or able to pay. Nevertheless, there remains a lot of junk out there that would be overpriced even if it was free. Here are some of the better choices in autoloaders that you can have for under a thousand dollars. Sometimes much less than a thousand dollars, contingent on configuration, yet I believe you can have a lot of fun with them. They are listed below in no particular order.




Mossberg 930


Actually one of the more recently introduced autoloaders in the grand scheme of things, it is available in dozens of configurations from home defense, tactical, waterfowl, turkey and slug models. Of conventional gas-operated design, it is a well-thought out autoloader with an excellent track record and has special appeal to those who prefer a tang-mounted safety.


Franchi Affinity


Made by Benelli, it is a reliable, just all-around excellent inertia style autoloader that fits into the “familiar name but reasonable price” category. Extremely low maintenance is part of its appeal. Of the three tested examples so far, all had excellent triggers. The recoil pad is a non-standard notched type, so aftermarket pads aren't readily available.


Winchester SX3 Field / Browning Silver


These two models are actually the same gun. Although not commonly categorized as value-priced shotguns, with the various promotions that are close to perpetual (tax rebate, free ammo, etc.) both of these gas-operated shotguns from parent company Herstal Group are more affordable than you might think. With more attention being paid to the flagship Maxus and A5 models, the standard three inch SX3 Black Shadow and Field Models are available at under the thousand dollar threshold. In fact, the Black Shadow has a full boat MSRP of $999.99 and you can find them for substantially less. Using the same basic action as released on the Browning Gold 20 years ago, it is the most enduring of the models listed here.


Beretta Outlander


A recent release from Beretta that is mostly assembled in the U.S. from sourced parts, it seems to be one of the most hiccup-free releases under the Beretta brand in some time. Although clearly intended to be cheap to make and affordable, Beretta may well have screwed up a bit here and introduced their all-around best general-purpose autoloader.




There isn't a large selection of affordable and desirable twenty gauge autoloaders out there, I'm sorry to say. There are four that you might want to consider, the recently reviewed Weatherby SA-08, the Franchi Affinity 20 Gauge and again the Winchester SX3 / Browning Silver models that are at a bit higher price point. The SX3 and Silver actually use the classic Browning Gold speed-loading action and can be had under the thousand dollar mark. The fourth model that you might find of interest is the Franchi 48 AL: 2013 MSRP for the standard, satin walnut model is $899, the discount retail price is perhaps a hundred dollars less. It is the original superlight 20 auto and if light weight is a one of the most important considerations for you, and you will shoot only 2-3/4 inch unfolded length twenty gauge shotshells, it fits both into the very pleasant to carry category and the sub-thousand dollar price point of this brief article.


Both the Weatherby SA-08 Deluxe walnut and the Franchi Affinity are six pound guns as tested, while the Winchester / Browning gas guns are right at 6-1/2 lbs. The 20 gauge action on SX3 and Silver models remains unchanged from the Gold.

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Copyright 2013 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.