The Better Semi-Auto Shotguns

By Randy Wakeman

A subjective look at current semi-autos that are worth your consideration.

Browning Gold: The best gas action made today that keeps getting better with running production enhancements made over the last 12 years. The best semi-auto you can buy, with enough configurations to please everyone.

Beretta 3901: A reintroduced Beretta 390 (now made in the USA), the best of the Beretta semi-autos since the A303 (the A304 is not generally available in this country). This is a great design, easily tuned by the addition of a Rich Cole Spring Kit. It is better thought out than the horrifically over-engineered 391 series that displaced the A390: purportedly to reduce "barrel vibration" that the 390 never had, with the addition of a multiple-piece (seven!) fore end cap.

Remington 1100: So successful in times past, it deserves a mention. O ring problems (due to poor manufacturing and quality control) continue to plague this most popular of the semi-autos. The 1100 has a strong, steel receiver, but a non-compensating gas system.

Benelli Super Black Eagle: Essentially a hard-kicking blowback action with an extra spring, generally poor trigger, and way overpriced for what it is. Though it is a kicker, it may have problems cycling light loads, and is dead last on my list. Those who treat their guns like canoe paddles seem to think that it is really something.

I have great disdain for the SBE, but the theory that "inertia" is an action along with some tortured but effective ad-copy has worked well. The classic Browning long recoil action A-5 actually cycles faster, and is more reliable. But as long as folks believe SBE's are somehow more reliable, they will exist. It rates a mention here because apparently a lot of people see something that has long eluded me. This gun is the "poster boy" for the pump action.

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Copyright 2006, 2016 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.