The Search for a Good, Cheap O/U Shotgun

By Randy Wakeman

Browning Cynergy Classic Field
Browning Cynergy Classic Field 12 gauge shotgun. Illustration courtesy of Browning.

Designing and building a good, inexpensive, O/U shotgun is not an easy task. An over/under has two barrels that should throw patterns within four inches of each other at 40 yards and consumers expect it to have a decent single selective trigger, ventilated top rib, tang safety, steel receiver, walnut stock and at least very good overall build quality.

For whatever reason, buyers will overlook obvious flaws in repeating shotguns that they will not tolerate in an O/U. It is, therefore, not reasonable to expect an O/U to sell at the price point of plastic stocked repeaters.

You have twice the numbers of barrels, meaning twice the chambers, forcing cones and chokes. Twice the number of firing pins and sears, twice the number of ejectors, etc. It is not quite two guns in one, but in terms of machining and assembly, it is close.

To get a decent O/U, you need a steel receiver. Alloy is half the weight, but only about one quarter as strong. Alloy is used for the sake of cheapness and even the guns with alloy receivers have steel or titanium inserts.

Just being steel is not good enough for competition guns, as they are not just steel, but often have wider receivers, larger hinge pins, increased bearing surfaces and multiple locking lugs for extra durability. The receiver is the frame, what the trigger(s) and action parts are attached to, not a block of plastic. Aluminum alloy is not only weaker, but alloys also have a different coefficient of thermal expansion. If you want a durable O/U, stay away from aluminum alloy receivers.

Before heading south into a extremely downgraded shotgun, consider that the Beretta 686 and Browning Cynergy models are not that expensive. Both sell for well under $2000. Actually, you can find plain receiver Browning Cynergy Satin Field models right now (February, 2015) for $1400 brand new. (The 2015 MSRP is $1739.99).

The fellow who shoots sporting clays just once a week, 200 clays for two rounds, will spend about $6500 a year on ammo and range fees; perhaps more, depending on club membership fees, cost of transportation, food and so forth. It is why the price of the gun, the only thing left at the end of the year and after many years, is not that important to many folks.

It is a competitive marketplace. It is no secret than Lanber is out of business and the original SKB, as well. Many new O/U shotgun models (along with parts and service) quickly vanish from the marketplace. The Fausti by Traditions, Stevens Gold Wing and the first Mossberg Silver Reserve were all spectacular failures. Ruger just proved, sadly, that a good O/U shotgun at a reasonable price is a tough proposition.

Nevertheless, if you still want an O/U on the cheap, there are a few price-point possibilities. For example, the Webley & Scott 900 series (made in Turkey, not Scotland) and perhaps the new-for-2015 Weatherby Orion I, also made in Turkey. Both are copies of the Beretta 686, in a general sense. There is also the Franchi Instinct L. Though sold by the Beretta organization, it is farmed out to Bettinsoli, then placed in a Franchi box.

In a general sense, a used Beretta or Browning is usually a better buy, as you can save thirty percent or so off of retail values and end up with a more satisfactory firearm. If brand new is your preference, then the value choice for this year is the Browning Cynergy (made in Japan). The value of the Japanese yen vs. the U.S. dollar is at a seven year low, a good deal for American consumers. Browning has dramatically slashed pricing on their Cynergy line across the board, making it an excellent value for 2015 to the price-conscious shotgun shopper.

Back to Shotgun Information

Copyright 2015, 2016 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.