Semi-automatic shotguns seem like something you’ll use in video games without needing them in real life.
But they are a useful gun to own.
What makes semi-auto shotguns worth it?
These guns are prized for how they can be used for tactical situations as well as gun competitions, but they’re also good for beginners.
This is because of how they make follow-up shots easier than what you’d experience with a pump gun. With that in mind, here’s the best semi auto shotgun to own, along with four alternatives.
Best Semi Auto Shotgun – Reviews & Buying Guide for 2021
Best overall: Gforce Arms 12 Gauge Bullpup Shotgun GFY-1
If you’re a gun collector, this one deserves a spot in your prized collection, and you’ll love that it’s one of the best budget semi auto shotgun products on our list. It’s an upgrade from the traditional 12-gauge semi-automatic shotgun because it’s smaller, easier to use, and easier to carry around with you.
- This best all round semi-auto shotgun has a three-inch chamber and lots of Picatinny rail space so you can customize it to your heart’s content. This type of rail is a military-grade rail system.
- Its length is 28.5 inches, so it’s not too large and therefore easier to carry around and handle, even in tight spaces.
- Like with most semi-automatic guns, this one has cross bolt safety. This takes the form of a push-button action that blocks the trigger or hammer, preventing unwanted firing of the gun.
- It’s recommended to use 1,300 FPS (feet per second) of shell velocity, which is considered to be supersonic.
- However, to combat the recoil that can occur with faster bullet speed, this gun has a rubber recoil pad integrated in its design. This makes it the best semi auto shotgun for sporting clays as well as other activities.
- It’s a 12-gauge shotgun, which makes it versatile. It will take down a variety of game when you’re hunting in the wild, while also being an excellent self-defense machine that’s used in law enforcement situations.
- Most magazines that are 12-gauge universal 1919 magazines will be compatible with this shotgun, which adds to its versatility.
- Some people who have purchased this shotgun have complained that the magazine it comes with can be tricky to use. When removing it, it can sometimes catch onto the bolt hold open system and close the chamber.
Runner Up: Typhoon Defense X-12 Semi Auto AR Shotgun
This gun boasts versatility that you won’t find in traditional semi-automatic guns, such as with its Picatinny rail that enables you to accommodate a variety of accessories as well as how it can accept external chokes. Let’s see what else it has to offer.
- This is a gas-operated shotgun with an upper receiver made out of 7075 T6 aluminum. This means that it’s both durable and light.
- The same goes for the gun’s lower receiver: it’s light in weight but also tough, and that’s thanks to its polymer construction.
- If you’re a beginner, you’ll love that this gun has ergonomic controls. These also make using the gun for extended periods of time much more comfortable, for beginners and experienced shooters alike. This feature makes it the best youth 20 gauge semi auto shotgun.
- Its X12 magazine has 5 + 1 round capacity, making it a versatile gun for use in various activities, from field and sports to self-defense.
- It comes with convenient sling mounts for added user-friendliness.
- You’ll love its flip-up sights. These will help you locate your target quickly and easily without wasting any precious time.
- One potential drawback you might experience with this semi auto shotgun is that some people who have purchased it have reported that its magazine is difficult to load. This can especially prove frustrating for beginners.
Alternative 1: ATI Bulldog Semi-Auto 12-GA Bullpup Shotgun
If you’re familiar with American Tactical Imports, you’ll know they’re a comprehensive firearm manufacturer who provides a range of guns. Their best tactical semi auto tactical shotgun is a unique gun to own. Here’s why it’s worth checking out.
- The Picatinny rail system that’s on this gun allows you to use an extra magazine as a foregrip.
- For extra accuracy and comfort, this gun comes with an adjustable cheek rest.
- Unlike with some other shotguns on the market, you won’t have to waste time trying to change your magazine. This gun makes the process easier because it has a quick-access release button. It’s the best semi auto shotgun for home defense purposes, and partly for this reason.
- Although made of polymer to keep it light in weight, this gun feels solid when held so you’ll feel you can control it easily.
- This gun comes with an AR charging handle. This is a mechanism you can pull or release to load a round into the chamber.
- The AR handle can take some getting used to, especially if you have small hands or you’re a beginner.
- Another element of this gun that will be a little tricky at first is the trigger pull as it’s a bit tough, but it should loosen up with regular use.
Alternative 2: Altobelli Silver Eagle Sporter SE
This semi-automatic shotgun is meant to be stylish and powerful, and it achieves both goals! Let’s check out its features in greater detail.
- This gun has a checkered Turkish walnut stock with a ventilated recoil pad. The walnut stock looks classy while the ventilated recoil pad will ensure that you avoid flinching and jerky movements when shooting.
- Since it has a long barrel length, this does help this shotgun to be a little faster than shotguns with shorter barrel lengths.
- This best best 20 gauge semi auto shotgun for the money doesn’t just look beautiful with its blued finish, but this finish also helps to protect the gun. Bluing is a chemical process that treats steel so that it ends up having an appealing blue-black finish. This process helps to prevent the gun from being susceptible to rust.
- It’s strong enough to handle 3 inch magnum shells. It can also smoothly cycle both target loads and magnum rounds, so you get the best of both worlds.
- It comes with five interchangeable choke tubes. This is beneficial because it enables you to use the same gun for a variety of different activities.
- It’s equipped with a fiber front sight that will make shooting clay pigeons really easy.
- A problem that some people have encountered with this gun is a feeding issue with the last round, causing them to have to use two rounds and then reload.
Alternative 3: Benelli M4 Tactical
This best tactical semi auto shotgun is a gun that’s liked by the U.S. military, so that already hints at its high standards and quality. While previous models have been targeted to civilians for purposes such as self-defense and home security, the M4 is specially designed for the military. Let’s see what it has to offer.
- This Benelli shotgun makes use of an auto-regulating gas-operated system. This system is patented by Benelli and it allows for quicker location of your target while it also reduces vibrations.
- The gun has stainless steel pistons that are self-cleaning, making this gun a lot easier to maintain.
- It’s built to be simple and work effectively, reducing the need for springs and heavy parts that you can find in many semi auto guns out there.
- You’ll be able to customize this gun, thanks to its Picatinny rail.
- It’s also designed with a ghost ring rear sight that’s fully adjustable, while the front sight is of the fixed blade variety. Ghost ring rear sights are beneficial because they give you better accuracy at longer ranges.
- You can fit a ton of modular stocks on this gun if you like, which further adds to its versatility.
- Although it’s one of the best cheap semi auto shotgun products on our list, this gun is a little heavier than previous models by Benelli.
- It might be a bit OTT if you’re looking for a semi-auto shotgun for home defense or target practice. Even though it can take a beating and still be reliable, this military-grade gun might be a bit unnecessary for you unless you’re going to be using it in tough or extremely harsh conditions.
Semi Auto Shotgun FAQ
After reading our semi auto shotgun reviews, you might want to know a bit more about shotguns, like if they’re legal or not.
Here’s what you need to know before you go ahead and add a semi auto shotgun to your cart online.
Is an automatic shotgun legal?
There used to be a ban against automatic weapons in the U.S. Interestingly, in 1994, U.S. Congress passed a Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act that was widely known as the assault weapons ban. This deemed it illegal for certain semi-automatic weapons to be sold to civilians.
In addition, magazines that had the capacity of 10 rounds or more were also prohibited. The ban changed over time, and some critics argued that this was a good thing because the ban violated Second Amendment rights. There was even the opinion that the ban didn’t achieve much to reduce gun violence.
Currently, the rules of shotguns and semi automatic shotguns vary by state. Shotguns are generally legal. In the U.S. there are only three states that require you to have a permit in order to buy and use a shotgun.
These are Hawaii, Connecticut, and California. As for semi-automatic or fully-automatic shotguns specifically, these are regulated by the National Firearms act of 1934 and if you wish to own one you’ll need a special permit for it.
You will have to check the laws regarding semi-automatic shotguns in your state before you purchase one as the rules do vary quite a bit. For example, in California everyone is denied the opportunity to own a semi-automatic shotgun unless they owned it before the date it was defined as an assault weapon (which was in 1994.).
Similarly, in New Jersey, semi-automatic rifles that have fixed magazines which can hold more than 10 rounds are banned unless you have a special license for them. In Massachusetts, it’s unlawful to sell or own an assault weapon that wasn’t lawfully possessed before the assault weapon law came into fruition.
When it comes to round capacity, it’s worth mentioning here that some states also have rules stating that only a certain amount of rounds is allowed on firearms, so you’ll have to limit yourself to having this quantity in your gun in order to stay on the right side of the law. The number is usually 10 rounds.
You’ll find that on some gun retail shop websites, when purchasing a certain firearm from a state that has a round capacity rule in place you will be restricted to a certain amount of ammo and will only receive that amount with your new gun, even if the gun was designed to accommodate a greater round capacity.
Which is better pump or semi auto shotgun?
To find out if a pump-action or semi-automatic shotgun is better, we should look at pros and cons of both types of guns.
Pump-Action Shotgun Pros
- This type of gun is reliable. It doesn’t require much maintenance. It’s built to be simple and trustworthy.
- It’s versatile. Pump shotguns can handle a different range of ammo which makes them easy to use and depend on.
- It has decent capacity, coming in at around 5 + 1 rounds.
Pump-Action Shotgun Cons
- Since you need to manually cycle your pump shotgun, this can make you take longer to get follow-up shots.
- You will also experience slower times when aiming for your follow-up shots. This is because having to cycle your gun can throw off your aim, so you’ll have to keep realigning for your follow-up shots.
Semi-Auto Shotgun Pros
- These guns are fast, which is usually one of the reasons for their appeal. The gun’s action is cycled by using gas from the fired shot, so this gets sent back into the gun via a piston that activates the spring-loaded action, allowing you to chamber a new round.
- Unlike with a pump-action shotgun, you don’t have to pump the machine to get it to fire. This keeps the gun better stabilized, while also enabling you to relocate your target much easier.
- Most semi-automatic shotguns on the market have less recoil than pump-action guns. This is basically because of how the gas gets redirected into the gun so that the action can be triggered.
Semi-Auto Shotgun Cons
- This type of gun needs regular maintenance in order to perform at its peak. This includes cleaning and lubricating the gun on a regular basis so that it won’t fail you when you really need it, such as during a home security situation.
- Loading and unloading semi-automatic shotguns requires learning new skills as they’re a little different from pump-action shotguns. However, these tasks do become easier with practice.
As with any gun, semi-auto shotguns have their benefits and potential drawbacks. However, as we can see from the short comparison between semi-auto and pump-action shotguns, semi-automatic shotguns are built to be quicker and faster.
This, alone, makes them a good choice if you’re looking for a reliable gun that won’t let you down, such as in the case of choosing a shotgun for home security.
Why are shotguns so deadly?
In a report, a ballistics expert claimed that when fired at close range, a shotgun is the most lethal gun used by hunters. The experiment of shooting a telephone directory against a solid background was featured.
Shooting it at a distance of 40 yards with a shotgun caused the bullet to go all the way through the book! The same report explains that a shotgun fired three feet away from a three-inch piece of solid maple lumber wood is capable of making a hole in it that’s as large as a man’s arm.
So, what makes shotguns so dangerous?
These guns come in a variety of actions, designs, and barrel lengths, but they work in the same way: instead of firing a single bullet, a shotgun projects a number of small round projectiles. After being released by the gun’s barrel, these projectiles spread out. At close ranges, such as around 25 yards, the shot stays close together, but they disperse at longer distances.
Some people have even said that a shotgun is more dangerous than an AR-15 rifle. An experiment by a gun expert called Clyde Morgan found that firing 30 rounds of ammo in 14 seconds with an AR-15 was still not as lethal as shooting with a traditional shotgun.
Which shotgun choke is best for home defense?
Many people choose to have a shotgun for home security purposes. This is because you can get many projectiles on the target and can incapacitate an attacker.
Many shotguns have limited magazine capacity and can be tricky to reload, especially for beginners, so it’s great that every round contains so much lead. This definitely makes up for any potential drawbacks of the gun.
But, when choosing a shotgun for home defense, it’s important to ensure that you have the best choke. The choke tubes on a shotgun are meant to change the shot’s pattern when the gun fires. By tweaking the tube in front of the gun barrel, you can increase the distance at which you can fire or improve your accuracy when hitting the target.
There are four main chokes: cylinder choke, improved cylinder choke, modified choke, and full choke.
- Cylinder choke: This choke works well at 15-25 yards due to how it releases a widespread shot pattern.
- Improved cylinder choke: This choke increases the tightness of the shot pattern by around 10 percent. It works best at around 20 to 30 yards.
- Modified choke: This one has more restriction as compared to improved cylinder chokes. It’s ideal for distances of 30 to 40 yards, and can be devastating when used at short or mid-ranges.
- Full choke: A full choke is meant for long distances, usually between 40 to 50 yards. It increases the constriction of the shot pattern so that the bullets travel further distances before they spread out.
The best choke to use for home defense is the modified choke. This is because of its power at both shorter and longer distances, and how it also has greater restriction in its patterns, zoning in on the target. In addition, you probably won’t need to shoot a target that’s around 50 yards when you’re protecting the home.
Owning a shotgun is a big milestone if you’re a gun collector.
But it might also be the first type of gun you choose to own, perhaps because of how versatile it can be. In this article, we’ve featured the best semi auto shotgun to add to your gun collection and what you should know about it.
We’ve also helped you through some tricky questions when it comes to shotguns, such as their legal status in the U.S. and how to choose the best shotgun choke.