Trap, skeet, and sporting clay shotgun practice and competitions are more popular than ever, and even if the only person you’re competing with is yourself and your last score, you want the best shotgun. Maybe you’ve been thinking about a bolt action shotgun. Skeet shooting is a distinct skill, and the sport is not designed just for hunters, but for shooters of all varieties who enjoy precision and competition.
Not only does this hobby and the competitions related to it make you a better shot, the focus necessary to control the stress, pressure, and adrenaline when the target flies is a true challenge. It’s essential that your stance, swing, mount, and movement are automatic and your mind can be cleared, leaving room only for the target at hand.
Finding the right shotgun is a key piece in that flow, and can make or break your ability to perform your best. Practicing these elements with a weapon that fits you like a glove will enhance your whole experience. So, prepare to be hooked.
Some Basics on Target Shotguns
What some novices don’t realize is that target shotguns are typically a little bit heavier and longer than standard shotguns. That ensures a smoother swing and also delivers less kickback.
You’re meant to use the design differently. Shooters should try to visibly “float” their target just over the barrel, instead of using the muzzle to blot the target out as they aim.
The best bolt action shotguns for trap and skeet shooting are built to withstand frequent and consistent use, with many elite models capable of firing hundreds of thousands of shots throughout several years.
Prices vary, starting around $500 for a decent starter gun, and rising well into thousands, with some top-end shotguns costing more than $20,000. There’s sure to be one that fits your budget.
If you want a solid all-around clay pigeon gun, look for one made for sporting clays. They are great for skeet and trap shooting.
People who are going to shoot American trap, specifically, may consider guns designed for that particular game.
It’s important to do some research before unloading your wallet, as the right gun can make all the difference in your performance.
10 Contenders for the Best Bolt Action Shotgun
In this article, we’ll cover standout models for a few different price tiers, all of which are great value for your money.
It’s important to be aware that almost any gun can have problems sooner or later, so proper maintenance is important. However, the guns on this list are of the highest quality, so problems should be minimal.
Alright, it’s time to pull the trigger! Let’s find the best bolt action shotgun for you.
1. Krieghoff K-80 Pro Sporter
What sets the K-80 apart from the rest is its high suspended Floating Rib. The Floating Rib coupled with the higher stock keeps the shooter’s head straight, reducing neck fatigue and increasing sight range. This Krieghoff shotgun has a reduced perceived recoil, letting you fix on your target faster.
You also can lower the rib down, if that’s your preference.
It has complete modularity, allowing users to change out parts and modify the weapon to whatever clay discipline you want to shoot.
The price is not for novices, but when you are getting a gun of such premium quality, you should expect a premium price to match.
Making quality guns for 130 years, a Krieghoff gun can put you on top of your competition in a range of games. It really is a masterpiece.
Best to Use for: Skeet, trap shooting, sporting clays
Price: $11,995 to $13,000
2. Beretta 686 Silver Pigeon I Sporting
When it comes to over/under shotguns, Beretta makes excellent pointers, helpful swing, and slick trim lines.
The Silver Pigeon is a strong, but compact, low-profile competition shotgun. Featuring the Optima-Bore and Optima-Choke barrels, which are light-weight, the shotgun’s balance centers at the hinge-pin. So, it has that natural pointability you would expect from a Beretta.
This Beretta is a favorite for competition shooters and hunters because the eye of the shooter rests close to the supporting hand. That gives him better swing and tighter hand-eye sync, leading to more accurate shots.
If you want a beautiful sports shotgun that will stand the test of time and serve as an heirloom for generations, consider the 686 Silver Pigeon I Sporting.
Best to Use for: Sporting clays, skeet shooting, trap shooting, some hunting
Price: $2,400 to $2,800
3. Caesar Guerini Summit Sporting Compact
Coming out of one of the biggest gun factories in Italy, the Summit is a polished work of genius from Caesar Guerini.
If you want a sporting shotgun that’s like the Summit Sporting model, but with a shorter length of pull, the Summit Sporting Compact is worth looking into. It has a Monte Carlo stock, and the receiver is built to last a lifetime.
Caesar Guerini designed this perfectly stabilized shotgun with a stock that can accommodate a right or left-handed shooter.
Compared to other target guns in the same price bracket, the Guerini is an easy choice, with a fit and finish far superior to many others in its class.
While no shotgun can do the shooting for you, the Sporting Compact sure does make the job easier with each barrel in exact balance. And if you need to remove the stock or adjust the trigger, it’s no problem because it comes with wrenches to do just that.
Best to Use for: Sporting clays, skeet shooting. There are also some dedicated trap shooting models.
Price: $3,895 to $4,200
4. Browning BT-99 Shotgun
If you just want a bolt action shotgun that can break single trap targets, then you can keep it simple with the BT-99 from Browning.
This classic, single-barrel shooter is simplicity at its brilliant best. It has no automatic ejector or decoration. It doesn’t even have a safety. But fear not, for it is a safe gun that the shooter only loads just before firing.
There are two variants, giving you a choice between a 32” or 34” barrel, both of which offer a smooth swing action.
Three features make the Browning BT-99 a great choice.
- Invector-Plus — an interchangeable choke tube system, giving you consistently dense shot patterns
- VectorPro — maximizing pellet speed and reducing perceived recoil
- Chrome Chambers — resists corrosion and prepares the chamber to handle thousands of shells
A lot of novice trap shooters start with a BT-99, and many people never move on to anything else.
Best to Use for: 16-yard shooting and handicap single trap shooting
Price: $1429 to $1,800 — Versions equipped with the adjustable comb or stock cost more.
5. Browning Cynergy CX Shotgun
This model from Browning is a much more versatile weapon than the BT-99.
The Cynergy CX is on the opposite side of the spectrum, providing great value and use in all target shooting games, as well as being a useful hunting gun too.
It is a robust machine, designed to withstand many thousands of shots. Better yet, it has a high point of impact, which is ideal for clay shooting. It does have somewhat unconventional lines, but once you get used to that, we’re sure you’ll love it.
The Cynergy CX has a 32” barrel and extended Invector-Plus Midas grade choke tubes, making it easy to perform changes. In addition, this bolt action shotgun boasts three-inch chambers, enabling you to shoot magnums if you’re on a duck hunt.
Best to Use for: Sporting clays, trap shooting, skeet, dove and duck hunting
Price: $1,739 to $2,000
6. Beretta A400 Xcel Shotgun
For most serious competitors in clay shooting, the blue gun from Beretta is an easy choice. This gun combines soft recoil (70 percent overall reduction) and reliability, ensuring you have a weapon that is easy to handle. And Baretta’s Tellium and chrome-plated bore makes it simple to clean and maintain. If you take care of it, this shotgun will last you a long time.
When you buy a semiautomatic competition shotgun, you should expect some malfunctions at some point in its lifetime. However, the A400 is the nearest thing to perfect you are likely to find anywhere.
Experiencing a failure to fire is not a likely occurrence here. Its gas operation ensures this gun is one of the softest shooters of its kind.
There is a balance cap also, allowing users to change the balance by adding weight.
Best to Use for: Sporting Clays
Price: $1,750 to $2,000
7. The Mossberg 930 Pro-Series Sporting
Another affordable bolt action shotgun that trap shooting beginners should consider is the Mossberg 930. The company’s 930 semi-automatic model is a favorite with three-gun shooters, so it was a smart move on Mossberg’s part to release the sporting clays model.
With a soft recoil and adjustable stock, this is well-suited to most shooters, and it also has a range of extended choke tubes, as well as a Hi-Visibility bead.
The internal components of this gun have been polished meticulously and coated with a layer of boron nitride. Boron nitride is a lubricant that creates a protective barrier, reducing copper and carbon barrel fouling. It also reduces friction.
That makes for a highly-functional weapon that will almost never let you down. Competitors from the NRA World Shooting Championship were happy with this shotgun’s performance. With that endorsement, your sure to like it as well.
Best to Use for: Sporting clay shooting, skeet, trap
Price: $1,060 to $1,500
8. Remington 1100 Competition Model
Back in 1963, the Remington 1100 was a revolutionary introduction to target shooting. Designed to make the shooter a better shot, this gas-operated shotgun with a five-shot autoloader has a 40 percent less perceived recoil than its fixed-action counterparts.
This competition-focused Remington improves pattern consistency with its soft recoil, 30-inch barrel, and longer forcing cones. The twin target-style bead sights make for precision shooting in competition.
Other features that make this shotgun truly special to this day include:
- Nickel-Teflon finish for internal parts for smooth cycling
- Optimized 2 3/4 inch target and light field loads
- 10 millimeter (mm) target-style rib in the barrel
Not only has this weapon assisted several shooters in winning competitions for skeet records and world-record perfect shots, but there are upgrades you can use to make it even better — if you can believe that.
Upgrades for this Remington include adjustable comb and cast, and a recoil reducing stock.
Best to Use for: Trap shooting, skeet, sporting clays
Price: $1,300 to $1,700
9. CZ Redhead Premier Target
There are plenty of over/under target guns available for less money than this, but while you could save a few bucks on the initial cost, you’ll pay down the line with inevitable problems. And who wants that?
Going cheap on a bolt action shotgun before a big trap shooting competition may be a decision that could come back to haunt you.
If you want a truly reliable over/under shotgun, you can’t go far wrong with the Turkish brand CZ.
They’ve forged a sterling reputation for great value products, promising consistent performance at more reasonable prices than Beretta or Browning.
This particular model, the Redhead Target, comes equipped with twin 30-inch barrels, a Monte Carlo stock and modified grip that provides enhanced comfort. The stepped rib design makes this an all-around clay-crushing machine.
Best to Use for: Trap shooting, sporting clays, skeet
Price: $1,350 to $1,800
10. Winchester SXP Trap Compact
We’ll round off with the cheapest model on the list. The Winchester SXP may not break the bank, but don’t underestimate its ability.
The SXP has the basic features that any shooter needs in their target gun, including a Monte Carlo stock, plus a high rib, specifically designed to deliver a higher impact point.
The SXP also has double beads and a soft Inflex recoil pad – a trademark of Browning and Winchester guns.
If you are shooting traps in a higher level of competition that includes doubles, then you’ll love the smooth pumping action on this bolt action shotgun.
It might not be for pros who have been in the game for a few years, but this is a fantastic choice to get started in trap and skeet shooting.
Best to Use for: Single shot and double trap
Price: $450 to $900
Some Parting Shots About the Bolt Action Shotgun
There are plenty of other target shooting guns on the market. Many are great quality, and quite a few will do the job for novice trap shooters.
If you’re on a budget, then it may be best to go for something a little less expensive, just until you figure out if this is going to be a serious pursuit or a part-time hobby.
If you are serious about this, then making a solid investment in a quality bolt action shotgun will allow you to up your game.
With a truly elite weapon in your hands, you can improve your shooting, which will make trap and skeet shooting much more enjoyable in the long-run.
Starting off with a more basic model like the Winchester SXP is a smart move, and you can upgrade in time after you’ve won a few cash prizes.
Whichever shotgun you choose, make sure it feels right for you.
Now, go and have a blast!