Best Lever Action Shotgun for Trap and Skeet Shooting

So, you like the lever action shotgun, but you don’t know which one to choose for trap and skeet.

I’ve got some bad news for you:

The answer is — don’t choose any of them.

As you start learning about the different types of shotguns, you’ll come to see why shooters prefer some over others. One of the most important things to recognize is that they each do something different in the way they shoot.

And, while a lever action can be used for sporting clays, if you want to compete, it can make your life difficult.

A semi-automatic shotgun is preferred when you’re skeet shooting as compared to something like the lever action shotgun. And there is a significant difference in performance between the two.

But lever action shotguns and semi-automatics are not the only game in town.

You’ll also see pump-action shotguns and double barrel or over/under shotguns. Each has their own purpose, but not all are best for skeet shooting.

Let’s look at some differences to help you decide which to bring to the range.

Pump-Action Shotgun

Pump-action shotguns are the classic shotguns that you probably picture when you’re thinking of what a shotgun looks like. These began their rise to popularity in the 1950s when Remington introduced their 870 model pump-action shotgun. Later in the 1960s, the above pictured Mossberg followed suit with the 500 model.

Both the Remington and the Mossberg pump-action have earned a reputation for being reliable and durable over time. Both have been readily embraced by the military, law enforcement officers, as well as civilians.

Pump-action shotguns are quite fantastic in their simplistic and unchanging design. There are some differences between them, though. The Mossberg 500 for example, has a lighter aluminum housing while the Remington 870 has a heavier steel housing. Some people use both for hunting as well as skeet shooting.

You’ll be interested to know that the Mossberg is ambidextrous, courtesy of the placement of the safety. It is located in a central place right over the top of the housing. With its placement, you can easily reach it regardless of whether or not you’re right-handed or left-handed.

The Remington 870 is not quite as user-friendly with regard to left or right-hand use. The left-hand shooter may have issues with the safety when pulling the gun right out of the box. You can order the gun for a left-handed shooter, but the standard configuration puts the safety near the trigger that makes it easier to reach with your right hand than your left.

These types of shotguns are some of the least expensive options available when it comes to shotguns that you would consider using in skeet or trap shooting. Some people even say that if you can learn to use a pump-action shotgun really well, then you can operate one of them as effectively as a semi-automatic shotgun.

Semi-Automatic Shotgun

Several different semi-automatic shotguns are fantastic options when you’re thinking about what you should get. If you have a desire to someday get serious about skeet shooting, then this is the route you’re going to want to take.

A few of the different models to consider include the Stoeger 3500, the (above pictured) Remington 1100 Competition, the Mossberg 930 series, and the Beretta A300 or Beretta A400.

They’re all excellent at what they do because they’re reliable as well as practical. They’re the gun of choice for many competitors because of their high fire rate. Semi-automatics work courtesy of either a gas system or an inertia-driven system. Their methods allow for automatic reloading courtesy of either high-pressure gas or an integrated recoil system.

There are some distinct advantages to choosing a semi-automatic shotgun over others that go beyond the high fire rate. If you ever had to, you could shoot the gun with one hand. They also have a much lighter recoil, thanks to the reloading system the guns employ.

If you’re a beginner, though, be prepared for it to be just a little heavier than a pump-action shotgun. You should also be aware that these shotguns have a greater chance of getting jammed. So, you’ll need to have someone in mind to fix it, should that happen.

The Stoeger M3500, for example, uses an inertia-driven system. It’s fantastic to use as a hunting shotgun and does well as a skeet shooter, too. If you shop around, you’ll see that you can find some great deals on this particular shotgun.

The Remington 1100 is for skeet or trap shooting. The line focuses on competition target guns as opposed to field guns. You’re going to get an excellent clay shooter in this one if you plan on competing in skeet, trap, or sporting clays.

If you’re more in the market for a robust home defense shotgun, then look no further than the Mossberg 930 Tactical. It is part of a series that is functional as well as affordable.

Over/Under Shotgun

Mossberg Silver Reserve II Field Bantam Over/Under Shotgun

If you’re a hunter or a true gun enthusiast, you’re probably the type to get excited over a quality over/under shotgun. Not only are they versatile, but their unique construction also makes them much safer than the other types of shotguns.

When you’re shooting, you can actually break the barrel forward to visually verify that there aren’t any obstructions blocking your shots. These shotguns come in 12-gauge, 16-gauge, and 20-gauge, 28-gauge, and .410 configurations.

The most common choice for clay shooting is the 12-gauge configuration because it is effective when it comes to skeet shooting. 20-gauge has lower recoil but is more challenging if you’re shooting trap and .410 is going to make skeet shooting ridiculously difficult but eliminates almost all recoil.

As you’re deciding what kind of over/under or double barrel shotgun you’d like to have, you can choose from guns like the Mossberg Silver Reserve II (pictured above), Franchi Instinct L, CZ Redhead Deluxe, Legacy Escort Over Under, and the Stevens 512 Gold Wing. There are more, but these are just a sampling.

The Mossberg Silver Reserve II has a classic design to it that you’re sure to recognize. The black walnut forearm and buttstock along with the rubber recoil pad, you’re going to enjoy shooting these shotguns.

The Franchi Instinct L weighs in at 6.4 pounds which is lighter compared to some of the others. It is a little more expensive, but the materials include quality steel as opposed to an aluminum alloy. It also has a classic double barrel look that shooters will appreciate.

If you’re considering the CZ Redhead Deluxe, then you’ll love the fact that this one is a total workhorse that will keep on kicking. There are two different configurations – 12-gauge and 20-gauge. The chrome finish and dark walnut make for a striking appearance, too.

For the money conscious

For something that is more budget-friendly, you’ve got the Legacy Escort Over/Under. It is imported from Turkey and has performed well repeatedly by regular shooters. The walnut and synthetic silver make the gun look nice as well.

Another budget-friendly option is the Stevens 512 Gold Wing shotgun. It is on the heavier side at just over seven pounds, but it is great for a novice shotgun shooter.

The gun looks great and is available in 12-gauge, 16-gauge, 20-gauge, and 28-gauge in addition to a choice between a 26-inch and a 28-inch barrel. This shotgun is also an excellent entry level shotgun for skeet shooting and trap shooting.

Lever Action Shotgun

Lever action shotguns are interesting. They’re in a category all by themselves and were first introduced by Winchester in the late 1800s. The first model was the 1887 and was available in both a 10 and 12-gauge option. This particular shotgun became popular with messengers, prison guards, watchmen, and railroad security.

The 1887 was discontinued in 1901 and was replaced with the Model 1901 lever action shotgun in that same year. Unlike other Winchester models, these two models were designed by none other than John Browning.

The 1901 remained in production for 20 years.

Fast-forward to the present

Since then, there have been two other notable introductions of lever action shotguns. There is the Adler 12-gauge lever action shotgun that is manufactured in Turkey. The most recent addition to lever action shotguns is the Henry H018-410, introduced in 2017.

Truth be told, there isn’t a best lever action shotgun for skeet shooting or trap shooting. It’s made to be fun, but it’s not reliable enough or fast enough to use in real competition. The Firearm Blog has a review about the Henry .410 specifically.

The author writes,

“The H018-410 is a nice addition to anyone’s shotgun collection. It would make a great camp gun for harvesting small game or grouse. Hunting for upland birds, doves, or quail would be a good role for It as well. For a recoil sensitive individual, it could also be okay for defensive purposes, paired with the right loads.

For trap, skeet or 5-stand, the H018 is a fun shotgun to change things up from the break-open or semiauto game. The lack of recoil makes for unbruised shoulders at the end of the day as well, if that’s something one minds. The H018 is, however, somewhat “overbuilt.” This extra heft and weight is an asset in that it makes for a barrel that won’t bur one’s fingers even after 200 shells straight.”

To go into more depth about the Henry lever action shotgun, it is based on the previous Henry .45-70 lever action rifle. Like its predecessor, it is made of steel and walnut without any aluminum or plastic parts. It also comes with a manufacturer lifetime guarantee.

If you’re going to go clay shooting with the Henry .410, you’re going to want to choose the 24” barrel over the 20” barrel which is better if you want to go forward with home defense instead. The author over at Chuck Hawks said,

“We were all very impressed by these .410 buckshot and Defender loads. None of us had expected a lot from a .410 defense shotgun, but our results patterning these loads changed our minds. We now consider the H018-410R a serious home defense tool.”

Comparison Table





Mossberg Maverick 88 Combo 12 Gauge Pump-Action Shotgun

Mossberg Maverick 88 Combo 12 Gauge Pump-Action Shotgun

Gauge12 GaugeBarrel Length 18.5 inchesCapacity6+1Weight 

Remington® Model V3 Field Sport Semi-automatic Shotguns

Remington® Model V3 Field Sport Semiautomatic Shotguns

Gauge12 GaugeBarrel Length 28 inchesCapacity3+1Weight 7.25 pounds

Mossberg Silver Reserve II Field Bantam Over/Under Shotgun

Mossberg Silver Reserve II Field Bantam Over/Under Shotgun

Gauge20 Gauge Barrel Length 26″ Vent Rib Barrel Capacity2 Rounds Weight 7 lbs

1887 Lever Action Shotgun 12-Gauge 22” Blue Barrel

1887 Lever Action Shotgun

Gauge12 GaugeBarrel Length 22 InchCapacityWeight 9 lbs

The Last Few Words on Lever Action Shotguns

Lever action shotguns are fun to shoot. Of that, there is no doubt. At the same time, they cannot be taken seriously as firearms for shooting skeet and trap.

If you’re going to be genuinely competitive, then you need to consider a different type of gun for skeet or trap shooting. If you just want to have a good time on the range, have at it.

Of course, if you take one to the range to go and shoot some clays, be prepared for people to think you’ve got a rifle instead of a shotgun. Once you show them, you’ll get a lot of interest in your new toy, and you’ll probably have some fellow shooters that will want you to share the sandbox.

Do you have a lever action shotgun? Tell us all about it in the comments!

Dakota R.

My name is Dakota, Since I was a little boy, hunting has been my favorite things to do. Being outdoors meant I got to spend more one on one time with my father. I've learned so much from my dad over the years, and I hope you can learn and enjoy following my blog!

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