When heading out for a day of skeet and trap shooting, you want the best gun you can find. On certain trips, you might not feel like manually pumping each shot when taking a shotgun with you.
Have you ever fired an automatic shotgun? It takes everything you love about the pump-action models and eliminates the effort needed to load the chamber each time. If you’re interested in finding the best automatic shotgun your money can buy, we can help!
We’ve done the research and are here to show you how to have even more fun at the range.
A Word about the “Automatic” in Automatic Shotgun
Before we get into the specifics of which automatic shotgun is best for your trap and skeet trips, you need to realize that fully automatic shotguns are not an option for skeet shooting. Outside of the military, it is nearly impossible to find an automatic shotgun, much less own one. Just this year, the AA-12 shotgun was announced for civilian use, and even this one is modified to semi-automatic.
For the purposes of this article, when we say automatic shotgun, we’re actually referring to semi-automatic. This will save you a lot of confusion when you go out and purchase a shotgun for yourself.
Why Choose an Automatic Shotgun for Skeet and Trap Shooting?
The most obvious reason to go with an automatic shotgun is all in the name. Normal pump-action shotguns require you to manually reload the chamber each time, expending extra effort and energy. If you’re armed with an automatic shotgun, the need to reload is only there when you completely run out of ammo.
The pump-action shotgun, unlike an automatic, is one you might be a little more familiar with if you’ve done skeet and trap shooting before. A spring-loading mechanism spits out the spent round and loads in a fresh cartridge at the exact same time. The sound of a shotgun being cocked is about as American as apple pie.
The automatic variation works similarly but takes the work out of the equation for you. They can use gas to work the reloading process, or a simple process of inertia.
Using an automatic shotgun during skeet and trap shooting is an excellent choice for beginners who might not be used to keeping their target lined up. If you’re struggling to find your target while going through rounds with a pump-action, an automatic shotgun will help quite a bit.
When using an automatic shotgun, the kick from each shot isn’t going to be quite as strong as what you’ll get from a pump. If the shotgun uses a gas-powered system, this will be especially obvious.
The obvious advantage, especially with skeet and trap shooting, is the rate of fire. Not having to manually reload each shot means you’ll fire off many more rounds in a short length of time.
How We Chose the Best Automatic Shotgun
Sorting through the best automatic shotgun for trap and skeet shooting involved a lot of spent ammo and a fair amount of ice for shoulders. We considered older and newer models, and age was never an eliminating factor. We also looked at comfort and each brand’s reputation among dedicated trap and skeet shooters.
Mossberg 930 SPX/JM Pro
This automatic shotgun is similar to its smaller original 930 model cousin. It comes in two variations, starting with the 930 SPX. It comes equipped with ghost ring sights, and an eight-shot tube. The sight on the front of the shotgun is the same height as an AR-15. If you happen to be familiar with rifle shooting, you’ll make a quick adjustment to this shotgun.
The rear ghost ring sight can be fully adjusted to your preference. You’ll also find a scope rail mounted on the Mossberg 930 SPX. Typically, this automatic shotgun runs for about $$$, but you shouldn’t have any trouble purchasing it at a lower price.
The Mossberg 930 JM Pro model comes with a few more deluxe features that you might want to show off. The sling mounts are quick-detach, the magazine tube is extended, and it just “feels” like a high-end automatic shotgun. It’s a splurge, but when you pull the trigger on the JM model, you’ll feel like the money was well=spent.
Remington Versa Max Competition Sportsman
The Remington name is household among gun owners, and even those who have never fired a shot in their life may have heard the brand through video games or movies. If you plan to enter a three-gun competition, the Versa Max is going to be your shotgun of choice.
The gas-operated shotgun takes advantage of the patented Versasport technology, which changes the amount of pressure relative to the size of the shell. With this advantage, you won’t get jarred out of place when firing. The recoil will remain consistent and you’ll know what to expect with each shot.
With reliability and consistent performance across the board, plus the relative ease of its use, the Remington Versa Max is an excellent companion for your next competition or exhibition.
Benelli M2 Tactical
If you’ve been involved in skeet or trap shooting for any length of time, you’ve likely heard of the name Benelli by now. It’s not well-known outside of gun experts, but anyone in the market for an automatic shotgun should take notice of the M2 Tactical. You can choose from three different stock options – standard, pistol grip, and the customized Comfortech which practically eliminates any recoil.
As you may have heard about Benelli, this is an incredibly consistent and reliable automatic shotgun. If you go with the Comfortech stock, shooting targets will feel like a day at the beach. We’ve shot a lot of automatic shotguns before, but the Comfortech stock is something to experience for yourself. The reduction in recoil is enough to recommend this gun for first-time owners.
Thanks to a special finish that makes holding this automatic shotgun even more comfortable, this is the perfect gun that doubles as a skeet/trap shooter and a personal defense gun. We went into this review looking for a gun specifically for skeet and trap shooting, but the Benelli M2 might be our new best friend.
Beretta 1301 Tactical (TX4 Storm)
This automatic shotgun is a beauty. Not only is it practical for taking into competition, but the Beretta TX4 Storm will make you look like a professional. The model looks like something out of a heist movie, and it’s gas-operated, helping to reduce a bit of recoil. The name Beretta has been around for a while, and you can see why when you get your hands on the TX4 Storm.
Although this automatic shotgun isn’t tailor-made for a competition, there’s nothing preventing you from taking it with you for some casual shooting. The dependability of this shotgun and the Beretta name makes it a solid choice in our book. The barrel is 18 inches, making it a bit larger than you might want to use with skeet and trap shooting, so keep that in mind if you want a gun that doubles as recreational and defensive.
Weatherby SA-08 Deluxe
If you’re looking for options, the Weatherby SA-08 has you covered and will keep you wondering through the purchasing process. It comes in three flavors: 12, 20, and 28 gauge, depending on your preference. It’s one of the more budget-friendly automatic shotguns on our list, and you won’t believe how light it feels once you pick it up. Seriously, there are boxes of ammo that weigh more than the Weatherby.
Holding this automatic shotgun in your hands, you’ll feel like a gun collector, and you better be prepared to answer questions about it. This Turkish model looks like a collector’s item, bearing an engraved logo on its receiver and shining in the sun thanks to a glossy walnut finish. This will look just as lovely mounted on your wall as it will pressed against your shoulder.
We get that it’s not American-made, but if you have any problems buying foreign models, you’ll reconsider once you try out this Weatherby automatic shotgun. You won’t find a better deal on a dependable skeet and trap shooter than this one.
FNH SLP Mark I
Although the FNH SLP Mark I looks more like something you would see in the back of a police cruiser, it’s a perfectly competent automatic shotgun for skeet and trap shooting. Another gas-operated 12-gauge, the SLP Mark I is incredibly durable and built to last you for years of shooting.
The construction in this automatic shotgun provides you with a competition-level weapon that will keep unwanted guests out of your home just as well as it keeps clay targets out of the sky. The look of the SLP Mark I can be intimidating, with its glossy finish and all-black palette. Make no mistake, though – this is a weapon that belongs in your hands when you’re ready to get serious about a competition.
Choosing the Best Automatic Shotgun for Skeet and Trap Shooting
Now that you’ve looked through the list of potential choices for the best automatic shotgun, you might be interested in which is the absolute best. Which of the shotguns gets the job done in the sky and keeps your shoulder from popping out?
We can’t say enough good things about the Benelli M2 Tactical, and it’s our pick for the best automatic shotgun you can own. When we fired, it felt like a simple tap of the shoulder, like someone was trying to get our attention. As it turns out, the Benelli M2 most definitely got our attention, and kept it through the rest of our evaluations.
You’ll feel so comfortable with the M2 in your arms that you might get sunburn if you don’t dress properly for a day of shooting. While it isn’t the cheapest weapon by any means, you’ll understand the investment is necessary once you get the automatic shotgun in your arms.
Imagine shooting into the sky and not even realizing you’re holding a real shotgun. That’s what the ComforTech stock feels like.
If you’re on a bit of a budget, we’ll point you toward the Weatherby SA-08, which is about as light in your hands as it will be on your credit card or bank statement. It looks like an antique compared to the Benelli and some of the other shotguns on this list, but once you put it in your hands, you won’t notice the difference.
Caring for Your Automatic Shotgun and Concluding Thoughts
Since you’re interested in buying an automatic shotgun, you also need to know about the proper maintenance procedures for owning one. After all, you don’t want to be replacing any weapon after a short period of time, especially if you’ve dropped a significant amount of money into your new shooting companion.
When purchasing a new automatic shotgun, especially a gas-operated one, regular cleaning and maintenance should be your number two priority as a gun owner (safety being the first, of course). The longer you keep up with the ritual of polishing and cleaning, the longer you’ll be able to hang on to your new weapon.
You’ll need to keep an eye on your automatic shotgun as it ages. Without the pump-action of a standard shotgun, there is more potential for breakdown. Gas-loading mechanisms have different rates of wear and tear, so keep them regularly serviced even if you don’t go out shooting as often as when you first bought the weapon.
We hope you have enjoyed our look to find the best automatic shotgun for skeet and trap shooting. Whether you go with a classically-inspired model framed after some of the older makers in the past, or a modernized finish that wouldn’t look out of place in a movie, you’ll have an amazing time. Keep your safety on, point your automatic shotgun at the ground, and have fun!