First things first. Let’s just say for the record that any shotgun gauge, up to a 12 gauge, can be used to shoot trap. However, when buying your first trap shotgun, the first things you want to look for are fit and feel, so use this trick to determine if a gun is the right size: with butt of the shotgun tucked into the crook of your elbow, try to wrap the first joint on your index finger fully around the trigger.

For people with short arms, 20-gauge youth shotguns are a good general buy. Not only are they usually less expensive than so-called adult guns, you can add recoil pads later for extra length and shock absorption if the fit isn’t quite right.

Moreover, the 12 gauge shotgun is the most powerful gun allowed for clay pigeon shooting, although it may not be uncommon to see 16 or 20 gauge shotguns used for the purposes of more control and to lessen the impact of the recoil. The caveat is that higher gauge shotguns tend to sacrifice power and range and may not break birds at a distance even they are hit.

Tactical Shotguns Need Tactical Ammo


QuadraTactical OOber Tactical Praetorian VII Shotgun Side Saddle...

And, according to at least one source, yeah, it is true, length does matter, and common shell sizes for tactical shotguns range from 2-3/4 inches to 3 inches to 3-1/2 inches. But, just because a shell is super long - with plausibly more pellets and more powder - doesn’t mean it is rated for all shotguns, and the barrel of your gun, or even you, may be damaged by the extra pressure and forces that build up in the barrel.

That said, the type of shot used is very important, too, and there are three different types of shotgun ammo to choose from:

  • High-brass shells are made with a brass base that continues up the casing 3/4 of an inch. High-brass makes for the most powerful shot and the projectile will travel further and with a tighter rotation than with other shell types.
  • Low-brass shells have a low band of metal surrounding the base. As the shell is less encapsulated than high-brass, the energy created by the exposition is dissipated more quickly and easily and there tends to be a greater shot spread. These are the most widely used shells as they are inexpensive and durable and offer a decent range for the money.
  • Active shells are made almost entirely of plastic and contain no metal except for a little button that holds the primer in place. Meant for hunting in high-moisture condition, these shells are all but rust-proof. However, they are not as powerful as high-brass and tend to disperse more quickly so they are not intended for competition use.

Other terms that are important to consider include the length of pull, which refers to the distance from the gun butt to the trigger. This is an important measurement, as, if the length is wrong for you, the gun will be less accurate and uncomfortable to use. Further, birdshot refers to less than a .20 caliber diameter projectile, while buckshot indicates a .24 -. 36 caliber projectile and slugs are single shot projects design to fit the entire bore of whatever shotgun you have.


The Best Tactical Shotguns for Trap and Skeet


The Citori XT Trap from Browning is made especially for clay pigeon shooting. With a 32-inch barrel and weighing in at over 8-pounds, not only does it have a soft recoil, but it produces an incredibly tight. And, admittedly, the gun looks pretty sweet, as if it has been forged out of the old west, itself.

However, unless you have some prize money laying around, you will likely not be able to justify the over 2,500 dollar price tag, and, according to the Browning website, this line has been discontinued. But, we can take a few queues from this beauty as we explore some trap shooting ins and outs.

Number one, its low barrel and tall rib offer exceptional site from every angle, 2, the extra weight (8 pounds) helps absorb the recoil and feels nice to handle, and, 3, the over-under actions glide like butter, making loading and discharging a breeze.

However, there are other more versatile, reliable, and inexpensive guns on the market as well, and many of them can be found used for under $300 used at swap meets and gun shows. Pump-action shotguns, for instance, are the ones we think of we see a movie depicting a home invader and then, out of the darkness, hear that quintessential, “shuck-shuck” of the hero’s shotgun as he waits for the perfect moment.


Pump-Action Tactical Shotguns


While some claim that pump-action guns are ill-suited as tactile shotguns, they, nonetheless remain a popular choice, as they are durable, inexpensive, and easy-to-operate. Let’s take a look at a few of our favorites.


  • The granddaddy of all shotguns, the Remington 870 is the pump-action shotgun to rule them all. First produced in the 1950’s the gun is durable, easy to use, and widely utilized for hunting, sports shooting, hunting, law enforcement, and self-defense. With no less the nine variations, the 870’s go for around $350 new, but your best bet is to pick a used one at a gun show as they reportedly load more smoothly and shoot more accurately.
  • Designed in the 1960’s, the Mossberg 500 is imported from Turkey, and this model is just as popular and effective as the Remington. With five variations in the product line, many models were targeted toward law enforcement because of there low price point and hammerless receiver design. However, the more austere design and a lack of controls meant it never gained the home use popularity that the Remington did, though it did see plenty of wartime action in the Persian Gulf War, the Iraq War, and other modern military skirmishes.
  • Winchester guns start with the Winchester rifle. Known as the "The Gun that Won the West," the Winchester was developed in 1873 and featured one of the world’s earliest repeaters. Now, the Winchester® SXP® Black Shadow® Pump-Action Shotgun offers a lightweight shotgun that uses inertial-based action and a rotary bolt to provide ultra-fast follow-up shot opportunities. This 20-gauge shotgun comes with a durable synthetic stock and a chrome plated bore, and customizable choke. Available for around $400, it is less proven than the other two on our list, but, c’mon, it's a Winchester.

Semi-Automatic Tactical Shotguns


Semi-automatic shotguns tend to offer better balance and a more reliable shot than pump-action guns, which demand a lot of physical activity and action at all times. Plus, constantly loading shells and discharging them can be a pain.

And, although there are no hard and fast rules about not using them for trap shooting, etiquette dictates that you remain mindful of the person standing in the slot next to you because it is not considered proper etiquette to pepper them with a pile of used shell casings. Plus, many users claim that if semi-autos are cleaned properly, they can last as long as pump-action models.

Stoeger M3000:

The 12-gauge shotgun takes up to 3-inch shell and starting at about $550, and you might be inclined to think that the semi-auto gun would lack features or be cheaply made at that price. However, it has proven to be durably made, water-resistant, and extremely easy to clean. Plus, it reportedly uses a similar inertia-driven action as highly regarded Benelli guns.

Remington 1100:

Classics are classics for a reason, and the Remington 1100 has been firing rounds and shucking cartridges for more than 50 years. New models will ring up at $1,050, or thereabouts, but there are many gun shows to be had from anywhere from $400-600.

Beretta A300:

This famous semi-auto handgun-maker is branching out into the semiautomatic shotguns markets, and it is making quite a splash in the areas of reliability, fit, and features. The A300 Outlander uses a proprietary valve system that accommodates a wide range of loads, and the gun is lightweight and water-resistant due to the composite synthetics used in its construction.


Over-Under Tactical Shotguns


The last type of shotguns on our list of tactical shotguns are O/U Shotguns. These double-barrel classics comprise a class of shotguns that make up an elite group of target and tactical shotguns. Plus, this is the top choice of many of the world’s top marksmen because of the easy loading action, the smooth swing, the weight, balance, and accuracy.

Plus with a mechanism that glides as smoothly as butter, using an O/U shotgun is an elegant and artful process, and watching the gun’s operation is the hands of a master is a sight to behold. The caveat is that the O/U market is incredibly complex, and many entry-level guns won’t get you any closer to championship-level shooting, despite the cost.

Although over-under can get pricey - and the best do - we have whittled down some affordable options that we like a lot. Featuring many of the options as more expensive options, out list below will at least open your eyes to the world of O/U tactical shotguns.

Yildiz SPZ ME/12:

The Yildiz make hails from Turkey, as do CZ models. Yildiz shotguns are known for championship levels performance that punches well above the price range. You can pick up a basic-level Yildiz gun about $500, but, buyer beware, these bad-boys are light and known to kick.

Mossberg Silver Reserve II:

Mossberg is a Turkish import and these guns have been around for a long time. The Silver Reserve II, however, it the company’s latest O/U shotgun, and it starts at less than $600. Available in various lengths and gauge-sizes, many Reserve II models come with up to five chokes and adjustable stocks. The Silver Reserve II looks great and, at 7.5 pounds, the extra weight softens the recoil.

Stoeger Condor:

The Stoeger Condor is an immensely popular budget O/U shotgun, and it retails around $400. Imported from Brazil, this shotgun comes with a plain-jane design and a dark walnut stock, and it is about as minimalistic as they come. But the mechanics are solid, and it has a nice weight at about 7 pounds, so the recoil is manageable.

Comparison Table

PRODUCT NAME & RATING

IMAGE

DETAILS

PRICE

BROWNING CITORI XT BLUE 12/32" MONTE CARLO

Gauge
12 Gauge

Barrel Length 
49 inches

Capacity
-

Weight 
8 LBS 8 OZ.

Remington® Model 870™ Express® Hardwood Pump-Action Shotguns

Gauge
20 Gauge

Barrel Length 
26 inches

Capacity
4+1

Weight 
6.25 pounds

M3000 Shotgun

Gauge
12 Gauge

Barrel Length 
49.75″

Capacity
​-

Weight 
7.5 lbs.

Remington 1100 Trap-T 12 Gauge 28"

Gauge
12 Gauge

Barrel Length 
28​"

Capacity
4

Weight 
20.00 Pounds  

BERETTA A300 OUTLANDER 12 GAUGE

Gauge
12 Gauge

Barrel Length 
28"

Capacity
​3

Weight 
7.25

Yildiz SPZ ME Steel 12 Gauge Over-and-Under Shotgun

Gauge
12 Gauge

Barrel Length 
28"

Capacity
2

Weight 
7.2 lb.

Mossberg Silver Reserve II Field 12ga 28"

Gauge
12 Gauge

Barrel Length 
28"

Capacity
2

Weight 
-

Stoeger Condor 20ga 26" Walnut

Gauge
20 Gauge

Barrel Length 
26"

Capacity
2

Weight 
-

Tactical Shotgun Wrap-up


So, you know the types of guns, the name-brands, the types of ammo, and a little about the games of trap and skeet. We have also listed some of the tactical shotguns that we think offer the best performance at the best price. So to send you off, we thought we would leave you with a few terms that we think we help you to navigate the games of clay pigeon shooting:

  • Average Book - Perhaps for hardcore trap shooters only, the average book is a yearly tally of all of your averages. The Amateur Trapshooting Association also keeps an official record, should you choose to participate.
  • Call - The call is a signal given by the shooter for the bird to be released. The word "pull," is also a common interpretation.
  • Dead - The term dead describes a target that has been broken by a shooter.
  • Lost - If a target is completely missed target missed or "dusted," it is called lost.
  • No-Bird - No-bird is similar to the broken target, although it refers to the call given by the scorekeeper, while the latter refers to the actual bird. Either way, the shooter is allowed a redo.
  • Straight -Quite the feat indeed, a straight refers to breaking all of the birds in a game.
  • Zone Shoots - As the ATA had established five zones of trapshooting popularity worldwide their sponsored tournaments are referred to as zone shoots.

But, really, you just need to remember one thing: pick the gun that fits. That is the one that will shoot the best for you.

Featured Image: CC BY-NC 2.0, by Juan Monroy, via Flickr

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