Shotguns are loved for their versatility. No matter what role you put it in, it can thrive with a trained shooter. Whether defending your home, shooting clay, or knocking birds out of the sky, an excellent semi-automatic shotgun can handle it all with ease. 

So, we gathered a list of all the best semi-automatic shotguns we’ve had the pleasure of shooting. We have a shotgun for every price point, but there are some pricey ones here. Just look at the retail price for a Benelli M1014 (M4). Yikes!

These aren’t just my top picks, but also those who have used these and plenty of other shotguns for tactical applications and sport shooting. 

This is what we came up with. 

How To Choose A Shotgun

Like a good pair of jeans, there’s the right one for everyone. However, you must first consider what you want to do with your shotgun. 

While the M1014 is a great semi-automatic shotgun, it’s far from what I would use for grouse. It has a shorter barrel and isn’t as smooth as one would want for hitting some birds out of the sky. If you want a semi-auto shotgun for defensive purposes, sure. That’s what it’s made for. 

But if you want a shotgun for hunting, whether it be birds, deer, or something else, a shotgun with a longer barrel and less weight is a better choice. 

And then you have to consider your budget. 

Having a nice shotgun doesn’t mean much if you can’t afford ammo, a choke (depending on the shooting you’re doing), or boots for hunting season. I know you don’t need me to tell you this, but make sure you don’t spend all your money on the gun and have none left for the fun. Feel me knocking? 

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Best Semi-Auto Shotguns 

Benelli M1014 (M4) 

The Benelli M1014, or the M4, is one of the finest combat shotguns ever. Benelli submitted these for the U.S. Military’s call for new combat shotguns in 1998. 

A few were sent out, tested, and proven highly capable of producing satisfactory results on the battlefield. Benelli was given the contract to produce 20,000 M1014s by 1999. 

The difference between the Benelli M4 and M1014 is simply military nomenclature and a few features: nothing mechanical, all on the outside. 

Anyhow, the Benelli M4 is heavy at 8.42 pounds and uses an uncomplicated ARGO (auto-regulating gas-operated) system. This system operates by two small self-cleaning pistons against a rotating bolt. It makes for a reliable system that typically doesn’t need part replacements until 25,000 rounds—or shells. 

There is no better shotgun for defensive and offensive purposes than the M1014. Or the M4. Unless you get your hands on an AA12, but that’s a different story.

Benelli M4

A wonderfully personalized Benelli M4. Source

Beretta 1301

In all honesty, the biggest competitor for the Benelli M1014 is the Beretta 1301. Lighter, faster, and less expensive, it’s a strong challenger for the most successful combat shotgun. 

It’s loved by shotgun enthusiasts all over for being light, maneuverable, customizable, and able to shoot faster than any other semi-automatic shotgun—up to 36% faster, according to Beretta. 

This is thanks to the BLINK system, which operates a cross-tube gas piston. This, too, is a highly reliable system, only needing minor parts replaced after 10,000 shots. 

The barrel is cold-hammer forged, which is what you want to see on a shotgun that will withstand harsh environments. It also features a choke on the end to help keep the spread tighter.

The oversized charging handle and controls make the 1301 an acceptable option for defensive and offensive purposes. It’s not the cheapest, but it’s well worth it.

Beretta 1301

The Beretta 1301 was built to clear a path. Source

Beretta A300 Ultima Patrol

Suppose you want a fine combat-oriented shotgun but don’t want to drop a mortgage payment at the gun store. Not everyone can afford a 1301, so Beretta returned with the A300 Ultima Patrol. 

As the name suggests, this shotgun is meant for duty purposes and has been used by many law enforcement agencies around the globe. 

It has similar extended controls to the 1301, but the most significant difference is the lack of the BLINK system. 

It’s still reasonably quick, though, and excels in the durability department. So, if you’re looking for a budget semi-auto shotgun (or as budget as you can get without sacrificing quality), here’s your shotgun.


The A300 is very easy to customize. Source

Franchi Affinity 3

Don’t mind having a competition-length barrel on your semi-auto shotgun? The inertia-driven Franchi Affinity 3 comes in below $1,000 and, like every other shotgun on the list, has a long list of fans. 

But what does inertia-driven mean? It gives the shotgun a lighter and more compact operating system, which also gives the Affinity 3 a slimmer and easier-to-maneuver profile. 

This is more of a competition/hunting type of shotgun, so you don’t want to use it for swinging around in the house for home defense. It is the easiest recoiling shotgun on this list thanks to the lightweight operating system, which also happens to run cleaner. This means you can spend more time shooting and less time cleaning. 

Everything from the cone spread pattern (how the shot spreads) to the length of the barrel and smoothness of the Franchi Affinity 3 scream hunting, and it does well. Whether you’re new to hunting or experienced, the Affinity 3 will help you get the job done.

Affinity 3

The Affinity 3 is great for hunting. Source

Mossberg 940

Mossberg has been one of the foremost producers of shotguns for the military and law enforcement since the mid-80s. Mossberg offers the 940 in many shapes and sizes, to help its appeal to all though, not just military and law enforcement. 

There’s a model for everything: tactical applications, turkey hunting, waterfowl hunting, field, and sporting. The Tactical Pro version has an optic cut, and the turkey and waterfowl variants come in their respective camo patterns. Mossberg did a great job of making sure everyone’s preferences can be met.

No matter what you’re looking for in your shotgun, the Mossberg 940 can provide. It’s reliable, affordable, and customizable. You really can’t go wrong with one.

Mossberg 940

A 940 taking a rest after a long-range day. Source


The task of making this list of the best semi-automatic shotguns was not taken lightly. These are not solely my thoughts but those of those who have used shotguns on the battlefield and in the line of duty. 

Any of these shotguns are more than equipped to handle what you want out of them, but make sure you aren’t throwing more at them than the price tag reflects. What I’m saying is don’t expect the same performance from a Mossberg 940 as you would from the Beretta 1301. 

Different shotguns for different purposes. But, you can be sure that they will perform. 

Be good and take care.

Brian Zerbian
Brian is a USMC Veteran and avid gun enthusiast from New Jersey who loves to spend his time shooting, writing, listening to classic rock, and learning new things.
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