Pump action shotguns are an interesting category of firearms. It’s one of the few genres where you can get a high-quality, defensive-worthy firearm for less than 500 dollars. Pump action shotguns are the most common repeating shotguns on the market. They’ve been around since the 1800s and have continued to get better and, more importantly, cheaper.
What’s the best pump action shotgun? Tough to answer. It always goes back to what your goal or mission is. With that in mind, the pump action shotgun can be a defensive or duty gun, it can be a sporting gun for hunting, or just a bit of everything. Today, I’ve gathered five of the best pump action shotguns that cover the widest variety of pump shotgun missions.
A Word on The Best Pump Action Shotguns
As time has passed, pump action shotguns have come and gone. Great guns like the Ithaca 37, the Winchester Model 12, and many more left standard production. To keep the list relevant, I won’t send you on a scavenger hunt to find out of production antiques. I’m keeping it to guns that are still in production and somewhat easy to find. (With that said, the Model 12 is called the Perfect Repeater for a reason.)
When it comes to staying power and production, the Mossberg 500 series has it. It’s been around and in continued production since 1961, making it older than my dad. The 500 and, by extension, the 590 series have been there and done that. The 590A1 is the military’s pump action shotgun of choice, and the 500/590 series has armed generations of police, home defenders, and hunters.
The 500/590 series features a dual-arm design that doesn’t bind or fail. The 500 has got a set of user-fixable dual extractors and a lightweight aluminum receiver. It’s not like the design has changed much over the years, either. It’s solid, reliable, and available in a metric ton of configurations. You can hunt anything with it, use it to defend the homestead, and anything in between.
The Mossberg 500 and 590 series are much like the Glock and AR series in terms of customization. You can make this gun anything you want it to be in terms of accessories. I suggest going with a Magpul stock and a Surefire forend, and oh yeah, it’s optics-ready. The Defender Tactical CoSight, a product I helped design, makes mounting optics easy.
Mossberg Maverick 88
In a world where the literal truckload imports cheap Turkish shotguns, I suggest you stick to Mossberg. The Model 500 is already pretty cheap, but the Maverick 88 is even cheaper. At less than 250 bucks, you can get a very competent shotgun. For less than 300, you can get one with a 28-inch field barrel and an 18.5-inch so you can both hunt and defend without breaking the bank.
The Maverick 88 is, in many ways, a copy of the Mossberg 500. It’s similar enough that the Maverick can accept Mossberg 500 furniture, although swapping fore ends is a little trickier due to the Maverick’s one-piece pump design.
The gun lacks the famed tang safety and isn’t optics-ready, and Mossberg doesn’t make a fancy one with ghost ring sights either.
Let me be really clear here. The Mossberg Maverick 88 is the best budget pump action on the market. It’s better than all those silly Turkish shotguns. It’s not fancy, but it is very well made and will last a very long time. If you have the money, spend more on a 590, but if you’re limited, then the Maverick 88 will get it done.
Pump action shotguns are owned mostly by the American marketplace, but there is always room for our Italian friends. In fact, the SuperNova is undeniable and makes a lot of smart design decisions that show a few decades of improvement to an old design. The SuperNova series comes in a few different configurations, from tactical to hunting and so on and so forth.
The SuperNova comes with a huge pump design that’s easy to reach and makes it easy to control the gun. At the bottom of that pump is a button, which acts as a magazine disconnect.
This makes it super easy to do a slug-select drill or to clear the chamber. The SuperNova has a recoil-reducing stock that’s admittedly a little long and is begging for a LOP adjustment.
The action is super smooth and slick. The rotating bolt head ensures reliable and consistent ejection in all conditions. The top of the receiver is drilled and tapped, and a rail makes it easy to add an optic. The SuperNova is one of the most modern pump actions out there.
I struggled with whether I should add the 870 or not. Production seems to be intermittent, but there are several million, creating a massive used market, so I’m adding it. The Remington 870 wears the crown of being the first modern pump action shotgun. It was the first designed for mass production, used two action bars, and laid the groundwork for the modern pump action shotgun as we know it.
The classic 870 is a very well-made gun with what’s often one of the smoothest actions out of the box. While the guns were mass-produced, numerous Wingmaster models maintained the quality of old-world guns, while the Express models kept the price low and performance high. Reliability was always a key feature of the 870 series, and that’s what glued them to the modern world.
Much like the Mossberg 500 and the 590, these guns are super easy to accessorize. You can make a Remington into a tactical masterclass of a shotgun or add wood to give it the classic cool look. While Remington’s light has dimmed, the 870 is going to be around for a very long time.
Last but not least, we have the Sentry 12. It’s the only magazine-fed model on the list and one of the few well-made mag-fed guns that were built to be mag-fed. Guns from Remington and Mossberg are fine but were conversions of earlier designs. The Sentry 12 provides a mag-fed shotgun without the limitations of a previous design.
The overall layout is very AR-like, as are the controls and ergonomics. If you’ve handled an AR, then the Sentry 12 will be a simple option.
The Sentry 12 is the pump action shotgun for people who don’t like shotguns. The gun is easy to optically enhance, features an inline stock design, and has five and eight-round magazines available.
It’s American-made and super reliable. It chugs through whatever you put through it without complaint. The gun features a nice, short 12.5-inch length of pull and a slick pump design. Reloading is quick, and you won’t ever have to train in fancy shotgun reload techniques to keep the gun topped off. The Sentry 12 isn’t afraid to break the mold.
Back to the Pump Action
Every year, the semi-auto shotgun gets a little more appealing, but the pump action still gets it done. The reliability of a manual action is tough to beat, as is the superbly low price point. You won’t go broke with a shotgun…unless you buy a .410 and shop for buckshot. A good pump action is a do-it-all gun that makes it easy to hunt everything from birds to bears while defending the homestead. What more could you want?
Read the full article here