The shotgun is one of the oldest and most versatile firearms in the world. A 12 gauge offers enough power for hunters and home defense, but it’s also a good choice for many shooting sports. The best 12 gauge shotgun can perform well on all of those occasions, and it can do so at an affordable price. Of course, there are a lot of different options, and it isn’t always easy to choose between them. To help with that, we’ve pulled together a list of the top ten 12 gauge shotguns, ranked based on their value, reliability and overall performance.
10. Beretta 1301 Tactical
The 1301 Tactical is one of the most customizable defense shotguns out there. It has standard picatinny rails for accessories, but the stock, drop, and cast are also customizable to ensure good ergonomics. It’s also useful right out of the box because it has oversized controls that make it easy to use, even in poor visibility. As is always the case for Beretta, the components are high quality and quite reliable. This might be the best 12 ga shotgun for experts who want to customize every aspect of their weapon, but novices can also take advantage of the large, simple controls for easier shooting.
9. Chiappa 6A612
The CA612 is a balanced, reliable firearm that can serve well in almost any role. It can take any of five default choke tubes, so it’s good for both shooting trap and skeet and hunting waterfowl. The gun relies on a rotary bolt action that is driven by inertia, so it’s reliable enough that you can take it into the field and trust it to keep working. The combination of low price, simple design, and versatility makes this a great choice for novices, but it’s not a bad choice for experienced shooters who aren’t looking for a bunch of special features.
8. Stevens 555
The 555 is the best 12 gauge shotgun if you want a simple design that is executed to perfection. It’s a light over/under gun with a selective trigger and a set of five chokes. The barrel is lined with chrome to make it easy to clean, and the mechanisms are so simple that they’ll almost never need repairs. It’s also notable for the beautiful wooden stock made from Turkish walnut. It’s one of the best choices for intermediate shooters, as long as they can deal with the low capacity.
7. Stoeger M3K
The M3K is an affordable defense shotgun that is optimized for rapid reloading with a customized carrier and an enlarged loading port. Like many defensive shotguns, it also has enlarged controls for easy use in the dark. This is also useful for hunters, especially those that go out at night. It relies on inertia to power the action, so this is more reliable and cycles much more quickly than many other shotguns. It’s offers high quality and a reasonable price so it’s a good choice for shooters of all skill levels that want to get a defensive shotgun without wasting any money.
6. EAA MKA 1919 Match
The MKA 1919 looks like an AR-15, and it handles like one, but it really is a shotgun. It’s the best 12 gauge shotgun for people who are experienced with an AR-15 simply because much of that experience will transfer over to the MKA 1919. Since it has ambidextrous controls, this is also a top choice for left-handed shooters. The ergonomics are also fairly good, especially the long handguard that makes it easy to get a good grip on the gun. All of those features make it a great choice for novices, especially those who already have some experience with rifles.
5. Wilson Standard
The Standard is a dedicated combat shotgun. It has an enlarged safety to make sure that you can use it quickly in an emergency, a powerful tube spring to ensure reliable reloading, and an integrated light for use in the dark. There is also space a few extra shells on the side of the gun for added convenience. If you’re an experienced shooter who needs a combat weapon, then this might be the best 12 gauge shotgun for you. If you’re not experienced, or you don’t intend to use the gun in combat, you won’t benefit from most of the weapon’s special features.
4. Ruger Red Label
The Red Label is a wonderful over/under gun. Like most weapons from Ruger, it’s built with a focus on rugged simplicity rather than special features. That keeps it light, easy to use and hard to damage. The Red Label is best for shooting sports and hunting waterfowl because of its limited capacity. With that in mind, there is one big disadvantage to the Red Label. It is not longer in production, so buyers need to look through used guns to find one in good condition. That stops it from getting the top spot, but it’s still an excellent choice for sporting shooters of all skill levels.
3. Remington V3 Field Sport
Remington has a reputation for making good shotguns, and the V3 does nothing to diminish that. The craftsmanship is excellent, which makes for a reliable weapon, but this gun is particularly notable for its low recoil. An anti-recoil pad is the most important feature for managing recoil, but there is also a gas regulation system which contributes. The V3 can also take a wider variety of shells than most other shotguns without any problems. Those features make it the best 12 gauge shotgun for novices worrying about recoil, but the gun’s quality and reliability make it a good choice for more experienced shooters as well.
2. FN P-12
The P-12 earns its place on this list with a mix of reliability and special features. It uses a reliable pump action and a chrome-lined barrel to cut down on maintenance work. The receiver is even made of aircraft-grade aluminum to save weight and reduce the risk of damage. The P-12 can also offer performance with its reliability because it has an integrated fiber-optic front sight and a speed pump that enables rapid fire. Those features are most useful to experts who can capitalize on them. However, this is a good 12 gauge shotgun for intermediate shooters as well.
1. Mossberg Flex 500 Hunting
The Flex 500 wins the top slot for sheer value. The design uses Mossberg’s TLS system for easy modification, but it doesn’t need any modifications to perform reliably in the wilderness. The ergonomics are also excellent for use in the field, particularly the top-mounted safety, which is unlikely to get knocked out of position by accident. The quality and customization also comes at a very low price, especially for what the gun offers. The basic model is easy enough for novices to handle. However, the sheer number of customization options make this gun useful to experts as well. Several similar weapons are available for people who want a gun for something other than hunting, and they share this model’s advantages.
Making The Right Choice
Shotguns have been around for a long time, so there are a lot of contenders for the best 12 gauge shotgun. There are plenty of good firearms out there that we never had a chance to consider for this list. If you have experience with one of them, or if you have something to add about a gun that did make a list, tell us about it in the comment section. If you wish to browse through even more selections of shotguns, here is a list with some of the best guns for home defense.