Shotguns are a unique and interesting style of firearm. Their styles range from simple hunting and tactical guns to elaborately decorated museum quality pieces with ornate designs. Even the simplest of shotguns can be quite eye catching, and they're also some of the most powerful firearms available to the public. This combination of beauty and brawn is intriguing and attractive to many shooters — especially newcomers.
Firing something so powerful on your first trip shooting can be exciting, but it can also ruin the experience if you aren't careful. Just like with any first time endeavor, it's important to start slowly, try out a variety of potential options and progress from there.
How Did We Create Our List of Best Shotguns for First-Time Shooters?
To help you get the best experience, we have compiled a list of the top five best shotguns for first-time shooters. This list is intended to offer a first-time shooter an introduction to the variety of styles, actions, and shell types. Trying out the various guns on this list should provide you with a positive experience and good general overview of all things shotgun.
5 Shotguns That Are Great for New Shooters
So with all that out of the way, let’s dive in.
5. Savage Stevens 301 .410 Bore
The Stevens brand has a long history of quality firearms manufacturing dating back to 1864, and while they're now owned by Savage Arms, that tradition remains intact. The Savage Stevens 301 represents that tradition, but is also a fantastic introduction to shooting a shotgun. A single shot, break-action shotgun in .410 gauge (also called .410 bore), it has all the necessary elements of an introductory piece.
Break-action shotguns are still a popular style of shotgun, so this is a good way to try out that type of action. Break actions have a hinge for the barrel to swivel, so you can manually load in the shells. It's a single shot, and you can try it out a few times and get the feel of how the break action works while giving your shoulder a break between shots. Not that you'll need much of a break — the .410 gauge is a good way to ease into the power of shotguns, since it has the least amount of recoil.
To top it off, the black carbon steel barrel and synthetic stock provide a modern version of a classic style, so while this is a "traditional" gun, it's still a current firearm. The Savage Stevens 301 also earns some bonus points because if you decide you want to buy one after trying it, it's not an expensive gun.
4. The Mossberg 590 Shockwave 20 Gauge
Contrary to what most people think, a 20 gauge shotgun is not more powerful than a 12 gauge. In shotguns, the smaller the number, the bigger the gauge and the bigger the kick. So the 20 gauge is actually surprisingly manageable when it comes to recoil. Taking it a step further, the Mossberg Shockwave 20 Gauge is manageable enough that people often shoot them one handed.
One-handed shooting of this gun isn't just people playing around or goofing off either; it's somewhat encouraged by the design. When seeing this gun for the first time, you can't help but think of the sawed-off shotguns from old gangster movies. To clarify, this is not a sawed-off shotgun by any classification; the design just calls that to mind because the barrel of this gun comes in at 14 inches and there's no butt stock — just the downward angled handgrip.
Interestingly enough, the Mossberg Shockwave 20 Gauge is technically not a shotgun. At least, in the eyes of the ATF, that is. Because of how the ATF classifies guns, this constitutes a different weapon from what they consider a shotgun, despite the fact that it's a pump action and shoots shotgun shells. In this instance, the murky waters of ATF interpretation have led to a unique, fun little gun that doesn't require any special paperwork to own. That means it should be easy to find and try out if you're a newcomer to shotguns.
The unique styling is a feature that suggests a spirit of unpredictability and originality. This individuality makes for a distinctly different shooting style thanks to the shape and design of the gun. Coupling all that with the manageability of the 20 gauge makes this a can't miss shooting experience for first timers.
3. The Beretta A400 Xtreme Plus 12 Gauge
The Beretta A400 Xtreme Plus may have a long name, but it's also long on features — specifically in the area of recoil mitigation. Almost every aspect of this gun was designed with the goal of reducing felt recoil.
The stock of each A400 Xtreme Plus uses the Beretta Kick Off system as a standard. This system involves utilizing pistons to absorb recoil in a similar manner to how the shocks on a vehicle absorb bumps on the road. Beretta claims that, through this system, there is a 44% reduction in felt recoil. Whether that number is accurate or not, there is a tremendous amount of recoil reduction baked into this gun.
The ability to shoot a genuine hunting shotgun in 12 gauge with markedly less recoil makes this gun ideal for first timers. Being able to find out what a hunting shotgun is all about with less fatigue and impact is the best of both worlds for the burgeoning shotgunner.
2. The Benelli M4 12 Gauge
After having fired the other models on this list, many people want to try out a full-on 12 gauge with no recoil gimmicks to see what it's like. For first-time or new shooters, the Benelli M4 is quite possibly the best option for getting the full impact of a shotgun kick.
The Benelli M4 is a pump action shotgun, so it's a good chance to try that out as well. The iconic racking of the slide on a pump action shotgun truly needs no introduction, and we're sure many people got a mental image and maybe even heard the sound in their heads upon reading that. It really is that ingrained within our culture. The M4 doesn't stop there, though.
The gun was designed as a tactical combat shotgun, so the ergonomics match that intent. The butt stock is similar to traditional shotguns, but with options available for adjustable stocks. Additionally, the grip is that of a pistol and is textured for a better hold. The pump action is coupled with a six-shot capacity. The sights are not those of a traditional shotgun, but more like those of a rifle to allow for accuracy when shooting slugs. In fact, there are numerous examples online of accurate slug shots by this gun out to 200 yards. It's also extremely durable and reliable, reducing the risk of malfunctions while shooting.
Despite this being a military gun, it has found favor with competition shooters. The biggest reason behind that being the Benelli M4’s very low recoil. That is a huge plus when shooting something like a 12 gauge, especially for anyone new to shotguns.
Lastly, there is the cool factor. This gun has been used in numerous movies and TV shows, which brings an element of fun to shooting it. It was even used by Keanu Reeves in the tunnel shootout for John Wick Chapter 2, and it really can't get much cooler than that.
1. The Remington 870 12 Gauge
You can't make a list of best shotguns for the first-time shooter without having the best-selling shotgun of all time on it. The Remington 870 is the most popular shotgun ever, so if you're going to get the full experience of shotgun shooting, you absolutely have to try the king.
The Remington 870 has a solid steel barrel and sturdy wood construction, which can help with recoil. But the point of shooting this gun is to get the full experience. The look, feel, weight, and everything else about shotgun shooting is summed up into this one package. It's a pump action shotgun that's versatile, durable, and reliable. There are tons of aftermarket parts and accessories for customization as well as factory variants for things like tactical models and turkey guns. Whatever niche of shotgun you want to try, the Remington 870 fills it.
Like the Benelli M4, this gun has also been seen in a number of movies and TV shows and has a long and storied history as the king of shotguns. There is so much for any shooter to get out of this shotgun that it would be a shame to have never tried shooting it for yourself. Get to a range and try one out; you won't be sorry.
Shotguns are great firearms and loads of fun to shoot. While they can be intimidating to some, jumpin in and trying a few out can really demystify the process. Jump in to the idea, though, not the shooting. You can just go and grab any shotgun you see and shoot, sure. But to get the most out of the experience, have a plan to ease yourself into the way they shoot. Hopefully, this guide can help you do that.