One of the best kept secrets of the firearms world is the 20 gauge pump action or semi-automatic shotgun. The 20 gauge shotgun has always been strongly underestimated in comparison to the more popular and well-known 12 gauge.
But the truth is that a 20 gauge is a very effective found for both bird hunting and home defense. It also always kicks less than the 12 gauge, so long as the shotgun itself is not light weight, and if anything it handles better on upland game birds.
When loaded with self-defense buckshot, the 20 gauge can deliver 20 pellets of #3 buckshot that can penetrate nearly as far as the 12 gauge, while being significantly easier to shoot than the 12 gauge as well. Women, children, and people of smaller stature could handle a 20 gauge much easier than they could handle a 12 gauge.
If you’re looking for a highly versatile shotgun that anybody in your family can shoot, the 20 gauge is probably the way to go and it should never be underestimated as a tool for home defense and hunting alike.
Here are the best shotguns that are available in 20 gauge, ranked by users:
The Ithaca Model 37 is a very lightweight and nifty little pump action shotgun that has been very popular with American sportsmen. The Ithaca was adopted for use by the United States military in World War II, and continued to be used throughout Vietnam as well. It has also seen service with countless US military departments over the decades as well.
Today, the Ithaca Model 37 is still being made and can claim to be in production longer than any other pump action shotgun. One reason why the Model 37 has been so successful I because of how it is loaded and ejected through a port at the lower part of the receiver, making it truly ambidextrous for both right handed and left handed shooters.
The Browning Auto Five is a semi-automatic shotgun that was designed by John Moses Browning. The Auto Five was designed by him in 1898, and he originally took the design to Winchester, who had also built his 1894 and 1895 lever action rifles.
However, Winchester was not interested in the Auto Five, so Browning took the designs to Winchester’s competitor Remington instead. Remington also was not interested, so Browning next took it to a Belgian gun manufacturer called Fabrique National, or today popularly known as FN. FN was actually interested and built the gun under the Browning name.
After the success of the Auto Five, Remington realized their mistake in failing to build the weapon and contacted Browning again. The Auto Five was then rebranded as the Model 11, and it became the first semi-automatic shotgun made in America. Today, the Auto Five and Model 11 alike are considered to be among the very best semi-automatic shotguns ever made.
The Auto Five is known for kicking very hard, and this in conjunction with its appearance is why it is commonly called the Humpback. That being said, the Auto Five is also quick to get on target and shoulders very easily. The receiver is very broad and provides shooters with an immediate sighting plane. Later, Browning referred to the A5 as his finest achievement and the best gun he ever made.
The Mossberg 500 is one of the most popular and famous pump actions ever made. Today, it’s the second highest selling shotgun in the United States with over ten million units sold over the course of its history. Many people prefer the Mossberg 500 over the Remington 870 due to its easier to reach controls and ambidextrous safety on the rear of the receiver. Furthermore, the Mossberg 500 and its variants the 590 and 590A1 were adopted by the United States military and were the only pump action shotguns to pass their torture tests back in the late 1980s, which says a lot about their durability.
Mossberg was founded by OF Mossbeg, who was a Swedish immigrant and started his firearms company in 1919. The 500 was developed later in the early 1960s, and it is today widely regarded as one of the best shotguns ever made. The design borrowed elements from the Remington Model 31.
Today the Mossberg 500 is popular with civilians for home defense and hunting just as much as it is with law enforcement and the military.
The Remington Model 870 is simply the most successful shotgun ever made, having sold more units than any other shotgun in history. It was originally designed in 1961 and was essentially a more inexpensive development of the earlier Model 31, which was extremely well made but also extraordinarily expensive and out of the price range for most folks.
With the 870, Remington sought to make a shotgun that was very durable but that could also be offered at a small price. Remington was able to reduce the price even further when they introduced the 870 Express line in the 1980s. The Express was cheaper due to the black matte finish.
The Winchester Model 1897 was an improvement over the previous Browning Model 1897, and it remained in continuous production from 1912 to 1957 with over one million units sold. The 1897 was for many years considered to be the best pump action shotgun made and it received competition from shotguns from numerous other manufacturers.
Available in all major gauges, the Model 1897 was used to devastating effect by American soldiers in World War I, where it was used to clear trenches of German soldiers at close range. On the civilian market, it was used by hunters and skeet shooters for many years as well.
The Model 1897 is noted for its hand fitted parts, barrels that can be easily interchanged, and a beautiful walnut stock. It also features an exposed hammer that meant the weapon could be cocked and uncocked as the user desired. It only ended production once the Mossberg 500 and Remington 870 shotguns took to the market and began selling in high volumes.
Winchester’s primary shotgun today is the Super X Pump, or SXP for short. This shotgun utilizes an inertia-based action very similar to the Ithaca Model 37. The result is that it is very fast to operate the pump to chamber rounds fast. The action specifically relies on rearward momentum to ensure that the action can cycle fast.
According to Winchester, the SXP can be fired three times in only half a second in the hands of a trained shooter. The best version of the SXP is the Black Shadow model, which has a textured stock that is non-slip and a rotary bolt with four lugs for extra durability. The trigger assembly can be removed quickly for ease of cleaning.
Benelli is an Italian shotgun manufacturer known for making very durable and well-made shotguns. Their most widely used shotguns are inertia operated autoloaders, but they make pump action shotguns for much cheaper prices without sacrificing on quality. The Benelli Nova is an example of such a shotgun.
Something that you will likely notice right away with the Nova is its more futuristic design, which makes it instantly stand out from other shotguns on the market. It also has a very ergonomic design and feel, with traditional checkering that helps stabilize slippery hands and a wide trigger guard that can accommodate gloves. The forend is also contoured to fit anyone’s hand as well.
The Remington Model 31 was released by Remington in the year 1931. The Model 31 is notable for the fact that it has a very complex but also intricate series of parts that are hand fitted. The result is the pump is one of the smoothest to rack of any shotgun on the market.
The Model 31 was intended specifically to compete with the Winchester M1912. However, it struggled to sell well due to its high cost of nearly $50 in 1931, or $750 in today’ s value. The Model 31 was certainly well made, but the fact that it was so intricate and complex to make resulted in its downfall in the marketplace since most Americans simply could not afford it.