Undeniably reliable and versatile, the pump-action shotgun is a must-have for any shooter. Here are 12 affordable options worth adding to your gun safe.
What Are The Economical Pump-Action Options:
- Mossberg 500 Bantam/505/501 Mini
- Stevens 320 Field Grade Compact
- 870 Express Compact Jr.
- TriStar Cobra III Youth
Common as stars in the night sky, powerful as a runaway freight train, with usefulness only surpassed by duct tape, the pump-action shotgun is truly a mythical beast. The mere click-clack of its slide racking has been known to scare home-intruding dunderheads so severely as to pipeline them straight from crime into missionary work. Truly, this gun can turn water into wine.
As far as firearms go, few surpass the versatility of the iconic pump-action shotgun. From birds on the wing to deer in the field, perhaps no other gun boasts such wide-reaching hunting applications. As a defensive arm, well, racking it won’t guarantee squat when it comes to neutralizing a threat, but competently handling it is a whole other matter. Suffice to say, in practiced hands, few firearms are as devastating as a pump-action in close quarters.
Even if you’re a dedicated handgunner or an absolutely religious rifleman, it’s sound practice to have a scattergun at hand. And with its utility, reliability and relatively simple manual of arms, it’s natural to gravitate to the pump-action shotgun. If you’ve yet to arm yourself as such, we’re here to help.
We’ve put together 12 of the most affordable pump-action shotgun options out there for various applications. Luckily, given their general affordability, many of these are also considered among the best in class.
But before we get to that …
Why You Want A Pump-Action Shotgun
There is a host of reasons why this style of scattergun has remained among the most popular firearms of all time. When you home in on the pump-action shotgun’s virtues, there are four that really standout.
Reliability: The pump-action is renowned for its ruggedness. Even when dirty the gun will cycle as long as you can work the slide. The same cannot be said of many semi-auto shotguns.
Firepower: Depending on shell size, most base models hold 4+1 rounds and extended capacity options 8+1. Very generally speaking, this ballpark is big enough to cover most hunting to home defense applications.
Simplicity: As far as repeating arms go, the pump-action is fairly intuitive to operate and, outside of malfunctions, simple to troubleshoot. Yes, you need a little mechanical know-how to maintain it, but perhaps less so than a gas-operated semi-auto shotgun.
Versatility: As mentioned before, few guns boast both bird and deer-bagging capabilities. From a defensive standpoint, when it comes to load selection, you also have a wide spectrum of options at hand to match your circumstances.
That said, you should also consider …
Draw A Bead On Shotguns:
- Classic Shotguns You've Got To Own
- Understanding The Semi-Auto Shotgun
- Lever-Action Shotgun: Past, Present And Future
- 7 Affordable Double-Barrel Shotgun Options
- Practical Guide To The Tactical Shotgun
Why You Don’t Want A Pump-Action Shotgun
It’s a proven and reliable system, but not always a bed of roses. You should consider some of challenges that come with the pump-action shotgun.
Reloading: Defensively speaking, this is one of the main challenges of the gun and takes a good deal of time to master under stress. In most cases, there’s no box magazine to drop and keeping count of shots is a must. There’s no more stomach-hollowing sound than click after you work the slide.
Malfunctions: From failure to extract to double feed, you bet the pump-action shotgun can jam. To become fully proficient, expect to spend time learning how to address these stoppages.
12-Gauge: The fact that most pump-actions are 12-gauge should be a boon. Yet, the recoil sensitive find it troublesome. This is less of an issue now, given the 20-gauge options available. Still, some might find this alternative isn’t available in the particular model they set their heart on.
With that settled, let’s look at some of the best pump-action shotgun options for the money.
Our Choice For Hunting
Remington 870 Express
If all you had was an 870 Express, you could consider yourself well-armed for nearly any hunt. For the price, it’s nearly a sin if one isn’t part of your arsenal.
Steady as a Swiss timepiece, the 870 Express chews through any 3-inch ammo it’s fed and—if you need a bit more reach—comes in a 3 ½-inch chambered Express Super Magnum. Much of this reliability comes from the twin-action bar design of the pump-action shotgun, a bit of engineering that has set the standard.
In addition to eminent configurability, the scattergun also has a couple of chambering options outside 12-gauge—including .410 and 20—which opens it up to a wide spectrum of shooters. And the pump-action comes with the choice of 18 ¾-, 21- 26- or 28-inch barrel in 12- and 20-gauge and 25-inch in .410. If you settle on the 870 Express, it’s difficult to say you make a bad choice.
MSRP: $417 // remington.com
Other Choices For Hunting:
Mossberg 500 All Purpose: Proven in the field and a solid investment, the much-beloved 500 All-Purpose will definitely put meat on the table. Pretty plain Jane on the outside, but it has it where it counts. MSRP: $431 // mossberg.com
Winchester SXP Field: Among the most affordable options out there, the SXP Field proves modern Winchester knows more than just semi-auto shotguns. MSRP: $399 // winchesterguns.com
CZ 620/628 Field Select: Looking for a lighter field gun or something for quail and the like? CZ has you covered with these nifty 20- (620) and 28-gauge (628) options. MSRP: $439 // cz-usa.com
Our Choice For Home Defense/Tactical
Mossberg 590 Tactical (9-Shot)
While its cousin the Mossberg 500 is considered one of the princes of pump-action shotguns, from a defensive standpoint the 590 Tactical has a decisive edge. First and foremost, the pump-action shotgun is available with 8+1 capacity, which for most should prove more than enough firepower no matter how dire the situation.
Additionally, the 12-gauge comes decked out with a number of other excellent features: heavy-walled barrel, 3-inch chamber, steel trigger guard, heat shield, ghost-ring rear sight, corn-cob fore-end and sling swivels. If that’s not enough, the aftermarket is sky-high for Mossberg shotguns. Essentially, you can tailor the 590 to your particular needs.
The 590 Tactical 9-shot runs a bit larger than some other defensive models. It boasts a 20-inch barrel, keeping it and the full-length tubular magazine flush. In turn, it is a heftier pump-action shotgun—not necessarily a bad thing. The weight soaks up recoil, potentially making it faster shot to shot.
MSRP: $512 // mossberg.com
Other Top Tactical Options:
Remington 870 Express Tactical: Plenty of enhancements make the 870 Express a deadly-serious self-defense option: ghost ring sight rail, 3-inch chamber, etc. The only area the stock model pales to the 590 tactical is the 7-round magazine. MSRP: $601 // remington.com
FN P-12: A military-grade, pump-action shotgun, the 5+1 capacity smoothbore means business. With an 18-inch barrel, it also tends to be nimble option. MSRP: $669 // fnamerica.com
Benelli SuperNova Tactical: Despite its odd space-aged stylings, the SuperNova Tactical is a competent fighter. The pistol grip is a nice touch in this area, making it easy to handle. The one drawback is the pump-action’s 4+1 capacity. MSRP: $519 // benelliusa.com
Our Choice For Youth Model
Mossberg 500 Bantam/505/510 Mini
Mossberg dedicated itself to the next generation of shooters with its youth shotgun line. Essentially the same shotgun (the 500), the 500 Bantam, 505 and 510 Mini offer three different fit. This is extremely important for the burgeoning shooter.
Not only does fit improve the overall performance, keeping the gun manageable and its controls within reach of smaller hands, the size also ensures the gun is properly mounted. This one factor goes a long way in cutting down on felt recoil—the dread of any new shooter.
As far as this goes, the 500 Bantam and 510 Mini are both available with adjustable lengths of pull; 12 to 13 inches in the former and 10.5 to 11.5 in the latter. The 505 is a fixed 12 inches. Also, the shotguns are chambered appropriately for those just cutting their teeth—by and large .410 and 20-gauge. Though, for a young hunter that’s ready, there is a 500 Bantam in 12-gauge. MSRP: Starting at $468 // mossberg.com
Other Top Youth Options:
Stevens 320 Field Grade Compact: Its Mama-bear 12.8 length-of-pull fits most youths, while a 22-inch barrel helps hone an effective swing. The 20-gauge even comes in “Muddy Girl” camo for daughters hitting the field for the first time. MSRP: Starting at $246 // savagearms.com
870 Express Compact Jr.: Boasting the same reliability as a full-sized Express, the Compact Jr. is tailored to fit nearly any youth with an 18 ¾-inch barrel and 12-inch length-of-pull. It’s a 20-gauge to boot, so recoil isn’t as much of an issue. MSRP: $439 // remington.com
TriStar Cobra III Youth: Admittedly, the 24-inch barrel is a bit long for some, but outside that the 20-gauge is sized right for learning the ropes. The Cobra III, like most TriStar guns, also boasts nice lines, which definitely goes down as a plus. MSRP: Starting at $335 // tristararms.com