Firearms

Top Seven Shotgun Choices for Bustin’ Clays on a Budget

CZ wood-stock shotgun

I don’t know about you, but the mere thought of enjoying blue skies on a crisp November day, orange targets and the sound of shooters calling, “Pull!” at the sporting clays field is enough to make me consider calling in sick for some recoil therapy.

Autumn is upon us in full force, and perhaps the only thing better than heading to the trap or skeet range for a day of wing shooting is doing it with a full wallet. We’ve put together a list of our favorite 12-gauge lead slingers (in no particular order) that come in right around the $500 mark, which will leave you with enough coin leftover for plenty of shells and targets.

1. Winchester SXP Trap

Winchester SXP Trap shotgun with wood stock
The Winchester SXP Trap features a Grade 1 walnut stock.

For the rising straightaway shots of the trap fields, you’ll need a taller comb and lengthy barrel like the ones that come standard on the SXP trap. And even though it’s one of the more inexpensive options on our list, it still includes Grade 1 walnut furniture that you can take pride in.

This choice also features a lightning-fast, inertia-assisted pump action that’s certain to keep you competitive on the doubles course, even when shooting your handicap. We can’t think of a better trap gun to wet your feet with. Price: $423.62

2. Remington Model 870 Express Laminated Stock

Remington model 870 shotgun with wood-look laminated stock
Remington’s Model 870 Express has been winning informal bets and high-level competitions for decades.

Remington’s Model 870 Express has been winning informal bets and high-level competitions for decades, and isn’t showing signs of slowing down any time soon. This laminated-wood edition is decked out with an eye-catching stock set and matte-black finish, and comes ready to hit the field with an all-purpose 28-inch barrel and Remington’s reputation for hard-hitting reliability in all conditions.

Of course, the entire gun breaks down quickly and easily for post-game cleaning and maintenance, and is also right at home on the tailgate of a dove hunt. Price: $352.81

3. CZ-USA 104A Mallard Over/Under

CZ wood-stock shotgun
The CZ 104A Mallard over/under features a hand-checkered Turkish walnut stock.

The brand CZ-USA likely conjures up images of high-end guns that don’t come with a high-end price and the Mallard Over/Under is no different. For sportsmen and women who desire a gun that’s as classy in look and feel as the hunting guns of yester-year, but with the reliability that modern firearms come with, the two-triggered Mallard deserves a hard look. Positive extractors—instead of ejectors—help keep the price down without sacrificing practicality. Price: $545.09

4. Mossberg 500 All-Purpose Field

Mossberg 500 pump-action shotgun with wood stock
This particular model features a nimble 26” barrel that experienced shooters will appreciate.

It just wouldn’t be fall without listening to the familiar “click-clack” of the tried-and-true Mossberg 500 action. This particular model features a nimble 26-inch barrel that experienced shooters will appreciate on station three of the local skeet range, as well as the dual action bars and twin extractors the 500 series is known for.

It’s definitely a budget shotgun, but like many others on our list, it sure doesn’t look like it with cut checkering and an attractive blued barrel and receiver. Price: $332.16

5. TriStar Viper G2 Semiautomatic

TriStar Viper G2 wood-stock shotgun
The TriStar Viper G2 Series comes in a variety of finishes.

If skeet’s your game, you’ll definitely want to take a look at the eye-catching TriStar Viper G2. Gone are the days of seeing only deep-blued receivers and high-class walnut on the competition circuit. There’s nothing wrong with a flashy—yet reliable—competition gun, and there certainly won’t be a question about who’s shooting when you step up to the line. Price starts at: $450.75

6. American Tactical Imports Cavalry XS

ATI Cavalry wood-stock shotgun
Rich bluing on the barrels adds an understated touch of class that’s sure to garner compliments both on and off the skeet field.

A first glance at the Turkish walnut stocks and hard chrome receiver of the Cavalry XS will have you thinking it’s a far more expensive shotgun than its price tag reveals. It’s not just a pretty face, however. The 4140 steel barrels are chrome plated for durability, inside and out.

Rich bluing on the barrels adds an understated touch of class that’s sure to garner compliments both on and off the skeet field. It also comes fully equipped with a complete set of standard choke tubes, ready to mix and match in your favorite combos. Price: $482.94
7. Weatherby SA-08 Semiautomatic

Weatherby 28 gauge SA-08 Shotgun with wood stock and forearm
The SA-08 has earned itself a reputation as a favorite for beginning shotgunners.

Light enough to carry around an expansive sporting clays field all day long, the SA-08 has earned itself a reputation as a favorite for beginning shotgunners. A unique, chrome-lined barrel promotes a lengthy barrel life, and is easy to clean as well.

As a bonus, the SA-08 includes a selection of choke tubes capable of handling nearly any target presentation. Combine that with the excellent handling characteristics and reliability that you’ve come to expect from Weatherby firearms, and you’ve got a real winner on your hands. Price starts at: $510.24

Fall Won’t Last Forever!

Time is ticking. Soon, Old Man Winter will be here in full force, and you’ll have to wait another year before filling your lungs with clean, cool fall air and the scent of spent shotgun hulls and clay dust. Grab your shell belt, shooting buddies and new shotgun and get out there!

What’s your go-to shotgun for cooler weather and higher scores? Let us know in the comment section.

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The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (14)

  1. The picture for that CZ Mallard O/U looks like it’s a double trigger and it says so in the print too, is it available in single trigger version ? Really have a BIG Time preference for Extracting style over Auto Ejector type O/U’s. Is this gun made in one of those Huge gun plants in Turkey ?

  2. There is no way with todays tecnology that for under 500 we cannot have as qood a quality and functioning weapon, including recoil control as any $5000 0r more art work..
    For in todays worldb of overly abundant high tech metals,, lastics and wood laminates and combos along with ammo component upgrades the only real difference is in greed of manufacturing.
    Oh I love beautifull wood grains, exaotic carvings and schrolls but that is aesthetics not function.
    We see foreign anufacturing plants with quality guaranteed, something that is easy to do as more and more parts are computer carved or 3D foormed and fit so well there is little need of cleanups.

  3. I`ve got a 1948 model year JC Higgins 12 gauge pump that is one of the smoothest shooting shotguns I have ever shot. I picked it up for $100 three years ago from the original owner, cleaned it up, lubricated it and it is the best hundred bucks I`ve ever spent

  4. You MISSED the BEST budget gun out there the inertia driven Stoeger 3000 series will run circles around anything you have listed and do it for under 550.00.

  5. I’,m an old poop from the old school of hard hold. With this manner of holding you can shoot 10 rounds of trap and not even feel it at your shoulder! So, pumps are out for me! I have an old Remington 1100 which does the job every time. I have made a shell catcher so that you can save the empties and not hit someone at the next station.
    Why were no automatics considered for this list?

  6. Heck, I’ve shot trap with a Maverick 88 and busted clays absent a beat…In some respects at times it ain’t all about money.

    1. I was going to say the exact same thing. I`ve got a Mossberg Maverick 88 and for a little more than $200; you can`t go wrong. I love mine and it has never failed to go bang or jam in the 2+ years I`ve owned mine. I`ve put several hundred rounds through it without a single hiccup.

    2. I completely agree about the 88. But they may not have mentioned it because it’s part of the Mossberg 500 family.

  7. Wow…all of those shotguns a very nice, functional and priced right in today’s market. Call me “Old School” but my favorite go to shotgun for home defense, clays and hunting whether the hunting be for furry critters or on the wing is my trusty Remington Model 48 in 12ga. It has never failed to please for the past 40 years. Before that it was my Mom’s Model 48 in 20ga. Two moving parts besides the trigger group….the barrel (recoil operated) and the bolt. My Model 48 cost me $99….in today’s money that’s about $200.

  8. I’m happy to see the Mossberg 500 on this list. The title “All-Purpose Field” couldn’t be more appropriate. I have owned mine for 30 years and have used it to take pheasants, doves, rabbits and one heck of a lot of just plain fun target shooting. This gun simply does not quit and I will have it forever.

    The Remington 870 is another great gun. Don’t own one, but both Remington and Mossberg are American icons.

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