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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.