Which “All Clays” Guns For Guy And Gal

Hi Bruce,

I’m new to shotgunning and have been enjoying your website tremendously. I would like your advice on an upcoming shotgun purchase. I only started shooting back in May and am completely hooked! My buddy started a skeet league and let me begin with his Remington 11-87 12 gauge semi-auto with a 26 inch barrel. I had never shot a shotgun before and found the experience of powdering clay targets to be a lot of fun. After a while my friend let me try his 20 gauge Ruger over/under and I fell in love with it. It has 26 inch barrels.

This summer has been spent shooting skeet 90% of the time with the rest of the time split between sporting clays and trap and one game of 5 stand. I find that I like sporting clays the best, followed by skeet, 5 stand and then trap. Granted, I could burn shells all day long on any of these games but I honestly think I will be spending the most time on skeet and sporting clays.

I would like a gun that would do well at both of these and have been looking at a few different models. I think I would like a 12 gauge so I can have the versatility of doing all of these games. I initially thought I wanted a 20 gauge since I shoot so much skeet, but I changed my mind because I want to be able to handle the longer shots in sporting clays.

The guns I’ve been looking at are Browning Citoris and Beretta Silver Pigeons, both in 28 inch barrels. I love the feel of these guns but the Berettas feel a bit better to me. I would like something that would last a long time but will be able to handle A LOT of shooting. I’m not a hunter so this gun would be used for target games only. Are there other brands that you would recommend? I do plan on getting into reloading so any advice you could give me on that would be appreciated. Specific brand names would be great. My budget for a shotgun would be around $1600 maximum.

Also, I’d love to get my wife into this sport but I know she’d be sensitive to recoil. Another buddy of mine was shooting a 20 gauge semi-auto and I thought this might give her the benefit of a decent pattern size/density along with a more subdued felt recoil. Are there any particular models you’d recommend? Do you have another suggestion than the semi-auto?

Thanks for your help and keep up the good work. I’d love to hear what the other guys have to say on this, too.



Dear Chuck,

I get this question a lot and had hoped that we had it in our archives. One of these days I’ll get around to it and do a FAQ. Still, I always like to “greet” a new shooter and welcome him to the game.

Picking the right gun is always a very personal thing. If possible, borrow all the guns you can.

For you, the three guns that I would consider are

1) Beretta A400 28″ or 30″ sporter,

2) Browning 725 30″ sporter or the Browning 625 30″ sporter and

3) Beretta Silver Pigeon 30″ sporter.

All are in 12 gauge. Don’t get the 20 as an “all around” target gun for a man. Get the 12. You can always shoot lighter loads to reduce recoil if you wish.


As to semi-autos guns, you want a gas operated one, not a recoil operated one. The recoil operated autos, like the Benelli, have good reliability, but they also produce more recoil. In hunting that doesn’t really matter, but in constant target shooting, it does. Stick with gas.

Of the gas autos, Beretta is by far dominant in the clay target area. No one else comes close these days. All the Beretta models are good. The latest A400 Sporter is in the $1800 area. The A300, which has the excellent reliable action of the recently discontinued 391, comes in a 28″ field version what would also work for sporting and skeet for around $875. Also, a used Beretta 391 or 390 or even the sainted 303 would be excellent choices. Don’t rule out a used gun to save a lot of money. All these guns have shim adjustable stocks, so they can be made to fit.

In an auto, you might want to look at a 28″ barrel in place of the 30″ one. Autos have an extra 3+” of receiver, so a 28″ auto is about the same length as a 31″ O/U. Your pick, but just be aware of it.

In the O/Us, you can’t go wrong with a Japanese Miroku-made Browning or a Beretta. A 30″ barrel is a nice compromise for trap, skeet and sporting. Pick barrel length based on weight and balance, not just length.

In the US, the Browning Citoris are more popular for clays than the Berettas. In the rest of the world, it’s the opposite. Both are good guns, but most people have definite preference of one over the other. Try them both to make up your own mind.

Personally, I prefer flat ribs, not raised ones, because I still shoot low gun. These days, now that the rules have been relaxed, most shooters shoot pre-mounted. Many premounted shooters prefer a high rib. It’s your call.

The Browning 725 is a nice gun and has slightly lighter barrels than the previous barrel heavy models. But the 725 Sportings aren’t cheap starting at $3100. The excellent Beretta Silver Pigeon 1 Sporting starts around $2400.

These are just the latest versions. Don’t overlook a used sporter of either brand, even if it is a previous model. These guns don’t wear out and a used gun can save you a bunch of money.

For your wife, I always like to see the ladies start with a gas operated semi-auto 20 gauge. I strongly recommend the new Beretta A400 28″ 20 gauge sporter. If your wife is of smaller size, then the 26″ is just fine. They also make a lady’s/youth’s model for smaller women. The stock’s are adjustable so that they can be raised to better suit a lady’s smaller face. The guns are nice an light so lady’s can lift them and the recoil is very, very light. They are ideal for your wife.

You will not doubt have a 20 gauge O/U recommended to you for your wife. Be careful of those. The light weight 20 O/Us can really be kickers and you can’t adjust the stocks the way you can on the Beretta autos.

If you absolutely insist on an O/U for your wife, then consider a 28 gauge. My wife shoots a 28 gauge 687 Beretta exclusively for trap, skeet, sporting clays and upland birds. The gun is of medium quality (ejector and forend problems over the years), but it’s light and she shoots it like a demon. Since she never shoots any other gun (nor wants to, so she tells me) she has nothing to compare it to. She is recoil sensitive and finds the 28 just ideal. I tried her out on a FN B25 20 gauge O/U, but even with 3/4 oz loads she commented on the recoil. I think it was more gun fit, but I’m not going to argue. She’s much smarter than I am about guns anyway. She gets one that fits and suits her and she sticks with it. I constantly tinker and trade myself into mediocrity.

As with the 12 gauge auto I recommend to you, the 20 gauge Remington and Browning autos are also OK. Still, I very much prefer the Beretta auto in today’s market. If you go to many sporting clays or skeet shoots where there are nationally ranked shooters, Beretta is the auto you see used the most- by far. There’s a reason for that. I still see a good number of Remington autos at trap, but as those guns wear out they are being replaced by Berettas.

For reloading, I think that the MEC brand is the best balance of price and value. If you are going to use autos and shoot “target quantities” of shells, I recommend either the MEC Grabber (with resizer, but manual advance) or the MEC 9000G (with resizer, automatic advance). The auto advance model is faster and less tiring to use, but when it screws up it is harder to keep shot from spilling. If you’re mechanically inclined, get the 9000G (around $600). If you don’t like machinery, you may be happy with the more controllable Grabber (around $500). If you buy components in bulk (perhaps your gun club puts in a group order or you can join in with a few friends), you ought to be able to get the cost of a 1-1/8 oz target load down to around $3.50/box. Of course, you’ll need two reloaders, one for 12 and one for 20. Ultimately, you’ll be happiest with one separate reloader for each gauge rather than buying a “convertible” model.

And finally, welcome aboard! You’ll just love shooting clay targets. It’s so much more fun than golf. The gear is neater and you don’t have to wear silly pants with little whales embroidered on them.

Best regards,
Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)


This entry was posted in Shotguns and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.