The best 20 gauge shotguns for waterfowl hunting


Geese look great at the edge of the range. They look huge up close. I waited a long time, and then hung on for a few more seconds until the four geese started to back away. I raised the M2 in 20 gauge and two of the 12-pound behemoths folded as hard as if I had shot them with a 12.

Twenty-gauge waterfowl pistols are now introduced. Once considered suitable only for the small-framed and shy, they are now all the rage among waterfowlers of all sizes and experience levels. Some clubs require 20 gauge, on the theory that a slightly smoother ratio helps birders on their properties. But many more hunters choose the 20 just because they like to shoot smaller guns. They are light, fancy and easy to show off. Reasonably loaded, they do not hit the shoulder. And used within their limitations, 20 gauges make short and humane work of ducks and geese too.

The best ammo for 20 gauge waterfowl rifles

The 20’s restrictions aren’t, well, too restrictive if you take advantage of some of the newer ammo. Bismuth shells from a number of manufacturers (I’ve shot Federal and Rio No. 3 with good success on ducks and geese) and tungsten iron HeviShot and HeviX allow you to shoot a 20 with confidence out to 35 yards and beyond. If you want to splurge on Apex TSS waterfowl loads, a 20 will kill birds as far as you can shoot them. Or, you can shoot just a spray of TSS mixed with steel in Federal’s Black Cloud TSS, which combines both steel shot no. 3 and tungsten iron no. 9 to give you more oomf over longer distances. Nothing wrong with regular 20 gauge steel loads. A 3-inch hull sends an ounce of shot at about 1350 fps, which, in my opinion, is pretty fast. If you like velocity, you can sacrifice 1/8 ounce of pellets for 200 fps more velocity. The downside of the 20s is that the smaller hull can’t hold enough large, letter-sized cartridges, so you’re limited to 1 and 2 in the larger ones.

So before we go any further, let’s get this out of the way: Day in and day out, all things considered, a 12 gauge pistol is still better than a 20. That said, the time I’ve spent doing shooting a Benelli M2 this season has convinced me that the 20 is a worthwhile choice, especially if, like me, you believe that waterfowl shooting should be a game of 20- to 30-yard shots, not long shots.

The firearms industry is always ready to jump on a trend, and there are a number of excellent full-size 20-gauge waterfowl guns to choose from. Here are 10.

Best 20-gauge shotguns for waterfowl: semi-auto

1. Benelli M2

Benelli M2 shotgun
The M2 Performance Shop (shown) retails for $2,700. The M2 Field in camo costs $1,559. Benelli USA

I shot the Performance Shop Waterfowl M2 all last season. At about 6 pounds, it’s a nice gun to use, and its 28-inch barrel gives it a nice feel. Long, light guns are often easy to shoot, and this is no exception. The Benelli Performance shop gives the guns an enlarged bolt handle and bolt release, features that everyone seems to like but me, and there are custom chokes from Rob Roberts Gunworks. I modeled and shot the T2 choke, designed for mid-range shooting, and was very impressed with how well it pierced paper and took down ducks and geese. Benelli also offers an M2 Field model that has fewer bells and whistles, but is very similar and costs more than $1,000 less. Check availability here.

2. Franks Affinity Elite

Franchi Affinity Elite Shotgun
The Affinity Elite in 20-gauge goes for $1,249. American francs

Positioned as Benelli’s mid-priced brand, Franchi has become a favorite of many hunters. The Affinity Elite inertial semiauto comes in a 6-pound, 20-gauge model with a 26-inch barrel and a choice of Optifade Marsh and Certakote Brown or Timber/Grey. The guns feature enlarged grips and bolt releases, as well as Franchi’s unique and very soft TSA recoil pad. Check availability here.

3. Watch Masai Mara waterfowl

Ratay Masai Mara waterfowl hunting gun
Masai Mara waterfowl starts at $1,099. Ratay USA

The newest name in inertia guns, Retay is quickly gaining a following, especially among southern waterfowlers. Built in a very modern, high-tech factory in Turkey, they are comfortable and well finished. Retay has its own take on the click-proof bolt that eliminates the dreaded “inertia click” error. The activation group also drops at the press of a button. Overall, these look like well made, well thought out guns. Although Retay makes synthetic stock waterfowl versions in black and camo (choice of 26- or 28-inch barrels), I’d be tempted to get a gun loaded with walnut because the wood on the Retays I’ve seen and shot has been wonderful. Check availability here.

4. Stoeger 3020

Stoeger 3020 shotgun
The 3020 starts at just $559. Stoeger Industries

If the Benellis are the Cadillacs and the Franchis are the Buicks, the Stoegers are the Chevys of the Benelli semi-auto family – tireless inertial weapons in anyone’s price range. The Turkish-made 3020 is light and handy at less than 6 pounds, though that light weight also means it’ll let you know it’s there when you pull the trigger on a 3-inch shell. It comes in a variety of waterfowl-friendly finishes, including black; all camo; Cerakote and camo; and Cerakote and walnut if you’re feeling dressed up. Check availability here.

5. Winchester SX4

Winchester SX4 Waterfowl Hunter Shotgun
The SX4 Waterfowl Hunter with full camo (shown) is $1,070. In black synthetic, the SX4 costs $939. Winchester

A good value on a tried and trusted gas gun, the SX4 comes with the enlarged bolt handle and release button of the waterfowl favorite. It’s also one of the smoother-firing semiautos, so it can take the sting out of 3-inch magnum loads. The 20-gauge version weighs just over 6½ pounds and comes with your choice of a 24-, 26-, or 28-inch barrel. It comes in a wide range of options, from black synthetic to full camo waterfowl patterns. All have sling swivel studs and the stock features length-of-pull spacers to accommodate shooters of all sizes. Check availability here.

[Read Next: Best Duck Hunting Shotguns]

Best 20 Gauge Waterfowl Shotguns: Pump Actions

6. Benelli Nova

Benelli Nova shotgun
The Nova starts at just $449. Benelli

A Benelli Nova 12 gauge served as my duck gun for a few years, and I always liked the long forearm that allowed me to grip it a bit, and the twist action, which helped it pump very well. Its polymer-encased receiver was also tough, and it withstood a rip rap drop among many other indignities while I owned it. The 20 gauge version is much, much lighter than the 12 gauge at almost 8 pounds. The safety is extremely small, but that’s about the end of the gun’s shortcomings, especially considering its low price. The 20-gauge comes in black or Mossy Oak camo. Check availability here.

7. Browning BPS

BPS Browning shotgun
BPS starts at $679. Browning

The BPS has long been a favorite of lefties who like the top safety and bottom ejection of the gun, as well as anyone who likes a well-built pump action gun. The gun underwent a slight update last year, with a redesigned stock and forend and an enlarged trigger guard for easier shooting with gloves. It’s heavy for a 20 at about 7 pounds, which helps with recoil management. It’s also a durable gun, and there are 20-gauge versions in both black and full camo. Check availability here.

8. Mossberg 500

Mossberg 500 shotgun
The Mossberg 500 20 gauge retails for just $445. Mossberg

Lightweight and extremely popular, the Mossberg 500 comes in a 20 gauge black synthetic version making it a good choice as a duck gun you don’t need kids. Inspired by the excellent pump of the Remington Model 31, the 500 is just as excellent and has the superior safety that makes it a favorite for lefties, as well as the rotating sling bushings that belong in every pistol. It only comes in a 26-inch barrel model and retails for such a low price—$445—you almost can’t afford not to buy it. Check availability here.

9. Winchester SXP Hunter waterfowl

Winchester SXP Waterfowl Hunter Shotgun
The SXP Waterfowl Hunter retails for just $449. Winchester

With its rotating bolt, the SXP is such a smooth gun that you can pump it almost without conscious thought, even if you’re not a practiced slide shooter. Originally known as the Model 1300, the gun was redesigned, improved and transferred to Turkey after the closing of Winchester’s New Haven plant. The 20 gauge Waterfowl Hunter version with the synthetic camo stock is matched with Browning/Winchester’s highly effective Inflex recoil pad. It comes in both 26- and 28-inch barrel versions for under $500. Check availability here.

20 Best Waterfowl Hunting Guns: Over/Under

10. CZ Redhead Premier All-Terrain

CZ Readhead Premier All-Terrain Shotgun
The 20-gauge Readhead Premier All-Terrain retails for $1,123 CZ USA

If you prefer to shoot an O/U at waterfowl, the CZ All-Terrain line is worth a look. The Redhead is the flagship model of the 11-gun All Terrain line. Features matte walnut with turning studs and olive Cerakote on receiver and barrel. It comes with a choice of 28- or 30-inch barrels and extended chokes, and—in a stroke of genius—CZ has put tiny magnets in the ejectors that are strong enough to keep a shell from falling when you cock the gun. upload it. The 20-gauge Redhead I shot this fall had 30-inch barrels and was heavy by 20 standards, which is not a bad thing in a duck gun that, in this case, could double as a target gun, as I saw it swing . very nice Check availability here.

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