Today on social media I saw a couple questions asking about 3 Gun oriented shotguns. Which shotgun is the “best” for 3 Gun and what is a good semi-auto for around $600? Well the “best” shotgun is one that you can afford and goes bang every time you pull the trigger. There is your answer. Problem solved, but there is a catch. You couldn’t have thought the answer was that easy. You see, the thing is the semi-auto shotgun is the most unreliable gun in the sport. I have seen every shotgun there is fail, every single one at some time or another. I RO matches often so I have seen a lot of guns. I have even seen the Remington 870 fail, the Mossberg 500 fail, and the Benelli fail. I do have to admit that some of those problems were induced by the shooter, or their upkeep of the shotgun, but they all failed. Here is what I would look at for your shotgun selection for 3 Gun. You have to have a magazine extension, a modified lifter, and port work done in order to have a proper 3 Gun shotgun.
Does the gun have aftermarket support? If the answer is no, don’t buy a gun that no one makes a magazine extension for. A magazine extension that allows the gun to hold at least 13 shells is ideal, that way you can pick the gun up and load 4 if needed. So, what about that Kel-Tec KSG? It will hold 14 rounds from the factory. That sounds cool, except when you really look at it. The loading of the KSG is very strange compared to traditional shotguns, and it requires several steps. I would not want to attempt a quad load, dual load or even try a combat load. I don’t know of anyone that makes parts for the KSG, and I have never seen one in competition either. The KSG won’t make my list.
The Benelli M2 and the Stoeger M3000/M3K are basically the same shotgun (if you didn’t know Benelli owns Stoeger). Taran Tactical makes an extended lifter that you can be installed in the gun, and that is the easiest way to get the extended lifter on these two shotguns. The rest of the shotguns require you to either buy an additional lifter or have yours welded up. It may sound like a lot of work or think its too expensive, but cut your thumb one good time and I promise you will think its worth it.
And last but not least, it will really help your loading if you open the load port up on your shotgun. You can do this yourself or you can get someone else to do it. Getngrip.net is a local shop that I use because Banks Pressley is a trusted friend and does good work. You can do it yourself with files, sand paper, a Dremel tool, or machining tools. I have ported several shotguns myself and it’s not that difficult, but you do have to be very careful. You cannot put the metal back on that you have shaved off. That’s why sometimes it’s okay to leave it up to a professional like Banks.
Did you notice I left out the Mossberg 930 JM? That is on purpose. I have seen Jerry Miculek shoot his and it runs fine. I have not seen anyone else’s JM run consistently, and I really hate that because I like the Miculek clan and have had the opportunity to shoot with them. They are super nice and easy to talk to. Jerry must know some tricks that keep that gun running. I have a friend that spoke directly to Jerry about some of the upkeep requirements to keep it running, and his still didn’t run reliably. If you do have one, change the magazine spring, that is the first culprit. Then keep it clean and well lubed. I mean, between every match you need to clean it and clean it well. I was told last week that Jerry has a youtube video of how to properly clean the JM, maybe that will help.
Some others that didn’t make me list are the Remington 1100 and 1187. They typically do not hold up to the large amount of shooting that goes on. I don’t know much else about them, but I rarely see them in a match. That says something to me. I have also never seen a TriStar Viper 12 ga. at a match. What’s a TriStar Viper 12 ga. you ask? It’s a cheap shotgun I Googled for comparison purposes. Take it as a clue. Let someone else prove what works and what does not. You should buy something you know works.
The Benelli Super 90, M1, and M2 family of guns are probably the most used shotguns in 3 Gun. They are very reliable, but they are expensive. The Stoeger is cheaper with basically the same system. The difference, as I understand it, is that some of the Benelli parts are chromed or have a better finish to them. Remember when I talked about mag extensions, lifters, and modified loading ports? They all need that. And it functions with an inertia operated system, so it has plenty of recoil and you can’t put a lot of weight on the gun or it will start malfunctioning. My wife, Niki, is running a Benelli M2 and she loves it!
I currently run a FN SLP. I know some people say a SLP is unreliable, but that has not been my experience. I like the fact that it comes with sights for slug shooting already on the shotgun. It also comes with an eight round magazine. That is less extra I have to pay someone else to machine into my gun and I can start with the minimum of 9 in the gun. It can be a little picky with ammo, but what gun doesn’t? It also doesn’t like full power slugs. It will shoot the reduced recoil stuff all day long. It shoots the cheapo Estates with no problem, which is fine by my money saving wife. I do prefer the softer shooting gas operated shotguns. It’s just easier on my shoulder if I go to the range and shoot 250 rounds of 12 ga. to not get beaten up by the gun. Or if you ever shoot a large match designed by Charles Sole, you will shoot a LOT of slugs, and shooting a 12 or 15 slug section of a stage will beat you to death with an inertia driven gun. So, I try to keep that to a minimum.
So those are just some of my thoughts on semi-automatic shotguns. Evaluate what is best for you, which one fits you best, and which one you can get work done to the easiest on your budget. Ultimately, it’s going to be the gun you shoot at every match, so pick one you like.