Top 5 Shotguns

The Top 5 series continues with my list of favorite shotguns.

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In two previous posts, I related to you what my top five all-time favorite handguns and rifles were. This time, I am going to let you know which shotguns are my favorite.

I have many year experience shooting shotguns professionally and recreationally-44 years now to be exact-and realize that the shotgun does a lot of things a rifle or handgun can't do. While I don't hunt, I've found the shotgun is an essential arm to have if you live in the country, where it is an excellent "property management" tool, providing protection from marauding animals or people. And of course, the shotgun has great recreational potential.

So, allow me a few moments to tell you which five shotguns are my favorites for defensive and/or recreational use. I have owned, carried, or used each of the five.

    Browning Citori Shotgun
  1. The Browning Citori Over/Under-The only reason that the legendary Citori is rated at number 5 is because it's a type of shotgun I have not had regular cause to use over the years. However, I did have the fortune a number of times to borrow a friends Citori when shooting Sporting Clays. The Citori is a gorgeous piece of work, with finely finished wood and metal parts. It handles superbly and is about as ideal as it gets for any clay shooting or bird hunting activity. With various versions available in 12, 16, 20, and 28 gauges, the Citori offers two quick and reliable shots, making it an excellent and elegant choice for recreational use. Prices start around $2000. It is a heritage arm to be passed down to your children.
  2. Benelli Nova
  3. The Benelli NOVA and Super NOVA Pump Shotguns-Do you want a shotgun that is reasonably priced (around $500 MSRP) and that can stand all the rough handling that you can possibly dish out? Then look no further than the NOVA pump shotguns.

    Available in hunting, recreational and defensive configurations, the NOVA features polymer overmolding of its steel frame for protection against not only rough handling but neglect. The NOVA Tactical shotgun that I tested for my book on Tactical Shotguns was drop-dead reliable, had excellent sights, was smooth operating, with an almost unbelievable MSRP or $419. Barrels are interchangeable allowing this home and property defender to be used for recreation purposes as well. Weight is only 7.2 lbs. Variants with pistol grips are also available, although I prefer a standard shotgun stock on all my shotguns for ease of carry and "pointability".

  4. Benelli M2 Tactical
  5. The Benelli M2 Tactical-

    Available in pistol grip or standard stock configurations, the M2 Tactical is the sole semi-auto on my list. Featuring Benelli's Inertia (recoil) Driven operating system, the Benelli's action is incredibly reliable and clean shooting. I prefer it over gas driven systems due to its simplicity, even though felt recoil is a bit more noticeable than a gas operated system. However you can order it with a Comfor Tech stop to mitigate some of the recoil. While recoil operated semi-auto shotguns produced in years past have had a narrower range of loads that would cycle in them reliably when compared to gas guns, Benelli's system has overcome these issues.

    The M2 Tactical is available in 2 3/4 inch or 3 inch configuration. The Benelli Inertia Driven systems will hand light field loads through 3 inch magnums without adjustment. That is not advertising hype. My M2 ran as reliably as a pump, and the simple 3 piece action is very easy to maintain. It is hard to get it dirty. Sort of like a self-cleaning oven that shoots. The M2 only weighs 6.7 lbs. and has an MSRP that ranges between $1200 to $1400.

  6. Ithica Model 37
  7. The Ithaca Model 37 Pump Shotgun-

    In many ways the trim Ithaca 37 is actually my number 1 choice in shotguns, and it was really hard to put it in second place. The model I have is the Defense Gun with an 18 1/2 inch barrel and a four shot magazine.

    The Ithaca design appeared in 1937, and previously required a great deal of hand work (as did most guns of that era) to manufacture. The original Ithaca Gun company changed hands several times from the 1990's through the early 2000's, and not successfully. It was purchased by new owners and was moved from the east coast to Upper Sandusky, Ohio where CNC machining saved the day. Parts of the gun that used to take multiple hand manufacturing steps to produce were reduced down to one to two steps, making the M37 cost effective to manufacture again.

    Even though modern manufacturing techniques were used to produce my M37, traditional methods and materials are also employed. The finish is military Parkerizing, while the stock is walnut harvested by Amish woodworkers in Ohio. No "hardwood" stocks used here.

    The Ithaca Model 37 is not just for defense. Today Ithaca produces some of the most beautiful pump shotguns made, with deep bluing (done by traditional methods) that has to be seen to be appreciated. Their 28 gauge models are true works of the gunmaker's art. Nothing handles like the trim Ithaca 37.

    New for this year, Ithaca is making a "trench gun" version of the Model 37 complete with bayonet lug and heat shield for Inland Manufacturing in Dayton, Ohio. MSRP of the Defense gun is $784.

  8. Remington 870
  9. The Remington 870-

    The reason that the 870 is number one for me is simply due to the amount of times I have used and fired them across three different law enforcement agencies and 26 years of police academy training.

    The 870 has been the police standard in defensive pump shotguns for all 36 years of my career. While the Ithaca 37 was popular on the east and west coasts, it was the 870 that reigned supreme in the heartland of America. It has also been the standard shotgun afield.

    Versatility and model variations of the 870 are boundless. Aftermarket parts and kits for the 870 are also boundless. From bargain priced sporting combo sets, to presentation grade guns, the 870 has all the bases covered. They are easy to strip and maintain, with unquestioned reliability. An 870 in the gun safe should be about all you need for almost any task requiring a shotgun. With an MSRP as low as $420, the Remington 870 is also very affordable.

There you have it, my top five all-time favorite shotguns. Feel free to check them (or any shotgun you prefer) out in person at Vance Outdoors.