There is perhaps no firearm as personal to a hunter, besides the deer rifle, as the shotgun used to take upland game birds. An upland shotgun, like the deer rifle, is truly an extension of the hunter – like a unique signature, as distinct to him as a thumb print. Sure, there are millions of the same model of many shotguns in circulation, but every ding, scratch and memory tells the story of that firearm.
Upland bird hunting is a terrific way to put meat on the table, and it provides hours of good, clean fun for yourself and others. Upland hunting is a challenge, and you need a fast-pointing, light and handy firearm to hunt birds. You also need the skill to pair with the shotgun, as birds are unpredictable and can fly in every direction.
Of course, upland hunting equipment, like any other hunting gear, can be quite costly. The two most expensive parts of any upland gear will be your hunting dog (if you run a gun dog) and your shotgun. I am not going to talk to you about man’s best friend today. We’re talking guns. And if you are like me, you probably don’t have a few thousand dollars just laying around to purchase an Italian gun. We will take a look at some excellent upland shotguns for the hunter on a budget, all for around $500.
Some very attractive options for upland hunters are used classic shotguns. These models include Remington Model 10s, Browning A5s, Winchester Model 12s, and the like. While some of these fetch premium prices, others can still be found for under $500 at many pawn and gun shops.
Guns such as the Model 12 Winchester or the Browning A5 are certainly plentiful, while others are much rarer and harder to find.
The Model 12 is as fine a pointing shotgun as you can find, and a well-broken-in gun will have an action that is as smooth as silk. You can still find good examples of these guns under $500, but you will have to hunt for such deals.
The A5 is just as common, and for many decades was the semi-auto that all semi-autos were measured against. The A5 was commonly used by both waterfowl and upland hunters as really the only option for a reliable semi-auto. Like many firearms brought into production in the early 20th century, it was built heavy. The action is recoil-operated, and every pull of the trigger will remind you of that.
Among other classics that are sure pointers are the Remington Models 10 and 31, both of which are pump action classics that can still be found for under $500. An Ithaca Model 37, still produced, is a fine classic to take to the field and has dropped many grouse and pheasant.
Other options are the plethora of used Stevens, Savage, Remington, Browning and other break-action, single- or double-barrel shotguns. Break action tend to be the go-to shotgun in the upland hunting world, as they are quick to point and light to carry. I hunted for years with a beat-up single shot Stevens that pointed like a dream.
When it comes to new guns, there are many options available for today’s upland hunter. From pump guns to over/unders, they are available at many price points.
If you are going even to consider a pump shotgun, I suggest you look at one for more than just the purpose of upland hunting. A pump gun is the ultimate utilitarian firearm (home defense, squirrel, waterfowl, deer hunting), and with that in mind I have only two that I recommend: the Remington 870 and Mossberg 500. Both are under $500, and both are stranded-on-a-desert-island reliable.
They come in a wide range of options, chambering and barrel lengths. I have both guns, and neither one has ever once failed me.
While not as fast pointing as some of the lighter doubles and semi-autos, these two guns will get you in the game fast, and can be used for much more than upland and bird hunting.
It can be a tricky thing to find a good semi-auto for under $500. Unless you are going to buy used, you have few options that I would really advise spending dough on.
I will, however, recommend the CZ 912 and 712 shotguns. These shotguns retail for around $490. Both have good reliability and have been torture-tested up to 1,000 rounds without cleaning. Sure, there have been some lemons but overall the reliability of these guns is what you would expect out of a much more expensive shotgun.
It’s hard to go wrong with a Harrington and Richardson break action Pardner shotgun, but with H&R/New England ceasing production last year, new guns are hard to find. Still, you can find them for under $200, giving you a fast-pointing single shot 16, 20 or 12 gauge that does well for upland.
Another option is Stoeger Condor, which is an import. The Stoeger is a no-frill over under that points, shoots and can take a little abuse. It can be had for around $450. The Stevens 555 over/under is another option for double gun fans, and points well. It is a little north of $500, hovering around the $550 mark.
What shotguns would you add to this list? Share your tips in the section below: