Semi-automatic shotguns have been around for many years and are favored by many shooters. Though not as reliable as pump (slide-action) shotguns, they are usually reliable enough, and the reduced recoil of semi-auto scatterguns can help smaller folks handle shotgun recoil better than other actions. There are many choices when it comes to autoloading shotguns. Here we will look at some of today's most popular auto shotgun makers, in alphabetical order.
Benelli autoloaders use an inertia system, rather than gas, to operate the action. Their Super Black Eagle handles shells from 2-3/4" up to 3-1/2", and there are no gas ports to keep clean. Benellis have a good reputation and a unique style that blends angles with curves for a shotgun like no other. Vinci and Super Vinci models are relatively new at press time, so the jury is out on their popularity and longevity.
Other models also listed on their website - more than I can describe here.
Crossbolt safety, located in front of or behind the trigger (depending on model).
2. Beretta 391Beretta's gas operated semi-automatic shotguns are all based on the same action, the 391. Built in a variety of variations, including one that handles the blonky 12 gauge 3.5" magnum shells, this action is obviously quite versatile. Add to that the good looks and reliability that Beretta shotguns are known for, and it sounds like a winning combination. Crossbolt safety is in front of the trigger in the trigger guard, a better location (easier to use) than behind the trigger.
Browning has long had an excellent reputation for fine guns, and their gas-operated semi-auto Gold shotgun should be no exception. Self-regulating so it can handle both light and heavy loads without adjustment, this model is also good-looking, which doesn't hurt its reputations a bit. Also available in a 3.5" version that will shoot lighter loads as well. Has a magazine cutoff, which can be handy. Safety is a crossbolt behind the trigger.
Silver and Maxus models are also available.
Current Franchi autoloaders include the I-12, 720, and 48AL. The I-12 is inertia-operated, the 720 has a non-adjustable gas system, and the 48Al is a long-recoil-action reminiscent of early Browning autos.
These guns have crossbolt safeties, with the 720's in front of the trigger, while the I-12 and 48AL safeties are located behind the trigger.
Mossberg's 935 is chambered for the whopping 3-1/2" 12 gauge magnum, and uses a self-regulating gas system. This gun was developed for use with 3" and 3.5" shells, so don't expect it to function with dove loads. The 930 should be able to handle that chore. These guns are only available in synthetic-stocked versions. The safety is just exactly where it belongs - centered on the rear of the receiver for ambidextrous thumb operation, where all shotgun safeties should live.
Remington's 1100 has been around for ages, and it's going strong. I'm not sure why, since their 11-87 is an improvement on it. The 1100's main disadvantage is that you must only use the shells it's designed for (2-3/4" or 3"). A 3"-chambered 11-87, on the other hand, can handle lighter loads along with 3" magnums. Both are gas-operated and come in a variety of sub-models.
Their VERSA MAX™ has received a lot of hype, and is said to be extremely versatile and reliable - and with a MSRP ranging from $1399 to $1599, it had better be. It handles every 12 gauge load from 2.75 to 3.5 inches.
Their 10-gauge model is called the SP-10.
Crossbolt safety behind the trigger.