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For the Love of Competition Competition Shotguns

Take Your Shot: Best Shotgun for Competition

by Iain Harrison   |  November 30th, 2011 29

Photo Courtesy Michelle Cerino

People tend to hold their opinions on firearms dear, so it was good to find a wide variety of views regarding the most versatile handgun on the market right now. I’m occasionally asked for a recommendation regarding other 3-gun gear, so let’s throw shotguns into the mix, eh?

For 3-gun and other “tactical” applications, if you want a semi-auto shotgun that’s ready to go right out of the box, some say there’s only one choice right now, and that’s the FNH SLP Mk1. It’s not without its drawbacks; it’s a pretty substantial chunk of metal and doesn’t point as well as some of its competitors. Being a gas-operated gun, maintenance is a consideration as the piston spring should be replaced every few thousand rounds, and once you’ve ripped off a chunk of skin from your thumb, you’re going to want to do something about the spear-like prongs on the shell lifter.

I happen to love Benelli shotguns, but in order to make them competitive, you’ll probably wind up chopping down the barrel, re-threading for chokes and adding a mag extension before even thinking about taking it out to play.

There’s slightly less work to do on the 18.5-inch pistol gripped version, but there’s a reason most of the top shooters prefer a vent rib barrel and conventional stock. Either way, after a while, you’re going to want to upgrade the bolt handle and bolt release. I’ve been holding my breath for the Jerry Miculek-designed Mossberg 930 ever since it was rumored at SHOT show last year, but I guess the guys in CT have been swamped by demand for the chainsaw. Go figure.

FNH SLP Mk1 Courtesy of Michelle Cerino

Photo courtesy of Michelle Cerino

For pump guns, the choice is less clear. The Mossberg’s shell lifter stays in the up position when the bolt is closed, leaving the mag tube wide open for a weak hand reload, but it’s always been eclipsed by Remington’s products. The venerable 870 has a ton of aftermarket goodies, so you can customize it to your heart’s desire — the one I saw this week had a bolt that looked like it had been chewed into its final form by a herd of angry beavers.

My personal preference is for the Browning BPS, though as anyone who’s seen my carry gun will tell you, I’ve got a thing for the underdog, also-ran contenders, so you should probably take that with a grain of salt.

What’s your pick for best competition shotgun?

  • WerkinHard

    I have a FN SLP. Cycles fast, soft recoil allows me to get back on target with minimal re-acquisition, and I think it points just fine.
    Only time it has failed to cycle is when I went from using higher power shot to a lower one. But swap out the piston, no worries. Some may say it is a negative, but I see it as a positive to customize to the load rather then attempt one fits all solution.
    He is right about the "spear-like" prongs on the shell lifter.

  • T.D. Honeycutt

    I used a Remington 870 Police in my first matches, and you are right about aftermarket parts. You get some advantage using a pump shotgun, but really the semi-autos are probably best. I recently found a Remington 1100 Competition Master (no longer offered) online. Haven't had a chance to shoot it yet, though it didn't take much to get it ready (standard with larger charging handle, 18.5 inch barrel and seven-round capacity).
    I love my Benelli Super Eagle II for duck hunting, the ARGO system is extremely fast on followup shots. So I might consider a Benelli M2, but the price is steep.

  • Tanasi

    I go old school, real old school I have a Win 97 trench gun. As it doesn't have a disconnector just hold down the trigger and stroke. For gas guns I have a Benelli Super-90. It's super fast, reliable and stomp a mud-hole in you from the recoil (gotta remember to bring those low-recoil shells next time.)

  • Don

    Competition is one thing, and it isn't being tactical. For real world use, not games, I'd take and 870 or 590.
    Of the three Benelli shotguns I owned, none worked. Now that Beretta handles Benelli, the customer service is the same as Beretta – poor.

    • Fleagle

      I only own one Benelli, an M4 and it has been outstanding! I have received excellent customer support from both Benelli and Beretta. Can you be more specific with your problems?

      • Don

        I had two HK-Benelli 121M1. Gun 1 was zeroed by file. Gun 2 couldn't be zeroed. Both failed to function. Very few times could I get through a mazine load without fail to fire or fail to feed. Both were unreliable. L. Thompson did an article in the 80s, fired 65 rds and declared them the best combat shotgun in the world. I'd had more failures in each gun, then he fired in his "extensive test". I talked to the rep., he said Benelli could not make them work. OK we can't blame Beretta, as Benelli was being sold through HK. I bought a NOVA. Absolute, unworkable junk. I could not get through a magazine load without needing to beat the butt on the ground to clear the chamber. I wrote Beretta, sent a box of cases to them. NO response. Two letters and no response. That has been what I discovered over a 30 year period, over and over again. The NOVA stock is not adjustable for LOP.
        Benelli auto loaders have a design feature many don't know about. If you duck hunt in the rain, the stock fills with water. OK, I always clean my guns. Other don't. The recoil tube and spring rust. The stocks can't be adjusted, and they need a drain hole.

        • Don

          PART 2 – The Nova ripped through the rims as I had to beat the gun on the ground to get the spent case out. I sent about 10 cases to Beretta and never received a response. I fanally took it to the dealer, where I had traded a new M590, to get the new Benelli. He had sold the M590 and just cashed me out. He wasn't surprised that I had trouble. He said ALL of the short barrelled Novas did that. No trouble with the 28". I noticed at the time that barrels and recievers do not share the same serial number. It wasn't a mix up as the boxes were printed with space for barrel number and receiver number (carcasa?). I suspect Benelli farmed the barrels out to one factory and the rest to yet another plant. When Beretta has responded on problem guns, it has been "snarky".

      • Mike

        Let me put in my 2 cents worth on Beretta's customer support. For one I have a 686 beretta in 20 gage and I wanted beretta's chokes. Called them and I after being passed around I finally talked to a guy who assure me they were on hand and to expect them in so many days. Waited and waited some more and no chokes. Called them and no one would answer. I finally talked to another person and was told there had been a mixed up that my chokes were on the way. What they sent me was a partial order of 12 gage tubes. I also had a pistol in which a screw came loose and got lost. But that is another story. In talking to other beretta owners they have experienced some of the same poor customer service. But I have to say is that I love their shotguns.

  • mike brown

    as a three gun shooter I have used a 20 ga remington lt 20 1100 for years. it is faster to recover than a 12, lighter and actually cycles faster. if it is reasonably clean it never quits and knocks steel down just fine. the only mod is a different load gate that pushes the button and an 8 rd tube. Mike Brown, conroe tx, master limited uspsa

  • Mack M.

    "…the [Remington 870] I saw this week had a bolt that looked like it had been chewed into its final form by a herd of angry beavers." lol

    • Bill H.

      A Remington 870 I bought new some years ago has a bore that looks threaded with about 40tpi; fun cleaning after some slugs. I bought a new 1100 Sporting in 20 gauge last year – bore almost as bad as the 870; overall, very poor quality including the beaver work you mention. I wrote to Remingon about the quality but got no response. No more Remingtons for me after 50+ years of buying them.

      • Don

        Now that is distressing. I sold my last 2 M870-14" to a local PD. I can't use them anymore. I am glad I don't need to buy new. Sort of like the three .357 H&R (TALO special) I went trhough trying to find one good one. The 1st had no rifling, the 2nd broken sight and stripped foereend screw, 3rd like the others all three had firing pins 4 times longer then needed so primers were pierced. Where has American Gunmakers gone? Well the H&R barrels were Mexican.

  • Greg

    I love my Mossberg 930 SPX for action shotgun and 2 and 3 gun. It is very light, easy to point, I can ghost load to 8+1, it is utterly dependable, and I can't remember ever having an ftf, and for the price, I could almost buy two of the 930s for the same price as one SLP. I did have to make some mods; the most expensive was having the barrel tapped for a choke, which you will need if you want to get some of those stubborn steels to go down. Next I put an oversize Vang safety on top so I could manipulate it a little easier, but that was it. Since I'll never be on 3 gun nation, this one suits me well. Great gun!

  • Dan

    I've had the Remington competition master for a few years and it's been GREAT! I never see anything written about it and wonder if I'm missing something? I do not use it in competition but am considering getting started any reason I shouldn't use it?

  • Don

    I remain curious about three gun matches and pistol matches where the guns used would never be used in the real world. Tactical matches, are not practical matches. I love competition, having just shot 4 matches of IDPA after not shooting for 9 years following retirement. Great fun, and actually practical. In a race gun shoot, I showed up with my S&W M19-.357-4". I knew I would not keep up with the auto loaders or 8-shot revolvers using .38 near-squib loads. I just can't see any sense to "competition guns". Not that I didn't use and train in multiple disciplines. We had to qualify with a Glock M17-19, BUG M642, MP5A2, M870 (rubber baton) and .22 LR for animal control. Cowboy action shooting makes more sense. They use what I consider "real guns".

  • Hawk

    I shoot competition, have won many State Shoots. The finest gun that I find is the Remington 1100 competion sporting clay model. I shoot 300 rds a week…..never had a malfunction. It doesn't need cleaning like the old 1100's, because internally it's metal is coated w/ Nickel-teflon finish, that is extremely slick. I usually clean the friction ring and magazine tube once ever 500 rds!
    As for your BPS , that is a real junk…take the trigger out and see if you can get it back in. You need feeler guages that don't come with it, It says right in it's booklet, don't take out the cheap trigger. Made of tin and ballpoint pen springs.

    • Don

      Hawk, It is a sad affair. Any gun that cannot be field stripped easily, is not worth owning. The Ithaca M37 could not be cleaned without taking the stock off.

  • al S

    After reading all the comments and the article itself, it seems like there is very little out there that anyone is happy with. Seems like the Siaga shotguns with hicap mags would make good tactical guns?

  • Mac

    The title of this article is "Best Shotgun for Competition". I would take this to mean that money is no option, nor are modifications out of scope because several modifications are listed in the article for other shotguns. So given the above, why would the Saiga12 not be a contender? Sure, they've got faults (more than others I'd say out of the box), but get one in your hands that works and let me know why they would not be one of the top contenders. I did not say the top contender, I only mean worthy of this article. Before anyone takes a crack at the shortcomings of the Saiga12 (or even myself which is likely also), remember that the article is about competition guns and there is no limit to money nor modifications indicated in the article. FYI, anyone can take an out-of-the-box Saiga12 and throw less money into modifications than they would spend on the FNH or Benelli and have a competition gun. What some consider drawbacks to the Saiga12 such as mag fed or lack of ability to manually feed a slug or two, are easily overcome with training/approach.

    • iain

      Mac, I was seriously thinking about including the Saiga in this article as I run one in competition. Though I love mine, they're very hit & miss when it comes to quality and bump you into Open division, which I've purposely steered clear of on this blog, due to the cost of entry. If there's interest, I'd like to run an article on converting them from PC & neutered into scary & evil. What say you?

    • Ben

      Forget the Saiga; that's old news.

      VEPR 12 is most definitely the best "best shotgun for competition". Hands down.

  • calfed

    I recently switched from a Remington 870 with a 20" rifle sight slug barrel, +3 mag extension and Remington Shur-shot stock to a Remington 1100 with a 21" rifle sight slug barrel, comp master shell lifter, +4 Nordic mag extension, and Shur-shot stock.

    The loading is slower with the 1100, but I find shooting and moving with the 1100 to be easier than shooting, racking and moving with the 870.

    Of course, I have trouble walking and chewing gum at the same time, so…

  • J.S.

    I don't know much about 3 gun but what I want from a shotgun the VersaMax does it for me and I'm hoping Remington and after market suppliers will jump on it.

  • Thomas

    Ithaca 37s made in Ohio might be a good bet. Yeah, the stock has to come off to totally strip it down, but usually the receiver stays pretty clean anyway. Happy with mine.
    I do like the older Remington 870 Wingmasters. New ones are not finished very well.
    Nova and Super Nova show promise. Sounds like the Super Nova is gen 2 of the Nova.
    Have not played much with the semi autos.

  • OKGuy

    Check out the AK-47 that Armslist is giving away this month!

  • Mary

    I found a great place to get chokes for these the Benelli, Fire Arms for You carries several styles

  • bhupinder.sandhu

    in a competion of issf standards perazzi;s 12 bores are one of the more dependables or u can go in for dt 10 or dt11 berreta.another dependable is browning citori.try them out

    • Douglas Stein

      K-80 is more dependable than Perazzi. When you buy a Perazzi it comes with several extra parts, just in case!

  • itommygun

    For 3 gun… FN SLP Mark 1 (yes welder shell lift and opened the shell port.) Gun runs great. Just need to pick the ammo it likes.
    For HD.. Rem 870 18.5 barrel with side saddle. Great Buckshot Gun.

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