Waterfowl Guns: 13 Great Duck and Goose Hunting Shotguns

The duck and goose guns on this list are among the best ever made

waterfowl hunter

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The duck and goose guns on this list are among the best ever made.OL

Summer is the best time to buy a waterfowl gun. You have months to get comfortable with it, blasting away 2 3/4-inch loads at the trap range before really breaking in the gun and your shoulder in the fall.

But choose carefully. Waterfowl hunting has a way of weeding out the weak and vulnerable shotguns (and hunters). Only the most reliable, durable designs will stand up to year after year of autumn migrations.

The duck and goose guns on this list are among the best ever made.

Remington Model 870

Remington Model 870 shotgun
Remington Model 870Remington

With more than 10 million sold, the Remington Model 870 is the most popular shotgun ever made. How’d it get so good? Its simple, pump-action design is among the most reliable ever made - even compared to other pumps that lasted for decades. For hunters, especially waterfowl hunters, reliability is the most desirable trait in a gun. Dozens of 870 variations have been made over the years, including models with waterfowl-themed camo patterns, matte finishes, 3 ½-inch chambers and other features duck hunters appreciate. And every one has been affordable and reliable. Even hunters who choose $1,000 shotguns as their go-to guns probably have an 870 “back up” stashed away somewhere in the safe. (MSRP From $399)

Winchester Model 12

Winchester Model 12 shotgun
Winchester Model 12Winchester

If you grew up in a waterfowl hunting family, there's a Model 12 being passed down through the generations. It's an iconic gun that was released in 1912, survived two world wars and went on to become one of waterfowl hunting's most beloved symbols.

As waterfowl guns go, it was a microcosm of its generation: simple, clean and reliable. It came with a blued finish and walnut stock. Long-range pass-shooting, more common in the era of this gun's prime, led to long 32-inch barrels and full chokes being popular. The design of the gun's wooden parts changed some over the years, and the barrel and choke specifications evolved a bit with the times. But the basic, reliable Model 12 action is what made it an icon of the waterfowl industry. (Estimated Value From $425, Blue Book of Gun Values 33rd ed.)

Browning Auto-5

Browning Auto-5 shotgun
Browning Auto-5Browning

Put aside the recent reincarnations of this classic Browning design. The original “A-5” is one of waterfowl hunting’s favorite guns. The classic humpbacked receiver is its visual calling card, but for those who hunted with one, the A-5 is probably best known for the “ker-chunk, ker-chunk” feeling of its action. Functioning with recoil-operated springs, the entire barrel slid into and out of the receiver on every shot. Minor adjustments within the gun could fine tune it for the loads each hunter chose, and a little break-in time was needed to get it running just right. As newer autoloaders came on the market, the A-5 gradually grew out of style and took on the image as being a “clunky, hard-recoiling” gun. Just don’t tell that to any of its diehard fans who still use it today. (Estimated Value From $375, Blue Book of Gun Values 33rd ed.)

Benelli Super Black Eagle II

Benelli Super Black Eagle II shotgun
Benelli Super Black Eagle IIBenelli

My favorite Benelli story is one I’ve heard multiple times about the Super Black Eagle II. It goes like this: The gun freezes up on a frigid morning in the duck blind, the hunter pours his hot coffee over it to thaw the frost and on the next volley the gun cycles like a champ. You can’t do that with just any shotgun. It’s no longer the showcase gun in Benelli’s lineup, but this shotgun is what put the Inertia Driven System on the map for the modern waterfowl hunter. It’s an action that relies on momentum of the gun caused by recoil and a spring, rather than gas from the shot being fired, to eject a spent hull and load the next round. Today, you don’t have to ask around very much to find a “Benelli guy” in a sportsman’s club. The company has a cult following. (MSRP $1,799)

See the full review of the Benelli Super Black Eagle II.

Beretta Xtrema 2

Beretta Xtrema 2 shotgun
Beretta Xtrema 2Beretta

With its "self-cleaning gas cylinder and piston," the Xtrema 2 is known as one of the most reliable gas-operated autoloaders ever made. It was also the flagship waterfowl gun of Beretta up until the recent release of the A400 series. It has a 3 ½-inch chamber and is known for its ability to eat any and all field loads you send its way. The Xtrema 2 doesn't come with a wood stock. Its synthetic and rubber outer layers - plus the corrosion-resistant materials on all the metal parts - aren't the prettiest in the eyes of some traditionalists, but they definitely extend its years of service in the duck or goose blind. ($1,450, berettausa.com)

Browning Gold

Browning gold shotgun
Browning GoldBrowning

For Browning fans—and there are droves of them—the Gold is like a beloved uncle. There might be younger, leaner models around, but this is the one that taught them how to hunt and painted all those early memories. Its Speed Loading design was a hit when shell No. 3 was gone and the birds were still coming, but its best feature was the reliable gas action. Today, the Gold has nearly been replaced in Browning’s lineup, except for the 10-gauge model. Goose hunters who still prefer the big boy should get one now. For the rest of us, we’ll have to wait until all the Gold diehards finally break down and offer to sell. (MSRP From $1,740)

Remington Versa Max

Remington versa max shotgun
Remington Versa MaxRemington

The Versa Max is set to become the next classic auto-loader from Big Green, taking it’s place beside the 1100 and 11-87. The gun has a unique gas port system that regulates pressures during cycling based on the length of the load being used. The result is a soft-recoiling action no matter the load. That’s a feature all waterfowl hunters appreciate. Other notable features are the easy-to-grip stock material, corrosion-resistant finish on metal surfaces and the ability to shoot up to 3 ½-inch shells. (MSRP From $1,399)

See the full review of the Remington Versa Max.

Benelli Vinci

Benelli Vinci shotgun
Benelli VinciBenelli

The Vinci is about as “space age” as it gets with waterfowl guns, but there’s a lot packed into that extreme-looking frame. The Vinci breaks down into three basic parts for easy transport and cleaning and is adjustable for four common stock dimensions. Benelli shotguns are all about speed and reliability, and this gun has plenty of both thanks to careful tweaking of the action and balance of the gun that reduces recovery time between shots. It also uses an updated “in-line” version of Benelli’s famed Inertia Driven System. There’s a lot of techno-jargon and impressive engineering packed into the Vinci, and the more recent Super Vinci, which can handle 3 ½-inch shells. What’s been most impressive, however, is how quickly this gun has won over waterfowl hunters everywhere. (MSRP From $1,359)

See the full review of the Benelli Super Vinci.

Winchester SX3

Winchester SX3 shotgun
Winchester SX3Winchester

Probably the biggest holdup for the entire Winchester Super X lineup has been the up-and-down fate of the Winchester brand in recent years. Now on seemingly stable ground, Winchester has the Super X back on track with the SX3 version, a gun loved by every hunter who’s tried it that I’ve spoken with. It’s renowned for the speed of its action, but it’s also extremely reliable. Want proof? The 20-gauge version was used in 2011 to set a new record for single-day dove hunting in Argentina. More than 16,000 rounds were sent skyward, and more than 15,000 doves hit the dirt. You’re not likely to come close to killing that many ducks in a lifetime, but it’s nice to know your gun would still be shooting if you got the chance. (MSRP From $1,000)

See the full review of the Winchester SX3.

Remington 11-87/1100

Remington 11-87/1100 shotguns
Remington 11-8/1100Remington

Although not the same gun, the 11-87 (top) and 1100 (bottom) get lumped together because they share many similarities. Most notable is a gas-operated action that has earned the trust of thousands of hunters over the years. Originally, the 1100 was released as a 2 ¾-inch version, and the 11-87 was the more recent release that could handle 3-inch shells. However, both have been offered in “magnum” versions capable of handling the next-largest size shell. These became popular with waterfowl and turkey hunters. Remington has a legion of shotgun fans, so these models still shine in blinds every season, despite all the newer, high-dollar shotguns inundating the waterfowl market. (MSRP From $804; MSRP From $1015)

Mossberg 835

Mossberg 835 shotgun
Mossberg 835Mossberg

This is a no-frills shotgun that fits perfectly into a working man’s duck boat, or in the pit at a farm-country goose hunt. It’s the kind of gun that you don’t show off to your friends but you’re glad you have by your side on a snowy, late-season mallard hunt. The 835 is designed around the 3 ½-inch shell and comes in various iterations, including at least 7 models specific to waterfowl hunting. If you want an affordable pump shotgun that’s not a Remington 870, this is probably what you’ll reach for. (MSRP From $482)

Mossberg 935

Mossberg 935 shotgun
Mossberg 935Mossberg

While not the same gun as the Mossberg 835, the 935 Magnum shares many of the same cosmetics and has many of the same loyal fans as its pump-gun cousin. It’s the go-to autoloader for waterfowl hunters who are also “Mossberg guys.” That translates to “waterfowl hunters on a budget.” It comes in a variety of configurations, including waterfowl-specific platforms, and tames shoulder-bashing 3 ½-inch shells (the model 930 will chamber up to 3-inch shells) with its gas action. One feature I’ve always appreciated on a Mossberg is the thumb safety on the rear of the receiver. It’s easy to find and operate with cold hands or with heavy gloves. To sum it up: The 935 will chuck hulls like a high-dollar gun, but you won’t feel bad about using it as a boat paddle, should it ever come to that. (MSRP: $663)

See the full review of the Mossberg 935.

Browning BPS

Browning BPS shotgun
Browning BPSBrowning

As pump guns go, the Browning BPS just sort of falls into the mix with other quality, no-frills guns on the market. But what made it popular with waterfowl hunters was not the hunter buying the gun, but the guy in the pit next to him. The BPS feeds and ejects shells out the bottom of the receiver, rather than out the side. That means when a volley starts, your shells end up at your feet instead of clanging off your buddy’s face or shotgun, or streaking across his line of sight. It’s a great option for southpaws and tough guys (it’s also available in 10 gauge). (MSRP From $569)