Best Shotguns: 7 Great 28 Gauges for Upland Hunting

Put down that 12 gauge and step away from the shotshells

28 gauge composite

28gauge

Unless you shoot American skeet or frequent Southern quail plantations, you probably don't see a whole lot of 28 gauge shotguns.Outdoor Life

Unless you shoot American skeet or frequent Southern quail plantations, you probably don't see a whole lot of 28 gauge shotguns. That's too bad. The 28 gauge is one of the most all-around exciting cartridges to shoot - among both rifles and shotguns. I equate it to the .22LR: It's a great gun for a beginning shooter because it doesn't recoil much (a 28 gauge over-under with a short stock is an ideal first shotgun for a small woman or child), and it's effective on all kinds of targets and game. Oh, and once you shoot one, you'll want one. I guarantee it.

Unfortunately, the 28 gauge has fallen victim to high ammunition prices and the ever-increasing popularity of the 12 gauge, the cartridge with seemingly endless factory loads and the major boom-boom that the modern sportsman thinks he needs. And that's where this conversation about the best 28 gauge field-model shotguns currently on the market should start - the misconception of "knockdown power."

The truth is, a No. 6 pellet fired at any particular speed carries the same energy whether it is fired from a 12 gauge or a 28 gauge. Both kill the same. The difference is that you can fit more shot in a 12 gauge and put more shot downrange, which translates to better pattern density at long ranges.

However, if you want to shoot any clay target discipline, hunt upland birds or small game at typical distances, or just want a fun, lightweight gun that's easy to shoot and easy to carry all day, seriously consider a 28 gauge. Just heed these two pieces of advice: 1) If you'll shoot it a lot, learn to reload and you'll save a lot of money; 2) Don't spoil the experience by buying the heaviest field loads you can find.

If you want more lead in the air, bump up to a bigger gauge. If you want to shoot the 28, stick with 3/4-ounce target loads and no more than 7/8-ounce field loads. Heavier, faster loads almost always result in increased felt recoil from the light little shotguns that companies are currently manufacturing in 28 gauge.

Here are seven of those guns you should consider.

686 Silver Pigeon I

686 Silver Pigeon I Beretta
686 Silver Pigeon I
Berettausa.com
Beretta USA

I've written stories about "budget-priced" over-unders before, and the guns that made those lists all cost far less than the 686 Silver Pigeon I. But they've all fallen miles short of the quality that Beretta offers in this over-under, which I consider to be one of the best all-around starter double-barrel shotguns a person can buy. It has the classic 680 low-profile, box-lock action that has outsold pretty much every other over-under ever made worldwide. You can get this one for about $2,200.

I hunted quail with the 28 gauge in Texas last fall and fell in love. It's light (about 6 ¼ pounds), but perfectly balanced, so you don't feel like you're pointing a broomstick. Its design is also tastefully clean, with just the right amount of ornamentation to look good, but not so much that it runs up the price. You can get it with 26-, 28- or 30-inch barrels - one very well respected shooting instructor told me he owns several with 28-inch barrels and cut-off stocks that he uses to introduce women and young shooters to sporting clays. If you're on the fence about the 28 gauge, you can pay about $1,200 more and get a 20 gauge/28 gauge combo, each with its own forend, and swap out depending on how you're feeling any given day afield.

Browning Cynergy Classic Field

Browning Cynergy Classic Field
Browning Cynergy Classic Field
Browning.com
Browning

Let me intro this by stating that, if you're into the "Euro-style" stock of the original Browning Cynergy, the company offers a sweet little 28 gauge Cynergy Feather model that weighs less than 6 pounds and would make a great walking gun for the upland season. Personally, I prefer the more American lines of the Cynergy Classic Field, and selected it for this list. Why the Cynergy and not the veteran Citori? No good reason, except I prefer the low-profile action design of the newer Cynergy for a sub-gauge gun. It comes with a gloss walnut stock, ejectors, ventilated rib and three choke tubes. The 28 gauge is also engraved with quail and grouse artwork, and that's a good indication of the kinds of hunting where this beauty would perform perfectly. With 26-inch barrels, the 28 gauge weighs 6 pounds, 7 ounces. You'll gain about 2 ounces if you opt for 28-inch barrels. MSRP is $2,590.

Benelli Ultra Light Shotgun

benelli ultra light
Benelli Ultra Light Shotgun
Benelliusa.com
Benelli

Allow me to sell you on the 28 gauge Benelli Ultra Light Shotgun: It weighs 5 pounds. Seriously. If you hunt chukar or any kind of mountain bird in steep terrain, if you hunt during warm early seasons, if you bust dense grouse cover or if you're just the kind of upland hunter who lives for the hard-working hunt, who wears out two pairs of boots each season and who eats up the ground each time out, this is your gun. Benelli avoided excess weight by building an alloy receiver, opting for a carbon fiber rib, limiting the barrel to 26 inches and shaving weight internally everywhere possible. Yet, it's still as durable as any Benelli wood-stock shotgun thanks to its Inertia-Driven action and WeatherCoat protection on the walnut. The 28 gauge comes with two chokes and sells for about $1,800.

Remington 1100 Sporting Series

Remington 1100 Sporting Series
Remington 1100 Sporting Series
Remington.com
Remington

Technically, this is a sporting clays gun, but let's call it somewhat of a hybrid, because at 6 ½ pounds, with a walnut stock and blued action and barrel, you'll have no qualms with carrying it all day in the field. The Remington 1100 in 28 gauge or .410 is the sub-gauge autoloader that I've seen on skeet fields more than any other. It's well-balanced (Remington chose 27 inches for the 28 gauge barrel length to get it just right) to swing well, which is important for a single-barrel sub-gauge shotgun, and it doesn't produce much recoil. It comes with four extended choke tubes and has an MSRP of about $1,200.

Browning BPS Hunter

Browning BPS Hunter
Browning BPS Hunter
Browning.com
Browning

Forgive me if you're a pump gun fan because this list is heavy with double-barrel and semi-automatic actions—the best platforms for this wonderful sub-gauge, in my opinion. But this list still has something to offer you, because the Browning BPS Hunter and Remington 870 Wingmaster - both classic walnut-and-blue pumps - are offered in 28 gauge. I chose the BPS for this list over the Wingmaster, only because its bottom-ejecting design is a little more versatile since it's an option for lefty shooters. The BPS Hunter is a great, low-price pump that any hunter should be proud to own. With a 26-inch barrel, the gun weighs 6 pounds, 15 ounces, while the 28-inch model weighs 7 pounds even. Browning includes full, modified and improved cylinder chokes. It costs about $700.

Franchi Aspire

Franchi Aspire
Franchi Aspire
Franchiusa.com
Franchi

Here's a great option for grouse and woodcock hunters who want a lighter option to haul through the slash. The Aspire 28 gauge with 28-inch barrels weighs only 5.9 pounds, so you can haul it all day and control it with one hand when you're weaving through tangles. It comes with "AA-grade" walnut and a case-colored receiver, which is one of the only shotgun finishes that can look "rich and classy" and "working class" at the same time. Franchi designed the gun with a thin wrist area, slim action, and a rounded grip and forend. It comes with three chokes, a hard case and mechanical triggers (great if you shoot light hand-loads). MSRP is $2,299.

Rizzini BR 550 Small Action

Rizzini BR 550 Small Action
Rizzini BR 550 Small Action
Rizziniusa.com
Rizzini

No shotgun fits in at a quail plantation quite like a side-by-side 28 gauge. The problem is, not everyone wants to pay quail plantation prices for a sweet 28 gauge double. If you're looking for a quality side-by-side for a reasonable price, check out the Rizzini BR 550 Small Action. This pretty little gun features a very streamlined boxlock design with a single trigger, 26 lines-per-inch checkering, clean but attractive scrollwork, and the option of a straight or pistol grip stock. It comes standard with 28-inch barrels and fixed chokes, but longer and shorter barrel options are available free of charge, and for an upgrade you can get screw-in chokes. Like any great quail gun, the BR 550 Small Action is a lightweight - 5.78 pounds with 28-inch barrels. List price is $4,795.