Pump vs. Semi-Auto Shotguns for Waterfowl: A hunter’s dilemma

Ah, the age-old question: Which gun is better for waterfowl, a pump action shotgun or an semi-automatic? I guess the reason why it’s age-old is that there are as many opinions as there are hunters. I poked my head into a duck hunting forum to see what the general consensus was.

Now, I think the general consensus about which gun is better for someone new to hunting favors the pump shotgun. The nice thing about the pump for the beginner is that it forces you to really focus on your shooting. Throw a new hunter a semi-auto and he’s likely to look like Tony Montana in Scarface. Then he’ll be asking to borrow another box of shells.

A pump shotgun is nice for the beginner because there’s a subconscious factor working that says “I gotta make this shot count.” I know through my own experience that when I have a semi-auto, I know I can pull the trigger three times and that will increase my odds of hitting something instead of making me focus on each shot.

Now, for the guy who’s been at it for years, once again, it’s a matter of preference but many old-timers will tell you that their pump is their main choice. When I got my first shotgun handed down to me, it was an old pump that had a million miles on it. It worked every darn time and never failed me. The guy who gave it to me showed me his semi-auto and it was really clear by the wear marks that he favored his pump.

There are many reasons why semi-autos are what you’ll likely see most guys carrying. The recoil is a big factor, especially when you’re shooting big shells. Even the toughest of the tough will have a sore shoulder if they’ve been banging away all day on their pump. And, the older I get, the more I appreciate less recoil.

Another factor is that with a semi-auto, you don’t have to keep jacking shells into the chamber, resulting in a natural pulling off of the target each time you load. It takes a lot of practice to shoot a triple with a pump. I am about 80 percent accurate with my semi-auto on triples and about 40 percent with my pump. The give-and-take is that, yes, you might shoot a few more birds, but you’ll also waste a heck of a lot of shells.

Another big factor in comparing the two is reliability. I don’t know a hunter who doesn’t carry at least two shotguns with him, one being a pump. Everyone knows that when you’re out in the muck, falling down and fumbling around, your good old pump will shoot every time. That $1,800 Benneli Super Black Eagle is worthless if it won’t shoot. Might as well use it as a walking stick.

So, it really is a matter of preference. If you’re new to waterfowl hunting, you simply can’t go wrong with a good old Remington 870. There’s a reason they’ve sold over 10 million of them. You can drop them in the mud and run over them with your pickup and they’ll never let you down.

As far as semi-autos go, you can save a thousand bucks and still get one of the best darn guns ever when you pick the Winchester SX3. Never heard a bad review about this gun. Another fine choice is the Remington 11-87 or the Remington 1100. Every waterfowl hunter I’ve ever known has owned or still owns one of these incredibly reliable guns. You simply can’t go wrong.

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