Waterfowl Hunting Shotgun Buyers Guide
I tested three products this year and I found the Beretta A400 Xtreme Plus to be the best waterfowl shotgun in terms of accuracy and ergonomics.
I’ve been an advocate for gun ownership for almost 20 years and I’ve been hunting waterfowl for the better part of a decade now.
Not only that, but I think guns are important for enjoyment as well, which is why I began using them recreationally, and I’ve never looked back. I’ve used a lot of firearms in my life, but I’ve found a few favorites that I like to recommend for hunting waterfowl.
When you’re headed into the marshes to stir up waterfowl, you should be equipped with something that’s comfortable, accurate, and will perform in those wet conditions. The best shotgun for these scenarios will rarely misfire, pattern well, and allow for relatively quick successive shots.
While some shotguns perform better in terms of reliability and offer a great value, others will be more versatile or offer more beautiful aesthetics. Every person has their own personal preferences, so there’s no one-size-fits-all solution here.
Keep reading to learn more about what you should look for in a shotgun for waterfowl hunting as well as my top three recommendations.
What to Look For When Choosing the Best Shotgun for Waterfowl Hunting
When you’re traipsing through the brush, getting ready for those birds, there are a few things you’ll need out of your shotgun of choice. It has to fit you, your needs, and your preferences for the best experience.
Perhaps the most important thing to consider are the ergonomics of your shotgun. If it’s not comfortable or easy for you to handle, you won’t be an effective shot, and you certainly won’t bag anything. Handling your shotgun includes balance, liveliness, and reoil management.
You want the firearm to fit your hands and body and be comfortable. The controls should be intuitive and easy to manipulate, so you can load, unload, raise, lower, and aim with ease. All of these conditions add up to the ultimate shooting experience and will make or break your outing.
However, the tricky thing about ergonomics is that they’re different for everyone. I can’t tell you what’s going to be the most comfortable firearm for you to carry, and I certainly can’t change your comfort levels with a shotgun you simply don’t like or don’t trust. While this is one of the most important factors to consider, it’s also the most personal.
Some hunters don’t care about what their gun looks like, as long as it works. Others take aesthetics very seriously. While aesthetics could include how clean-looking you keep your shotgun or how durable it looks and feels, it also includes the fit and finish of the stock, metal, and every other component.
Many people are of the opinion that it should work well and look good. If that’s you, then this is another one of those personal preferences that I can’t help you with. You’ll have to choose among the many different options including blued, matte, cerakote, vinyl wraps, and all of the other things out there.
You definitely want versatility out of your shotgun. For instance, it should work well in a variety of hunting scenarios like box blinds, pits, ground blinds, and walk-ins. You want it to be comfortable in any situation in which you are hunting duck. You may even want to consider whether you can use it for other types of game or to shoot clays.
This may seem pretty obvious, but your firearm should be nothing if not reliable. It shouldn’t fail or malfunction when you need it the most. A good gun will still fire if you get it dirty or wet in the marsh
While it’s sometimes worth it to spend a good amount of money on a shotgun you can trust, it’s also important to consider the value. You need to get what you paid for, so make sure the price tag matches the shotgun and that you would recommend it as a good buy to someone else as well.
Beretta A400 Xtreme Plus - Best Overall
This is one of the best duck hunting shotguns because of its soft shooting and accurate patterning. Across most shooters, you’ll find that this particular model performs better and is more precise, which meets our reliability criteria. Where you point it is where it shoots, which makes it remarkably easy to use.
However, it’s also gas-operated and the recoil is light, which helps to upgrade its ergonomics rating. With a Kick-Off Mega three-spring system to help dampen the recoil, you’ll have a smoother and less painful experience.
The bolt release button and oversized bolt handle make for easy handling while the load gate can be manipulated easily even if you’re wearing thick gloves, which you probably are most of the time.
If aesthetics are important to you, you have a wide variety of finishes to choose from including TrueTimber, Mossy Oak, Realtree, Cerakote, Kryptek camouflage, and a synthetic option. The only downside to this firearm is the fore-end that makes it seem more like you’re carrying a heavier gun than you are.
Browning Maxus II - Best for Cold and Wet Conditions
This is a second generation Maxus that comes with the same Power Drive gas-operated system as its little brother. However, that’s about all they have in common. The most versatile upgrade to this firearm is the removable fore-end cap that allows you to attach an extension magazine tube. This increases the versatility of the shotgun for hunting snow geese and other waterfowl.
The most remarkable upgrade, though, is the slim fore-end with rubber grips. This increases your handling in cold, wet conditions more so than any other shotgun on the market. You’ll also experience rubber grips at the swell of the stock and for your shooting hand. The ergonomics don’t stop there. There’s a rubber riser that cushions your cheek and a thick recoil pad.
Pulling the bolt is made easier by the oversized bolt handle while the trigger guard leaves room for a heavily-gloved finger. The Speed Load Plus system enables loading of the first shell into the magazine while the lifter puts it in the chamber unassisted.
Benelli Ethos Cordoba BE.S.T. - Best for High-Volume Shooting
This shotgun’s barrel is designed for lighter recoil, so it meets some great comfort, handling, and ergonomic requirements for many people. It also works to reduce muzzle jump so you can aim more quickly and accurately after a miss, which is what makes it so great for high-volume, repetitive shooting. Even if you do connect, you can move on to the next bird before it flies out of sight.
The B.E.S.T. coating offers a rust-resistant coating to minimize corrosion, so it’ll meet many hunter’s requirements for aesthetics as well. However, what you might find is that while you can make successive shots with this firearm, it’s not quite as accurate as you might like it to be. Because it patterns high, you’ll have to adjust your aim accordingly.
It comes with five extended chokes, which can help you alleviate this issue by experimenting with the choke that works best for you to improve your shot patterns. The window along the length of the fore-end also allows you to see how many shells you have left, making both successive shooting and shot patterning easier to manage.
Not only that, but the Cordoba comes in both a 20 and a 28-gauge, so you can once again choose the option that works for you and get the most out of it that you can.
If I were to be in excessively cold conditions, I might choose the Browning Maxus II because of its slim fore-end. It’s also a close second in terms of handling and comfort because of the multitude of rubber grips.
The Benelli is certainly a solid choice in terms of aesthetics and the high-volume shooting that may come with a dense population of waterfowl. However, the price is high, so it doesn’t offer the same value as the others I liked a bit better.
The Beretta is definitely the best overall in terms of ergonomics, accuracy, versatility, and aesthetics. I enjoyed it the most because it was light on recoil and the shot patterning was the most accurate with the littlest effort.