Over/Under Shotguns for Under $1,000: Gun Tests

man aiming shotgun
photo from all4shooters.com.photo from all4shooters.com.

Many shotgunners either own an over/under or aspire to. Beyond the cachet, there’s the reliability of a break-action and the advantage of two chokes. While entry-level models from established makers start at around $2,000, some of the newest imports cost less than half of that. Even better, these affordable guns are improving. The four models I recently tested all functioned as intended out of the box. They had much better triggers than I’ve seen on previous imports, and all four shot to point of aim with the top and bottom barrels. I tested 12 gauge models, but each comes in 20 gauge, too.

The Test

Over the course of a week, at home and at the range, I evaluated all four guns for the following:

• Barrel Regulation and Point of Impact. Shooting each gun from a solid rest at a steel pattern plate 25 yards away, I checked point of impact relative to point of aim, and whether the top and bottom barrels shot to the same spot.

• Fit and Finish. I closely inspected wood-to-metal fit, wood quality and finish, checkering, barrel bluing, and receiver finish.

• Trigger Pull. Using a Lyman digital trigger-pull gauge, I measured the pull weight for both the first and the second shot. I also evaluated the pull quality.

• Handling. To approximate handling in a field situation, I shot low-gun skeet with each gun.

Stevens 555

Stevens 555 shotgun
Stevens 555Stevens

Bargain Rating: Excellent

List Price: $692; savagearms.com

Specs: 3-inch, 12-gauge • 6 lb. • 28-inch barrels • 14 1⁄8 inch length of pull (LOP) • 1 5⁄8-inch drop at comb (DAC) • 2 1⁄4-inch drop at heel (DAH)

Fit and Finish: Very good

Point of Impact and Regulation: Very good

Trigger Pull: Very good (4 lb. 4 oz. and 4 lb. 6 oz.)

Handling: Very good

Extras: Five chokes, trigger lock, foam earplugs

Comments: The 555 is surprisingly lightweight and lithe for a Turkish-made gun. Like any alloy-framed o/u, this one feels slightly muzzle-heavy, but in a way that makes it easy to swing through targets. The attractive, straight-grained wood has a tasteful satin finish, and the checkering is neat and sharp. This would make a great grouse hunting gun.

CZ Upland Sterling

CZ Upland Sterling shotgun
CZ Upland SterlingCZ USA

Bargain Rating: Very good

List Price: $999; czusa.com

Specs: 3-inch 12-gauge • 7 1⁄2 lb. • 28-inch barrels • 14 1⁄2-inch LOP • 1 1⁄2-inch DAC • 2 3⁄8-inch DAH

Fit and Finish: Very good

Point of Impact and Regulation: Very good

Trigger Pull: Very good (5 lb. 1 oz. each)

Handling: Excellent

Extras: Five chokes

Comments: My test gun's walnut stock had better grain than I've seen on o/u's costing twice as much. Although I didn't care for the laser-cut stippling in place of checkering, it is a distinctive, modern look that matches the two-tone silver receiver. The Turkish-made Sterling has a slightly weight-forward balance that makes smashing clays a snap. At 7 1⁄2 pounds, it's a little heavy for an upland-hunting shotgun, but that's the end of its shortcomings.

Franchi Instinct L

Franchi Instinct L
Franchi Instinct LFranchi

Bargain Rating: Good

List Price: $1,149; franchiusa.com

Specs: 3-inch 12-gauge • 7 1⁄4 lb. • 28-inch barrels • 14 1⁄2-inch LOP • 1 1⁄2-inch DAC • 2 3⁄8-inch DAH

Fit and Finish: Good

Point of Impact and Regulation: Very good

Trigger Pull: Very good (4 lb. 11 oz. and 5 lb. 12 oz.)

Handling: Very good

Extras: Hard case, three choke tubes, fiber-optic bead, lengthened forcing cones

Comments: An Italian-made o/u at a Turkish-made price, the Instinct L has a classic look, although the wood is plain. I didn't like the small, deeply inletted fore-end latch, either. But the gun is a shooter. It balances over the hinge pin, as many bird hunters prefer. The 12-gauge specs are just right for a pheasant gun, too.

Stoeger Condor Supreme

Stoeger Condor Supreme
Stoeger Condor SupremeStoeger

Bargain Rating: Fair

List Price: $599; stoeger­industries.com

Specs: 3-inch 12-gauge • 8 lb. • 28-inch barrels • 14 3⁄8 inch LOP • 1 1⁄2-inch DAC • 2 1⁄2" DAH

Fit and Finish: Poor

Point of Impact and Regulation: Very good

Trigger Pull: Good (4 lb. 13 oz. and 5 lb. 6 oz.)

Handling: Fair

Extras: Two chokes, middle bead

Comments: The lowest-priced model I tried, the Brazilian-made Condor had the worst fit and finish. But you don't buy a $500 o/u for looks; you buy it as a practical break-action shooter. The gun functioned well, and at 8 pounds it had a weight-forward balance that would make it a good choice for waterfowl or light clay-target shooting. If you want an o/u as your truck gun, the Condor Supreme might be for you.