Waterfowl hunting is best done with an excellent 20-gauge shotgun. These guns offer the best balance of power, recoil, and accuracy for waterfowl hunting. The best shotguns are not just powerful but lightweight to allow hunters to carry them all day without experiencing fatigue or soreness in their arms or shoulders. Today, we’ll go through the top 20-gauge shotguns available on the market to help you settle which one is best for you!
The Best Ammo for 20-Gauge Waterfowl Shotguns
If you take advantage of some of the most recent ammunition, the 20′s restrictions are not limiting. Bismuth shells from a variety of manufacturers (I’ve been using Federal and Rio No. 3 shot with good results on ducks and geese) as well as tungsten-iron HeviShot and HeviX, allow you to fire a 20 with confidence out to 35 yards and beyond. If you desire to spend your money on Apex TSS waterfowl load, a 20 can kill birds up to 30 yards away. Alternatively, you may dust excess TSS with steel in Federal’s Black Cloud TSS, which mixes both No. 3 steel and No. 9 tungsten-iron shot to provide more oomph at longer ranges. There’s nothing wrong with regular 20-gauge loads, either. A 3-inch hull ejects an ounce of shot at around 1350 feet per second, fast enough for me. If you want extra speed, you can give up 1/8 of a pellet for 200 extra fps. The major disadvantage of the 20 is that the smaller hull can only contain small, letter-size pellets; therefore, you have restricted it to one or two apiece at the maximum size.
So, before we go any further, let’s get this out of the way: A 12-gauge is still a superior duck and goose gun than a 20-gauge. That said, this season, I’ve shot a Benelli M2. After that time spent shooting it, I’m convinced that the 20 is a worthwhile alternative, especially if you believe waterfowling should be played at distances of 20 to 30 yards rather than long pokes.
The firearms business is always eager to drive a fad, and there are several great full-size 20-gauge waterfowl guns to select from. Here are ten options.
The Best 20-Gauge Shotguns for Waterfowl: Semi-Autos
1. Benelli M2
I shot the Performance Shop Waterfowl M2 all last season. It’s a nice gun to shoot, with a weight of 6 pounds and a 28-inch barrel that gives it a good feel. Long, light guns are often simple to fire, and this one is no exception. The Benelli Performance Shop adds an expanded bolt handle and bolt release to its rifles, features that everyone but me seems to enjoy, as well as Rob Roberts Gunworks’ custom chokes. The Benelli M2 Field features a Full choke, which is intended for medium-range shooting, and I was so amazed at its effectiveness in perforating paper and dropping ducks and geese. The Benelli M2 Field has fewer bells and whistles but is comparable to the $1,000+ LFI model.
2. Franchi Affinity Elite
Franchi is positioned as Benelli’s mid-range brand and has earned a following among hunters. The Affinity Elite inertia semi automatic features a 6-pound 20-gauge barrel with a 26-inch length and is available in Optifade Marsh or Timber/gray finish. Franchi’s distinctive and very soft TSA recoil pad is included on the guns, including larger bolt handles and releases.
3. Retay Masai Mara Waterfowl
Retay is the newest name in inertia guns, and it’s gaining a following fast among Southern waterfowlers. They’re well-fitting and well-finished, built in a very modern, high-tech factory in Turkey. Retay offers its unique spin on the click-proof bolt to eliminate the dreaded “inertia click.” The trigger group also detaches with the push of a button. In all, these appear to be well-built, well-considered weapons. Although Retay offers synthetic-stocked waterfowl versions in black and camouflage (26- or 28-inch barrels available), I’d opt for a walnut-stocked firearm because the wood on the Retays that I’ve seen and fired has been gorgeous.
4. Stoeger 3020
Stoeger’s are the Chevys of the Benelli semi auto family—hard-working inertia guns in any price range. The 3020 is lightweight and easy to transport at under 6 pounds, although it will let you know when you fire a 3-inch shell because of its lightweight. It consists of various waterfowling-appropriate colors, including black, all camo; Cerakote and camo; and Cerakote and walnut if you want to dress up.
5. Winchester SX4
The SX4 is an excellent value in a tried and true gas gun. Waterfowlers like the more oversized bolt handle and release button, which it comes with. It’s also one of the more mild-sounding semi autos; shooting 3-inch-magnum loads might take the sting out of it. The 20-gauge version weighs approximately 6½ pounds and comes with either a 24-, 26-, or 28-inch barrel. It has sling-swivel studs on both ends and length-of-pull spacers on the stock to accommodate shooters of all sizes.
The Best 20-Gauge Shotguns for Waterfowl: Pump-Actions
6. Benelli Nova
For a few years, I used a 12-gauge Benelli Nova as my duck gun, and I liked the long forearm that allowed me to take a slight grip on it and the rotary mechanism, which assisted it in pumping very smoothly. Its polymer-enclosed receiver was also durable, withstanding everything from being dropped onto rip rap to many more indignities while I owned it. The 20-gauge version is significantly lighter than the hefty, almost-8-pound 12. The safety is annoyingly tiny, but given its low price tag, that’s the end of the bad news. Black or Mossy Oak camo are options for the 20 gauge.
7. Browning BPS
The Benelli BPS is a well-liked lefty choice with the top safety and bottom eject and for any person who appreciates a well-made pump gun. Last year, the firearm underwent a minor modification with new stock and fore-end and an expanded trigger guard to allow easier shooting while wearing gloves. It’s a hefty 20 at just under 7 pounds, which helps to manage recoil. There are also black 20-gauge versions available in both full camo and tree camouflage.
8. Mossberg 500
The Mossberg 500 is a lightweight and extremely popular shotgun with a 20-gauge black synthetic version that makes it ideal as a duck gun you don’t have to baby. The 500, inspired by Remington’s great Model 31 pump, is just as slick-shucking as the Model 31 and features top safety features such as left-handed owners’ favoritism for slingshot studs. It’s only available in a 26-inch barreled model for an MSRP of $445, so you might be tempted not to buy it.
9. Winchester SXP Waterfowl Hunter
The SXP is one of the smoothest pump-action guns available, thanks to its rotary bolt. After Winchester’s New Haven factory closed, it was renamed the Model 1300 and redesigned, improved, and outsourced to Turkey. The Browning/Winchester Inflex recoil pad is paired with the 20-gauge Waterfowl Hunter version with a synthetic camo stock for very effective results. For under $500, you can get either a 26- or 28-inch barreled version.
The Best 20 Gauge Shotguns for Waterfowl: Over/Unders
10. CZ Redhead Premier All-Terrain
If you’d want to shoot an O/U in the water, the CZ All-Terrain line is worth a second look. The Redhead is the flagship rifle of CZ’s 11-gun All Terrain series. Matte walnut with swivel studs and olive Cerakote on the receiver and barrel are features of this gun. The CZ 557 is a 12-gauge pump gun with an 18.5-inch barrel and extended chokes. It also has tiny magnets in the ejectors that are just strong enough to keep a shell from falling out when you tilt the gun to load it, making it one of the most innovative guns on the market. The 20 gauge Redhead I shot this fall had 30-inch barrels and weighed 20 gauges heavier than typical, which is not a negative thing in a duck gun that can double as a target gun since I discovered it swung very nicely.