If you ever find yourself in the field on a dove hunt or some upland bird species such as grouse, partridge, quail, or pheasant you might notice that a lot of bird hunters are utilizing over-under shotguns.
So what are the reasons that so many bird hunters go to the over-under instead of pumps, semi-autos, or side by side double barrels?
There are quite a few reasons, and we will examine each of them, but I think the biggest reason is because of personal preference.
There is nothing wrong with going with any other type of shotgun, and you can be successful with whatever style you choose.
I want to make it clear from the beginning that this article is not being written to crown the over-under as the king of shotguns, but simply to point out some benefits and why so many hunters enjoy them, especially when in the field flushing birds.
So, back to the original question, why do so many hunters use the O/U shotgun? A few that come to mind include;
- Ease of maintenance/cleaning
- Can utilize two different chokes
- Can utilize two different loads
- Beautiful design
O/Us were designed to have a light swing weight and be able to be whipped into shooting position almost instantly. Even with a heavier over-under, the design seems to swing the gun up into shooting position effortlessly. It’s an important component with birds flushing all around you.
These shotguns are ideal for bird hunting because you can use two different styles of chokes. One choke might be a less focused pattern that will give you a wider coverage for birds when they flush early and are at a closer range, while the second barrel might use a denser patterned choke that can reach out to birds you missed with the first shot.
As you become more proficient with the over under, you will be able to switch barrels when the birds flush, and you judge their distance.
Not only can the chokes be changed between barrels, but so can shotshell loads. With a little experience using an over/under in the field and you can have a shotgun outfitted to match your hunting style and cover you in any bird situation.
Unfortunately, a lot of over-under shotguns can be in high in the price range. The fact is, they are worth it for their lightness and fast swinging barrels that can put the bead on an escaping covey of quail or a rooster taking flight.
Though most hunters would not admit it, I believe one of the biggest factors that draw bird hunters to over-under shotguns is the sheer beauty and feel of them. There is nothing quite like breaking down a shotgun or admiring the intricacy of some of these weapons. A lot of O/U shotguns walk a fine line between a hunting tool and a family heirloom and quite a few function as both.
So, let’s take a look at several O/U shotguns and discuss their specs and handling.
5 Best Over-Under Shotguns For The Money 2017 Reviews
The Drake is available in 12 and 20 gauge models, but we will focus on the 12 gauge.
This is a basic over-under design with no frills, but it offers durability and reliability which are the two most important aspects of any hunting firearm.
Five different screw-in chokes come with the Drake including a full, improved modified, modified, improved cylinder, and cylinder.
The stock of the Drake is a beautiful Turkish Walnut with a satin finish and laser cut textured gripping surfaces.
The recoil pad is left wanting, but if you need extra padding from shooting loads used for upland birds you might be better served with a 20gauge or springing for better replacement pad.
The receiver and barrel have a gloss black chrome finish. The barrels are chambered for max 3″ shells.
The Drake features an extractor ejection mechanism, so you are not going to get the speedy reloads that are associated with higher end over-under shotguns and will have to remove spent shells by hand. Of course, some hunter’s prefer this type of ejection system so I wouldn’t consider it a pro or con. Just a personal preference.
The Drake features a single selectable trigger for which chamber fires first along with a manual tang safety (on top of the firearm behind the receiver).
The gun is 45.75″ in overall length and has a 28″ barrel and weighs in at 7.4lbs.
It has a nice swing weight and handles well in the field, especially when working thicker brush with a snag free fore end design.
The Drake is going to be one of the more affordable, but still effective over-under that is available and it a great option for those not quite ready to splurge for a high-end model.
The Orion has fantastic balance and swing weight that rivals the high-end over-under shotguns. It also features automatic ejection system which is favored in the field where a lot of shots are happening quickly.
The barrels are chrome lined to help reduce fouling and rusting as well as make them extremely easy to clean and maintain.
The Orion has a high grain, walnut stock with a high gloss finish. The fore end and pistol grip also utilize “Prince of Wales” grip designs cut into the wood and handle well in wet conditions.
The Orion comes with three chokes including a full, modified, and improved cylinder and is chambered to handle up to 3″ shells.
Its weight comes in at 7lbs making this a fantastic over-under for extended trips into the field. The ventilated top ribbing helps keep the weight low and ends with a brass bead sight.
The Orion comes in models featuring either a 26 or 28″ barrel though the difference in the two hardly affects the shotgun’s overall weight.
The overall length of the weapon will vary between the two models with the 26″ barrel model having an overall length of 43.75″ and the 28″ model coming in at 45.75″.
The Orion has a manual tang safety that also includes a barrel selector. The mechanical trigger functions in a way so that even if the first barrel does not fire, the second chambered shell is still able to be discharged.
The Orion features a great barrel locking system that should not require maintenance for several years.
The Orion is an affordable O/U shotgun. Though it still fetches for close to a grand, it provides a lot more of the features that are found in high-end weapons.
Beretta 690 Field I
The Beretta 690 Field I is a higher end O/U shotgun, but man does it perform and looks good doing it.
It is available in a 26, 28. And 30” barrel model. The Field I only weighs in at 7.3lbs. While this weight is not the lightest model on our list when maneuvering from holding to shooting positions it almost feels weightless.
Regardless of the model, the Silver Reserve II has an excellent locking mechanism that is durable and will hold up through years of use. It also breaks down smoothly.
The Field 1 has a very slim profile and can maneuver in the field as well or better than any other over-under available. This shotgun can go from pointing downwards to snapping up into a shooting position, and it feels feather light doing it.
The Steelium (steel alloy) barrels provide high and consistent accuracy. They are machined to fit with Beretta Optima-Choke HP. The 690 Field I is chambered to handle up to 3″ shotshells.
The stock is made from some of the finest grade wood. It is hand oiled, Turkish Walnut stock and fore end with checkered gripping surfaces that are good enough for you to handle the gun in slick conditions.
The Field one also features a 20mm recoil pad that fits well to the shoulder and absorbs the brunt of the recoil.
This is a tight locking over under shotgun with a robust and efficient ejection system. Like any well made over under, shells are not ejected when not discharged and can be hand removed.
The Field I features a top tang safety system with the barrel selector built into the safety mechanism.
This is a well-designed over-under shotgun that looks, feels, and performs as well or better than any other. This shotgun is easily worth the couple grand you would have to shell out to own one, but through a hunter’s eyes, I can’t think of a better investment.
Browning Citori 725 Field
The Citori Field uses a checkered Walnut stock with a glass oil finish that looks very regal when paired with the silver nitride finished receiver and polished blue steel barrel.
The receiver has a nice, low profile and balances well with the stock, fore end, and barrel to give it great maneuverability and light swing weight. It also features a ventilated top rib that leads down to an ivory bead site.
It also utilizes a gold-plated, mechanical trigger in the case of the first barrel failing; the second can still be fired. The trigger pull on this shotgun is very light and smooth and also features a silver nitride guard.
While most might overlook this when it comes to shotguns, it comes in handy in the field, especially when the days get a lot colder and your finger seems like a brick.
The barrel length for the Citori Field is 26″ with an overall length of 43.75″. The weight of this O/U is approximately 7.4lbs. The firearm also comes with a full, modified, and improved cylinder chokes.
The Citori Field has a chrome plated chamber that can handle up to 3″ shells.
This O/U shotgun features an incredible and comfortable recoil pad that absorbs the majority of force generated by the gun. Like most over-under shotguns, it features a tang safety with a barrel selector.
Mossberg Silver Reserve II
The Mossberg International Silver Reserve II is a mid- priced break action O/U shotgun. Like most Mossberg shotguns, the Silver Reserve II is available in a variety of models. It is offered in 12, 20, 28, and .410 gauge.
Like the rest of the article, we will focus on the 12 gauge. With the 12 gauge, you can purchase a 30″ or 32″ barrel option as well as an extractor or ejection type chamber.
The overall length ranges from 47.5″ to 49.5″ with a weight of 8.5 to 9lbs. As you can see, it is a full 1- 2lbs heavier than the other models on the list.
It’s not necessarily a bad aspect to this weapon as some hunters might like the feel and handling of a heavier shotgun. Even though it weighs a little more, it still moves incredibly well in the hands, and unless you are walking 50 miles a day on a multi-day it shouldn’t make that much of a difference.
The Silver Reserve is chambered to take up to 3” shells. Both the chamber and the barrels are resistant to fouling and corrosion due to the chrome lining.
The Silver Reserve comes with five screw-in and extended barrel chokes including a full, improved modified, modified, improved cylinder, and cylinder.
This Mossberg uses a vented top rib system with dual fiber optic sights. It also utilizes a tang safety mechanism with a barrel selector switch.
The blued steel barrels pairs well with the silver receiver and black walnut stock and fore end that have a satin finish. An interesting feature with this over under shotgun is the ported barrels. This porting system was designed to help reduce recoil. Pairing the ported barrels with the thick recoil pad, you have an over-under that absorbs a good percentage of the recoil.
Over-under shotguns provide a lot of performance characteristics that make bird hunting a lot easier. While we may not drop a bird, it won’t be the shotgun’s fault.
I hope that this article has outlined why an over-under shotgun is a useful tool when hunting upland birds. And while a few of the shotguns mentioned are more than most of us would like to spend on a weapon I hope I have adequately explained why they run for what they do and why they’re worth it.
I would venture to guess that there are very few hunters who have handled an over-under when busting birds and have ever reverted to any other shotgun. That’s the power these shotguns hold over us, and most are all the happier for it.