Whenever we run a review of a double barrel shotgun, we get comments wondering why an over/under costs, on average, so much more than a similar semi-automatic or pump model. Frequent commenter Dyspeptic Gunsmith, a man who’s seen a shotgun or two in his day, has this to say about that:

Lots of commenters on the web, in print, etc., appear to not understand why double-barreled, break-action shotguns cost so much more than the typical pump or semi-auto shotgun.

There’s several reasons, but let’s start with the most obvious:

When you purchase a double-barreled shotgun, the shotgun has two barrels. Right there, you’ve added (typically) at least $300 in the cost of the gun.

Then the details start adding up: The gun will have two hammers, two sears, and two extractors – at a minimum.  If the gun has ejectors rather than just extractors, then the gun has two more sets of hammers/sears/triggers/etc in the forearm. The action of opening the gun cocks the ejectors in the forearm, and when one or both barrels of the gun are fired, then a trip lever communicates this from the hammer in the receiver to the trigger/sear in the forearm for that barrel. When the gun is opened, the fired barrel (and only the fired barrel, if both barrels were not fired) ejects the spent shell.

This is not only a lot more parts, these various actions need to be tuned to happen in the correct sequence, and, in higher-quality guns, the cocking of a fully spent gun happens with at most two “clicks.” In the highest quality guns, the cocking of left/right or top/bottom barrel hammers/sears and ejector mechanisms has been timed so that there is only one “click” heard by the shooter when they open the gun. This take a significant amount of attention by a skilled gunsmith at the factory to make this a reality. British “best” guns have one click. Many high-end American double guns will have two clicks.

 

Then there are the details of construction. The two barrels didn’t come off the boring/turning/finishing machines bound together like that. Modern SxS shotguns are assembled with the top and bottom ribs, and possibly a monoblock. For those unfamiliar with double barrel shotguns, the “monoblock” is a part of the barrels that will include the chamber areas of the barrel, the breechface (with extractor/ejector cuts), the hook/action interface pieces, and the interface to the two barrels.

When the barrels are put together into a barrel set, modern shotgun production has the various parts treated with some brazing powder & flux, then everything is put into an oven to braze everything together. In past times, most barrels would be soft-soldered together up to the monoblock or hook area, and the area back near the action would be silver-soldered together for higher strength. This took skill to accomplish correctly.

Double-barrel shotguns have a significant advantage over single-barrel shotguns because you can have a different choke in each barrel. This means that a double barrel shotgun can be configured for patterns at different ranges. The classic SxS “field” gun would be configured with a Modified or Improved choke on the first barrel, and a Full choke on the second barrel. Many of today’s double-barrel shotguns will have removable chokes, allowing the shooter to reconfigure the shotgun from a long(er) range clay sport like trap (or other games, like Annie Oakley shoots) to a skeet gun with wide patters for close-in shots.

Double barrel shotguns also have the advantage over single-barrel shotguns in that if the first round fails to fire, you have a second barrel – as long as you have a mechanical trigger or double triggers. More on this in a bit.

The last point where break-action shotguns needed more attention was in fitting the barrels to the receiver. Before highly repeatable CNC machines came along, this was another job done by the hands of a skilled gunsmith. Today, modern production machines are able to eliminate most of this. Many double-barreled, break-action shotguns are made “tight” so that as they wear, they become more easily opened. When even a modern shotgun wears to a point where the barrels become “off face,” (you can see some light between the water table of the receiver and the bottom of the barrels), the barrels will need to be put back “on face” by a skilled gunsmith.

Then there were the issues of trigger mechanisms in double-gun shotguns. Double-barrel purists swear by double triggers, with the front trigger typically firing the more “open” of the two barrels first, and the rear trigger fired the tighter choked barrel. Having double triggers allows the shooter to choose the barrel with the tighter choke first, if the shot requires it.

Later, around WWII, many double-barreled gun makers started making guns with a single trigger and a selector switch to choose the first barrel to be fired. This brought forth a new wrinkle that double-barreled gun makers had to solve that a single-barrel pump or semi-auto doesn’t: how to advance the single trigger to fire the second barrel. Some double-barreled shotguns do this only when the recoil of the first barrel being fired moves lockwork part(s) to move the trigger’s internals to the second barrel.  This is known as an “inertia trigger.”  The disadvantage of the inertia trigger is that in the event of a misfire (ie, the first barrel didn’t fire) or the shooter forgot to load the first barrel, there is no easy way to access the second barrel’s load.

Other double-barrel shotguns will automatically advance the trigger to the second barrel purely as a result of the trigger being pulled on the first barrel. This type of trigger is called a “mechanical trigger.” The fastest way for a shotgun buyer to determine which type of trigger a double gun has is to unload the gun by fully breaking the barrels (to cock the lockwork), close the gun, confirm the gun is pointed in a safe direction, then confirm the safety is off and pull the trigger.

All double guns’ triggers pulled in this manner should result in a nice, sharp “click” as the first barrel’s hammer hits the firing pin home. Now, allow the trigger to reset (ie, take your finger off the trigger) and pull the trigger again. If you head a second sharp “click” of the second hammer hitting the firing pin, then you have a gun with a mechanical trigger. If you hear nothing, then, using your fist or open hand, give the gun a good, firm strike on the butt of the gun. Try the trigger again. If you hear the second hammer strike its pin, you know you have an inertia trigger.

Long story short: Quality SxS and O/U shotguns have lots more going on in them – there’s a lot more parts, involvement and labor involved than a single-barrel pump or semi-auto. They need more attention during their creation then single-barrel guns. They do have a specific set of advantages to shotgun shooters – before we start talking of embellishments and “best gun” values. Fox sold many thousands of Sterlingworth guns, and Parker sold many thousands of Vulcan guns – which were very plain in appearance, but still well made. Today, these plain SxS guns can be had for $800 on up in the more common variations (eg, 12 gauge, 16 gauge).

This post was originally published at dyspepticgunsmith.wordpress.com and is republished here with permission.

78 Responses to Why Does an Over/Under or Side-by-Side Shotgun Cost So Much?

  1. It cost more to make two barrels shoot mostly to the same point.

    Much more so with a double rifle

    I choose to see them as functional art.

    Then they are a bargain.

    • What I fired a SxS shotgun in the same manner that ghetto gang bangers fire their pistols? Would that then qualify the shotgun as being under/over? Thinkin’ outside the box.

      • Well one thing is certain. If you fired it into your mouth the world would have one less ignorant bigot. Please proceed governor.

  2. Yeah, but i can buy a single shot (with requisite 15# trigger) and beechwood stock from my uncle Joe Six-Pack for $50. These gun makers are all a bunch of scammers.

  3. Great article. I learned something today. I never considered the two choke ability for close range and then long range shooting. Something a single barrel shotgun can’t do.

    Robert, this here is a quality article. Your 3 reasons for Glock Gen 5 article sucked. Just a little feedback for ya.

    • Allow me to expound on that. “Miniskirt Principle. Long enough to cover the subject. Short enough to keep interest.”

    • That is why bird hunters love doubles. I have been wanting one for turkeys for a long time. Also for deer you can have one barrel loaded with buck, and the other with a slug.

    • The ability to have a more open choke for the first shot, and then a tighter one for the second is very useful for sporting clays. I used to have Fabarm Gamma 12 gauge O/U with multichokes but the ‘go to’ arrangement was 1/4 choke on the bottom barrel & 1/2 choke on the top. In sporting clays, a lot of the stands release a pair simultaneously so the second show will always be several yards longer than the first.

  4. sxs 12ga is on my bucket list of guns to own, just hard to convince myself to buy one at the same price as a cheap ar or ak, or even a budget hunting rifle. one day I’ll get one.

  5. Thank you for both writing and publishing this overview.

    Anxiously waiting for “Gas vs Inertia, pick your autoloader”.

    • OK, I’ll put that on the list of things I’ll write up in the future. I will start with the Browning A5, the real A5, from 100 years ago…

      • Being the first shotgun I ever fired, my shoulder twitches whenever anyone says “A5” and “brass shell” in the same sentence.

        • If you have the recoil friction ring set incorrectly, the A5 can thump you a bit. Worse yet is if the bronze recoil adjustment ring is removed/lost or broken – now the gun will seem like the most vicious-kicking shotgun you’ve shot in a while. It’ll also allow the A5 to beat itself to death.

          Another thing about the A5 is that if the recoil adjustment rings were set up for high-brass hunting loads, and the shotgun stored for a long time like this, the recoil spring might have taken a set, and the spring won’t soak up as much recoil as it should. Many A5’s and M11’s are in need of a new recoil spring after decades of neglect and storage under compression.

      • I have a Belgian made Browning A5 that’s probably from the 50’s or 60’s that I inherited from my Grandfather. I shot it a little when I was a kid. It’s got some nice scroll work.

        Makes me want to get it out, get new recoil spring, and figure out how to adjust the brass recoil friction ring correctly.

  6. Another factor not mentioned is that fewer over-unders are sold, which means volume doesn’t bring down costs like pumps and semis.

  7. Thank you Dyseptic for the detailed explanation.

    Sure, a double-barrel shotgun is in essence two shotguns. I am still having trouble with the exorbitant cost given that CNC machining is standard these days. Furthermore, I can purchase a single-barrel break action shotgon (ala H&R Handi-rifle platform) for $250. Obviously, two of those would be $500. And even though there might be some extra effort/expense to ensure both barrels point in the same direction (which I think should be zero issue with a proper assembly jig), they save the price of the second walnut butt stock which obviously isn’t necessary and should tend to offset any additional cost of aligning both barrels.

    Oh well, I am a cheapskate and no one is forcing me to buy one. More importantly, I support anyone who wants to manufacture or purchase a double-barrel shotgun at any price that both parties find agreeable. Just because I don’t find them valuable does not mean that other people do not find them valuable. And clearly, the market has decided! That is the beauty of capitalism.

    • The H&R Handi-rifle (aka NEF Single Shot) has very basic production values. The trigger guard is plastic (last I looked), the finish on the barrel is bead-blasted, etc.

      When you have only one barrel, you’ve just eliminated a lot of complexity that comes with the second barrel, as I outlined above. One trigger, one sear, one hammer, one ejector or extractor. Pud-simple.

      As I’ve indicated also, a polished blued action/barrel will run up your cost a fair bit – the example I gave in the double gun thread a few days back was of the Beretta A400 (which is a semi-auto gun) polished/blued barrel for about $650, my cost.

      Good finishing on a gun costs money. Doing it correctly and completely makes the price go up rapidly, because it isn’t easily automated. Striking and polishing a rifle or shotgun barrel to get a polished finish that has no dips, waves, wrinkles or other defects when you sight down the barrel takes work. I hear lots of people who have never actually struck or polished a barrel say “Oh, you just put it on a barrel spinner and then you use a belt sander.”

      Yea, I know. I’ve fixed several such barrels on rifles that looked like an asphalt road in Kansas in August. When I strike & polish a barrel, you can put your eye on one end and look up/down the barrel as you rotated it – either in the white or after blueing, and you see nothing. No dips, ripples, waves, kinks, scratches – nothing. It looks smooth and perfect, from your eyeball to the other end. The better SxS or O/U shotguns also have barrels this good – because when you put a shotgun up to your eye, and you sight down a polished barrel, your eye is close enough to the bore line that you will see these defects in a polished barrel more than you will in a rifle barrel, especially when most rifles today are being outfitted with optical sights that are at least 1″ above the bore line.

      The best SxS or O/U guns will have a polish & blue job that your eyes get lost into – much like the Royal Blue on a Python revolver.

      How bad are production barrels? Let’s just talk rifle barrels. This is a simple place to do finishing – because they don’t have ribs on most rifle barrels. It’s just a tube with threads on one (or both ends) with a contour from one end to the other. When you have a rib, the rib must be fit to the contour of both barrels in order to get the rib to have the correct elevation/profile, and to get the barrels to remain parallel from the chambers to the muzzle. Once you start joining two barrels together, you’ve signed up for a Job, NB the capital “J,” and it starts with the barrel profiles, then the rib profile.

      Back to the simple case of rifle barrels: I’ve recently seen mass-production rifle barrels that are out-of-concentric with the bore by as much as 0.018″ – this was a Remington .308, 24″ long/heavy barrel Model 700. It goes without saying that it also had surface imperfections as well – being covered up by a heavy bead blast job. I’d be embarrassed and mortified to send a rifle barrel out of my shop that is that far out of concentricity with the bore. Most production rifles I see now (Remington, Savage, etc) are at least 0.004″ out of concentric with the bore, which is worse than I’d ship, but fairly typical, from my observations.

      0.018″ OOC is just absurd.

      How do they get OOC with the bore? Easy. Put the barrel on a spinner, then polish it on a belt grinder, that’s how. How do I know? Because I’ve screwed up barrels just as badly doing the exact same thing – seeking a shortcut. Now, when I do barrels, I don’t take shortcuts. It takes what it takes. One of the reasons why I don’t use many power tools in gun finishing is that power tools can screw things up fast. I like to screw up a bit more slowly – so I have a chance to say “This ain’t going the way I want, let’s back off and fix this before it gets so far wrong, I can’t recover.”

      I’ve ordered pre-profiled barrels from some major custom barrel makers, who have spun the pre-profiled barrel on a belt grinder. I wish they wouldn’t do this. Again, I saw dips/sags/ripples/waves/kinks in the barrel profile when you sight down the barrel. I’ve taken almost as much, if not more, time to correct these barrels for a customer as it would have taken if I’d ordered a 1.250″, 28″ long blank and profiled the barrel myself on my manual lathe. It would be easier if they just took the barrel off the CNC lathe and shipped it to me, saying “Here, YOU finish the barrel.” I’d gladly do so. When you have a pre-profiled barrel that has surface deviations, it takes hours to whittle away all the imperfections on a barrel to get down to a round, smooth barrel. It is also smaller than the advertised profile.

      Slapping a barrel on a belt grinder and then bead blasting instead of polishing is a cheap and sleazy way to finish a gun for the civilian market. It’s an execrable finishing technique on arms that aren’t parkerized, an expedient borne of contempt and apathy. I can accept bead blasting (albeit finer bead blasting than most I see) for a parkerized finish, but for a blued finish? Pfah. Here’s the problem: There’s nowhere near as much material to use to recover from finishing errors on a shotgun. Let’s say that most modern gun barrels have walls of about 0.035″ thick. That’s only .005 to .010 available to correct a problem.

    • It doesn’t have to be that expensive.
      I bought a CAI SxS ‘coach gun’ (rabbit ear hammers), 20″bbl, cylinder bore, double trigger, 12 gauge gun for $300 +tax a few years ago. Made in China. But it works, and is a hoot to shoot.
      Of course, it is a Century Arms gun, which means cheap. But it shoots 3″ buck and slugs fine (but with a little recoil 🙂 ).

    • If it wasn’t for Fudds you bullet spraying dickheads wouldn’t even be here so show a little goddamn respect.

      • Yeah, if it were not for Fudds we wouldn’t have f&%$ing gems like the Gun Control Act of 1968, Hughes Ammendment, or the Clinton AWB (that expired thank God). Fudds only care about saving shotguns and broke dick bolt action deer rifles that shoot minute of barn. They would gladly sell the 2A down the river as long as they get to keep “their” guns. So no, we don’t owe your sorry asses any respect.

      • If it weren’t for Fudds we wouldn’t have bullshit like the Gun Control Act of 1968, the Hughes Ammendment, or the now expired Clinton AWB. Fudds would gladly sell out the 2A if it means they get to keep their shotguns and great grandiddy’s broke dick bolt action deer rifle that shoots minute of barn. We don’t owe Fudds anything but contempt for their treachery.

  8. Dyspeptic Gunsmith is an extremely clear writer and thinker. I always enjoyed his comments. Now I also look forward to his posts.

  9. It’s an explanation that I understand – and yet it fills me with no desire to therefore go buy such a shotgun.

    I will do so eventually as I attempt to fill out my Fallout gun collection, but…

    • That’s perfectly fine. They’re not for everyone. There’s no shortage of good semi-auto and pump guns in the market. My favorite semi-auto gun is a Beretta 390. They’re nearly indestructible, with a gas system that is foolishly easy to clean, with only a few parts that are large enough you won’t lose them if you open the gun up in the field. My 390 looks like it has been dropped down a mountainside – because it has been – twice, while hunting chukar. My favorite pump would be a Winchester Model 12, because they feel so solid and slick. The early 870’s are pretty nice too, but not as nice as the high end 12’s.

      I’m just trying to impart information. All I want out of this is more informed gun buyers/users/shooters. I’m not angling for business, hence an anon handle to write this information under, etc. . If you learned something from this, and have utterly no desire to buy a double gun in the future, that’s absolutely all I wanted to accomplish – that you understand more about the type of gun, why they’re priced as they are. In the future, I will write an article of “how to evaluate a double gun before you buy it” for those who might want to buy a double gun.

        • I really don’t understand why Beretta decided to mess with success. The 391 seemed like gilding an already well-done gun. The A400 puzzled me – why? What was the point?

          The guys who really brag on the 390’s are those ranches down in South America where you can shoot hundreds of doves in a day. They swear by 390’s – easy to operate, easy to clean, “client-proof” guns.

  10. The author might understand shotguns, but he doesn’t understand economics, specifically market prices.

    What he’s describing is the cost to produce a shotgun, not the cost to buy one. That cost is entirely set by supply and demand.

    If the production cost of a shotgun was higher than the market price, there would be no market for them, because there’d be no way to sell them at a profit.

    If the production cost was a small fraction of the market cost, they’d be very profitable, and others would enter the market, increasing supply and reducing the market cost. If the list price stayed the same, while market price dropped, supply would sit on shelves and in storerooms taking up space.

    If the list price stayed the same while the market price increased (due to drop in production, or increase in demand), the shelves and storerooms would be empty (like buying bottled water or batteries on the Gulf Coast this week).

    • Actually, I minored in micro-econ in engineering school. Aced every class, despite the mathematical perversion of economics majors for putting their independent variable on the vertical axis of their graphs.

      You lack knowledge of the double gun market. Go do some homework on the market – and you’ll see how many Italian, German and English makers of fine (and I mean FINE) double guns at prices far above the Weatherby or the Turkish gun Dan reviewed which led to my publishing the comment on my blog above. There is a profusion of European companies selling double guns at very nice margins into the US market. I might add, there is no shortage of better semi-auto gun models coming from off-shore as well. If there were only a company with some heft and a distribution network in the US that made a gun of the quality of the mid-range Italian guns ($3000 to $10K), they could be a success.

      Consider just the Italian double gun companies – and especially those who have entered the market in the last 20 years. Caesar Guerini, for one example, was started from the ground up in 2002. You’d think from the prices that they’re asking ($3500 and well up), there wouldn’t be enough demand to start a whole new company making a product in a market already quite well served at those prices, and have sales and support so well established as they have in the US market. But they’re now making a dent in this market – while no one else from Italy is dropping out of this market, I might add. C-G’s guns have some interesting features that make them very attractive

      Here’s what too many American shooters today are stubborn to admit: There is a market for finer guns than the crap being shipped to Walmart. This might not be a market you wish to sink your money into, but it is there, just as there is a market for high-end European automobiles in the $100K+ range. American gun companies could have had this market – and in fact, American gun companies used to have serious and competently made guns in this market. I’ll give you but one example: The Remington Model 32. I could give you another example in the Winchester Model 21 SxS,( “the gun that saved Winchester”), but that’s a whole story in and of itself beyond this response.

      Most of you have never heard of the Model 32. It was an O/U gun – and available in a plain finish to nicely embellished. Here’s a plain-jane version:

      http://www.nramuseum.org/the-museum/the-galleries/firearms-traditions-for-today/case-70-shooting-for-gold-modern-olympic-competitive-shooting/remington-model-32-over-under-shotgun.aspx

      The Model 32 came out in 1932 – just when the Winchester Model 21 came into the market. The Model 32 had some unique engineering advantages, and it is a very competently designed action. The Browning Superposed was already in this market, having been introduced in 1931.

      Even during the depths of the Great Depression, Remington sold thousands (total) between ’32 and ’40/’41, when the American gun industry had to convert over to making war armaments. After that, Remington let the Model 32 go unloved for some time, then they sold the rights to a Dupont fella, who then pitched it at Krieghoff in a Marshall Plan deal to give the Germans something to make to help get their economy going again.

      Krieghoff re-marked the gun as the K32, and improved the quality on an already good quality gun. Krieghoff started making a dent in the double gun market with the K32, with a rep for quality, fit, finish and support.

      Remington thought they had let this go on too long, and in 1973, they brought back an improved/COGS-reduced version, the 3200. From 1973 to 1981 (if memory serves) Remington sold thousands of the 3200. It was a solid gun, if a bit plain in finish. Remington seems to take one path in their gun manufacturing – down, down, down. They always think “How can we make this more cheaply, and make it look more cheap and low-rent?” Even with an existing design, for which they need pay nothing and no patent or IP rights, because they originally owned the original design, Remington cannot conceive of how to make a gun that doesn’t look cheaper over time. Look at the recent debacle of the R51 pistol. Remington owned this design, from the get-go. As originally made in the 1920’s, it was a well-made, well regarded pistol. All Remington had to do was produce the original Model 51 design in 9×19, and they could have had a winner. The Model 51 is a slim, quick-pointing, a safe, reliable design with fewer parts than most semi-autos of 80+ years ago, reliable (and proven so by US War Department testing to replace the 1911 back in the 1920’s). What did Remington do? They made the R51 design cheaper, and as a result, flawed, – and a potentially profitable CCW pistol product utterly failed.

      Back to shotguns. The Model 32/3200 was a good design, and shotgunners knew it. Today, you can see Model 32’s for sale, holding a nice value (especially for the embellished models). .

      Today, the Model 32 design has been updated and refined, often nicely embellished and sold as the Krieghoff K80
      – at about $8K on up per gun. Most models I see are sporting price tags over $10K. Look around the top level competitors in trap, skeet, international/Olympic competitions, and you’ll see a profusion of K80’s. Why? Because they’re damn reliable. Why? Because Krieghoff puts Teutonic obsession into the quality of their steel, and they don’t take shortcuts. They’re one of the only double gun makers out there where you can own a K80, order a new set of barrels, and the new barrels will hang on your receiver and be on-face without any intervention from a gunsmith. The K80’s competition in the top-level competition market? The Perazzi – also starting at the $8K+ level.

      What happened to Remington and the 3200? They got caught between their declining quality and their “lifetime warranty” – warranty claims outstripped their ability to make a profit, and the product was ended.

      There are Italian companies coming into the US shotgun market with new models all the time, and there are even new companies coming into the higher-end US shotgun market with product. I’m talking semi-autos that start at $2K and go up, double guns that start at $5K and go up. The money is there. American business management (modulo Tony Galazan, and a few makers of top-drawer American guns like Kolar, Ljutic, etc) seems destined to just watch all that money go off-shore – much like American auto manufactures cannot seem to comprehend that there is a market for high-end performance sedans with uncompromising quality that will sell for over $100K.

      Here’s a list of high-end double gun makers from Europe, just off the top of my head. This is NOT an exhaustive list, and it also doesn’t include the British “best gun” outfits, who make sporting guns that go for $50K+. I’m talking of outfits that make guns in the $3K to $15K range:

      Perazzi, Caasar-Guerini, Zoli, Rizzini, Salvinelli, Beretta, Fabarms (all from Italy), then Merkel, Blaser, Krieghoff (Germany). I heard that someone is trying to restart the Darne’ gun manufacturing from France. Verney Carron makes higher-end double guns in France, as well as double rifles.

      Want to jump up the price to $50K+? OK, then we have Perugini & Visini, Grulla, Fabbri – all from Italy, and a half-dozen more from the UK. Beretta makes very fine guns in this price range too. Oh, and Costi. Oh, what a marvel of mechanical trinket is the Cosmi – a semi-auto that opens like a break-action shotgun. The one I’ve handled just makes me marvel at the design.

      Remington and Winchester could have owned a huge chunk of this market. Blinkered American management thinking is why they don’t. The 3200 didn’t have the quality to survive the demands of competitive shooters, and neither does the Winchester Model 101. Browning, an American brand, has been marketing O/U guns from the Superpose through the Citori for decades at good $2K+ prices – even tho the guns were made off-shore the whole time. The Citori has been a good entry-level competition gun, but it occasionally needs attention. What $5K+ buys you is a shotgun through which you can shoot 25K to 100K rounds/year, get it serviced and checked, and then be back out on the competition circuit for the next year.

      The money is there in the market. There’s actually quite a bit of money in this market – and it is being hauled out of the country by the companies that are serving that market. I, being an economic nationalist, am furious at the stupidity and sloth of large American gun makers in turning up their nose at the fine(r) gun market.

      • Any thoughts on a decent O/U gun for under $1,000? Or if none, under $1,500?

        I am not much of a shotgunner but am called upon a few times a year to bust clays and kill pheasants, and would like to have my own gun for this rather than being stuck with a beat-up loaner (the loaners generally started life as very nice Berettas, but have had troubled and abusive lives).

        • Not much worth owning at $1500 unless you buy a clean used Citori or 680 series Beretta. However, if you have $1700-$1800 you can pick up a brand new Citori Crossover—a great gun that is one of the best values and most versatile shotguns on the market today. I’ve seen them at Sportsman’s Warehouse and Etchen Guns in that price range so you might want to check with them for specifics.

        • I also hope that Dyspeptic Gunsmith comes along to comment, but for 1.5K, the Browning Citori is a fairly decent gun for what you’re looking at (the amount of shooting and uses). If my conversion rates are correct, it should be slightly under 1.5K. Only downside is the weight, which will be great for the clays and not so much for the pheasants.

        • Well, here’s a recommendation that comes out of my own use:

          The Browning Liege.

          Produced from ’73 to ’75 or ’76, it was the last of the Browning O/U’s made in Belgium. It is very plain compared to the Superposed product. They’re a fixed-choke, mechanical trigger gun, with an integrated barrel selector/safety, with no to limited embellishment, starting in the used market for about $700, going up to $1500 or so.

          I have a very plain Liege with 28″ tubes. I was able to obtain several extra barrel sets for it for a very reasonable price (by knowing other gunsmiths), and have fit it them up. I now need to build a nice case for the gun and the extra barrel sets. It busts clays for me quite well.

          Find one with modified/full choking on the barrels and you’re off to the races. About the only change I might recommend is to smooth out the forcing cones. Make sure the ribs are tight and the barrels are on-face before you buy it, and you should have a solid gun that will last many, many thousands of rounds for a very reasonable price. These guns don’t have much following because they’re sort of an “orphan” – with low embellishment, and therefore not much interest from collectors. There are still some parts available from Numrich and Browning, but they’re well enough made that you shouldn’t need much in the way of parts. I’ve never needed additional parts on mine.

          I like mine – and I have plenty of shotguns from which to choose when I go to a range, whether semi-auto, pump, SxS or O/U. The Liege works for me and works well. About the only gunsmithing attention I’ve given to it was to mount a new, softer/longer recoil pad on the stock. I’ve pumped as much as 500+ rounds in a day through mine, and it never misses a beat. Should it ever need gunsmith attention, it’s a very straightforward gun to work on. Reasons why I like it:

          – mechanical triggers
          – no auto-setting safety
          – very straightforward to work on
          – ejector gun (you can disable the ejectors to be lifters only)
          – nice walnut, but not really high-end wood
          – all steel construction

        • I’ll jump in here:
          Referring to the article that started this mess, the Steven’s is a decent choice for someone wanting a bargain O/U, as are the Yildiz shotties sold by Academy.
          Oh, sure. They’ll loosen up after a few tens of thousands of high-brass loads thanks to their aluminum receivers, but it sounds like you’ll never put hotter loads than some 2-3/4 field loads through it; never mind tens of thousands.
          Oh, and DGS… what are your thoughts on the cheap Spanish made doubles imported here back in the 50s and 60s? My only shotgun is a 20ga s/s that was given to me. Engraving is amateurish and the safety doesn’t work, but it has a certain charm about it… now if only I could hit a crossing clay I’ll be ready to try my hand at a dove or two.

        • The “Spanish” double guns range in quality all over the place – from the very, well, shoddy, to the exceedingly well made.

          Let’s back up a moment, and give credit where credit is due: Most of the “Spanish” gunmakers aren’t Spanish – they’re Basque. I’m reminded of this from time to time by local gun owners here in Wyoming, some of whom are Basque from the Spanish Basque country.

          Today, there are a couple of Basque gunmakers who still hand-make their guns – much the way the Brits used to. Some of the Basque guns are designs lifted directly from English gun designs – eg, most of the side-lock guns are using a H&H interrupting sear design in their locks. Some of the boxlock guns are using barely-modified Birmingham boxlock designs.

          Without seeing the gun in question, I can’t say much more than this right now. A good book to read is:

          “Spanish Best: The Fine Shotguns of Spain,” by Terry Wieland, (c) 1995. Wieland covers most of the Basque country gunmakers in this book, and shows some of their craftsmanship.

          My basic thought about Basque guns is this: Purchased well, by an informed shotgun buyer, they can be a real bargain for what you’re getting.

      • Dyspeptic Gunsmith;
        You are so patient. Don’t you get frustrated with the incredible amount of ignorance and arrogance displayed by so many these days? It often seems to me as if people are too blind to see their own noses, and yet tell me I’m the blind one because they can score a whitetail’s antlers from three miles away… or at least claim that they do.
        I’m kind of glad that here, north of you next to the Canada border, I get way more basic argimachining tasks than I do gunsmithing. When it comes to guns, even most of the gun people are so prejudiced, so set on maintaining the ignorance and making the same mistakes over and over, that I’m just as happy making parts for old tractors and harvesters. At least a farmer doesn’t think he’s qualified to tell the machinist how to turn out a part.

        • “At least a farmer doesn’t think he’s qualified to tell the machinist how to turn out a part.”

          Along with being an engineer and a gunsmith, DG was also a farmer for a number of years.

          Along with currently being a volunteer fireman and EMT.

          DG is just plain handy to have around in general…

        • Me also. I have cows in order to have good quality meat for myself. I sell my excess to a market back east that sells to high end restaurants for big money. Lots of us in the west do many things. The population density is so low that being a jack-of-all-trades is almost a requirement.
          Still farmer/machinist is a fairly unusual combination. Here in Montana farmer/rancher is pretty common.

  11. I have 2 over/under 12 gauge shotguns.
    An antonio zoli with 2 triggers, and a benelli with a single trigger.
    They are works of art, beautiful wood and engraving. Probably the best part is the light weight. Easy to swing for clays and birds.
    I wouldnt get rid of them for anything.

    • I have a funny story about Zoli shotguns.

      It’s back in 2011, at the SCI show in Reno, NV. At the SCI show, there are quite a number of “nice gun” makers being represented, with booths showing off their wares. There are high-end bespoke gunmakers there as well. Holland & Holland and Purdey are there from the UK, and Merkel and Krieghoff are there from Germany.

      Anyway, I’m hanging out around the booth of a German bespoke gun maker who was bad-mouthing American gun buyers auf Deutsche. They were somewhat ignorant that German is the third most-spoken language in the US. I was getting annoyed with their crap and about to say something (auf Deutsche) when my wife comes up to me, grabs my arm and says “There’s someone who makes shotguns who you must meet. Come with me, please. Now.” I get dragged away from the German pecksniffs and down an aisle to… Zoli shotguns. I’d never heard of Zoli shotguns before. There, in the booth, is Mr. Paolo Zoli, this gentleman:

      http://www.zoliusa.com/contacts/mr-zoli-welcomes-you/

      As it turns out, Zoli guns are made in Italy, on modern CNC equipment (some of the CNC equipment is German), to very nice levels of production, fit and finish. Mr. Paolo Zoli, had taken the time to explain his company, his products, and what set them apart to my wife, who isn’t much of a gun gal. My wife is around guns all the time because of me, knows how to shoot pretty well, but guns are not a passion for her. For all that, my wife found it remarkable that the head of a gun company would know so much about the details of how his products are made when so many American CEO’s don’t know their ass from a warm rock about how their products are made. Mr. Zoli was also quite the charmer, took time to speak at length to my wife about his products, even tho she made it clear she isn’t his sort of target customer. No matter, Mr. Zoli was charming, gracious, flawlessly polite in a very Old World way, and this resulted in my wife coming back to haul me over to his booth – partly to see the obvious quality, fit & finish of the guns, partly to meet such an engaging and informed gentleman.

      Mr. Zoli embodies the sort of leadership a gun company CEO should have – a person with a passion for guns, a passion and enthusiasm for quality, who knows the smallest details of what sets his product apart from the competition, knows the prices/features/etc of all of his guns and products. Oh, and he’s Italian, and very charming (not just to, but especially to ladies), even in broken & accented English. He gave generously of his time, and even when I forthrightly told him I was a gunsmith, he was happy to discuss technical details of how his company made shotguns and solved manufacturing issues for nearly an hour, whereas most gun company execs shut up and some even turn away from me in these shows when I tell them I’m a gunsmith. Not Mr. Zoli – he was thrilled to show off even small details his company worked to get correct on their guns to me and my wife.

      This is a counter-example of why American gun companies fail in this market – most American gun company CEO’s are financial types, who don’t know actual jack about guns. Oh, they try to tell you that they’re “gun guys,” but they’re not. To them, guns are just some other manufactured product, churned out to make a profit margin. It wouldn’t matter if they’re making fidget spinners, lawnmower engines or p-traps for a sink. It’s all the same to them. The last large American gun company CEO who really knew anything about guns was Bill Ruger.

      • Thank you for sharing this. He sounds like a very nice guy.
        The zoli was a gift from my father in law and now im even happier that i have one.
        It is truly a work of art and the lock up it tight

      • In agreement 100%. That is one of the real problems with today’s amerika. Its not just in firearms either. Almost none of the bean counters in charge know anything about the products they make. Most don’t even understand production or engineering problems. I doubt if most of them know a bearing from a housing. Only how to turn a short term profit this quarter. Even if it destroys their business down the road, they are too short sighted to even notice, let alone care.

  12. Never owned or even shot a SxS or O/U, so I’m not intimately familiar with their construction or “anatomy”. Learned a lot from the article.

    Next question: How can Stoeger make them so cheaply? Or are they complete crap? Because I’ve never heard that. I’m sure you get what you pay for but if I’ve been thinking of getting into trap shooting and starting with a Stoeger combo.

    • My friend bought a stoeger sxs a couple years ago. It lasted about 4 months before it started firing both barrels at the same time. He sent it back and they sent him a new one. Catastrophic failure of the trigger assembly.
      Probably just got a bad one, as the new one works very well.

    • Stoeger guns are meant for very light duty shooting. They’re not made to the level required to shoot thousands of rounds per year, their finish is rudimentary, and their fit-up is… inconsistent.

      • Thank you… I had the same question as Blammo. My 14 year old budding trap shooter (which I never was – grew up long before it became a high school sport) tried out a Stoeger O/U and really liked it. You just saved us the trouble, and likely money to boot.

        Enjoyed the article very much, learned something new, and your detailed replies to comments have made this the best thread to read in months. Thanks again, and well done!

      • My father and I have used two Stoeger coach guns for years in SASS shoots. They’re far from nice bird/clay guns, but they’ve handled thousands of light cowboy loads. We did some light improvements (polished the bores, smoothed out the triggers, disconnected the auto-safety, etc) and they’re much cleaner to shoot now.

        As a budget gun, I’ve been impressed so far.

        • And that’s exactly what they are. Good, affordable everyman budget guns. And they don’t pretend to be anything else.

          Remember, Beretta -> Benelli -> Franchi -> Stoeger. All four brands owned by Fabbrica d’Armi Pietro Beretta.

  13. I cannot take credit for the entirety of that article above – Dan Z. added very pertinent illustrations without needing any prompting from yours truly. The cut-away of the action/receiver is very instructive for people to study – when you open the barrels on a double gun with ejectors, you get a better appreciation as to what is happening if you study that cut-away picture.

  14. Articles like this are not only extremely valuable, but highlight the shittiness of the clickbait dregs that TTAG normally trots out. Honestly, the contrast of this article’s quality with normal TTAG content is blinding

  15. Well reasoned but one big question still lingers . . .

    Why does the price jump when you go from sxs to over under?

    • Could you please give examples of what you mean?

      As a general observation: SxS guns aren’t but a fraction of the new production double-barreled guns today, so part of this could be supply/demand. eg, look at Beretta’s recent SxS gun – the 486 – starts at a list price of $5300. Their older product in this space, the 626, started in the $1900 and up range. Beretta has a higher-end SxS in the $60K range as well.

      If we want to get down to differences between the gun designs, I’d say this: There are many O/U guns that are being designed for the clay sports markets, especially trap/skeet/clays. These shooters can shoot 10’s of thousands of rounds a year, even in fairly casual competition. The higher end shooters might rack up nearly or over 100K shells per year.

      Many SxS guns have a simpler lockup system than the current O/U’s, and the SxS guns are usually not designed to take the level of use that the higher-end O/U’s of today are designed to take. Some of the recent O/U designs are hell for strong, and their locking systems are designed to “wear in” and stay tight and on-face as they wear. Some O/U guns now have wickedly fast lock times, whereas the SxS guns are using pretty classic lockwork.

      There’s one more issue between the SxS gun market and the O/U – the forearm. Many SxS guns which are sold as sporting (hunting) guns will have not much wood in the forearm. When you start trying to shoot clay games with a splinter foreend, you’ll find out very quickly that a shotgun barrel can get very, very warm – warm enough to give you a partial thickness burn, with tidy blisters. In order to avoid this, you need to order a SxS gun with a “beavertail” foreend, which isn’t common any more. If you look at SxS trap guns of 50+ years ago, you see beavertail foreends are pretty common. When I’m shooting my antique SxS guns in trap competition, I usually have a TIG welding glove on my left hand to prevent burns.

      The O/U clay guns of today will have a wrap-around wood, which does a much better job of protecting your hand. They’ll often have chrome-lined barrels, with back-boring, long forcing cones and interchangeable chokes. The SxS guns will often be much more classic – no chrome bore, no back-boring, no screw-in chokes, older lockwork designs, etc.

  16. DP,

    Not only a very fine article, but your expansive and clarifying comments, done with more politeness than some would show (and not just on this page, but on many others), reveal you to be a gentleman, and a very good teacher.

    Thanks for this article, and I hope to read more from you as you have time and inclination.

    Kurt

  17. Mr. DG, thank you for the information and explanations.

    It seems to me there is a hole in the price-quality continuum, between the $650 Stoeger or Savage/Stevens and the $1,800+ entry level Browning or Beretta. I mean, you could make a Stoeger with harder material that would last longer than a few hundred rounds, double the price and still be well under the competition.

  18. Dyspeptic Gunsmith, I concur with the majority of comments here: you make your vast firearm knowledge so accessible, and I appreciate that. No matter the issue or topic, I search out your response in the comment section because it reeks of sensibility and “been there, done that; but I won’t rub it in”. If I didn’t already love the work I do, I’d run out to Utah and work for you.

  19. Dear Dyspetic: Thank you so much for this excellent article (and your follow-up posts)! I’ve always known that double shotguns are a lot more complicated under the hood than their tidy outside appearance lets on, but you explained it all in a way that really makes it understandable to a non-gunsmith. Bless you, sir!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *