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Some background: Started shooting handguns about 10 years ago. Past 2 years have gone on a few pheasant and duck hunts with my brother using borrowed gun. Plan to hunt more and do sporting clays. I am at a place in life where cost is not the deciding factor.
When I started out shooting handguns, I bought low end and learned how to shoot well before buying nice guns with better triggers. I would sometimes get comments about my High Point 45, but they quickly shut up when I out shot them.

Shotgun and clays, I am going to need a lot of time on the range and probably some good instruction to find out what I am doing wrong. I don't want to be that guy that shows up with a beautiful gun that everyone admires and then can't hit squat. I would rather have the beater or the cheap import and learn to outshoot it before moving on. This will be my first shotgun that I will use for clays and hunting. I am sure it will not be my last, after I start to know what I am doing

So with that background, what 12 gauge OU in the sub $1k range would you recommend? I have seen some tristar for sale that look nice. I have a number of CZ handguns and like the brand. Mossberg? As for features, I am right handed and I like extractors over ejectors so I don't need to hunt hulls in the field.
 

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CZ does NOT make their branded shotguns - just so you are aware of that. That said under $1K (which is really cheap for an O/U) their Huglu-made guns should suffice for light to somewhat moderate usage; you won't get your money back when you upgrade down the road, but you could keep it as a loaner
 

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0. Radical Suggestion: Show up at your club with NO shotgun on a busy weekend. Bring eye and ear protection and perhaps a couple-three boxes of 12 gauge target loads.
If your club is like mine, there is a bulletin board of gear that fellas who know how to shoot well are selling off. A good used shotgun holds it's value for the purchaser. Plus, you know that it functions. Most failures or defects occur or are within the first 100 rounds. You simply can not go wrong with a used Beretta or Browning or Fabarms over and under. You may find one in the $1200 range, and in a few years, you can sell it for $1200 (or more.) If it fits you and it's working now, it will be working thousands of rounds later or more. And there are many many gunsmiths that can rebuild them every 10,000 rounds or so. There are guys that shoot 200 rounds per weekend, week after week for a year.

1. Shotguns have no rear sight. Shotgun fit is crucial. As crucial as boot fit before a long hike. The salesman at the big box store won't help you one bit. Ask a club member where they go for shotgun gunsmithing or who can help you find a gun that fits. You'll likely find some old codgers who will talk your ear off and let you shoulder some really nice guns so you can feel the difference.

2. CZ makes fantastic pistols and world class rifles. Their shotguns are cheap imports from Turkey with excellent customer service which many many people have made use of. That's not a good thing and they sully CZ's good name. Did I just buy one? Yes. It's for hunting and I like to tinker with firearms and can gunsmith it, mostly, myself. If the barrels don't regulate, I can't fix that. I need to pattern mine, I have already started trigger work on mine, It will NEVER be as smooth as my Fabarms (they are the low end brand of Cesar Guirini.. which are in the spooky expensive category) or a Beretta or Browning. My CZ .22 rifle won't let me put the shotgun in the same gun safe with it.

3. Mossberg makes solid low-end shotguns. To say they are the Hi-Points of the shotgun world is a little harsh but the comparison is their pump action shotguns are inexpensive and will always go "boom", but spending more money if you can is the way to go. In terms of their over and under shotguns, they are cheap imports from Turkey. CZ has a longer warranty and unlike their Mossberg's pump guns, their over and under are not dead-nuts famous for reliability.

4. Tristar. Again... cheap imports from Turkey. Their reputation for service is, like CZUSA, really good. Their semi-auto shotgun the Tristar Viper G2 is a best-value inexpensive shotgun based on an improved modification of Benelli's semiauto design which recently had the patent expire on. The price is good, good reputation, and they will need a trigger job right out of the box. Over and under? Like CZ, you're much better off with a used Beretta, Browning or Fabarm.

5. Extractor vs. Ejector: it's not a big deal. You put your palm over the breech as it opens and the ejectors pop them into your hand. A gunsmith can convert to extractor but for me it's not a deal breaker. If it comes that way, fine. I would not pay 4 boxes of ammo to have a shotgun converted though. I deal with either fashion.

My strongest advice to any serious shooter getting into shotguns is show up at the club for a weekend or maybe two before buying a shotgun. Ask the guys that seem to be in charge, let them know you want to start off on the right foot. Ask if they know of any solid used guns for sale. Ask who they use for their own shotgun gunsmithing.

Just my opinion, of course.
 

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I have no vested interest in the gun or the seller but the following looks like a real solid deal. Unfortunately for you OP, you don't have enough posts to reach out and buy this one but it gives you a reference for others like it. Despite that all the "cool kids" use O/U, there is nothing wrong with a good semi auto for your use. Use the money you save to buy ammo!

 

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Just a thought … as others have said, avoid “bargain basement” O/U’s. If for no other reason, consider this … if buy a good used gun (and I’d say the 686/725 sporter is a good starting point) at a good price, you will have a nice gun to learn the game with and you will always be able to sell it for very close to what you paid for it. If you buy a crummy shotgun and decide to move up (or on), nobody is going to want it unless you are giving it away. Again, just something to consider.
 

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0. Radical Suggestion: Show up at your club with NO shotgun on a busy weekend. Bring eye and ear protection and perhaps a couple-three boxes of 12 gauge target loads.
If your club is like mine, there is a bulletin board of gear that fellas who know how to shoot well are selling off. A good used shotgun holds it's value for the purchaser. Plus, you know that it functions. Most failures or defects occur or are within the first 100 rounds. You simply can not go wrong with a used Beretta or Browning or Fabarms over and under. You may find one in the $1200 range, and in a few years, you can sell it for $1200 (or more.) If it fits you and it's working now, it will be working thousands of rounds later or more. And there are many many gunsmiths that can rebuild them every 10,000 rounds or so. There are guys that shoot 200 rounds per weekend, week after week for a year.

1. Shotguns have no rear sight. Shotgun fit is crucial. As crucial as boot fit before a long hike. The salesman at the big box store won't help you one bit. Ask a club member where they go for shotgun gunsmithing or who can help you find a gun that fits. You'll likely find some old codgers who will talk your ear off and let you shoulder some really nice guns so you can feel the difference.

2. CZ makes fantastic pistols and world class rifles. Their shotguns are cheap imports from Turkey with excellent customer service which many many people have made use of. That's not a good thing and they sully CZ's good name. Did I just buy one? Yes. It's for hunting and I like to tinker with firearms and can gunsmith it, mostly, myself. If the barrels don't regulate, I can't fix that. I need to pattern mine, I have already started trigger work on mine, It will NEVER be as smooth as my Fabarms (they are the low end brand of Cesar Guirini.. which are in the spooky expensive category) or a Beretta or Browning. My CZ .22 rifle won't let me put the shotgun in the same gun safe with it.

3. Mossberg makes solid low-end shotguns. To say they are the Hi-Points of the shotgun world is a little harsh but the comparison is their pump action shotguns are inexpensive and will always go "boom", but spending more money if you can is the way to go. In terms of their over and under shotguns, they are cheap imports from Turkey. CZ has a longer warranty and unlike their Mossberg's pump guns, their over and under are not dead-nuts famous for reliability.

4. Tristar. Again... cheap imports from Turkey. Their reputation for service is, like CZUSA, really good. Their semi-auto shotgun the Tristar Viper G2 is a best-value inexpensive shotgun based on an improved modification of Benelli's semiauto design which recently had the patent expire on. The price is good, good reputation, and they will need a trigger job right out of the box. Over and under? Like CZ, you're much better off with a used Beretta, Browning or Fabarm.

5. Extractor vs. Ejector: it's not a big deal. You put your palm over the breech as it opens and the ejectors pop them into your hand. A gunsmith can convert to extractor but for me it's not a deal breaker. If it comes that way, fine. I would not pay 4 boxes of ammo to have a shotgun converted though. I deal with either fashion.

My strongest advice to any serious shooter getting into shotguns is show up at the club for a weekend or maybe two before buying a shotgun. Ask the guys that seem to be in charge, let them know you want to start off on the right foot. Ask if they know of any solid used guns for sale. Ask who they use for their own shotgun gunsmithing.

Just my opinion, of course.
Make that a flat of shells, shoot one and give the gun owner a second as a thank you
 

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My advise would be to avoid a sub $1000 O/U shotgun altogether and look for something like an $750 Beretta A300 Ultima.
Yup, great advice, except I would spend twice as much and get the Beretta A400.

I would also make it a 20-ga but I know I won't convince you to do that. :)
 

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I'm not one to talk, as my approach has been somewhat along the lines you have laid out, because I shoot clays only to get better for hunting season. OK, and I'm inherently kinda cheap.

For YOU, I strongly agree with the advice to get a Browning or Beretta (whichever fits you best). Think of either of those as the Ford or Chevy pickup of the clays shotgun world. If you show up with one at a club, nobody is going to notice. You can still sneak up on them when you've gotten some practice. ;)

One other idea is to consider renting a gun at the club. Most have some available, and if they have a Browning or Beretta, you can get a first hand idea of how they shoot for you.
 

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Buy a used, older Citori. It shouldn't be much more than $1k but will be a lot more of a gun that a $1k Tristar. Money spent on a used Browning isn't gone like eating a cheeseburger. It's like money in the bank that pays dividends. Quality, used guns are almost as liquid as cash and, if anarchy breaks out because our President and his voters are duh masses, then a quality gun is worth more than cash...
 

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The 2021 State Champion for 28 gauge started shooting competitions with a Stoeger shotgun. When he finally sold it he claims it was loose enough to shoot around corners. After the Stoeger he purchased a used 1992 Beretta 686 S with a Carrier Barrel and Briley tubes. It worked well but the 410 bottom tube is an issue, it's regulation is a bit off. So he purchased a CZ Redhead Premier and last year a Redhead Target. I sold him my 410 and 28 gauge tubes and last summer he started shooting straights, lots of straights. Over 3 weekends I watched him shoot a total of 9 straights with the 410.

Point is that in the hands of a good shooter a cheap gun that Fits can make those shooting a K-80 look like someone who needs more lessons. In addition CZ shotguns provide an excellent value for the money spent and they typically have much prettier wood than a base level Beretta 686.
 

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The 2021 State Champion for 28 gauge started shooting competitions with a Stoeger shotgun. When he finally sold it he claims it was loose enough to shoot around corners. After the Stoeger he purchased a used 1992 Beretta 686 S with a Carrier Barrel and Briley tubes. It worked well but the 410 bottom tube is an issue, it's regulation is a bit off. So he purchased a CZ Redhead Premier and last year a Redhead Target. I sold him my 410 and 28 gauge tubes and last summer he started shooting straights, lots of straights. Over 3 weekends I watched him shoot a total of 9 straights with the 410.

Point is that in the hands of a good shooter a cheap gun that Fits can make those shooting a K-80 look like someone who needs more lessons. In addition CZ shotguns provide an excellent value for the money spent and they typically have much prettier wood than a base level Beretta 686.
Yes, an expert can overcome poor equipment while us intermediates will progress much more quickly if not struggling with our gear.
 
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Actually I was thinking I would get a 20 gauge but then all of the sporting clay articles were pointing to 12.
A 20 ga works just fine for sporting. Where I find it lacking is when shooting steel shot for big ducks and geese. You can always buy more expensive shotgun shells, than steel shot, to make your 20 ga more effective with non-toxic shot.
 

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Actually I was thinking I would get a 20 gauge but then all of the sporting clay articles were pointing to 12.
If you trying to win shoots (not class, shoots) then by all means get a 12-ga. But you are just trying to learn and have fun. You will have a lot more fun, and probably learn to shoot accurately faster, if you keep recoil to a minimum, and the best way to do that is to shoot a 20-ga gas auto. No having to search for light 12-ga loads, and if you want to reload get a magnet on a stick for picking up your 20-ga empties. The standard 7/8 oz 20-ga load is plenty for any clay target.

IF you can shoot!

One of my kids' dad decided he wanted to learn to shoot, so I had him get a 20-ga A400 with a 30" bbl (the kids shoot the same with shorter barrels). He has been working hard at getting better. You should have seen him whacking bunker trap targets with it last night. Hardest clays game in the world and he was crushing a lot of them. If he keeps practicing (and listens to his coach ;) ) he will keep hitting more and more. He's also doing great on skeet and sporting.

You don't need to throw an ounce or more of shot out there right now, you need to learn how to shoot, and the best way to do that is with gas-20. Just put in a Mod choke, never change it and go learn to shoot!

And once you know how to shoot, an ounce of bismuth is all you need to whack ducks out of the sky DIA. 1-1/4 ounce is more than enough. It is easy enough to find those in 20-ga.

A400's are cheap compared to most of the O/U's you will see in a walk-through, and in a couple of years when and if you are ready to move up to a CG or Perazzi or something you will have a great backup and rainy day gun.
 
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