There's a raging debate about which shotgun is best for game hunting or home defense. Hunters argue about gun affordability and reliability in smoke-filled cabins. Competitive shooters draw lines about gun durability or performance. And gun enthusiasts and collectors are always looking for new, innovative models.

But the truth is: many shotguns are reliable, durable, innovative, and budget-friendly. When we sat down to discuss which double-barrel shotguns would make our list, the conversations got fierce. There were simply too many amazing guns to adequately condense down. So, we had to narrow the list. We decided to make a list of the top 5 best double-barrel shotguns.

It wasn't easy. We left out classic examples like the Stoeger Coach Gun simply due to barrel requirements. Other must-haves like the Smith & Wesson M&P12 also failed to meet our relatively stringent criteria.

Finally, we settled on five. Trust us; it wasn't easy. In the end, we made sure each gun on our list was budget-friendly. Otherwise, we would have a list stuffed with brand-new, $5,000 models and hyper-expensive classics. These are guns you can go out and buy before your next hunting trip; not fantasies.

Here are the 5 best (and cheap!) double-barrel shotguns you can buy today.

Top 5 Best and Affordable Double-barrel Shotguns

Best Overall
Our Score 9.6 Out of 10
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Best Mid Range
Our Score 9.2 Out of 10
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Cheaper Choice
Our Score 8.7 Out of 10
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Our Score 8.3 Out of 10
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Our Score 7.9 Out of 10
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Franchi Instinct L (Best Overall)

Our Score 9.5 out of 10
FRANCHI - INSTINCT L 20/28 28IN 20 GAUGE BLUE 2RD
FRANCHI - INSTINCT L 20/28 28IN 20 GAUGE BLUE 2RD brownells.com Check price

The Franchi Instinct L features an all-steel, extra-strong color-case receiver with the name ‘Instinct L’ engraved in gold on the right side. The distinctive receiver includes a tang-mounted automa...

Let’s start by saying this: the Franchi Instinct L isn’t the best 12-gauge double-barrel shotgun to ever exist. It’s not even the best over-under. But when push-comes-to-shove, this shotgun just does everything right. Let’s start with the looks. The Instinct L features a charming A-grade satin walnut stock that fits perfectly with the beautiful color case hardened receive. The blued gloss 28-inch vented barrels give the gun a total length of around 45 inches.

The trigger is gold-plated and single-selective. So, you’ll have to pull twice to shoot both barrels. You can change the firing order via a barrel selector switch, which thankfully doesn’t reset after each use. While the trigger is driven mechanically (as are many in this price range), it has a good firm pull, and it won’t leave you aching for a replacement anytime soon.

This gun comes with a fiber-optics red dot sight, but we highly recommend upgrading to an optics sight at some point.

Overall, this gun is made of durable, high-quality steel, easy-to-use, affordable, and incredibly ergonomic.

Pros
  • Perfect value for the price
  • Stylish, solid design
  • Lightweight and easy to wield
  • Fiber-optics sight included
  • Fantastic firing mechanism and trigger
Cons
  • Some people don’t like single-selective triggers
  • No fancy features
  • Only available in 12-gauge

828 Field U Shotgun (Best “High-end” Option)

Our Score 9.2 out of 10
BENELLI U.S.A. - 828U FIELD 28IN 12 GAUGE BLUE 2RD
BENELLI U.S.A. - 828U FIELD 28IN 12 GAUGE BLUE 2RD brownells.com Check price

The 828U Over & Under Shotgun kept the feel of a Benelli but rethought the way an over & under operates. This modernized take on a classic over & under introduces new innovations to improve reliabi...

The 828 U is, in our humble opinion, the single best lightweight 12-gauge on the market that’s moderately priced — which makes it a favorite of waterfowlers and game hunters. You can carry this shotgun on your back for hours without strain. The overall build is quite simple. You get a wooden barrel with fish-scale laser-cut panels and a blued gloss barrel. The receiver is relatively “fancy,” with engraved nickel floral patterns cut throughout. But, at its core, this is a shotgun driven by mechanics, not materials.

The single-selective trigger is driven by inertia, which makes it a little easier to use than the Fanchi Instinct L and SL. Every spring, hinge, and block was carefully designed to produce accurate and powerful shots without adding unnecessary weight to the gun. We won’t dive too deep into the mechanical underpinnings of this gun (there’s a great breakdown on NRA), but it’s important to remember that this is a purely functional shotgun. And it is certainly the most mechanically gifted member of this list.

Pros
  • Well-engineered
  • Near-perfect trigger
  • Incredibly lightweight
  • Beautiful finish
  • Insanely accurat
Cons
  • Price

Stoeger Condor Outback Shotgun (Best Budget Option)

Our Score 8.6 out of 10
STOEGER IND - CONDOR 12 GAUGE MATTE
STOEGER IND - CONDOR 12 GAUGE MATTE brownells.com Check price

The standard Condor Field shotgun is an elegant over and under at an affordable price. Choose a 12, 20, or 28 gauge or .410 bore.
Blued receiver with high-polish finish
Machine-turned, monobloc sid...

When it comes to price-for-function, nothing beats a Stoeger Condor. These budget-friendly shotguns are stripped of fancy features and expensive materials, and they deliver a powerful punch at an eye-catching price. Out of the box, you’ll find a gun with a beautiful matt black stock, and simple, machine-turned 28-inch barrels. While this gun has a very tactical appearance, it’s a quite functional hunting gun—though it may not look the part.

There is some minor jeweling on the side, but it’s nothing to write home about. The biggest pro of this gun is the price. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this shotgun, which, at this price point is sort of unexpected. The trigger is firm. You can find accessory choke tubes for customization. And it’s incredibly precise for its price point. In fact, we would be a significant number of hunters who have one of these at home.

Sure! Most people purchase these as beginner guns. But there’s a good chance this stays in your closet (and rotation!) for decades.

Pros
  • Simple and effective
  • Incredibly budget-friendly
  • Firm, durable, and somewhat weighty
  • Great trigger pull
  • Precise
Cons
  • You only get the basics
  • Not the best materials
  • Less customizable than other options

Stoeger Uplander Field

Our Score 8.4 out of 10
Stoeger Uplander Field Side by Side Shotgun
Stoeger Uplander Field Side by Side Shotgun sportsmans.com Check price

Stoeger Uplander Field Side by Side Shotgun -The Uplander Field shotgun features a timeless English design, at a price to fit your wallet. And the receiver is precision machined to exacting toleran...

As the second Stoeger to make the list, the Uplander Field brings plenty of variety, cost-effectiveness, and simplicity. You can find an Uplander in 12-guage, 20-guage, and 22-guage. There’s even a .410 bore model available for small-game hunters.And each guage is available in Longfowler, Supreme, Field, and Youth sizes. In other words, this is a shotgun for nearly any occasion. Better yet, even the highest-end/longest models won’t break the bank.

Each model comes with A-grade satin walnut stock and corrosion-resistant chokes. The Longfowler has a single trigger, but all other models offer double triggers. You won’t find too many embellishments or interesting features on this gun (the Uplander has gold-embellished barrels), but that’s not why this gun was made. It’s a durable, budget-friendly side-by-side capable of getting the job done. What more could you want?

Pros
  • Cost-effective side-by-side
  • Extremely durable
  • Tons of different calibers available
  • Plenty of models and options
Cons
  • Very basic

Franchi Instinct SL

Our Score 8.1 out of 10
FRANCHI - INSTINCT SL 12/28 28IN 12 GAUGE BLUE 2RD
FRANCHI - INSTINCT SL 12/28 28IN 12 GAUGE BLUE 2RD brownells.com Check price

Franchi’s Instinct SL over & under is a modern classic that combines the best of Italian tradition and craftsmanship with the latest innovative technology for the right look-the right feel. Availab...

The upgraded version of the Franchi Instinct L is equally functional, aesthetic, and powerful. In fact, this one almost made it to the top of our list. But it’s a little more expensive, and we were deadset on featuring the most affordable gun possible as our #1 pick. Still, the Franchi Instinct SL packs a serious punch for only a smidge more money. This time, the A-grade satin walnut stock meets an aluminum alloy receiver with beautiful upscale scalloping. You also get a trigger guard logo and the ability to engrave the underside of the trigger guard.

Most of the other features are similar (including the trigger, barrels, and mechanisms), but this gun feels sturdier and more luxurious than its slightly more affordable counterpart. Still, this is mostly an aesthetic upgrade. You still get the versatility, durability, and ergonomics of the original, so it’s hard not to put this people-pleaser in the top 5.

Pros
  • Beautiful and intricate scalloping on the receiver
  • Solid and sturdy build
  • Great, firm trigger
  • Comfortable recoil pads
  • Lovely engravings
Cons
  • Slightly more expensive than the Franchi Instinct L without any internal upgrades

Why choose a double-barrel shotgun?

hand holding opened double barrel shotgun with one cartridge

Cheap double-barrel shotguns are simply a joy to shoot. They’re simple, reliable, and intuitive. And they're more comfortable on the hands. Although there are more advanced alternatives (see the Ethos SuperSport series) these classical firearms still hold their sway for a good number of reasons:

Reliability

Double-barrelled guns rarely fail because they have fewer moving parts, unlike other shotguns. The simplicity of its design ensures that there are no jamming or feeding failures during usage. However, they still have to be taken care of properly to ensure that both barrels fire as expected, and the gun will last a long time.

Double-barrelled shotguns are easy to maintain. The moving parts can be taken down with no fuss for cleaning and maintenance.

men with an Ithaca Classic Double Barrel 12 Gauge Coach Gun pointing at a target

Safety

Safety is a critical aspect when handling guns, and it's usually more emphasized when dealing with novice shooters. The break-open action of the double-barrelled shotgun eliminates the chances of accidentally firing the weapon. With other weapons, no one knows when it's safe to approach during loading or unloading because a cartridge could still be lodged inside.

The simple design of the break-open action makes this a perfect beginner gun. Some of the quirky features of pump shotguns and semiautomatics can be hard to grasp for new users, which compromises safety.

Versatility

federa premium pd 4buck 2 3/4 70mm gauge

The choke advantage can only be found on some double-barrelled shotguns with two triggers. It allows you to shoot from the best-suited choke at different ranges. For instance, you could pick a wider choke for closer shots and a tighter one for long ones.

Speed and comfort

Side-by-side shotguns are usually shorter than most other types of long guns. It makes it easy to swing them faster on the hunting grounds, a clear advantage when you're chasing after prey. They also have quick lock times, so you won't have to wait longer to fire a follow-up shot.

These neat features make it the ultimate weapon of choice for people who don't have much experience with tracking a moving target.

Cleanliness

Most other firearms eject empty shells onto the ground, but many break-action shotguns hold them within the barrel. The shooting area is kept clean with minimal intervention when you don't have to deal with empty shells strewn all over the place. The barrels are also easy to take down and clean, and this neat feature will still come in handy when transporting the gun.

Choosing Your Double-barrel Shotgun

opened double barreled shotgun with two cartridges

The shooting experience between different double-barrel shotguns can be worlds apart. And in the days gone by, the best way to choose one was to fire each model to get an honest feel of how they performed. 

Today's guns can be bought at the click of a button, complicating our ability to make the right purchase. Luckily, seasoned gun enthusiasts have already taken the trouble and tested some of the weapons found on the market. Here's a teardown of the crucial considerations when choosing the best double-barrel shotgun on a budget:

Over-under vs Side-by-side

The differences between side-by-side and over-and-under models start with how the barrels are arranged next to each other. Many experts agree that over-under models swing faster and increase accuracy at horizontal ranges. Side-by-sides provide more versatility when aiming at aerial targets. However, none is better than the other, and the ultimate choice depends on preference. 

Choke selection

unassembled Sawed off shotgun

Some double barrels come with either a barrel selector or a double trigger, allowing you to choose between the two chokes when shooting. It is a very neat feature because, usually, no two barrels shoot the same way. Consequently, you can use a wider choke to aim at a target a few yards away and a tight one to chase after a fast-moving target.

Budget

Manufacturing a gun that fires from two barrels at long distances is a lot more difficult, and that's why double-barrels tend to cost more than other guns. The high price is usually worth it for quality doubles, but there are loads of great options at budget prices if you're tight on cash.

Style

Double barrels come in different designs, and the choice of which one looks best is ultimately yours.

A final word

Price can be a huge drag for people hunting down cheap double-barrel shotguns, but all these options provide just what you need without breaking the bank. CZ is known for first-rate craftsmanship in gun manufacturing, and it is not surprising when three of their guns make our shortlist. Yet it's not a verdict on the quality of shotguns by other manufacturers, as there are many great options with top-of-the-line features. 

Check out our other in-depth reviews on the best products in the market when the price is less of a concern.

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