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Pump vs Semi-Auto Shotgun: Choosing the Right Firearm for You preview image
Aug 01 2023
8 min read

Pump vs Semi-Auto Shotgun: Choosing the Right Firearm for You


There’s an age-old debate among gun enthusiasts: pump vs. semi-auto shotguns. This guide will examine the advantages and disadvantages of each type of shotgun to assist you in making a knowledgeable choice about which one is suitable for you.

We’ll delve into their uses, advantages, and even address some frequently asked questions. So strap in and get ready to learn all about pump vs. semi-auto shotguns.

Overview of Pump-Action Shotguns

winchester sxp defender review and test at the range
The SXP Defender has been a ton of fun to shoot. Here, a friend was able to capture the fired shell being ejected during some testing earlier this year.

Pump-action shotguns are the classic choice for many gun owners. These guns require the user to manually cycle the action by “pumping” the forend after each shot, which ejects the spent shell and chambers a new round.

Pump shotguns are known for their reliability, simplicity, and affordability, making them a popular choice for home defense and hunting.

Advantages and Common Uses of Pump-Action Shotguns

winchester sxp defender forearm ribbing
This style of ribbing on the forearm makes it easy to rack the shotgun.

The main advantages of pump-action shotguns lie in their reliability and ease of maintenance. They are less likely to malfunction due to their manual operation and simple design, making them a top choice for home defense and various hunting scenarios.

Additionally, pump shotguns often have a higher capacity than semi-automatic shotguns when using a plug, allowing for more rounds before needing to reload.

Examples of Pump Action Shotguns

Mossberg 590

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Remington 870 Fieldmaster

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Benelli Supernova Tactical

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Overview of Semi-Automatic Shotguns

beretta a400 xtreme plus side view

Semi-automatic shotguns use the energy generated by firing a round to cycle the action automatically, chambering a new round without manual intervention. This allows for quicker follow-up shots and a reduced chance of user error compared to pump-action shotguns.

Please be aware that semi-auto shotguns are generally more expensive than their pump counterparts. That said, they offer increased speed and ease of use, making them a popular choice for competitive shooting and some hunting applications.

Advantages and Common Uses of Semi-Automatic Shotguns

Semi-automatic shotguns provide shooters with faster follow-up shots, making them a preferred choice for competitive shooting and hunting situations where rapid target acquisition is crucial.

Thanks to the reduced recoil of semi-auto shotguns, they can help improve your accuracy and overall shooting experience. However, they may require more maintenance and cleaning than pump-action shotguns due to their more complex mechanisms.

Examples of Semi-Automatic Shotguns

Beretta A400 Xtreme Plus

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Benelli Super Black Eagle 3

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Mossberg 940 Pro Turkey

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Specification Chart for Pump vs. Semi-Auto Shotguns

Specifications/ModelPump-Action ShotgunSemi-Auto Shotgun
ActionPump-ActionGas-Operated semi-automatic
Capacity  3 (up to 8 with plug)5+1 (standard)
Barrel Length  28 inches (standard)26 inches (standard)
Overall Length  48.5 inches (standard)47 inches (standard)
Weight 7.5 pounds (approximate)7.0 pounds (approximate)
Stock Material Synthetic or WoodSynthetic or Wood
Price Range $300 – $600$800 – $1,500

Key Differences Between Pump vs. Semi-Auto Shotguns

It can be challenging to select the appropriate shotgun, as you must take into account different factors like your purpose, individual tastes, and budget. Pump-action and semi-automatic shotguns are two popular options among firearm enthusiasts, but they have different pros and cons.

To choose the shotgun that best fits your needs, it’s important that you know the main distinctions among these types of shotguns.

So in this section, we will delve into the action mechanism, speed and follow-up shots, reliability and maintenance, and price differences between pump and semi-auto shotguns.

Action Mechanism

The primary difference between pump and semi-auto shotguns is their action mechanism. Pump-action shotguns require the user to manually cycle the action by “pumping” the forend after each shot. pump

This process ejects the spent shell and chambers a new round. The manual operation of pump-action shotguns provides an additional level of control and safety for the user.

In contrast, semi-automatic shotguns use the energy generated by firing a round to cycle the action automatically. This process eliminates the need for manual intervention, allowing the shooter to focus on their target and maintain a more consistent aim.

The automatic cycling of semi-automatic shotguns results in a smoother shooting experience and faster follow-up shots, which can be advantageous in certain situations. Moreover, many semi-autos are available with shorter barrels, enabling better close-quarters shooting.

Speed and Follow-up Shots

Semi-automatic shotguns can fire follow-up shots faster because they can cycle automatically, whereas pump-action shotguns need to be manually cycled, which slows down the firing rate.

This difference can be significant in competitive shooting, where rapid target acquisition and quick follow-up shots are essential for success. In hunting scenarios where multiple fast-moving targets are involved, such as waterfowl or upland bird hunting, a semi-automatic shotgun can provide a distinct advantage.

However, pump-action shotguns still offer an adequate rate of fire for most hunting and home defense situations. Many experienced shooters can cycle a pump-action shotgun quickly and efficiently, minimizing the difference in speed between the two types.

Reliability and Maintenance

Pump-action shotguns are known for their reliability and low maintenance requirements. The manual operation of these firearms results in fewer moving parts and a simpler design, making them less prone to malfunctions and easier to maintain. This factor can be crucial in a home defense situation where reliability is paramount.

Semi-automatic shotguns, on the other hand, may require more frequent cleaning and maintenance due to their more complex mechanisms. While modern semi-automatic shotguns are generally reliable, they may still be more susceptible to failures, especially when not properly maintained.

The increased maintenance requirements can be a drawback for some users, but for those willing to invest the time and effort, a well-maintained semi-automatic shotgun can offer a high level of performance and reliability.


Pump-action shotguns are often preferred by gun owners on a tight budget because they are less expensive than semi-automatic shotguns.

The simpler design and fewer moving parts of a pump-action shotgun often result in a lower price point. This affordability makes pump-action shotguns an attractive option for first-time gun owners or those looking for a reliable firearm without breaking the bank.

Semi-automatic shotguns, with their more complex design and additional features, tend to come with a higher price tag. However, for those who prioritize speed and ease of use, the additional investment may be well worth it. It’s essential to consider your specific needs and budget when deciding between these two types of shotguns.

Pump-Action Shotgun Pros & Cons

  • Reliable and simple design
  • Excellent range of compatible loads
  • Higher ammo capacity (with plug)
  • Perfect for bird hunting
  • Powerful
  • Slower rate of fire
  • Manual cycling required
  • Heavier recoil

Semi-Automatic Shotgun Pros & Cons

  • Faster follow-up shots
  • Reduced recoil
  • Easier operation
  • Better stabilization
  • Many can’t use birdshot
  • Not always reliable
  • Susceptible to malfunctions

Other Alternatives to Consider

Over/under shotguns are a break-action shotgun design featuring two barrels stacked vertically, one on top of the other. This configuration allows for two shots before needing to reload. They are popular for hunting and clay shooting sports, such as skeet and trap, due to their inherent balance, accuracy, and ease of swinging between targets.

Over under shotgun

However, over/under shotguns may not be the best choice for home defense because of their limited capacity and slower reload times compared to pump-action or semi-automatic shotguns.

Additionally, their typically higher cost and more delicate design make them less practical for the demands of a home defense situation. That said, they remain a favorite among hunters and sport shooters who appreciate their elegance and precision.


Is a pump shotgun good for home defense?

Yes, pump-action shotguns are excellent for home defense due to their reliability, stopping power, and affordability. Their ease of use and ability to handle various types of ammunition make them a popular choice for personal protection.

Is semi-auto more accurate?

Semi-automatic shotguns can provide slightly better tactical accuracy due to their faster cycling and reduced recoil, allowing for quicker follow-up shots and better target acquisition. However, accuracy ultimately depends on the shooter’s skill and experience.

Do pump shotguns jam?

While pump-action shotguns are known for their reliability, they can still jam on rare occasions, usually due to user error, such as short-stroking the action or using damaged ammunition. Regular cleaning and proper technique can help minimize the risk of jams.


The choice of a pump vs. semi-auto shotgun depends on your specific needs and preferences. Pump-action shotguns offer reliability, simplicity, and affordability, making them well-suited for home defense and hunting.

On the other hand, semi-automatic shotguns provide faster follow-up shots and reduced recoil, which can be advantageous for competitive shooting and certain hunting scenarios. Consider your intended use, budget, and personal preferences when making your decision.

But no matter which one you choose, always remember to practice proper gun safety and maintenance habits to ensure your firearm remains in top condition. And one final tip: if you have the chance to try both, opt for that – it’ll help you make the best decision for your needs.

Brady Kirkpatrick photo Brady Kirkpatrick is the founder of, the #1 online gun search engine. Recognizing the challenges of finding the right firearm at the right price, Brady built a platform to simplify the process, comparing prices across hundreds of online dealers and providing valuable content from trustworthy bloggers. His commitment to user-centricity and innovation has shaped into a comprehensive resource for gun enthusiasts. In addition to Gun Made, Brady has also lent his firearm expertise to an array of renowned publications, such as The Truth About Guns, CrossBreed Holsters, Cheaper than Dirt, 19FortyFive, We Are The Mighty, and many others.


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