It probably won’t surprise you to learn that the price of a shotgun can vary quite a bit. What might surprise you are the factors that contribute to that higher cost. With shotguns, finding one that can hold more rounds, shoots larger shells, or can fire more rapidly does not mean that it will cost more or less than another shotgun.
For a lot of utilitarian buyers, this is good news, as you may not be expected to pay a premium for the functionality you want. For collectors, though, you’re more likely to get stuck with the check.
How Much Does the Average Shotgun Cost?
While not a very useful figure to know, the average price of a shotgun in 2022 was about $1,025. As you’ll see throughout this article, though, the average isn’t an accurate representation of the prices you’ll see as you look for a specific make and model.
The breakdown of the average cost of a shotgun gets a lot more useful when you categorize it by action type. The most expensive are side-by-sides and over-unders, followed by lever actions. Are you wondering why semi-automatics are somehow cheaper than all of those? We’ll explain down below.
Types of Shotguns and Their Average Cost
|Types of Shotguns||Average Cost|
|Over-Unders||$600 and $2,500 (see below)|
Over-unders are the trickiest to come up with an average price for. This is simply because there are two very separate and distinct markets for over-unders. The first market, the one in which the average price for a shotgun is $600, is for general hunters and skeet shooting.
As for the second market, I’ll be the first to admit I simply don’t understand it. You can see for yourself by going to guns.com and searching for over-unders. You’ll have a lot of options right around $600, then almost nothing until you get over $2,000, and then there’s a huge amount.
There are some brands that come with massive price tags, and you really do have to pay to get the name. The prices get even more skewed high when you include used shotguns. Classic over-unders are in high demand for collectors, while more modern over-unders still have a place in hunting, competition, and skeet/trap shooting.
The good news is, if you’re looking for an over-under at a specific price point, chances are you’ll find one.
Side-by-sides are often paired with over-unders, and for good reason. They are essentially the exact same type of shotgun. The main difference is that the twin barrels are next to each other, or side-by-side, which is where the name comes from, instead of stacked one on top of the other.
The average price that I have found for a new side-by-side is right around $1,100. There’s an antique market that can pull that average price up a lot if you include used side-by-sides in your searches, but if you’re looking for new ones, there isn’t nearly as clear of a gap between the budget side and the premium side.
Pump actions by far the most affordable type of shotgun that you can buy, as they retail at around $400, at least as of the writing of this article. Their low price comes from the relative simplicity of the action combined with the compatibility with polymer components. Pump actions are seen fairly frequently when hunting waterfowl, but they have a bit of a disadvantage when compared with over-unders and side-by-sides.
Lever actions are to pump actions what over-unders are to side-by-sides. They’re a different way of skinning the same cat. For better or worse, though, pump shotguns seem to be winning that war and slowly kicking lever actions out of the market.
The main reason that lever actions are so much more expensive is because manufacturers aren’t making them nearly as much anymore. They retail at around $800 at the time this article was written! Pump actions are simply more popular and therefore easier to sell. The high average price for a lever action is due to scarcity – very few new ones are being made, and the vintage ones are becoming more and more rare.
The average price for a semi-automatic is around $750, putting it smack dab in the middle of the pack (3rd of 5). This may come as a surprise for a lot of folks because semi-automatic actions are indisputably newer, more advanced, and more complicated than any of the other types of actions that a shotgun might come in.
Factors Affecting a Shotgun’s Price
As you can see from the table at the top of this article, there is a noticeable difference in average pricing based on the type of action that the shotgun uses. Pump action shotguns are noticeably more affordable than virtually any other type of shotgun. That’s not because pump actions are inferior to the others. In fact, it’s somewhat the contrary.
Pump action shotguns are most people’s first shotgun (unless they inherited it), and then they move on from there if they want something more from their shooting experience.
Conversely, over-unders get the priciest the quickest. I don’t know for sure why that’s the case, but my theory is that it’s mostly to do with how often you see over-unders at shooting competitions.
Brand name is king. If you want a Benelli or a Henry, for example, be prepared to pay up. The price differences can seem excessive when you look at two shotguns that are basically identical, but it’s helpful to compare it to cars.
Cars can vary even more widely in price than shotguns, and a lot of it is based on brand name. Sure, there are features and power that the more expensive cars have, but above a certain price, you’re no longer paying for more features: you’re paying for the right to drive a car with that specific brand name on it.
The same is true for shotguns. Are the most expensive brands high quality? Absolutely. Is the high quality the only reason you’re paying such a high price for them? Absolutely not.
If you’re looking for high quality brands that are on the lower end of the price spectrum, then I’d recommend Mossberg, Remington, and Stoeger. Other brands like CZ, Weatherby, and Winchester have more budget-friendly alternatives along with their higher-priced options as well.
Within a certain brand or make, the gauge of ammo that you want to shoot will also affect the price to a certain extent. 20 gauge and 410 gauge will usually be a notch or two more affordable than a 12 gauge.
If you’re like me, then you might expect the difference to be more substantial than it actually ends up being. While the 20 gauge model of a rifle might be nominally cheaper than the 12 gauge version, they’ll usually be a lot closer than it feels like they should.
As soon as you start comparing different brands, you’ll see 410 gauge shotguns that are much more expensive than some 12 gauge shotguns, and gauge quickly becomes a bad way to try and predict price.
Age can make a big difference in the price of a firearm. From what I’ve seen, the value of a shotgun will go down (albeit slowly) over the first 40-50 years of its life, then starts to climb back up (still slowly) after that.
A shotgun in good condition over a hundred years old can sell for thousands of dollars to the right buyer. Of course, the reason a person buys an antique firearm is very different from why someone would buy a modern firearm.
For the most part, if you’re just looking for a shotgun for hunting or home defense, you won’t have to worry too much about age, just know that if you forget to filter out “used” options when you’re shopping online, you might have a bunch of antique shotguns skewing the number of options you think you have at a certain price point.
If you’re asking whether a shotgun is good for home defense, I’d say there’s a good chance it is, depending on the person operating it. If the operator is a young adult then yes. But if the operator is an elderly person or a young child, then a heavy,12-gauge shotgun is probably not a great call.
Yes, technically. The case itself should have an expiration date on it, and conventional wisdom is that shotgun shells should have a shelf life of about 10 years. That said, you’ll still hear of people finding old cases of shotgun shells from the 50s and 60s and still being able to fire them as though they were brand new.
The only thing I’m aware of that would make a shotgun explode is an obstructed barrel. If something gets lodged in the barrel, however, and it’s strong enough to prevent the projectiles from blasting through, the force of the shot has to go somewhere, and that would end up being through the barrel if need be.
As I mentioned in the beginning, the average price of a shotgun is just over $1,000, but the numbers get a lot more useful when you break them down based on the type of shotgun you’re looking for. If you want to buy a famous brand name, then be prepared to pay extra for it.
But if it’s just functionality that you’re after, there are quality offerings at most reasonable price points. If you’re on a pennies budget, you may need to make some sacrifices, but for the most part as long as you’ve got a few hundred dollars to spend you’ll be able to get what you need.
Did this article answer your questions? Any information you wish we had covered here? Let me know in the comments.