In semi-auto, the Benelli is excellent, but expensive. Many people who don’t want to spend the cash on a Benelli will get a Mossberg 930, which also has a good rep n places like 3 gun competition. One of the smoothest semi-auto’s I’ve ever shot was a Beretta.
The US military started switching to the Benelli but ran into a problem when the Benelli was discovered to have a problem cycling the breaching round the US military was using at the time, so they had to keep using Mossberg pumps actions. They may have fixed that issue by now.
One reason I like a pump as a general survival weapon is that you have manual control over it’s cycling. You can run a pump action on black powder if you have to without impairing performance.
The Ithaca 37 is a decent shotgun, and unlike the current reincarnation of Winchester, it’s still American made. The company has had it’s ups and downs. Because of this, trying to get a new one can sometimes be difficult.
The Ithaca 37 has one charge bar on the pump slide, vs 2 on the Mossberg 500 and Remington 870. It’s main functional difference between the 500 and 870 is that it ejects out the bottom, where it loads from. there is no separate ejection port. This can be an advantage when in a really wet, cold environment. If you collect your spent hulls, it ejects them at your feet.
The Ithaca 37 is a much older design than the Mossberg 500 and Remington 870. Model numbers above 855,000 have interchangeable barrels.
Savage, under their Stevens line of shotguns, sells a Chinese made variant of the Ithaca 37 called the Stevens 350. It’s a bit different in that it has two charge bars on the pump. Reportedly, many parts will interchange to one degree or another with an original Ithaca.
The shotgun which won the US Army trials was the Mossberg 590A1. The Mossberg 590A1 is the military grade version of the 590 series made to US Navy specs. The 590A1 is just a Mossberg 500 with a thicker barrel, an aluminum trigger housing and safety switch instead of polymer. It also has a magazine tube similar to the Remington 870, which makes the barrels non-interchangeable with the M500 unless the mag tube is changed out.
The Mossbergs have aluminum receivers, like an AR-15 or an AR-10. This knocks about 1 pound off of the weight of the weapon. Unlike the 870, they have dual extractors.
The US shotgun market is dominated by different variants of the Rem 870 and the M500, of which there are about 10 million copies of each in circulation.
For a survivalist, the M500 series has an edge due to how many there are out there, the commonality of the parts, and the availability of aftermarket components. Unlike an 870, every piece of a M500 is user maintainable or replaceable without the need for a well tooled, experienced gunsmith. For example, on the 870, the ejector is riveted into place and the mag tube is brazed into place. On the Mossberg the mag tube screws out and the ejector is held in with a screw.
One of the biggest advantages of the M500 series is that Mossberg, in order to compete with inexpensive, foreign made shotguns, began making the Maverick line, in their plant in Maverick County, Texas (El Paso).
The Mossberg Maverick 88 is an M500 that has the safety moved to the trigger pack, forward of the trigger guard, and the receiver isn’t tapped for an optics rail. The pump slide has been replaced with a simpler design (but it can be changed back to an M500 style), and the finish is plain. The result is tough, reliable shotgun that retails for about $190.
Of the other shotguns commonly available on the US market, there is the Winchester SPX series with is an updated Winchester 1300 which is now made in Turkey. Savage sells a 1300 variant made in China called the Stevens 320.
H&R and IAC both sell Chinese variants of the Remington 870. They have a good rep, and most parts seem to even interchange with an original 870. It’s a version of the Norinco 870 copy that the Chinese military uses. The H&R is reportedly a better shotgun than the lower grade line of 870’s Remington sells called the ‘Express’. The Chinese 870’s, however, use a 5 shot magazine tube instead of the 4 used by Remington. This means the barrels won’t interchange off the shelf. Century also sells a Chinese 870 clone, but reports are that the quality is dismal.