View Full Version : How much more reliable is a pump action over a semi-automatic?

December 9, 2001, 02:42 PM
I was reading another thread and someone mentioned that a pump action is more reliable over a semi-automatic. How much more? And how much more reliable is a side by side (or over/under) than a pump?

Will Beararms
December 9, 2001, 03:33 PM
The pump is exceedingly more reliable than a semi------------------by at least 60% if not more. While I love semi's, they fail due to small parts failure and they will jam in freezing weather.

I can't speak for a side by side or O/U as I have never owned either.

December 9, 2001, 03:46 PM
All guns break. That's why you should have multiple copies of the one you pick.

How much more of one over the other? Don't know if you can quantify it. A self-loading shotgun needs more cleaning and attention, but a good semi is better than a bad slide.

Slides are a little more flexible for me for "tactical" reasons. Training trumps all. A man loves a good gun, but it's the pianist not the piano.

December 9, 2001, 04:09 PM
I have a Winchester 1300 Defender, and on one instance I found it to be completely reliable. I was shooting Winchester 2 3/4 inch slugs, and every shot would cause the action to jam. I don't remember exactly what happened, but I remember that the slide would go all the way back and I couldn't get the empty cartridge out. The problem never reappeared after that one day.

I do not trust my Winchester 1300 after that incident, and am looking for a lowcost semi-automatic that is more reliable.

If anyone can shed some light on why my Winchester 1300 was jamming with Winchester slugs, I would appreciate it.

Will Beararms
December 9, 2001, 04:26 PM
I have always avoided the Winchester Pump after growing up with a guy who had one. I had a Winchester 1400 20 gauge semi-auto and he had the 1300 pump. His jammed frequently but then again, we were 9 or 10 years old and maintenance was a foreign word.

Imagine that: two 9 or 10 year olds out hunting by themselves in the woods. :D

Al Thompson
December 9, 2001, 05:05 PM
Brent, sounds like an ammo problem. Shotgun shells are mass produced and bad lots do appear every now and again.

As KS so aptly notes, all guns are machines and machines break. Shoot the 1300 some more and see if the problem reappears.


December 9, 2001, 08:35 PM

I'm a little confused. You are going to defer the use of a pump action shotgun for an inexpensive semi-auto shotgun for better reliability despite the consensus that semi-autos are not as reliable as pumps? Wouldn't an inexpensive semi-auto be the most unreliable? I'm assuming of course that the more expensive semi-autos are more reliable than the inexpensive ones.

December 10, 2001, 12:24 AM
After having owned scores of 12guage pumps of all makes and deminsions, i recently desided it was time try out an autoloader. I just got it Friday and have put about 200 rounds of low brass #8's, about 40 2 3/4 OObuck, about half as many 3in mag OObuck, and about 10 each 3in and 2 3/4 slugs. Once i figured out that the magazine has to be loaded a bit different than a pump (about a 5 shell learning curve sans manual), and once I stoped yanking at the fore-end between shots :) I had narry a hiccup. All of that shooting was in one day and without cleaning. Granted it was not raining, snowing or freezing, but I expected any auto in any conditions to be a jam-o-matic after reading what most of you think of their reliability. I'll tell you one thing, I enjoy it emensly and would use it as a defence (offence??) tool if need be. As a matter of fact, it is my new bed-side gun. I grew up on pumps, and have always loved them. When I was a younger, my uncles used to take me to the skeet clubs to show up the new guys with their fancy multi-thousand doller voer-unders and autos. Shooting is more technique and practice than equipment. AS far as reliability goes, some are some aint. I have a hard time seeing how a maintained, modern semi with good ammo could be so unreliable and still sell. Me thinks this "semis jam too much" is the same thing that happend in the early 1900's when new fangled automatic pistols started showing up. It wasnt until the 70's than automatic pistols started seeing wide spread use by law enfocement and civilians for defence.

BTW, my autoloader is a fairly cheap one and it works...A Mossberg 9200A1 Jungle gun..and used at that!

Dave McC
December 10, 2001, 06:58 AM
A clean and well maintained auto of good design and make with proper ammo is more reliable than a cheap and shoddily built pump. A clean and well maintained pump of good design and make is better yet, but the autos are catching up.

Pumps tend to work better in marginal conditions. Dust and sand jam autos PDQ, and despite makers' claims, they tend to be more ammo sensitive than pumps.

As for the reliability of break open guns,it's like asking how reliable are Fords. Too vague and broad a category. Some are very reliable, some not. Most doubles are quite capable of going boom when you want them too, but most that cost less than 4 figures new will not hold up under heavy use.

Here and now, the top pumps are the best choice, when reliability and durability are crucial, but the autos are getting closer and not far behind.

December 10, 2001, 11:27 AM
As usual. What Dave said.

Pump is more tolerant of wide differences in loading than auto. The actuating mechanism of the pump being human, doesn't matter how light or stiff the load is, or even if it fired at all.


December 10, 2001, 11:32 AM
Inexpensive = good very seldom in my experience.

Look for a good semi, like a Browning long recoil, a Benelli, Beretta, or Remington 1100. Winchester stopped making good shotguns a generation or more ago. :(

December 10, 2001, 05:20 PM
Pumps and autos each have their place, but for HD, I'll take a pump anytime. There's no sound in the world quite like the chambering of a round in a 12-gauge pump. If someone's stumbling through your house at o'dark-thirty, that one sound will put the fear of G-d into them.

December 10, 2001, 05:55 PM
Well, I've owned several Semi's, including SKB, Browning, Remington, Mossberg, and now Benelli. None have ever jammed, failed to eject, or failed to feed. And they saw everything from dusty warm conditions in Oklahoma, to freezing wet conditions in North Dakota. If taken care of, they are pretty darned reliable.

I've also owned a couple of pumps. Mossberg and Winchester. The Winchester was a POS and I had numerous problems with it. Only a few cycling problems with the Mossy 500.

So, based on this 20+ years of experience with them, I'll take a well maintained Semi any day of the week over a pump.

Dave McC
December 11, 2001, 05:23 AM
But then, Danny, you never had an 870(G)! I admit to bias, 40 years of trouble free service will bias the heck out of anyone.

I took my HD 870 apart last night for its yearly deep cleaning. IIRC, it only got fired on two occasions this last year, both ammo tests. A 1950 model, I've owned it since the Eisenhower Administration. Best guess, 8-10K rounds through it. Zero glitches.

December 11, 2001, 11:53 AM
Well Dave, you're partially correct. I didn't list my duty 870 because it wasn't MINE. And I didn't mention the fact that it worked perfectly all the time because it wasn't used that much and I didn't have it very long. But it sure was fun to wade into a covey of quail and have 8 shots!!! LOL

December 11, 2001, 01:08 PM
Over the years, I've owned various semis, pumps, over/unders and sxs and used them under hard conditions and seen them all fail for various reasons.

The doubles are the most mechanically reliable except that the open reciever of the Brownings will start to malfunction in freezing rain. The more closed Berettas keep chugging along in very tough conditions. Firing pins and hammers will break in a double but no more than any other gun.

Semis are more finicky. They must be kept clean and lubed and more attention paid to ammo choice. Some semis won't fire light loads reliably. From what I've seen the recoil operated guns with proper loads (Bennelli, Beretta 1201 and Auto 5) are more reliable than gas guns. My Remington 11/87 and Beretta 390 never failed me but I've seen gas guns hiccup on the sporting fields and in the duck blinds when the weather turned foul. On one cold morning hunting ducks, a friend's 11/87 became a single shot while my 870 kept chugging along provided I kept wiping off the snow and ice.

Pump guns have never failed me. I however have failed the pump guns by short shucking them. The key with them is practice. If you don't want to put in the time you may bobble the gun at the wrong moment. Don't be shy, pump that gun hard.

For serious matters, I choose the 870 but am very impressed with the Benelli semis. I wouldn't choose a double but if that were my only option I would make do with that.

December 11, 2001, 01:25 PM
The Remington 870 is , without a doubt, the ULTIMATE pump Shotgun. We used them in our Dept. for over 30 years(to that I can personally attest ). Yeah, every once in a while there was a problem, but thankfully, not doing those times when the "fit hit the Shan". While I was assigned as a FA instructor at our range, we had 13 -870's that we put 10,000 rounds through, each. Last I heard, they are still functioning. If your keaster is on the line, you definitely want an 870.:cool:

December 11, 2001, 01:27 PM
My Belgium Light Twelve has jammed on only one occasion, and this was with a reload soon after I first got the gun. Never stuck another reload in her since. I've shot thousands of rounds thru her...many weekend dove hunts in West Texas and even one heck of an ice storm during a quail hunt where the ice would build up on her to about 1/2" thick before I'd bust it off. I agree, the pump is inherently more dependable than the auto but ,fortunately, I haven't been impacted.

December 11, 2001, 03:08 PM
Went back to the range today with my 9200A1. All in all, Fired about 200 rounds of #8 and about 30 3in mag OObuck. Man is my shoulder ever thanking me for getting a gas autoloader :)

I brought my 870 Wingmaster and a friend had his Mossberg 500. I had ran across a deal on 10 round boxes of S&B 3inch buckshot so I picked up a few boxes to play with at the range. For some reason they would not eject in either pump!!! every time we fired them in the pump guns the pump would be very hard to operate, and if you forced it, the extractor just snaped over the rim. After taking the barrel off and taping out the empties about 4 times we quite shooting them. I hated to see 30 rounds of buckshot go to waste so I tried shooting them in the 9200. Ya know what, they worked. flung the empties a mile, but they all went off and feed just fine. I was genuinly shocked. Did I get a ringer? I know one thing for sure, I feel even more secure now, than I did before in using this shotgun as a defence tool.

December 11, 2001, 03:56 PM
Is it safe for us to assume that the pump guns were both capable (manufactured that way) to shoot magnums (3"ers) ?
I do not know about Mossy's but the way you described it, it sounds like 3"ers getting jammed into a SG that was set up to handle 2 3/4 only.

December 11, 2001, 08:02 PM
Both of the pumps and the semi have 3inch chambers. The shells did look a little swollen when we managed to drive them out. I just figured they were sized a little to small and then fire formed to the chamber walls. Dont know why the auto would shuck them but the pumps wouldnt. All three guns were clean and in good working order. Just bad shells.

December 14, 2001, 08:26 PM
One cannot go wrong with an 870 pump. I HAVE had trouble before with Winchesters and Mossbergs. I have a Benelli that has been superb, but for bang for the buck the 870 is the ticket.

December 15, 2001, 10:33 PM
Well, after my Mossberg M590 screwed me at the last 3 gun match, where I had 3 failures to extract with Rottweil heavy game #6's and Remington #7.5 dove loads, I bought a Benelli M1 Super 90 Tactical with the 18.5" rifle sighted barrel and haven't looked back.

I've put approximately 350 rds down the barrel so far without a glitch, the vast majority being Winchester 2 3/4" standard (non magnum) OO and #1 Buck and Winchester and Federal 2 3/4" Tactical OO Buck, along with 40 Winchester 2 3/4" standard 1 oz. slugs.

No failures so far, even with light Fiocchi #7.5 dove loads.

I've owned two Smith and Wesson M300 Police guns, Mossberg M500's and M590's, and a Franchi SPAS-12. I've also used numerous Remington M870's and they are fine guns.

Out of all of them, I have to say that I am amazed at the Benelli's simplicity and cycling. A well made and maintained pump is great, but all mechanical things will fail eventually. I'm hoping the Benelli will continue it's track record, I've shot a bunch of them before and a couple of friends own them without problems, so I have some faith.

I'll agree that the Remington is probably the way to go with a pump, they certainly have the best track record.

I'll have to put my vote in for Benelli though for most reliable semi-auto. Kind of like the AK, so damn simple it's scary.