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Should I Buy a Semi-Auto or an Over/Under Shotgun?

By 2021-06-29April 22nd, 2022BLOG

On May 10, 2020, on the Syren Owners Group on Facebook, there was a post made from a helpful gun dealer attempting to tackle a question that he gets asked often: When purchasing a shotgun for competitive shooting, should you get a semi-auto or an over-and-under (O/U)? We believe his response was worth reposting, as many shooters often ask this question, and the insights expressed may just help with your purchasing decision.

For context, the author of this post is August M. Crocker, a lifelong gunsmith and competitor in the shooting sports. He started competing in sporting clays when he was just 13. In addition to being an NSCA Master Class Shooter since 2004, August also works with men and women across the country offering shooting instruction, gun fitting and gun sales as a Caesar Guerini Elite Dealer, Syren dealer, Fabarm dealer and purveyor of collectible firearms, too.

As you can probably tell from the photo, August is a coffee lover as well.

For obvious reasons, the article you are about to read is not a direct “copy and paste” from the original thread on the Syren Facebook group. Instead, August was kind enough to expand on his thoughts, and we’ve formatted and edited the full context for the sake of this article. Enjoy!

August stated,In writing this piece, I am only addressing gas-type, semi-autos in the comparison. I do not regard inertia-driven, semi-autos viable in the competition clays arena. The vast majority are field or tactical guns in their configuration and do not help in any way with recoil as their gas driven counterparts do.”

Gas Semi-auto Pros

Gas operated semi-autos have two major things going for them. First, they offer the softest recoil of any shotgun. Why? Their design redirects a portion of the shells explosion to drive a piston rearward to cycle the action and eject the spent shell. Because of this, it needs a load that falls within a given range of pressure, but most are designed to digest a range of light-to-moderate competition loads. My favorite is a 1200 foot-per-second, 1-ounce load. This is usually ideal both for reliable function and ultimate comfort. Some can get away with even lighter loads, but I’m going for 100% reliability.

Second, gas semi-autos have the lowest price-to-quality ratio. For $1800 to $2000, we can either have a state-of-the-art semi-auto designed as a competition gun or a very substandard O/U – a great thing to consider for those on a budget or just getting into the sport. It is NOT, however, a beginner’s gun. National Championships have been won with such. One can go all the way to the top with the right semi-auto.

Gas Semi-auto Cons

Semi-autos have more moving parts and use the propulsion of the explosion to operate the gun, resulting in fouling the gas system. This means more cleaning, more maintenance, more opportunity for malfunction. Folks, it’s just math. They can absolutely be reliable; you just need to be honest about whether you are OK cleaning your gun after every case of ammo or competition.

In the arena I shoot in (NSCA National and regional registered tournaments), I see folks frequently shoot 10,000-to-20,000 rounds a year through their guns. These guns all need service and they all at some point “throw a shoe.” Some people love cleaning their semi-autos, while others despise it. Know which one you are.

Back in the day, it was not unusual for top shooters to travel with three or four identical semi-autos. I once teased the National Champ I shot with and asked how many pounds of Beretta parts he traveled with. I regard the Fabarm/Syren L4S as one of the best built/designed gas semi-autos, while I have watched the “B” brands get cheaper and cheaper made.


Many regard the semi-auto having one choke as a large handicap when compared to an O/U with two – it’s simply not. We can choke for any pair and tweak with two different loads to accomplish a change in pattern. I’ll just say, to me, this is the least important point of deciding between the two.

Note from Syren: As we’re sure you’re aware, a semi-auto only has one barrel, as opposed to an O/U that has two barrels. So, with an O/U shotgun, each barrel can have a different choke constriction and the shooter can switch to whichever barrel they want to fire first in order to choose which choke constriction they wish to use on a particular target. A barrel selector on the O/U is used for this purpose. August is suggesting that with a semi-auto, the shooter can use one choke and use different velocity ammo to change the pattern on a specific target if the shooter wishes to alter the pattern. Thus, having a similar effect to switching barrels/chokes on an O/U.

Sarah Thomas is a 16-year-old sporting clays competitor, and shoots a 12-gauge Syren Tempio Sporting in competitions. Sarah has won medals in various tournaments with her Syren O/U. Gun fit and ammo selection are extremely important to reducing felt recoil and having a positive shooting experience.


At one time we (gun dealers) all steered women into gas semi-autos because we didn’t have the loads, barrel technology and stock configurations we have today. Today, I have 95-pound girls shooting several days a week with O/Us. No one, including females, need choose a semi-auto out of recoil fear of an over-and-under shotgun. Women have specific fit needs that for too many years were answered with “shrink it and pink it” cheap youth guns. We have stocks today that address women’s fit needs very effectively and once dialed in with proper length, pad and loads will be fine.

Ladies, if you have a gun that fits, and you are using appropriate loads, you need not EVER be uncomfortable shooting a 12-gauge O/U – period. Bruising cheeks, chest, shoulder – are completely unacceptable – never put up with this or “tough” through it. If I can answer a “fit” question, I hope you call me.

Syren Prostaff shooter Kayla Kane has won numerous competitions, including the 2018 Texas State Lady FITASC Championship with her Syren semi-auto. Kayla chose the Syren L4S Sporting for its soft-shooting and extremely low recoil.


I’ve tried to write the above based on similar conversations I have with folks daily. If you ever have a question or want to discuss gun fit or “what model for what,” call me. I hope you find this helpful.

If you’d like to take August up on his offer, he can be reached at and his direct line is listed on the contact page of his site.


Bonus: Syren Prostaff Insights

Dee Orr shoots a Syren L4S Sporting. Here are a few thoughts from Dee on why she chose the L4S semi-auto.

Ashley Butcher shoots a 12 gauge Syren Tempio Sporting. Ashley explains why she chose the Syren Tempio O/U

Syren Offers Demo Centers and Events

OK, so at this point you’ve gotten an idea of some of the differences between a semi-auto and an O/U shotgun. You’re about ready to decide, but how do you know which one “feels right” to you? Luckily, there are a number of demo centers around the country that stock a variety of models – giving you a chance to “try before you buy.” At the very least, these locations will give you the opportunity to shoulder Syren’s guns. For a list of demo center near you, visit

In addition to demo centers, Syren also holds shooting clinics and demo events all around the country. At these events, there is a factory rep available to ask questions about the products and often, they have demo guns available to shoot. For a list of demo events and National and State tournaments that you can attend, and demo guns, visit

Looking for more info on Syren shotguns for women?

Give Syren USA a call at 410-901-1131 and speak to one of the representatives, or continue to browse this website to see all of the available shotgun options.

Learn more about the Syren Facebook group.

Enjoying this post? Read more just like it on our Syren Savvy Blog HERE.