Shotguns & Shooting  |  05/27/2021

Choosing a Shotgun Action: Pump


The case for a pump as the ideal upland shotgun

By Andy Fondrick

Growing up hunting birds I was always shuffling different guns depending on the hunting season. My grandpa loves to collect guns for the grandkids to grow into and then pass down. I was fortunate enough to shoot everything from a single shot youth 20 gauge, to a pair of side-by-sides and a semiautomatic.

But it was three days into a week-long waterfowl and upland trip when the semiauto started to jam when my uncle provided me with a game-changer. 

He handed me his spare pump shotgun to use the rest of the week, and proceeded to let me keep that gun in my possession for the next seven years to use on all my hunting adventures. That quick swap ensured there will always be a spot (or two) in my gun case for a pump shotgun.

If you’re looking for that next do-it-all shotgun to add to your collection, or maybe you’re researching to buy your first firearm, here are a few reasons a pump could be just the answer you are looking for.


First and foremost, a pump can do it all in any condition, and that doesn’t just pertain to upland hunting. These guns can be the ultimate bird hunting tool for chasing pheasants, quail, grouse, turkeys, ducks, doves, you name it, a pump fits into any hunting scenario.

All it takes is swapping out a choke and grabbing a different shot size from the ammo cabinet and that gun is ready to hit the field for any occasion. Not only have I used a pump to chase a plethora of different birds, but I also used it to shoot my personal best buck with a slug when hunting an area that didn’t allow for my traditional rifle setup.

There’s never been any hesitation that the ultra-adaptable pump action will be ready for the field, no matter what game is in season.


While the versatility of the gun may have become the biggest draw for me to stick to pumps in the end, the single biggest reason I converted to a pump for all my bird hunting needs was the dependability this action provides.

Whether it be a hot, dry, dusty field or a cold, wet, muddy sloughs, a pump can handle all the elements. Since you provide the energy to eject the spent shell and reload for your next shot, there’s no relying on intricate cycling mechanisms that can get gummed up and begin to jam.

There have been significant advancements in semiautomatic shotguns in the past couple of decades. Still, for someone who’s used to shooting a pump, there’s an added sense of security that your firearm will always go ‘bang’ every time you rack a shell and pull the trigger.


One of the biggest factors limiting most people’s selection of a new shotgun comes down to the price tag. All shotguns, no matter the action, will be reliable if you take care of them and are willing to pay the initial price for the higher quality. 

However, pumps are different in that some of the most reliable models can be purchased for a fraction of the cost of the more high-end semiautos or double barrel.

When you begin to consider the fact that you are getting an incredibly versatile, reliable gun at a much more affordable price, pump shotguns should shoot to the top of a gun buyer’s list.

Shell Capacity

Many upland hunters will argue for some form of double barrel shotgun as their weapon of choice. But one advantage that a pump gives you that a double barrel simply cannot, is the ability for a third shot (or more depending on your local regulations). 

I hate to admit it, but there have been plenty of flushing birds that have made me get to that third shot before my bird dog was able to make the retrieve. Telling yourself to focus on the first shot just as much as the last is much easier to do in theory than it is with a tight-holding rooster taking off at your feet after a slow morning in the field.

In Closing

There are incredible guns out there in all actions, and don’t get me wrong, I love shooting my double barrels or my semiauto in a variety of situations. Certain actions are specialized for certain scenarios.

But, if you are looking for a jack of all trades, reliable and cost-efficient hunting tool, it’s hard to argue with the track record pumps have as a traditional bird hunting gun.

Andy Fondrick is the digital marketing coordinator for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. When he's not at work, Andy is likely chasing waterfowl and upland birds behind his Black Lab Kona or enjoying whatever sport is currently in season.

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