If you're looking to buy a cheap shotgun that's within your budget make sure you read this guide first

You might be on a tightish budget and on the lookout for a cheap shotgun but remember that price does not always equal a good gun.

Some people may be put off at the thought of spending less than £500 on a shotgun but buying ‘cheap’ doesn’t mean ‘buying twice’. You will find plenty of good quality but cheap shotguns on the market nowadays and if you look at the Shooting UK marketplace you’ll see plenty of shotguns for sale listed for £500 or under.

There are plenty of options that will stick to a budget of £500, whether you’re looking for a second-hand shotgun to use in exacting conditions or a cheap, low-risk, entry-level firearm.

Value of second-hand shotguns

Although these shotguns may have double triggers, lack ejectors and feature only the most basic of finishes, they still shoot well.

Furthermore a second-hand shotgun is a bit like a car. A new car starts depreciating as soon as it’s driven out of the showroom and a new gun loses some of its value as soon as it’s taken out of the shop. This doesn’t happen so dramatically with a second-hand gun.

Good gun dealers will issue a warranty on any gun sold

The simpler a shotgun is, the more reliable it will be, so a boxlock with double triggers and no ejectors would be ideal for taking out on rough-shooting sessions, rainy days and even onto the foreshore. English non-ejector side-by-sides were hugely popular during the 1970s, and with many people of that vintage now reaching the end of their sporting careers, there are plenty available to buy. The Hudson non-ejector – a handmade Birmingham boxlock – sold new for £120, the same price for which they can be bought second-hand today. Have the confidence to buy a shotgun that’s no longer fashionable and you’ll benefit from being able to find a decent gun with a very affordable price tag.

In addition, good gun dealers will issue a warranty on any gun sold. They are also responsible for selling firearms that are in a good state of repair only. This should give you confidence with the safety of cheaper guns.

Stringent testing

Buy through a reputable, responsible dealer and you’ll get security. On top of that, guns have to go through a very stringent proofing test before they can be sold in the UK.  However you should still remember to check the barrels for any pits and dents, and examine the fit and tightness of the levers and the action. On older cheap shotguns you should watch out for wearing on the cocking dogs, which can be seen by the barrels springing back slightly after the gun has been opened. This is not a major problem and they can be replaced easily by any good gunsmith. But if you’re buying from a private seller and you see this problem, you should probably steer clear as it will cost about £100 to repair.

Finding a bargain

You will find over-and-under guns in the £500 budget range but they are unlikely to be high specification. Don’t stress too much about the name on the gun: several little-known European manufacturers made excellent guns throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and continue to produce them today. You should be able to pick up a good quality AYA boxlock, for example, from this period for around £450. But you should also look into Ugartechea or a USSR-era Baikal.

Want an English gun?

So your heart is set on an English gun? In that case a Birmingham-made Webley & Scott is not beyond the realms of possibility. But again, your first thought should be the condition and quality of the gun. If you can get over your initial concerns relating to the reliability and quality of cheap shotguns, it’s worth exploring this end of the market because you may well unearth a treasure for less than you ever imagined.

Start off by looking in the Shooting UK Marketplace where hundreds of guns are listed by dealers and private sellers. You can refine your search by specification, price (under £500 in this instance) or location.

Baikal over-and-under for £100

Baikal over-and-under shotgun

Baikal is a Russian company with its roots in the USSR and takes its name from the world’s oldest and deepest lake, Lake Baikal, It still makes a range of firearms today, and has always had a name for reliability.

This shotgun is probably 40 years old and is an excellent example, being in very good condition. It has obviously been well looked after because it is in a good state cosmetically, and the action is still good and tight. The barrels are chromed, and the gun is a double trigger non-ejector, so along with the inherent strength of the action, which functions on inertia, there isn’t much to go wrong. The metalwork is blacked and features very little engraving. The wood is an oiled piece of surprisingly impressive quality.

On the downside you wouldn’t expect great refinement from a cheap gun and this one feels slightly too heavy in the hands, being biased towards the 28-inch barrels. It has two and three quarter inch chambers so will take most modern cartridges, and would be a great gun for wildfowling. Cheaper than dinner for two out in a restaurant.  You can read more on Baikal shotguns here.

Lames Model 801 for £195

These guns were made in Chiavari, Italy, in the 1960s and 1970s and predominantly used for trap shooting, so tend to be tightly choked. This gun has a single selective trigger and is an ejector, so represents a lot of gun for the money. Indeed, these two factors are the major causes of the price difference between this and the Baikal. The action is blacked and features a rolled-on scroll engraving with game scenes on each of the plates of the boxlock action. Pleasant guns but not surprisingly a little unrefined.

Once again, these guns tend to be rather weighty. On the other hand you could use them for driven bird shooting so perhaps the weight isn’t a bad thing as you could maintain a good swing. One standout feature is the comfortable-to-handle rounded pistol grip, good for overhead birds.  The wood used for the stock and fore-end has an attractive grain but I found the chequering rather bold. I would recommend bringing out the grain with a fine wire wool and regular application of linseed oil.  This early Italian model would make a good first gun or a low-risk investment for those looking for something a little different.

Parker Hale Boxlock for £350

This Birmingham-based company made a name for itself after the war by producing a range of firearms accessories for the trade, such as rifle scopes and cleaning kits, before moving into firearm production itself. Parker Hale was famous for its barrels, and became well known for the large range of rifles it produced.

Parker Hale also sold shotguns from the 1960s to the 1980s and many were made by Spanish firm Ugartechea, who are still producing guns today. This boxlock is modelled on the Churchill XXV, with a short stock, 25-inch barrels and a tall, thin sighting rib. It has double triggers, a nice, slim straight-hand grip and a push-rod fore-end. The engraving is pleasant enough but does not cover every surface, which suits the bright coin finish. It is a boxlock with ejectors, and would make a great first gun for a young person as it is relatively small.

The gun is starting to show its age – the wood needs rejuvanating and oiling and the chequering needs to be re-cut. Most importantly though the gun is extremely sound and shoots extremely well. Tidy it up and it will be worthy of its price tag. Likely to last you a lifetime and not be superseded any time soon.