Guns under £1000 – here’s what is worth a look
You can get more than you might think with a £1,000 budget and Jonny Carter whittles down his list to five of the best
Although I am a fan of best guns, fine guns and one-off builds, my own cabinet isn’t filled with them. Instead, it is full of old guns, bargain guns and completely knackered guns. Like many of you, I am a bargain hunter looking for affordable guns under £1000. The market is currently stuffed with bargains, meaning that for under a grand you can get something really special. I have whittled down some of my favourite budget all-rounders into a five-gun shortlist really worth some consideration. (Read how to choose a second-hand gun for under £1000.)
Among the 19,000 shotgun listings on Guntrader, I found a Winchester 101 XTR for sale from a trade dealer for £575. Although this gun is now over 40 years old, it was (and arguably is) one of the best guns ever built. With their steel and machining quality and slick handling characteristics, these Japanese guns dominated the Sporting clays circuit for years before being discontinued in 1987. The factory did produce guns for another two years under the Classic Doubles brand and also produced the Nikko line of guns before the birth of the 101, both of which are worth a look and can be had for similar money.
Nowadays, 101s are considered a bit light and fast for the modern clay shooter’s taste, but they can still crush clays and are more than capable of shooting game of all kinds. Beware that the 101s always feel very loose to open and close, but as long as it locks up like a bank vault when slapped closed, it would be worth every penny. (Read our review taking a look at a secondhand Winchester 101. )
Finding bargain guns is sometimes about looking off the beaten track, and I found the details for this model in the sales section of a pigeon-watch forum. It is a Beretta S686 Special 28in multichoke, another of the best guns ever made, for the bargain price of £550. You can usually expect to pay £700 to £1,000 for one of these, so this is a snip. (Read our review of the Beretta S686 here.)
The design of this gun has remained relatively unchanged since 1979, and they are famed for their reliability and build quality. It’s not new or shiny of course, and if those things matter to you there are plenty of examples across the UK that for under £1,000 will be in great order. The best things about this gun are the consistently good trigger-pulls and the dual conical locking lugs that keep it feeling tight for years to come.
To shoot, they are very well rounded and can be seen being used in every area of shooting, from pigeon hides to driven days.
ATA SP Black Game
A lot of people like new and shiny, which is no bad thing. Buying an older gun comes with a list of risks that makes some feel uncomfortable, so the confidence of a decent warranty and backup service is a huge pull to many. For those looking to buy new, the ATA SP Black Game imported by Sportsman Gun Centre is a steal at £624.99.
This little gun has proved itself as extremely reliable, good-looking and a good shooter for the money. The gun features a multichoked barrel available in a variety of lengths, a nicely designed pistol grip stock finished with a rubber pad and a plain black action, although other finished and engraved models are available.
The gun works and shoots well, and with a huge variation of specifications and styles on offer, there will be one that suits you. The gun is styled on a Beretta 686 with the same raised halfpanels and the same brilliant locking mechanism. Years ago we were all wary of Turkish guns, but I think that era has ended and you can now buy with confidence.
Watson Bros boxlock
Auctions are a great place to look for a bargain and I’ve got my eye on a lovely all-rounder in the upcoming Holts Main Sale. It’s a Watson Bros boxlock ejector with a single trigger, made in 1923 and fitted with 30in barrels. It’s valued at £800 to £1,200 plus commission. The gun is engraved in the Watson house style of scrolling acanthus, which I find very pleasing. This is the sort of side-by-side that really floats my boat and this list wouldn’t be complete without one. Most new shooters nowadays reach for an over-and-under instead of a side-by-side but, after a season or two, the urge to use a more stylish gun or add some extra challenge or poetry to your days out arises.
There are many great side-by-sides available for well under £1,000, and this section of the market should not be ignored. However, when buying a side-by-side, one needs to be slightly more conscientious. Most over-and-unders will be more modern, have strong actions designed for modern loads, be made of modern materials and have 2 ¾in or 3in chambers, meaning ammunition choice is less of a concern. On the flip side, like this Watson, side-by-sides are often older, with shorter chambers and thinner barrel walls, and they may have had good or bad gunsmithing work done to them over the years. Buying from someone or somewhere reputable is key, and spending a few hours learning what cartridges your gun can take and developing a decent maintenance routine is vital.
This was my very own gun of choice for many years. It is famed for its versatility, its strength of action and its extreme value for money, either new or second hand. Looking across the internet, there are many examples of the MK38 for under the £1,000 budget, which is good because to become ‘game ready’ they will need some modification. (Read our review of the Miroku MK38.)
For starters, the guns come with ¾ and full chokes, which is great for Trap but very likely too much choke for other applications. The best thing to do is to send it to Teague to either have it multichoked (£370) or have the chokes opened to something like ¼ and ¼ (£180). Then the stock might need looking at. The Trap stock is quite high in the comb and straight in cast, with a curved ventilated recoil pad. The options are endless; adjust the factory stock to fit, fit a spare stock from another model (this can be had for £150 to £400) or go for a full custom stock (starting at around £850).
If you are lucky, you might find one that someone has done all of this too already, but once you are done turning your MK38 Trap into a MK38 Not-So-Trap, you will have one of the finest shooting things out there. It can, with some frugal thinking and a good dose of patience, be done for under £1,000.
Guns under £1000 – conclusion
So there we have it — five great options on a budget that will last you for years to come. The list of guns under £1000 was hard to compile, cutting out many of my favourite guns along the way, but I think the final five affordable guns are pretty solid. When going on your gun-buying journey, remember that we are all very individual in physical size and shape as well as in taste, and so finding as gun that you like the look, feel and, more importantly, fit of is key.
Whenever buying an older gun, give it a good look over, research common issues and see if there are any obvious repairs. Buying from a reputable source is the most sensible choice but remember, sometimes even the best of us will miss a detail here or there. The alternative, of course, is to pop to your local dealer and buy a new gun with a three- to five-year warranty and not play around with the oldies, but that’s a call only you can make. (Read more on buying a gun at auction.)