The last thing you want when you've been hunting through dew, mud and muck for three days is to hear a click when you have the perfect lead on a decoying mallard or pintail. So it's wise to carry the most-dependable shotgun when you head to the duck blind.

So here is a list of five of the top waterfowling shotguns that consider multiple factors such as affordability, ability to hold up to the wear and tear of duck hunting, ease of breakdown for cleaning, ease of use and range of shell size.

5. Franchi 912 Variomax

This is Beretta's redheaded stepchild, but deep down it has some of the Beretta genes. The Variomax is an average weight for a shotgun, is incredibly balanced, easy to break down and the most cost efficient auto-loading shotgun available on the market.


The Frenchi uses a gas-powered loading system, and can load 3 1/2-inch shells. It might as well just have a 3-inch chamber, though, because it might have diverted some costly problems and been higher on this list.


According to conversations on three forums (,, the gun might be a hit or miss out of the box. There were multiple reports of the bore of the Variomax being warped to the left. There were also some complaints about the gun not being able to cycle 2 3/4-inch shells, due to the bolt not pushing back far enough.


Another notable complaint was that 3 1/2-inch shells wearing on the action and some considerable modifications being done on the gun by users after purchase. This was not an consensus, but mentioned frequently enough to make note.


On the upside, there are more reports of the gun being more effective than defective. The gun is also durable to freezing and damp conditions. The price is why it made the list, though: This gun can be found for as low as $550.


4. Benelli Super Black Eagle II This is an efficient but costly machine. The SBEII is an auto-loading gun with all of the durability expected from a Benelli product. It incorporates a ComforTech system that reduces recoil and barrel rise during successive shots.


The SBEII has an inertia-driven loading system, and can load 3 1/2-inch shells. The stock and front grip are are also designed for maximum comfort, and its light (compared to other Benelli shotguns), evenly weighted body, add to its mobility.

According to Ruffin Moreland of Bowie Outfitters, these guns never come back to the shop for any reason other than because someone tried to lubricate it. Some people apparently put lubricating oil into this inertia-powered gun, and it builds up on the spring over time and attracts muck and grime; this slows down the gun's action and causes hang-ups. Moreland recommended spraying Berchwood Casey Gun Scrubber on the inner parts of the gun and just letting the chemicals do the work. This is not a gun that needs to be cleaned often.


The SBEII is relatively new on the market and the price ranges from $1,300 to $2,300, depending on specific model.


3. Benelli Nova The beauty of this gun, and why it's No. 3 on the list, is its price and ability to sling 3 1/2-inch shells at those high flyers. It is a heavier pump-loading gun, weighing up to 8 pounds (depending on specific model), but this is not as much of a factor while in the blind.

This gun's MSRP ranges from $449 to $569, but can be found for about $400. 2. Beretta AL-391 Eurika This gun can be used as a push pole and still fire reliably when that flight of greys is floating into the spread. It has a 3-inch chamber, which makes it weigh less than Berretta's 3 1/2-inch-capacity, A-400 Xtreme (the next evolution of the Extrema 2). The stock also can be adjusted with the use of a short kickof — or use of no kickoff — for quicker shouldering.


This gun can be found for between $900 to $1,200.


1. Remington 870

The king of field pump shotguns, the 870 is the original boat-paddle gun. For pump-action shotguns, the 870 is simply unrivaled. It has a Super Magnum version that allows for 3 1/2-inch shells, and can be found for under $400. The original model can be found for $300 or less.