Women have a long and proud history in shooting sports (ever heard of Annie Oakley?), and some of the most accomplished shotgunners in the world have been women. In the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, skeet shooter Kim Rhode became the first female in any sport to medal in six consecutive Olympic games. She is also the only athlete ever to win Olympic medals in all three shooting disciplines (trap, double trap, and skeet). Pretty dang cool.
Image: Olympic Shooter Kim Rhode
Today, women are more involved in shooting sports than ever in history. Women are also the fastest-growing demographic among shooters and gun owners. Unfortunately, nearly all firearms manufacturers have designed their shotguns around the average male: 5’ 10” tall, weighing in at 180 pounds. While there are women of that size, they are relatively uncommon. Additionally, there are other physical differences between men and women apart from overall size and muscle mass: Women generally tend to have narrower frames, longer necks, higher cheekbones, and smaller hands than men. Proper shotgun shooting requires the close interaction of the shooter’s hands, shoulder, and cheekbone with the gun, and an improper fit can make the experience uncomfortable, even downright painful.
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So it makes sense that traditionally hard-thumping firearms like 12-gauge shotguns would be specifically tailored for a woman’s tastes and physical characteristics, to make shotgun sports more enjoyable for them. In this article, we’re going to look at five examples of shotguns either designed specifically for women, or that have attributes that make them good choices for female shooters.
Syren XLR5 Waterfowler: Elegance Meets Performance
A division of Italian shotgun firms Caesar Guerini and Fabarm, Syren was founded specifically to develop shotguns and accessories designed exclusively for women. If you’re concerned about the brand being connected to Caesar Guerini/Fabarm, don’t be. This is most definitely a good thing, as Caesar Guerini makes some of the highest-quality sporting shotguns in the world (typically double-barreled, high-end break-action guns selling for up to $20,000 or more), and Fabarm makes some of the finest semi-automatic shotguns on the market.
Syren offers a healthy range of sporting shotguns featuring engraved steel and highly figured wood, but today, we’re focusing on their XLR5 Waterfowler. This is a semi-automatic 12-gauge shotgun intended for women who hunt ducks, geese, and other waterfowl in potentially harsh environments. Coated in an attractive Realtree Max-5 camo, and featuring Syren’s durable and grippy Softouch finish on the forend and buttstock, it may not be as elegant-looking as some of Syren’s fancier sporting guns, but pretty is as pretty does, as they say. The XLR5’s features and performance make it truly beautiful for female hunters and shooters.
Video: Syren XLR5 Waterfowler Review
The primary benefits of this shotgun lie in how it fits women’s hands and body structure. The buttstock has a slight Monte Carlo type comb, a shortened length of pull (the distance from the back of the buttpad to the center of the trigger), a reduced grip radius, and a shortened distance from the grip to the trigger. The ergonomics of the XLR5 aren’t simply based on a typical men’s shotgun or even a youth model… This was developed specifically to conform to a woman’s physical characteristics.
The cast and pitch of the buttstock and microcell buttpad were adjusted to suit the female anatomy as well. The placement of the safety behind the trigger is ideal for shorter fingers.
To make the gun easy to carry and balance properly, Syren reduced the weight to 7 lb. 1 oz. in the synthetic-stocked version. However, when you reduce weight, you often also increase felt recoil, particularly for waterfowl hunters who must use non-toxic (often magnum) cartridge loads when hunting. 3” magnum waterfowl loads can be punishing to any shooter, but the XLR5 has the features you want when shooting heavy loads. It has a stock that is fit specifically to the user (which is key), and it also has a recoil-reducing gas operating system to absorb some of the energy from today’s high-performance waterfowl ammunition. The XLR5 features Fabarm’s proven Pulse Piston™ gas operating system that accomplishes recoil reduction by bleeding off excess pressure as the gun cycles.
To top off the tailor-fit features of the Syren XLR5, it is available in both right- or left-handed configurations. The standard right-hand version has an MSRP of $2,325, and the left-hand variant commands a $200 premium. For a shotgun of this quality, those prices are actually surprisingly competitive in today’s market. This hunting/waterfowl shotgun truly does, as Syren says, exceed the expectations of the modern huntress.
Franchi Affinity Catalyst: A Shotgun Tailored for Women
Franchi is a storied Italian marque known for making high-quality shotguns for discerning shooters. In 1993, Franchi was acquired by Beretta, which is a good thing since Beretta also owns Benelli. Today, Franchi’s semi-automatic shotguns get many of the features of Benelli’s top-of-the-line (and very expensive) models, but often at a reduced premium. If you’re in the know about Franchi, you can effectively shoot a re-branded Benelli at a fraction of the price.
For female shotgunners favoring a field-type semi-automatic, Franchi offers its Affinity Catalyst. This shotgun is a variant of the company’s excellent Affinity 3 shotgun, but the stock has been tailored and modified specifically for a woman’s physical structure. The stock’s drop, cast, pitch, and length of pull have been optimized for women. The Catalyst has a raised comb to accommodate women’s higher cheekbones, allowing female shooters to get a proper cheek weld without having to lower their eye too far relative to the bore. The cast of the stock is factory-adjusted specifically to conform to the female skeletal structure as well, but if it’s not exactly right for you, stock shims are available for a custom fit.
Video: Franchi Affinity 3 Catalyst Review
The Catalyst also features Franchi’s TSA recoil pad, which reduces felt recoil by up to 50% for increased shooting comfort and quicker follow-up shots. Both 3/8 in. and 1-1/8 in. thick recoil pads are also available for a custom length-of-pull fit for taller women with longer arms.
The Affinity Catalyst features a 3-inch chamber, but due to its Benelli-engineered, inertia-driven action, it functions reliably with most lighter 2 ¾” shells as well. This is an excellent feature for smaller shooters. The Catalyst comes with 3 removable chokes, as well as a choke wrench, along with 5 stock drop and cast adjustment shims. The 12-gauge Catalyst weighs just 6.6 lbs. unloaded and carries an MSRP of $1,049. If you want to go even lighter, a 20-gauge model is available, weighing a feathery 5.7 lbs. unloaded, with an MSRP of $949. Both come with attractive, checkered A-grade walnut stocks. For women who want a premium-quality semi-auto sporting shotgun at a not-so-premium price, the Franchi Affinity Catalyst is a top choice.
Beretta Vittoria: Blending Tradition With Modernity
Beretta is the oldest firearms manufacturer in the world, having been founded in 1526. The company makes all types of firearms, including premium over-under shotguns for hunting and clay shooting. In 2017, Beretta announced the Vittoria line of shotguns, each designed specifically for lady shooters. Several models were introduced. One of our favorites is the Model 686 Silver Pigeon I Vittoria. At an MSRP of $2,499, the Silver Pigeon I Vittoria is among the least-expensive over-under shotguns Beretta has offered. However, the 686 action is among the most proven over-under shotguns in history, and multiple examples have survived over 100,000 documented rounds on the skeet, trap, and sporting clay courses.
Video: Beretta Range Of Vittoria Over And Under Ladies Shotguns
The silver-colored, engraved finish on the receiver still lends a premium feel, though the relatively plain walnut stocks are definitely selected to meet a lower price point. For female shooters who care more about performance than looks, however, the Silver Pigeon Vittoria provides the features that make shooting better. The stock’s length of pull, cast, palm swell, grip shape, and even checkering have been optimized for women’s physical structure.
Beretta has discontinued and reintroduced several Vittoria shotgun models to the market over the past 7 years, so it’s a little bit of a crapshoot to find which ones are actually being offered at any particular time. However, Vittoria-model Beretta shotguns are still offered at multiple shotgun retailers, so if there’s a particular model you’re looking for, it should not be too difficult to locate one.
Mossberg 500 FLEX: Versatility in Every Aspect
Mossberg’s pump-action 500/590 series is among the most successful shotguns in history, with over 12 million sold over the years. The system is extremely durable, reliable, and easy to maintain, and with the manual safety mounted at the top rear of the receiver, is suitable for right- or left-handed use out of the box, unlike nearly every other pump or semi-automatic shotgun brand.
We’ve said before that shotguns are the most versatile firearms in the world, and Mossberg’s 500 Flex line of shotguns takes that versatility to the next level. The innovative FLEX TLS (Tool-less Locking System) allows users to quickly adapt stocks, buttpads, forends, and even grips to their own personal liking without requiring the use of tools. For a bit more money, you can get extra barrels in different configurations for turkey or deer hunting, in addition to bird hunting or clay target games.
Video: Mossberg 500 Flex Review and Takedown
All of this adaptability is possible in seconds (and again, without tools), thanks to the FLEX TLS system. For smaller-statured female shooters, the Mossberg 500 FLEX Bantam is a solid choice, coming standard with a relatively short, 12.5” length of pull and a shorter, lighter 22” barrel. Naturally, thanks to the FLEX system, the length of pull (along with all other furniture) can be readily customized to meet your specific preferences. At an MSRP of just $564, it’s unlikely that female shooters will find a bigger bang for their shotgunning buck.
Fausti Aphrodite: Where Art Meets Functionality
Fausti is a premium Italian gunmaker specializing in luxury firearms. The company was founded by Stefano Fausti in 1948 and is run today by his three daughters Elena, Giovanna, and Barbara. So, you can believe that Fausti has a profound understanding of how to make shotguns to suit women.
The Fausti Aphrodite is a truly gorgeous over-under shotgun, with a retail price starting around $4,200. However, the quality of the AA+ grade, oil-finished walnut stocks, the deep, attractive engraving on its coin-finished receiver, and the bank-vault action live up to the expectations set by its premium price.
Video: Fausti Aphrodite Review
A shorter, 13.58” length of pull makes the Aphrodite fit a wide variety of female shooters, and the raised comb, customized grip shape, and palm swell take it a step further. Women can also select from multiple gauges (all using appropriately scaled actions), including 12, 16, 20, 28, and .410 bore, as well as barrel length.
For well-heeled lady shooters, the Fausti Class Aphrodite brings a lot of style and functionality to the equation, for—if you can believe it in this market—a very reasonable price.
Store Your Shotguns in a Liberty Safe
Whether you’re a female shooter who enjoys hunting waterfowl, sporting clays, skeet, trap, 5-stand, or a little of each, remember to keep your firearms and valuables secure in a Liberty Safe. Have a look at our interactive online gun safe catalog, or check out our dealer locator to find a Liberty showroom near you.