Iver Johnson Champion 20 Gauge

The Iver Johnson is a minimalist shotgun with little to go wrong. It is reliable, relatively fast handling, and well balanced. This is a formidable home defender, if limited by capacity, for the money. Slug accuracy was disappointing if you need that option.



$50 USED

These old single-barrel hammer-fired shotguns generally bring $75 to $125, so we found a decent buy in this shotgun. We included it because one of the raters felt that is a viable self-defense firearm if you’re in a tight budget or availability situation, as many people are these days. As our test-team member pointed out, this $50 shotgun loaded with buckshot hits harder than any $2000 handgun for at least one shot.

Action TypeBreak open single shot
Chamber Size3.0 in.
Overall Length44.0 in.
Weight6.5 lbs.
Weight Loaded6.6 lbs.
Barrel Length28.0 in.
Length Of Pull13.8 in.
Front SightBrass Bead
Trigger Pull Weight6.1 lbs.
Made InU.S.A.

The shotgun was in excellent working order. The barrel easily swung open when the opening lever was pressed. The shotgun featured an automatic ejector, a good feature on an inexpensive shotgun. It is nice not to have to pick the shells out. The Iver Johnson isn’t difficult to cock to make ready. The trigger is relatively crisp. The front sight is a simple bead. The “Choke Bore” choke is tighter than Modified if not a Full choke. The shotgun features a rebounding hammer, making it safe to carry loaded. During the firing test, we elected to forgo testing birdshot in the initial handling stage because 20-gauge recoil isn’t really a factor. Instead, we used Winchester’s Super-X #3 buckshot load. The shotgun was held at the ready and brought to the shoulder quickly, cocking the hammer only as the front bead was brought on target. We found the Iver Johnson is light and fast handling.

The shotgun fired its buckshot load to the point of aim at 10 yards. The pattern was well centered. Handling and shoulder fit were good. After firing 20 buckshot loads, we moved to slugs. The Winchester 2¾-inch ¾-ounce hollow-point slug did not demonstrate significant recoil. Results were not ideal, however, because the slug struck 2 inches low at 15 yards. The dispersion was the greatest of the test at 5 inches, limiting its use to short range.

Our Team Said: The Iver Johnson goes to show that you may obtain an effective home-defense shotgun for a pittance, and by any standard have a reliable firearm that will produce an effective stop. The problem comes in if you need more than one shot and if there are multiple assailants.

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