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I will give you the same advice I usually do. Buy a used brand name gas semi auto from a reputable manufacturer, that feels good to you. Remington, Beretta, Browning, Winchester SX3, Mossberg, all pretty much work as advertised. You can argue over small differences for hours but accomplish nothing. There are tons of them available practically everywhere, too. If you take decent care of it you should be able to sell it for little or NO loss should you decide you do not want to continue, or if you find you like it a lot, by which time you will start to have your own opinions on what you want to change to.
Good luck.
 

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For Sporting Clays you need a gun with basically field dimensions, and a 28" or 30" barrel with choke tubes - they all have a vent rib that I have seen in the last 25 years. Since you shoot pre-mounted, the special target guns usually have a little longer length of pull, but I use a field LOP with no issues. You could probably get by with a Light Modified choke, but you don't want to be trying to score and berating yourself because you don't have the appropriate choke. Sporting Clays ranges are all different and present a variety of targets at varying ranges. I live about one (1) mile from Cajun Elite, and they have hosted a few big events - like the North American Nationals.
26" used to be standard for Skeet, and I still prefer it, but the "experts" are preaching 30", and even 32" now days. My opinion, you can use a pump gun, but you will wish you had a semi or double barrel by halfway thru the first round. You can get a good quality used semi auto within your budget, but not an O/U. A good semi is better than a cheap O/U. A lot of people think they are going to impress someone with an O/U. You might with a Krieghoff. You will not with a Stoeger or a Mossberg.
Good luck.
 

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A word of caution. The Ruger O/Us are not highly thought of at all. That's why they are no longer made. Some of the 28 gauge guns seemed okay, but there were lots of issues with the 12s.
 
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