Shooting Sports

How to Pick Out the Perfect Shotgun

All too often when I’m taking a person to the skeet range for the very first time, they show up with a gun from home, usually borrowed from either their father or husband. These guns are rarely ever right for them—inevitably the stock is too long, the gun is too heavy, the gauge has too much recoil, or the action is difficult to operate. Not every gun is created equal, and that having the right gun can greatly affect your performance.

So how do you know what gun is right for you? Here are a few factors you should consider:

  • Gauge – I recommend a 20 gauge because of is versatility. It has less kick back than a 12 gauge so will hurt your shoulder less. While a 12 gauge produces a larger spread, meaning there’s a higher chance you’ll hit your target, the recoil can quickly become uncomfortable and distracting..thus affecting how well you shoot. Any smaller than 20 gauge and it’s not as useful for hunting—however, if you only plan on dove hunting and target shooting, and have naturally good aim, then 28 gauge could be a good choice.
  • Action – I recommend a semi-automatic or break action over-under shotgun for starters, with the latter being my personal favorite. Over-unders are great for several reasons—it’s easy to tell when it’s unloaded, comfortable to carry over your shoulder, and easier to ensure you point in a safe direction when open. I’ve shot with an over under for years and had great luck. That being said, I still take my semi-automatic shotgun out bird hunting regularly and it never lets me down.
  • Price – Don’t feel like you need an expensive gun to be a good shot—instead, invest that money in a few shooting lessons with a good instructor and some time on the practice field. Look to spend between $800 and $1,200 for a mid-priced semi-automatic gun. Over-under break action shotguns are slightly more, at $1,200 plus, but many people—myself included—think they are worth it. You can always upgrade later once you discover what you really like.
  • Fit – To fit your gun, you can add a pad to the top of the stock where your cheek hits, add a recoil pad to the end if you need it to be longer, or you can have the end sanded down if the stock is too long. Take your gun to a local shooting instructor for help fitting it properly. You should be able to comfortably pull the gun up to your torso without having to scrunch your shoulder up or lay your head over too far onto the stock. You should be able to see over the gun when you have your head pressed down into the stock and your thumb of your trigger hand should be about an inch from your nose.
  • Weight – A heavier gun will absorb more recoil, but it may also wear you out. On the flip side, I don’t care for uber-lightweight guns because I find it harder to have a smooth follow-through on shots. I recommend something that has mass to it, feels balanced when you put it up to your shoulder, and that you can comfortably carry for an hour or two.

There are some beautiful guns out there. A good gun is something you can pass down from generation to generation—just like your love of shooting and hunting.

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