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What Gauge shot gun would be best ?

3193 Views 16 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  Desertrat
I have been reading the post but have not come across anybody mention what size or gauge shot gun a person should buy. I mention this because I thought a 12 ga would be the one but when I took a shooting lesson, the instructor convinced me that a 20 ga. is just as powerfull but only has less pellets. Open to any comments.
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This is as subjective as you can get. It also depends on what you want to do with it. I'm not an expert so these are my opinions and are the world as I know it, I don't want to get flamed for this post, just trying to help out, who knows maybe my world is flat and someone else can help me round the edges.

12 guages are the most common, easiest to find ammo, accessories and do the widest variety of stuff with. These can be used for anything from dove hunting to clays to shooting big and dangerous game. This is because 12's come in 3 (4) flavors (2.5"), 2.75", 3", 3.5" with loads ranging from 3/4 oz of shot to almost 2 oz of shot and slugs from 260ish grains up to 385 grain.

16 gauges while making a bit of a comeback are still relegated to vintage and nostalgic type of shooters. In the 30-50's of the last century these were by far and away the gun of choice for most farmers, ranchers and the rural middle class. It's the perfect middle ground between 20 and 12 gauge. The 16 is thought to produce the perfect pattern with 1oz of shot. I for one am a big fan but do not own one and the biggest reason is they are kind of expensive to feed and also the different types of ammo just aren't there. Hopefully with Remington and Browning have 16 guages in their lineups this will bring about some of the ammo manufacturers to give us a wider variety of ammo. Another gotcha is that it only come is 2.75". Hopefully someone will make a 3" version and build some nice shells and start throwing multi-chokes in the guns and we'll all have reasons to go out and buy one.

20 gauge is the second most popular gun and the undisputed king of the uplands. This little gun can shoot a variety of loads and generally is a little lighter than the 12's, thus the reason uplanders like them. Accessories and Ammo variety are great for these guns. Almost any model of shotgun that can be had in 12 gauge has a little brother in 20 gauge. They also have the ability to shoot doves to deer and all in between.

28/410 - These are great guns and many a person has started off their shooting careers in the 410 bore. 28 guages are on most uplanders wish lists and the writers and TV guys extole the 28 gauges greatness. For the people that put 20,000 rounds a year thru a gun 28's and 410's are generally the choice. They don't offer much by way of recoil but they also don't offer much by way of ammunition variety from the factory loads. These guns also have large and loyal followings amongst the handloading set because both can be beefed up enough at the reloading bench to give them enough oomph to take game up to Pheasant size and still be light enough to carry 5 days in a row. These guns can get very expensive to feed because once you figure out your effective range with expensive factory loads you'll not want to shoot anything else, then you'll run out and buy a reloader, then you'll be hooked. I've read more times than I can count of people with that shoot alot of shotguns at the end of each year having a bigger pile of 28 gauge hulls than all others combined. The gun on my wish list is the 20/28gauge combo Franchi Veloce and I will own it some day.
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To make it real simple (probably TOO simple) - if you're going to hunt ducks, geese, or turkeys, go with the 12. Otherwise, go with the 20.

Besides, no matter which one you get, you'll soon be looking for the other to keep it company.
Hi there brjss--

I posted this in reply to your other question (under the thread "interesting beginner guns"), but thought I'd move it here to make it easier for your to find. Also I edited to take into account what JLP and WWB have already told you.

First, welcome to shotgunworld! You've come to the right place. Here you'll get friendly and competent advice as well as plain old interesting shooting conversations.

JLPTexashunter has given you a really excellent run-down of the virtues and drawbacks of the various gauges. Each has its particular use and history. There's psychology involved, too. You need to like your shotgun, be comfortable with it, and feel it's the right tool for the job at hand in order to do well. Your shooting instructor was right, but as JLP shows, there's a bit more to it than "the 20 ga just has fewer pellets."

To begin making specific recommendations, we need a bit more information. Do you have any specialized purpose in mind for your shotgun? I.e clays games (trap, skeet, sporting clays), hunting? If it's clays we have many experts on it in these forums. If it's hunting, do you just want a general-purpose gun? A goose / waterfowling piece? Turkeys? deer? Home defense? Or is it "all of the above"--you just want to buy a solid gun and begin learning? Also, it we'd need to know whether you have any particular physical requirements--say a disability--that might preclude guns with heavier recoil, etc.

Post back and let us know and we will make suggestions. I hope you'll consider registering and hanging out here a bit. You can learn alot and avoid some of the mistakes the rest of us have all made :lol:

Best of luck,

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wwb said:
To make it real simple (probably TOO simple) - if you're going to hunt ducks, geese, or turkeys, go with the 12. Otherwise, go with the 20.

Besides, no matter which one you get, you'll soon be looking for the other to keep it company.
To make it real, REAL simple - buy one of everything. Once you get one of every gauge, buy another of every gauge.

One can never have too many shotguns.
So far I like what every one has posted so I will just add my opinion. A 20ga will do everything a 12 ga can. Since Remington introduced Hevi-Shot in 20ga the game that used to be under the 12ga only line has now become 20ga also.

Turkey is a, used to be 12ga only game except for the few brave men that would try their luck with smaller guages. Remington offers a Turkey Hevi-Shot in 20ga 3" 1 1/4oz #4,5,6, shot. Same as with ducks and geese. They have two waterfowl shells one in 2 3/4" 1oz and a 3" 1 1/4oz. You may have to get them in closer than a 12ga but you can still knock them down with 20's.

If you have a Wal-mart by you then you are set of ammo in either 12ga or 20ga. The 20 will be more expensive that 12 in hevi-shot, but normal cheap shells it is the same or not enough to really care. The nice thing with 12ga is that ammo is just about everywhere even in some Automotive stores.
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If your going to be shooting skeet,5-stand,or sporting clays you should go with the 20gauge.
go with the 12 and you can shoot ultra light target loads for clays and practice and if you want to shoot other things such as pigeons or zz's(helice) you'll be happy you went with the 12
buy the 12 and when your learning use ultra light target loads
that will have less kick than a 20. buy the 12
Well....I love my 20 ga., its great for the doves. I have 12 ga. also. The best part of is that I have 2 Rem 1100's that shoot the 20 and 12. :D :D :D
Texashunter-you are forgetting one thing if you hope for a 16 ga. in 3". LAWYERS- the scourge of America. There would be such a rash of lawsuits, it would make 9/11 look like a picnic. On a tangent, can you think of one area of your life that hasn't been adversely affected by liability suits? Let me know, I think it will be debateable.
We have a pair of 1100's here in 20 & 12 and that 20 ga. is a gun that my granny could shoot. It is an amazingly soft-shooting gun and very fast handling. It is an LT Special Field by the way.
But....... I like the 12 ga. guns because I do not roll my own and 12 ga. ammo is everywhere and cheap. You can also readily buy 12 ga. "tactical" stuff and if there is any available for 20 ga. (there must be), I have not seen it.
It depends on what you want to do with the gun and who is shooting it.
My bride adores her 20 ga. 1100 and until she got it, she seldom went shotgunning with me. Now we always go together and half the time it is because she has suggested that we go. The clays do not seem to know the difference.
Loaded properly they are just about equal but for simplicity, I just like the 12.
Good luck,
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Thanks for the feedback. I wish I could say I will be hunting ducks and geese, but honestly (at least for now) I will probable shoot trap, sheet, and sporting clays most of the time (not enough time or money to do it all). So am I closer to what gauge I will buy? The 20 ga. O/U Berretta I shot was very nice :) but I still want to try a couple of others names out along with trying a 12ga. Any suggestions on Makes and Models?
You may want to consider that 99.9% of the TRAP shooters shoot a 12ga. That should tell you something if you feel that trap will be a significant part of your shotgunning.

While the 20ga is a sweet little thing, I like the versitility of the 12ga. I also seem to get measurably better patterns out of 12ga loads than 20ga loads. Maybe I spend mort time researching 12ga loads??? But everyone to their own--that is what makes it spin!
16 gauge
personally I'd go with a quality 20ga for all around except competitive trap and turkey or goose hunting. If you really need one gun to "do it all" 12 is it. If competative trap is in your future, you'd probably end up with a gun designed just for trap, so don't feel bad about going lighter now.

Also as far as hunting goes you can always pick up a 12ga pump in the future if turkey, goose, duck, or deer are to persued as intrests.

I shoot 12 and 20 for non-competative sporting clays and back yard "trap". If the gun fits, I see a negligable difference.

look at the guns owned survey.. You'll end up with several bores once your hooked..
well if you are like me. I shoot to hunt. and in the summer months i have a thrower and practive on clays. thus said i began shotgunning with a 20 and have bounced from 20 to 12 a few times, and personally i have found that the 12 will give more reach, for late season when the birds are wise, and in my area at least it is hard to find the 4 shot, shells in 20, in no way do i knock the 20 i have one still as a back up, but i have found the 12 to be more usefull for me, on a side note i like to use the 12 because i have had a day or 2 where i have not brought enough shells, and as 12 is the most common, in my area, seems like my hunting partner was willing the loan a box to me. if i had been carrying a 20 it would have ended my day.
It all depends.....for me....28ga. is the I only hunt little whimpy birds like quails.
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