In the market for a new hunting shotgun?
With so many options, narrowing it down to one can be tough.
These five tips are sure to help.
What gauge suits you?
For a universal, all-around shotgun, the do-it-all 12-gauge is a great pick, as ammunition is readily available just about anywhere. The 20-gauge is a lighter pick, though with 3-inch magnum loads, it'll duplicate the shot capacity of a standard 2.75-inch 12-gauge load.
Other specialized and hard-to-find options like the 16-gauge are still made on occasion, but finding the shotgun shells is a bit more difficult.
The grand ole 10-gauge can handle any game if you're willing to shoulder it. The .410 bore, on the other hand, is as small as you'd want to go for hunting, but it can be very effective at close range.
What action do you prefer?
So, do you want a break-action, a pump-action, a lever-action, a bolt-action or a semi-automatic. Break-action, particularly of the double-barrel variety, are often a popular choice among upland bird hunters. Deciding to go with a side-by-side, an over-under or a single-barrel just comes down to preference. Pump-action and semi-automatic shotguns are probably the most popular, though, working great for hunting and home-defense purposes.
Bolt-action and lever-action shotguns are pretty uncommon in the modern gun market.
What stock size fits you?
Shotguns aren't one-size-fits-all. You can choose from youth and adult lengths based on the size of the hunter. There are more specialized models, however, which allow even more options for a truly customized fit.
If you're shooting high-flying geese or a squirrel in a tall oak tree, you can't go wrong with a longer 28-inch barrel. You might even pick a longer 30-inch barrel, though I find the extra 2 inches isn't required. A 26-inch barrel fits in nicely for upland purposes, while rabbit hunters in thick cover will prefer shorter barrels to swing through the thickets. Make sure you buy a shotgun with removable choke tubes for the most flexibility.
High society or economy?
What is your price range? Are you looking for a tough-as-nails shotgun? If so, you should probably look for an economy pump-action shotgun. The Remington 870 Express or a Mossberg 500 are both hard to beat. If you're looking for something with a little more class that'll make the guys at your gun club drool, you're going to spend a little more. This part of the decision process comes down to personal taste.
Do you like articles about the outdoors? Click here to view more articles by Eric Nestor. You can follow him @ericthewoodsman on Twitter, The Classic Woodsman on Facebook, and @theclassicwoodsman on Instagram. You can view more Nestor Photography photos at Nestor Photography.