In the pursuit of upland game and clay target shooting, bigger is not always better.
When addressing the gauge, weight, recoil and choke of your gun, a smaller and lighter direction may prove to be more conducive to your shooting.
The 12 bore has been the number one selling shotgun bore in America for years. Despite the popularity and versatility of the 12 bore, more and more experienced game shooters are using smaller bores for some portion of their shooting. Once a shooter develops good technique through repetition, the ability to hit targets will transfer to all wingshooting. If a shooter is consistent with a 12 bore the ability to perform similarly with a 20 or 28 bore is inherent, given some practice.
Using a smaller gauge may be more challenging to the individual. One ounce is one ounce regardless of what size container it is put in. Whether one ounce of shot is propelled from a 12, 20 or 28 bore the number of pellets remains the same. The difference is in the maximum practical weight of the shot load in each bore. However, gun weight and recoil differ among the various gauges.
As age takes its toll, most of us fatigue sooner and our reflexes slow somewhat. These two facts are enough reason to consider a lighter-weight gun. When carrying a gun becomes burdensome, the ability to carry it safely diminishes.
There is no room for anything less than peak safety consciousness when handling a gun. A lightweight gun that is properly balanced can offer superior handling characteristics when compared to a heavyweight gun of similar configuration that is carried in the field for many hours.
Reducing recoil does not necessarily mean using a smaller gauge. Through practice and experimentation the mature shooter will come to realize that it is not necessary to shoot a magnum shot charge and powder weight to kill gamebirds. There are several remedies available to reduce recoil, including devices such as butt pads and shoulder pads, but the best way to reduce the generated recoil is to change shotshells.
There are many shotshells on the market today that are "light" loads. These light load shells are perfectly capable of breaking targets and taking upland game birds. Cutting back on the weight of the shot payload will reduce the overall generated recoil.
Downsizing your shotgun choke is actually increasing the bore diameter. What I mean by downsizing choke is using less of it. Most hunters would increase their effectiveness if they used less choke. Most upland game-birds are shot at ranges where cylinder, skeet or improved cylinder are effective. These "open chokes" are more forgiving than tighter configurations but are still deadly when combined with a good shotshell and skillful shooting.
For more successful and enjoyable shotgun shooting, try downsizing!