How to Shop for a Shotgun
Kevin Felts 07.10.18
Shopping for a shotgun but not sure what to look for? Let’s take a few minutes and talk about features to look for while shopping for a shotgun.
For the readers who do not understand how a shotgun works, some shotgun shells have BBs inside them, the other type of shotgun shell has a large metal “slug” in it. The BBs vary greatly in size ranging from just larger than a grain of sand to the size of a 9mm bullet.
Shotgun shells have a number that defines the diameter of their shot (BBs). The higher the number, the smaller the BB. For example, #4 shot will be larger than a #9 shot.
Hunters will use shot size for the game they are hunting.
- Duck hunters may use #2 or #4.
- Upload bird hunters may use #6 shot.
- Deer hunters may use 00, 000 buckshot, or slugs.
- Rabbit and squirrel #4 or #6.
At the end of the shotgun barrel will typically be a “choke.” The choke is a short tube which helps reduce or expand the shot pattern. Shotguns such as the Remington 870, Mossberg 500 and some of the Winchester model 1300 have a replaceable choke.
Why have a replaceable choke? So the hunter can adjust the shot pattern for various hunting applications. Is the game close to the shooter, or further away.
Certain shotguns, such as the Mossberg 590, are not marketed as a hunting shotgun. They do not have a choke, may have a barrel shroud to protect the persons hands from a hot barrel, and may have a bayonet lug. These types of shotguns are for home defense, urban unrest, police or military applications.
If the reader is looking for a hunting shotgun, look for one that has a replaceable choke.
Barrel Length greatly affects the pattern by keeping the shot closer together for a longer period of time.
If someone is hunting geese and will be making long shots, then look for a longer barrel.
If someone wants a shotgun for home defense, then look for a short barrel.
A typical hunting barrel length is around 28 inches long. This is the Remington 870 and Mossberg 500. Some barrels are longer, while others are much shorter.
A home defense shotgun may have the shortest barrel length as allowed by law. For example, here in Texas, the minimum barrel length is 18 1/2 inches. Federal law defines minimum barrel length, but states can pass stricter laws.
Shotguns are loaded in four different ways:
- Single shot / break action
- Pump action
- Bolt action
Most common are the pump, semiautomatic and single shot. Single shot shotguns are typically for new shooters, or double barrel shotguns. The action is very simple and reliable.
Pump and semiautomatic are for shooters who want fast follow up shots. These are your duck, bird, rabbit, skeet, and deer hunters. Not to say someone can not hunt with a double barrel or single shot. I took my fair share of rabbits and squirrels with a single shot 410 Winchester shotgun.
The semiautomatic action helps reduce recoil.
Shotguns do not have calibers like rifles, they have gauges. The larger the gauge, the smaller the shell. For example, 410 will be much smaller than 10, and 16 will be smaller than 12.
The most common gauges are 12, 20 and 410. Decades ago hunters shot a wide range of shotgun gauges.
To name a few:
It seems today only the three above mentioned gauges receive most of the attention. 12 gauge is the most common and probably the best suited for the widest range of hunting and security applications. Then again, that statement is subjective. A great number of people prefer the 16 an 20 gauges over the 12.
If we want to cut straight to the chase, the Remington 870 is probably the gold standard of shotguns. The replaceable barrel allows the 870 to adjust to a wide range of applications. Whether it is hunting small game, police, duck hunting, or deer hunting, the 870 is well suited, most applications.
Another long time favorite is the Winchester 1200 and 1300.
Last but not least is the Mossberg 500. The 500 has a barrel that is easy to replace and a removable choke.
Now, it is just a matter of figuring out which shotgun, gauge, and shot size is best suited for the intended application.