This article is aimed at novice shooters
I wanted to write a piece on choosing the right shotgun. Specifically for an individual looking for a quality gun to use in a multitude of disciplines. And this article is aimed at the novice looking into starting shooting. (See also my article on how to start shooting here)
So a gun for all occasions. Now I’m not going to say there is a perfect gun for all occasions. The clay disciplines alone have a myriad of different setups. From choke to rib and cheek piece variations. Semi auto, Side by side and over and under.
Now for an all rounder we can start to wittle down the options.
The Semi Automatic
The semi auto is a capable piece of equipment good on pigeons or game (frowned upon though in the game shooting world) but its a single barrel. Which means it can only have a single choke fitted. (Choke changes the pattern size at different variations, check back here soon and I’ll have another article on choke.)
The problem with a single barrel is when shooting clays, and in some cases game it is useful to have different choke sizes. For example on a sporting layout you may have a close in bird followed by a far away bird meaning it’s advantageous to have different chokes in each barrel.
This leaves us then with the choice between SBS and Over and under.
The side by side
The side by side is the favoured gun on the game shoot. In my opinion mostly down to tradition. However some would argue there are technical benefits. But for this article I’m not going to get into the debate. Most SBS guns are a fixed choke usually 1/2 and 3/4 or 3/4 and Full. However you can get multi choke versions. You could use a side by side as an all rounder but especially in the clay shooting world they are quite uncommon.
So the Over and under…
The Over and Under
The Over and Under will always be my choice of gun for all disciplines. Available in fixed and multi choke it’s the run away favourite of most shooters across all disciplines.
So what next?
So if your still with me that an over and under is the way to go what do we look for next. I’ve touched briefly on choke. Choke as I mentioned above will change the pattern of a gun at different distances. A close in target you may use a more open choke e.g. skeet or cylinder. And a further away target you may select a full choke. A skeet choke will give you a larger pattern at a close distance and a full choke will give you a tighter pattern at longer distances. So if we were to choose a fixed choke gun we loose options further down the line. So the best option is to get a multi choke gun. This allows you to change the chokes giving us more options with a single piece of equipment.
So, so far we’re looking for a multi choke over and under. But what to buy?
Makes and models
There are lots of brands of shotguns around and lots of different price tags to go round too. Price isn’t everything, you can buy a gun for £500 or £100,000 and it will do the same thing. Now the mortgage priced guns are no better than a more down to earth price. However a gun with a large price tag will likely be hand made with better woodwork, the price comes from the fact it’s hand made by a master craftsman over what could be a year or two. (Check out Purdy shotguns if you want to see something you can’t afford. Video below.)
I’m a working bloke with a passion for shooting so I advocate for 3 brands and most will agree. Browning, Beretta and Miroku. Now there are more expensive guns and there are cheaper guns. But in this market, 2nd hand, you’re looking between £800 to £1800. I paid £1050 for a browning ultra XS sporting, I’m not sure of age but it will last a lifetime. It’s a lot of money to me for a hobby but, and it’s a big but. I’m only buying once. These 3 brands should serve you just fine as a rule. There are other brands that are good also, Lanber and some others are still good but I have heard hit and miss things, I’m not saying they are not great guns I’m just saying you now with 100% certainty you can’t go wrong with Beretta, Browning or Miroku, in this situation anyway.
Where to Buy?
Further to that buying from a gun shop gives you security, at the very least you have an easily enforceable 3 month warranty, it’s likely if there is something wrong with your gun you’ll find out within that time. Also when it comes to servicing it in the future, you’re already a customer, so you tend to shave a few quid off.
Gun fitment is everything! see also my article on how to get into shooting. I talk there about instructors and gun fit. if it doesn’t fit you, you’re about to spend a sum of money on a useless bit of kit. Again in this situation, for a beginner looking for an all rounder its worth getting an instructor, have a few lessons and borrow any guns you wish to buy and go out with your instructor. (you can borrow guns from a gun shop for up to 72 hours)
If you take but 1 thing from the article, its this. MAKE SURE IT FITS!