Which all round shotgun? 

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?

For me, I would go to a gun shop. you can get things all over, gunstar, guntrader etc. but you get peace of mind from a gun shop.

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!


Getting Permission to shoot over land

There is no exact formula for gaining permission to shoot over land. But the golden rule is to remember, essentially you are going up to a stranger and saying can I play with loaded guns on your land. Remember that and act accordingly, here’s some tips;-

What are you actually asking for?

You need to know what you are asking for, simply asking for permission to shoot is very ominous and will likely result in a quick firm no. Think about what you want to do. If you are looking to shoot clays somewhere as you’re sick of the prices at the local shooting ground think about where exactly you may do this. Remember a farmer doesn’t want his fields trampled when you go to pick up the clays you have missed. How are you going to throw the clays? You will need a trap manual or automatic, think about offering to store it on the farm or if possible out in the field (if secure, ish) and offer the land owner the use of the trap and leave a few boxes of clays with the trap for him/her to use.

If your asking to shoot pigeons which is a common pastime offer this as free pest control, wood pigeon is a major agricultural pest if the farmer has rape crops or peas then he will likely want them to be thinned out. Think about offering to share the bag if this is something he/she likes to eat.

Game shooting, it’s very unlikely a land owner will give up his game for free. If this is what you are after then you may have to pay. This is assuming there isn’t already a shoot on the land. If there is a shoot on the land and you want to shoot game you will have to foot the bill of joining the syndicate if a position is open. If there is a game shoot this doesn’t necessarily mean no, ask to shoot pigeons and crows as pest control. Crows especially are a major pest for nesting game birds. You may come accross a very generous land owner who allows you to shoot game but the likelihood is you’re going to have to start on pests first. I have permission to shoot game in a few areas free of charge but this is because my primary effort is the pest control, the odd pheasant, duck or goose is a thanks from the farmer.

You know what you want to shoot. How are you going to shoot it?

In all cases know your ammunition and make sure the land owner knows you know. Let’s assume you’re shooting shotgun. What type of cartridge do you need? Fibre wad is always going to be the one, a farmer doesn’t want a field full of plastic. How far will your shot go 300m is the exclusion zone you’re looking for (this is just a rule of thumb.) Remember Safety Safety Safety. Show the land owner you understand your craft.

And remember you hate litter, you pick up 100% of cartridges and you make a point of picking up any others you find.

When are you wanting to shoot?

Let the land owner know when you plan to be out, let them know that you will text him/her every time you go out. Also let them know you will be calling 101 to inform the local police force when you are out. The land owner doesn’t want the police tipping up on reports of gun fire.

Where can you shoot?

Make sure you know where you can shoot. We’re still in our initial conversation with the land owner so tell them if they give you permission you will come back with a map to be clearly marked. (Try google maps they have satellite images you can print off and this shows field boundaries.) Also get written permission. You do not need written permission by law but it’s much better if you get it. The land owner may be a farmer with employees that don’t know you, written permission and a marked map will quickly end any uncomfortable conversations when handling a firearm. It’s also good to display this in any vehicles, it will put peoples minds at rest. Let the land owner know this. Written Permission can be in any form but I suggest the BASC form you can download the PDF here. Ensure the land owner knows you are aware of any public rights of way and think about highlighting them on the map.

Dress nice

Dress respectably, I’m not talking suit and tie but dress appropriately. (No trackies and trainers. And if you drive a Corsa with a K&N air filter and stainless exhaust get a lift.)

Who are you talking too?

If you’re tipping up at someones door, ask them if they are the land owner if you don’t know. Remember who you are talking too, it’s Sir or Mam, if you know the family name you can also use Mr or Mrs/Miss. If they introduce themselves by first name try using sir anyway, most people will say “please jut call me Jeff.” It shows respect and gets you on a good footing.


Have you got any other perms? ask them if its OK to share their number for a reference. If your reading this you may just be starting out so think who you know that may offer a reference. References are best coming from a pillar of the local community, if you are local try the post master, pub landlord etc.

Also get a business card or if you have a work one then use that.


If you don’t have it, GET IT! You need public liability insurance and you need to make sure the land owner knows this there are many products I use BASC. As of the last time I checked this was the most comprehensive, you get a nice magazine every few months too as well as other membership benefits.

What if they say no?

More often than not the answer will be no, remember you are asking a lot of a person. They may already have some people shooting for them. It will be annoying, but don’t let this show. Say it’s OK you understand that you are asking a lot of them. Leave a business card (if a work one mark it up with what your asking for) tell them if they change their mind then you would be happy to come back.

First Impressions are everything

As most people will make up their mind about someone in the first few seconds it’s worth thinking about what you’re going to say, your reading this so it’s likely you have given this some thought. When driving over just run it through in your mind what you might say. I’m not talking full word for word script just enough so you’re happy. People will pick up quickly on those who have thought things through and this will come accross in your favor.

CHECKLIST – make sure the land owner knows  

  • you’re only using fibre wad cartridges
  • you’re only shooting where and when it is safe to do so
  • you always carry a written permission slip and shotgun/firearm certificate 
  • you always carry a marked map
  • you are insured
  • You are happy to give references 


  • dress appropriately (and no chav cars)
  • don’t forget a business card or contact information sheet.
  • first Impressions are everything
  • address them as Sir or Maam until told differently

How Do I start Shooting? (A complete beginners guide on how to start shooting)

For those that haven’t been given the opportunity to learn as a child or whose family and friends don’t shoot this is an attempt at providing a comprehensive guide on how to get into the shooting world. The shooting community can appear at first glance to be quite insular and elitist. Firstly let me assure you this is not the case. The truth is shooting is a sport for every man and woman to partake and enjoy. Whether it be shooting live quarry, clays or target shooting. For the purpose of this article I will start with how to start clay shooting. Clay shooting is the place to start specifically in the shotgun world. This is because it is not acceptable for anyone to take a shot at live quarry without knowing how to do so safely and humanely.

I want to try shooting, where do I start?

If your reading this it’s likely you don’t have friends or family that already shoot, or you have friends that shoot but you want to know a little more before asking to go out with them. So where to start, the answer is google your nearest clay shooting ground. Book a lesson or taster experience and see how you get along. Once you’re happy you want to continue I would suggest getting on google again and finding an instructor close by try contacting CPSA  The Clay Pigeon Shooting Association for a qualified instructor. This will be much cheaper than going to a clay ground direct you can look to pay about £30 an hour. An instructor will be able to provide the gun and and ammo (at additional cost.)

Once your a few lessons in you will likely be wanting to get your own shotgun, your instructor will be able to help you out with fitment, a gun fitting correctly is most important. Your instructor will also be able to help you choose between 12/20 bore or other calibers and you will cover this in your lessons. Obviously you can’t just go down the gun shop and walk out with a nice shiny 12 gauge, it’s not Walmart and were not in the USA. We have a reasonably sensible system in the UK for Shotguns and Firearms and you will require a Shotgun Certificate.

How do I get a shotgun certificate?

Firstly when it comes to a shotgun certificate it is a privilege to have one and NOT a right.

I’ve heard many tall tales around procuring of shotgun certificates etc. You do not need a thousand acres and land owners permission (unless your shooting over someones land then get permission….) and the many other falsities people perpetuate down the pub. What you need to know is, if you have any criminal convictions this will likely mean you will not be approved however this is not concrete. If you have any violence related criminal convictions you will certainly not be approved but in either case call the local police forces firearms licencing team anyway and speak to them. You can call them by calling 101 and asking for the Firearms and Explosives Licencing Department.

You will need to go to your local police forces website and search for the documents relating to this and the application form. Read the documents and the supporting documents before filling it out. You will need a photo and a couple of referees and some patience (it may take 3-4 months.) Expect a phone call to arrange an appointment likely to be at your home when an FEO (Firearms Enquiry Officer.) They will come round and assess you so dress smart casual, clean the house and ensure you have decent biscuits in the biscuit barrel. The FEO wants to see you are trustworthy, he/she may ask why you want a shotgun – Remember it is NOT for protection it is a tool or piece of sports equipment. The FEO and team may check your medical records. When they ask always tell the truth about everything. If you have suffered with Depression in the past tell them, this will most likely not effect your application as it’s in the past. If you are currently suffering with depression this does not exclude you, they will check with the doctor and if the doctor says, yes he/she is managing their condition and they are not a danger to themselves or anyone else.

Shotgun security

You may have been told some things about shotgun security but here’s the party line;-

You are responsible for the security of any shotgun(s) in your possession at all times. When not in use, shotguns must be stored securely, in order to prevent – so far as is reasonably practicable – access by unauthorised persons. When in use, reasonable precautions must be taken for their safe custody.

What does this mean? – Likely before you are given a shotgun certificate the FEO may want to see the security, that is his/her personal preference. I was granted both Shotgun and Firearms Certificates without anyone ever having had a look at my security. The point made in the above paragraph is why. Security is YOUR responsibility. It is your responsibility to read and understand the guidelines. Until now I have used the word security, that is because there are numerous types. The 3 types of security are Clamps, Cabinets and Gun rooms. At this level considering you are reading this let’s assume you are not going to have a gun room. That leaves clamps and cabinets. Forget clamps, this is something that allows you to secure a gun to the wall or floor. The gun is visible and the barrel and stock are exposed. I don’t believe for a second that they would really stay on the wall if someone tried hard enough. So go for a cabinet, there are many available in many sizes. You will see things like police approved stamped on things, don’t worry about “police approved” it’s just a sales tactic. Remember you only have to do what is reasonably practicable to secure them. If in doubt ask the FEO. Don’t go out and buy a cabinet if you aren’t sure you will be approved. The FEO can visit without security in place he/she will advise you if you will be approved and then you can get a cabinet. They may choose to come back and check the cabinet at a later date. They may also point out where you can place the cabinet but here’s a little info on placement.

Where can I stick my cabinet? The answer is almost anywhere. It is better against a brick wall or concrete floor. This is not the be all and end all you can put a gun cabinet on a stud wall but you must take extra precautions for example within the stud work placing a metal beam on the other side of the wall for the cabinet to bolt on to. In such cases best practice would be to call 101 and ask to speak to the firearms licencing team and see what they say. Other points to note is it shouldn’t be in view of casual visitors and it must be in the house or adjoining garage (not a separate garage or shed) *. So I have secured my shotgun as is reasonably practicable when I am at home and it is not in use, what about when I am out of the house? travelling with a shotgun it must be kept in a slip when in a public place unless in use (such as the clay ground.) You can buy lock boxes for cars etc. or you can break the shotgun down and keep a component with you if you must leave the vehicle. I have secured my shotgun what about the shotgun ammo?

Where can I store my shotgun ammo?

You do not need to securely store shotgun cartridges however it is best practice to do so, but do not store shotgun cartridges with your shotgun *. Essentially keep them out of reach from inquisitive children in a cool dry place. You can buy Yale safes cheaply enough (£40 ish) that will store about 750 cartridges. It’s a sure fire way to show to the FEO that you are trustworthy and sensible. Now you know where to store ammo but what ammo should I buy?

What Shotgun cartridges should I buy?

The answer is whatever you want, people will always be happy to tell you what they use and why. Sticking to clay shooting and assuming you are using a 12 bore anything from 21 grams – 28 grams will do the job. This is something an instructor will be able to go through or you can research it yourself. For clay grounds they usually have an upper limit of 28 gram cartridges. This is to do with their insurance and exclusion zones usually set to 300m. Shotguns are a short range tool effective up to around 40 yards dependent on ammo unless you are world champion George Digweed then that could be a lot further. A shotgun cartridge will continue much longer than the 40 yards (ish) and up to around 300 yards dependent on the amount of gun powder and shot size. If you progress to shooting outside the shooting ground on land you have permission remember it is your responsibility to know where your shot will land.


Insurance is an absolute must! I cannot stress enough the importance of insurance in the shooting community, however unlikely the event of an accident it is better to have it.

There are many products out there. I use BASC the British Association of Shooting and Conservation. BASC will cover you for all forms of shooting not exclusively clay shooting. CPSA the Clay Pigeon Shooting Association is another good one. These are more than just insurance products and they send you helpful and interesting magazines and give you discounts on shooting related things. These bodies will also help if you have any questions you can’t find a concrete answer too.

This should, I hope, be all the information required for someone to get into shooting (starting on clays)

Happy Shooting.

*Remember security is YOUR responsibility, double check everything I write for yourself. Things can change, check home office and individual force guidelines OR just call the firearms licencing team they will tell you everything you need to know.  

** Further useful reading on shooting can be found all accross the internet;-