Shotguns

There are two challenges to finding a great shotgun -- fit and suitability.

The shotguns section of Shotgun Life is dedicated to helping you recognize the perfect shotgun (that you’ll want to keep for the rest of your life, and then hand down to your family for generations to come.)

For some people, finding a great shotgun is simply love at first sight. For others, a great shotgun grows on them -- and they find themselves down in the basement cleaning it for absolutely no other reason than just to be in its company.

But for every shotgun owner who falls in love with their pride-and-joy, there are teams of engineers and craftsmen toiling away behind the scenes to bring your gun to fruition.

As you’ll see, shotguns are generally designed for a particular sport. Some shotguns have composite stocks and fore-ends to withstand the travails of duck hunting. Then there are single-shot trap guns with high ribs that help you intercept rising targets. And skeet shooters find that their beavertail fore-end is particularly adept at bringing about a smooth, quick swing.

So let the search begin. Here is what you’ll find in our shotgun section…

  • Shotguns for Clays and Wingshooting
  • Shotgun Actions
  • Break Actions
  • Over/Under
  • Side-by-Side
  • Single-Barrel Shotgun
  • Semiautomatics
  • Pumps
  • Skeet Shotguns
  • Trap Shotguns
  • WaterFowl Shotguns
  • Upland Shotguns

In 2009, my favorite shotgun dealer at the time had talked me into buying a beautiful 12-gauge sporter with 34-inch barrels – a big stretch from the 30-inch clays guns that had become my standard bearer. I distinctly remember him saying “Everyone is moving to longer barrels.” Within months, I still couldn’t master the gun and actually felt self-conscious seeing it tower over other clays guns with barrels that hovered around 30 inches. End of story is that I traded it back to him in a deal for a 12-gauge semi-auto.

Instinctive shooting is perfection in motion for the upland hunter. Hard focus on the flushed bird, an unwavering swing of your shotgun, and upon feeling the stock touch your cheek pull the trigger to experience the instant gratification of your downed quarry. In the end, instinctive refers to your innate ability to subconsciously calculate the forward allowance and essentially rely on the pull-trigger signal from your eyes without your mind performing the mathematical gymnastics that would normally muck up the shot.

Find any group of shooting men and women around a table and often the conversation will include “Chokes” and the vagaries of the mystic powers of choke.

The term “choke” applies to the inner bore diameter around the muzzle, which is generally smaller than the diameter at the breech. The difference in the diameters is typically measured in thousandths of an inch – ranging from 0.005 of an inch up to 0.040 of an inch.

Over our dinner at a private quail plantation in South Georgia, I talked with Arthur S. DeMoulas, the American owner of London best-gun maker Boss & Co., about the company’s gorgeous new 12-bore ambidextrous sidelever.

The new 12-bore sidelever over/under, called the “1812 Edition,” celebrates the company’s founding that year by Thomas Boss. It’s also a tip of the hat to Boss’s original sidelever side-by-sides popular with the Victorian gentry.

In American shotgun lore, the 16 gauge still possesses the sweet fragrance of nostalgia when, back in the day, upland hunting with a hardware store gun carried on the open range or along fence rows with your favorite dog produced explosive coveys. 

“OK, kid, go get my shotgun from the house and we’ll take Duke to see if we can find a covey of birds.”

Most of my hunting adventures with my grandfather began that way. I can still hear those words today when I search my memories of him. The simple act of writing this story brings a smile to my face as I recall the man who introduced me to both hunting and the outdoors.

Some people might call it a twinge of melancholy, especially with the arrival of autumn in the Northeast, but you begin to feel an obligation to tell a story about your life that few people have heard, with an eye on the distant horizon toward posterity. For me, this particular story is about my contribution to the most remarkable flight of British best guns ever made.

The first time I saw my father’s brand-new shotgun, he was using a small white towel to wipe down the twin barrels. The long blue metal stacked tubes glinted with the bouncing light off the room. The shotgun was less than a day old. He had saved his money for months. When the time had come, he went down to the local gun shop where he had first laid eyes on the Ruger Red Label.