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…
Turn back the clock to 2016 at a cocktail reception in a posh London suburb. Scotsman Grant Buchan was talking about his desire to build “a true Scottish gun” with the sales manager of a best British gunmaker. “He tried to take the wind out of me and said, you’re dreaming, you will never do it,” recalled Mr. Buchan. “Here I was, a Scottish guy with a small gunsmithing business and a dream of making my own best gun.”
That’s when Mr. Buchan experienced his David-and-Goliath moment: “I told him straight to his face, we’ll see”
I stepped down from the bird buggy marking our first stop on the South Georgia bobwhite quail plantation. I approached the side-mounted wood gun box and carefully removed an over/under from the padded brackets, exposed the breach and dropped in 20-gauge shells. We walked only a few yards when the pointer locked up. Our guide dispatched the hyper Boykin flusher into the understory. Shotgun at the ready, listening, watching, waiting, the pines and grasses aromatic of autumn conjuring a seductive beauty of the moment, when the covey exploded: bang, one shot, two birds down.
Setting a new Guinness Official World Record feels like a bridge too far for most of us. But Dave Miller of gunmaker CZ-USA made it a dream-come-true for the four high-school students on his team who established a world record for the most number of clay targets shot in 12 hours by a team of five.
Visit the Muller Chokes web site and you’ll see choke constrictions new to the shotgunner’s vocabulary. For example, Muller Choke constrictions are marked Ü1, Ü2, Ü3 instead of Skeet, Improved Cylinder and Modified. That’s because Muller Chokes does not believe in generic constrictions. One size does not fit all. Check it out:
When I invented and patented my Featherlite Chokes for clay target sports, thankfully I went through a major learning curve about how shotguns truly performed when it came to patterns and chokes. Whether the gun was a fixed choke barrel or came with choke tubes, I quickly realized that they all patterned differently and depending on what geometry that particular choke had inside. This Gun Specific Patterning Geometry (G.S.P.G.) made all the difference when it came to pattern consistency, pellet counts, evenness and shot to shot deviations.
A friend recently advocated his theory about the .410 in today’s America. He believed that as our wingshooting population ages it will find preserve hunting increasingly attractive. Knees and ankles not quite as sturdy in the rutted fields of South Dakota? That extra 25 pounds of belly fat making your Wyoming high country bird hunt more strenuous than you last remembered? Old eyes causing those explosive flushes to get away? Packing ibuprofen in the vest pocket next to your shotgun shells?
Imagine shooting a British sporting-clays gun anointed with Royal Warrants from every reigning monarch since Queen Victoria, up to and including present day. It’s a 12-gauge tour de force that moves to the target with grace and deportment – even on that low chartreuse crosser that blends against the leafy background until the trees swallow it like a tasty mint.
If the stars align in North Hampton, England the house of Longthorne Gunmakers will plant their flag on American soil later this year.
The boutique gunmaker – notable for its extraordinary barrels machined from a single billet of steel – has been in discussions with an American dealer of luxury shotgun brands that would represent Longthorne here with sales and support.
Looking back to April 2019,there were 26,678 student clays-shooting competitors from 1,042 high school teams across 25 states who participated in the USA High School Clay Target League.
That program isn’t the only game in town for youngsters looking to become the next George Digweed, Kim Rhode, Bill McGuire or Anthony Matarese, Jr.
Mike Burnett was given a mission: design and build an impeccable 32-gauge side by side for his boss, Russell Gordy – quail-hunting disciple, shotgun connoisseur, self-made billionaire and owner of the luxury outfitter Gordy and Sons in Houston, Texas.
All shotguns have stories and the story has to start somewhere. We all have shotguns that have such a story… my grandfather’s L.C. Smith Ideal Grade 20 gauge conjures a crystal clear vision of Archie in my mind even though he died the year before my birth. The connection of hunting and carrying his old Elsie is truly metaphysical. And with the backdrop of that gun, this story begins not with a vintage double, rather with a vintage hunter and his new Parker Reproduction.