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Old December 19, 2001, 02:45 PM   #1
Dave McC
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The mighty 16 gauge....

Back before plastic wads, credit cards and TV, most American shotgunners regarded the 10 and 12 gauges as suitable for waterfowl, the 20 as a lady's gun and the 16 as well nigh perfect for upland game. They had a good point. An oz of pellets will do well on anything smaller than a ringneck, and a properly sized 16 gauge shotgun would run maybe a half lb lighter than its 12 gauge brethren. Easy to carry, potent enough for the intended game, and used from Ga quail country to the steep and brambled hills of New England, the 16 was the most common gauge for the non waterfowler.Havilah Babcock and Burton Spiller both sang the praises of 16 gauge doubles, and their high regard for the 16 and the guns that were chambered thus still jump from the pages of their books.

And,most 16s pattern an oz of shot beautifully, an example of what a "Square Load" can do, meaning one where the shot column is about the same as the bore diameter. The Brits do the same with their 12 bore game guns and those 1 1/16 oz pheasant killer loads.

Despite all this, the 16 all but disappeared after WWII, tho plenty of fine 16 gauges came to America in GI duffles, Why?

First, the ammo companies were overextended. There were over 2000 separate loadings for shotguns in the 20s ranging from the big 10 ga to the 410.

And for the gun makers, the 16 meant a dedicated assembly line for just that bore. Not cost effective.BTW, a common 16 ga skeet load of the time was 7/8 oz of 9s.

So,the first step was to start making 16 gauges on 12 gauge frames. This meant a loss of effectiveness combined with more weight. Few went the other way,made on 20 gauge frames. These last are a joy to handle, carry like a 20 and shoot like a 12, as the saying went.

So, commercial neglect, combined with the fashion of heavy 12 gauge autos like the A-5, meant that 16s were relegated to kids' guns, or as a spare.

So why am I maundering on about this?

The fashion pendulum has swung the other way,and old name brand 16s that were until recently less expensive than their 12 and 20 ga counterparts are now oft retagged for much more.

For example, in 95 or 96 I turned down a very nice field grade A.H. Fox 16 for $500 because I simply didn't have the cash then. A similar gun was at a local shop recently for $1300, and didn't sit on the shelf long either.

The Ithaca 37 was recently re-introduced in 16 gauge,and is pleasing a new generation. Big Green has announced it's bringing out 16 gauge 870s.

Ammo is also becoming more available, tho selection is still somewhat limited. Same with components, there's less variety in wads. Still, the situation has improved, and looks to continue so.

So, those of us who hunt the uplands have a couple newer options in totable repeaters. Both of these should come in around 6 lbs, coupla oz, and handle like a rapier. If Remington gets off its Big Green whatever and produces a Special Field model 870 and/or 1100 in 16, quail and grouse hunters have cause for rejoicing.Of course, that's if they do it on a purpose built frame, or the LW 20 frame.

BTW, there's few 20s out there that will pattern an oz as nicely as most 16s, and that's almost graven on stone.7/8 oz, closer.

Questions, comments, donations?
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Old December 19, 2001, 06:04 PM   #2
C.R.Sam
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And.....for those unfortunates who are forced to use steel shot, the 16 will carry steel loads that are very close to 20 lead loads in performance. No gain, just reducing the loss by goin up to 16.

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Old December 19, 2001, 06:14 PM   #3
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"Ammo is also becoming more available, tho selection is still somewhat limited. Same with components, there's less variety in wads. Still, the situation has improved, and looks to continue so. "





GROANNN! So now I find out .


Last week at Wally-Mart I noticed that there was quite a few boxes of 16 gauge on the shelf.......so being a lover of the 16 I bought 10 boxes of shells. I figured that ammo was getting scarcer and scarcer so I stocked up!

Seriously I am overjoyed to see companies bringing back the 16 and more ammo being sold for it.
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Old December 19, 2001, 06:37 PM   #4
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The first shotgun I ever fired was a 16 gauge and in the intervening 40 or so years I haven't fired one since.

Intrinsically, there is nothing wrong with the gauge but its fall from fashion is understandable. For the most part, its absence from the skeet fields means there isn't a steady market for the gauge. Target shooting helps keep cartridges alive. For example, were it not for skeet, the 28 gauge would probably be as popular as the 32 gauge is today IMHO.

The move to non-toxic shot has hurt it for waterfowling. Why go with the smaller payload when the 12 is so readily available and comes in magnum lengths for those really long honkers. For variety, you can't beat the 12.

The 16 is a good upland cartridge but the light 12 gauge upland guns match the 16 for weight without losing the shell selection. (I actually have the best of both worlds with a 12 gauge Spanish sidelock that was built on a 16 gauge frame.)

I have nothing against the 16 and no complaints about its revival but I am not one of those who get all dewy-eyed over the 16. This is likely considered heresy and desecration by the 16 lovers but I'll just stick to my 12 when the occasion calls.
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Old December 19, 2001, 09:09 PM   #5
Dave McC
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Thanks, folks....

First shotgun was a 16 ga H&R single, with a stock crooked as a White House lawyer. It darn near put me off shotguns forever but I persevered and learned to shoot it. Game from squirrels to Greater Canadas fell to that thing in pre steel days, and it carried like a wand.

Southlal, no prob. The stuff doesn't spoil. And, with the international situation being what it is, ammo supplies may be hit or miss for a while.

Sam,lead 3s in a 1 1/8 oz load will do fine on Geese, 4s for Mallards, but it's a fairly close range load.No 50 yard shots with these.

Paul, it adds another set of options with few added problems, IMO. And with a house full of excellent 12 gauges, I doubt I'll get one. Sub gauges hold no mysterious attraction for me. Frankenstein, in addition, is a very good quail gun, and the kids' 20 ga Express is a light toter and effective with an oz of 8s.

And, getting a 16 to me means another MEC, more components, different components,etc. Ammo logistics here are more complicated than Italian politics.

But,there's folks whose battery, needs and wants differ, and the 16 may be a good choice for them.
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Old December 19, 2001, 10:46 PM   #6
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Glad to hear that the 16 is coming back in style. I inherited two from my grandpa -- a Browning semi-auto 16ga and a Stevens sxs 16. I've never shot either of them.
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Old December 20, 2001, 06:34 AM   #7
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In addition to the guys you mentioned, Dave, big-bore handgun enthusiast and esteemed gunwriter Elmer Keith was a noted authority on shotguns (Shotguns by Keith). Elmer was a BIG fan of the 16 bore.
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Old December 20, 2001, 08:13 AM   #8
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Dwestfall, do yourself a favor and exercise those 16s. The Sweet Sixteen was an outstanding auto, and Stevens doubles are Cinderella guns. Either would be great for clays, doves, etc. Just make sure they have 2 3/4" chambers.

BigG, that tome rests on my bedside table. Keith did love the 16, so did Major Askins, who did most everything possible with shotguns using a Super 10 and a 16. Not a bad combo even today, if a little unfashionable.
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Old December 20, 2001, 09:40 AM   #9
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16 comeback

The 16 making a comeback ? I'm not so sure. First off for the 16 to have a legitmate place it has to be lighter and smaller scaled than a 12, not that many "great old" 16's were. I would say that the real browning sweet 16 (belgium) was, and the remington 48. But the 870 (circa1978) I had was not ,nor was the 1100 or any Winchester except the model 12 . As for doubles a 16 bore Parker , LC smith or NID could be, but the lower end (hardware guns) are not.

When the new 16ga Ithaca 37 came out I checked into them and found the weight and frame about the same as the 12, I don't believe this is the same gun as the old 16 m 37 at least not the 5-3/4 lb featherweight 16 that was such a joy to carry after cottontails.

There are many choices in what I would consider legitimate 16s but just because the gun is a certain bore doesn't make it a great handling or carrying gun, only good engineering and design can.

I think what we have going on now is the gun buying public is looking for something different and gun makers & sellers are going to do what they can to make a buck in this market, as always it should be buyer beware.
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Old December 21, 2001, 06:18 AM   #10
Dave McC
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You made some good points, Huntsman. Ideally, a 16 for the uplands should run about 6 lbs. The old Rule of 96.

And not all classic doubles fit that. Parker offered all of its gauges in a light,medium or heavy weight. So, a 16 could be built on the same frame as a light 12, or a medium 20. Ithaca did the same, only with 2 sizes per gauge.

That 870 is one of the ones I mentioned. 16 ga on a 12 frame.

And Caveat Emptor always applies....
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Old December 21, 2001, 12:44 PM   #11
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16 gauge

Dave
like you I'm a real fan of a 16 in a single shot. In fact out of the half dozen or so 16s that have passed through my hands,The one I miss the most (and will buy another) is a winchester m37 .I had one in a twenty and didn't like it ,also shot one in 12, but for what ever reason it was the 16 that really tripped my trigger
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Old December 21, 2001, 01:55 PM   #12
Dave McC
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You got me scratching my head, Huntsman. What is it about a 16 in a single?It's not just nostalgia, that piece carried beautifully and swung well, putting as much or more game on table than any other shotgun I've owned, one shell's worth at a time.I bet I could take another one out the door, and get some meat with it within the hour.

Darn it, you got me itchin' for a new/old gun(G).
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Old December 21, 2001, 04:48 PM   #13
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FWIW, a college buddy had a Belgian-made Auto-5 in 16ga with a 2 9/16"(?) chamber. He had to open the crimps on 2 3/4" loads, cut off 3/16" with an exacto knife, fold them back down, and drip candle wax on them, otherwise they'd hang up on the front of the ejection port. He liked the gun, but he liked shooting more than doctoring his ammo, so he traded it for a 20ga 870.
 
Old December 22, 2001, 08:50 AM   #14
Dave McC
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Bad news,lots of older shotguns, including the early A-5s, has short chambers.

Good news, most any smith can rectify. Or, Gamebore imports 2 1/2", low pressure shells from Britain.
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Old December 22, 2001, 03:42 PM   #15
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I have hunted with the "sweet 16" several times. I tend to agree. Its not a compromise between 20 and 12. Its more like a sweet spot.
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