View Full Version : The Way of the Shotgun.....

Dave McC
February 8, 2002, 08:08 AM
Kindly forgive the pompous title, I wanted this to be easy to find in the days ahead and there's no "Way" in the Archives.

This is intended for those of us who are not deeply "Into" shotguns yet,are staring at the steep part of the learning curve and it's staring back, unblinkingly. Here's a rough guide to getting started. And please, all cogniscenti are invited to chip in....

First, have a shotgun. Brand and style are not crucial. It should be of modern make, safe to shoot and operable by you. IOW, if you're a 4'8" pixie, no 10 gauges with a 16" Length of Pull, and if you're an NFL lineman, no 28 gauges weighing 5 lbs. As for the stock fit you see us harping about here, if you can mount it easily and shoot it without your thumb bumping your nose, it's close enough. The esoteric stuff like cast comes later, we just want to get you shooting.

NOTE: As one can see after a short perusal of the BB, there's lots of choices for shotguns. Leaving my personal preferences aside, there's lots to be said for a US made, shortbarreled pump 12 gauge gun with a handful of choke tubes.Handle a few, pick the one that FEELS best.

And, if your shotgun fits fairly well, has a trigger and sights you can use, do not modify it or succumb to the lures of the Aftermarket Sirens.Later, you'll be in a better position to choose what will enhance your performance and what is just a Wallet Vac.

Second, use your shotgun. Fire it frequently, and the game or drill is less important than rounds expended, if good form and techniques are used.

Shoot it at clays, steel plates, starlings and English sparrows, landfill rats, anything. On days when you cannot shoot it, pick it up and handle it. Repeatedly mount and handle it, grooving in the moves until muscle memory builds, and the muscles to do this. Your upper body strength will increase.

Third, immerse yourself in the shotgunning world. Use that well worn library card of yours and work through the books under #799 in the Dewey system at your local library. Read Zutz, Brister and so on for the tech stuff, Babcock,Smith and Hill for the stories.

Fourth, buy your ammo in bulk, learn to reload, or both. Reloading target ammo is not rocket science, and the payback period for the equipment is very short. My used setup cost less than $100 with some components included,and paid for itself in a few weeks. You won't save money by reloading, you'll shoot more. And, stick to the lightest loads you can find at this point. The heavy stuff can come later, but let's get you used to the shotgun before the Mega-Thumper Mastodon killers.

Fifth, the most unrealistic and dangerous drivel this side of Congress occurs in gun shops. Anyone can have an opinion. Informed opinions are relatively rare.

A quiet old guy at the range with a shotgun he's had/used since the Eisenhower Administration is a better source than some self proclaimed Ex Green Beanie in a gun shop, but he might be just as wrong. Use common sense to evaluate any input, including mine.

Sixth, there's absolutely no substitute for experience,and luckily for tyros,one can hire or borrow experience for a reasonable price. Many ranges and clubs give instruction, either Hunter Safety or game specific. A little coaching from someone that's fecally cognizant is worth it's weight in gold. Note that not all great shotgunners are great teachers.

But,most experienced shotgunners have been there, done that,and can offer some insight. Remember, the only stupid questions are those that aren't asked.

And, while trap, skeet or Sporting seems to have little real world application, if you can turn a 4" clay disc moving in excess of 35 MPH into itty bitty pieces in a second or two after sighting same,target acquisition on something larger, slower and possibly more dangerous is not going to be a problem.

So, any questions(Not answered in the Archives, that is)?....

February 8, 2002, 09:25 AM
Hey Dave, how 'bout some examples of good practice. That is, aside from shooting clays at the local range.

The reason I ask is that I do all my practice in my back yard, mainly shooting silhouettes and blowing old milk jugs off the side of a very large and steep hill.

I'd love to shoot clays but from what I've read, my 4 acres isn't nearly big enough to do so safely.

BTW: Thanks for the wealth of info you've contributed to this forum! I'm new to shotguns and I've learned a great deal already from your posts.

February 8, 2002, 02:15 PM
Dave's advice is always sound particularly the point about instruction. I muddled along for several years before getting some guidance and it is well worth the time. It's surprising the number of people who wouldn't think twice about hiring an instructor to teach them to golf or play tennis but balk at shotgun instruction.

Of all the shooting sports, shotgunning offers the widest variety of activities with the least cost. A Remington 870 or 11-87 with a 28" choke tubed barrel and a slug barrel will take any animal that flies and a good many that don't, let you play any clay game, and be a certain comfort when things go bump in the dark. Whether it's 7/8's ounce for woodcock, Brenneke slugs for bears or steel shot for geese, one shotgun can do it all. On a cost per use basis, the shotgun is probably the best bargain, even some of the more the expensive ones.

A comparatively modest investment gets you in to the game and after that the sky is the limit. Some shotguns on the market are modern art forms where old-world craftsmen combine with leading edge technology to create breathtaking masterpieces that are meant to be used as well as admired. If the bank manager will permit it, there is a world of blued steel, magnificent engraving and marble cake walnut to explore but to quote a good friend who owns many fine guns, "The target doesn't actually know how expensive the gun is."

The best way to be a better shotgunner is to learn as much as you can and shoot at every opportunity. I disagree with those who say clay target games don't help in real world or hunting situations. The accomplished game shooters that I know spend time practicing on clays. You will be better with your HD gun if you take it out on the skeet or sporting range from time to time. Being familiar with your tools makes you better in their application.

I own rifles and handguns but have over the years found putting holes in paper or taking big game to be less satisfying than dropping a flushing pheasant or watching a clay target vanish in a cloud of dust at the end of my barrel. And I've made some good friends along the way.


February 8, 2002, 03:42 PM
In my opinion, the best thing to have for shotgun shooting, other than a shotgun, is a friend who enjoys them as much as you do. You don't even need to each have your own gun, just share.

I also whole heartedly agree with not think that you have to have a good deal of money to get into the sport. An $80 NEF 20 ga. single shot and a $10 slip on recoil pad is a very easy gun to start shooting with. Another good investment would be a clay pigeon thrower. Hoppes makes a basic one that can be had for around $35, but you can also just buy a $5 hand thrower and spend some time getting the hang of it. After that all you need is ammo, pigeons and a place to safely shoot. plus to make your investment last you will want a simple cleaning kit, and they can be had cheaply at any sporting goods store. A rod, wire brush, cleaning patches and some gun cleaner is all you really need to regular cleaning.

Plus only after to can break the great majority of airborne pigeons worry about fancy add-ons and expensive upgrades. A fancy gun doesn't make a shooter either. Me and my $80 20 ga. break action and $10 slip on pad could outshoot a whole lot of people with thier practically unshot but heavily modified Vang Comp 11-87 master blaster. Nothing against fancy guns or the people who use them because I'm sure a whole lot of them are fine shots, but a fancy gun in the hands of a novice is just as effective as a stick with an firecracker duck taped to the end :).


Dave McC
February 8, 2002, 08:12 PM
Thanks for the responses, folks. From the number of views, it seems this has struck a chord.

DMK, chances are there's a decent trap skeet or Sporting Clays range within an hours drive. On your own place, try small balloons on a short string tied to a weight on a breezy day. Or, tin cans. Shoot them to move them across a line, like a race.

Run a wire down that hill, and rig up a moving target. We used to use an old tire with a center plate made of cardboard, bounced down a hill and shot at with slugs. Hard to be safe with this, but creativity may out.

For "Serious" practice, rig up some brown paper grocery bags on sticks, practice El Presidente and fast traverse firing. Use your imagination....

And use your shotgun. A few rounds at a turkey shoot or the beef shoots that mimic the M/L shoots but with slugs are fun, reasonably cheap, and good practice.

So's casual clays in a pasture with a hand thrower, some clays, and a buddy to alternate throwing and shooting with.

And varmint hunting can be quite exciting, and oft serves a good purpose conservation wise. Remove a coyote or ten from the locality and see how many more fawns and turkey polts you see in a year or two. While lots of folk use rifles, a tight choked shotgun with large shot can put a quietus on a critter nicely.

Crows eat bird eggs and baby birds, they're feathered thugs that are proliferating and need trimming. A box or two of 7 1/2s invested in crow control means more quail around, more dove around, etc. And they're a sporting target,oft susceptible to calls and decoys.

Like Adam said, the investment can be quite modest, the returns excellent.

Dave McC
April 27, 2002, 05:52 AM
Back up for the new folks....

April 27, 2002, 01:29 PM
Dave, I'd like to say a few words to the folks, if I may. FOLKS: When varmint hunting birds, please, please, please be sure of your targets' species before you start shooting. People mistake crows for ravens quite often. Ravens are protected by the federal Migratory Bird Act and are not permissible to shoot. Check an Audubon field book if you can't tell the difference. I've also found dead turkey vultures, probably shot as "crows." These birds are also protected by MBA and not permissible to shoot. All raptors (hawks, eagles, falcons, kestrels, kites, ospreys, and vultures) are protected by MBA and are never permissible to shoot. Further, be sure a sparrow is a sparrow and not a goldfinch. There are tens of species of MBA protected songbirds that can look like sparrows at a distance (birds such as juncos and nuthatches.) Songbirds (passerines) are never permissible to shoot under federal law. Also, contrary to the opinions of some, all jays are protected under MBA. Most of the corvids are with the exception of crows, but many states have seasons on crows that are not year-round.

I'm a hunter myself, but I can't count how many beautiful dead songbirds I've found full of shotgun pellets because someone probably thought they were "sparrows."

Dave McC
April 27, 2002, 05:45 PM
Good point, Kevan. We should always be sure of what we're shooting at. And work within the game laws.

Crows are all black, ravens have yellow beaks, IIRC.

April 27, 2002, 07:17 PM
Actually, Dave, that is incorrect. Ravens are also all-black. None of the American species of crows or ravens have yellow beaks. The difference between ravens and crows is that a raven is larger, has a longer and fatter beak, and a ravens tail is tapered where a crow's is squared. Ravens have a deeper call as opposed to a crow. You'll need to know this because some ravens loiter around crows. Folks, be sure to check an Audubon field guide to birds before you shoot. Shooting a raven (or any other Migratory Bird Act protected bird) is a game law violation the same as poaching. A game warden will not usually accept misidentification of species as an excuse. If the warden sees dead protected birds around your stand, you can be charged for each one he finds as a separate violation. Some states will confiscate weapons and vehicles used in commision of a game law violation. In many states, game law violations are felonies and there goes your right to bear arms. Some states run a program called "Operation Game Thief" for citizens to report poaching. So it's not just wardens watching. Not to mention the myriads of anti-hunters and radical environmentalists who have hunters under close watch.

Ravens are highly intelligent birds, probably as intelligent as some primates. They can mimic as well as any parrot. They are beautiful animals who serve a beneficial purpose of cleaning up the dead, as do vultures. Contrary to popular belief, ravens and vultures do not kill or eat the dying. They wait for the dying to actually expire before they begin to clean up the carcass.

Dave McC
April 28, 2002, 05:34 AM
Thanks for the correction.

April 29, 2002, 12:52 PM
"Ravens and vultures do not kill or eat the dying. They wait for the dying to actually expire before they begin to clean up the carcass."

April 29, 2002, 05:30 PM
Haha, so true.

Like parrots, ravens can learn to talk -- I've worked at the L.A. Zoo for three years, and a couple of ours will say "Hi" or "Hello" if there isn't a crowd around (they're a bit shy).

May 4, 2002, 11:06 PM
My steel target pistol matches allow us to run the courses (about 150 round-count) with a shotgun. I'm going to make it a point to try to do it as often as possible.