View Full Version : 10.12,16,20 ga.....

Dave McC
July 8, 2000, 06:10 AM
For tyros, and those who might need an answer but for some reason hesitate asking questions...

Gauge is an old fashioned method of measuring the bore of a longarm. It's the number of bore diameter sized balls to a lb. So, a 16 ga ball would weigh one oz. Thus, the smaller the number, the bigger the bore.

Here's a rundown of what each gauge excells at, in appropriate sized and weighted weapons.

10 ga,the largest legal gauge.Use is limited to waterfowling and turkey hunting these days, some deer hunting with buck or the mighty slug.

Pros: Payload, for when you absolutelu have to put several oz of lead or a big load of steel out there.

Cons: Weight, kick and expense.Most tens also swing like railroad ties.

12 ga, the most popular gauge these days. Used for nigh everything, and works with proper loads. More variety and styles of shotguns are available in this gauge than any other, and maybe more 12s are sold than the rest combined.

Pros: Available ammo can tailor the load to game from moose to mice,and it's found everywhere. Most 12s are quite portable,and handle well for the average shooter,with acceptable recoil levels.

Cons: The Magnum craze, combined with the American concept of how much a shotgun should weigh, has created myriads of 12s that swing like clubs and still kick like H*ll. If your 12 is loaded with a 1 1/8 oz field load, it should weigh about 7 lbs. More, it's harder to tote,less it kicks a lot.

16 ga, the classic American upland gauge. A little light for waterfowling, but perfect on game smaller than turkey.Good 16s will/should weigh a full lb less than a 12 ga of similar design, and produce better patterns than the same weight shot in a 20 ga case. An oz of shot is the classic 16 laod.

Pros,carries like a 20,shoots like a 12. Also, many used 16 ga doubles from classic makers like Fox and Parker are available cheaper than their 12 and 20 ga counterparts.

Cons: The ammo and gun makers kinda squeezed the 16 out, making 16s on 12 ga frames,thus heavier, and loading the 20 ga up to 16 ga levels, like the 1 oz load now so common.
Ammo selection and availability is less than for the 12 or 20.

20 ga,the smallest of the common gauges. Very popular for beginners, kids,ladies, and experts.Not very good for waterfowling or turkey, it serves well for upland game and clay sports.

Pros: Lighter weight and oft better handling.

Cons: The popular 1 oz load in a light 20 can be a vicious kicker. The better choice is a 7/8 oz load.

A coupla notes....

ALL of the above gauges will work for HD or slug use on deer with proper ammo. More important is how well the shogun is set up and the shooter's skill.

While there is a 410 shotgun, it is of such limited value I hesitate to include it here. Lots of kids start out with the 410, but they would be better served by the 28 ga, which had a bit more shot and tends to have better patterns.Alas,most 28s are expensive customs, and not the sort you'd want to expose to a kid's abuse. There should be a market for a decent, inexpensive 28 double on a true 28 sized frame but it's not offered.

Also, a pattern of any gauge will be the same size as those of other gauges, same choke. The difference is in density. A 28 can kill a bird at 25 yards as well as a 10 ga, but the pattern may not be dense enough to do it at 40+.

Questions, comments,donations?

July 8, 2000, 08:23 AM
A very good overview of shotgun gauges. As far as 28 gauge is concerned, Ruger does make the Red Label in a true 28 gauge frame. The lower-priced Spanish boxlocks (AyA, Ugartechea) are also true 28 gauge frames. I find it frustrating that good over/under makers like Browning and SKB only offer their 28 or 20 gauge frames. Beretta offers a true 28 gauge frame on their higher end guns but they are far beyond a "reasonable" price range.

The 28 gauge is a superb choice for smaller upland game birds in close cover such as grouse or quail but may be over reaching for late season pheasant and certainly not enough for waterfowl.

There's not much more than can be said about the 12 other than if you are only to have one shotgun this would be it. From 2 ounce boomers to 24 gram target loads, it is the all round choice. I am unconvinced though that you need more than a 3" gun. The 3-1/2" guns that I have tried don't pattern any better and they kick a lot more.

Mr. Pub
July 8, 2000, 09:04 AM
Nice overview. If you ever have the time, Dave, an overview on ammunition types, what works best in your opinion for home defense, various hunting, slugs etc., would be appreciated.

July 8, 2000, 10:42 AM
Re 28 gauge. There are several choices. Remington and Franchi make 28 ga autoloaders. There are several 28 Ga pumps available or on the used market.

Beretta makes a 28 ga on their 20 ga frame (686 model) that is quite popular and reasonably priced for a quality O/U.

I fail to see a problem with heavier guns in 28 GA. I prefer a heavier gun as it will shoot softer and teach proper follow through. Lighter guns tend to make the shooter stop swinging (or checking as the Brits say).I have shot the Ruger 28, and while it is a fine gun it is way too light and whippy for my shooting tastes.

Several importers have 28 Ga S X S guns available, mostly of Spanish origin and of good quality.

Another possibility is mounting 28 ga tubes in your 12 ga O/U or S X S. While the tubes alter the balance of the gun they are a less expensive way to shoot 28 ga than buying a new gun. Briley makes a universal set of 28 ga tubes (Called the companion) that do not have to be fitted to each gun and can be swapped between guns as long as the barrel length is the same.

The big problem with 28 ga is the cost of ammo. If you shoot 28 ga you have to learn to reload. But in 28 ga your reloading dollar goes further as you use less powder and shot per shell. 28 Ga wads cost the same as 20 ga wads. Reloading is the way to go.

I agree that 28 is tha best gauge to teach youngsters how to shoot, it is great for women also as it doesn't beat them up like a 12 or even a 20. I know shooters who have problems with their shoulders and shoot 28 exclusively because of the mild recoil. Most use tubes in a 12 ga O/U or shoot an 1100.

We need to support the 28 gauge market, if more ammo is purchased the price will come down and more models will appear.

Buy one today and have fun!

Geoff Ross

One reason to vote in the next Presidential election.

It's the Supreme Court, Stupid!

[This message has been edited by K80Geoff (edited July 08, 2000).]

greg c
July 8, 2000, 01:42 PM
Great review!

I would add that the gauge determining bore sized balls are specified to be made of lead, obviously with different materials the weights would be different. Imagine the diameter of a 12 ga if it were spec'd with an aluminum ball. Heck, I'd get one. :)

July 8, 2000, 01:59 PM

I agree with your comments as far as targets and teaching are concerned but for hunting I can't see the point to carrying a heavier gun than necessary. In a lighter gun, I find balance and fit issues are more important and the smaller frame allows for longer barrels and longer stocks. Although the tendency with smaller gauges is to go with shorter barrels, I've found a 6lb, 28 gauge sxs with 29" barrels on a true 28 gauge frame to be a delightful gun for the field.

Tubing a 12 gauge for hunting makes no sense because the gun becomes heavier with no tangible benefit. If I want a lighter shell, I can easily go with a 12 gauge 24 gram load. The Federal copper plated 24 gram target loads did quite well for me last year during grouse season.

[This message has been edited by PJR (edited July 08, 2000).]

Dave McC
July 8, 2000, 07:34 PM
Thanks,folks, hope it'll help clear the confusion.

Mr Pub, let me think on it. Trouble is, being the geezer I am, the curve is somewhat ahead of me when it comes to recent improvements in ammo, especially those relating to game or games I don't go much for. IE, turkey loads...

RE 28 ga, I've run across local legends who shoot one better than I do anything, but I've noticed that when the pheasants are flushing wild, or late season doves are spooky, the 28s get replaced with 12s. For a specialty shotgun, no problem, but for those of us who like to stick with one gun or one model(Like me and my 4 870s),the 28 has limited appeal. I DO see a crying need for an entry level 28 of good balance,even with a very short stock, for kids and older beginners.

Maybe the 28 is the equivalent of an ultra light fishing rod, or that 3 weight fly rod I've got in the closet. The question is, can it, in YOUR hands, take game cleanly and humanely? If a trout busts 4 lb test line, it lives, but a bird hit with insufficient shot adn energy lives not long, but in pain.

A friend of mine has a 28 H&H that cost more than my truck did,new. HE shoots it very well, but I noted several good 12s in his battery, including one of those Darne slide doubles. Friend states the 12 and 28 cover the whole gamut of shotgunning, and he has a good case.

OTOH, the Brits and Europeans make light double 12s that they load like a 16 ga here, an oz or so of shot in a gun weighing in around 6 1/2 lbs or less. They even make a 2 inch 12 ga shell and scale a little superbly made double around it.

Had one, a French made(1919) boxlock that weighed in at 6 lbs, 5 oz and made me look a lot better on woodcock than I am. Since I really do not like the taste of said bird, the gun was sold just before Daughter started college. There's a connection there...

IMO, folks would probably shoot their 12s better if they dropped the shot weight a bit. Most 1 1/8 oz loads pattern less evenly than a 1 oz, and the 1 1/4 oz load can go even further. My favorite upland load, good in darn near all the shotguns I've tried it in, is the Winchester AA TRAP load, 1 1/8 oz of #7 1/2 shot. This is even good for pheasant on the rise, tho a load of #6s is better for the tight bbl or the next up in the tube.

July 9, 2000, 09:52 AM
PJR... Granted, a heavy gun is not appropriate for upland hunting. My experience lies in clay target shooting and my comments were geared towards that end. I would not use a 28 for ducks! Nor would I want to carry my K guns all day in the field, a round of 200 sporting clays in one day is enough with an almost 9 pound gun!

Sub guge tubes do add weight the the gun and alter the balance. But for Skeet or Sporting they work well. The advantage of tubes is that they allow one gun to be used for several different events. They also could be used to introduce new shooters to shotguns without the punishing recoil which can be a problem with some shooters.

Lighter loads in 12 ga guns can also be used by shooters who are recoil sensitive. There are recipes for 7/8 oz loads in all of the reloading manuals that work well. I know personally of several shooters who shoot only light loads and do well. I have no experience as to how they fare in upland hunting. I have noticed an increse in the popularity of the British "short" 12 gauge cartridges. I understand that several manufacturers will make guns for the 2 inch shells! They are not cheap however.

I still feel that the 28 does not get enough respect. I consider it to be th .22 of shotshells, just wish the ammo was as cheap as .22.

Geof Ross

One reason to vote in the next Presidential election.

It's the Supreme Court, Stupid!

Dave McC
July 9, 2000, 10:51 AM
I've little direct experience with the 28, but certainly regard it as more effective than the 410 and under some circumstances nigh equal to the 20. The old 5/8 oz 28 load will hammer even ringnecks well on the rise.
I do think the 28 is, except for breaking in kids and beginners,a shotgun for experienced, proficient shooters, on game at least.

Soon as I hit the Lottery, I'll get one, say 8 inch bbls,choked Mod/IM,stocked sumptously in walnut,and of course a SXS. Make it a hammer gun to scratch an atavistic itch.

Mike Irwin
July 10, 2000, 11:17 AM
I personally think most kids would be better started out with a 12-gauge of proper length and light loads with 3/4-oz shot, 2 dram equiv.

I started a friend's 12-year-old out on this combination a couple of years ago, and she's now one hell of a wing shot.

I've used the same loading to shoot long trap strings using No. 9 shot. Pretty effective if you don't let the range open up.

Beware the man with the S&W .357 Mag.
Chances are he knows how to use it.

Oleg Volk
July 10, 2000, 11:42 AM
I can't understand the popularity of 12ga: most people I see firing buckshot or slugs get bruised by recoil and most flinch badly. I can appreciate the terminal effect of the load but the effect on the user seems brutal.

Dave McC
July 10, 2000, 12:11 PM
Oleg, the two big causes of flinches with the 12 are bad form and Magnumitis. Good form and reasonable loads are the best way to learn. I doubt a training load over 3 dram and 1 oz can effect the best results.

And,while I recognize the kick problem, after a while it takes oneheckuva load to be noticeable in the field.

Agred, Mike, but not all of us handload...

Mike Irwin
July 10, 2000, 10:55 PM

You don't handload?


Then try some of the 28-gram International Trap shells. That's slightly less than an ounce of shot, and is pretty light recoiling.

Beware the man with the S&W .357 Mag.
Chances are he knows how to use it.

Dave McC
July 11, 2000, 07:39 AM
I handloaded metallics for decades, ran out of time so I quit. Besides, my agency was keeping me in duty type ammo, which is why the 38s here are fed +P+ 110s.

I had some hunting buddies that reloaded shotshells but not metallics. I loaded their '06, 303 British, 6.5mm Swede,etc, and got reloaded AA(from our official range) loads with shot of choice, mostly 7 12/s and 6s.

Mike Irwin
July 11, 2000, 10:51 AM

There's also another possibility that I forgot about. 2 1/2" shells. They seem to be getting more and more available, but they're still not cheap, as they're imported from England. They usually are loaded with 3/4-oz. of shot to a 2 1/2 dram equiv.

They're for older shotguns.

Beware the man with the S&W .357 Mag.
Chances are he knows how to use it.

Dave McC
July 11, 2000, 12:01 PM
I know about 2 1/2" shells, Mike, but locally they run about $8/box. There's lots of older Brit and Continental shotguns out there for them, part of their loading a 12 like we do a 16.

July 11, 2000, 03:58 PM
Regarding newbies and flinch...

CindyH fired my 20-ga single. She liked it, but kept hitting high. She then asked to see me shoot my 12-ga. After I demonstrated its terminal effect, she grinned and asked if she could try it.

2.75" max dr loads, #7 1/2 shot, she had ZERO problems handling it. Now she wants a 12 of her own.

It's all form, guys. Granted a 10 would be a bit much, but 12 is totally doable, as long as you know how.

July 11, 2000, 04:55 PM
Excellent thread, Dave. Thanks again for sharing your experience.

If you care to venture into another area, "Proper Mounting Techniques for the Shotgun" would be useful for me to read while I nurse my bruised shoulder :o from last weekend (5
00 Buck shells, 5 slugs and five rounds of trap).



[This message has been edited by Ledbetter (edited July 11, 2000).]

Dave McC
July 12, 2000, 06:07 AM
Take those anti-inflammatories, Ledbetter(G). Since you asked, I'll post a thread....