View Full Version : Shotguns for Adult Beginners...

Dave McC
July 11, 2002, 06:24 AM
I've an idea that a discussion on this would help a lot of folks, so bear with me please...

The query comes up frequently here,"What shotgun should I get?". The poster is an adult, usually, and just getting into shotgunning.They may have some experience shooting other folks' guns, but not extensively.

Maybe they want to share the good times of their buddies or SO.

Maybe they've realized that some werewolves need no full moon, and a shotgun is a fearsome weapon at close range..

Maybe they want the instant gratification of making a loud noise and watching a little clay frizbee explode.

For whatever reason, they want their own shotgun.

So, the query comes....

"What shotgun should I get?".

This gets as complicated as Italian politics.

Is the tyro built like an NFL lineman, Dilbert, or Tinker Bell?

Are their interests "Serious" shotgunning, pest control, or funandgames?

All of the above may be the correct answer.

There are few certainties in life, but this comes close to meriting its own Tablet of Stone.


And we don't need it fitted right down to the last thousandth of an inch, but we need it to have about the right length, drop, pitch and cast. Fortunately, this can be done with the majority of shooters in an afternoon,IF someone knows how.

My guess is,20% of folks are sized and shaped to fit a factory stock. Another 20% are close enough they can use a factory stock and do good work.

The other 60% are not using shotguns that fit, and their shooting suffers.Often the shooter does too, an unfitted shotgun kicks the bejeebers out of people.

And fitted shotguns can kick like H*ll too, if form's bad and the load's heavy. Magnum loads have stopped more folks from shooting than the Clintonistas.

So has bad form.Watch a beginner sometime. I'll wager the usual flagon of mead they're leaning back,putting all their weight on the rear foot to counter the weight of the shotgun. This is absolutely the worst way to shoot.

So, we agree on fit, I hope. What shotgun should an adult tyro get?

Naming no brands, it should be a repeater, either pump or auto, with choke tubes. Because of kick, it should be a gas auto, money permitting, from a name maker.

Why a repeater? Availibility, versatility and cost. Buying used can save a bundle.

Why no doubles? Economics, good ones are rarely cheap, cheap ones are rarely good. And a tyro's money should go into ammo, lessons,and range fees, not fancy engraving and wood.

And no bellsnwhistles either. Lazer sights, extended mags, custom bbl work and so on are further up the learning curve.

All a tyro's shotgun has to do is put the pattern where it's supposed to go, without hurting the shooter.Any and all mods done at this point should be related to doing just that,ie stock and trigger work.

More later, and a request....

Let's not get into a discussion of brands and models. There's plenty of that in the Archives, and I'd really like to keep brand loyalty out of this thread.


July 11, 2002, 08:51 AM
As above
A used 50 buck house brand in good mechanical condition that fits.
Far better than a several hundred (or thousand) buck one that doesn't.

Fit, form, informed practice.


July 11, 2002, 09:34 AM
How can a tyro tell if it fits?

July 11, 2002, 12:21 PM
Knowledgable friend helps.


Dave McC
July 11, 2002, 07:06 PM
Like Sam said, Melos, and if he/she's hitting the target.

A quick check....

With an UNLOADED shotgun, stand in a room with no ammo in it.Look at a point on the wall,and close your eyes. Mount your shotgun and open your eyes. If it's pointing where you're looking, it fits fairly close. If not, get a smith, fitter, or other cognizant individual to fix it.


July 11, 2002, 07:59 PM
Quite helpful, Dave.


July 12, 2002, 12:27 AM
Dave's Quick Check
Works on
Shotguns, rifles and handguns.


Dave McC
July 12, 2002, 06:26 AM
Thanks,Sam, but it's not my invention, I'm just stealing it...

Some more on beginner's shotguns...

Gas autos are the number one choice, except for....

Those with limited budgets. By and large,$300 will set a beginner up with gun, ammo and peripherals if one buys either a used pump, a sale item, or a special. Add a minimum of $200 more for a gas auto by a name maker.

Those with limited strength. Gas autos weigh a bit heavier, and with the gas device in the forearm,this puts the balance point further forward.

Adding a second bbl is a very good idea. This can be either a long setup for clays and bird hunting, or a shorty for HD, brush hunting and perhaps slug use.

Most of the Big Four sell pump combos. This is oft a bargain for what one gets.

If the budget demands an either/or, get the short bbl. It works well for HD, and life insurance for one's family takes precedence over a recreational tool. Besides, the last 25 or so geese in the freezer haven't cared a whit that Frankenstein's bbl is a mere 21". IOW,while a short bbl isn't the perfect wingshooting and clays tool, it'll work if we do our part.

As for mods and addons....

Only that work or accessory needed to raise performance to an acceptable level should be done for/by the tyro. If the stock fits, the sights can be seen easily,and the trigger is light enough to be worked and heavy enough to be safe, no mods are needed. And the best accessory is lots of ammo.

This last should be the lightest load one can beg, borrow,or buy. Since most chain stores now carry "Promotional" ammo, this is oft the cheapest as well as the lightest. Most adult beginners can handle a 1 oz, 2 3/4 dram load in a 12 gauge, and a soft 7/8 oz 1150 FPS in a 20 gauge should work with all but the least recoil tolerant and tiny.

As for offbrand shotguns of either pump or auto persuasion....

Oft these are serviceable arms,well suited for the casual shotgunner.But,we're not just casually interested, are we?

Off brand shotguns may have parts and warranty problems. Sending a shotgun back to the maker in Connecticut is much easier than than Uzbehkstan, Turkey or Brasil. And these seldom have ANY aftermarket stuff compared to say, a 500 or 11-87.

Rookies rarely benefit from aftermarkets, intermediates might. That comes later.

A side note, choke tubes are an excellent idea for all round use, and a rookie's shotgun should have them.Three ought to cover the bases, in IC, Modified and Full or similar. Cylinder, Light Modified and Improved Modified is also good. Rookies need hits for confidence, and tight chokes work best at ranges rookies should leave alone at first.


July 12, 2002, 08:01 AM
I'm going to break ranks here. For a new shooter who is primarily interested in clay targers or hunting, I'm going to recommend an over/under. In my experience, breaking guns are safer and more convenient that semi-autos. With a breaking gun, once it's open, its safe and everyone in the vicinity knows it's safe. With semis it's not as evident. I prefer to hunt with people using breaking guns for this reason.

Another advantage to the over/under is the ability to check for barrel obstructions from the breach and the ease with which they are cleaned and maintained. For someone unfamiliar with guns and who is not particularly mechanical, taking a gas gun down can be a frustrating, messy experience.

If the need is varmint control, waterfowling, and less emphasis on clays, I'll suggest a pump. You can see if the foreend on a pump is pulled back from all sides. As well, the pump is easier to maintain than most gas guns. The disadvantage with a pump is that doubles on skeet and sporting clays become more challenging.

I have nothing against semis and have owned a couple over the years. I am however beginning to consider them more of an "experts gun" than the ideal choice for a rookie. They require more diligence on muzzle control than an over/under and it's not as easy for others to determine if the gun is not in firing condition. The gas guns do have lighter recoil but if that is a problem, lighter loads and thicker recoil pads are two possible solutions for a fixed breach gun.


July 12, 2002, 08:36 AM
I think it's impossible to answer that question without first determining what the person's needs are. What will the shotgun be used for.

Dave McC
July 12, 2002, 03:25 PM
Paul, a good O/U is a great tool, and you're right about break action guns and safety. But....

Good ones aren't cheap, cheap ones aren't good, and it's hard to tell the difference unless you've some experience.

Lighter loads and good thick pads work well on autos also.

Feel free to differ, your experience and savvy have given good input all along. And it'll give a different view than mine.

Michael,this is a primer.Any analysis of needs is best handled case by case. This is to provide an overview. And as you've found out, there's many facets to shotgunning, and most are mutually supportive....

July 13, 2002, 02:33 AM
For those of the tall and lanky persuasion on a limited budget.

I am tall and have long arms and a long neck. When I say long, I simply mean longer than average--not circus sideshow freak. Anyhow, I found that with stock Remingtons, I mounted the gun naturally only to find myself seeing too much of the barrel. The result would be undershooting.

A quick, cheap fix that worked for me were the Pachmayr slip-on stock pads. They add about an inch of pull to the gun, and they placed my natural mount at point of aim.

Might not work for everyone, but is a good $10 fix for some folks. Also cuts down on recoil a bit. The black ones match the synthetic stocks quite nicely too.

Dave McC
July 13, 2002, 04:34 PM
A slip on pad will definitely help long and lanky folks, Guyon. And as Brister suggests, if that's still not enough one can add some shims in the slip on for another 1/2" or so.

Lanky I've never been, but I take a 36" sleeve and have a fairly long neck.A good LOP for me would be not much under 14 7/8" for a T shirt weather shooting event. Colder weather would reduce that by a bit, say to 14 5/8" or so.