View Full Version : Twenty gauge vs the twelve gauge. Your experiences.

March 14, 2007, 01:20 PM
I REALLY want a shotgun. I can't stop fretting over the 12 gauge's recoil though despite what all I hear & read about it's grade A performance. Therefore, I'm looking at the 20 gauge pump like the Mossberg Persuader.

I checked out what the box of truth had to say on the subject*. My impression is that as long as I use buckshot for HD, I should be ok. But I still would like your experiences with either gauge.

Thanks for the help.

* http://www.theboxotruth.com/docs/bot22.htm

March 14, 2007, 01:30 PM
I shoot both 20 and 12 gauge in 2-3/4" and 3" versions. Yes, the 20 gauge recoils less, but a 12 gauge won't cripple you or anything like that. I shoot 12 gauge 2-3/4" for just about everything, only shoot 3" at geese because of availability of premium shells. I shoot 20 gauge when I will be walking a lot (lighter gun) or just want to shoot something different. I would say the 12 will be more useful, but try them out and pick what you like best.

March 14, 2007, 02:56 PM
My problem with the 20 is they arent offered in a buckshot size that will ensure penetration. I think 4 buck is the biggest and I've read articles that claim aside from a few yards away 4 buck gives marginal performance. Dont choose a pistol grip only shotgun, their made for movies and door breaching only and are nothing more than a huge pistol with a slow rate of fire and hellish recoil. I'd suggest a 18-20'' barrel moss 500 and if recoil is a problem several companies offer low recoil loads. Good luck

March 14, 2007, 03:35 PM
Whatever your choice, if the recoil gets too bad get a nice soft buttpad or Limbsaver vest pad.

March 14, 2007, 03:41 PM
I've got some 3" #2 buck for 20 ga so I know it's available. It just might be hard to find. I grew up shooting 20's and I took tons of doves, rabbits, squirrels, quail and ducks (lead shot was legal then).

I never needed a 12 ga until I started hunting ducks with steel shot and then turkeys. I have no doubt that the 20 will kill turkeys and ducks loaded with the right load and held to reasonable ranges but I didn't want to be handicapped.

A fixed breech 20 such as a pump or double kicks about as hard as a gas-operated 12. I've shot a Rem. 11-87 now for a long time and I love it. It's heavy and gas-operated so it soaks up recoil well.

March 14, 2007, 03:46 PM
>>My impression is that as long as I use buckshot for HD, I should be ok.<<

If HD is the only use you'll put this to recoil should not be the determining factor in what you get. Now if you were a clay shooter, that's a whole different story.

March 14, 2007, 03:49 PM
I use the 20 for upland game, much lighter to carry and field loads are very pleasant to shoot, I have various pump, bolt and single shot, I do not have a 20 autoloader.

The 12 I use for migratory birds, turkey and deer ( shotgun only state)
the 12 is not a killer yes more recoil but very managable again, pump, bolt , single and autoloader,

There are inexpensive used guns out there that a guy can afford to have both, no need to settle for just one.

Geoff Timm
March 14, 2007, 04:36 PM
As I get older, the 20 appeals more than the 12, especially for Bowling Pins and Self Defense.

I found the difference between a 12 Gauge Remington 1100 Auto, and a 20 Gauge Mossberg 500 Pump to be considerable.

Who likes #3 Buckshot for serious social engagements. :D

March 14, 2007, 05:22 PM
I think 12 ga. ammo is more common. You can also shoot lighter target loads for less recoil. Get a good recoil pad. I've heard people say that a 20 can do everything a 12 can. I tell them a 12 just does it better. You could spend more and get a semi-auto too. They eliminate a lot of recoil too.

March 14, 2007, 05:39 PM
Use it for what?? Home protection? Then defintely a 12. My 100# spouse handles one and has been known to go through 250+ rounds a day at a weekend ATA shoot. Fit is the key. If for upland birds, then I'd choose a 20; like Scorch I like the lighter gun on a walk, and shorter bbls. For skeet, either is fun to play with, as is the 28 .. the 410 is too embarrassing! A M870 with extended mag is at home behind the door or on the range and afield with standard mag/plug. Enjoy.

chris in va
March 15, 2007, 01:27 AM
It's a moot point. When you have one of these...


Makes a full load 12ga feel like a light 20. Go with the 12.

March 15, 2007, 07:33 AM
If you are only hunting small game like rabbit, or small birds I guess you could use a 20ga.But low brass 12ga.really don't have much of a kick and still more hotter than a 20ga.high brass.More shot in each load,and more types of loads.There is no contest.12ga.has most veritle loads.Light loads for youself, being comfrotable or nasty hotter loasds for turkey,goose,deer.Don't be scared of the 12ga.

roy reali
March 15, 2007, 07:45 AM
When it comes to bird shot, the the velocity and range of a 12 gauge and a 20 gauge are almost the same. If you are standing three hundred yards away and someone shoots a 12 gauge load of eight shot at you and someone else shoots a load of 20 gauge eight shot at you, the effects on you will be similar. Even a .410 will pattern and shoot the same size shot, through similar chokes, as far as the others.

The only "magic" of larger gauge shotguns is the amount of shot thrown, period, end of discussion!

March 15, 2007, 08:40 AM
three hundred yards away and someone shoots a 12 gauge load of eight shot at you

I doubt birdshot will go that far at all from any guage, and buck shot would be so dispersed you probably wouldn't hit anything.

I have been hit by falling shot more than once at closer ranges than 300 yards. It stings if it hits your ear and it will cause you to yell at the guy that did it but it is not going to damage you except maybe a eye.

HD shotgun is for close up and if it is just HD get a 12. Lighter loads and a good pad you should be able to use it in the field too.

March 15, 2007, 11:59 AM
I think that it really depends on how much you are going to shoot and what you are going to shoot. I use a 12 for deer hunting and had a heck of a time sighting in my new red dot scope. After about 12 2 3/4" slugs I started to develope a flinch and had to put the gun away for a day before being able to sight it in. While hunting the perceived recoil was nonexistant. Light loads for clays are fine, and heavier loads for pheasants and such aren't a problem but there again you're not thinking about the recoil. If you plan on shooting a lot of slugs or heavy loads I'd go with the 20gauge but if you are going to use it for hunting ,home defence, and maybe some clays a 12gauge would be fine. I also have a full-stocked pistol grip on my shotgun that is very nice for deer or about anything on the ground but I don't think that it feels quite right for clays or birds.

Just my $0.02

Lee Lapin
March 15, 2007, 08:26 PM

Do you have a family member or friend who is willing to help you get started with a shotgun? Any reasonably healthy person should be able to handle a 12 ga. with no problems- no need to fret over recoil, go out and shoot one to see how it feels. The first shotgun you fire SHOULD NOT be a gun you have bought and paid for- learn on someone else's gun first, figure out the basics, THEN spend your $$$.

Whoever helps you get started should have a basic idea of how a shotgun should fit the shooter. And should be mature enough not to pull the old 'load a maximum load 3" magnum into a 5 lb. 12 ga. single shot, to watch the noob get kicked over' routine. Beyond that, all you need is someone who has a couple of shotgun they are willing to let you try. You provide the ammo, by the way.

Or you can check with ranges and gun clubs in your area to see if any of them offer rental guns. Or basic lessons for that matter. It doesn't matter if you pick up some early pointers on breaking clay birds- the stance and gun mount stuff will be useful.

And you can check to see if there are any NRA instructors near you offering classes. Check at http://www.nrahq.org/education/training/basictraining.asp . The FIRST Steps Shotgun course sounds like it might help.

Stay safe,


gordo b.
March 15, 2007, 09:14 PM
I like the 20 gauge- a lot! I shot a pile of 20ga for upland birds. My wife uses it around the ranch with slugs or #2 and #3 Buck ( but mostly with #9 for gophers) for most vermin in her Ithaca M37 Deerslayer.
12gauge is more versitile and with light loads it is about the same as a 20 with heavier 20 gauge loads - or a real light weight 20 gauge gun. If you only have 1 gun , get a 12ga. Rem 870 Wingmaster-used if you can, and get a 28 or 26 inch modified OR REM choked barrel and an 18.5" rifle sighted barrel. That is a do all combo. Then get a nice , light 20gauge gun for going after quail ect.;)

March 15, 2007, 09:37 PM
I'd say that they kick about the same because the 20 is generally lighter but with less power. So you trade weight for power with a 12, you get more power but at the end of a long hunt your right arm feels about 3-4 inches longer.

So do you want power or a light gun?

roy reali
March 15, 2007, 10:14 PM
A 12 gauge doesn't have more power than a 20 gauge. Not only did I increase the size of my response, I typed extra slowly too!

March 15, 2007, 10:42 PM
We hear you Roy! And, agree. But, pattern density at any given range as shot count in sectors, not as %, is very different. Else, my 410 with 1/2 oz would not miss any more often than my 12 with 1 1/8oz at skeet! Yea, some of it is the clown behind the trigger, but I won't go there.
By the way, I actually penetrated a hunting buddy's nose with a single #8 shot at 225 paces; paced off. 20G ... not that that matters at all, right Roy?? He was downhill and hidden by a bluff. We dug it out! Made me more respectful of 'down range'. Good I was not shooting one of those more powerful 10 guages, eh?! :):)

roy reali
March 15, 2007, 10:50 PM
I agree with you. But there are so many shotgun myths out there it ain't funny.

Lets say there are two hunters shooting at doves. They both hit a dove with one eight shot pellet at thirty yards. One was shooting a 410 and the other a 10 gauge. The impact on the bird would be similar. Where the shot hit would count more. If the 410 pellet struck the head and the 10 gauge hit a tail feather, guess which bird would be deader?

March 16, 2007, 12:32 AM
Ok so you would be happy to go into a gun fight with a "shotgun" that fires one piece of shot? 1 1/8 vs 7/8 makes a big difference.

But I guess that you could argue that since the shot is going the same speed its all the same

SO to make something of a point.

It's all the same just a little less of it but it still works right? I think some times that 1/4 extra really does matter.
A 12 gge dsn't ha moe pow an a 20 gau. Nt oy id I incrae th sie of m respse, I tyd exa slly o!

roy reali
March 16, 2007, 07:54 AM
You made a good point. I guess I am talking about using bird shot and hunting. You are right, in a HD situation the extra payload of a larger guage would be better. But, each individual projectile will still deliver the same energy no matter the gauge.

If a person shoots someone at twenty yards with a single round out of a 22 rifle, and another shoots the same person with a ten rounds at the same distance with the same ammo, each 22 bullet will do the same damage. I am assuming the exact same gun and ammo. Now, the ten shots will do more damage. But the individual rounds are not more powerful are then the single shot. A full auto wouldn't make a 22 rimfire more powerful then a single shot rifle.

If there was a gun fight between two individual using shotguns at five hundred yards, one had a 4 bore punt gun, and the other a 410, and both would shooting loads of eight shot, the battle would go on for awhile. In fact, if you could get one pellet from each shotgun to hit a piece of wood at ten yards, the penetration would be almost exact. The eight shot traveling a 1300 feet per second is traveling at 1300 feet per second irregardless of how it was propelled to the velocity.

March 16, 2007, 08:23 AM
There are many variables between shotguns and loads even within a particular ammo manufacturers lineup. You need to pick what you think is best fror your application and try a box. Look at the velocity and payload then try them in your gun w/ your chokes.
Lee Lapin and roy reali are both on the money: many myths and try before you buy. I've had several people out to try different guns before they bought one, it's all fun. Any shotty will make a good HD tool, get one you can be comfortable and confident with.
Try some #2 birdshot, it's nasty.

March 16, 2007, 12:33 PM
they are both good. i even shot my first deer with a 20 gauge with #3buck. Recoil isnt that much of a diffrence between the 12 and 20, until you step it up and start shooting the the 12 with the 3 1/2 inchers

March 17, 2007, 04:56 PM
My friends laughed when I bought my 1st gun. A Mossberg 500 - 12g - told them I wanted to shoot some BIG BOOM ammo. :)

I then installed a Knoxx SpecOps and a Knoxx Limbsaver for the SpecOps... My 15 year old son, typically shoots with me. 00 buck (2 2/3"), 1oz slugs (2 2/3"), and even some Brenneke 3" Magnum black magic rounds 600grain.

After about - hmm... maybe 80 or 100 rounds at the range, I might take a break for my shoulder. But more common, is that my ears (even with plugs) need a break (or when I wear muffs - it gets annoying).


March 20, 2007, 09:07 AM
20's really see their best use for dove, quail, and clays as stated above, for which I have used 20's my whole life. In my opinion for other than those uses there's no reason not to have a 12 gauge.

mike torre
March 20, 2007, 07:46 PM
I was in the same quandry and bit the bulletr, and bought.
Heres what I got. A gas operated 12 gauge that shoote 2$3/4 loads. Recoils less than my old 16 gauge that has the recoil action. I have been told, and believe that the 20 gauge with a magnum load can recoil worse than 12 gauge.

Understand I shoot competitively and shoot 200 to 225 rounds a week so I cannot have a flinch. My shot gun is for recreation, and hunting, so when I go back to the range i can't afford to iron out a flinch. DO NOT get a pump, O/U or SXS. A fixed breech gun will slap. The gas softens the push.
Also get a gun with a skeet stock, which is desighned to come straight back, not swing up and slap your face. Use a long barrel to mitigate the effects of blast which is as deliterious as recoil.

If you are afraid and not having fun, sell the gun and get a fun gun. Life is too short to have to put up with a harsh piece of equipment just to please an on line He - Man. ( who prolly don't use a box of shells in a year anyway..............
Mike T
(Sing Dixie)

March 20, 2007, 08:15 PM
I wish the sweet 16 would make a comeback.

roy reali
March 20, 2007, 09:42 PM
Many folks will say that the 20 gauge is adequate for small birds like quail, but a 12 is needed for larger birds like pheasants. One reason behind this theory is that the 12 gauge throws out more birdshot. It does and there is no arguement about it.

More pellets means more hits. More hits on target translates into a cleaner kill.

Isn't a pheasant a larger bird then a quail. Therefore, wouldn't it stand to reason that more shot will hit it versus a smaller bird. Then if a 20 can hit a quail with enough shot to kill it, it should be able to hit a larger bird with more shot and thus bring it down too.