View Full Version : New discussion on 20 vs 12

August 25, 2009, 09:10 PM
I am restarting the old thread about whether 20 gauge is useless. I got in too late for the old thread and I have strong feelings about this topic.

I own five Mossbergs, four 12 gauges (each one configured special for hunting) and one 20 gauge. If I am hunting turkey or deer, a 12 gauge is in my hands. If I am hunting small game (rabbits, quail, dove, etc.) the 20 gauge is my favorite gun. It isn't a little gun/big gun thing. I even have two .410s Pardners for pests,general fun and shooting with grandkids.

Each gauge has its own niche.

You wouldn't use a 30-06 to shoot rats and you wouldn't use a .17WRM to kill deer. Same here, you let the target decide the bore/caliber.

I always question the parentage and sexual pursuasion of anybody that only owns one shotgun!

You should have enough that people have to stop and count them. It's a manly thing!

August 25, 2009, 11:21 PM
I use the 12 gauge exclusively.

I can load the 12 down to the 20, but I can't load the 20 up to the 12.

August 26, 2009, 02:01 AM
One of each---the 20 gets used more.

August 26, 2009, 03:30 AM
I agree that the 20 gauge has its place, and is not useless by any means.

If a 20 gauge is purposely built as a 20 gauge, it can be lighter than its 12 gauge counterpart. Also, most people don't reload and some appreciate the reduced recoil when the shotgun is built on a heavier frame.

I also seem to recall some sort of 20 gauge 3 1/2 super duper mega blaster magnum slug. Does it offer anything unique, or does it just narrow the gap between the 20 and 12?

August 26, 2009, 07:18 AM
"I use the 12 gauge exclusively.

I can load the 12 down to the 20, but I can't load the 20 up to the 12. "

Yes, but I don't load my 30-06 down to hunt squirrels, I keep .22 LRs for that. One is a deer rifle and the other is a squirrel gun. Why load a 12 gauge down for smaller animals? Buy the gun/gauge that suits hunting them the best. I really feel a lighter 20 gauge fits the smaller critters better. By the same token I don't buy slugs or buckshot for the 20 gauge, the 12 gauge is made for that type of work. Same reasoning behind the .410 bore as a pest gun, it really fits the job with less noise and shorter dangerous range but I don't try to shoot deer with it.

A surgeon needs to know that it makes a difference in what he is doing. If he is cooking he uses a paring knife. If he is operating he uses a scalpel. Paring knives may work for operating in an emergency are not really a good idea for heart surgery! Different gauges and calibers are made for different purposes and game. I like to use the right instrument for the right job.

roy reali
August 26, 2009, 09:18 AM
Check the ballistics of birdshot fired from any of the gauges. You'll quickly see if there are are any differences.

Pattern a 12 and a 20 at forty yards with the same chokes. Measure which one has a larger or smaller pattern.

If you were standing at such a distance from me that firing a 20 gauge load of eight shot didn't hurt you, the 12 would have the exact, same effect.

If a person can't hit small flying objects with a 20 gauge at reasonable ranges, he probably won't hit the any better with a twelve. The best wing shot I know uses a 28 gauge. Any dove that comes into range he drops.

I am by no means an expert in shotgun ballistics. I do know the difference between facts and fantasy though!

August 26, 2009, 09:44 AM
You are correct sir. However, the 12 gauge can fire the heavier shot (Buckshot, slug, etc.)more effectively with larger loads of pellets and that is the domain of the 12 gauge. In the lighter birdshot you do not gain that much by going up in weight and gauge as you stated. Choke selection and practice are more the key to game gathering than gauge in the 7 1/2 to 5 shot range.That again is why I prefer the lighter/less recoil 20 gauge for small game, especially when I am going to be carrying and shooting all day.

I did not mention the 28 gauge for 2 reasons: the availability of ammo and the cost of weapons (most 28 gauges are rather expensive skeet and trap guns, true works of art but priced out of the budgets of most forum members including me.) But again you are correct, the 28 gauge, in the hands of a practiced shot, can be a meat producer par excellance.

roy reali
August 26, 2009, 10:28 AM
Finally, someone else that makes shotgun sense. You are right, heavier payloads and the clear winner is the 12 gauge. With smaller birdshot, the 12 does have a slight edge, but not enough to loose any sleep over.

August 26, 2009, 10:30 AM
Many folks do not realize that a .410 will launch birdshot at about the same velocity as a 12 gauge. The 12 gauge just gives you more pellets.

August 26, 2009, 10:50 AM
I will "ALMOST" say the 20 is useless, but will not quite go that far. An ounce of shot is an ounce of shot regardless if it comes from a 20 or 12 guage. Both guages shoot at about the same velocity. You do not have to shoot the heavy loads from a 12 so you can duplicate 20 performance. Good 20 guage loads will overlap 12 guage performance, but the 12 is more versatile any way you measure it.

The only real advantage a 20 has is in lighter, easier to carry guns. But I can get 12's that weigh under 7 lbs. and with the right loads will have no more recoil than a 20. Any lighter than about 7lbs. and I do not shoot them well enough to justify the lighter weight.

For my uses the 20 offers me nothing.

August 26, 2009, 10:52 AM
Balistically - 7/8 oz of shot ( regardless of whether its 6's, or 9's ) is still 7/8 oz of shot - and if the muzzle velocity is 1200 fps - a 12, 20 or 28ga will hit exactly as hard as the other - there is no difference.

So you can load a 12ga down to 1oz ( like a traditional 16ga load), 7/8 oz like a 20ga, or 3/4oz like a 28ga load - you can also load a 28ga up to 7/8 oz if you want to / or a 20ga up to 1 oz ...... so its easy to make these guns move up a little as well.

While many of us have 28ga and .410's in O/U's that are a little more expensive - Browning as an example makes their basic pump gun / BPS Hunter model in 12, 20 and 28ga and .410 ( for $ 579 / $ 629 list price ).

Cost of the ammo in 28ga and .410 is high / unless you reload - but if you're just shooting it a little - the Browning BPS is a great gun in 28ga or .410 with street prices probably around $ 500 for the 28ga / maybe $ 550 for the .410 .......

While I have a number of shotguns / in a variety of gagues - because I like shotguns ....... a first gun, in my opinion, and the most versatile gun - ought to be a 12ga / it will do everything pretty well - and you don't really need a 20ga or a 28ga .....or .410 .

August 26, 2009, 11:15 AM
While a 12 ga does all I need (trap shooting) a light 20, 28 or 410 has its place if your hunting involves hiking more than shooting. There are some members of our club that regularly shoot sub-gages at trap and do quite well. So the 20 has a place and is not obsolete. JMHO : Bill

August 26, 2009, 11:33 AM
Up here on the Ridge in TN we do alot of walking and a lot of that up and down hills. Lighter 12 means more shoulder bruising recoil, so again I like the light 20 Gauge for an all day, beat the bushes, hunt. Deer season now, I bite the bullet and lug my 12 gauge slug gun w/scope around and come turkey season the 835 takes the duty. But on nice spring and autumn days in light clothes, the 20 is my baby.

If I could have only one shotgun, it would be the 12 gauge. But I can afford more than one and I get to have my 20 Gauge!

roy reali
August 26, 2009, 11:36 AM
Shot Column!

An equal shot load in different gauges do not pattern as efficiently.

As I said before, I am no expert. But here is something from folks that are.


August 26, 2009, 12:24 PM
I will "ALMOST" say the 20 is useless, but will not quite go that far.

How much testing and research did you do to arrive at that conclusion? Did you do pattern testing or field work? Do you know of someone that had 20 gauge pellets bounce off of flying dove? I just want to know the facts behind your opinion.

August 26, 2009, 12:25 PM
I use both. I picked up my 20g at the last minute, in route to a quail hunt where only 20g and smaller were allowed. Picked up a Baikel, now distributed by Remington. An inexpensive OU that has had thousands of rounds through it - surpassing my expectation. Anyway the 20 is a pleasure to shoot and I do not see much fall off in the dove field vs my 12, a semi 12g Beretta. I also see the 20g as a light easy to carry gun with more than enough power for small came and upland bird. I do carry my 12 hunting upland, but I am primarily on a goose/duck trip. But, walking those thickets, the 12 gets heavy and I long for my 20.

Next time I shoot trap I'm bringing my 20g as my 12 semi - peppers fellow shooters with the hulls.

Side note, at a recent charity trap event, a local county girls trap team shot. Several had 20g's and let me tell you, they kicked butt.

August 26, 2009, 01:03 PM
I actually did shoot a dove with a 20 ga and the dove flicked the pellets away with its wings:eek:. Then he [the dove] picked up his 12 ga and shot my dog. One tough dove....:)

I used to hunt with a 20 have a few 12s (there's an old 16 in the family as well) and will someday get another 20 as well as another 12. Guns are like tools you can never have too many.

roy reali
August 26, 2009, 01:08 PM
I actually did shoot a dove with a 20 ga and the dove flicked the pellets away with its wings. Then he [the dove] picked up his 12 ga and shot my dog. One tough dove....

Be careful with quail. Nothing lighter then a 10 gauge should be used. Having a covey of them charging you can be gruesome.:D