View Full Version : Does gauge matter all that much?

November 18, 2000, 03:07 AM
I am looking to buy a shotgun, Browning BPS or Ithaca. I have only shot 12 gauge shotguns before, and so I don't know how much "lighter" a 20 gauge is, but I want to get a gun that my girlfriend will be able to shoot. So should I get a "youth model" 20 gauge, or is the benefits of a the smaller size overrated and I should just get a 12 gauge and have her adjust to the recoil?


November 18, 2000, 07:28 AM
What will the SG be used for? Reduced PD loads are available in 12g and may recoil as soft as full 20g loads. 12g generally tend to group better for PD-type loads and have a wider range of loads available. Stock fit will also be of paramount importance so let her handle the various SG and see how they fit.


Dave McC
November 18, 2000, 10:06 AM
First,some ultra light 20s with 1 oz loads are vicious kickers, especially the youth models with smaller stocks and recoil pads.Whatever you start out with,use the lightest loads you can obtain until form and recoil tolerance and control improves.

The best answer here is to take your lady out to a range where she can try out different shotguns and decide what SHE wants.

Also, what's the mission here? HD, sport, both? And, how well do YOU shoot? And will she need/want lessons?
The last person most women need on a firing line is their SO,even if same is an experienced shooter and instructor.

November 18, 2000, 10:10 AM
A 20 guage should do just fine. Even for personal defense, a 20 will punch a big hole. Don't force a high-recoil item on her; she needs to work her way up to it. M'lady only fires the 12 guage to remind herself that she doesn't like it.

November 18, 2000, 03:09 PM
What about barrel length? It seems to me that the light guns probably have more kick right?

24" barrel? 26-28"?

Mostly clay I think, and whatever rodents and varmints pop up in my friend's backyard in the desert..

Thanks for the advice guys.

November 18, 2000, 06:12 PM
What game are you hunting. I primarily hunt doves and quail. I hunted for years with a 12 gauge, then dropped down to a 20 gauge, now I hunt with an O/U 28 gauge and I still get more birds than most of the guys I hunt with. A smaller gauge is much lighter, has much less recoil, is a lot more fun and pleasant to shoot, and at the end of the hunt your shoulder is not black and blue and you don't feel worn out. I don't think I give up a thing by using a 28 gauge, or, what little I may give up in killing power is more than offset by the advantages of a smaller gauge, and it is a whole lot more fun to shoot. Heck, I have even shot 'em out of the tree I was sitting under - one handed. For ducks or geese or large birds, you probably need a 12, but for smaller birds, a smaller gauge is just fine, in my opinion. I originally bought the Beretta O/U 20 guage for my daughter, but after I hunted with it, I use the 28 unless we are hunting together.

November 19, 2000, 12:44 PM
If you're going to use it for defense a 20ga. is fine.

December 3, 2000, 03:02 PM
As was said before, a 20 Ga. offers 75% of the pellets of a 12, but only 50% of the recoil, I just like 12's becuase ammo is easier to find cheap.

December 4, 2000, 10:18 PM
i am only 14yrs old 135 pounds and i can shoot a 12 ga no problem so unless your girlfriend is really small or weak you should just get a 12 gauge.

Dave McC
December 5, 2000, 07:53 AM
K77, she should get whatever shotgun and gauge she's comfortable with. 12s are nice, but for field shooting, HD and fun, little is given up by going to a 16 or 20. And much comfort can be gained.

December 5, 2000, 05:37 PM
In my line of work, I can tell you from grave experience that a 20 guage is MORE than adequate for an inside the home defense gun. For that matter, at home intrusion ranges, a .410 is just fine!

December 6, 2000, 07:39 PM
K77, you are about 20 lbs heavier than my gf, and I'm sure a few inches taller. Her hands can barely reach the trigger from the stock.

I really don't see all that much disadvantage to the 20 gauge vs. the 12 except maybe shell prices and availability, but I don't think 20 gauge is not hard to come by.

So I think I'll go with the 20 gauge unless someone can give me a reason not to...


Dave McC
December 7, 2000, 06:19 AM
There's no reason to pass on the 20 ga, Albert. Ammo is plentiful and widely available. The only places that I would find a 12 a better choice(or a 16 for that matter) would be longer shots at big tough birds like late season ringnecks, or waterfowl.

And even then,it's borderline.


Use 9s,8s,7 1/2 shot for clays and moxt of the smaller birds. Use lead 6s for Pheasant, steel 4s or 3s for teal, and the smallest legal steel you can find for other ducks. For HD, any of the above, plus that #3 buck load. For deer, use a slug, the Rottweil Brennekes are good for those that worship at the altars of the ME Gods.

Hope this helps...

December 7, 2000, 11:58 AM
Will a 20 gauge slug take down a deer?

If it's truly 75% of the pellets for 50% of the recoil, then it's a very good deal.


December 8, 2000, 08:18 PM
So I go to BnB and go check out the prices for the BPS 20 gauge. It was indeed as I suspected, a better price. I was about to plop down money, when talking to the sales, he tells me "If you are going to shoot clay, you NEED a 12 gauge!" I ask, "are you sure??" "YES!! You won't get the job done with a 20 gauge..." Is this guy serious or just trying to sell me something? I don't get it either, I had my wallet on the counter, I was going to buy the 20 gauge, and now I went home empty handed... Time for you guys to give it to me straight.

Now I can understand if he's trying to sell me something more expensive, but he didn't have any of the BPS's in store in 12 gauge, I was going to buy the 20 gauge in my hand, and so I'd have to conclude that he was telling me what he believed to be the truth???


Dave McC
December 9, 2000, 05:27 AM
Almost all serious trap shooters use 12s, Albert. Skeet's a multi gauge game,so's sporting. Your choice of gauge depends on the mission, but there's mighty little a 12 will do that a 20 won't.

There's a fair amount of bias towards the 12, because of the More Is Better Principle. But that's what it is, bias.

December 10, 2000, 07:51 AM
On the practical level the 20 is comfortable to shoot and will do any job asked of a SG.

On the theoretical level a 12 gauge can be shot with reduced loads [except for autos] and thus equal a 20 guage but with less shot deformation because of shorter shot colume.

20 gauges often have slightly higer resale value simply because there are fewer of them [used] than 12's to buy...so even if your SO decides to go with a 12 after using the 20 for awhile should be able to do so at close to a straight trade.

Shotguns shoot their pellets at the same velocity, the only thing that changes with gauge is the weight of the payload [ie the number of pellets thrown] and length of shot colume for a given weight.

You might also consider the fact that in the last few years Federal and Rem at least have introduced low recoil slug and buckshot loads that perform at 20 ga recoil levels. And there are also birdshot loads availible that are loaded to 20 gauge levels.