View Full Version : Ideal pheasant gun?

September 20, 2012, 12:30 PM
What is your ideal pheasant gun and why. What loads do you use? I haven't found my 'ideal' pheasant gun yet, not much experience handling too many different shotguns. I would love to have a Browning Citori 725 Field, but for no other reason than its a Browning, other people seem to love it, and it looks so good!

September 20, 2012, 03:29 PM
My primary hunting gun ....pheasant, quail, etc ...is a Browning Citori XS Skeet with the adj comb and 30" barrels...( same gun I use for Skeet and Sporting Clays )...and I have them in a 12ga, a 20ga ...and a 28ga and
a .410 ....all same length barrels...

but nothing wrong with the new 725 series Citori either...our buddy Slugo on this forum has one that he likes very much ....

If I didn't want to shoot an O/U for bird hunting ...I'd go with one of the Benelli semi-autos ...personally for upland birds, I like the Benelli Super Sport a lot ...in a 12ga I go with a 30" barrel ...in a 20ga the longest barrel it comes with is a 28" ....but both real solid guns / and since they're synthetic ..they both have the Comfort Tech recoil supression system in them with the gel recoil pad and the gel comb pads ...making them pretty soft shooting guns .....and way lighter to carry than an 8.5 lb Over Under all day long...

Loads for pheasant vary ....with early vs late season when birds are running vs getting up, do you have good dogs that are holding the birds tight, wind, average range....lots of stuff....but a load of 4's are probably the most common with a Modified choke...but I always carry a couple of different loads in my vest...and a couple of different chokes ..in case the conditions in the field change. There are also areas...where you have to use Steel / or non toxic shot now as well....varies a lot by state - and region - and whether any wetlands are in the area or not...

Dave McC
September 20, 2012, 03:56 PM
Wild ringnecks, an 870 with Mod choke, 1.25 oz of hard 5s.

Preserve pheasants,any shotgun here,any gauge. IC,LM or Skeet with 7.5s.

Strafer Gott
September 20, 2012, 04:44 PM
I really like the 1100 Remington. So does the wife. We have his and hers.
I actually like going ringneck hunting with her. She's absolutely ruthless.

Jim Watson
September 20, 2012, 04:47 PM
A friend of the feminine variety hunts pheasants with a Benelli Ultra Light.
I don't know what her usual load is, but it puts them down.

Limits are small and as the wag said, recoil is mometary, gravity is perpetual.

September 20, 2012, 05:04 PM
I use a semi auto Benelli. It's a 12 gauge. It's very light, but with that action it doesn't kick much.

I want it light because we spend all day walking. It's a 12 gauge because I'm not the greatest with a shotgun. If it weren't for the action, I think I'd be kind of sore at the end of the day.

September 20, 2012, 06:54 PM

I've got another question for you, I'm about 5'7" 165, short stalky build. Does the barrel length make a big difference in handling of the gun, or is it primarily LOP? I'm new to shotguns and really don't know what to buy. I know I want a Citori, but not sure about the details. Primarily a pheasant gun, with some quail and skeet mixed in. I know you can't just describe the exact gun that would fit me best with this info, but mainly wondered how the longer barrel affects swing.

September 20, 2012, 09:54 PM
On WILD pheasants, flushing at longer range on average, many years of experience taught us that a 12 gauge with 28" barrel, 3/8oz #5 shot was the ideal setup. #4 shot was too thin of a pattern at longer ranges, and #6 shot left too much shot in the breast meat.

If you hunt where birds hold for a point rather than run until forced into the air, lighter loads or lighter shot may be acceptable. We once went to a "bird ranch" where you practically had to kick the birds off the ground, and our standard loads described above were way overkill. Some birds were inedible.

September 20, 2012, 10:05 PM
Spaniel - where do you buy #5 shot? Not sure I've ever seen any on a shelf, but maybe it's because I wasn't looking for it. Back in the day, I used mostly #6, but sometimes #4. I had decent luck with a 26" Fox and would go to 28", but for me longer than that was too long for field birds. Increasingly distant memories, unfortunately.

September 20, 2012, 11:11 PM
I'm not BigJim, but I'll chime in on the barrel length topic anyway...

A longer barrel will have some effect on gun handling. 2-4 extra inches of barrel only adds a few ounces, but since they are at the extreme end of the gun, they can make a difference on how fast or smooth the gun seems to swing.

Personally, I prefer a shorter barrel for upland hunting, because I feel that a faster handling gun suits me better for that kind of hunting than a long barreled gun (I'd choose a longer barrel for waterfowl where slower, more deliberate barrel movement is used).

But I only go about 160 lbs. A gun that feels heavy and sluggish to me may feel perfect to someone bigger.

September 21, 2012, 01:24 AM
Idek - I agree with you - the swing was most important. In the days I hunted pheasant, I was a whole lot lighter than I am today, but I was over 6 feet and still remember how fast it was to get the barrels under the bird with a shorter length. For me, 30" was ducks and geese, which we didn't have down here.

.300 Weatherby Mag
September 21, 2012, 01:42 AM
Spaniel - where do you buy #5 shot? Not sure I've ever seen any on a shelf, but maybe it's because I wasn't looking for it. Back in the day, I used mostly #6, but sometimes #4. I had decent luck with a 26" Fox and would go to 28", but for me longer than that was too long for field birds. Increasingly distant memories, unfortunately.

Fiocchi makes nickel plated 5s that act like a sledgehammer on pheasants....

September 21, 2012, 10:30 AM
For general upland hunting, both wild Pheasants and ruffed grouse, my primary is an old model 59 Winchester Winlite. I use heavy field loads of 1 1/8th oz. #6 shot. The gun weighs less than six pounds with a 28" bbl and a modified choke.

September 21, 2012, 10:52 AM
I've bought #5's Winchester shells at Walmart before--of course we're in pheasant country too

September 21, 2012, 02:15 PM
My approach to barrel length ...

Its a combination of weight of the gun and barrel length ...that affect my decision on what to buy. The heavier the gun ..the more it maintains its momentum ( meaning a smooth follow thru ...) because with a shotgun and a flying target...pulling the trigger is the start of the shot, not the end of it...the end of the shot - is the follow-thru. If you pull the trigger and stop the gun ( on flying targets ) it'll mean you're behind everything - in general.

Balance is an issue ...but on most decent O/U's ...whether its a 28", 30" or
32" barrels...on most O/U's the balance will still be between your hands. So it isn't like an O/U with 32" or 30" barrels is nose heavy.

So heavier guns - tend to allow for smoother swings and follow-thru.

Lighter guns - tend to make for "choppier" swings...or what I call "swatting" at a target ...vs a nice smooth swing.

So the lighter the gun ...the longer the barrel I want ...so I don't tend to snap a shot short ...or snap or swat at the bird. The heavier the gun ...the more a shorter barrel will still allow me a smooth follow thru.

28" or 30" are both pretty good optimal barrel lengths on O/U's. If I wanted to error on the shorter side - I'd say go with 28" barrels / but if the 30" barrels still felt "lively" ...then I'd go with 30".

Pheasants are typically an open field, farm area bird...so even longer isn't a big deal ....its not like chasing Grouse thru the trees. But even on real fast - small birds...like Quail / in an O/U, I still like 30" barrels..in a gun that is around 8 lbs. Some guys like to go down to 7 lb guns...because they like guns that swing a little faster.../ to me "faster" means more "swatting" vs taking careful and controlled shots. I'm not saying I don't snap shoot at a really quick Quail flush ...because I do ...but I don't find a Browning Citori O/U like the XS Skeet in 30" barrels to be a clumsy gun ...its a gun I hunt birds with, shoot skeet with and shoot sporting clays with.

hope that helps a little...

September 21, 2012, 02:17 PM
Just another note about barrel length... semi-autos and pumps have extra length at the receiver to house the loading mechanisms. Break action guns--which the user loads directly--does not need this space.

So generally speaking, a semi-auto or pump will be about 4" longer than a SxS, O/U, or single shot with the same barrel and stock length. For example, I have a pump with a 24" barrel that has the same overall length as my break action gun with 28" barrels.

September 21, 2012, 02:23 PM
But even on real fast - small birds...like Quail / in an O/U, I still like 30" barrels..in a gun that is around 8 lbs.
BigJim, may I ask how big you are? Because among average hunters, I'd say you'd be in the minority if you prefer something weighing 8 lbs. for upland hunting.

September 21, 2012, 03:36 PM
I'm 6'5" and about 290 lbs...( just you're average sized Buffalo ...)....so yes, I might be in a minority among bird hunters...for upland birds...with an 8 lb Over Under...But seriously - my gun choice / and gague will depend on a lot of things:

If I'm in open country / fairly flat and easy walking ...and good dogs...hunting with an 8 lb gun is no big deal. If I'm in a hunting party - where I'm only the hot gun on every other flush / or every 3rd flush / or watching the dogs and letting younger guys shoot most of the time ...its easy, in open country, to break the gun and carry it over my shoulder or in the crook of my elbow.

If I'm stepping over sugar beet rows all day long...and with a gun at "port arms" all day long - yes, 8 lbs gets too heavy - and wears out these old shoulders../ or in brushy areas....8 lbs is a little too much as well...

I have a lot of guns so I have options... in a semi-auto I can go to a Benelli super sport 12ga 30" barrel is only 7.2 lbs ....or in a 20ga version with 28" barrel its only 6.2 lbs ...( and either gun gives me the 3rd shell too ). Both good guns / good options...

My primary O/U's are all the same 30" barrels, Citroi XS Skeet models ( but the 20ga, 28ga and .410's were all built on the 20ga receiver..) so in their original configuration they're 7 lb guns.....for competition / to smooth the swings out - I put 8 oz of lead tape under the forend...and 8oz in the stock hole..(being careful to tape them in - to keep the balance at the same point ) and I raise those 3 guns to 8 lbs....but I can just as easily ( in 10 min ) remove the extra weight and shoot them as 7 lb guns as well...
But like the OP is leaning ...toward one gun / maybe the Citori 725 series...that gun, at least right now, 725 Field ...is only available in 26" or 28" barrels and is a 7 lb gun ...and I think he said something like 5'7" and 165 lbs...maybe that gun in a 28" will be perfect for him / where I might find it too light to be an "optimal" gun for me....

When he's in his 60's like I am ...maybe he'll have 6 or 8 guns to choose from ...and pick one for each trip that suits him.

Guys on the forum - that know me --- know I like longer and heavier guns...heck for Trap, my primary O/U is a Citori XT with 32" barrels that weighs close to 10 lbs...( my shooting buddy refers to it as a "sewer pipe" ...and says he'd need a tripod to shoot it "...) ...but at the same time his primar Skeet gun is a Krieghoff K-80 with 28" barrels at about 9.25 lbs...and he's only 5'10" and maybe 175 lbs...( just a little fella ) ....and closer to 70 than I am too ...:D

September 21, 2012, 03:45 PM
Good info, and tons of help. Thanks y'all. I think I just need to go to the LGS and handle a few and see how they feel. Unless I come across a good deal, it will probably be a few months before I can afford the Citori of my choice, so I have a bit more time to research and decide. Thanks again for the help!

September 21, 2012, 04:31 PM
Good luck on your choice....and no matter what ...make sure you have fun with the process !

Try and get out to a local club ...sporting clays maybe.../ so it applies more to hunting vs Skeet shooting...and see what guys are shooting / talk to them ....especially if you see someone with a Citroi 525, 625 or the newer 725 series....see what they like or don't like about them...barrel lengths, etc...

Guys at gun clubs - are often selling a lot of guns too ..../ the 725 series is pretty new....but someone might be unloading a 525 or 625...and while they're different.../ they're similar enough that it may not make a big difference -- or the XS Skeet model that I shoot - you'll see some of them as well.

340 Weatherby
September 23, 2012, 12:46 AM
Firefighter, I'm an inch taller than you and probably twice as fat, and I find the long barreled guns much slower to get after the bird. And while I believe in the long-barreled guns swing smoother theory. The guys that taught me how to hunt will already have the bird rolling in the air before you can get a long barreled gun to your shoulder. I had to learn to shoot my pheasants on their initial jump out of cover or I would not get a shot. I second the Fiocchi nickel #5's also. Baddest thing I've ever shot at Pheasants. 1-3/8ths Oz. These shells used to be called Waterfowl magnums before the steel shot laws came into effect.

September 23, 2012, 01:48 AM

For walk and shoot remember you will do an awful lot of walking and relatively little shooting. (And that walking probably won't be over the easiest of terrain).

So, I would say lightness is the key, as (maybe you're different) I find when I'm shooting "walked - up" with or with out dogs, the gun spends a lot of time in my hands rather than over my shoulder so I like 'em light.

So, my ideal gun would be:

26-28" bbl
O/U (I like being to choose relatively looser or tighter patterns)
Single selective trigger
Nice broad sling
Perhaps modify the ejectors to extractors so they don't throw spents and you have to go guddling under bushes for 'em.

I'm still looking for my perfect walking gun... one day ;)

September 23, 2012, 03:10 AM
I've always had very good luck with a pump shotgun for pheasant. My favorite load had been #6 shot but I recently switched to #5 and I've had good results. I've always used a 12 gauge but I'm rethinking the logic since my son bust just as many, if not more, birds with his 20 gauge.

340 Weatherby
September 23, 2012, 06:30 PM
Noreaster, remember how fast kids reaction time is. I used to use my 20 ga. double down in Mexico for pheasants because of the weight difference. But the difference in payload and velocity of 12 Gauge field loads makes them a much better choice for most people. I always got more birds with a twelve.

September 24, 2012, 04:41 PM
What is your ideal pheasant gun and why. What loads do you use? I haven't found my 'ideal' pheasant gun yet, not much experience handling too many different shotguns. I would love to have a Browning Citori 725 Field, but for no other reason than its a Browning, other people seem to love it, and it looks so good!When hunting wild birds, and where I can still use lead; I use my circa 1921 Ithaca® Lefever Nitro Special™ 16ga SxS loaded with Fiocchi® Golden Pheasant® #5's. If I have to use nontoxic shot I use Evironmental® Hevi•Shot® Classic Doubles in #4 & #5 shot.

If I'm hunting state game lands pheasant release sites, which require the use of nontoxic shot; I use a Remington® SPR220 20ga SxS & Federal® Prairie Storm® Flitestopper® Steel #3 & #4 shot.

September 25, 2012, 01:06 PM
I use a Benelli Sport II in 20 gauge with my own #5 shot loads in Remington high brass hulls.

Dave McC
September 25, 2012, 02:17 PM
Some thoughts on guns and loads for wild birds.....

Pheasant hunters do a lot of walking. That A 5 might seem a bit heavy three ridges away from the truck.

Brister,et al, suggested most folks would find 7 lbs as a practical ceiling on an uplander. I personally find that shotguns lighter than 6 lbs are hard to shoot well, so let's aim for in between.

IMO, big loads are called for here. I like 1 1/4 oz of 5s, and that means 12 gauge. I have seen plenty of ringnecks harvested with 7/8 oz of 7 1/2s, but those were closer shots than some of us see much.

Action type? Whatever floats your boat. I recall one jack pine savage long ago whose weapon of choice was an old "Long Tom" cut back to about 30" and with a Polychoke installed. He was deadly with it.

Chokes? For all around use, Mod is hard to beat.

September 27, 2012, 09:28 PM
I mostly use a Browning Double-Auto (steel receiver variant), choked modified. There are times and occasions when I use either No. 4 or No. 6 shot, but mostly "premium" No. 5s.

September 28, 2012, 12:07 AM
I grew up pheasant hunting in the midwest and there if you didn't have an 870 12ga with green Remington Express 5's, you were some kind of alien.
That said, I hunt upland quite a bit and over a flushing dog...the birds are up and gone if you can't get on them quickly.
I carry a Browning Silver Hunter 20ga 28" with Fiocchi Golden Pheasant 3" 5's and that combo has killed more birds than I ever have with a 12ga.
First it fits...like an extension of my arm.
Second, it's light. Unless you're living in SD or shooting at a preserve, pheasant guns get carried a lot and shot a little....a heavy shotgun is heavier at the end of the day.
It functions perfectly and the recoil of a light shotgun pushing 1 1/4 ounce of lead is pretty soft for the followup shots (yes, I miss them, too).
Buy a pretty shotgun...it's not a duck blind in a salt marsh, it's upland. Buy something that's nice to look at.
After listening to a lot of people talk about their favorites and spending some real money on poor-fitting shotguns, I decided to buy what feels right, rather than what someone told me was right.

September 28, 2012, 01:00 AM
I typically hunt over dogs, so a Browning Auto-5 or Remington 1100 20 gauge usually works just fine in the early season. Late season, it's pretty much a 12 gauge game, and I really like my Citori.

September 28, 2012, 06:06 PM
The 12 ga double Fox Sterlingworth my Grandpa gave me worked fine in N side of Toledo pheasants in the late 50's. Now it is all condos and my old bedroom is a meat dept in a Kroger store--yuk.

Best pheasant hunting anywhere!! Excellent for rabbits also.