View Full Version : Weight, length and balance...

Dave McC
March 1, 2001, 08:07 AM
There was an E mail inquiring of this, and I had noted something yesterday after shooting trap with the new 870, so her's some opinions you may want to think about and comment on. And,they're opinions, not graven on a stone tablet....

After shooting trap yesterday, I put the new 870 back together and swung it a couple of times, and had a thought.

I hadn't thought about this for a while. What kind of balance point does one want for any particular use of a shotgun?

I looked my trap 870 over. With the 30" bbl and trap stock of generous dimensions(14 3/4"),it runs about 10" longer than Frankenstein, my 21" bbled parts 870,and maybe a lb heavier. How does the balance compare?

Steve Smith, in one of his delightful books on upland game and shotguns, mentions the advantages of a muzzle light gun for stuff like quail and grouse. A faster swing, quicker reponse, etc. He mentions the downside, a gun easier to start is also easier to stop, and stopping the swing is probably the most common fault we have. I sure do.

So, I tried balancing this trap gun on my finger, and the balance point turned out to be at the front end of the loading port. The classic rule was a field double should balance about 3" in front of the rear trigger, or no more than at the hinge pin. This one came close for a shotgun intended to have a smooth swing with lots of inertia as well as a long sight radius.

So,next I grabbed Frankenstein,and after ensuring it was unloaded(ALWAYS check)tried the same test. It,too, balanced at the front end of the loading port. Of course, this was with the 7 oz bbl weight added to the mag cap. I put this on to steady the swing for trap, before deciding to get another shotgun JUST for trap. So....

Just for fun, I brought it to my shoulder, and noted that even with the weight, it handled like a classic quail gun, snappy as heck.W/o the weight, it's an excellent upland gun, and I've taken critters from woodcock to snow geese with it.

So, off came the weight and it felt like a 20 ga. Just for extending the test, I then picked up the 20ga Youth Express 870 I got for the kids(21" bbl, 12 1/2" stock) and it balanced just a little further back than the other two. While this stock is way too short for me, I've done decent work with it.

Finally, I picked up a friend's 870 Express. He's out of the country for a month or two and I'm watching his guns for him. This has the 28" bbl,zero mods, and balanced pretty much like the trap gun and Frankenstein.

So, after all this use of bandwidth and verbiage, what does it mean?

It means that paying attention to the weight, length and balance means clays smoked, birds "Reduced to possession" and so on.If we're hitting well with a shotgun and not so well with another, it may pay us to check where it balances compared to the one that works for us.This is, of course, assuming both stocks fit and our form is acceptable.

The stock is the first thing we can alter to see what works for us on a particular form of shooting.We can add a little weight to the butt to make it more muzzlelight, or hog out some wood to bring the balance point forward,adding momentum to smooth the swing.

Do this a little at a time,and check by shooting it w/o altering anything else.

I see a hand up at the back of the room.

The question,"How does this impact defensive/tactical shotguns?".

The answer, most "Serious" shotguns are profoundly muzzle heavy, which aids control and reduces muzzle lift. If your "Serious" shotgun wears you out PDQ, adding a little weight in the butt may help, or reducing the addons at the front of the shotgun. Going from a 3 shot extension to a 2 shot saves about 5 oz loaded, just as an example.

Questions, Comments, Donations(G)?

March 1, 2001, 11:10 AM
I don't worry about balance or barrel length because most production guns are designed to be weight forward.For me gun weight only comes into play when you have to carry a shotgun in the field and I draw the line at 7-1/4 lbs.
I always felt that each action type shotgun felt different,That's why I've been partial to sxs.Most guns feel muzzle heavy to me but the sxs I've had didn't feel as slow as other actions that I've owned.One shotgun I always wanted was a Ruger Red Label in 28ga until I finally got the chance to pick it up and swing it.I not saying it was bad but it was not what I thought it to be,it felt very muzzle heavy and slow not the quick light wand I expected.
I would say for someone looking to buy a gun to shoot birds , that they try the mount and swing on several type guns before buying. I would rather buy the action type shotgun that felt the best in my hands then try to modify a gun to make it work.

Dave McC
March 1, 2001, 03:05 PM
7 1/4 lbs is about my limit on an upland gun,close to 8 on a goose gun,Huntsman. Frankenstein runs a bit under the limit,and handles fine for me.

SXS shotguns always have been a bit quicker and better pointers for me than other actions styles of similiar mass and mission. However, I do OK with 870s.

And since we all come in different sizes, strengths,and preferences, different shotguns work better for different people.

As for modifications,some of us have fun tinkering. It's not mandatory(G)...