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Old May 24, 2023, 11:47 AM   #1
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What Gauge? Project

I've started working on a little project on Shotguns for this year. My goal is to create a 6 part video series that delves into the "multi-tool" firearm, the shotgun. I'll cover shooting fundamentals in 2 of them, action types in 1 and then the games one can play with them in 2 of them. But 1 will be on the Gauges, and choosing one best for a person. I put together a graphic to help me think through the Gauges as they relate to to various capabilities, pro/cons of each. I'd be appreciate of feedback on those games/gauges and utilization of each if you have experience. Heck, if you have a nagging question, let me hear that too. I also understand that there is a fly in the ointment of "weight, cost and availability" which I will obviously address, along with the potential of reloading.

I'm probably one of very few folks who have used the shotgun across such a wide array, having shot a 6pt Bull Elk with a 12g Slug, to shooting for Benelli and coaching a HS shotgun sports team. But I certainly don't have significant use of the .410, 28g and 10g in the margins. I know folks who only shoot waterfowl with the 28g or the 10g, and I have drawn from their experiences. But I know there are some folks here that have, for instance, shot a truckbed full of squirrels with the smaller bores.
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Good Shooting, MarkCO
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Old May 24, 2023, 12:39 PM   #2
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Gauge is irrelevant. What matters is the payload, weight of the shotgun, and fit.

.410 can't do more than 7/8 ounce, but with TSS (tungsten) shells, it's an effective turkey and goose gun at 70 yards... because of the payload.

For those that are not familiar with TSS and what has been going on with turkey hunters for a few years, 7/8 of an ounce of TSS is like 1.4 ounces of lead... at 1100 fps. Except... Tungsten is 1.6 times as dense as lead.. so a number 6 pellet carries the same momentum as a number 4 lead pellet.. and the smaller, denser #6 is ballistically superior and carries it's muzzle velocity farther down range.

Well, now you can use .410 for ducks and geese and turkey... not as a stunt, but as a better payload than a 10 gauge using lead. The .410 is very small, light, easy to carry and the recoil of a 7/8 ounce load is minimal. Put a TSS shell in, you get A+++ across the board, but a D for cost.

Sure, the ammo is more expensive.

Well, if you can hunt geese with a .410, you can do all that with any larger hole. And the diameter of the starting hole has no effect on pattern downrange, this is a well established fact. 7/8 ounces out of a well build .410 is exactly the same quality of pattern you would get from a 10 gauge, if the chokes are swapped to get the same pattern density.

Then there are the new 28 gauge 3" magnums. Sure, there is no SAAMI spec for that, but the world is not centered around America. CIP sets a standard for it, and you can get a new 28 in Italy with a longer chamber.

20 gauge? I shoot 1 1/4 ounces of #5 at pheasants in my 12 gauge, but out of my 20 gauge too. Both going 1300 fps. Granted, the 20 ammo is sometimes harder to find. Mostly because apparently people don't know that #5 is best for wild birds.

Now, late season pheasants, I will grant you that more is better and then the 12 gauge comes into play. But...

My gas operated Fabarm L4S weighs 6.75 pounds. It can shoot 3" hunting loads or 1 ounce target loads, all very soft shooting. There are not many 20 gauges that weigh less, and shooting a 1 3/8 ounce 1440 fps load out of a sub-6 pound gun will set you free, baby! That's a punishing recoil.

Bottom line: the most versatile gauge is 12... because you can always load down to as small as 1/2 ounce.. if you hand load... and go as big as 3" magnums. Because I see no need for 3 1/2 inch.. unless... wait for it...

Unless the US, like Europe, adopts widespread non-toxic shot requirements.

If we're shooting non-tox like steel and bismuth.. we need more room in shells to get the same terminal performance...
12 gauge wins. Big shells, can still be build to light weight to carry.
If light weight, low recoil, and terminal performance better than lead are required.. Tungsten shot means .410 can do it all.

So.. how much are you willing to pay for ammo?
What do you anticipate non-tox regulations will be in the next 20 years?
If every competitor on a clays field all shoot steel shot, scores may go down, but doesn't the most skilled competitor still walk home with the win? Who cares if you shoot skeet with steel, the clay still breaks.

What is available at the store now... will change dramatically when non-tox regulations set in. Just look at what is on the shelf during duck season.

As a hand loader, what's on the shelf isn't really all that interesting anyhow. I can make better at home

things to think about.
I hunt, shoot bullseye, plink, reload, and tinker with firearms. I have hung out with the Cowboy Action fellas. I have no interest in carrying firearms in urban areas.

Last edited by stinkeypete; May 24, 2023 at 12:44 PM.
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Old May 24, 2023, 02:39 PM   #3
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For those that are not familiar with TSS and what has been going on with turkey hunters for a few years

Sure, the ammo is more expensive.
Very aware, but at $8 to $10 a round, not something most are going to do for Ducks. Maybe Geese, sure for Turkey.

So for a guy who hunts Rabbits and Turkey, the .410 is a great choice with those specialty loads. TSS makes 28 much more appealing for across the board work.

.410 is still a margin gauge when it comes to overall versatility. And, I don't agree that the 12g wins with "typical shells" unless doing all of the activities. 16 and 20 have some advantages, but that is what I get into in the videos.
Good Shooting, MarkCO
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Old May 24, 2023, 05:36 PM   #4
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12 gauge and 20 gauge are going to have the most cost-effective options. 16, 28 and 410 shells are so expensive that it makes no sense for the average Joe to even consider those option. 410 is available with tungsten shot, but with the small payload it makes little sense unless you want to do it just because.

Pattern density is the key to success when shooting birds, ensuring multiple hits in vital area. Light payloads like the 410 or 28 gauge will be effective closer in but as you stretch the range you will have problems getting clean kills. 20 gauge or 12 gauge are going to give the best results, IMO.
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Old May 25, 2023, 05:13 AM   #5
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.410 $

I do much like the .410. It is expensive for sure and the TSS loads are wildly so. A partial solution to that is reloading your own. Partial? Yes, because the shot itself is costly. Given that, the reduction is cost is substantial vs factory.
My first use of a TSS load was taking a pheasant at an honest 40 yards. The bird just dropped. That was #9 shot.
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