There are several controversial questions that you will encounter in shooting sports and this is at the top of the list. Competitive shooting is not hunting, so the equipment is different. A good modern hunting shotgun will provide a good starting gun for any competitive shooting sport, but as the athletes skills improve it will be a problem. I compare this to running a 40 yard dash, it can be ran in blue jeans, but records and even competitive times are not possible from even the best athlete unless they have the proper shorts, shirt and shoes. Shooting is a physical sport and so many people do not recognize this. A good competitive shotgun that properly FITS the shooter with recoil reduction will reduce the long term neck and shoulder problems that many beginning and long term shooters encounter. Once we start shooting events it will not be uncommon for the athlete to shoot 200-400 shells in a day and at the larger events that could be 1-4 days. Recoil, stress, fatigue, temperatures, distance of the course and simple anxiety will be challenging for even the young physically fit athletes we have on the team. A proper gun, that fits and reduces felt recoil will be important for our athletes. I have listed below the pros and cons of shotgun types and models to help you and your athlete better understand the choices.
Caliber or Gauge – I will get deeper into this controversial topic in the coming weeks.
12 gauge is preferred, but is not required. 12 gauge shells come in a wide range of choices and are the cheapest. The offerings better suit the all-around competitive shooter. For the smaller frame and or beginning athletes the 12 gauge guns are heavier. If your athlete is one or both of these then consider starting with a 20 gauge gun and advancing as their strength and skills improve. Remember shooting is using muscles and body positioning that is uncommon, so it takes practice and repetitions to develop these muscle groups and movements.
Interchangeable Chokes – This is a must when shooting Sporting Clays or 5-Stand. If you are shooting Skeet you need at minimum a preset choke of “Skeet or Improved Cylinder” or you are handicapping the athlete with a shot pattern that is tighter. If you are shooting Trap you need at minimum a preset choke of “Modified or Full” or you are handicapping the athlete with a shot pattern that is open. Preset Barrel Choke is common in the old traditional hunting shotguns. In the past 20+ years every shotgun manufacture offers interchangeable choke tubes for their shotguns except for highly specialized Skeet and Trap Shotguns.
Types of Guns – Here we go
- · Pump Shotguns – Pump guns are not meant for the competitive field. There are side events at large Sporting Clay competitions for pump guns, but you will not find them being used in the main event. The felt recoil is great and the required pumping action makes it difficult to recover and find the second target. This would be like wearing blue jeans and boots while running the 40 yard dash. It can be done, but you will be challenged. Keep these guns for extreme use in the hunting field.
- · Side by Side Shotguns – SxS guns are not meant for the competitive field. There are side events at large Sporting Clay competitions for SxS guns, but you will not find them being used in the main event. The wide barrel will block visibility of targets and the felt recoil is great. Keep and collect these beautiful guns and enjoy them occasionally on a gentlemen’s hunt.
- · Over and Under Shotgun – Many consider this to be the best competitive shotgun. Target visibility is good since the barrels are stacked. The line of the lower barrel in relationship to the shooters shoulder and body mass reduces felt recoil. The choice of barrel selection (top or bottom) for the first shot can be beneficial. The benefit of having different chokes in each barrel to accommodate different target presentations (close and far) on Sporting Clay stations. Reliability and life of these shotguns are great since there is limited moving parts on high quality guns. Some people like the appearance and consider these types of guns to be the Cadillac. Remember there are competitive and hunting models, so I recommend the all-around competitive models until the athlete advances and then look into the specific sport models. Almost all modern competitive O/U’s come with interchangeable chokes which I consider a must.
- · List of Good O/U Manufactures and Products
- · Semi Autos – Semiautomatics years ago were consider unreliable, but for the past 20+ years this is not true for many of the top brands and models. Today’s modern Semi Autos are considered by many as the best choice for many reasons starting with reduced recoil. The movement of the action at the time of firing as well as the gas operation reduces recoil by a great amount when compared to any other type of shotgun. There are two types of Semi Autos – Gas Operated and Inertia Operated. Benelli is the most popular modern Inertia Operated shotgun on the market today. Benellis are known for reliability and durability. Because they do not use gas to operate the action they are considered to be more reliable because they do not get as dirty and require as much cleaning as compared to a Gas Operated shotguns. The felt recoil is slightly more than a Gas Operated shotgun, but less than any other type. Beretta, Fabarm and Remington are popular modern Gas Operated shotguns. The Beretta 391 series is considered a long life very dependable great shotgun. They have recently been discontinued and a new line of Beretta 300 and 400’s have replaced them. Fabarm is making a new Gas Operated shotgun the XLR5 that is proving to be a very good gun with a lot of options the competitive shooter is looking for. Fabarm also offers a left handed model with these same options. Semi Autos are offered in standard field/hunting models as well as competitive models. I would recommend purchasing a competitive model and use it in the field hunting if you are on a budget. Semi Autos are a great choice for the competitive shooter because so many options available including and not limited to weight, reliability, reduced recoil, and less expensive than Over and Under shotguns.
- · List of Good Semi Auto Manufactures and Products
I really do not want to offend anyone or start a debate by recommendations. During the 80-90’s when I was a serious competitor I exclusively shot with Over and Under’s. After many years of intense shooting I suffered neck and shoulder issues that ultimately drove me from the sport. It is my belief that this could have been avoided by using a Semi Auto shotgun as well as lighter shotgun shells. In the early 90’s Scott Robertson came along using a Beretta Semi Auto shotgun and began setting records that shocked the shooting world with his Semi Auto. Not many at that time were using Semi Auto’s, but as they watched the success, reduced recoil and reliability of the Beretta, the shotgun world changed. Today so many top competitors are using Semi Auto’s for every reason I have mentioned above. My concern is always recoil, especially with kids, so my first recommendation is a Semi Auto that fits them properly. Both of our children shoot Beretta 391 competition models. Our daughter uses a 20 gauge model, but is building up to a 12 gauge model probably by spring.
Something to consider reselling good quality name brand shotguns is easy. If your young athlete decides they no longer like the sport or want to change brands or models the loss factor is minimum when you are selling a high quality shotguns.
Where to buy is always a difficult topic because it is hard to find competition guns at local gun stores. The DFW area is large with many good dealers for those that would like to handle the gun first. Another option is to use online auctions sites. www.gunbroker.com is the most popular site that usually has the best selection and prices. When purchasing online you have to have the firearm transferred to a local dealer and then transferred to you. The cost for this service is usually about $10-20, but if the purchase is out of state you typically do not have to pay sales tax, so you more than save this amount as opposed to buying local.
If you have questions before making a purchase, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Safe Shooting-Go Dragons