Choosing Your First Shotgun

by Tommy Grant

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When it comes time to buy a shotgun there are a few things to consider. In all actuality, there are many things to consider but let’s take a look at what I believe are the core items to look at before you make your final selection. Considering these few points can lead to you getting the shotgun that best serves your needs while not breaking the bank.

Pump or gas gun? The two main styles of shotguns are pump action and semi-auto guns which are often referred to as “gas guns.” This is because they operate on a gas blowback system. When choosing between the two you need to look for guns that are known for reliability. Of the two systems, the pump action shotgun is more reliable because the action is manual. Gas guns can have cycling issues if not lubricated properly, have light loads, or even if the shooter is not set firmly enough behind the gun. This can be overcome of course by choosing a well-made semi-auto gun and really learning to run it. However, out of the box, the pump action wins in this category.

Another item to look for is the length of pull or “LOP.” This refers to the length of the stock. This is significantly more important than most people realize because it determines whether you will be able to correctly shoulder the shotgun and shoot it well. I find that most guns have a set LOP that fits only a small number of shooters right out of the box. If the LOP is too long you will not be able to seat the stock in the correct spot in your shoulder without turning your body. This leads to uncomfortable shooting and possibly even bruising if done for a long period. There are aftermarket stocks you can buy for your shotgun from companies such as Hogue that can make the gun a truly personal fit.

Third on the list of things to look for is caliber. There are numerous calibers or more specifically “gauges” in shotguns. While 12 gauge is the most common, it is by no means a must. What will determine the gauge of the shotgun are two things. What will the gun be used for and what can you handle? I tend to lead people to either 20 gauge or 12 gauge. Either of these two will work as a general round for most people. These two rounds can be easily found at any sporting goods store or gun store in a variety of flavors. From bird shot, which is nice to train with, to defensive loads.

The final thing to consider is the aiming system. Contrary to what Hollywood may suggest, you do in fact need to aim your shotgun correctly if you want to hit your target. There are many options but as you can guess, it is up to personal preference. The most common sighting system is a bead site. This is literally a BB-style object placed on the end of the barrel and used as a point of reference for the front of the gun. While it has been around forever, I believe there are better options. First is an actual rifle site setup. This would have a blade-style front sight and a notch rear sight. These are very easy to use and increase accuracy. The next is a ghost ring-style site. This is a blade front sight with an aperture-style site in the back. This is my favorite of the iron site options because it is very easy to use and very fast. The last option is an actual optic which is the most accurate tool. With advances in optics, they can now easily manage the shock and recoil found in a shotgun. All of these are helpful in making sure the shot that you launch down range actually hits the target. Yes…you can miss with a shotgun if you do not aim correctly.

As I alluded to earlier there are dozens of sub-points we could dig into, but these are the primary things to be aware of as you look at adding a shotgun to your collection. Take your time and weigh those points most important to you and in the end, you will have a gun that fits all your needs.

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