Whether you are looking for a shotgun for hunting or shooting clays, you will need to know a few of the basics before buying a shotgun. It is also a good idea to shoot a variety of shotguns before you buy. Many gun clubs offer shotgun rentals and this is a good opportunity to see what works best for you. If possible, try before you buy.
In part 1, I shared with you how to fit a shotgun to you. In this post, I’ll cover some of the basics you should know when shopping for a shotgun.
First, you’ll need to decide the shotgun’s ultimate purpose. Will it primarily be for hunting, or do you plan on participating in competitive shotgun sports such as sporting clays for example? Some competitions or programs may have defined specifications or restrictions on which shotgun you may use. Be sure to check the rulebooks, or consult a local coach before buying a shotgun for competition.
If you are a novice or beginner, here are a few more questions you might want to ask yourself before you buy a shotgun.
- Do you want to shoot a 12 or 20 gauge?
- Do you prefer to buy new or used?
- Should you buy an autoloading or pump-action shotgun?
- Are there specific brands you like, and if so, why?
- What about over/under barrel shotguns?
- Does the length of barrel matter for what you want to do?
- What is your budget?
Gun Feel and Balance
Once you have the purpose figured out, it is time to find a balanced gun for your frame. If you have ever handled a shotgun that felt grossly over-sized for you, and many smaller-framed shooters know what I am talking about, you understand the importance of getting a “good feel” for the gun. The actual weight of the gun is not necessarily the issue. More important would be how the gun’s weight is distributed. To do this, you need to ask yourself, “Is all the weight on one certain end of the gun or is it equally distributed?” and “Where is the center of gravity of the gun?”
Gun fitting experts suggest novice or beginner shooters seek out a model of shotgun that has the weight equally balanced. Ideally, each arm will hold about half of the gun’s weight. Too much muzzle weight (weight in front half of gun) will often mean more difficultly controlling tracking evenly with a moving target. However, a gun that is lighter in the muzzle but heavier in the stock will often feel downright awkward; it usually forces your front hand to be a little on the loose side which can result in a wobbly muzzle.
Prices typically start under $200 dollars and quickly climb into the thousands for higher-end models. A shotgun, whether it be for hunting or competition can be a serious investment, but you now have the necessary insight regarding gun fit, gun feel and balance, and gun specifications for the novice shotgun buyer. As with any big purchase, take your time and ensure you are getting what you really want. It is usually a good idea to set your budget first, and then buy the best shotgun in your price range that fits your specific needs and desires.
Do you have more questions about buying a shotgun or a tip to help others? Share with us in the comment section.
Lisa Metheny is a published award-winning outdoor writer, photographer, speaker and outdoor skills instructor. Lisa holds several instructor certifications and conducts a number of women-focused outdoor seminars on topics such as archery and hunting throughout the year. She regularly teaches hunters education and archery classes and has become an advocate for promoting traditional outdoor recreation to families across the United States. Lisa is also an avid and accomplished hunter with many big game species to her credit. She is a member of POMA and former Board of Directors member as well as a member of the NRA, RMEF, MDF and DU.
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