The .662 inch 16-gauge shotgun is among the most underappreciated gauges. As a young shooter, I was impressed that my uncle Arden Williams fields a Browning Sweet 16 shotgun. He felt the balance was ideal.
Arden was, above all else, what he called a “sport,” and believed in fair chase and the challenge of hunting. He never felt under-gunned with the 16-gauge. Some shooters did, however, and felt that the 12-gauge was the ideal bore.
It didn’t help when the rules set down for skeet shooting limited the field to the 12, 20, 28 and .410 shotguns. The 16 hits harder with a better pattern than the 20-gauge, but at the same time, it doesn’t kick as much as the 12-gauge.
Some of the most beautifully balanced shotguns in the world are chambered in the 16-gauge.
How the 16-Gauge Shotgun Lost Its Appeal
The 12-gauge, it seems, is everyone’s shotgun, while the 16 is a gentleman’s gun. My 12-gauge shotguns outnumber the 16 four to one, so not certain where that leaves me, but I understand the appeal of the 16-gauge.
The 16-gauge is a pretty interesting shotgun and handles light and lovely at six pounds. A 12-gauge at six pounds is just too much.
Part of the reason the 16 lost a lot of appeal was the abandonment of the 16 for skeet. Also, the ammunition companies did not pay attention to the 16-gauge. Powerful 12- and 20-gauge loads were developed, but the 16-gauge was left by the wayside.
Not incidentally, components for loading the 16-gauge were not as good or as available.
Doing a 12-Gauge Impression
The factory actually went a bit backward with the 16-gauge loads (Fiocchi is an exception) and made up powerful loads that performed in 12-gauge territory—with all the recoil. The 16-gauge is a great shooter with 7/8 ounce field loads.
Load much over that and recoil becomes a problem. The 16-gauge isn’t going to be effective against waterfowl because it isn’t stout enough for steel shot. That’s OK because the 16 is an excellent choice for upland birds.
It is for rabbit and squirrel as well. If your Sweet 16 doubles as a home defender or for use against predators on the farm, there is good quality buckshot available.
Why I’m a Fan of the 16
I have owned and used a beautifully made French double shotgun in 16-gauge. It doesn’t get any better. But one of my favorite 16s is a Remington Model 11.
Complete with a Weaver adjustable choke and cracked stock, the old Model 11 keeps shucking the shells long after its heyday.
That’s fine; the Sweet 16 doesn’t have to be a Browning and these shotguns are light enough, easy to use well, and offer real speed in the field.
That, my friends, is what the Sweet 16 is all about.
Are you a fan of the 16-gauge shotgun? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.