Women Afield — What You Need to Know Before Buying a Shotgun Part 2: Specifications

Shotgun with vertical line behind the breaking point

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.

Shotgun with the vertical line at the breaking point
This image illustrates the vertical line at the breaking point.

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.

Gun Specifications

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.

Shotgun with vertical line behind the breaking point
This image illustrates the vertical line behind the breaking point.
  • 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?

Shotgun with the vertical line in front of the breaking point
This image illustrates the vertical line in front of the breaking point.

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.

Click Here to buy a shotgun online

Do you have more questions about buying a shotgun or a tip to help others? Share with us in the comment section.


The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

1 Comment;

  1. ……hey… my woman belongs in the house, cleaning, cooking, and making babies….lol…just kidding, but now that I have your attention, I think its great that women are getting into the took me a wile ,but now I have my wife shooting at the range with me. im working on her to go deer hunting, with me that’s going to take awhile guess sitting in a tree at 6 am 33 degrees and raining isn’t her cup of tea. {im thinking a hunting buddy with benefits} im not giving up on her but im not holding my breath. buck luck to every one and lets be safe out there

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