How Many Shotguns Do You Own? How Many Do You Shoot Well?
Bill Miller 09.29.14
What is your approach to shotgunning? Are you the legendary one-gun man or woman? There’s wisdom in the warning, “Beware of the hunter or shooter with only one gun! He or she probably knows how to use it!”
Then there is the “golf bag” approach to shooting. The golfer doesn’t play an entire round with only a driver or solely with a putter. His or her bag carries a dozen or more clubs each meant for a specific distance or type of shot. Ever watch a professional golf tournament? That selection of clubs allows them to perform some amazing feats. The caddy even makes suggestions on the right club for the shot at hand.
The primary advantage of using one shotgun for all your shooting is familiarity. The one-gun-shooter undoubtedly knows his or her one shotgun intimately. The feel of the mount and swing, the balance of the gun, the location of the safety, the step-by-step loading process, the trigger pull, and more all become instinctive through repetition.
A few seasons back, I was on a one-gun mission testing the then new Beretta 400 Xplor Unico. I shot it for everything I did for an entire year—without internal cleaning—just to see how it would perform (which turned out to be flawlessly!) Trap, skeet, sporting clays, and hunting—I was shooting the A400 a lot!
One evening, some buddies and I had finished our sporting clays league rounds and decided to take some more targets for practice. Our game faces were off, so we talked and joked between shots. On a final station, I just plain forgot that I was getting a report pair. I loaded only one shell, broke the first bird, and turned to walk off the station, already trash talking my companions. They, of course, reminded of the second bird in the pair now in the air.
I spun back into the stand, pulled a shell from my pouch, loaded without looking, closed the action, mounted, and broke the bird before it hit the ground! Familiarity with one gun (and a little luck) can make you look mighty good!
However, my long-term approach to shotgunning tends toward the golfer’s. Careful selection of and practice with a purpose-built shotgun ultimately puts the right tool in your hands when you need it.
For example, a 32- or 34-inch barrel on a target shotgun really helps maintain swing and forces essential follow-through to increase scores on the trap and sporting clays ranges. However, I certainly don’t want to deal with that long barrel when I’m investigating a noise downstairs in the middle of the night while my wife calls 9-1-1. Nor do I want to have to navigate those long tubes through an alder thicket looking for a dog on point.
Nothing is better for a home-defense shotgun than a compact, reliable pump equipped with a laser and light for better aiming and target identification. Yet when shooting skeet, five-stand, or doubles trap, pumping the action is a hindrance to a well-placed second shot, and what would you possibly use the laser or light for on clays?
There are also situations in which side-by-side barrels offer distinct advantage over the narrow sighting plane of an over/under, semiauto, or pump—namely in thick cover on close-flushing birds. And what about turkey hunting? As a runner-gunner, I want my turkey gun light, short, and fast, and I want it to sport rifle sights, a red-dot, or even a scope. The slug gun for deer is another completely different set up I like to leave accurized season to season.
The “right” answer to shotgunning probably falls somewhere in the middle. It makes sense to own a number of shotguns purpose-built to the different types of hunting and shooting you enjoy. The key is to shoot each one of them enough to build the kind of familiarity that makes the one-gun shooter so good!
Take the lesson from the pro golfers and learn to master every club in the bag—or, in your case, every gun in the safe!
An undeniable delight of golden fall days in the woods is lunch on the tailgate. A picnic there—shared with the hardworking dog—is a reward for everyone! Only thing that can ruin it is pesky mosquitoes. You know, the ones that somehow avoided the frost and are now meaner and nastier because of it. Pack your ThermaCELL to help keep them at bay! ThermaCELL insect repellants are not meant to be used right next to open food, but that’s no problem. The 15-foot-by-15-foot 3D zone of protection offers plenty of coverage to keep the bugs from ruining your autumn tailgate picnic!