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Radio Free NJ - Buying a First Shotgun ^ | T. Costell

Posted on 09/10/2008 3:49:23 AM PDT by sig226

A friend recently got a larger than expected royalty check from his publisher, and in passing asked me if I had any suggestions about the kind of shotgun he should consider buying as his first. opinion about shotguns?

I guess he doesn’t read my stuff much.

Deciding on a first shotgun is a straightforward process. And the first step is the same as any other firearm purchase. A liberal once asked me if I thought I had enough guns, and to his supreme annoyance I responded “enough for what?” That’s not a joke, it’s the first issue when choosing a firearm…what exactly are you going to be using it for? If you’re going to leave it under your bed as a home defense insurance policy that means one set of priorities, but if you plan on shooting skeet with it once a month, or using it to hunt deer and turkeys, that’s probably another. You may think that you’d like to do both things with it and that’s perfectly reasonable, but you should be aware that multitasking will come with some compromises. But before I get to that, there are a few things you should know about all shotguns.

If you read gun magazines it’s hard to find a reviewer who has too many bad things to say about any type of gun. That’s because the manufacturers give them the guns to review for free, and they’d like to remain in their good graces. Such is life in the media business under a capitalist system. But no one is paying me, or has ever offered to give me a gun for free, so I’m going to tell you exactly what I think. But if Browning, Perazzi, Krieghoff or one of the English gun makers would like to step up at a later time and “persuade” me to say otherwise, I’ll be more than happy to entertain the discussion.

Also, I’m normally happy to engage in debate with people who don’t agree with me, but in this case I know that passion for a specific firearm manufacturer can run pretty high. So if all you want to do is tell me that I shouldn’t be recommending this or that and should instead be suggesting something you think is better, why don’t you go start your own blog instead? I’m sorry but I’m not really all that interested. I’ll spell out my reasons for thinking the way I do, and if you think I’m a fool then so be it. But I hope you all can recognize that there is more than one way to skin a cat, and I’m describing only one way.

Selecting a Gauge

The gauge of a shotgun is defined as “the number of lead balls you would need in that diameter in order to have one pound of lead”. So a 12 gauge gun, by far the most common, is the largest bore, and the .410 is the smallest. There are 10 gauge guns out there too, and even guns that sport custom “super large” bores, but none of these should be considered as a first shotgun. There are a number of common gauges produced by quality manufacturers, but when just starting out I don’t think you need to worry about all that. All you really need to worry about is your size and your strength. In my opinion, if you’re a man of more or less normal size then you should almost certainly buy a 12 gauge as your first gun. In fact when it comes to the fairer sex, I would only recommend a smaller gauge for particularly petite women. As an example, my wife is tiny. She’s a pretty little Hungarian brunette who is 5’1” and weighs about 105 lbs. when dripping wet, and she can still shoot my 12 gauge semi just fine. The only issue is that it’s a little heavy for her so if she shoots it all day her arms are tired afterward. So I did recently break down and get her a 20 gauge gun so she can shoot it a little more.

Some people think starting with a smaller gauge is always a good idea but I disagree. Shotguns are designed to throw a spray of pellets, and the smaller the bore the smaller the pattern. So with a 20 gauge gun it’s harder to hit what you’re shooting than with a 12 gauge, no matter how skilled you are. A 28 gauge is also harder than a 20, and a 410 harder than a 28, and so on. Making it easy to hit what you point your first gun at is a good first concern if you ask me. So for anyone who weighs more than say, 130 lbs or so, I’d strongly recommend a 12 gauge as a first gun. If you’re under that then consider a 20 gauge, but remember that you’re starting with a small disadvantage.

Shotgun Price

As I told my friend, I’m a value for the dollar guy. I don’t think anyone should ever spend a nickel more than they have to when buying a gun. There are manufacturers out there who will build you a custom fitted shotgun to your body measurements and artistic specification and it will run you $75,000. To consider something like that for a first gun is stupid, even if you have the money. Even to think about one of the higher end factory guns seems a little silly to me when you’re still new at shooting. If you consider a Perazzi, or a Krieghoff, or even one of the nicer Beretta’s or Browning’s, you could easily drop $10,000. That makes no sense to me.

The design of gun you buy will affect the price. There are single shot shotguns out there for about $100, but there are many things you can’t do with them (including all the clay shooting sports) so I’d stay away from them if you can afford to. Pump guns are generally the cheapest repeating shotguns out there and can be had brand new from reputable manufacturers for as little as $250. Next are semi-automatic guns, and then the double barrel guns which are the most expensive in comparison. That isn’t to say they are pricey in dollar terms. I commonly shoot a Mossberg Over/Under Double barrel that I paid $400 bucks for. It’s a solid gun that I’ve put 10,000 rounds through without a hiccup. And just this morning I shot with a friend who was shooting a pump gun that cost twice that. In some ways, you’ll get what you pay for. You just want to make sure you’re not paying for features you don’t really want or need.

A Shotgun for Home Defense

In my opinion, the two biggest issues for a home defense shotgun are a short barrel, and a low price. Statistically, it’s unlikely you’ll ever fire a shot in your own home. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep a gun in your home if you feel the need, but it does mean that if you do, you probably won’t be using it all that much. If it were me, I wouldn’t want to have a several thousand dollar investment collecting dust under my bed. As for the short barrel, you don’t realize how small your house really is until you’re trying to swing a shotgun in your living room with a 32 inch competition barrel. In close quarters small is always a help.

If you’re buying a gun for home defense alone I’d recommend a Mossberg pump gun. Mossberg doesn’t make a pretty gun, but they have legendary reliability, and the click-clack of the pump is often more than enough itself to drive the average intruder away. Remington also makes a pump gun with first rate reliability but a slightly higher price. For my money, Mossberg will do everything you need. The US Army loves the Mossberg 500. And if there is one thing the army knows, its how best to go about shooting people. You’re unlikely to use a shotgun for just this purpose, but if you think you will, then I can’t say enough about the Mossberg.

A Shotgun For Multiple Uses

A single shotgun used for multiple purposes is a tricky business. In fact hunting alone could turn out to be more than one purpose because there’s a big difference between hunting pheasant and hunting deer. Lots of people have just one gun to do all of the above and for use to defend their homes, but there are a number of issues to consider.

The people I know who try to use one gun for everything usually end up buying a semi-automatic shotgun. A pump gun is cheaper than a semi, but the semi will give you a second shot just a bit more effortlessly. In that way its better suited to wing shooting where you should be concentrating on your target instead of worrying about short-stroking your pump. A pump can do it, but for the difference in price I think most people find it’s worth it to go with a semi.

When it comes to a semi automatic gun, I’m one of those people who is of a very strong opinion. I can only recommend one design… the recoil actuated semi-automatic shotgun designed by Benelli. There are a great many semi’s out there that use a gas actuated piston to reset the action after each shot. That design, produced by a half dozen manufacturers from Remington and Beretta, to Browning and others, has historically shown wonderful reliability when produced by a manufacturer with a good reputation. But as good as that design may be, it’s a bear to clean and it must be cleaned well in order to remain in good working order.

The Benelli design on the other hand has only 4 moving parts which drop out of the receiver frame without the use of tools. That design is so reliable that I know several guys who own them and have never cleaned theirs. But if they ever decide to, those few parts make it an easy task. It’s a lighting fast system that can handle any size of load, and makes a great all around design for a first shotgun. When the US Marines are issued shotguns, they are Remington or Mossberg pumps. When they buy their own shotguns they buy Benelli semi’s.

Of course brilliance doesn’t come cheap. The top of the line Benelli Semi-Automatic is not inexpensive, but I have a great way around that. A few years back a Turkish company hijacked the Benelli design, and starting building what probably amounted to illegal copies of it. When Benelli heard about it, they didn’t take them to international court; they bought them, and started offering the Turkish gun as a low priced model.

The Stoeger model 2000 has the same fantastically fast and reliable Benelli recoil action, but at a fraction of the Benelli price. It’s not as pretty and slick as the Italian styling of the new Benelli SBE, but it does look exactly like some older Benelli models, and is not unattractive. And in spite of it’s more traditional look, it has the same high performance works under the hood, and it shoots that way. The Stoeger 2000 will typically run you about ½ the price of the Benelli and offer the same functionality. You can find them here for as little as $450 or so. It’s a great buy, maybe the best in the shotgun industry. As a combination hunting and home defense gun I highly recommend it.

Its only weakness is that Benelli has yet to find a manufacturer for the “rifled slug barrel” they’ve been promising for a few years now. A rifled barrel will let you shoot slugs with a shotgun out to about 100 yards with dead shot accuracy. But since Benelli hasn’t gotten their act together, if you go with a Stoeger, then you’ll be forced to shoot slugs through your smoothbore giving you a best case accuracy of about 75 yards.

A Shotgun For Clay Shooting

I’ve never fired a shotgun in a home defense situation. If I exclude the high fence pheasant hunt I do with my friends every year then in the last 7 hunting seasons I’ve fired my shotgun at animals exactly twice. Even if I include it, I’ve probably only fired the gun 35 or 40 times. When hunting you don’t exactly burn through cases of ammo, there’s really no need. But last year on the skeet field at my club, I think I went through about 4,500 rounds of ammo, plus whatever my friends and other guests shot. And that’s the issue that defines the clay shooting sports; there is a lot of actual shooting going on. It’s high volume, over and over and over again. So the gun you select for that purpose should keep that in mind as a first concern.

If you try shooting that kind of volume through a pump gun or a gas driven semi, you’ll spend as much time cleaning that gun as you do shooting it. Even a Benelli or Stoeger Semi will require some careful attention after a while when it’s used that heavily. And while I personally have always felt that cleaning my guns was a zen like experience, sometimes you just have other places to be. So if you want a gun that cleans up quickly and easily, then there are really no bones about it, you want a double barrel gun.

The over under is the slightly more popular double barrel design these days, But in fact the finest grade guns available are almost all side by sides. I think the thing that makes them popular is that with an over under gun you can only see one barrel when you mount it to your shoulder, so it takes less time to get used to the view. In my house we have both. And they can both be used to great effect. No one will ever look down on your for showing up with one or the other. The gun I shoot most often is a Mossberg Silver Reserve Over Under, and my wife’s gun is a Stevens 311 Side by Side.

Double barrel guns cost more than pump guns or semi-automatics. But these days there are imports which are simple, reliable and inexpensive. My Mossberg was made in Turkey (Are you noticing a pattern here”) and Remington imports an over under from Russia which they sell under the Spartan label that I’ve heard people speak well of. Both are sturdy Boxlock designs with shell extractors instead of ejectors. An extractor is a simple device which lifts the shell from the chamber when the gun is opened, but you have to reach down there and remove them yourself. Ejectors are spring loaded mechanical devices that automatically kick the shells free for you. If you’re buying an inexpensive import, I’d stay away from a gun with ejectors since they can sometimes be subject to failure on inexpensive guns. I wouldn’t recommend them unless you’re prepared to pay up.

The triggers on double barrel guns also have several options. Many side by side guns have 2 triggers, one for each barrel. This takes some getting used to, but it works perfectly well. If you decide to go with a double trigger gun I’d recommend getting one that has a straight “English style stock”. It makes it slightly easier to adjust your finger for the second trigger. The Steven’s 311 my wife shoots came with double triggers and a pistol grip stock standard, but I replaced it with a straight style stock as a project.

As for the single triggers typical on over under guns, some are what’s called “mechanical” and others are designed to reset on recoil. Mechanical triggers are supposed to be stiffer and therefore less appealing, but I’ve found them to be more reliable in all circumstances so I still prefer them. You aren’t aiming a shotgun, you’re pointing it, so a stiff trigger isn’t so much of a hindrance in my mind. And if you have a gun with recoil triggers and for some reason the first shell doesn’t fire, the second one won’t be able to. With mechanical triggers at least you’ll get off one.

There are many types of guns out there and many many opinions on them. I like the cheap imported guns and have found them to be of excellent quality generally, but there are a lot of guys out there who would never consider them. Fair enough… more left for you and me. Also, I love buying shotguns online because it makes the firearms market more efficient and MUCH cheaper. These online gun auction sites:

should all be checked out when you decide to purchase one and it will save you a bunch of money. They can refer you to a “transfer agent” in your area, and it’s perfectly legal for you to buy them online if you meet all other laws and requirements that apply to you with regard to firearms purchases.

With that said though a shotgun still needs to fit you well. So I would highly recommend that before you buy anything, you go to a local firearms dealer and try them on. Stocks for factory guns all come in slightly differing lengths and sometimes come with space holders whcih can be added or removed to change the fit. And that fit is of paramount importance.

so go to a local store... pick one up, hold it, mount it, see how it feels tracking an invisible pheasant through the air. It’s really one of the most important aspects of a shotgun purchase. We aren't all built alike, and what suits me perfectly might not work for you. And in the meantime I’ve also had my local dealers agree to match prices that I showed them from the internet, so it might wind up saving you a trip as well.

The shotgun sports are my principle hobby so naturally I have alot more to say, but unfortnately I lack the time to say it. If you have any other questions, please leave them on the blog and I’ll answer them as soon as I can. After all, it's not exactly tough to get me to offer an opinion on shotguns.

Good Shooting.

TOPICS: Miscellaneous
KEYWORDS: banglist; frgc; frgunclub; shotguns
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To: Yo-Yo

Post #4 works better in my Taurus Judge than 410 shells. The wad from the 410 shells can jam in the pistol sometimes. The CCI shells fire cleaner.

21 posted on 09/10/2008 5:10:30 AM PDT by bmwcyle (Vote McWhatshisname and PALIN)
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To: 2nd Bn, 11th Mar

Most of the “evidence” is anecdotal. Personally I would not want to give my position away by unnecessarily “racking” the pump, or lose tactical advantage by not having a round chambered and ready to go. That said I keep a Mossberg 590A1 in my truck, but for home defense I have two strategically located H&K Benelli M1 Super 90’s. All are loaded with #1 Buck, which I find works better than 00 in defensive situations, and all have rounds chambered and ready to go.

22 posted on 09/10/2008 5:11:16 AM PDT by P8riot (I carry a gun because I can't carry a cop.)
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To: harpseal; TexasCowboy; nunya bidness; AAABEST; Travis McGee; Squantos; Shooter 2.5; wku man; SLB; ..
FR Shotgunners, front and center! (Don't look at me -- my only shotgun has rifle sights; kinda lets you know where I come from... $;-)

I agree 100% with Shooter 2.5's comments about racking the scattergun to scare away intruders -- that's TV-tactics. In real life, being trained by TV will get you dead.

Click the Gadsden flag for pro-gun resources!

For the FreeRepublic "banglist", please click HERE .

23 posted on 09/10/2008 5:18:54 AM PDT by Joe Brower (Sheep have three speeds: "graze", "stampede" and "cower".)
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To: 2nd Bn, 11th Mar
Chased this one once and came to the conclusion that is pretty much urban legend. While there are a few well documented stories about someone racking a pump and having a bad guy flee I suspect that the sound of a 9mm being cycled would of had the same effect on said bad guy.
24 posted on 09/10/2008 5:22:31 AM PDT by mad_as_he$$ (Constantly choosing the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil.)
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To: Shooter 2.5
Well as the author I can assure you thst I'm still very much alive in spite of my lack of knowledge.

The piece was about choosing the right tool for the right job, not about home defense combat tactics. As I said in the piece I've never been in a circumstance where I needed to defend myself in my home.

I would welcome the opportunity to learn from others more knowledgeable than myself and invite them to author something themselves so all of us can benefit from their knowledge.

25 posted on 09/10/2008 5:25:42 AM PDT by tcostell (MOLON LABE - - RadioFree NJ)
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To: sig226

Thanks for the ping, I am still learning more about various types of guns. I do prefer the Mossberg, I have also used in a home defense (years back). I prefer the warning(click clack) it gives to the offender.

26 posted on 09/10/2008 5:26:02 AM PDT by navygal (retired navy and proud of it.)
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To: sig226
Good article. My scatterguns start with an original Win 97 Trench Broom and end with a nice Browning in 28 for dove/quail. Since I don't do much wing shooting anymore, the 28 works when the call comes for field work. My emphasis is on defensive shotguns.

The Marines issue the M590A1, which is all-steel, rather than the commercial 590 with the polymer trigger package. The M590A1 has a remarkable reliability record. Mossberg sold the Marine issue on an production overrun a few years back, and I didn't get one ordered in time. I'm not much for the recent Mossbergs, I have fixed too many of them, BUT the older Moss are excellent shotguns at reasonable prices.

The Remington 870 is probably the most sold shotgun in either defensive or field configurations. I have a had a couple of these and the reliability is awesome.

27 posted on 09/10/2008 5:27:00 AM PDT by Pistolshot (Palin has run a state, city, and a business. NObama has only run his mouth.)
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To: tcostell
Thanks for the article.

I have a specific use question. We just moved out into the Hill Country of Texas and last week I noticed a family of wild hogs running along our north ridge. Not exactly the most friendly neighbors, you know.

What is the best weapon to have on hand should I run into one of these? I've gotten differing opinions and after reading your article, I would like to have yours.

28 posted on 09/10/2008 5:27:35 AM PDT by TexasNative2000 (Obviously, liberals can't handle a strong, independent woman.)
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To: tcostell
In my mind, Remington is really the gun by which all others are measured.

Agree. My 870 is great for pheasants with the 30" barrel. The short iron sighted barrel with a rifled choke puts slugs in the black at 100 yds and patterns buckshot well at 25 or so yds. With the plug out I have 5 shots. Replace the plug and change to an extra full choke and it is a handy turkey gun.

Thanks for the article.

29 posted on 09/10/2008 5:28:36 AM PDT by MileHi ( "It's coming down to patriots vs the politicians." - ovrtaxt)
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To: sig226
This page has a video of Clint Smith from Thunder Ranch discussing the home defense shotgun. It's pretty interesting. If you get a chance you might want to watch the other two videos, too. The one on clearing a malfunctioning weapon is very informative.

Thunder Ranch Free Video

30 posted on 09/10/2008 5:29:02 AM PDT by mbynack (Retired USAF SMSgt)
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To: tcostell; hiredhand; Squantos; NFHale
while racking a pump gun may drive away the 'honest' BG, it is a loss of cover/initiative to the hard core thug...

that said, Id imagine a few bladders have emptied on the way back to the entrypoint upon the sound of chambering a round...

31 posted on 09/10/2008 5:31:52 AM PDT by Gilbo_3 ("JesusChrist 08"...Trust in the Lord......=...LiveFReeOr Die...)
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To: sig226
My "Tactical Bird Gun" ;)

I'm not a big clays shooter, but the looks I get when I do is part of the fun (yes, I can hit with it).

32 posted on 09/10/2008 5:33:34 AM PDT by kAcknor ("A pistol! Are you expecting trouble sir?" "No ma'am, were I expecting trouble I'd have a rifle.")
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To: TexasNative2000

If they are the Texas wild hogs I’m thinking about you’ll need something pretty stout. They have a layer of gristle that covers their vitals, and I’ve found that nothing less than a .44MAG will penetrate sufficiently. I’d go for a nice lever action carbine in “at least” that caliber. A lever is light, and will give you quick follow-up shots while taming the recoil of the stouter rounds. While you’re at it get a good cookbook too. Wild hog is pretty good eating.

33 posted on 09/10/2008 5:35:04 AM PDT by P8riot (I carry a gun because I can't carry a cop.)
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To: P8riot
#1 Buck, which I find works better than 00 in defensive situations, and all have rounds chambered and ready to go.

two things Sir...

I keep #4 in the defender, opinions on shotsize???

I used to keep it loaded and locked, but figured the spring would ultimately get fatigued...or do you alternate the twins and give em 'off' days ???

34 posted on 09/10/2008 5:37:47 AM PDT by Gilbo_3 ("JesusChrist 08"...Trust in the Lord......=...LiveFReeOr Die...)
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To: Joe Brower
I agree 100% with Shooter 2.5's comments about racking the scattergun to scare away intruders -- that's TV-tactics. In real life, being trained by TV will get you dead.

I agree with both of you. If someone enters your house knowing that you're home and possibly armed, they will probably be prepared to return fire. If you rack the slide on your shotgun you've told them where you are and how you're armed and given away most of your advantages. Worst case scenario is that they immediately start blasting away in the general direction of the sound and kill everyone in the house.

35 posted on 09/10/2008 5:40:39 AM PDT by mbynack (Retired USAF SMSgt)
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To: hiredhand; Squantos; NFHale

oopsie, meant to get opinions from you gents as well...

36 posted on 09/10/2008 5:44:33 AM PDT by Gilbo_3 ("JesusChrist 08"...Trust in the Lord......=...LiveFReeOr Die...)
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To: 2nd Bn, 11th Mar
"racking (sp?) a pump shotgun will drive an intruder away."

I'd rather be chambered and ready than to do the TV/movie drama of not even being prepared.

37 posted on 09/10/2008 5:45:32 AM PDT by Deaf Smith
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To: sig226
If you read gun magazines it’s hard to find a reviewer who has too many bad things to say about any type of gun. That’s because the manufacturers give them the guns to review for free, and they’d like to remain in their good graces.

Ain't that the truth!

38 posted on 09/10/2008 5:46:43 AM PDT by Blood of Tyrants (G-d is not a Republican. But Satan is definitely a Democrat.)
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To: Gilbo_3
I keep #4 in the defender, opinions on shotsize???

I bought some 00 tactical buckshot. It's has less recoil than standard buckshot and is easier to get the second round off in a hurry. A lot of police forces are using it because it does a great job with less chance of penetrating walls.

39 posted on 09/10/2008 5:48:52 AM PDT by mbynack (Retired USAF SMSgt)
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To: bmwcyle

I didn’t know that the Taurus could chamber .45ACP with half moon clips. There’s enough relief between the back of the cylinder and the frame?

40 posted on 09/10/2008 5:49:25 AM PDT by Yo-Yo
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