Stoeger Double Defense SxS Coach Gun
I do a lot of predator calling and hunting throughout nine months of every year. I’ve been hunting predators, especially coyotes, for over forty years. Coyote hunting is a demanding sport and ranks among my greatest hunting challenges.
Coyotes are tough, smart, and tenacious. Predator hunting has become a very popular sport and beginners are drawn to it every season. Mistakes are made and there are many educated coyotes that have learned to be wary of distress cries and unusual calls. I am constantly refining my calling strategies to try to fool these tough, cagey dogs.
My most effective strategies have involved getting into the thick country where other callers are reluctant to hunt. Heavy stands of CRP grass, thick cedar woods, tall sage brush in rolling hill country and tight, brushy, canyons have become my preferred calling habitats. I very seldom take a calling position overlooking broad, open ground. I go deep into the thick country to make the predator come looking for me. Thick country calling has been successful, but the shooting challenges have magnified. Coyotes and bobcats are often nearly on top of me before I know they are present. Shooting opportunities are quick, snap shot affairs where it is almost impossible to get on target in time with a rifle. Over the last ten years, a shotgun has become an indispensable tool. While I still carry a rifle, I almost never call without a shotgun in my hands and the rifle at my side.
Most predator calling shotguns are either pump action or semi-auto with tight chokes and scope, electronic, or fiber optic sights. These guns are often equipped with tight chokes and chambered for 3” or 3-½” Magnum loads. I have a Mossberg 835 Ulti-Mag shotgun for predator calling. I use 3” or 3-½” Dead Coyote T-Shot shells and a Carlson’s Dead Coyote choke. It is equipped with Hi-Viz fiber optic open sights. I used this shotgun for years, along with bolt action rifles, and it has taken more coyotes than any other single gun I own. I consider this shotgun to be deadly out to fifty yards and in perfect conditions it has the potential of perhaps sixty yards. The thing is that I seldom attempt fifty yard coyote shots with any shotgun. I use a shotgun for coyotes and bobcats at less than thirty yards, when I do not have time to use my rifle.
I came to realize that what many consider to be the perfect predator calling shotgun was not necessarily the best choice for many of the places I hunt. Did I really need a shotgun that had the capability to take coyotes at seventy yards? How often had I the chance or the inclination to try a shotgun at that distance? What price did I pay in close range hide damage (especially valuable bobcat pelts), shell expense, snap shot capability, recoil and weight to have a gun that would take a predator at a range more suitable for a rifle? I needed to reconsider what I was using and come up with a more suitable type of shotgun.
I set up a 12 gauge Stoeger side-by-side coach gun, as an experiment, to test my thinking on what is most often needed in a predator calling shotgun. This is certainly not a traditional predator shotgun. The Double Defense is marketed as a tactical home defense gun. Even though I am wary of using a double barrel for tactical defense, the Double Defense seemed to me to be a perfect candidate for tight country predator calling.
The Double Defense comes standard with two Picatinny rail mounts. The front rail mount is on the underside of the barrels at the muzzle for lasers or tactical flashlights. The back rail, mounted over the breech end of the barrels, is a traditional scope or electronic sight mount. There is a green, fiber optic post front sight, but I prefer to use more precise targeting equipment. Predator calling is different than upland bird shooting or turkey hunting. I want shotgun sights that are more precise than is necessary for upland birds and much quicker on target than for turkey hunting.
I tested a 1.75-4x32mm Bushnell circle reticle shotgun scope and a Brunton Eterna Red Dot electronic sight. I haven’t decided which I prefer. The Bushnell scope is reasonably priced, quick on target, extremely rugged and there are no electronic failures at risk. The Brunton Eterna is more expensive and there is always the risk of battery failure, but it is extremely compact, faster on target in low light conditions and provides a precise variable brightness targeting dot. If I used the Stoeger as a home defense gun, the Eterna would be my first choice. Cold weather hunts this winter will tell me more about the Eterna’s battery life and dependability.
Coyote calling often involves packing in decoys and electronic callers, in addition to a rifle and shotgun. Carrying a coyote or two from the field can get to be an arm full with all the other equipment, so all my predator calling firearms must have slings. The Double Defense does not have sling attachments. I mounted a swivel stud in the butt and a ProMag Picatinny rail sling swivel stud in front of the forearm. I’ve had no trouble at all using these sling mounts.
The Stoeger's barrels sport a solid raised rib, the view of which is blocked by the rear accessory rail. Both barrels are ported on top to reduce recoil and muzzle jump, but I have to question the value of porting a shotgun barrel. Shotgun shells don’t develop enough velocity to gain much benefit from porting, but this is the fashion and many shooters demand porting. I don’t see that porting does any harm, so I go along with the practice. I certainly wouldn’t back away from purchasing a tactical shotgun because it isn’t ported.
The Stoeger Double Defense is finished in a non-reflective matte black with black hardwood stock. It has a pistol grip hand and beaver tail forearm; both are checkered in a utilitarian pattern. The comb is not fluted. A black recoil pad serves to soften recoil.
This is a hammerless boxlock action, rather that the rather impractical and somewhat more dangerous exposed hammer designs typical of many imported coach guns. There is a tang mounted, sliding, automatic safety that must always be disengaged before shooting. The action has plain extraction, without ejectors.
My Stoeger is most often loaded with 2-¾” #4 Buckshot or 3” BB loads. I have tried several loads and am partial to Hornady Versatite 2-¾” #4 Buckshot loads. The Vesatite system tightens patterns by an estimated 10% at 40 yards over conventional Fiocchi 2-¾ inch #4 Buckshot loads, another favorite of mine. Remington 3” BB loads exceed the payload of 2-¾” shells, but with more recoil. All three loads will deliver a coyote killing 15” diameter pattern at 40 yards from this shotgun. 3” Magnum OO Buckshot patterns are too thin from this gun at that range to recommend. A single 00 Buckshot pellet impact, which is roughly a .32 caliber ball, in the brain will kill a coyote, but thin patterns beyond 30 yards are too erratic for consistent, clean kills. Better to drop back to the much more lethal #4 Buckshot loads, which will usually put at least 10 pellets in a 15” circle.
The combination of 20” barrels, improved cylinder chokes and 2-¾” #4 Buckshot loads does not have the range of traditional calling shotguns. On the other hand, the 6.5 pound Stoeger is compact for carrying ease and quick response. It patterns less expensive 2-¾” and 3” #4 buckshot loads very effectively at forty yards, with acceptable recoil. Three inch BB loads give me an additional five yards. The improved cylinder choke configuration is also easier on bobcat pelts at close range. I have never needed more than two rounds when predator calling, unless I missed and then it was always too late for a third shot to be practical. A single trigger double barrel shoots two rounds quicker than any other type of gun I have ever used.
In feral hog country I also carry Federal Tru-Ball 1 Oz. slug loads; in case I get a chance at a hog I don’t want to shoot with my .223. This gun will print two shots, one from each barrel, on top of each other at thirty yards. I sighted the Stoeger in using rifled slugs and the shot loads are right on target. Loads can be interchanged from shot to slug quickly and nearly silently. I consider this trait to be the main advantage of using a double barrel for home defense. The gun can be left empty and loaded quickly and quietly with bird shot, heavy buckshot loads, or slugs at a moment’s notice. Opening the action immediately shows the gun’s condition. For someone not entirely familiar with firearms, this is a nice feature. Yes, we all know that people should be completely familiar with their home defense gun, but reality is often far different than conjecture. Reliability, simplicity and ease of operation are also the reasons I prefer revolvers for defense over semi-auto handguns. The less bells and whistles the less likely a misfire, jam, or accidental discharge when a gun is in anxious hands.
Stoeger (www.stoegerindustries.com) also offers a Double Defense shotgun with nearly identical features in an O/U configuration. I have used both styles over the years and prefer a side-by-side for loading ease and balance. The Double Defense is available in both 12 and 20 gauge. All traits considered, the Stoeger Double Defense is a versatile close-range predator calling shotgun and I will use it often. However, you need to consider all of your options and level of expertise before choosing a double barrel shotgun for home defense.