So, You Want a Sixteen Gauge?
Let’s start with a quick run-down of readily available 16 gauge shotguns that anyone should be able to find. Note that repeaters featuring 16 gauge barrels mounted on 12 gauge frames are not included.
Browning BPS 16 Gauge
Originally a Shot Show Special, the 16 gauge BPS was received with enough enthusiasm to make it into Browning’s catalog as a regular production item. As many 16 gauge fans prefer, it is closer to the 20 gauge BPS in weight and dimensions than it is to its bigger brother, the 12 gauge BPS. As of this writing, it is the most versatile, high-quality, 16 gauge repeater you can buy and it comes with Browning's Invector screw-in chokes.
Browning Citori 16 Gauge
The Citori 16 gauge has been available intermittently, but in sufficient quantity to satisfy a significant portion of the 16 gauge O/U market. The variations include the 525 Sporting Clays, the 525 Field, the Citori Lightning (in several grades) and the Citori White Lightning.
Both the Citori and the BPS have a little built-in advantage in screw-chokes, as the standard Invector chokes have been around for a long while in 16 gauge, so you have a good selection of factory chokes and aftermarket chokes (inc. Trulock) from which to choose.
Fabrique Armes Issadoro Rizzini
Issadoro’s Gun Factory has turned out very good quality Italian trigger-plate style O/U shotguns for many years, marketed in the U.S. under various names. Currently, the primary source in the States is “Cortona Shotguns.” They offer the 16 gauge in a mid-range configuration as the Cortona Grandé CC and the more upscale Cortona Legend. The Fabrique Armes Issadoro Rizzini guns (the company known internationally as “F.A.I.R.”) have achieved a very good reputation over time.
Stoeger Uplander SxS and Condor O/U
The Uplander is not particularly well known, but it is widely distributed through Stoeger, which is part of the Beretta/Benelli conglomerate. It is an inexpensive, Turkish made, side-by-side gun. Also from Stoeger, the Condor is an equally inexpensive O/U gun. The Uplander and Condor 16 gauge guns are supplied with fixed chokes. The 2009 MSRP of these imported Stoeger SxS and O/U guns ranges from $369 to $399.
Keep in mind that you generally get what you pay for. These are not family heirloom quality doubles. Indeed, they are what used to be called "farmers guns."
Merkel is one of the few survivors among the prestigious German gunmakers of the last century and they offer both O/U and SxS guns in 16 gauge. These are very well made guns that with proper care will survive a lifetime of heavy shooting. They are not inexpensive; indeed, they are the most expensive guns included here. For 2009, the boxlock Model 1620 SxS is priced at $4695 and the boxlock Model 2026CL O/U at $7995. Sidelock guns are available at extra cost.
These Merkel guns represent an excellent value; they are actually under priced given their level of quality and workmanship and you can expect the prices to continue rising. Get yours while you can. Contact Merkel USA for details.
On the Horizon
There are, of course, other options, but many so-called 16 gauges are essentially 12 gauge models with smaller holes in the barrels. That approach, while trying to capitalize on the novelty of the 16 gauge (i.e. Remington 1100 and 870) has resulted in a gun that is actually heavier than its 12 gauge counterparts. However, Ithaca Gun Company has a Model 37 16 gauge due to hit this summer that should please those looking for a responsive 16 gauge repeater made in the U.S.A. and they have a 16 gauge SxS in the works for the end of the year.
Naturally, no shotgun is much good without ammo. Although 16 gauge shells are more expensive and considerably less available than the 12 / 20 gauge stuff, there are not nearly as painful as .410 or 28 gauge. For general use, B&P makes an outstanding shell, the F2 Classic that drives 1-1/16 oz. of lead at 1280 fps. Available in #8, #6 or #5 shot, it is a load that really shows off the prowess of the 16 gauge.
Another very good lead load is the nickel-plated 1-1/8 oz. Fiocchi “Golden Pheasant” shells that are loaded up in the U.S. to 1310 fps. There are available in 4, 5, 6 and #7-1/2 shot. For a soft-shooting 16 gauge shell, you will enjoy the Fiocchi 1 oz. 1165 fps 16 gauge “Game Loads” available in #6 - #9 shot sizes.
For “no-Tox” applications, the Kent Tungsten-Matrix 16 gauges shells cannot be beat. Their #K162UGNT36-5 launches a potent 1-1/4 oz. of #5 Tungsten-Matrix shot at 1265 fps, just the ticket for decoying ducks or tough wild roosters. Kent calls it the one true substitute for lead, and I think they are just about right. It is also safe for all modern barrels, unlike steel and other super-hard derivative shot materials.
Standard American 16 gauge field loads from Winchester, Remington and Federal generally contain one ounce of lead shot at a velocity of around 1165 fps. These are entirely adequate for most 16 gauge purposes and they are far more widely distributed than the specialty loads previously mentioned. American high velocity (high brass) game loads usually carry 1-1/8 ounce of lead shot at a MV of about 1295 fps and are available from the same manufacturers.
That’s a topical thumbnail-sketch of the current 16 gauge offerings. Now, we need a shotshell manufacturer and firearm manufacturer to be innovative enough to do the obvious: give us three inch 16 gauge shells and three inch chambered guns to match. The reason could not be clearer and more obvious: the 20 gauge runs out of steam due to hull capacity particularly when conventional steel loads are desired. One ounce is about the limit that can be had for a three inch 20 gauge; not exactly the ideal goose load. The 16 gauge platform is far more versatile when the “no-tox” equation come into play and that’s where ammunition manufacturers could show a little bravery and innovation, something the 16 gauge has not had the benefit of in a long, long while.
Copyright 2009 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.