Why We Bought the Wrong Shotgun

By Randy Wakeman


Most of us have done it. I've certainly done it, many times. We all buy the “wrong” shotgun, or at least a shotgun that leaves us less than satisfied soon after it finds a new home at “our place.” There are several reasons for this, many of which we can avoid or could have avoided by putting a little more thought into what we hoped for in the first place. We are all better off deciding what we really want rather than expecting a catalog or a fellow behind the counter to inform us what we are looking for. Here are few of the complaints that are more common than you might think.

“I Don't Like the Safety”

If you don't like it, you are probably right. Where was the safety when you bought the thing, has it moved? Of course it hasn't, but it is an easy thing to overlook. I have. Personally, I have little use for low-profile, slippery tang safeties for hunting. (Virtually everyone else on the Guns and Shooting Online staff much prefers a tang mounted safety to a trigger guard mounted safety. -Editor.) It hardly matters on the clays field, but it can have the effect of saving pheasant's lives. Not a positive thing at all if pheasant and wild rice under glass is the goal. Some have strong preferences for safeties in front of the trigger guard, some in back of the trigger guard. All this is well and good, as long as we remind ourselves of our strong preferences before we buy. The safety is unlikely to reconfigure itself after we bought the darn thing.

“I Hate the Trigger”

It is easy enough to check the triggers before we buy, we just have to remind ourselves to do it. Thinking that they are going to get better as time goes by is usually wishful thinking. Some trigger groups can be easily touched up, some have geometry that makes it nearly impossible to lighten without severely compromising stability. If triggers are important to you, then make sure you know what factory specification is and if the warranty applies to trigger pull. If you can count on the factory to give you a trigger that is to your liking, great. If not, you might want to avoid that model, or have a skilled gunsmith at the ready that is willing to improve your trigger. The cost of a trigger job is part of the purchase price of a shotgun.

“I Don't Like the Way It Loads and Unloads”

Easy enough to inform yourself about before you buy, but often overlooked. I can't stand an autoloader that requires a push on the bolt release button to load the magazine. It is just exactly what I don't need on the dove field, a clays course, or anywhere else. If you don't like the way it loads, or your fingers are too fat to easily use the loading gate, or something about the shotgun makes it uncomfortable or clumsy for you to load or unload it you might as well learn about it before you buy it. Break-open doubles are the fastest and easiest guns to load and unload.

“The Recoil Pad Stinks”

Maybe it does, so you can add the cost of buying an aftermarket pad and fitting it to your shotgun to the purchase price. Conversely, a shotgun that already has a pad you prefer saves you the time, hassle and expense associated with a replacement.

“It Only Comes with One Choke Tube”

Choke tubes are another area that are easy to forget about. If the gun comes with only one, then we need to add in the cost of the choke array we think we will need. Many double barreled guns come with three choke tubes, IC, MOD and FULL. Distinction should be made between a shotgun that comes with four or five tubes against the models that are supplied with one, two, or three. It is easy enough to determine that going in. If another $100 is in the cards to get the gun usable for your application, then that should also be factored in.

“The Darn Shotgun is a Pain to Clean”

We all have our own theories on that one. Autoloaders are the worst offenders here and double guns are the easiest to clean. If cleaning is an area of concern, owners manuals are free for the download for most models of shotguns. Beyond that, any gun shop should be happy to show you what normal stripping, cleaning and reassembly entails. If the procedure is unduly burdensome, that's a really good time to consider another model or type of gun.

“I Hate that Goofy Bead”

You might as well check to see if other beads are available, or if it is a re-tap and aftermarket deal for you. Bead wrenches and pin vises don't always work well, so it is another forewarned is forearmed situation.

“Warranty and Customer Service Suck”

In my experience Benelli, Browning, Caesar Guerini, Ithaca and Ruger all have good customer service and stand behind their products. Ditto for most of the smaller specialty gun makers, such as Boss, Grulla, Holland & Holland, Merkel and Purdy. Many brands do not. Before you bang your plastic pal or empty out your checking account for a new gun, you might want to ask your pro shop what happens when your stock cracks, your gun doesn't shoot to point of aim, or your shotgun starts doubling. No brand produced by humans is completely immune from these bonus features, so you might as well apply a little bit of the Boy Scout's Motto before you leap.

“Resale Value Stinks”

Regardless of what we would like to think, very few mass produced shotguns hold their value once used or modified, as adjusted for inflation. Book Values don't mean much, as they are not offers to buy, they are just a guide to fair prices. If you really want an idea of what a gun is worth, it isn't that tough. We can go to Gunbroker, for example, and look to see what a similar models in used condition have actually sold for, not what they are listed for. As the old saying goes, something is only worth what an individual will give you for it.

A Common Example

I want a new shotgun, I heard these Turkistan stackbarrels are good. They are on clearance for $699, how far wrong can I go? It has to be a bargain.

  • Trigger job: $125
  • Recoil pad and stockwork: $80
  • Decent choke tubes: $120

Now, my bargain Junkistan O/U went from $700 to $1025, tax not included. They were on clearance, I later discovered, because they have been discontinued. There was a promise of a warranty, but that company has gone out of business. Four different outfits have handled some warranty work, on and off, but who might have parts now is anyone's guess. The warranty is largely void, anyway, as I modified the stock and the trigger.

No worries, I'll just sell it. Nuts! It looks like 87 people are selling their Turkomatics too; most of them go for $239 or so. The thing doesn't shoot to point of aim anyway, so I guess getting something for it is better than nothing. At least 87 other people think the same way. I didn't like the safety, anyway, and at least I didn't get around to replacing that nasty front bead.

This sort of misadventure happens all the time. There is a good reason why there are tens of thousands of “lightly used” bargain Turkistan Golden Double Diamond Reserve shotguns for sale: people just don't want them. We are left with the nagging feeling that we could have saved the drama, been a little more cautious and gone with a Browning, Caesar Guerini, Grulla, Ithaca or many other options. We are going to get there, sooner or later, as our tastes improve. Sometimes it is a more convoluted, expensive and time-consuming journey than it needs to be.




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Copyright 2010, 2014 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.


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