Shotgun FAQ

E-mail questions with answers by Chuck Hawks

Gun values

Q: I have a ________ (make and model) gun. Can you tell me what it is worth?

A: Unfortunately, it is impossible to accurately estimate the value of a gun without examining it. I would recommend that you look up the make and model of the gun you own in Fjestad's Blue Book of Gun Values. Fjestad's includes a great many makes and models of guns, and rates them by condition. You should be able to find a copy in most gun shops and bookstores.

Gun identification and history

Q: I acquired an old gun, the serial number is 12345 . . . can you tell me something about its history, when it was made, what ammunition is safe to shoot in it, etc.?

A: No. It is impossible for me to tell you about your gun without examining it. And, in any case, not being a collector it is unlikely that I could help you very much. Take it to a local gun shop and let them have a look at it, they can probably answer at least some of your questions after inspecting it.

Calcualting recoil, trajectory, etc.

Q: I shoot a ________ (make and model) shotgun. What is the recoil?

A: Please do not ask me to compute your recoil or trajectory for you; these are things that you can figure out for yourself. GUNS AND SHOOTING ONLINE includes information to help you do this. Take a look at the relevant lists and tables on the "Tables, Charts and Lists Page," they are there for your benefit.

Sending photos or attachments

Q: I sent you a neat picture of my gun, but I never heard back from you. Did you get my e-mail?

A: Please do not send photographs or attachments of any kind without prior authorization. Due to the volume of mail I receive I automatically delete all e-mail containing attachments or graphics.

The Member Side of G&S Online

Q: I am very disappointed to see that you now require a fee to access your articles. I thought you were posting out of love of the sport ...only to conclude that it was about money. Bummer.

A: You might take time to notice that the Main Site of Guns and Shooting Online as well as my Photography and Astronomy, Naval and Military Affairs, Travel and Fishing, and Motorcycles and Riding sites remain totally free. (Well, not free at all, but paid for out of my pocket.)

The fact is that I am, or was before I got so involved in my web site, a retired guy on a diminishing income. Couple that with the expense of supporting the bandwidth some 2.5 million hits on require every month and something simply had to be done. My web sites are so popular that I have had to become a domain, buy my own server, pay for a 1.5 Meg. DSL line, hire professional support people (I am not a computer person, just a writer/photographer!), and so forth.

If there is to continue to be a, it has to pay for itself. Not to mention the unpleasant fact that maintaining and expanding it has become a full time job, and I can't live on good wishes alone. That is why there is now a Member Side to Guns and Shooting Online. I'm sorry that you are disappointed, but I am gratified and humbled by the success of the Member Side and its acceptance by the great majority of my readers. Also by the recognition that Guns and Shooting Online has received from so many of the fine companies that comprise the shooting sports industry.

.410 for beginner

Q: What do you think of a .410 shotgun for a beginning shooter?

A: I think it is a poor choice. Recoil is low, which is great, but .410 patterns are so thin that it takes a very fast and expert shooter to break clay pigeons or kill birds with one. Most .410 shotguns are choked Full, to extend their range as much as possible, but the flip side of this is that the patterns are very small, making it even harder to hit anything. My advice (and I have owned a couple of them) is not to buy a .410 until you can consistently break skeet targets with one.

Good first shotguns

Q: What shotgun do you recommend for a beginner?

A: Please see my article "Good First Shotguns."

Shotgun chamber length

Q: A 3� shell easily drops into the 2 3/4" chamber of my shotgun. Would it be unsafe or unwise to shoot them and why?

A: Yes, it would be unsafe and very unwise to shoot 3" shells. They drop in because all shotgun shells are measured after the crimp has opened. Once fired and straightened out, a 3" shell will extend into the forcing cone of a 2 3/4" chamber, dramatically raising pressure. You do not need 3" shells to accomplish any purpose for which your gun was designed or is suitable.

.410 lever actions

Q: I have seen .410 lever action shotguns advertised by Marlin and Winchester. I understand that these guns are capable of firing .410 bore, 2 1/2" shot shells and slugs. This seems like a handy thing to have around. Good for squirrels and rabbits and looks like a rifle. Would this gun loaded with slugs be adequate for whitetails?

A: Frankly, I don't see the point. A .410 shotgun is pretty puny at best, and speed of target acquisition is paramount for any success with a .410. A .410 shotgun (2 1/2" shells only!) that handles like a rifle, with slow to align rifle sights, seems like the worst of all possible worlds to me.

The .410, 87 grain (Foster type) slug is entirely inadequate for deer hunting. My suggestion is that if you want a lever action rabbit and squirrel rifle, get a Browning BL-22, Marlin 39, or Winchester 9422 in .22 LR. If you want a deer rifle, get a Marlin 336 or Winchester 94 in .30-30. If you want a lightweight shotgun, get a 20 or 28 gauge gun in the brand of your choice. The .410 rifle/shotgun is neither fish nor fowl, and so inferior to the arms I just mentioned as to be laughable.

Recommended pump guns

Q: I am looking to buy a new pump shotgun for general bird hunting. What do you recommend?

A: I would try the Browning BPS, Ithaca 37, Mossberg 500, and Remington 870 models that most appeal to you, and buy the one that fits best. All of these have a good reputation for reliability, and (in the right hands) all can be deadly in the field. I like the looks of the conventional (walnut stock and blued steel) Remington and Browning models. But what matters is which one you can shoot best.

Old single barreled shotgun

Q: I have an old single barreled break-action shotgun marked "Empire Arms Co." What can you tell me about it?

Guns like yours were usually sold through big retail chains like Sears, Wards, and Western Auto. They were sold during the 1920s, 30s, 40, and 50s. They were marked with names like Eastern Arms Co., Central Arms Co., Western Arms Co., Acme Arms Co., Empire Arms. Co., and so on. None of these companies actually existed, they were just names, and parts are not available. My dad had a gun like you describe marked "Eastern Arms Co." The value of any of these guns is small.

"Rifled" slugs

Q: Do the lands cast into rifled slugs help spin stabilize them?

A: Not appreciably. "Rifled" slugs are not stabilized by spinning, they are stable because the weight of the slug is concentrated in the front, like a badminton bird.

Rifled or sabot slugs?

Q: If I buy a fully rifled barrel for my Browning shotgun, can I use conventional rifled slugs, or must I use sabot type slugs?

A: According to Browning, the fully rifled shotgun barrel is intended for use with sabot type slugs only. The smooth bore barrel with a rifled choke tube can be used for Foster or sabot type slugs.

Someday I am going to have to get a government bureaucrat to explain for me the concept of the fully rifled "shotgun" barrel. Doesn't a fully rifled barrel make the gun, by definition, a rifle?

Police shotguns

Q: Why do the police use shotguns with rifled slugs instead of regular rifles? Does this have implications for the deer hunter?

A: Rifled slugs are used by the police because they already have shotguns in their patrol cars, and for liability reasons. These considerations do not apply to the big game hunter. For precision shooting, most police departments have rifles and specially trained officers to use them.

Magnum for home defense?

Q: What do you think of 12 ga. 3" Magnum 000 buckshot shells for home defence?

A: I think they are a bad choice. They have too much recoil, too much muzzle blast, too much penetration, and are too destructive to use inside your house. I would recommend lighter standard loads, and smaller buckshot. Number 1 buckshot is supposed to be about optimum for man-size targets. I have a theory that number 4 buckshot would be very effective at indoor ranges, and entail less risk of over penetration. Federal produces buckshot loads designed for home defence.

Marine shotguns

Q: Which pump shotgun do you prefer as a "boat gun", the Remington 870 Marine Magnum, the Winchester 1300 Stainless Marine, or the Mossberg 500 Mariner?

A: I think they are all good guns for boat defence. I bought a Mossberg 500 Mariner, the model with the standard length magazine, specifically because it accepts regular Mossberg 500 barrels. When I ordered my gun I also ordered an extra 28" ventilated rib barrel. This allows me to use it as a conventional shotgun for hunting or informal clay target shooting. I also bought a Pachmayer pistol grip for my Mossberg, as it substantially reduces the felt recoil compared to the pistol grip supplied by Mossberg. I chose the Mossberg based on good reports I have heard from other boat owners, and because it seemed like a good deal. I once sold all three brands at the retail level, and found all three to be very reliable.

Steel shot in doubles

Q: Can I shoot steel shot in my Ithaca/SKB 200E double?

A: You should never shoot steel shot in any good double gun. It will trash the chrome-lined barrel of your Ithaca and pound out the choke of most doubles. Stick with lead shot, for which the gun was designed. For hunting waterfowl you can use Bismuth shot.


Q: I purchased a Browning over/under shotgun with a selective single trigger. The safety is used to select the barrel which fires first. But when I dry fire the gun, only one barrel will fire, I have to manually shift the safety to the second barrel to fire it. Is this normal, or is something wrong?

A: Your shotgun is undoubtedly fine. The Browning O/U (and other similar guns, such as several Charles Daly models) uses the recoil from the first shot to "set" the trigger to fire the second barrel. To simulate recoil after dry firing the first barrel, you can thump the butt plate against the floor (on a soft carpet), and it will usually set the trigger to fire the second barrel. Or, as you have found, you can reset the safety to fire the second barrel.

Charles Daly shotguns

Q: I'm considering purchasing a used Charles Daly side-by-side shotgun. The gun seems well balanced, fits well, and looks good. I'm having difficulty finding out about Daly shotguns, what do you think of them?

A: Before WW II, shotguns imported by Charles Daly were made in Germany, and were highly regarded. Starting sometime in the 1950's, shotguns marked with the Charles Daly name and made by Miroku in Japan, the same company that now builds the Browning Citori O/U and S/S shotguns, appeared. I have owned two Miroku made Daly shotguns, an O/U and a S/S, and both were excellent. At some point (I believe in the 1970's, but I am not sure) Charles Daly apparently fell on hard times and lost Miroku as a supplier. For a time, I did not see new Daly shotguns in the marketplace. Charles Daly subsequently found a Spanish gunmaker to build guns for them. Unfortunately, I have no first hand knowledge about these Spanish made Charles Daly shotguns.

Spanish shotguns

Q: What is your opinion of Spanish made SxS shotguns?

A: Virtually all Spanish made shotguns come from the Basque region of Northern Spain. They have a long and somewhat checkered history. For most of the 20th Century, the Spanish shotguns commonly seen in the U. S. were built of cheap materials to sell at the lowest possible price point.

On the other hand, since about 1980, some very high quality Spanish made shotguns have appeared in North America. These are sidelock doubles hand-crafted from the finest materials in very small shops--the fine guns produced by Pedro Arrizabalaga would be an example. Other contemporary Spanish gunmakers who are well thought of include Arrieta, Garbi, and Grulla. I have had the opportunity to examine all of these, and they are fine guns. In my opinion the guns of Pedro Arrizabalaga are the equal of fine guns made anywhere in the world.

In years past, AyA (Aguirre y Aranzabal), Sarasqueta, and Ugartchea shotguns were fairly will known in the U. S., but these manufacturers fell on hard times, and produced some pretty sad boxlock doubles. AyA has made a comeback, and is again well thought of, and high quality guns are again being made by Ignacio Ugartechea.

You might want to take a look at my article "Best Shotguns." For more on fine Spanish shotguns, I highly recommend the book Spanish Best by Terry Wieland.

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Copyright 1999, 2016 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.