What About Shotgun Weight?

By Randy Wakeman

There are trends as to what shotgun weight works best, trends that have proved their merits over time. By no means absolutes; they are good starting points in looking at a new shotgun for a specific application.


In upland hunting you are walking all day and your shotgun must constantly be at the ready to fire. Author John Brindle (Shotgun Shooting Techniques and Technology) has noted that six to seven pound shotguns are in the area that makes the most sense. Anything much lighter than a six pound gun is too whippy to easily maintain a smooth swing and too much over seven pounds becomes a real pain to lug around by the end of the day.

A Beretta A303 20 or Browning B-80 20 gauge is about as light a shotgun as I can swing smoothly and follow through. These are guns approaching the six pound area. Browning A-5 20 Mags and Sweet Sixteens are both closer to seven pounds, depending on barrel length, year of manufacture, and wood density, yet are still pleasant to carry. As much as I really appreciate A-5's, there is nothing truly light about a "Light Twelve." Weighing around eight and a half pounds, the older I get the more I can feel such guns at the end of the day.

An easy way to test shotgun weight is just to shoot a few crossers at the local skeet field or sporting clays course. If you need to consciously force your scattergun to keep swinging, you have probably gone a bit too far in the lightweight, whippy, stutter swing direction.


For dove hunting and sporting clays use, guns weighing from seven to eight pounds appear to be the most popular. Not having to walk nearly as far, the smoother swing and lower recoil of a heavier gun helps far more than it hurts. Most any weight gun can be used, but as far as I'm concerned any type of high volume shooting calls for a heavier, softer shooting gun.


Eight to nine pounds is most popular in American skeet, in all gauges, because smoothly redundant swings are needed and hundreds of shells may be fired in one day. In the long run, it's easier to be better with a heavy gun. Since we can shoot with our shotguns pre-mounted, there is no rush getting them up to the shoulder, either.


Most of the top shooters want a gun over eight pounds and a lot of winners go to ten-pound guns or even heavier. Like skeet, American trap shooting starts with the gun pre-mounted, and hundreds of shells may be fired in a day. Weight is not much of an issue, while long sighting planes (30-34 inch barrels are typical) and smooth swings rule the day.


Pumps and semi-autos are a fairly easy choice in a tight blind, as guns that need to be broken open to reload can be a real pain. Weight is no issue, and the heavier loads used and longer shots sometimes presented mean many opt for 30" barrels and a heavier, smoother swinging guns for pass shooting.

Over decoys, 30 inch tubes have little advantage over shorter barrels, with the exception that some of the slower powders loaded in steel or other "no-tox" shot loads need plenty of barrel length to combust fully. A 16 or 20 gauge gun can actually do a pretty good job killing ducks over decoys.


Shooting relatively stationary targets on the ground is the antithesis of wing-shooting. Most anything can, and has, been used. However, most folks seem to want short-barreled, lightweight guns that are easy to carry. Fortunately, considering the heavy payloads normally employed, turkey hunting isn't high-volume shotgunning. Not too many folks feel the gun after calling in a big tom.


These are just generalizations, and what you choose is a matter of individual preference. It does suggest that, although shooters are often searching for the best "all-around" shotgun, there really is no such thing and never has been.

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Copyright 2006 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.