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Choosing a Gun

So you’ve got your shotgun certificate, and now you are ready to buy your first shotgun. It’s an exciting moment, but a weighty decision, too. Even a so-called cheap gun is a significant outlay for those of us who aren’t multi-millionaires, and there’s a bewildering array of guns to choose from. You don’t want to throw away your hard-earned cash on something that proves to be unsuitable.

The best advice any seasoned shooter will give you is simple....

Go to a good gun shop and use their experience - buying from the internet puts you at a significant disadvantage and there is absolutely no substitute for face to face advice and getting your hands on a wide selection of guns. At London Gun Services we have built a reputation for not only providing all the services that shooters need but we also sell guns at great prices. We professionally fit all guns to you to ensure the gun is right for you and also the types of shooting you want to peruse.

We built long term relationships with our customers - and that only happens if we give consistently good advice that people can trust. Everyone on the sales team at LGS shoots either clay or game (or both !) and as such as shooters if we don't rate a gun or a brand of cartridges or any given accessories we will not sell them.

All the pre-owned guns are serviced before sale giving you confidence that no matter how much you spend you are going to get a good quality gun which is ready to shoot straight away.

Which gauge should you choose?

12, 20 or something more exotic?

Many people will choose a 12 Gauge as their first gun because it will be eminently suitable for almost every type of shooting you’re likely to do – it will never be out of place – and looked after properly, it will last you a lifetime’s shooting and probably the next generation’s as well. If you decide you want to trade up, or even flog it and take up crochet instead, you will get your money back, give or take a bit.

Even for smaller/younger people a 12 Gauge is almost always a good choice, smaller and lighter gauges certainly produce less recoil (.410 for instance) but smaller gauges use less shot and the shot pattern produced by the gun is smaller - in other words, there is less latitude for error.

Of course, there are plenty of other options available and you might be tempted to go off on a tangent, especially if you listen to friends and shooting companions who will have preferences of their own, or allow yourself to be seduced by the siren voices of the gunmakers’ marketing teams. So let’s look at the options and see why you might want to stray from the ‘sensible’ choice.

Not long after the shotgun cartridge was invented, shooters settled on 12-bore as the best compromise. It provides good ‘killing power’ (on clays or game) with manageable weight and recoil. It’s the ‘standard’ shotgun calibre for a reason. As a result, the vast majority of guns in regular use are 12-bore, which in turn means there’s a wide variety of ammo available at realistic prices.

Step outside 12-bore and you’re making things harder for yourself, and more expensive to boot. A wildfowler might want a big-bore gun to bring down distant geese on the foreshore. Or an experienced shot might choose to make things harder for themselves, shooting a 20 or 28-bore at game for the sheer challenge of it.

As a general rule, though, if you have only one gun it should be a 12-bore. Once you have some experience with that, you’ll know if you want something more specialised for some of your shooting. The only real exception to this is that a smaller gauge, such as 20 or 28-bore, might be a sensible choice for a youngster or lightly-built person who found a 12-bore hard to manage. We would not recommend a .410 for a beginner or youngster because, in our view, it’s simply too hard to shoot with any success, and can be demoralising.

What about side-by-sides?

There’s nothing wrong with a side-by-side. They’re lovely guns when used for game shooting but far from ideal for clays, however. It’s too light to absorb the repeated recoil, and the width of two barrels makes it hard to shoot with the necessary precision.

If you are 100% certain that all your shooting will be at live quarry, and you’re a particular fan of side-by-sides for reasons of aesthetics or tradition, then, by all means, get one as your first gun. Otherwise, an over-and-under will be a more versatile choice.

But I fancy a semi-auto...

Semi-autos certainly have their place. There are some good budget models, so they can offer an inexpensive starting point, and the gas-operated types tend to have less recoil than the equivalent side-by-side or over-and-under. Semi-autos can be perfectly suitable for Sporting clays, pest control and perhaps a bit of rough shooting.

Some pigeon shooters prefer a semi-auto in the hide because it’s easier to load in the cramped conditions – unlike a break-barrel gun you can keep the muzzle pointing skywards while stoking the magazine with shells. Having a third shot can be useful, too.

Your pump action won’t be welcome on a game shoot where tradition reigns.

 

It's all about the fit

 

Do I have to worry about eye dominance and gun fit?

Yes and no! Many of the issues people have with eye dominance and gun fit are actually problems with the way they mount the gun. Without an expert eye it’s hard to identify those issues for certain, so you’re probably best off with a ‘standard’ gun that will suit 99% of people straight off the shelf, or with a minor modification such as a comb-raiser or butt-pad. If it turns out that you really do need something more specialised we can guide you through the process. Either way, London Gun Services make sure you walk away with a gun that is 100% suitable for you and the kind of shooting you are going to use it for.

Whatever gun you end up with, try to resist the temptation to blame it when you're shooting doesn’t progress as well as you’d like. If you’ve followed the advice above, the problem is much more likely to be the ‘nut behind the butt’ – i.e. you! 

Before choosing a shotgun you must answer what you’re buying the gun for. Is it an all-purpose gun, or is it going to fill a particular niche in your collection? Depending on the purpose of the gun, consider the following major areas.

During the process, we will ask you about the type of shooting you want to pursue and will offer a wealth of insight and knowledge to make sure you walk away with a suitable gun.

 

What Shotgun is Right for You - a short summary

Shotguns are tools. They have features made for specific purposes.

Gauge: The 12 gauge is by far the most versatile and handles a huge range of loads. The 16, 20 and 28 gauges are upland-bird gauges. The .410 is for squirrel hunting and expert clay target shots. The big 10 gauge hangs on as a specialty gun for goose hunters.

Action: . Break-action guns (either up and over or side by side offer two shots and are by far the most popular actions used in the UK and give the shooter a choice of chokes,

Pump actions are the least expensive choice and are also very reliable and can be a good choice for shooting in confined spaces (for instance inside some small hides where breaking a barrel is challenging or whilst doing types of pest control work)

Weight: How much a gun should weigh depends on its purpose. Heavier guns absorb recoil better. Lighter guns are less tiring to carry.

Balance: Most people shoot better with a gun that is slightly muzzled heavy. The exception is guns for close-cover upland hunting, such as for grouse and woodcock.

Finish: A fancy walnut finish and beautiful shiny engraving look great in the uplands and on the clay range. For waterfowl and other game shooting something duller and easier to care for makes a lot more sense.

 

How to Chose the Right Gauge

Unlike rifle shooters, who are faced with a bewildering number of caliber choices, shotgunners are limited to six. Each has its niche, and each has its fans.


10 Gauge (.775-inch diameter): The 10 was an all-around gauge in black powder days. It hangs on for one purpose: goose hunting. It patterns well with BB and larger steel shot, and its massive 10-pound-plus weight absorbs the recoil of heavy loads.

12 Gauge (.729): This is the standard and the most versatile gauge of all. The 12 shoots everything from nearly recoilless 3/4-ounce practice loads to 2 1/4-ounce turkey stompers. Ammunition is available everywhere, and the volume of 12 gauge sales keeps prices low. If you own only one gun, it should be a 12.

16 Gauge (.662): The 16 is an upland classic squeezed ballistically into a tiny, overlapping niche between the 3-inch 20 gauge and the 12. A good 16, built on a true 16 or even 20 gauge frame, is an upland delight, living up to the 16’s billing as “carrying like a 20, hitting like a 12.”

20 Gauge (.615): The 20 gauge is a capable upland performer with 7/8 to an ounce of shot. A 3-inch 20 shoots an ounce of steel, which is enough for ducks over decoys. Advances in slugs make 20s the equal of a 12 in a lower-recoil package.

28 Gauge (.550): I have heard the 28 gauge called “the thinking man’s 20” but really it’s “the .410 for people who want to crush targets and kill birds.” At ranges out to 30 to 35 yards, the light-kicking 28’s 3/4-ounce shot charge hits with authority. It's possible to kill pheasants with 28s, but it’s best for smaller birds and short-range clays.

.410 Bore (67 gauge): Although many kids start with a .410 because it is light and has little recoil, the .410’s light payloads, poor patterns, and expensive ammo make it a poor choice for kids and better for expert target shooters. The best place for the .410 in the field, in my humble opinion, is in the squirrel woods.

The .410 isn’t a toy. It’s a real shotgun, only smaller. That said, despite the light weight of the guns and minimal recoil, the .410 is a poor choice for kids because it is very hard to hit with. There simply isn’t room for many pellets inside a shotshell the diameter of a Sharpie, so the pattern core (the part that smashes targets and folds birds) is smaller in diameter compared to the patterns shot by bigger gauges. There isn’t much shot left over to fill out the pattern fringe either.

With decades of shooting game and clays London Gun Services is here to guide you through every step of the selection and buying process. From top of the range new guns to budget pre-owned and everything in between we have the experience and knowledge to make your gun investment work for you.

 

 

With short-term parking outside alternatively, we offer a collection and delivery service within the M25. 


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London Gun Company

Like Frederick Beesley, London Gun Services is part of the London Gun Company group of businesses. As a group, we have built a reputation for delivering exceptional levels of service at competitive prices.

Our companies are run by people who are as passionate about shooting as you are and who understand what is needed to get the best out of our sport.  Click here to find out more information about the London Gun Company team.

When attention to detail, professional advice and the choice of the best guns for any budget re important, come and talk to the experts who really care.

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