The Best Barrel Length

Dear Sir,

What would be the best shotgun barrel length for duck and dove hunting? Is it 24,26,28 or 30 inches? What is the advantage of the different barrel length?


Dear Edward,

First let’s get the ballistics considerations out of the way. There aren’t any. With modern fast burning powders, the difference in velocity from a 24″ barrel and from a 30″ one is insignificant. You get more of a velocity difference when you change from a Cylinder Bore choke to a Full choke.

Barrel length basically affects two things: sighting plane and weight/balance.

For long, precise shots (where you are actually doing a bit of aiming), a longer barrel is a bit of an advantage because it will let you aim more precisely. Every good sporting clays shooter knows this and it’s a pretty good rationale for the success of the 32″ and 34″ O/Us we are seeing now. Trap shooters have always known it. The downside is that longer barrels also have a tendency to make you aim a bit too. Let’s face it, most duck and dove are shot within 30 yards. This is a distance at which speed and follow-through count for more than precision. These are hardly high precision shots. If you specialized in 40+ yard shots, then a longer barrel would be an advantage. For most practical duck and dove shooting, the longer sighting plane really doesn’t matter. At least in my experience, every time I start to “aim” at a really distant dove, it jiggles, swoops, dives or barrel rolls on me. I have my best luck on them when I get the shot over with pretty quickly. For my duck shooting, it’s follow-through that puts the bird in the oven. If the bird is so far up that I have to measure my lead, I will usually let it go. Some people can regularly pull off shots like that, but I’m not good enough.

What does matter a whole lot is weight and balance. Generally (but not always), longer barrels are heavier and move weight forward. A couple of gun companies actually decrease the wall thickness, and thus weight, of the barrels when they make longer versions so as to keep the weights the same and the balances approximately the same. Blaser’s F3 does this. But few others do. For most of the makers, longer is heavier, often somewhere around one ounce per inch. That may not seem like a lot, but an ounce or two right at the muzzle is really noticeable and will alter the way the gun handles.

If it were me, I’d pick a barrel length based on the way it makes the gun balance. By balance I don’t mean just it’s “teetering” point. I mean the way it swings. This is really more of a Moment of Inertia deal than a balance deal, but balance is the term everyone uses. You want a gun that has just the right combination of facile movement and steadiness to satisfy your own personal wants. There really isn’t any absolute measurement here and everyone might want something different. A gun which I would think handles like a dead possum on a rake, you might think is steady and assuring. Something that I found to be a magic wand, you might consider whippy. Also be aware that a certain barrel length won’t always confer a certain balance. Some 28″ barreled guns are heavy up front. Some aren’t. This is even true within brands. Example: When Beretta changed their 391 autos from the original Mobil Chokes to the Optimabore, the barrels actually increased in weight slightly for a given length. But in Beretta O/Us, when the same change was made, the barrels generally lost weight. Go figure. It all had to do with Beretta altering the wall thickness of the tube walls even as they increased bore diameters.

This is also a good place to mention that you must be aware of the difference between barrel lengths of an O/U/SxS and those of an auto/pump. The auto/pump has about 3.5″ more receiver length, so a 28″ barrel on an auto/pump is equivalent in length to that of about a 31.5″ O/U/SxS. Something to consider when you are thinking of sighting plane length.

Still, to me, the bottom line is balance. Balance in a shotgun is everything. All else is secondary. Get the barrel length that makes the gun balance and handle the way you want it to. Accept whatever barrel length goes along with that.

Best regards,
Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid

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Store Guns Muzzle Down


I just read your response concerning dry firing and while I agree with your position on that topic, I am a bit confused as to the final comment you made about storing guns with the muzzle down. Will you please elaborate (as if I needed to ask!) on this topic? I have heard this comment several times in the very recent past and want to know more about this method of storage.

Also, will you identify how you modified the interior of your safe to accommodate this method of storage? My safe is a Fort Knox Protector 500 with an 11-gun easy (yeah right) access interior.

Thanks in advance for your input on this topic.


Dear T,

Well, of course I will elaborate! See if you can stop me. Elaboration is mother’s milk to the Technoid. So is needless, heedless obfuscation- for my own protection, naturally.

I use a Browning safe with, I believe, just about the same “Semi- careful now! – easy out” feature as your Fort Knox. The carpeted barrel notches are arranged in the shape of a “U” along the sides and the back. In theory, it sacrifices space for convenience, but it is still hard to keep from putting dings in things.

To store you guns upside down you just, well, store them upside down. You put the muzzle on the (carpeted, I hope) bottom of the safe and rest the comb (top) of the stock in the carpeted notch where most people put the barrel. The trigger guards sort of stick out towards the center of the safe. That’s it. No modifications of any kind are required. You can recase that chain saw. If our safes were the “Not at all easy out” style, where the barrels are supposed to stick through little holes, carpentry would be in order.

Upside down shotgun storage keeps any errant oils from soaking into the head of the stock and also takes pressure off of the stock wrist so that it will not take an unwelcome set or remove the welcome set that you had bent in. This is particularly true with thin wristed English guns.

There it is. More than you ever wanted to know from your gushing font of knowledge.

Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid

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Steel/Lead Target Load Comparison

Our club has switched to “non-toxic”, i.e. steel. Club selling only 6’s and
7’s. What do you recommend for 16-yard trap and for skeet? Either of these
sizes or something else?

Your help appreciated as always.


Dear Dave,

The normal rule of thumb in the lead to steel transition is to increase the size of the pellet by two sizes for waterfowl loads. I’m not as sure that it holds true in target sized shot quite as much.

I’ll list lead target loads at a muzzle velocity of 1200 fps, while the steel target loads are normally made with a muzzle velocity of 1300 fps. I’ll use 32 yards as the distance as that is a pretty average breaking point for 16 yard ATA-style trap.

  • Lead #7-12 1200, energy at 32 yards 1.33 ft/lb, one ounce pellet count 350
  • Lead #8 1200 fps, energy at 32 yards 1.08 ft/lb, one ounce pellet count 410
  • Lead #8-1/2 1200 fps, energy at 32 yards, 0.86 ft/lb, one ounce pellet count 497
  • Steel #6 1300 fps, energy at 32 yards 1.33 ft/lb, one ounce pellet count 314
  • Steel #7 1300 fps, energy at 32 yards 0.90 ft/lb, one ounce pellet count 399

A one ounce load of #7 steel started at 1300 fps is equivalent to a 13/16 oz 1200 ft/lb load of lead #8-1/2s in pellet count and individual pellet energy. A one ounce 1300 fps load of steel #6s equals a 7/8 ounce 1200 fps load of lead #7-1/2s in both pellet count and pellet energy.

#7-1/2 lead is more than you need for 16 yard ATA trap or skeet, so I’d probably go with the one ounce steel #7s which are the 13/16 oz #8-1/2 lead equivalent. #8-1/2 lead has been proven to work fine on 16 yard ATA trap and certainly is OK for skeet. You’ll be down on pellet count, but you can’t have everything when you shoot steel.

Also, don’t forget to do some patterning and be prepared to open your chokes a but when going from lead to steel.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)

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Ports And Taper Backboring


I have a Beretta 682 Gold Sporting that I’m thinking of dumping a whole lot more money into, but would value an opinion first. My particular model is not ported nor is it backbored, and I’m thinking of sending it out for both. Seminole Gunworks can do a tapered backbore that starts at a hefty .741.

My question is, what can I expect for the money? Hopefully I can expect less muzzle jump and better second target acquisition. Hopefully I can expect a little less recoil. Hopefully I can expect a slightly lighter barrel. Is this wishful thinking? Can I get similar results from lengthened forcing cones at lesser expense?


Dear David,

Welllll, since you asked I will abandon my usual reticence and dole out a steaming dose of my usual priceless advice. “Skip the modifications and spend the money on something else.”

About 1/3 of the people that I talk to THINK that their porting does something. About 2/3s of those I talk to don’t think that it does a darn thing. I belong to the latter school and think that porting is a total waste of time and just another sales gimmick. In theory, it should help a bit. In fact, the gas pressures generated by the typical target load simply aren’t high enough to do much. If porting comes on the gun, I wouldn’t worry about it, but I would never pay for it. It will also make the gun harder to resell in some cases because many people find ports aesthetically repugnant on a good gun.

That porting comparison article in Sporting Clays was a bunch of hooey because it shows porting in a free recoil situation. In real life you use a lot of left hand on the gun and stock pitch also comes into play. I never said that porting didn’t work at all. I just said that it doesn’t work enough to matter with commonly used target loads. To be fair though, the pigeon shooters just love it, but then they are always taking two quick shots at the same target and are using Rhino Rollers.

Tapered backboring? I guess that it was bound to happen once the old standard backboring gimmick started to wear off. Taper boring is nothing new and has been around since the original New England Baker gun company back in the late 1800s. Taper boring was quite common on rifles. I had Stan Baker in Seattle backbore some Belgian Brownings for me back in the ’80s and never noticed any reduction in recoil. As a matter of fact, backboring actually increases recoil because it reduces gun weight.

The one thing that I DO recommend backboring for is to alter barrel weight. Many of the modern screw choke guns come with barrels that are far too log-like. The cheap way of installing modern screw chokes used by just about all the current makers adds a bunch of extra metal at the very front of the gun. This destroys the balance of the gun. This is why so many knowledgable shooters prefer the older solid choke O/Us with custom thin wall chokes from the aftermarket. The average new shooter doesn’t know the difference and accepts the poor balance of the current crop of guns. You can’t blame him. If a guy has come into the shotgun market in the past four or five years, he simply doesn’t know that was every anything properly balanced.

One of the problems with aftermarket backboring of a modern screw choke gun is that you can’t pull out too much metal without interfering with the screw choke threads and, of course, recalibrating all the chokes. “Taper” backboring sounds (though I have never measured out a Seminole taper backbored barrel) like a really smart way to sell the product (backboring) without getting caught up in redoing chokes. You just taper the bore down to the original diameter just in front of the chokes. This way you avoid the messy business of mucking about in the choke area and yet you can still advertise “backboring”. Good business for a machine shop.

Does taper backboring work? I don’t have the vaguest idea. I am not aware of any unbiased studies where regular backboring has been actually PROVEN to improve patterns or lower recoil, so I have my doubts as to whether tapering the backbore would do anything. I would just love to hear from some readers who can tell me why backboring can lower recoil. From the shop foreman’s point of view though it is a clever concept.

As to weight reduction: Because I don’t know the dimensions to which Seminole backbores, I will guestimate. If it starts at .741″, as you say, and tapers down to the usual Beretta I.D. of .723″, you will be removing an average of .009″ bore in 30″ barrels (I assume) less the chambers, cones and choke areas. According to the little formula I plugged into my Excel spread sheet, you ought to end up losing about 2.2 oz. This is normally enough to be noticeable, BUT most of that weight reduction will take place at the rear of the barrel and much less at the front. Remember, I am assuming that Seminole will be leaving the choke area alone. Bottom line is that it will not make much of a difference in the way that the gun feels. It may actually make the gun feel heavier up front than it already is. Anyway, that is my best guess.

I generally have found that elongated forcing cones do cut perceived (not measured) recoil by the tiniest percent, but it depends on how long the cones were to start with. They also improve pattern percentages by the tiniest percent in SOME guns when using larger sized shot. Check the cone length on your gun. Beretta Gold’s should already come with long cones. (Beretta believes in long cones, but not backboring. Browning Japan is just the opposite. Browning Belgium believes in neither. Krieghoff believes in both plus a ton of road hugging weight) I don’t think that lengthening the cones on the Gold will be worth it. Besides, you will have to cut through the chrome lining on the bores and that can cause more leading in the cone area.

Bottom line: I think that you would be best leaving your Beretta Gold alone. If you want to reduce recoil and barrel jump to a noticeable extent, take the money you saved by not making the modifications and buy a Beretta 391 or A400 30″ sporter.

There it is. More humble wisdom of the ages from your shy and retiring Guru of Gunning Gear.

Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid

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How To Use A Turkey Slate Call

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28 Gauge Sporting Shot Size

Dear Technoid,

I am thinking of trying my 28 gauge at Sporties… My question is,,would 7 1/2`s even be useful? or should I just stick with 8`s and 9`s being the shot load is only 3/4 oz?

Any thoughts?



Dear Rich,

I shoot a fair amount of sporting with my 32″ 28 gauge Perazzi and have never found the need to use anything other than #8 shot. Of course, I have fixed chokes and they are pretty tight. If you have screw chokes, you’d probably do well to maximize that little shot load by using #9s for skeet distance birds and then use #8s for regular stuff. With only 3/4 oz to play with, the pellet count of #7-1/2s would seem to be a disadvantage. I’ve broken some very long birds with #8s.

In the small gauges, pellet count really becomes important. Pellet count vs pellet energy is always a issue, but in the little guns I’d lean to pellet count.

Also, little guns have little bores. That means that they might have a definite preference for pellet size. Some small bores do not handle larger pellet sizes well. My Perazzi 28 handles #8 and #7- 1/2 quite well, but my wife’s Beretta 28 prefers #8s. A little patterning could really pay off in helping your decision.

Best regards,
Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid

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How To Call Turkeys

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