Stock Fitting A Lefty


Dear Technoid,

My son-in-law is right handed, but lift-eye dominant. He is shooting left handed. If he were to buy an over-under, would you suggest a bending the stock or buying a split stock that is adjustable? He shoots sporting clays and hunts.

Richard

Dear Richard,

Ahh! From short questions like yours, do great long answers grow. Gun fit, gun fit, gun fit. Giving stock fitting advice over the Internet is like me telling you how to alter your new 42 Regular suit without ever seeing you in it. Gun fit absolutely, positively requires the “hands on” approach.

The fact that he is right handed, left eyed and is shooting lefty (definitely the best way to solve the alternate dominance problem if you can do it), merely means that he is now left handed and needs a “left handed” gun.

What is a “left handed” gun? Well, I just don’t know. It is different things to different people, just as a “right handed” gun is. Let’s limit our discussion to cast-on and cast-off here, not right and left handed actions. Every lefty I have ever met handles an O/U’s rightward moving opening lever just fine. Some lefties do object to the right handed ejection of most semi-autos.

Definitions: viewing the shotgun from the rear (as you would hold it when shooting) “cast-off” is the bending of the stock out to the right (away from the face of a right handed shooter, into the face of the left handed shooter). “Cast-on” is the opposite, bending the stock into the face of the right handed shooter or away from the face of the left handed shooter. It is a bit confusing because the “cast” terms are British in origin and they are always taken from the point of view of a right handed shooter. Cast-off for a righty is obviously really “cast-on” for a lefty, but that is not how the phrase is used. “Cast-off” is always bent to the right, no matter who is shooting the gun. “Cast-on” is always to the left. Confused yet? Me too.

So what does your converted lefty son-in-law need? He will probably need a gun that is cast-on (bent away from his left cheek) or one with no cast. Most European guns come with cast-off, most American guns (especially the pumps and autos) come with no cast of any kind (neutral).

Some people prefer some cast on their guns, some do not. It depends as much on shooting style as on anything else. People who tend to “crawl” their stocks (push their heads forward) generally prefer straight stocks with no cast. People who shoot with upright heads usually prefer lower stocks and a bit of cast. Around here the English instructors seem to always set their students up with cast stocks, while the American instructors often do not. As I said, it really depends on shooting style. Personally, I set my guns up with zero cast. I crawl my stocks and find that the slightest amount of cast-off (I am a righty) gives me terrible face slap.

All of the above leads to this: Since I haven’t seen your son-in-law shoot and do not know what brand and model of gun he prefers, I cannot possible tell you whether or not he will have to move the stock one way or another. If his gun is not neutral and has cast-on, chances are 90% that it will not fit him quite right as a lefty and something will have to be done. It all depends where the gun shoots for him.

Adjustable combs vs. stock bending: I am not a big fan of adjustable comb guns for sporting and hunting because they look funny and often weigh a lot. That said, they are great if you cannot make up your mind as to what you want. For clay targets, I shoot autos and can simply shim my stock a tiny bit to make it fit. O/Us require professional help. If you feel that it will take your son-in-law a good deal of experimentation to get his stock right, and if he is shooting an O/U, then an adjustable comb might be the way to go. If he knows exactly what he needs for proper fit, then I would get it bent and have done with it.

Regards,
Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid

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Ultrasonic Cleaning


Dear Bruce,

Love your work. Here’s hoping I can tap into your vast gun cleaning knowledge and experience to help cure my affliction. My problem is as follows: I love clean guns but I hate to clean them. I happen to have access to an industrial grade ultrasonic cleaning machine. Can I become lazy now? I have read your article regarding cleaning a gas valve and assembly for a 391 using an ultrasonic. If memory serves correctly you submerged the gas valve and suspended the assembly portion of the barrel into a magical solution that did all the work for you. The problem is I am not smart enough to remember what that solution was and/or any alternatives. Did you suspend the assembly simply because of space constraints? I have a 391 as well as other gas guns, pumps, and O/U’s. The unit I can use is plenty big enough to allow me to submerge entire barrels and actions. Do you think if I had lots of magical solution (any suggestions welcome) on hand that I could use this machine to clean various barrels, chokes, actions, trigger groups etc… ? Any advice would be much appreciated. For your information, an ultrasonic works great on golf clubs. Hope the South is treating you well. Thanks in advance for your help.

P.S. Don’t forget to add more lead to your targets during hurricane season. Thanks again,

Chris O.

Dear Chris:

Bruce writes most of the stuff on Shotgun Report, but the series on Ultrasonic Cleaning was all my fault. Anyway, back to the question. The Beretta 390/391 series uses a gas piston to operate the gun. The important surface on the piston is the exterior, the part that interfaces with the gas cylinder. If this interface accumulates a build up of burnt powder, the gun stops working, Fortunately, the Beretta design of the piston/cylinder is a good one, and it is for practical purposes, self-cleaning. I know of a shooter who shoots a Beretta 390 about 200-300 rounds per month. I also know that he never cleans his gun. The gun is filthy. If shells stop ejecting, it rarely is the piston-cylinder. It usually is the burnt powder residue in the chamber area that causes the jam.

My point is, the important piston-cylinder surfaces are self-cleaning. Having said that, the interior of the piston gets really dirty. Ultrasonics works on the junk inside the piston, but it takes a long time. I never found any product that I could immerse the piston in that really speeded up the process to my satisfaction. It was the ultrasonic energy that did all the work. Because the piston is chrome plated, I never saw any problems with leaving the piston in the ultrasonic for hours.

My ultrasonic had one or two transducers and was made for small instruments. I’m aware that there are some industrial ultrasonics that have multiple transducers and really put a lot of energy in the tank.

If you have one of the multiple transducer, industrial strength ultrasonics, I’d use an all purpose cleaning solution you may have lying around and clean the piston in that. I’d do the same with the trigger group, but much less time as there may be soft metal or plastic in the trigger group and the ultrasonic may eat away at the soft materials.

Be aware that thorough cleaning with an ultrasonic will require that you relube the parts that need lube, because there will be no lube on anything after ultrasonic cleaning. Things that normally don’t rust because they usually never get cleaned of grease or oil, will rust because the ultrasonic has stripped them clean of any oil or grease.

I suspended the cylinder because the ultrasonic tank was too small to take the whole barrel. You could start a side business of cleaning guns.

Regards,
Roland Leong
Shotgun Report’s crazy guy.

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Precise Barrel Length / Flinch


Dear Technoid,

My earlier question concerning barrel length and my Browning Ultra Golden Clays produced such a sage response that I am going to impose and ask a couple more. I appreciate your candor and in today’s world of “I have a vested interest so the answer is Yes” this is a rare bird.

Question One: I was at the range and a AA shooter made the statement that longer barrel length meant less target lead. The discussion led to an overall belief that a 28″ gun needs lots more lead on a target than a 32″. I disagree, but wanted your comments.

Question Two: I have developed what I consider to be a flinch on certain types of targets (or so it seems). If it is a crosser and I track/ride the target I will sometimes lunge just before pulling the trigger. My instructor says it is not a flinch, but that I am reacting to being behind the target and lunging. This may be so, but I flinched/lunged so badly last weekend I did not even pull the trigger. This is costing me four or five targets per round and some days are worse than others. My shooting partners say it appears to be a flinch. I am not aware of any recoil and use a target load of 1150 fps. Any advice will be appreciated. I hate to give up an enjoyable hobby through frustration.

Bob

Dear Bob,

I think that your AA shooter was correct. A shorter barrel requires a longer PERCEIVED lead. Actual lead on a bird remains the same regardless of the barrel length involved, but we both know that it is what you see that counts.

Shooters often refer to longer barrels as giving more PRECISE lead feedback. What they are really saying is that the longer barrel requires less perceived lead so it permits slightly finer tuning.

I am not entirely sure that a 28″ barrel needs “lots” more lead than a 32″ one, but there will be a slight difference in the lead that most people see.

Bottom line, though, is what you get used to. Just as long as your are used to your particular barrel length and what lead it takes to break a target, the barrel length really becomes more a question of barrel weight preference (long ones weigh more than short ones).

I shoot a 30″ semi-auto for sporting clays, trap and skeet.. Adding in the auto’s extra 3.5″ of receiver, I am shooting the equivalent of a 33.5″ barreled O/U. I find it to be noticeably more precise on those looooong crossers than my 30″ barreled FN O/U. Then again, some of that may be the single barrel sight picture vs the O/U barrel sight picture.

Question 2: Flinch or lurch? I don’t know where you shoot your clays, but wherever it is, it is a long way from where I can see you. This is the kind of thing that one really cannot analyse over the ether.

One thing that you might consider is foot position. Over the years I have observed many people pull the gun off their shoulder as they fired just because they ran out of swing due to poorly placed feet. Set your foot position up for maximum comfort at the point where you will actually break the bird and then pivot back to your starting point and call for the target. The key is to have your feet right where you fire, not where you call.

Best regards,
Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid

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Subgauge Handicap For Sporting Clays


Dear Technoid:

Blair, who used to shoot with the Connecticut Travelers, and who I occasionally shoot with at RiverBend in S. Carolina, told me about your handicap system. He said it worked, but he did not know how it came about. Did you base this on actual scores derived by shooters using various gauges and actions or estimate what it would be and it worked? By the way, I enjoy your Clay Pigeon articles.

Rodney

Dear Rodney,

While it certainly sometimes seems that my Technoidal meanderings are created out of whole cloth, every now and then I actually do base something on fact. Not often, mind you, but just often enough to keep the skeptics confused.

The Connecticut Travelers subgauge handicap system was worked out over a period of time. They keep detailed records of every shot fired at each event. This is is a good thing for the Travelers. Since they shoot a finite number of courses in the course of the year, after a while things start to fall in place. I started by guesstimating the handicap and then adjusted it as the numbers rolled in. It took about two years of data to finalize.

12 ga = 0
16 ga = +3
20 ga = +5
28 ga = +10
410 bore = +20

Pump or SxS configuration gets an additional +5 birds, thus a .410 pump would get +25 added to their raw score. Shot loads per gauge are the same as in NSSA skeet, except that the 16 ga gets one oz.

Having said this, as I understand it, the handicap is no longer in place for the 20 gauge and larger. It seems that shooters were getting pretty proficient with their 20 gauges, and with the handicap, they were winning a disproportionate number of shoots.

One of the biggest problems with handicapping a subgauge is that the gauge itself is only part of the equation. We operate on the assumption that the shooter’s main gun is a 12, so when he shoots subgauge he’s using something he’s not really fully familiar with. So there’s a “different gun” quotient to the handicap in addition to the shotcharge. That’s why few people shoot 7/8 oz as well in a 20 as they do in the 12. I’m not aware of any 20 gauge guns being seriously used in ISSF Olympic competition, even though the 24 gram (7/8 oz) load would work well in either the 20 or 12.

The other thing to consider in the Travelers subgauge handicap system is what we wanted to achieve factoring in the kind of courses we shoot. Travelers courses are generally quite hard. It’s not at all unusual for an 85 to be the top score out of over 100 guns. Anytime you get 100 fanatic sporting clays shooters together, you know that you have a few good ones in there, so that 85 is a real number. The fact that the handicap is pretty accurate for eight or nine local courses doesn’t mean it will be spot on for other parts of the country. The only way to find out is just to test it over a dozen shoots and see how it comes out.

Second, my philosophy in devising the handicap was to make things as even as possible, but NOT to ever give the little gun the edge in anyway. I didn’t want people going to subgauge to get an edge of any kind. We set the handicap up so that if you wanted to shoot a little gun you’d have a bit of a chance, but you’d always be better off with a standard competition 12.

The Travelers subgauge handicap has worked quite well and is popular, but not dominant. The vast majority of our shooters still use the 12, except when we have a subgauge only shoot or when the bird guns come out in the fall. This is the way we intend it to be.

To me the biggest advantage to the subgauge handicap system is that it enables you to shoot subgauge on a standard “big” course and not be relegated to some insulting little dedicated subgauge course set up just for the small guns. That’s no fun. The whole idea of playing with the little guns is to see how well they do in real situations. You absolutely, positively can break a 40 yard crosser with a .410 load of #8s. Maybe not all that often, but it can be done. And when it is accomplished, it’s a hoot. Of course, we all know that the 28 shoots better than it’s supposed to, but our records show that the 20 ga wins more.

All sorts of subgauge methods are tried. In addition to using a standard little gun, people use tubes of all lengths (short, medium and full length). There are also barrel sets and carrier barrels. I’ve often felt that a full length tubed carrier barrel was the way to go because it would handle the same as the original 12, but other stuff that is less well balanced wins just as much. Equipment will take you only just so far. It’s shooting skill that really counts. I even had a 32″ 28 gauge Perazzi MX8/20 made for subgauge clay target fun (and Argentina dove). Everyone I loan this gun to shoots it great, but sometimes struggle. I have to admit it’s probably a skill thing. Now if I could just come up with some kind of handicap for total incompetency. I might have a chance.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)
<http://www.ShotgunReport.com&gt;

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Patterns:Backboring, Screw Chokes


Dear Technoid:

Interesting thing happened…maybe you can give me the technical rationale: I took my screw choke, backbored Browning Citori field gun out and shot some patterns with it to compare to my old style solid choke Remington 3200 skeet gun. Here’s the part I don’t understand…The Browning is an Invector-Plus, which is backbored. The barrels look like drain pipes compared to my 3200. Next to the Browning, the 3200 looks like a 20 gauge. The 3200 (26 in.) is marked skeet/skeet and the Browning (28 in.) has cylinder bore screw-in chokes in both barrels. The patterns from the skeet Remington 3200 had significantly more spread and were quite larger than from the cylinder bore choked Browning!! How can that be? Is it the 2 inch difference in length…I wouldn’t think so? The Browning has a larger bore and more open chokes. I would have expected it produce a much larger pattern that the 3200, but the opposite was the case. Can you explain?

Regards,

Mike

Dear Mike:

I don’t know if I can explain, but I will sure try to make up something that sounds plausible. Remember the Technoid’s motto: Often in error, but never in doubt. Pull on your barnyard boots. Sometimes you need them when the Technoid trys to explain things.

As to the cylinder bore 3200 having larger patterns than the cylinder bore screw choked Citori:

It would be easy to dismiss it by dragging out the old canard “different shotgun just plain pattern differently. No two barrels are the same.” This may well be the case, but I don’t think that it is. I think that there are other reasons at work here.

First of all, dismiss barrel length as the cause. Barrel length changes, within normal bounds, have no effect on pattern. Long barrels do not shoot “tighter” than short barrels.

Does back boring make a difference? The Remington 3200 has bores in the .726″ area. That is what my early 3200s measured. The Invector Plus Japanese Brownings are “factory backbored” and have enlarged bores right around .741-2″ in the ones I have measured. Of course, these guns are not actually “factory backbored”, they are built to overbore specifications. This has been going on for 100 years.

The question is whether overbore dimensions produce tighter patterns than standard 12 gauge dimensions. Proponents of the overbore argue that overbore barrels do produce “better” patterns because the large bore results in a shorter shot column, thus less shot set back and deformation. This translates into a greater number of undamaged lead pellets and thus fewer flyers and a tighter and more predictable pattern.
This is probably true to some extent. The big question is- is there enough difference to matter? From personal experimentation I believe that extreme variations in bore diameter for a given shot charge do indeed matter. Example: International skeet and Olympic trap now are required to use 24 gram loads- roughly equivalent to 7/8 oz. As this is your basic 20 gauge target load, one would think that many of the elite Olympic shooters would to go 20 gauge guns.

No one does. Everyone, but everyone, stays with the 12 gauge and shoots those tiny little loads down those big barrels. Although the 20 bore barrels will handle 24 grams well, the 12 bore barrels handle it better. Because the shot column of the 24 gram load is so much shorter in the 12 bore barrel, the patterns are more uniform. I believe that this is the same case when a given barrel is backbored.

Obviously, backboring from .725 to .742 is only a tiny change when comparing the .615″ of the 20 bore to the .729 of the 12. I would question whether this tiny change makes any practical difference. The question is the same with barrel porting. Yes, we know that porting works in theory and in the ultra high pressure rifles and pistols, but is there enough of a change when applied to the low pressures of the shotgun to be measured? Marketeers will tell you “yes”. Practical experience has shown me “no”.

The problem with testing a backbored barrel against a regular barrel is that you really have to do a before and after on the same barrel. Individual barrels differ so much that you cannot really reliably compare Browning’s product to Remington’s. The forcing cone area is a case in point. A man at Purdey’s once told me that when fine tuning the patterns on their guns, they do as much work in the rear forcing cone area as they do in the choke area. There are many ways to influence patterns.

Backboring is by no means universally approved for improving patterns. The Browning corporation feels that their barrels perform best with a backbore of around .741″. Seminole Chokes and several other after market backborers are absolutely convinced that backboring of .735″ is optimal and that nothing more helps. They also advocate long forcing cones, Browning leaves theirs short. Beretta does not backbore (their bores are actually quite tight), but does lengthen cones.

Krieghoff pioneered the backbore craze in the Model 32 from the late ’50s. Their target guns always had bores of around .735″. However, they also make a pigeon gun called an Ulm. Pigeon shooters want really tight patterning guns. When Krieghoff made barrels for their pigeon gun they made them underbore! They felt that they got tighter patterns with bores of around .721″. Italian pigeon guns (and these guys take their pigeon shooting seriously) have always been bored tight.

So, there is a great deal of divided opinion on whether backboring is just the latest craze, or whether it actually does anything. As to whether it is the larger bores that make your Citori shoot tighter- maybe, but I doubt it.

There is another other aspect of the question that many do not consider. Modern mass produced screw chokes, like the Browning Citori Invector Plus, are made to, shall with say charitably, production tolerances. What concerns me most here is not the actual degree of choke (you can keep measuring mass produced chokes until you find one that is correct), but the step or gap at the back of the choke.

Mass produced screw chokes often have a BIG step at the back. If the bore of the gun is .741″, the i.d. of the rear of the choke is often very much larger than that. This is done so that there is no chance of the rear of the choke protruding into the barrel, catching the shot charge, and blowing out. Early Perazzi MT-6s were notorious for this. Dirt would get under the choke and slowly push it out into the bore. When it got out far enough you suddenly had the choke added to your shotload. It made for an occasionally interesting pattern. Perazzi has corrected this and Briley sells proper chokes for the early MT-6s, but be ware of unintended barrel alterations if you buy an early one.

Being super cautious, Browning and many of the other companies, leave quite a step between the barrel and the rear of the choke. The choke often does not come back up to bore diameter for an inch or more- especially with the currently faddish “long” chokes. This recessed area at the rear of the screw choke can act like a “jug” choke and actually tighten your pattern.

The practice of jug choking is older than dirt. It is simply this: Barrels are often cut off and shortened by one person. The individual likes the short barrels, but now notes that he has also cut off the chokes. He wants some chokes added back in to his now cylinder bore barrels. In the days before screw chokes, the gunsmith would simply hone in a circular recess about an inch back from the muzzle. The depth of the recess would depend on the thickness of the barrel steel at that point. The recess or “jug” might be over an inch long.

This would, in effect, give the gun back some of its lost choke. The shot would travel down the cylinder bore barrel, enter the relieved jug area and expand to fill the jug. The shot load would then continue forward and be squeezed down back to the original cylinder bore dimension just before it exited. This practice could add up to one degree of choke to the gun.

I think that one of the reasons that your modern screw choked gun is patterning tighter than the older solid choke gun is because of this jug effect.

One final possibility. Browning makes a ton of “backbored” barrels and a ton of Invector Plus chokes. Every choke has to be able to fit into every barrel. Browning admits to the possibility of barrel variance of .005″ and there must be at least that in any given choke tube. With a ganging of tolerances, your “cylinder bore” choke could possibly be as much as .010″ off. That would definitely affect patterns. You really have to get a bore mike and measure these things.

So- this has been a very long answer to a short question. That is just what happens when you scratch the surface of some of these situations. You are paying me by the word, aren’t you?

Best regards,
Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid

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To Bend Or Not To Bend


Dear Technoid,

I would greatly appreciate some direction concerning how to fit a new over/under that I have just bought and where to find a reliable gunsmith to do this work.

I am a left handed shooter primarily interested in sporting clays, five stand and occasional trap. After a good deal of research I have just replaced a Citori field gun with a new a 30″ Beretta Silver Pigeon II Sporting model.I am 5′ 7″ and wear shirts with a 32″ sleeve. The stock on my new gun feels a shade long and even with the small recoil pad, it tends to hang up on my clothes from a low mount. The stock has about a 1/4″ cast-off that I am fighting a bit.

I have shot a left handed Benelli Montefeltro for some time and the cast-on with that gun makes the mount natural and fluid. The Citori was a neutral cast 20 gauge gun that always fit me perfectly, but this 12 gauge Beretta has an entirely different feel. Don’t get me wrong, the fit is reasonable but I do not feel as completely at home in this gun as I did with the Benelli and Citori. Comb and heel drop do not seem to be an issue.

Psychological or not, I think that I need to have this stock bent or have it replaced with a left handed stock. I understand that Beretta will retrofit a sporting gun with a left hand stock for a flat fee of $98, but I was lucky to find an SP II with grain and figuring you would expect on a higher grade gun. I am sure that Beretta will not have a stock that is as lovely.

I have talked to one gunsmith about bending the stock with a hot oil technique, but I know little about this process and am terrified of damaging the structural integrity of the gun or the quality of its finish. Also, this shop (Cole’s) will need to do the work long distance and I am skeptical about my ability to assess what really needs to be changed.

I live in Virginia and am having some trouble locating a gunsmith I would trust with this work. What would be your suggestions? To bend or not to bend? To have Accokeek replace the stock or not? To do the long distance dance or travel to a fitting in person? If fit it we will, whom would you suggest in this part of the country?

Thanks very much for our thoughts. Love your site.

Stan

Dear Stan,

Gun fitting over the internet has its limitations, but pure practicality won’t stop me from yakking for a while.

The easy way to fit a new gun is to go to a gunfitter, get measured shooting a plate and thrown clays with a try gun and then send those measurements and the gun to a competent stockmaker to have the stock bent and shortened. That’s the short course and certainly the way most of the English do things. They don’t give a second thought to bending a stock and many of the shops that sell even medium price guns offer the service. I have had a number of guns bent and it usually works out fine. I’ve never had one crack and only once have I had one that sprang back. Bending is quite common, but it does require someone who knows what they are doing. As I don’t live in your area, I really can’t recommend a fitter or bender. Black’s “Wing & Clay” booklet is a good source if you can’t find what you want by word of mouth. In the NY, CT area, most people use Keith Lupton (Dover Plains, NY, cell: 914-646-1528) to measure and he will get it bent for you by a good gunsmith.

It’s easy to experiment at home with length by just removing the recoil pad, protecting the raw wood with masking tape, and testing things with the stock 1/2″ shorter. Unfortunately for you lefties, you can’t test cast on as that requires wood removal or bending.

How’s this for a suggestion. Are their any dealers in your area who might stock the same gun in a left handed version that you could mount and test in the shop? Probably not, but worth a call or two. You might get lucky. Perhaps Millers in New Castle, DE, tel:302-328-9747. Lacking that, you live close enough to Beretta in Accokeek, MD that it might be worth a trip to go there. Call their service dept and tell them that you might want to swap a stock, but that you’d like to

1) try a left handed gun on for size, and

2) get wood of equal quality.

It can’t hurt and they might actually say “yes”.

You don’t mention that height’s an issue, so I’ll assume it’s OK. Thus, with a left handed stock, the only thing you’ll have to worry about is length and that’s an easy fix that any gunsmith can do. Remember, correct stock length is measured from trigger to butt, but the feel of length really depends on the distance from the center of the pistol grip to the butt. That could be why your Citori 20 and Beretta 12 feel different as to length.

So my game plan would be to test a left handed gun like yours and see if it suits as to height and cast. Don’t worry about length. If it does, then swap stocks with Beretta. If it doesn’t then get measured and get the stock that you have bent to fit.

Let me know how it works out.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)
http://www.ShotgunReport.com

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Which Gas Gun?


Hi Bruce,

I need some help, which is nothing new. I shoot trap and skeet with some friends and find that I am at somewhat of a disadvantage because I shoot a 20 gauge while my friends have 12 gauge semi-auto’s. I really like the 20 because I am a small statured guy, but I realize that I am handicapping myself with it to some degree.

I have a 12 gauge pump, which I have used, but we tend to have long shooting sessions of 75-100 birds per person. My shoulder is pretty sore after a session like that with a 12G pump. As a result I have been looking for a reasonably priced semi-auto that is soft shooting. I have looked at all the major brands and am now thoroughly confused. The Beretta 391 is nice but quite light for a 12 and very expensive. It has to kick more than its predecessor, the heavier 391. The Browning Gold Hunter is a great gun, but the proportions on the gun feel too large for me. The Remington 11-87 feels like a very well balanced gun that is reasonably priced and now has a $50 rebate. I know that you prefer the Beretta 390′s, but I haven’t been able to find one except with a synthetic stock that has no butt pad and no stock adjustment shims. I believe that you mentioned in the past that the Remington is perhaps the softest shooting 12G available, however, I rarely see them in competition. Is this due to reliability or the fact that it doesn’t have any snob appeal to some shooters?

If I am going to step up to a 12G for my regular shooting sessions then it is important that it be a soft shooter. What do you recommend?

My shoulder thanks you for your suggestions and comments.

Robert

Dear Bob,

The most important thing in a shotgun isn’t the gauge or the shotload, it’s how well the shooter handles the gun. If you feel that you can handle a 20 better than a 12, then you will probably shoot the 20 better. The average miss is by a larger margin than can be accounted for by the difference between a 12 and 20 gauge payload. People fixate on shooting an entire ton of shot because they either think that they can buy extra birds or because they don’t want to admit that they are at fault when they miss. Look at all the hunters who keep getting larger and larger magnums to make up for the fact that they can’t shoot worth a darn because they don’t practice. Finally, they get a magnum gun so painful and awkward to shoot that it becomes self-defeating.

That said, a 12 does have an advantage over a 20 in pattern size. Whether that advantage makes up for the 12s heavier weight and higher recoil strictly depends on the shooter. If a gun isn’t comfortable for you, you won’t shoot it well no matter how ballistically magnificent it is. This is an area of compromise and balance.

The 12 gauge semi-auto does have some advantages. Most of gas operated semis will happily shoot a 7/8 oz (20 gauge) payload all day. The exceptions are the inertia recoil operated Benellis, Franchis and Stoegers. Inertia guns are very sensitive to loads. The Benelli Ethos will handle 7/8 oz loads, but it’s a light weight field gun.

Generally, 7/8 patterns better from the 12 barrel than from the 20, so in this case you can have your cake and eat it too. You can always go to a 1 oz or 1-1/8 oz load later if you wish. The 12 is usually a heavier gun than the 20, but 12 gauge autos come in all sorts of weights. Field guns are generally lighter than target guns. You will notice some difference in weight between the Beretta 391 field model and the sporting clays model.

Currently I prefer the Berettas to the Remington 1100/11-87 because I think the Berettas are slightly more reliable as to parts breakage and functioning with a broad range of shells. I don’t know much about the Browning Maxus as I don’t see them used often for targets. The 12 gauge Gold was a very soft shooting gun, but had some firing pin issues.

Beretta has also come out with a 391 replacement, the A400. The field version is quite light, while the target version is standard weight. As of yet, the model is too new to have much of a track record, but so far it seems pretty good, if expensive. I do have a friend who shoots an A400 Sporter with extremely light loads and it functions well. That said, I also think that the Brownings and Remingtons shoot slightly softer. None would be a bad choice. If it helps, today the Beretta is FAR more popular in clay shooting than the other two. There has to be a reason, but you may have personal requirements that give the other guns the edge.

The Beretta 390, 391 and 400s all come with stock shim kits so that you can adjust the height and cast to suit. Beretta also sells a less expensive A300 auto field version which is basically the 391 held over. They did the same thing when the 391 was introduced by selling the 3901, which was a version of the previous 390.

The Remington 1100 or 11-87 is a decent gun. It’s soft shooting and has a certain feel to it that many people still prefer. I shot them for years in International Skeet. Once they get some age on them they do start to eat parts more than the Berettas. All gas guns are a cinch to fix if you have the parts. There was a run of Remingtons with poorly installed screw chokes, but I think that the current ones have fixed that problem. I’d certainly check the point of impact of any Remington I bought just to make sure.

Don’t overlook the used gun market. Often you can get a real bargain in an older model. Personally, my gas guns are Beretta 303s, not the newer 390, 391s or 400s. I have nothing against the new guns, but I’m so pleased with the performance of the 303s over the years that I’ve never bothered to buy new ones. If it ain’t broke…

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

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