20 Gauge From A 12

Dear Sir-

I have been reading and enjoying your on line writings for several months. They are of immense value, enjoyable, entertaining and reliable. Thank you.

I have a question regarding tube inserts vs. extra barrels on an existing receiver or a separate gun?

Until my late 20’s, I enjoyed extensive bird hunting with off the shelf, out of the box, shotguns (Remington 870, 1100, Brownings, etc.) in the SE USA. I am now 45. I recently purchased a Beretta 682 Gold 12 gauge O/U with 28 inch barrels.

I took the gun to Brian Bilinski in Traverse City, MI for custom fitting and a lesson. The experience was a revelation and, upon looking back, so worth the expense he could have charged double. Brian is truly world class. He identified a center dominance (no, not right eye or left eye dominance, center dominance) issue, and corrected technique flaws too numerous to mention.

After getting my shotgun back from the gunsmith (2 plane stock bend, pitch adjustment, changeable recoil pads, etc..) I have been quite happily shooting about a 2 cases of shells a week and enjoying myself as much, if not more, than the law allows. While no one on the Olympic Team is in any danger of losing their slots at least my fellow shooters at the local range have quit falling down laughing every time I say “pull”.

To make a boring story longer I just became aware that Beretta and Cole Gunsmithing offer a set of 20 gauge barrels to go on my 12 gauge 682 receiver. I would love to have a 20 gauge for grouse and wood cock hunting and had been looking at either another 682 (implying the same pricey custom stock fitting process) or an out of the box Browning Citori Upland.

My theory on the Browning was that is would just be for hunting so I’d leave it as it came out of the box. If I get 20 gauge barrels for the 682 will the custom stock fitting I had done for the 12 gauge still fit? Am I better off getting tube inserts (Briley, I think is who I heard about)? If the tube inserts add weight won’t the gun handle differently? I doubt I will ever want to shoot skeet and/or sporting clays with a .410 or 28 gauge.

Do you have any thoughts on the extra set of barrels vs. tube inserts or separate gun concepts? The cost, while a consideration, is not the deciding factor.

If your schedule does not permit providing me answer I understand. Regardless, please accept my thanks for your online writings. They are a truly valuable contribution to the shooting world.

Victor Michigan

Dear Victor,

I had a chance to spend some time chatting with Brian Bilinski at the Vintager’s SxS Exposition in Millbrook, NY some time ago. Quite a guy. I reviewed his Churchill-style shooting tape for my column in Shooting Sportsman and thought that he did a commendable job of explaining a technique which many others have not fully understood.

Rich Cole, one of SR’s staunch advertisers and supporters does indeed have a supply of 20 gauge 682 barrels. Rich is an expert and experienced barrel fitter and I wouldn’t have the slightest hesitation having him do the work.

Your choices are:

1) 20 ga bbls on your present 12 gauge gun,

2) 20 gauge Briley tube inserts in your present 12 gauge gun, or

3) new 20 gauge gun.

Your use for the gun will be upland hunting, involving a lot of walking and carrying, but not a lot of shooting.

I’d go with a whole new light weight gun. The Briley 20 gauge tubes will add between 11 and 16 ounces (the custom titanium ones are 11, the “Companion” set is about 16). This is going to make an already heavy target gun almost unmanageable for grouse. At least, it sure would for me.

As to adding the 20 gauge tubes to the most excellent Beretta Gold, I don’t think that you will save much weight over the 12 gauge barrels. Beretta (and all Italian guns) stamp the barrel weight on the barrels, so Rich will be able to tell you what the weight difference will be before you commit. Either way, the 20 barrels won’t be much lighter so you will still be lugging an 8# gun up and down those grouse hills and through and around that damp woodcock ground. If you feel up to all that weight, in exchange for a properly fit gun, than go with the 20 gauge barrels. Personally, my right arm would be scraping the ground after carrying a gun that heavy for a few days. Perhaps I am just getting soft from punching these typewriter keys all day.

The third choice is a new gun. You never go wrong with a Citori, but you might also like to look at the 20 gauge Beretta Silver Pigeon O/U. It’s a sweetheart and a bit lighter than the Citori. You can’t miss with either one.

Can you simply bend the new gun to the exact dimensions of the old one? Nope. It just doesn’t work that way. Every gun seems to shoot a bit differently. Target guns are normally stocked a bit longer and higher than field guns. If you use the dimensions of your fitted Gold, you might get away with it, but don’t count it. Worth a try though and it should be in the ball park, if not exact. Remember too, most 20s, particularly the Beretta 20 gauge field gun, are stocked a bit higher than the 12s. The 20 might fit you right out of the box. It’s at least worth some practice time. I don’t know how far off it would be because you don’t mention the changes Brian made to your 12 gauge gun.

There is a fourth alternative. Just hunt the grouse and woodcock with your current gun. The price is right and it fits. Adding 20 gauge barrels may or may not reduce the weight, but it won’t be much of a change. Those barrels are usually used for people who want to shoot 20 gauge target events, not hunt, so they don’t want them too light. I hate to be practical and actually talk a reader out of spending money, but there it is.

Still, if it were me, I’d buy a dedicated grouse gun and leave the very nice Gold to do what it was meant to- bust those clays.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck

The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC

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