870 For Skeet?


Gents,

First off, I’m a newbie to shotgunning and just started reading Shotgun Report. I am absolutely knocked out. It’s teaching me a ton and you should be proud of the site.

Now, to the meat of the matter. First off, I’m just getting into skeet and am shooting a Remington 870 Wingmaster with a (now obsolete) 26″ Skeet barrel. In “Seven Steps to Shotgun Heaven”, you recommend buying a gas gun. Am I damning myself to the eternal hellfire of Lost Shotgunners if I stick with the 870 for a year (assuming any instructor won’t refuse to take me on) ? It’s a sentimental favorite, having been in the family for 30 years so there’s a “tradition” factor here. I’ve added a very effective recoil pad to the stock and the kick is comparable to a friend’s Remington 1100 so the “ouch” factor is next to nil. Any thoughts?

Secondly, my gun shop is touting an Italian stack barrel (I’m pickin’ up the lingo!) made by Verona. It’s half the price of a Citori or Ruger, which makes it attractive and scary all at once. I’ve not seen any user reports on the ‘net and don’t know any local owners. Any news on this beastie?

Again, your site is an invaluable resource as well great entertainment. Keep up the wonderful work!

Sincerely,

Steve

Carrollton, TX

Dear Steve,

My partner Roland wrote that immortal “Seven Steps”. Roland and I agree on many things, but sometimes we have different ways of approaching the “truth”. Here’s my opinion. You can always write Roland to get his thoughts, which may be different and more informed than mine.

I don’t think that there is anything at all the matter with a 26″ bbl 870 for American-style NSSA skeet. It’s a fine gun and amply suited to the demands of the game, especially when learning the ropes.

Is it ideal? Probably not in the long run, but it’s fine for now. My advice to you is to shoot the 870 as you learn the game. Don’t be in a rush to buy a second “better” gun if you feel comfortable shooting the 870. The clay target sports are 98% technique and 2% gun/shell. As a beginner, concentrate on that 98%. Worry about the 2% later. We tend to spend a lot of time talking about guns and shells because those are something we can buy while sitting at a desk. Technique takes effort and time so it’s far less convenient to deal with.

I’ve seen the Veronas. I think that they are made by I. Rizzini. They are a decent medium quality gun with plenty of glitz on the outside. I wouldn’t mind one for a light use field gun, but I would want the security a gun with a more established reputation for the tremendous pounding that a clay target gun gets.

If I were in your shoes, I’d shoot that 870 for a year at skeet while you learned the game and kept your eyes open. Once you become a regular shooter, you’ll have plenty of chance to see what kind of guns the other successful shooters use. If you are serious about skeet, make sure to join the NSSA and go to a couple of the larger registered shoots. You will quickly find out what is popular among the good shooters. I don’t think you will find the name “Verona” anywhere. You also won’t see a lot of Rugers used by serious competitors.

If you get into skeet, you will find that it is a four gauge game. You will almost certainly eventually buy an O/U with a set of subgauge tubes. In 12 gauge you have three choices: 1) shoot the “naked” O/U, 2) shoot the 20 gauge tube set in the 12 gauge event, or 3) shoot a 12 gauge gas operated semi-auto in the 12 gauge event. In the subgauge event, the O/U with skeet tube inserts is virtually universal.

If you didn’t already have a gun, I would recommend a Beretta 391 semi-auto gas gun for starters. But, you already have an 870 and it’s definitely good enough. If you handle your 12 gauge 870 well, it’s a great starting gun. It’s reliable, you are comfortable with it and (a big plus) you already have it so the price is right. You might consider shooting light one ounce loads at skeet. Recoil may not bother you now, but it is cumulative. That 870 won’t feel like an 1100 after you have run 10,000 rounds through it. Trust the Technoid on that one.

If you are just dying to buy new gear (and who isn’t?), before you get a new gun I think it might be prudent to invest a few hundred dollars in a reloading machine. You can get the excellent MEC “Grabber” for under $500 or the auto-advance MEC 9000G for under $600 from any mail order company. If you don’t like reloading and choose to resell your machine, you won’t lose much money because they are very popular. If you buy your components in bulk, you can reload a one ounce shell for under $5.00 a box. Compare that to what you are now paying for shells. The closer you get to paying $8.00/box in the store, the better reloading looks. Besides it’s fun. When you get into the subgauges later on, reloading a 410 or 28 gauge for $5.00/box is really going to look good.

You will undoubtedly hear some shooters tell you “Buy an X Brand gun, just like I have. After I got it my scores jumped Y percent.” Maybe yes. Maybe no. When you are starting out, you normally shoot better with each new gun you buy. Of course each new gun comes to you after you have been shooting a longer and longer time in the sport. I think that, initially at least, the time you spend in the sport is more important than the gun you shoot. This assumes that you are using a gun that is moderately appropriate to begin with. Your 870 certainly fills that bill.

Remember too, as you shoot more your shooting style will change. A gun that is purchased to jibe with your current beginner’s style may not be suitable down the road. This happens a lot more than you think. It certainly happened to me. I started out with low stocked target guns and thought that they were just the ticket when I was a newbie. It took me five years to move to the high stocked target guns that I prefer today, thirty years later. I bought and sold a lot of guns in between, always searching for “the answer”, the magic gun that would let me buy a good score, instead of earn it by practice and technique.

Don’t get me wrong. I do pay a great deal of attention to setting up the guns that I shoot. It’s just that now I know what I want, so I adapt the gun to fit me. I don’t adapt myself to fit the gun. The only way you can know what’s right for you is by experience. That takes time. And observation. And money invested in practice, competitions, airfare and motels.

Exactly the right gun, with the right fit, balance and ballistics, will help the seasoned shooter find the extra bird or two he needs to win the match. One bird means the world when you are in a top class. When you are beginning, it isn’t nearly as important as good fundamentals. Consider taking lessons from an established coach. Even though they seem expensive, they are a lot cheaper than trying to learn by practicing your mistakes over and over.

Clay target shooting is great fun. Welcome aboard. You are in for quite a ride.

Best regards,

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

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3 Responses to 870 For Skeet?

  1. Pete H says:

    I started shooting skeet with a 870s back in the ’70s. My friends had 1100s. I never got used to the gassers. Something about the sound distracted me. Several years later, I shot competition in the Navy and used an 870. My team mates and the competition all said that you can’t shoot skeet with a pumper. I guess after a 98/100 in 12 ga, 99/100 on 20 ga, 96/100 on 28 ga and 96/100 on .410, they changed their minds. Nobody ran 100 in any gauge that day.

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  2. jim wright says:

    Just used an 870 skeet last night and ran a 25 straight. It is a late 60`s early 70`s gun. It is the 4th one I’ve owned. Started out shooting one in the 70`s. Then went to over unders and SxS. I’ve come full circle and love the older 870`s

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  3. Ed Larson says:

    Nothing wrong with a pump gun for skeet. Old timers used them and did very well. In the 50-‘s thru the 70’s I used a Win Model 12. I was a class A shooter all those years with that pump gun (still have it). I tried a brn superposed for three years and only raised my average 2/10 of 1 percent. follow the technoid’s advise and have lots of fun.

    Ed Larson

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